When I first see the mainland, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I had only been to Lilycove twice, for vacations, before the disaster, and don‘t have any lasting memories of the place. Nothing to connect me to it. So all I can do, as we stand waiting to leave the ship, is take in what I see.
The streets are ravaged. Chunks of concrete stick up from the ground, and large cracks spider web their way down the streets. In the time since the cataclysms ended, grass has begun to grow in between the cracks. I guess it’s poetic, but I don’t really think about that at the moment. Something else has my attention.
Our position on the deck gives us a good view of the southern end of the city. Across all of what can be seen from here, packs of wild Pokemon stalk about.
The closest area to where we stand is a small, rocky bluff, atop which stands a dilapidated old lighthouse. Around this small monument of former civilization, a pack of Pokemon prowl about. They are small, foxlike creatures, with orange fur and multiple tails. Vulpix, I realize, recalling the appearance. One of our neighbors in Vistian town had one as a pet.
The Vulpix are surrounding the lighthouse from all sides. It’s impossible to see why from here, but it appears that the furry Pokemon are guarding something hidden behind the far end of the lighthouse, nestled in-between its wall and the sharp edge of the cliff.
Occupying the bulk of the south end of the town is another pack of Pokemon, these much more fierce in appearance. Poocheyenna and Mighteyenna. Their numbers are far greater than those of the Vulpix, although many Vulpix lie strewn across the Poocheyenna territory, bloody and lifeless. There’s been a battle here.
As we are ushered into a line to begin exiting the ship, Ariana hooks her arm around mine. I look at her, but her attention is aimed where mine has just been.
“they haven’t noticed us yet.” She comments. It’s true. As we are moved slowly down the gangway, I realize that we are not very far from the edge of what appears to be the Poocheyenna territory. I wonder how long that will last. I notice that the workers ushering us ashore, as well as those already on the ground, are also eyeing the Pokemon. They don’t seem very concerned, however, and soon turn their attentions back to the task at hand.
The process of checking in is a long one, and we are closer to the back end of the ship. As we slowly move forward, I can’t help but notice the Pokemon on land becoming agitated. A crowd blocks my view of the workers and the trainers who have already come ashore, so I can’t see whether anyone is taking notice of the pack of Pokemon, who seem to be starting to notice the growing crowd. I hear the sound of Pokemon cries as some trainers engage in friendly battle, and wonder if this will agitate the wild Pokemon further.
“Hey.” Toby, standing to my right, leans closer to me.
“Isn’t that Lucas ahead of us?” I look where he points, and sure enough, about a dozen people ahead of us is Lucas. He doesn’t seem to have noticed us, but is instead keeping his gaze closely trained on the dog Pokemon in the city.
“Well he’s not bothering anyone at the moment,” I say, “so let’s just keep an eye on him for now.”
Another 20 minuets or so pass, and we make it to the top of the gangway. At its base is a check-in desk with several workers and a lot of papers. Off to one side is a small, hastily-erected tent, where a slow stream of trainers emerge holding poke balls. This, I realize, is probably where Ariana and I will be sent.
To the north is a crowd of trainers, all of us who have already checked in. As I look over the crowd, I notice Lucas approaching it, having just checked in. He starts a conversation with someone, looking harmless enough. Does he really mean any harm here, I begin to wonder? Or is he just biding his time?
Soon enough, we stand at the registration desk. I give the bored-looking lady mine and Ariana’s names, and we are directed to head to the tent.
Before we can start walking, however, I’m distracted by a sudden outburst of yelling. I look towards the crowd of trainers, the cause of the commotion, and see them all yelling at one trainer, who is walking quickly and confidently towards the pack of dogs. Lucas.
He’s yelling at the animals, making cat-calls and clapping his hands. Trying to get their attention. The dogs start growling, and try to circle him, but he just laughs. He takes something out of his pocket, and throws it at one of the Mighteyenna - the biggest, meanest-looking one - and makes a sprint back towards us. And so the commotion begins.
The injured Pokemon, which I realize must be the leader of the pack, gives a howl, and all of the surrounding Mighteyenna and Poocheyenna take note and bark in response. Then, as one, the dogs begin to race forward, like a black, fanged tidal wave, towards us.
Immediately, workers from the boat take out poke balls and begin fighting off the animals. Many trainers jump into the fray as well, but others panic, running and screaming. A particularly large Poocheyenna leaps our way, breaking the check-in table with ease. I grab Ariana’s hand and make a run northwest, where the dilapidated contest hall sits. My only priority is to keep Ariana and myself safe, and we can hide there. I can hear Toby’s footsteps as he follows. We’re making it a fair distance when I see him.
Lucas stands in front of the contest hall, his Poocheyenna now at his side. A wide grin stretches across his face as he makes eye contact with me.
“Nothing like a nice commotion, am I right?” He calls to me. As soon as the words leave his lips, he makes a break for the woods.
What happens next is a split second decision, one I know I will regret later. But it’s reflexive. He’s right here, and I can confront him. I have to confront him. I turn to Toby.
He looks taken aback, but nods. I look at Ariana.
“Stay with him.”
“Damian…” she tries to protest, but I am already dashing into the woods, adrenaline coursing through my veins, hot on Lucas’ trail. Determined to stop him.
Well, I guess he trusts me now.
“Okay, Ariana.” I say, thinking quickly. “Let’s let him do what he has to do. We can find him after this all blows over, but for now we wouldn’t be any safer by going after him. He wants to make sure you’re safe, so let’s find somewhere safe.”
“Well, I’m not sure how easy that’s going to be…” She’s not looking at me, but behind me, back towards the boat. I turn to see what she’s looking at, and get a nice little shock.
We’re surrounded by three Poocheyenna, fangs bared. Two more emerge from the contest hall, an indicator that the place wouldn’t have been a good sanctuary after all. In the distance I can see more of the dogs swarming the ship, but it seems they’re not letting any stone go unturned. I reach into my pocket, tossing Checkers’ poke ball.
“Is that all you have?” Ariana sounds a little bit scared.
“Oh, come on now,” I say, feeling a bit offended. “the size of the Pokemon doesn’t convey its power. Checkers has had his share of battle experience. Checkers,” I call, turning away from Ariana. “Make a wide sweep with thunder wave!”
Checkers hops up on one fin-like foot, and discharges a wave of electricity. As he sends the attack, he revolves on his fin, making a wide enough sweep to hit three of the pokemon, before he trips on his own foot and topples over.
“That’s fine, Checkers. Get yourself back up!” Checkers hops himself up, correcting his balance. Three of the Poocheyenna are paralyzed, leaving two more to deal with. One leaps forward at Checkers for a bite attack. Checkers sees the attack coming, drops down, and rolls to the right of the Poocheyenna’s landing point.
“Now come around for a take down!” Checkers springs up and rams his entire, bullet-like body into the Poocheyenna. The black dog stumbles, and falls.
“he’s good.” Ariana comments from behind me. I grin at her.
“Like I told you, the appearance doesn’t mean much of anything. Now,” I say, returning my attention to my Pokemon, “take the last one down with a water gun!”
The last Poocheyenna looks scared, and is moving slowly backwards when Checkers turns his attention to it. It yelps, and starts to run, when it gets rammed from behind by a strong blast of water from Checkers’ mouth. It stumbles, and falls.
‘Good job, Checkers.” I cheer him, picking him up. Best to keep him out and ready, I decide. “Okay…” Now that the Poocheyenna are out of the picture, my attention turns back to where we can go for safety. The trainers by the ship have the upper hand on the dogs, but the battle is still fierce. As I watch, part of the dock is engulfed in flames by and unseen Pokemon’s attack.
“The lighthouse.” Ariana’s words snap me back to reality. I look towards the dilapidated old lighthouse, and see what Ariana sees. The Poocheyenna that were there are gone. Some Vulpix are still visible, but are lying lifeless. The battle there must have ended while Lucas was causing this new chaos. The area looks completely devoid of any attention by the vicious dogs.
“You’re right.” I agree. I grab her hand, and off we run. It’s a clear path, as all of the visible Pokemon are already down by the ship. We don’t seem to catch any attention as we make our way there.
Up on the narrow land-bridge that leads to the rocky bluff, we get a gruesome look at the violence that had come to pass here. Ariana seems oddly unfazed by this, but pulls the collar of her shirt up to her mouth so as to try and filter out the smell of burnt flesh and fur. As I look upon the bodies, I get this pit in my stomach, and start to wonder if this is some sort of omen. What if this death and carnage is all we have to look forward to here? What if there’s no hope of rebuilding this place, and we’re just exploring a vast graveyard? What if-
My thoughts are interrupted by a small sound from behind the lighthouse. Once, then again. The cry of a Pokemon.
We make our way around behind the lighthouse, and find the source. The pit in my stomach deepens when I realize that this must be what the Vulpix had been protecting. Laying on the blood-soaked grass, with fur just as reddened, is a Ninetales. Large, white, beautiful, and dead. Around it lie three tiny, orange bodies. Its pups. A fourth pup, still alive and seemingly unharmed, sits by the Ninetales’ head, crying for the loss of its mother.
“This is what they were after…” Ariana looks a little disturbed by what she sees, but then the expression on her face changes to pity. She looks to me. “What should we do?”
“What do you mean?”
“We can’t just leave her here…”
“I’m sure they’ll give all of the dead a burial-”
“No, not the mother. The baby.” She walks slowly closer to the pup, who doesn’t seem to notice her. I think about stopping her, but decide against it. I’m impressed by Ariana’s compassion for the little pup, and I want to see how this plays out.
She kneels down close to the pup, but doesn’t try to get its attention. She just waits. A couple minutes pass before the little Vulpix takes its attention off its mother. It looks up and sees Ariana’s face, and Ariana gives it a smile.
“Hello, little one.” This change in Ariana’s tone is surprising. She sounds calm, soothing, motherly even. She outstretches a hand, inviting the animal to come closer. At first, the Vulpix looks wary, having never seen a human before and being unsure what this strange thing beckoning it forward is. Ariana and the Vulpix’s eyes meet. The Vulpix cocks its head, starting to wonder if Ariana might not be a threat, and Ariana giggles.
“Come here. Don’t be afraid.” She beckons the pup forward with her outstretched hand. It stands up, arching its back in a stretch, and moves slowly, tentatively, forward. Its single orange tail wags slowly from side to side. The Pokemon slinks up to Ariana’s hand, gives it a sniff, and recoils. It looks back up at Ariana’s face, still smiling warmly, and moves forward again for another sniff, and then gives Ariana’s hand a lick. She grins.
“There, see? I won’t bite.” She pets it lightly on the head. It looks afraid of the approaching hand for a moment, but then moves forward, letting Ariana pet it.
Watching her and the Pokemon, I start to see what’s happening here. It reminds me of how I first met Checkers, who is now struggling to break free of my arms to say hello to the Vulpix. The Vulpix is identifying Ariana as someone safe, maybe even thinking it to be because of her that its life was spared. It recognizes her as a sort of guardian. I decide there’s no reason not to encourage this.
“Here.” I reach into my messenger bag, extracting a great ball and holding it down to Ariana. I had stocked up with extras before leaving, so I’m okay with letting her have one. She looks at the ball, then at me.
“Really? I can catch her?”
“That’s up to you. Take it.” She nods, and takes the ball.
“Thank you.” She cradles the ball in her hand, and looks back to the Vulpix, which is now watching her curiously. She looks down at the ball, considering for a moment, and then sets it down on the grass in front of her.
The Vulpix eyes the ball with a great deal of curiosity. It trots around the object, giving it a sniff, and pokes it with its paw. It yelps with joy when the ball rocks backwards in the grass, and continues the action until the ball rotates so that the button on its front is facing the Pokemon. Upon noticing this new feature, the Vulpix cocks its head, and gives the button a gentle prod with its nose. The ball opens, and the Vulpix is bathed in red light, and drawn inside. The ball snaps shut, rocks back and forth in the grass three times, and goes still. Ariana picks up the ball, and stands up.
“Congratulations,” I say with a grin. “You just caught your first Pokemon.”