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Harmony slowly and gradually awoke in a process that took about an hour, regaining her senses one at a time as she went. First came her sense of hearing. Some sort of noise had started the whole process, but she couldn't remember what it was. Now that she was awake, though, she became aware of every little noise in the room; the gentle humming of the lights, the creaking of the bed under her subtle shifts of position, her own breath, and possibly... the breath of someone else?
It was now that her full consciousness returned to her. Through closed eyelids, she sensed an increased level of light in the room. She opened her eyes quickly. The room was fully visible thanks to the light entering through the window, but it was less than she'd expected. The sky outside had a red tint to it; it appeared to be very late in the day.
Glancing over next to herself, she again became aware of Hideki's presence. A feeling of warmth and relief filled her as she realized she hadn't dreamed the events of last night. In his sleep, he'd shifted away from her, and now seemed to be out cold. Harmony smiled and moved in closer to him, burying her head into his shoulder, her movement waking him up as well.
"Morning, Harm..." he said slowly and sleepily.
"'Morning' nothing, look outside," she said, pointing to the window. "It's gotta be past 6 o'clock now."
Hideki's eyes widened as he sat up suddenly.
"Shit! Can't believe I... You probably need more meds, how's your leg? I better look at your stitches... Jackdammit, Harmony, I'm sorry, I need to be-"
Harmony giggled as she wrapped both her arms around one of Hideki's and somewhat violently pulled him down on top of her.
"I feel fine, THIS is where you need to be right now," she said with a warm smile.
The door opened unexpectedly. A surprised Xerxes stood in the doorway.
"Hideki... there you are... um, I'm sorry if I intruded on... whatever it is you're, um..."
It was only now that Hideki realized he was lying directly on top of Harmony, with his left arm suspiciously lodged between the two from Xerxes' perspective. Quickly realizing there was no possibility of explaining this away, he decided it best to change the subject.
"Does Blaine have any instructions for further treatment?" he asked as he moved into a seated position next to Harmony on the bed.
"What? Oh... Nah, he did mention she can take more pills if she wants for the pain... And she needs to stay completely off the leg for several days, of course. But... he does have other instructions for you two."
"Vi and I have already done this, but... Blaine insists on checking your Pokemon for signs of the infection. It's his one condition for letting us stay here."
"How's he gonna do that?"
Xerxes hesitated as he decided the gentlest way to describe the process. "Well, he wants you to go to the arena here in the gym, and release your Pokemon one at a time. If it's a zombie... it'll be put down."
"Only fair, I guess..." Harmony said. "I mean, that's the right thing to do if they've turned regardless, right?"
"I think so. Anyway... Hideki, go ahead and have yours checked, if you would. Harmony, you can wait until you feel up to it."
"I wanna go now... I wanna go with Hideki," she said. "I want to do this together. I'm already nervous just thinking about the possibility of..." she let her voice trail off as she looked to Hideki, who nodded his understanding and stood to help her up.
"Hideki, Harmony, please release your Pokemon one at a time," Blaine commanded from the other end of the battle arena. He had his Arcanine by his side, ready to Fire Blast any zombified Pokemon into oblivion. "Any carriers I'll need to take with me for examination. The rest, as long as they haven't turned, you're free to release inside the facility and even train and battle with if you wish."
"'Carriers?'" Harmony repeated.
"Certain Pokemon can still carry the virus without displaying any symptoms," Blaine explained. "However, these Pokemon are still a potential danger to others, and I don't want them to mingle until I gather a little more information."
"This is the only one between the both of us," Hideki said, pulling Starwho's Pokeball from his belt and throwing it directly at Blaine. Blaine caught the ball, nodded once, and put it in the pocket of his labcoat.
"Zaprong, I need you!"
"Come out, Rocky!"
Alternating one by one, Hideki and Harmony took turns releasing their Pokemon long enough to prove their health before recalling them to send out another. Hideki continued to serve as a crutch for Harmony to keep her weight off her leg, and even threw her Pokeballs for her.
His heart began racing as he got to the one Pokeball he least wanted to throw; his golden one. Sensing his tension, Harmony tightened her grip on his shoulder and nodded an encouraging look toward him.
The Gyarados roared mightily upon its release and stared intensely at the Arcanine across the arena; its presumed opponent.
Blaine roared in return with a satisfied laugh.
"HERE she is! Hideki! I'll never forget facing off against this Gyarados for your Volcano Badge! I'm truly glad you managed to keep her alive through all this!"
"Me too..." he agreed, quietly. "Me too..."
"Our last two are a little different..." Harmony explained to Blaine, "they got hurt. They're our Flyers... they broke their wings on a rough landing we had earlier. Is there anything you can do for them?"
"Go ahead and release them like the others and I'll have a look."
"Okay... Birdo, come on out!"
Harmony's Pidgeotto stumbled a bit after being released from its Pokeball. It wings were still bandaged up like before, although some of the more minor scrapes and bruises had healed to a degree.
"I hope you find yourself satisfied with the work I did on you, Harmony," Blaine said with a smirk, "but I'm much more adept at healing injured Pokemon. I doubt I'll have to do much of anything though. A healing machine should take care of this."
"You have a healing machine?" Hideki and Harmony both asked at once.
Blaine chucked. "I do. At first I thought it might cure the infection... my experiments proved that to be false, but... it should still heal your birds."
"Great, let's go, Big Bird!" Hideki exclaimed as he threw his Fearow's ball.
Big Bird collapsed instantly upon its release, a lifeless lump on the floor of the gym.
"Oh no, Hideki... its injuries must've been worse than... I am so, so-"
Hideki got that sinking feeling again as he saw his Pokemon slowly rise. It turned to face the two trainers, unmoving.
"Arcanine, use Fire-"
"WAIT!" Hideki protested, "He's not... he can't be..."
"Birdo got the same exposure and she's-"
The bird darted straight at Harmony with alarming speed. In one fluid spin, Hideki positioned himself into an embrace of Harmony, serving as a human shield from his Fearow's sharp beak.
Big Bird's already fractured beak shattered upon impact with Hideki's back, causing nothing more than a small tear in his shirt. Hideki instinctively lifted a leg and kicked the Fearow hard, making it stumble away from he and Harmony just in time for the powerful wave of fire to incinerate its dried, rotten flesh, all at a safe distance from the two.
"Harmony," he panted, "You alright? I didn't bump your leg, did I? Check your stitches..."
"What!? Of course I'm alright! What about you!?"
"Just a nick... I think his beak was broken. I'm fine."
"Harmony," Blaine called from across the room, now walking towards the two, "you said your Pidgeotto had the same exposure as his Fearow, correct?"
"Have you lost any Pokemon at any point to the virus?"
"No... I haven't."
"She's the only one who hasn't..." Hideki noted.
Blaine extended an arm. "Harmony... I'm going to need to examine all your other Pokemon too, in that case."
"What? No! They're not infected! I won't let you-"
"Relax, please. I promise not to do anything to harm them. I just need to examine them for research purposes. If I'm right... you may hold the key to stopping this."
"Wait... what?" Hideki asked.
"If her Pokemon are immune... it would confirm my theory. I... think I know where this all came from. And I think I know how to prevent its spread."
Hideki and Harmony both gave Blaine the same puzzled look.
Blaine sighed. "I suppose... I should tell you all the story. But not until after I've tested them for sure. Harmony, please. You have my word they will be returned to you in perfect shape. I'll heal your Pidgeotto, too."
Harmony looked at Hideki, who nodded his approval. Reluctantly, she turned all of her Pokeballs over to Blaine.
That's right... Part 2.
aPokelypse is back.
WOOT! RETURN OF aPOKELYPSE!!!!
YES!!! i just hope you're not the only one. it took a full day for this to get a comment, plus like my entire audience has left the site in my 3 month absence... gonna keep posting it regardless but still. sigh. thanks for your enthusiasm though Didman!
"I'm fine, Harmony... please."
But she could tell he wasn't fine. Hideki only spoke when spoken to, and whenever he wasn't busy trying to convince her of his well-being, he stared into nothingness with a pained look on his face. The two stat in the bed they'd been sleeping in less than an hour ago, only this time it was Hideki leaning on Harmony for comfort.
"It's not your fault, Hideki. You realize that, right?"
"You don't know that," he answered flatly.
"Yes I do! Come on... You were as careful as you possibly could have been. You didn't put any of them in danger except when it was absolutely necessary."
"I've killed half my team, Harmony. Meanwhile, you've managed to keep yours perfectly intact."
"Maybe..." she said, still concerned about Blaine's intentions for examining her Pokemon. "It just doesn't make sense. Rochelle turned, but Rocky's fine... Birdo and Big Bird, too..."
"You just took better care of them than I did." He scoffed. "See? I really have lost my touch."
"Stop it, Hideki, I mean it. There's probably something we don't know. Or maybe I just got lucky. Wouldn't be the first time... But whatever it is," she put a hand on his cheek and turned his head to face hers, "it is NOT your fault or your responsibility."
The door opened; it was Xerxes again.
"Hey guys, I just came to see how you're doing... not too well, by the looks of things..."
"Big Bird turned," Hideki explained calmly, "and Blaine took all of Harmony's Pokes for 'examination.' Whatever the hell that means."
"What DOES that mean?"
"We have no idea..." Harmony said, again, with concern, "But he said something about them being the key to stopping this."
"Really!?" Xerxes said, a little too excitedly.
Harmony gave him a strange look, Hideki continued staring at the wall.
"No, I- I'm sorry. It's worrisome that he took your Pokemon, of course. It just, well, if Blaine finds a cure or something, that's excellent news..."
"How is your leg, Harmony?" Vi asked. None of the others had even noticed her entry into the room.
"It still kinda hurts, but not at all like it did before... I can't walk for another couple of days but everyone has been doing a great job taking care of me, so I'm not worried," Harmony explained warmly as she subtly tightened her grip on Hideki, hopefully expressing her gratitude to him especially.
"So are you two together, now?" the young girl asked bluntly.
Harmony winced. She should have expected this question, especially from Vi. The fact that she was asking led Harmony to safely assume that Vi had seen her and Hideki asleep together the night before. She may not have cared then but it made her feel slightly embarrassed to think back on it now.
"Come on, Vi... that's not..." she let her voice trail off awkwardly.
"Actually, I've been curious myself, though I was too polite to ask..." Xerxes said. "You two have definitely seemed... closer lately."
Harmony looked to Hideki, who shrugged in a manner that suggested "tell 'em whatever you think."
Harmony sighed. "Yes... we're together. It's been a long time coming, to be honest..."
Hideki smiled, expressing his agreement and relief that Harmony officially considered them a couple now.
"I assumed you were together when I met you in the Celadon Department Store..." Xerxes said. "But, apparently this is a new development for you two. So, congratulations! I think you both compliment each other well."
"You're cute together," Vi said in a matter-of-fact tone, but not without a hint of her own brand of warmth.
"Come on, guys..." Harmony said with a sheepish laugh.
"Anyway, Vi asked me to help train her Pokemon," Xerxes explained. "I was wondering if either of you would be interested in joining us."
"I'd love to," Harmony said, "but I'm feeling really tired right now... I'll join in on your training session tomorrow though, okay?"
"Hideki, what about you?"
"It is pretty late," he said, looking out the window at the now jet-black sky. "Besides, I probably shouldn't leave Harmony here alone..."
"It's okay, Hideki. I think you should go. Vi can learn a lot from both you and Xerxes. I'll be okay by myself for one night." She winked and gave him a small nudge, encouraging him to go.
Hideki sighed. "Alright... If you need anything, just give me a call, alright?"
"Our phones don't work anymore, Hideki..."
"Really?" He hadn't noticed. Not that he ever used his phone to contact anyone but Harmony anyway. "Well..." he said as he sighed in frustration, "I can't just leave you here... what if something..."
"I'll be fine, Hideki, just go-"
"Alright, if you need anything just send-" he stopped himself as he remembered Harmony's Pokemon still hadn't been returned to her yet. "I mean... here." He pulled his Jolteon's Pokeball off his belt and handed it to Harmony. "If you need me, send J-Dog."
Harmony smiled. "Alright already, go!"
The three trainers walked down the hall until they reached the door of the gym's arena.
"Go on in and get ready, Vi," Xerxes said, "Hideki and I need to discuss what we're going to go over with you today."
"Okay..." she said with a hint of curiosity.
"Damn, you're taking this seriously," Hideki noted once Vi had left.
"I don't really want to strategize with you, Hideki... Are you sure you're doing the right thing, making that kind of commitment to Harmony?"
Hideki didn't know how to respond. The question had caught him completely off-guard; he struggled to find an answer as he tried to deduce Xerxes' reasoning behind asking such a question.
"We go back a lot further than you know... I think I know her well enough to judge-"
"That's not what I mean. I already said you two are great together. I'm talking about team unity."
"Team unity? What the hell does our relationship have to do with team unity? We're still the same team as before."
Hideki gave Xerxes a look of skeptical confusion, still not getting what he was driving at.
"Look, you've clearly asserted yourself as our leader. I think that's good; you have the natural qualities of a good leader. But now... you're a biased leader. And frankly, I have to question just how well I can trust you."
Hideki finally understood Xerxes' concern, and it gave him pause as well. It was a good point; Hideki himself wasn't sure if he could be trusted either.
"FIrst of all," he finally said, "just because we're 'dating' now... if you CAN even 'date' during a zombie apocalypse... it doesn't make me any more biased than I was before. I feel the same for Harmony now that I did before I even met you. We're just more open with each other about it now. And yes... I have to admit that Harmony comes first in my book."
"If you're trying to make me feel better, you're-"
"Let me finish. Harmony is first. I don't deny that. But I'd die for any one of you. Her. Vi. You. Blaine, if it came down to it. If you consider me your leader, then I have to do it right. In a pinch, no, I probably couldn't put my feelings for her aside. But I'm going to make sure you're all safe, and I will back that with my life. If that's not enough for you... then I'm sorry. Maybe you should lead."
Both were silent for a moment. They jumped at the sharp squeak the door made as it slowly opened.
"Are you ready yet?" Vi had poked her small head out of the crack in the door. "You've been 'strategizing' for a really long time."
"What do you say, Xerxes?" Hideki asked.
Xerxes sighed. "No, Hideki, you've... got me convinced. I think you should keep leading."
"Leading? What? Are you two going to double up on me? You know that's completely unfair right?"
Hideki and Xerxes shared a laugh as Vi walked away in confused frustration.
"Razor, use Vine Whip!"
Vi's Ivysaur came down hard on Hideki's Starmie with its vines, leaving it noticeably hurt but far from incapacitated.
"I'd switch if I were you, Vi."
The young girl blinked. "You're bluffing. I have type advantage."
"You sure? Alright then... Starwho, use Psychic, just don't kill it."
Vi watched as her Ivysaur began to glow with a bright blue aura as it was telekinetically lifted into the air and thrown against the back wall of the arena. Razor lay motionless, passed out on the ground.
"Razor!" Vi rushed after her Pokemon, a Revive already in hand.
"You can just use the machine..." Xerxes noted as she popped the small yellow shard into Razor's mouth. "Or not..."
"You need to be more careful, Vi," Hideki said as he calmly walked toward Vi, handing her a Lemonade to further heal her Pokemon. "You thought you had the advantage because you were grass and I was water. It's easy to forget Ivysaur's partial poison-typing. That opens you up to a myriad of new vulnerabilities."
"You talk like you've raised one before, Hideki."
Hideki looked away from the girl. "Yeah..."
"It's cool, we started out with the same Pokemon, huh?" she said, excitedly. She'd grown a real fondness and admiration for Hideki by now, and although it still didn't even approach her idolization of Harmony, it still made her proud to have the connection of choosing the same starter as him. "Do you have him with you? It is a boy, right? The starters are usually male. What's his name? Can I see him?"
"Xerxes, I think it's your turn to have a round with her now," he said as he began to turn away. "I think I'll take a-"
"I bet you were a lot more careful with him than I was just now..."
This last line pierced through Hideki like a dagger. Vi said these words in shame for exposing her starter to such an obvious weakness. Hideki received these words with the same shame, although his was a regret that had festered for years. Hideki stood unmoving, his back still turned to Vi as she suddenly, somehow, began to understand why her words had stung him so. Without another word, he slowly walked out of the arena, head down the entire way.
"I'm sorry, Hideki! I didn't know!" she called out as she ran after him. She finally caught up to him and gently tugged on his arm to come back. "I'm sorry..."
"Go back and train with Xerxes some more," he finally said in a low tone. "I'm turning in for the night."
Harmony was still wide awake in bed, propped up against a stack of pillows in a semi-seated position. She'd released J-Dog, but not to retrieve help; she held the creature in her lap and petted it softly. She was glad Hideki and Xerxes were helping Vi get some quality training in, but she was feeling somewhat lonely. It had only been just over 24 hours since they had arrived on Cinnabar Island, and she remembered that she hadn't even been conscious for most of that time. Maybe she was better off that way; during her time awake, she'd been sewn into, painfully, she'd been attacked by a zombified Fearow, and she'd had all of her Pokemon confiscated for reasons still not fully disclosed. The recollection of all these events gave her a miniature anxiety attack as she tried to release most of the tension into Hideki's Jolteon as she gently stroked its fur.
The door opened once again, but this time not unexpectedly. In fact, Harmony had been hopefully anticipating Hideki's return for several minutes now. She could tell something was off by the look on his face, though. Neither said a word to the other as Hideki somberly sat on the bed next to Harmony and embraced her with one arm.
"It was the day before I challenged the Elite Four," he finally said. "We were in Victory Road trying to fit in some last-minute training." The setting of the story and the flatline tone he spoke in told Harmony that she was about to hear the one story he had always refused to tell her. She would finally learn what happened to Gerald.
"I knew I wasn't ready, but I was also out of places to go. So I just wanted to get everything I could out of the most advanced area I had access to. So I basically just fought wild Pokemon inside the cave with each member of my team until they became dangerously tired, then I'd heal them up and try again. Well, after a few hours of this, I had done everyone... except my Venusaur. Except Gerald."
Hideki was silent for several seconds, apparently no longer wishing to continue the story. Harmony gingerly grabbed his hand with hers and looked at him intently.
"What happened next, Hideki?"
"I don't... you don't need to hear this, I'm sorry Harm..."
"No, this has been eating you up inside for the entire time I've known you. You need to let this out. Please, tell me."
Hideki breathed in deeply before finally continuing.
"We had trained for several minutes, mostly wiping out wild Graveler and Onix for easy experience. I estimated he was at about half of his capacity so I decided to call it a day and go back to the Center to heal. Only on my way out, we were jumped by a wild Machoke. Gerald could have taken it out if I had been thinking at all. He knew Sleep Powder, I should have just tried that... or just ran..." A pained look hit his face as he recalled and regretted his decision.
"What DID you do, though?"
"I had him use Frenzy Plant. I was tired, he was tired, I just wanted this damn thing out of our way so we could go heal. Frenzy Plant has ridiculous power, I just assumed it would get rid of a wild Machoke no problem..."
"But it didn't..."
"No. It didn't."
Harmony began to sorrowfully understand his pain as she pieced the rest together for herself.
"Frenzy Plant requires a period of recharge after you use it..." she noted in a low, musing voice. "If one didn't knock out the Machoke, it would have had time to get two attacks on you. And a wild Machoke with two hits on a weakened Venusaur..." She moved into a sad yet sturdy embrace of him. "I'm so sorry, Hideki."
"To make it so far, and then to lose my very first Pokemon to my own utter stupidity... I almost turned and walked back home right there."
"Why didn't you? I think... I think I would have."
"I wanted to. But every time I'd make up my mind to give it up, that's when Gerald haunted me. If I quit there, after letting him die like that, what does his death mean?"
"Exactly. It means he died for nothing, and all my hard work and all the sacrifices of my other Pokemon were for nothing as well. Even if I failed... it's better than quitting."
"That... was so grown-up of you to realize, then. I don't think I could have made the same choice, even though I know it was the right one."
"Ultimately, I'm not sure what would have happened if he had stayed alive. Gerald's death really pushed me to try harder. It inspired me to go catch Success... it encouraged me to train extra hard with my other guys, teach them new moves and perfect strategies. Helena, in particular, really stepped up after his death."
Harmony couldn't help but smile as she remembered her introduction to Hideki; watching the young man on her TV screen with the fire in his eyes as he fearlessly coached his Gyarados to immortality that night at the Pokemon League.
"As long as you understand and appreciate the sacrifice Gerald made for you... there's no reason to be so sorry."
"You're right, Harmony. I'm sorry, just... Vi trained her Ivysaur extensively today, and I let it slip that I used to have one, and she started asking too many questions and... this happened."
"I see..." Harmony was fully aware by now of Hideki's strange ability to be reminded of such a memory by the slightest little reference, so this didn't surprise her. What did surprise her was how well he got over it this time after opening up to her. Maybe he really had changed after all.
"Vi seemed really sorry that she had reminded me of that, though, and I kind of just blew her off... I think I'll go find her and apologize."
Harmony giggled softly as she leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I think that's a good idea. But... do you think it can wait 'til morning? I don't want you to go yet."
Hideki smiled as he eased some of the tension in his body, allowing himself to relax next to her.
"Hey... that's weird."
"J-Dog..." The Jolteon, though sleeping, twitched an ear at the mention of his name. "His fur... did you brush him?"
Harmony giggled. "No, silly, where would I have found a brush?"
"No, really, I didn't. Why? Isn't that normal?"
"No, it isn't. I've... never gotten J-Dog to relax like that. I'll take him out and pet him sometimes too, but I have to be careful because his hair always stays stiff and prickly. But you've gotten him to totally release the tension in his fur."
Harmony thought for a moment before reaching out to gently touch J-Dog's head.
"Maybe it's like how you and Shadow have that connection."
"It is strange, isn't it? That Shadow trusts me like that."
Harmony paused before she spoke. "No. I don't think it's strange."
"Well, every Espeon has a psychic connection with its trainer. He knows how I feel about certain people..." she looked sheepishly over at Hideki. "He's probably sensed the trust I have in you all along."
"But you said he's never taken to anyone else like that... I can't be the only person you trust, can I?"
Harmony sighed in an exasperated, though still light-hearted way. He was as hard-headed as usual.
"No, Hideki, you're not. But I don't exactly 'trust' you the way I trust everyone else either. No, it goes beyond basic trust... I think, when you love someone... I think a Pokemon like Espeon knows it. I think that's why he trusts you, too."
Hideki smiled as he considered a response. She'd just confirmed what he'd already known, but somehow, it meant a lot that she used the word "love" in describing her feelings for him.
Before he could say anything in response though, a light tapping on the door ruined the moment. Vi entered the room, tentatively.
"Well hey Vi, did you finish your training?" Harmony asked.
"Um... for now, I guess... but I came in here to talk to Hideki..."
"Vi, listen, I was just about to find you, I-"
"I'm sorry, Hideki... something bad happened to your Venusaur, didn't it?"
Hideki took a deep breath before answering. "Yeah, it did. And it's a hard memory for me to remember. I still shouldn't have just walked off like I did though, I'm sorry."
Vi blinked as though she was amazed he was apologizing to her, like this was backwards somehow. Hideki let out a small chuckle. "You had no way of knowing about Gerald, Vi. You don't have to be sorry."
"So Gerald was his name?" she asked as she sat down at the foot of the bed.
"Yeah. My very first Pokemon."
Vi smiled. "Tell me more about Gerald."
should i even keep updating this here? or is everyone who's going to read it reading it on deviantART anyway? seems like since my hiatus, i've picked up one reader and lost like 10.
I'm pretty much just reading it on DA, but that is just me.
Ask me about my waifus
"I'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless". James Broughton
I've been reading it here, but I'd read it on DA if you chose to just post it there.
Professional Grumpy Old Man
i'll keep posting it here then. it's like an extra 2 minutes of work for me if that, and as long as SOMEONE benefits from it, it's worth it to me. plus i kind of hate to stop publishing on the very place it got started.
I read it here! You know how I feel about these chapters already so I just haven't been posting. I guess I could always creep on DA too to look for updates to yo' stuff.
ironic you should post now, Diddy... i'm just about to post the next two chapters.
"Hideki... come on, wake up!"
Harmony's shaking of his arm made him come to suddenly. It felt early to him; he started up almost instantly fearing something bad.
Harmony greeted him with a warm smile when she saw him sit up.
"Morning, sunshine," she said cheerily. "Sorry it's so early, but Blaine was in here a minute ago. He said he has a surprise for us in the dining room. And..." she lunged forward and hugged him suddenly, "I got my Pokemon back! They're fine. Birdo is even healed up! Oh, and here's Starwho."
Hideki hadn't quite caught up to her in terms of his awareness yet, but still remembered the stress she'd shown over Blaine's confiscation of her Pokemon and felt genuinely glad to hear the news.
"That's great, Harmony," he said as he returned the embrace and accepted his Starmie's Pokeball from her. "Did he mention that 'key' he talked about earlier?"
"Just that he wants to, um... 'fill us in' on some things in a little bit, after what I suspect to be breakfast. So come on! I'm hungry, and I still need your help getting to the dining room." She added the last part with a playful wink.
"Wow..." Hideki marveled as soon as he and Harmony entered the room, his eyes drawn in to the table in front of them. Harmony could only muster a small whimper of joy.
Vi and Xerxes had already begun to eat, unable to resist the succulent temptations long enough to wait for their friends. A treasure trove of breakfast foods filled the length of the table; fresh fruits, some left whole, some sliced together in bowls of fruit salad, plates of bacon and pancakes, all liberally doused in rich, creamy syrup, mounds of hot rolls with a nice selection of jams and jellies, even what appeared to be entire trays of Eggs Benedict, all with jugs of several varieties of milks and juices.
"I hope this is sufficient for you all," Blaine said, interrupting Hideki's admiration of their meal.
"Sufficient?" he repeated, "This is... well... excessive, frankly."
Blaine laughed heartily. "I'll take that as a compliment from you, Hideki."
Hideki usually didn't eat breakfast, then again, he usually wasn't awake before noon. But he gladly made an exception in this case. Not only was he starving, but he was starving for this kind of food, along with everyone else. A hot, plentiful meal after living off of trail mixes and lemonade for the last three days meant more than he could possibly describe.
"Blaine, thank you so much for all the wonderful food," Harmony said after apparently eating all she could muster, "but are you sure this is a good idea? Serving us such a lavish breakfast, given the need to store supplies..."
"If you'll notice, the eggs, the milk, the meats..." Blaine began, "none of this food would have lasted much longer, even assuming we still have access to refrigeration for the next several days. I'd hardly count any of this as 'supplies.' These are luxury items, so I thought it would be best to reward ourselves now, and as a way to celebrate... well..."
"That's right, Harmony told me you have some news for us," Hideki said. He, too, had eaten all he could hold by now, along with everyone else. "It sounds like you found something good, Blaine."
"Right..." Blaine said, suddenly looking uneasy. "I suppose, before discussing the solution... I should fill you all in on the problem itself."
"The virus..." Harmony said, "What exactly do you know about it, Blaine?"
"Everything, now. Thanks to you, Harmony."
Blaine stood and began pacing the farthest wall. "In truth, I knew more about the virus than most even before the outbreak. In a way, a very indirect way... I helped to create it."
The group exchanged various expressions of surprise and concern as an awkward silence took over the room. Blaine cleared his throat.
"Years ago, I was employed by Team Rocket to scientifically pursue the creation of the perfect Pokemon. Those efforts eventually ended with the catastrophic failure that was the Mewtwo Project."
"Wait, did you say Mew...two?" Xerxes asked, "As in a second Mew? Like an evolution?"
"N-not an evolution, a clone... only improved. None of this matters anyway! This is immaterial to the issue at hand."
Hideki was somewhat perplexed by Blaine's behavior. Never had he seen the gym leader so flustered, not even during their battle, which Hideki won handily. This seemed to be a touchy subject to Blaine for sure.
"No, Blaine, please, I'd like to hear more about this 'Mewtwo Project,'" Xerxes prodded. "Don't you guys agree?"
"Let's just hear what it is Blaine wants to tell us about the virus," Hideki said. "If he says that's not important, it's not important." He looked at Blaine and nodded.
"Very well then... It took us several years of experimentation to get as far as... the project's completion. One of the efforts leading up to that was the creation of the first ever 100% man-made Pokemon, Porygon."
"I didn't know you helped make Porygon! That's really cool." Vi said in an attempt to make Blaine more comfortable. She had picked up on the same thing Hideki had.
"But he, too, was not easy to perfect... It took my team a long time to fine-tune the volatile fusion of artificial coding and organic genetics. There were quite a few failures along the way... One was particularly..."
The group again sat in silence as Blaine searched for the right words.
"What you know about Porygon is false. He was not truly the first man-made Pokemon. There was one... 'accident' before him."
"'Accident?'" Harmony repeated. "Blaine, this is some really weird stuff you're telling us..."
Blaine took a moment to think before raising a finger in the air. "Wait here a moment. I have to show you all something." With that, Blaine left the makeshift dining room in a rush.
"Hideki..." Harmony said, looking at him, "All this talk about Mewtwos and cloning and accidents is really making me uneasy..."
Hideki wrapped an arm around her and offered an encouraging look. "Just let him finish, Harm. I'm sure this will all make sense before you know it."
Harmony half-smiled as she leaned into him, still not convinced but appreciative of Hideki's efforts.
"I agree with Harmony..." Vi interjected, "It doesn't even sound like we're talking about Pokemon anymore. I don't even get how they bring back fossil Pokemon... and Blaine said they've already CLONED one?"
"I have to admit, Hideki, I'm surprised you're keeping as much faith in Blaine as you are now," Xerxes added, "Especially after telling us he's partially responsible..."
"Your concerns are all understandable," Blaine said, apparently having just returned. He held a small manilla envelope out of which he retrieved a picture, which he sat down on the table in front of the group. Xerxes was the first to grab the picture, his curiosity off the charts now. After a few seconds of perplexed study, Xerxes showed the picture back to Blaine.
"Is this how the picture was supposed to come out? I don't see anything here but a mess of purple pixels."
"That..." Blaine explained, slowly, "is a scan of its DNA, taken during initial testing."
"Woah, slow down," Hideki said. "'Its' DNA? What is 'it?'"
"The accident..." Harmony said, marveling at the mess of purple squares in the photo, wondering how it could in any way represent life.
"Correct," said Blaine, "The DNA of the very first man-made Pokemon, the prototype of Porygon... Codename: Missingno."
"Missingno.?" Hideki repeated, a disturbed look on his face, "Blaine, what is this? I don't even..."
"It's short for 'missing number,' as all Pokemon are assigned numbers, but this Pokemon... well, it's technically not... a Pokemon."
"You're not making any sense, Blaine..." said Xerxes.
"Think of Missingno. as more of... a living piece of code."
"And what does THAT mean?" Hideki asked.
"It has almost no biological needs. It doesn't eat, it doesn't sleep... Its only goal or instinct is to corrupt. Assuming it even knows that's what it's doing."
"Blaine, I'm super lost..." Harmony said, scooting closer to Hideki. "Why don't you start at the start. Tell us exactly how... Missingno... came to be."
"As I said before, Missingno. was our first attempt at creating a Pokemon from scratch... A Porygon prototype. Except there was a critical error in the coding of the artificial DNA of this particular specimen; an error that would have terminated the entire project under normal circumstances. But this error... It resulted in a creature with the ability to override other artificial codes."
"You mean like... computer code?" Vi asked.
"Exactly right, Vi. In fact, that precise execution of its ability was how it got out. After we had seen what an... abomination we'd created, we attempted to convert it into digital data and delete it. But Missingno. and its jumbled code took control of the entire system, overriding the command, releasing itself and decimating our computer system in the process."
"So wait... It just escaped? Is that thing still out there!?" Xerxes asked. "Exactly how long ago was this?"
"Decades ago. Every so often, for a year or two after the incident, a trainer would report seeing something 'blocky' and strange off the coast of the island. My employers, Team Rocket, made sure that these reports never made it past the authorities, to save my reputation." Blaine stared at his feet in guilt. "It was a very different time, back then..."
"Blaine, this is... fascinating, in a creepy way..." Harmony said, still uneasy, "But I don't see how this relates to what's going on now..."
"Oh, but it does, Harmony. It relates to you, especially."
"What does that..."
Blaine pulled the manilla folder back out of his pocket and retrieved a second scan from it.
"The reports of sightings of Missingno. died out within a couple of years. Since then, I was unsure of the creature's status. I wasn't even sure it was still alive... until I saw this."
The second scan looked similar to the first; still comprised mostly of purple pixels, but there was a more organic feel to it. Like some sort of strange amoeba made up of children's building blocks.
"I definitely see the similarity..." Xerxes noted.
"That is a microscopic photograph I took of an organism I found living in the mouth of Harmony's Steelix."
Hideki felt Harmony go stiff as a board next to him as she let out a small gasp upon hearing these words.
"Please relax, Harmony. I returned him to you because he's in perfect health, and I assure you he still is. This organism is now dead, and while Rocky wasn't the only one I found the germ on, the rest of your team is cleared of them as well."
"Wh- What is it, though..."
"This is what has been making all the Pokemon in Kanto sick lately. But it wasn't making any of your Pokemon sick, Harmony, because this virus contains a fusion of the artificial coding of Missingno... and the Pokerus virus."
Harmony's eyes widened as several pieces of the puzzle fell into place at once.
"I... My Pokemon contracted Pokerus in Johto! And after a few days, you're immune and you can't spread it anymore! That's how Pokerus works! So... So if this is just a mutation of Pokerus..."
Blaine smiled. "That's right, Harmony. That's why none of your Pokemon turned. They are immune to the virus, because they're immune to Pokerus."
Harmony let out an excited squeal and hugged Hideki in jubilation.
"Hold on, I don't understand..." Xerxes interjected, "How did Missingno. get IN the strand of Pokerus?"
"I can only wager a guess that Missingno. is still out there, running wild in Kanto somewhere. It must have had contact with a Pokemon infected with Pokerus... Then it must have somehow taken control of the relatively simple genetic code of the virus and warped it into its own twisted brand before passing that virus on to another Pokemon. How that jumbled code of random algorithms results in the grotesque expression you've seen over the last three days is beyond me, but I suppose we'll never know for sure. But that would explain why Harmony's Pokemon are immune to its effects."
"That also explains why you said she's the key..." Hideki said, also beginning to understand. "If she can spread that immunity to the rest of us, if she can give us the original Pokerus..."
"We'll be immune, too..." Xerxes finished.
"Precisely." Blaine said. "Unfortunately, the Pokerus in all six of her Pokemon has gone dormant. So Harmony, this is the vital part. Do you have any additional Pokemon that still have the virus in its original form?"
"I sure do! I read about Pokerus' benefits when I discovered it on my Pokemon, and also read that won't go dormant if you store the infected Pokemon in the PC first! I have a whole BOX full of carriers! All we have to do is pull them out and get everyone in a room together, and..."
"Excuse me..." Vi said quietly, "But, well... aren't the PC systems all down? I don't see how we can transfer Pokemon without power..."
"Well, Blaine has power here," Harmony reasoned, "Why can't we just access the storage and pull them out?"
"No, Vi's right," Blaine explained, "We have power here, but we still can't access the storage system because the base server is down. We'll have to go to the server itself and restore power to it before we can access the stored Pokemon."
"Ah, hell..." Xerxes said, suddenly sounding incredibly worried. "Please tell me Bill isn't still running that from his lighthouse villa in Cerulean..."
"I'm afraid so, Xerxes," Blaine said. "If you want that immunity from the virus, you're going to have to go to Bill's house."
"But that's at the polar opposite end of the region! I think we're better off staying here, guys."
"That's... another issue I wanted to discuss with you all, actually..." Blaine said as he opened one particularly large cabinet along the wall.
The cabinet was lined with a plentiful, but obviously finite, assortment of various shelf-stable foods and drinks.
"You're all welcome to stay here as long as this cabinet will allow. But once our supplies run out, we'll be forced to leave."
"I think we can make this last a couple of weeks, at least..." Harmony said, examining the shelves.
"But don't forget, when we DO leave, we'll want plenty to take with us, too," Hideki noted. "I say we leave as soon as Harmony's leg is up to it."
"As much as I hate to think about leaving this place, after what we've been through..." Xerxes said, "Hideki's right. The sooner the better. Plus, you never know when something might pop up here... We probably shouldn't get TOO comfortable anywhere."
"Um..." Vi said, from a distance. The others turned around to notice she was still seated in front of her plate, a disheartened look on her face. "What about... me?" she asked, meekly.
"What about you?" Hideki asked.
"I'm sure it's not a problem for trainers as strong as you guys to fight your way from here to Cerulean City... but... how am I supposed to make it, too? I'm- I'm not ready..."
Hideki looked at Harmony, who simply nodded as she prepared to make the walk to the arena.
"We'll just have to fix that then, won't we?" he said to Vi with a confidant grin.
ok, if you think this explanation feels like a cheap throw-in, well, you're wrong. i've had the Pokerus idea from the very beginning. in fact, that more than anything inspired me to go ahead and go for this story. Harmony really did find Pokerus in my Crystal Nuzlocke; check the thread if you don't believe me, or i can show you screenshots of my game. stunningly, this whole story is still true to canon.
according to Bulbapedia, in Gen 2, Pokerus has a 3 in 65,536 chance of appearing, or roughly the odds of encountering THREE shiny Pokemon. that effectively means this story had a 3 in 65,536 chance of happening.
i hope you guys like it as much as i do. i've been waiting a long time to show this to you.
thanks, Diddy! yeah, i think you will like the next few chapters... the story is going to be Vi-centered for a while now, while we get her caught up with everyone else.
...on a whim I decided to return here, partially as the hardest part of my training is ending soon.
...I do not regret doing this in the least now. Missingno. You, sir, are a brilliant mastermind. You have brought me back to this site. Keep up the good work.
Friend Code: 1006-1639-8826
holy crap it's Xerxes. and wow, your comment like... made my day, not gonna lie. i'll do my best to make you want to keep coming back then! glad you decided to act on that whim!
Speaking of Pokerus, when I came out of Chargestone Cave in White, my whole party had it. I don't know if htey still do, but they did at one point.
"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like bananas."
"Birdo, you sure you feel up to this now?"
The Pidgeotto glared confidently at her trainer and nodded once. Harmony smiled to herself.
"Alright then... Use Quick Attack!"
With blazing speed, Birdo flew into the air before diving down and hitting the Seel hard.
"Frosting!" Vi proclaimed in a panic.
"Vi!" Hideki yelled in response, "Keep your head. You've got a big advantage here in this matchup."
"Um, right..." she said, embarrassed. She knew a Pidgeotto would be no problem for her Seel, but there was something about battling her idol, even in practice, that gave her the shakes. Suddenly, Vi was overtaken by a look of determination.
"Okay Frosting, use Aurora Beam!"
The Seel raised its head and fired a brilliant, rainbow-colored stream as cold as the night's sky. The attack landed a direct hit on Harmony's bird, who shuddered before slowly drifting to the ground and laying down.
"Enough! Birdo, rest up... Man, that's strong," she said, feigning surprise. In truth, she'd picked Birdo specifically for the task of training with Vi; about halfway through her journey through Johto, Birdo had been given the role of designated Flyer and had stopped battling for Harmony. As such, it was at a considerably lower level than her other Pokemon, any one of whom would have easily outclassed Vi's entire team at this stage in her young career.
Vi's eyes grew wide as she realized what she had done.
"I... I knocked out one of Miss Harmony's Pokemon!" She gave an innocent laugh as she ran forward to hug her Pokemon. "Oh, Frosting, you're the best! You're so strong!"
Suddenly, the small sea lion flashed with a bright light as it began its transformation. Vi jumped back instinctively before being overcome with jubilation once again.
"Frosting! You're... You're already-"
"Dewgong! Gong gong!"
Hideki, too, laughed softly as he walked over to Harmony to take Birdo's ball from her.
"Thought so... I knew he had to be close to evolving as soon as you caught him, but I figured I'd let you find out on your own. I'll go get her healed up for you, Harm," he said as he took the ball and walked out of the room.
Harmony walked gingerly to the center of the stage to congratulate her opponent.
"That was some good stuff out there, kiddo."
"Th- Thank you! Wow, I can't believe I defeated one of your Pokemon, Harmony!"
Harmony giggled and rubbed Vi's head playfully.
"Hey... You weren't going easy on me, were you?"
Harmony smiled. "No, Vi, I wasn't. It's true Birdo's not one of my regular battlers, but no way is she weak. She's a good training partner for you. Just don't expect it to always be that easy with her," she added with a wink.
"No way, I won't! I'm surprised I got you there."
Harmony sighed, but still smiled at the young girl.
"No, see, don't think like that. Not even in practice, not even against me. You've got to have confidence, Vi. In yourself just as much as in your Pokemon."
"But... isn't it smart to know when you're in over your head? Like, me with three badges against you, the Champion?"
"Well, if we were having a serious battle, yeah. But in real life, you'd be smart enough not to get yourself in a fight against someone strong until you're ready, right?"
Vi nodded her agreement.
"You've gotta know your limits before you pick a fight, but when you're in one... all your doubts have to go out the window."
"Right, I understand. I think... I think I'll have to do a lot of work on that, though. It's only natural for me to worry..."
"It's a hard lesson to learn... It's one of the things Hideki taught me about battling. When I was about your age, I got most of my textbook knowledge from... well, textbooks. And TV and the Professor and places like that. But as for the intangibles... I learned everything I know from Hideki."
"Intangibles? What's that?"
"Intangibles are... those things you can't really define or count. Like the confidence thing, or opponent's move predictions. I- I don't know, you should really talk to Hideki about this. He can explain it better than I can."
"Talk to me about what?" Hideki said, re-entering the room and releasing Birdo from her ball. The Pidgeotto fluttered over to her trainer and cooed excitedly, rubbing her injured leg.
"Ahh! B-Birdo... Careful..."
"Nothing's wrong with your leg, is it?"
"No, Hideki, you've got nothing to worry about... It just... It's still raw." She picked up her Pokemon and nuzzled its beak with her nose. "We've just gotta be a little more careful with how we show affection, okay Birdo?"
"There we go! See? Now, go back in your ball and rest up, Birdo. It'll be a little bit before I'm ready for our next session."
"So, um, what was it you two were talking about when I walked in?"
"Intangerines," Vi said. "Harmony told me to ask you about them."
Hideki laughed. "I think you're talking about 'intangibles,' right?"
"Um, yeah..." she replied, blushing. "Sorry, I'd never heard of those before Harmony brought them up..."
"Don't you think it's a little early to be getting that deep, Harm?"
Harmony shook her head. "Mm-mm. Vi's got a great head for this already. I think she needs to know how to do it the right way. Besides, we don't exactly have a whole lot of time, either."
"True... Okay Vi, you wanna know about intangibles? Well... Birdo and Harmony just now was a great example."
"It... was?" Harmony asked. Vi simply tilted her head.
"Harmony has so much love for her Pokemon... See? It rubbed up against her cut, and her response was to pick it up and cuddle it, while gently telling it why it shouldn't do that anymore. A tougher trainer would say she needs to discipline it better... But I don't agree. In fact, I think it helps her in the long run."
Harmony smiled as Vi continued to listen. "How?" she asked.
"Harmony's Pokemon are more attached to her than anyone else's Pokemon I have ever seen. They love her, and... it's not hard to see why."
"Like her and Shadow, right?"
"Yeah, exactly. Although those two are special even by her standards... But when you have that kind of trust, that unconditional love between trainer and Pokemon... It really shows in battle. Love is just a better motivator than hate. Pokemon respond better when they're asked to stick up for someone they love. But, honestly, Vi... I don't think I need to be telling you this."
Vi repeated her intrigued look, the one she'd been wearing through almost all of Hideki's speech.
"Think back to when Frosting evolved, Vi. When did that happen?"
"Right after the battle... After the experience he got from beating Birdo."
"Nope. It didn't happen until you ran up and hugged him. Until you thanked him for how he battled for you."
Vi cracked a smile as she began to understand.
"It works both ways, Vi... If you appreciate them, they'll appreciate you back."
"Yeah, I get it! You just have to be kind to your Pokemon, right?"
"That's it. Although, you'd be amazed how hard that is for some people..."
All three let this remark sink in silence for a bit before Vi's excitement finally took over again.
"I think I'm ready for another battle now. Harmony, can you go again?"
"Not now, Vi, I promised Birdo she'd have time to rest up. In fact, I think I'm gonna go take a nap, too... My sleep schedule is all messed up after the last few days. But, Hideki, why don't you go?"
"Harm, I really can't... Nothing I have would be very... fulfilling... for Vi, I don't think..."
"What about that Golbat you caught in the Islands? It's about as strong as Frosting."
"Oh yeah... Seras... Actually, you're right, I need to get to know her anyway. Alright Vi. You've got yourself a battle."
Vi nodded once, a confident look in her eyes.
Vi threw a Pokeball, revealing the young Eevee that she'd found when Hideki had first made her acquaintance in Celadon City.
"Woah, woah, woah, hold it," Hideki said suddenly, recalling his Golbat and approaching Vi's Eevee. He squatted down right in front of it and examined it, the young fox returning a curious gaze.
"Is... is something wrong with Casey...?"
"This one isn't even sort of ready for this, Vi. You need to-"
The two were interrupted but the squeaking of the metal doors. Xerxes emerged, enjoying a bottle of soda and a sleeve of plain crackers.
"Hey guys... how's training?"
Hideki looked a Xerxes for a moment before walking to him and reaching for his soda.
"Um..." Xerxes said, pulling the bottle away.
"Oh, uh... Xerxes, can I borrow that for a second?"
"What? How do you 'borrow' someone's drink... No, I need it. These crackers are dry as heck, I need something to wash 'em down with..."
"No, dammit... The bottle. Lemme see the bottle."
"What do you..."
Hideki caught Xerxes off guard as he snatched the bottle from his hands. Despite loud protests from behind him, Hideki walked back to Vi and her Eevee, unscrewing the cap from the bottle. He held the cap up so that Casey could see it before lightly throwing it a few feet away, the Eevee letting out an eager squeak as she raced towards the cap to retrieve it.
"This one doesn't need to be battling yet, Vi. But that doesn't mean you can't work with her in different ways."
"Like... throwing... bottle caps?"
Hideki sighed. "Playing in general. See?" By now, Casey had returned with the cap, which Hideki took from her with a polite 'thank you' before handing it over to Vi. Casey's eyes instantly shifted full attention to her trainer, having noticed that she had taken possession of the prized totem.
"She's still too young. Just take it easy, build a small bond with her. Baby steps."
Vi's face lit up with understanding.
"Right, I've got it!" She, too, tossed the bottle cap in front of her, and Casey again raced to retrieve it.
Hideki chuckled to himself. "Can't even remember the last time I worked with something this young... It may not seem like much now, Vi, but trust me... These little moments mean the world to her right now."
"She's not the only one who kind of wanted that cap..." Xerxes said quietly.