Gaiihl breathed heavily, drifting to the frosted over grass and sitting to catch his breath, watching as the Throh shook off its injuries and dashed back into the dark grass from which it came. Marcurio was tempted on chasing after it, just to teach it a lesson but stayed loyally by his trainer's side as Kenzie walked up to pick up the Yamask.
"Come on." She said, "That's enough battling for the day, you look exhausted."
Gaiihl shook his head weakly, "I-I can d-do it." He panted, "J-just a couple more battles."
"You've been working yourself as hard as a Gurdurr for the past few days." Kenzie said, "I know you want to meet Iris and figure out what happened, but she's not going anywhere and neither is that legend."
"But I n-need to know!" He protested weakly, resting his head against her shoulder. "Just…just one more battle."
"Tomorrow Gaiihl, we'll have plenty of time then. Cheren called and challenged us to a battle back up near the Daycare on Route 3." She promised, "You'll have his two Pokemon to try and beat then, and then we'll go and try for the Basic Badge, alright?"
"I….I guess so." He conceded, feeling exhausted.
"Good, let's head to the café and pick up something for you to drink. Then we can rest and go find that Everstone at one of the artist shops."
"How is he hon?" Lenora asked, watching Kenzie walk back down the stairs with the fox in tow. "He didn't look too good when you brought him in."
"I think he'll be okay once he gets some rest." She said, "He just kept diving into one battle after another today trying to train. He's almost obsessed with his own past, I'm worried that he won't be able to move on."
Lenora sighed, "Maybe it was a bad idea to tell him about those finds so soon. I was just hoping he'd be able to shed some light on them for me, I didn't know it was all new to him too."
"How did you know about Sethikhamun though?" Asked Kenzie, taking a seat at the table. "Gaiihl only mentioned him once to me, he's the one that entombed him alive."
"Sethikhamun is a very obscure figure." Lenora said, "Nearly everything that mentions him has his name bashed out in tablets and walls, any drawings of him have been defiled. There are only a few existing texts on him and everything is about his tyrannical rule or his death, all we really know is that he was one of the worst perceived Pharaohs of Ancient Unova and that he had a Mismagius under his control."
"A Mismagius?" Kenzie asked, "I've heard about those Pokemon, they have some really powerful dark magic at their disposal. No wonder why he was so dangerous too….you don't think Sethikhamun has come back too…do you?"
"There's no way to say for sure." Lenora said, "He could have been captured by a trainer or might still be wandering that part of Unova where he died. It's hard to say."
"Gaiihl mentioned seeing another Cofagrigus the other day." Marc said, jumping up onto the table. "He was really jumpy about it afterwards, plus he's got some issue with evolving."
"I don't know." Lenora said, walking over to the counter to pour herself a mug of coffee. "It all might just be part of the process. He's grieving for what he once had, it's hard to move on when your life has been flipped upside down. You just gotta keep doin' what you're doin' and help him move on. If that means uncovering a few secrets, finding a few people he knew, or looking for places that feel like home to give him some closure, then you've gotta be there for him."
Kenzie nodded, folding her arms and resting her head on the table. "You know, he hasn't really told me much about himself at all. What he liked to do when he was alive, favorite foods, who his friends were…. He must be terribly homesick."
"Well…" Lenora thought aloud, scrunching her mass of teal hair to make it stand up right. "I wouldn't be opposed to having a 'Yamask/Cofagrigus Day' at the Museum." She said, "It could be a bit of a town-wide celebration, we can certainly put it up by next week if I talk to the right people. We could reunite some friends, sell traditional art from the artists in town, hold a big party. It would be great for the Museum too if we're able to shed a bit of light on the past."
"That sounds like a great idea." Kenzie said, "We'll probably have to come back from Castelia, I'm hoping to beat your Gym tomorrow."
"I better keep my guard up then huh, sugar?" Asked Lenora, laughing. "Then it's set, maybe we can get your friend out of that funk he's in and looking to making a good future."
"I don't get how holding a rock is going to stop me from evolving." Gaiihl said, tucking the Everstone into the folds of his scarf.
"We don't really know how it works." Kenzie admitted, looking into the windows of the warehouses, "Just that it does what it does."
"Nice town." Marc mused, hands in his pockets as he trailed along a little ways behind. "Turning warehouses into local shops and homes… Looks like even when something has outlived its purpose you humans can still find something to do with it."
"That sounded uncharacteristically thoughtful~"
"Then again, this is probably the 1% of things you don't just destroy to put up another shopping mall or a fast food restaurant."
"Aaaand I take that back." Kenzie laughed, getting in her bag and doling out a bit of the prize money to them. "Here, you guys can spend this on whatever you want, just keep in mind that too many Supply Balls even get heavy to carry around after a while. Stick around with Marc for a bit and let him show you how to handle money nowadays. I need to take a stop at Castelia City to pick up some more medicines, I'll be taking a bus so I'll be back soon, can't battle while I'm there and without you two anyway."
Gaiihl nodded and waved goodbye as she headed off and he floated along with the transformed Zorua into the shops, looking at a variety of items that, most of them, he didn't even know what were.
"You know…" Marc said, walking out of the shop. "It'd probably be good for you to find a hobby. I know you did that carving thing for your birthday, but why not take it up in your spare time?"
"I don't know…" Gaiihl said hesitantly, "I mean, there's already so much stuff to do, and I'm preoccupied with training."
Marc rolled his eyes and transformed back into a Zorua and pushed the Yamask out of the way of shoppers.
"Look, I'm going to be straight with you. Kenzie and I both noticed that you've been acting different as of late. What gives?"
"What? Nothing is being given, I want to help Kenzie beat this Gym and go to Castelia and I'd just like to hear this Legend about me." He said, defensively. "N-nothing's wrong."
"Oh yes there is." Marc pressed the issue, "You were afraid of evolving, sure, but you've been really adamant about it lately. You're training yourself too hard but you don't want to get stronger by becoming a Cofagrigus. What's going on, Gaiihl?"
Gaiihl gave him an angry look before sighing and looking away, Marcurio stood his ground expectantly, twitching his ears.
"Back in Striaton, before we challenged the Gym, I saw this strange boy, N, talking to a Cofagrigus."
"Okay, so what about this Cofagrigus?"
"It was Sethikhamun." He said, glaring at the ground, "He came back too."
Marcurio sat down, a troubled expression on his face as he listened. "What do you think it means?"
"It means that there's a problem. Team Plasma is being led by this man named Ghetsis, and he's N's father by the looks of it. Sethikhamun has teamed up with Ghetsis."
"So there's probably a lot more behind his agenda than 'Pokemon Liberation'," Marc thought aloud, "And it looks like those two grunts weren't just a couple of cruel members, there's a good chance that the majority of them are the same. But what does this mean for you?"
"For me? It…it doesn't mea-"
"Don't start that." Marcurio snapped, "Of course it means something. Are you training to defend yourself from him if he comes looking for revenge, or are you training to take revenge?!"
"I-I…" He had to think about that for a while. What was the real reason he was pushing himself so hard?
"Gaiihl. You, me, Kenzie… we're a team, and we've got to work together and listen to each other's problems. We can't keep secrets." He sighed, "Look, I joined this team because I knew I would for a long time. Back when I told you I was searching for a girl? That was Kenzie I was looking for. I was with Celebii when we took a break in the Desert Resort, I don't know what time but it has to be the future because I saw a girl surrounded by Pokemon and one of them was a Shiny Zoroark. I looked over at myself from across the desert and nodded. I knew that girl had to be the person."
"And that's why you were looking for her in the desert…" Gaiihl realized.
"I was looking in the wrong place and in the wrong time." He said, "But we have to work together, we can't have our own priorities getting in the way of what's important."
Gaiihl looked at the floor, ashamed with himself, he'd caused his friends worry because he was too focused on his past and something that had already happened. He couldn't change it, it was already over and done with and here he was wasting… wasting a second chance at life. It felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, he wasn't dead, he was alive and well albeit in a different form and time. It was like trying to live in the day before when the now was flying right past him without him noticing.
"I…I understand now." He said, "Sethikhamun is probably still up to no good, like he always was, but if we meet, he's goin to be the one coming to me. I won't seek out trouble."
Marcurio nodded approvingly. "I knew you weren't as dumb as you looked, it worried me that you might have wasted sixteen years of life being stupid."
Gaiihl shoved the Zorua playfully, "Dumb fox." He laughed, "But I'm going to keep training, for the right reasons." He looked to the Everstone tucked in his scarf, "And….one of these days I might evolve…but I don't want to… not quite yet."
"Well, at least you're thinking about it." Marc said, transforming back into his human form.
"We should start thinking about trying to beat this gym." Gaiihl mentioned, "What are those things, TMs? We should see if we can learn some new moves for the upcoming battles."
"I think there was a case of them over here." Marc said, waving him along.
"Hey guys, I was wondering when you'd get back." Kenzie said, watching as the two Pokemon entered the house. "Have a good time?"
Gaiihl nodded and floated over to her to pull her into a sudden hug, "I'm sorry for worrying you." He said, "It's…just been a rough time for me."
She smiled and hugged him back, "But you're okay now?"
"I'm getting there." He said, giving her a small smile.
"Anyway." Marcurio interrupted, "We ended up buying some TMs with our money." He set the bag down on the table and transformed back into a Zorua.
"And a little something extra to celebrate our upcoming victory." Gaiihl said confidently, opening one of the bags and struggling to take out the small cake they had bought from a local baker.
Kenzie's eyes lit up and she grabbed her bag. "I've got a bit of a surprise for you two as well." She said, "I went to Castelia so I could pick up some new art supplies from the Castelia City Art Store, where Burgh gets his supplies, and the Toys R' Us was giving these away."
"Toys R' Us?" He asked, watching as she brought out what looked like a large glass cylinder.
"It's a big toy store." She explained, "But to help trainers build their teams they were giving away Pokemon eggs!"
Kenzie sat the cylindrical incubator on the table, the egg sealed safely inside.
"What kind of egg is it?" Gaiihl asked, floating over to peer into the case.
"That's the thing, it can hatch into one of three Pokemon. A Pidove, a Pansage like Cilan's, or an Axew."
"And Axew?" He said, smiling slightly into the container, "When will it hatch?"
"The clerk said that it would only be in a few days since they incubated a lot of them beforehand. It won't be long until we find out what Pokemon is waiting for us. Either way, it'll be an excellent addition to the team. "
"So, mmph… are you guys going to eat some of this cake or what?" Marc asked, snout covered in white icing.
"Marcurio!" Kenzie scolded, laughing. "Fine, You're getting that piece, just wait for me to cut the cake before eating more, alright?"
He burped and sat back, trying to lick the icing from his nose. "To us! And our soon to be win against Cheren and the Gym!"
"How much farther is the Daycare again?" Gaiihl asked.
Kenzie's feet tromped against the wooden bridge as she drew her coat closer to herself, it seemed as if winter was right on their heels.
"Not that much farther, around the bend and a little more of a walk." She assured, "This time I'm letting Marc take on Smugly. That Snivy might know how to cheat, but Marc is pretty cunning himself, plus he's got that new move that's perfect against a Snivy."
Gaiihl nodded, tail wrapped around her arm as he rested against her shoulder, watching the water for the Pokemon swimming underneath. Even more so, he was feeling for the egg moving every once and a while in her bag.
"So, what are we going to name the Axew?" He asked, peeking into the bag.
"We don't even know if it's going to be an Axew." She said, "I'd rather wait and see what we end up with before deciding on a name for him, or her for that matter."
"Well…still." He said, "I nearly settled on the name Wulfrum for Khepesh…"
"If it ends up being a male Axew then fine, we'll call it Wulfrum." She conceded, but you know you have a one in six chance of that happening."
"Sssh!" He hushed, "I'm being optimistic, don't ruin it~" He laughed, batting the brim of her hat.
"Oh! I see Cheren up ahead!" She whispered hurriedly, "Quick! Get in your Pokeballs, it's time for that little plan we made."
"Hey!" Cheren waved to Kenzie as she approached, "You ready for that battle? I've been training with Smugly, hopefully he won't be as much of a sore loser as before…"
"It's no problem Cheren." She said, tipping her hat and taking a Pokeball from her belt. "Let's get this started then!"
She tossed out her first Pokeball and a Yamask emerged from the bright red light and tightened his scarf. Cheren drew his own Pokeball and bounced it onto the field, revealing the Snivy as the ball zoomed back to his hand.
"Hey! Wow! Are you guysh havin' a Pokemon baddul?!"
Kenzie looked up, seeing a small crowd of kids from the Daycare starting to gather.
"Yes, we are, you guys want to watch?" Cheren offered.
There was a small chorus of 'yes!' and some children even let their own Pokemon out to watch.
"Alright! Gaiihl! Use Shadowball!" Kenzie ordered, starting the match.
"Smugly, dodge it and use Growth!"
The Snivy easily dodged the Shadowball and rolled to the side, becoming engulfed in a green shimmer.
"Try and use Shadowball again!" She said, "He's building his attack power!"
Gaiihl nodded and zoomed forward, dodging from side to side to avoid Smugly's vine whips before the Snivy was plowed over by a close-range Shadowball. He turned the tumble into a purposeful roll before landing back on his stubby feet and shooting forwards.
"Use Growth and then Wrap him before finishing him off with a close range Vinewhip!" Cheren shouted.
The shimmer surrounding Smugly grew harsher as he shot forwards and a set of vines shot from his back, wrapping around the Yamask. However, as the Snivy approached to finish the first round of battle the vines wrapping Gaiihl tightened and his form faded away, revealing the Zorua in his place. It had been an illusion the entire time.
"Surprise~" Marcurio teased.
"Now! Use Incinerate!" Kenzie shouted, the real Gaiihl popping from his Pokeball to watch.
Smugly's eyes widened as he tried to veer away and continue with his attack, but he'd been charging along at full speed and skidded right into the flames, the vines smashing against the Zorua as well. When the dust cleared, both Pokemon were out for the count and out cold.
Cheren sighed, "I submit for the next round." He conceded, walking forward and picking up Smugly, "Sebastian doesn't know any damaging moves for a Ghost type besides Assist, and even then he might not choose Vinewhip. I'd rather not take an unnecessary risk, it was carelessness on my part." He sighed.
Kenzie carefully picked up Marcurio, gently peeling the vines off of him as he slowly came round.
"Did we win?" He asked, sounding dizzy.
"We won~" Kenzie giggled, taking a potion from her pack and tending to his wounds.
The Shiny Pokemon curled up in her arms, comforted by the medicine, he'd be well again after a few moments rest.
The children clapped excitedly, but they soon turned to gasps and shouts as two figures tore down the road and pushed Kenzie aside, causing her to fall to the frosty ground. Luckily, she had enough reaction time to fall to her side instead of on her back. The egg would be safe…she hoped. Tears stung at her eyes as Marc jumped from her arms and barked angrily at the two figures that rushed past them, her elbow had been badly scraped and it was bleeding slightly.
"Are you hurt?" Gaiihl asked protectively, carefully lifting her elbow to see. "You're bleeding."
"I'll be okay." She said, wiping her eye, "Can you check on the egg and get me a bandage?"
Gaiihl started rummaging through the pack and soon brought out an adequately sized bandage, leaving it to himself to patch her up as Cheren ran over.
"What was that?" He asked, glaring after the figures retreating into the distance. "Are they running from something?"
"Hey! Wait! Stop them!"
Kenzie, her Pokemon, and Cheren both turned to look down the road as Bianca hurried along holding the hand of a little girl who looked on the verge of collapsing. "Thieves!"
"Bianca!" Cheren yelled, running up to her. "What's going on?"
"Those Team Plasma thugs stole this poor darlin's Pokemon!"
Cheren's brow furrowed and he whipped around, "Kenzie! Hurry up and meet me at Wellspring Cave! That has to be where they're heading, there's no other path!"
Cheren turned and started at a full sprint towards the cave as Bianca did her best to comfort the small girl, who had started crying.
"Don't worry." Kenzie promised, "I'll get your Pokemon back. Don't worry."
She struggled to her feet and picked up the Zorua who was still aching from his wounds before sprinting off after Cheren.