Vines of Deceit

BY : Manifest Destiny
Category: Pokemon > General
Dragon prints: 13172
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon. Pokemon is copy write by GameFreak, INC. and Nintendo. I make no money from this story, nor do I seek any.

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Chapter 7: Stretch Your Legs

—————

Tristan Blake took in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and prepared his throat for the impending burst of sound.

Draya!” His voice carried far off into the distance. Pidove left their perches in fright and startled Tympole ducked underneath the shallow water’s surface. He coughed over and over again. Tristan rested a hand on a log beside him, steading his stance. That was the fifth time he had tried calling her name like that.

She had to have heard me that time… Where is she?

Exhausted from trudging through the water and mud and calling for his Pokémon, he sat down on the half-submerged log. Tristan looked across the wet and marshy land around him, trying to hide his eyes from the glare that the mid-afternoon sun was sending into his face. He was currently an hour outside of Nacrene City, but his aching muscles continued to argue otherwise. Tall grass that managed to break the shin-high water swayed in the light breeze. Small mounds of dirt dotted the wet landscape like tiny islands, acting as muddy little safe havens for non-aquatic Pokémon and humans alike.

Something off to his left caught his attention, and Tristan spotted N moving across the difficult terrain with what looked like practiced ease. Tristan watched as he would effortlessly come close to wild Pokémon that would otherwise flee from a human’s intrusion and communicate with them in some strange, unknown way. He saw N’s Pidove return and relay some message that was lost to Tristan’s ears, only to be sent off to search another area.

“Your voice is very powerful,” N said as he approached. “I’ve met Loudred who are quieter in conversation. One might lose their voice if they are not careful.”

“What’s— What’s a ‘Loudred’?” asked Tristan, still feeling the sting in his throat.

“It is a Pokémon native to the Hoenn and Sinnoh regions. You do not know it?” N asked, genuine surprise in his voice.

“No, not really.” Tristan coughed again, starting to feel some relief. “I guess I’m not too knowledgeable on foreign Pokémon species, am I?”

N raised an eyebrow at the remark, but said nothing.

“So, no luck, huh?” Tristan asked.

“I’m afraid not,” N told him. He took a seat on the log next to Tristan and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a piece of cloth. “Pidove is searching the area one more time, but I doubt it will change anything.”

Tristan sighed, worry sinking in. “Where does that leave us then?”

“With one easy option, and one that is more troubling. Can you not use Draya’s Poké Ball to retrieve her?” N asked him. “I was almost certain that current models had that feature.”

“Honestly, I’ve already tried. She must be too far away for it to work, or she’s somehow ignoring it.”

“That is unfortunate,” N said.

“But really,” Tristan continued, “it’s for the best. I don’t want to pull her back without warning. I need to see her and talk to her. She has to want to come back on her own.”

N smiled, “That is very considerate of you.”

“I figure it’s a bit overdue, and it might be the only chance I have at getting her back.”

“Well I fear that your chances may be getting away from you; I can see no alternatives. Pinwheel Forest may very well be where she ran off to.”

“But that place is huge!” Tristan yelled, hurting his throat again. He took a moment to recover his voice. “We’ll never find her in there…”

Standing up on the log, N offered a hand to help Tristan up to his level. “You surprise me yet again, Tristan Blake. In all that I’ve seen of you, I did not expect to give up on your Pokémon so easily.”

“I’m not!” Tristan protested, jumping up on the log.

“Do you not want to see her again?” N asked.

“I do,” Tristan said. He looked toward the intimidating wall of trees looming in the distance. “It’s just… complicated right now.”

“I can understand you have mixed feelings about what happened,” N said, “but the longer we wait here, the further away she might be. The forest can be unforgiving to travelers at night, I might add.”

“You’re right,” Tristan said. “We need to hurry.”

The two young men marched their way back to the main road that connected Nacrene and Castelia City, taking its path toward the area known as Pinwheel Forest. The paved walkway was a welcome departure from the sloshy and wet ground they had been searching before. Tristan stopped everyone they happened to cross paths with on the road, asking if they knew or saw anything. Too many did not take him seriously.

“A Zorua? Really? They’re practically a myth they’re so rare. Why’d you let yours go?” a passerby said, not thinking much of Tristan’s plea.

“I didn’t! I—” Tristan almost exploded in anger.

“Thank you very much for your time,” N interjected. “We will be on our way.”

The pedestrian went on their way, sending only one last questioning glance back at the two.

“What is with people?” Tristan asked, annoyed at his own anger as well as the careless remark of the traveler.

“The Zoroark family is a very elusive species,” N said as they continued toward the forest’s entrance. “When one is discovered it becomes a popular, high-profile event among humans. In turn, they like to remain hidden to avoid such high amounts of human interaction, as well as avoid predators they might have. Thus, it is a cycle that is rarely ever broken.

“To this day, no one truly knows their native land. So few have been observed in the wild, and as the case often is, ones that are found are solitary. A single specimen hardly makes for an obvious local population.”

“You seem to know a lot about them,” remarked Tristan. “Why is that? You aren’t one of them in disguise, are you?” he joked.

“No, of course not.” N laughed lightly at the notion. “I have, however, had the pleasure of knowing a few in my years.”

“What? Really? Do you still know them? Could they—I don’t know—help us find Draya at all?”

“I think not. They are not with me at the moment and spending time trying to find even more shape-shifting beasts would take quite a bit longer than finding just one.”

“Oh,” Tristan said.

“Not to sound ignorant of your current plight,” N began, “but you were telling me of a few incidents you’ve had with Team Plasma before we split up our search earlier today.”

Tristan grunted in frustration and anger. He felt the weight of his other source of stress come rushing back to him all at once. “I’d forgotten all about them in all this. What else is there to tell?”

“Who and what exactly did you witness?” N asked, eager. “You never said much in ways of specifics.”

“I saw awful people doing awful things to Pokémon. Multiple times. My friend Bianca and I caught a few of them abusing Pokémon outside of Striaton City. After that, my friend Cheren and I tracked a group to some caves off of Route 3, where they had stolen Pokémon from children,” Tristan looked up and felt panic begin to rise up as he saw the first tinge of sunset tint the sky. “After that, I followed some of them here to Nacrene, but their ring leader managed to get them out of any jail time.”

“‘Ring leader’, you say?” N asked. “Did this individual have a name?”

“Yeah. Ghetsis Harmonia.”

—————

Thin beams of orange sunlight broke through the treetops and speckled the dark forest floor with contrasting pillars of brightness. Humid air hung heavily in the dense woodlands, putting a great deal of strain on the lone human traveler.

Instead of Tristan’s noisy and frantic methods of searching—which he had heard on two separate occasions since they had started their search within Pinwheel Forest—the young man named N moved as silently as he could manage through the area, doing his best to mind his step. He admired and respected the nature around him as he looked for any sign of the renegade Pokémon, Draya.

Looking up, N measured the time he had spent since the second leg of their endeavor began.

About an hour… not much of the day left to use. Perhaps… up is the best approach?

Finding an adequate grip in the trunk of a tree, N employed his long out-of-practice skill of climbing. Modern humans relied on stairs and ladders more than the feeling of rough bark of a tree to get to higher place.

The more he climbed, the easier it became; his body relearning the motions needed to perform the feat. Branches became handholds and steps, and soon he found himself high above the ground. The branch underneath his feet was wide enough for himself and possibly another to stand comfortably on, with a bit of proper balance.

N could see for a great distance on his high perch, watching other beings live their lives in the forest. He spied a floating clump of Cottonee grouped around a tree ahead of him. Taking a few moments to prepare himself, N ran off of the branch he had climbed for and leapt through the air to the neighboring tree. He came to an abrupt stop against the trunk and quickly grabbed a branch to steady himself. Again, he repeated the action of leaping from tree to tree, making his way toward the group of wild Pokémon.

“I say, friends!” N said as he reached his destination, panting slightly from the physical exertion. “May I speak with you?”

The group of Cotton Puff Pokémon all turned and fluttered up to N, asking friendly questions.

“A human?”

“Who are you?”

“I didn’t know humans lived in trees.”

“They don’t. This one is special.”

N calmed the excitable group of Pokémon down as best as he could before he relayed his request.

“I am on a mission, you see? A friend of mine has lost someone dear to him. She is a ‘Zorua’, a Pokémon that can change her appearance. She is lost, perhaps afraid, and could be around here without us even knowing it. If any of you could help me find her, I would be very grateful.”

The cloud of Cottonee turned in on each other, discussing the plea for help in a not-so-private commune. It wasn’t long before they had settled on an answer.

“Sure, green guy!”

“Zorua are hard to find, but we’ll look for one anyway!”

“We’re not very fast, but we can help.”

“Thank you, friends,” N said, smiling. He watched the group split up and drift off in the breeze, spinning and twirling as they look through the forest for something they may not even find.

“Those guys are always so flighty,” a voice next to N’s ear said.

Startled, N turned his head to meet a yellow and green caterpillar sitting on his shoulder. He raised his arm to allow the Sewaddle to have a more comfortable place to sit. The Sewing Pokémon regarded the human’s surprised gaze for a moment, and then took a bite of the fabric of N’s t-shirt.

“Hey, don’t do that,” N scolded.

“Why not? Human-made fabric tastes better than leaves do, you know?”

“Very well then…” N ripped a strip of fabric from the ruined sleeve, allowing the Bug type Pokémon to enjoy a treat. “Say, would you like to help me out with something?”

“I already heard the whole thing,” the Sewaddle said. “Well, most of it. I’ve been on your back since you climbed up that first tree, you know?”

Suddenly curious, N looked over his left shoulder and pulled on his shirt a bit. The entire back of the white garment was now full of bite marks and holes. He chuckled a bit at the sight.

“You are certainly light on your feet,” N said.

“So why’re you looking so hard for this Zorua? She yours, trainer?”

“No, I’m helping a friend look—” N caught himself, thinking on his choice of words.

For how long have I considered Tristan a friend? I said as much to those Cottonee, as well

“Yeah?” the Sewaddle spoke up, getting N’s attention. “‘Helping a friend look’…?”

“Right… My friend and the Zorua in question had a… disagreement of sorts, and she ran away from him. Despite myself, I feel that they should remain together. I find the notion hard to believe, yet I do all the same.”

“What’s so hard about that?” Sewaddle asks, curious. “Humans and Pokémon get along okay all the time. Are these two special?”

“You see, my friend, that is where you might be right.”

Scanning the forest area around him, N began to move once again, explaining his worries and thoughts to his new companion. As time went on, N grew tired of walking and leaping in the trees. As he carefully made his way back down to the ground, his mind alighted on an idea.

“I have a favor of you, my new friend. One that I don’t ask of you lightly.”

“What’s that?”

—————

Elsewhere in the forest, Tristan was silently fighting himself. A whirlwind of questions spun around in his head.

Where is she?

He was sweating hard now. He had been running through the dense forest since he and N started their search, but now he was slowly stomping his way through the grass and other such plant life that grew around the trunks of the trees. Any wild Pokémon he came across fled in fear as he loudly stomped by their dens and homes.

Why did she lie to me all this time?

That question had been bouncing around in his head from the moment he saw Draya tumble to the ground in her true form earlier that day.

Why didn’t I see this before?

He at least suspected the answer to that one; information in his Pokédex on Zorua and Zoroark claimed that their ability to cast illusions were unparalleled. They completely fooled anyone and anything. Tristan distinctly remembered that his Pokédex had identified Draya as a Snivy when she had first appeared. She always appeared from her Poké Ball under the cover of her illusion, never once letting it slip.

Did anyone else know? Did Professor Juniper suspect anything? Did Cheren?

Tristan thought back to the phone call he had with his friend a few days ago. Cheren noticed fairly easily that Draya hadn’t been using any Grass type moves or techniques. He had wondered to Tristan if there was something wrong with her.

Yes, actually. She was a Dark type all along. You’re right again, Cheren.

Tristan stopped himself, finding the ground beneath his feet had gotten progressively muddier as he went along. Continuing forward a ways more revealed a shallow creek. He hoped that following the water might give him any higher chance of finding Draya. It might have not been a large chance, but it was one he was willing to take. Shoes could be cleaned later.

He knew. If he didn’t know for sure, then he must’ve at least had an idea. Dammit Cheren, why didn’t you say something?

He took a bad step and slipped on a slick, mud-covered rock, sending Tristan flailing into the muddy water to his left. The creek was shallow enough to not submerge himself completely, leaving Tristan sitting in cold, waist-deep water. He sat still and focused on himself for a moment in the gentle current. The weight of his drenched clothes soon urged him to stand up, however. Tristan looked down at his mud-covered self.

He did. He did say something, but I didn’t listen. I just got angry with him. I didn’t want anything to be “wrong” with my Pokémon, so I just denied it and hoped she would be okay; that it would all work out. This isn’t Cheren’s fault. He was just being himself.

Tristan walked up out of the muddy creek and checked if anything had gotten wet that shouldn’t have. His Pokédex was in the front jacket pocket, which managed to stay dry. As he went over his possessions, he came across his two Gym Badges that were pinned on his jacket. He had decided he wanted to display them like Bianca, rather than hide them away in a case like Cheren. He had moved them to the outside of his jacket, just below the collar. Some mud had splashed onto them.

Maybe Draya was just being herself.

Unpinning his two badges, Tristan took a moment to look at them resting in his hand. The longer he stared at them, the angrier he became. He clenched them in his fist until it hurt.

No she wasn’t. That’s the whole point. She lied about who she even was! She led me on the whole time! These mean nothing!

Turning back to the muddy bed of the creek, Tristan pulled his arm back and prepared to throw his ill-gotten badges into the dirty water. He froze, hesitation holding him back. He breathed heavily, trying to find the strength to throw the two metal pins away.

“I can’t,” he finally said out loud.

Taking a deep breath, he put the badges in the slow moving current of the creek, rinsing them of the mud and dirt.

These aren’t just about Draya and I.

He pinned the clean Trio Badge back onto his jacket, remembering Cheren and Bianca fighting alongside him. The Basic Badge, the one he had won just that day was thanks to both of his Pokémon. Cole deserved it as much as he did. Or Draya.

Tristan carefully made his way back up to dryer land, shaking the mud from his pants and shoes as he went.

“For everyone else, not just me,” Tristan said. “I hope you come back to me. To us.”

—————

“So, you don’t trust him? Sewaddle asked.

N sighed, many thoughts running though his head. “It’s not only that; I also worry about him. I want to believe that what I’m being told is the truth but I have my doubts, as much as it pains me to admit…”

The human casually made his way through the ever-darkening forest. His Grass and Bug type companion rested on his head, having previously agreed to not attempt to eat the human’s headwear.

“Well, if things work out like you say, I guess I can help you out,” Sewaddle says. “I bet things outside of this forest are big and bright and interesting, you know?”

“The wide world is a magnificent place, to be sure. You would enjoy it, I believe.”

“Cool! When do I start?” Sewaddle asked, excited.

“As soon as we—” N paused, his eye having caught something. He crouched down next to the base of a tree, examining the trunk.

Sewaddle leaned forward on his perch, trying to see what his human friend was looking at. “What’s the matter?”

“This,” N said, pointing. A section of the bark on the tree was discolored, shining in a magnificent turquoise. Testing his theory, N took hold of a piece of it and tore it from the tree. The piece of bark in N’s hand instantly returned to its natural color while the spot on the tree’s trunk did not change at all. The bark he had torn off was still there in its unnatural color.

“We’re close,” N said, smiling.

“What? How can you tell?”

“That was an illusion, a stray one. I’ve seen it happen like this before. An untrained Zorua or Zoroark sometimes leave these tiny little mirages in their wake. Our target is emotional and afraid; she’s being clumsy.”

Picking up his pace, N—and the Sewaddle—began to follow the subtle trail of out-of-place colors and misshapen objects. The shimmering errors in the forest began to fade away and became scarce. N started to worry that he would soon lose the trail and broke into a run.

“You are here!”

N broke into a clearing; a light slope leading down to a small pool of clear water. A steep hill rose over the opposite shore of the small pond. Soaking their feet in the water, and looking very surprised at the sudden intrusion into her once private spot, a young woman sat on dry land looking back at N. Her bright blue eyes and dark colored skin contrasted one another, along with her plain white blouse and skirt.

“Um, hi?” the girl asked, waving up at N gently.

“Oh,” N said, disappointed. He looked around the immediate area but was unable to find any more illusory artifacts. I was so sure of it… did I miscalculate?

“Can I help you?” she asked him. She was standing now, barefoot in the grass.

“Actually yes,” N said, putting aside his annoyed mood. He approached the girl, “I’m looking for a lost Pokémon. A Zorua. She may be in disguise, hiding herself as something that she is not. Have you seen anything unusual in the area?”

“No, I don’t think so…” she said. “I’m sorry to hear that she’s lost. Is she your Pokémon?”

“A friend of mine lost her, actually.” N sat down on the ground and took off his hat, letting the Sewaddle rest in his lap. “The trouble is that it is getting to be late, and I worry that we may have to abandon our search for the evening. My friend and I have not crossed paths for some time… I wonder if he has found anything.” N tore off another shred of his shirt for the Sewaddle to eat before asking the girl, “What of you?”

“I’m sorry?” the girl responded.

“What are you doing so far from the road?” N looked over her attire, “I see that you do not have any Pokémon with you. Are you sure you will be alright this far in the forest at dusk?”

The girl hesitated to respond, playing with her long black hair. She took a seat on the ground next to N and sighed, “I just needed some space; some place quiet to relax, you know?”

“I do know.”

“I just— I had the worst day. The absolute worst! I couldn’t face going back… home. So I ran off and found this quiet place.”

“And misplaced your shoes, apparently,” N noted as he observed the area.

The girl chuckled a bit, smiling. “Just one of those days…”

“And what will you do when the day is over?” N asked. He looked to the sky and saw the few remaining remnants of daylight disappearing, the forest darkening around them by the minute.

“I don’t know,” she said. The girl dipped her toes in the water, making ripples on the surface. “Things at home got… complicated…”

“I see,” N said. He gave her a knowing smile, leaving her to question his stare in silence.

“Wh—What?”

“Draya,” N said, and the girl visibly jumped. “For the sake of the future, you are going to have to learn how to cope with what you’ve done.”

“But… I.. I didn’t do anything wrong!” she complained, no longer hiding her identity. Draya’s human eyes shifted to their natural, more feral state while the rest of her illusion held solid. “I was just doing what I’ve always done! It’s not my fault that things changed! It’s— mnn…”

“It’s what?” N asked. He stood up and brushed the dirt from his pants.

Draya stayed on ground, clenching her fists in frustration. She brought her legs up to her chest and pouted.

N sighed, “If you cannot even talk to me, how can you explain yourself to—?”

A sudden yell broke their private discussion.

N managed to see, just before he hit the water, Tristan tumble down from the top of the slope that lead into the small pool of water that they had been sitting beside. The next moment after the resulting splash was met with another one, as Draya’s human form leapt into the water after him.

“I swear to the Alpha…” Tristan said, submerged up to his neck. “If I fall into something wet or muddy one more time today…”

“Are you okay?” Draya all but yelled down at him. Tristan’s confused look didn’t delay him from grabbing her outstretched hand.

“No, I’m alright,” he said as he rose out of the water. He looked over to N for some sort of explanation, but he was only given a smug smile in response.

“Oh my god…” Draya said, looking at Tristan. His clothes were soaking wet, covered and caked in mud in more than a few places, and his face had a few cuts and scrapes across the cheek, bleeding slightly. Draya lifted a hand up to his face, wiping away some of the grime away. “You went through so much trouble…”

“Uhh, N?” Tristan asked, tilting his head away from the girl with the wet clothes and strange looking eyes. “Who is this girl?”

“I’m sorry about today,” she said. Draya’s human form walked backwards out of the water and shifted back to her true, smaller self. Her fur lay flat and clung to her body, dripping wet. Her ears were low, “I’m ready to go back now…”

Tristan stood there speechless for a few moments. He didn’t pay any attention to what N was doing, what he might have said, or that his shoes and socks were now completely soaked through. He only stared calmly at his Pokémon as she stared back at him with those icy blue eyes.

“Can… Can I be put in my Poké Ball, Tristan?” Draya asked. “I… I’m pretty tired.”

Tristan snapped out of his daze and lazily grabbed her plain red and white ball. “Sure, Draya. You can come out whenever you want, like always.”

“Yeah…” she nodded. Draya’s form became a mass of red light and zipped into the capture sphere quietly.

Tristan looked at the ball in his hand for a lingering moment before stowing it beside Cole’s on his belt. He trudged his way out of the small pond towards N. “Care to tell me how long you two were chatting?”

N put a hand on Tristan’s shoulder, anticipating his coming anger. “I assure you, my friend, I was unaware of who she was when I came across her. I had only deduced it myself just before you so conveniently stumbled upon us here.”

Tristan sighed, relaxing his stance. “Okay… I’m too tired to care. She’s back now, that’s what matters.”

“True, true. But better still,” N said to him as he held out a collapsed Great Ball. “This is a Sewaddle that I met while looking for Draya. He’s a very curious spirit in need of seeing the world. Will you take him with you on your quest?”

“You’re trusting me with a Pokémon that you caught?” Tristan asked, surprised.

“I think that today is evidence enough that you care deeply for Pokémon,” N said with a smile. “You just might be what a human should be to a Pokémon.”

Tristan reluctantly took the blue and red ball from N’s hand. “Thank you, but wouldn’t he be better off with you?”

“I’m afraid not. The plans for my future don’t include raising Pokémon, not in the way that someone like you could.”

N offered to lead him back to the road that made its path through Pinwheel Forest. When they arrived, N bid farewell to Tristan and made his way north toward Castelia City, leaving Tristan with a handshake. Tristan made the rest of his way back to Nacrene City alone as evening became nighttime.

—————

After he shed wet, dirty clothes and took a long, hot shower, Tristan stood alone in his hotel room’s bathroom. He stared at himself in the steamy mirror, fully dressed. He wasn’t waiting on anything but himself; he was just delaying the impending and inevitable confrontation. He knew Draya was in the room just on the other side of the bathroom door, probably just as anxious as he was.

Maybe as afraid as he was.

What am I afraid of? Her? Myself?

He wiped his face with his hand, rubbing his eyes.

Enough stalling.

Tristan tried to not be startling or loud, but opening the bathroom door seemed to snap himself into a new level of clarity, like being suddenly splashed with water—something Tristan hoped in the back of his head didn’t happen to him for at least a week. City light streamed into the dimly lit room through the lightly colored curtains. He didn’t bother glancing at the clock, already knowing it was late. He was determined to get things settled tonight.

Draya was sitting up on the bed, looking up at him. Her eyes didn’t betray any sort of emotion or worry; she was focused on Tristan as he moved around the room, watching as he checked the room’s door and made sure it was locked. She made room on the edge of the bed as he went to sit down next to her. The two sat in silence for a few minutes, saying nothing. Draya looked up at him as he stared on at the wall, expecting him to speak.

“Come on!” she finally yelled. “Say something!”

“I missed you,” Tristan said quietly, lowering is head, but still not looking at her.

“You… wait, what?” Draya backed up on the bed further. “Really?”

Tristan nodded as he finally looked at her. “I was afraid that you had run away for good. You were my first Pokémon, Snivy or not. You’re special to me.”

Draya felt her fur stand on end at his words.

“That being said,” Tristan stood up from the bed and crossed his arms. His expression hardened, letting anger slip into his words. “I’m going to have to ask that you explain yourself to me. Right now.”

“Don’t talk down to me, “Draya said defiantly. “I’m not the one who should… well… I guess I should explain some things…”

“Before we start, let me say that I am sorry about what happened at the gym,” Tristan said. “I should have paid attention to you when you were feeling uncomfortable. It was all my fault.”

Draya sat back down on the bed, feeling glad to hear him say that. Despite that, she hoped that their conversation would shift to something else soon. “Well, what do you want to know?”

“Well, for starters, you were lying to me the entire time we’ve been together. Let’s go talk about what’s real about you.”

Draya did her best to not let his condescending tone bother her.

“Well, if you want to get technical, everything I’ve said to you was true. I don’t—or didn’t, I guess—like humans. My family didn’t like humans. I wound up on my own because of my own stupid curiosity. Anything else?”

“Why were you a Snivy when you showed up at my house? Why did you come to me at all?”

“I was tired of living on my own for so long. I thought that if I used some other image rather than my own, I could—I don’t know—meet someone who didn’t like me just because of what I am. I didn’t want to be treated like some trophy.” Draya said, looking away. “Plus, I saw plenty of trainers from that town that had Snivy. I can mimic those in my sleep, literally.”

“But you trusted me at least a little bit, right? You could see that I cared about you, didn’t you?”

“What do you want from me? You can’t expect me to give up a lifelong fear and prejudice just like that. It’s not like you were ever totally alone either; it’s not just you. You’re around humans day and night some days! It’s just how I am around humans; I hide!”

Tristan could hear his XTransceiver ringing on the nightstand. He ignored it. “Did you ever plan on showing me… this? Did you ever think you could suspend your deep-seeded beliefs just for a moment and really trust me?”

“You think that never crossed my mind?” Draya yelled up at him. “In that cave, after fighting Team Plasma, I almost evolved. It would’ve broken my hold on my illusion there and then! I almost ran away from you back then, but you stopped it from happening. Ever since then, I beat myself up every night, trying to bring myself to just… let it all go! I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know if I could handle it!”

“Handle what?”

“You rejecting me!” Draya blurted out. “I’m not stupid, you know… I know some part of you was disappointed when you saw that I wasn’t a Snivy. I saw it on your face earlier today. I lost one family already and I couldn’t handle the idea that I could lose another!”

“So you decided to pile on lie after lie instead of talk to me about it.” Tristan said. “That’s a good plan.”

“You know what?” Draya growled as she worked a paw underneath her Everstone collar. She pulled it off and flung it across the room. “Since we’re doing this… finally putting all of our cards on the table, you need to understand something! It’s not just the fear of losing a family, I—”

Draya’s words caught in her throat as she doubled over and fell over onto her side. The pent up evolution energy had finally caught up to her. She began to glow bright white, her body convulsing and shifting. Draya tumbled off the bed and out of Tristan’s sight, landing on the floor as her form grew and changed. She caught her breath as the energy inside her died down. Draya kept her new body on all fours, staring at the carpet, until she felt the urge to stand up on her two hind legs. She stood upright and looked to Tristan, now a tall Zoroark. She swayed on her unfamiliar legs and caught herself on the wall.

Tristan moved forward to steady her on her feet, gently holding her by her shoulders. “Draya, are you alright?” he said, looking at her new form. “You… you look…”

“Whth?” Draya tried to speak, but her new mouth fumbled awkwardly with her words. She opened her mouth and tried to adjust to her new jaw and teeth. “Wheeert? Waaah— Whaaatie… What?” Draya’s voice had changed in the evolutionary process, deepening and maturing into what Tristan recognized as an adult’s.

“Okay, there we go.” Draya said, confidence in her new voice. “I was wondering what this would feel like.”

She looked over her new body, now stable on her two feet, flexing some of her new muscles. She flashed Tristan a grin to show off her new set of teeth and spun on the spot, her large mane of red fur whipping around her new body.

“So, how do I look?” she asked, putting her new hands on her hips.

“You look… very different now,” Tristan choked out. He found himself unable to look away from her bright blue eyes.

“Uh-huh…” Draya said, pulling Tristan by the hand to sit back down on the bed. “Good different, or bad?”

“Definitely… not bad,” Tristan said.

“So, did you still want to talk?” Draya asked.

“Y-Yeah, let’s keep talking.” Tristan looked away for a moment. “You wanted to put all our cards on the table, right?”

“All of ‘em.”

“Well, if I hadn’t stopped— all this,” he gestured at Draya’s newly evolved self, “from happening back in the caves, what would you have done?”

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Draya said. “I knew I was evolving and so did you. I knew I couldn’t hold the illusion during the process, and I didn’t have any idea what a Snivy looked like after it evolved, so I just panicked and screamed at you to leave me alone until I was done.” She looked at him warmly, “But you wouldn’t abandon me.”

“Of course not,” Tristan said. He put a hand on her shoulder, gently petting her fur. “I would never.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she said. “Anything else, you sweet-talker?”

“I— Well, uh,” Tristan stumbled on his words again. “Well, here, take a look.” He moved away from Draya and reached for his Pokédex that was sitting on the nightstand next to his XTransceiver—it was ringing again. “Snivy evolve into ‘Servine’, and then into ‘Serperior’,” Tristan explained. He pulled up entries for the advanced stages of a Snivy’s life-cycle, showing Draya as many details as he could think of.

“I think—you know, in the future—you should disguise yourself as these over time, you know?” he said.

“Why bother?” Draya asked. “I’ve got Snivy down pretty well already.”

“Because Pokémon trainers and their Pokémon grow and become stronger. Right now, I guess N is the only person who knows I stopped you from evolving. I don’t think people at the gym battle cared to notice after… well,” Tristan tried to avoid the subject to no avail.

“After I was shown off and ignored by my trainer?” she finished for him.

“Yeah, that.”

“All cards on the table,” Draya reminded him.

“Okay. My point is, it’d be suspicious if you continued to grow and get stronger but not show it. If a Snivy got much more powerful than you’ve already shown, people could start asking questions. Cheren’s already started to wonder why you never used any Grass type attacks yet, and he never forgets anything.”

“Oh… I guess you’re right,” Draya said, looking down at her new clawed hands. “So, you want to help me to convince everyone else I’m still a Snivy—or one of the others?”

“Well, yeah,” Tristan said. “Unless you want to show off your true self to everyone from now on—”

“No, I don’t!” she said suddenly. Draya calmed down quickly, catching her breath. “Sorry… I just… today was too much…”

Tristan leaned over to her and gently wrapped his arms around her shivering body. He rested his head next to hers, holding her close.

“I know. I’m sorry. That’s why I want to make this work from now on. You and me,” Tristan said, stroking her thick mane of red fur.

“You and me, huh?” Draya said, pushing away from him slightly. “I like the sound of that.” She brought her head up even with his, closing her eyes.

“Draya… what are you doing?”

“Something I picked up from watching humans,” she said quietly.

Draya put her new clawed hands on Tristan’s shoulders and pushed him backwards onto the bed. She then did her best to mimic an act she had seen human couples do many times before. She kept her eyes closed and pressed her mouth against his, forming an awkward kiss. She fought the urge to see Tristan’s reaction, but she thought she could feel his shock resonate across his face.

When she finally broke the forceful kiss, she licked her lips and sat up in Tristan’s lap. “There, that’s everything.”

“Wh—What was?” Tristan asked, in shock.

“I said I wanted to put everything out there in the open. I told you before, I wasn’t only worried about losing another family. I was terrified I’d lose you. You wanted honesty, right?”

“I didn’t think… that this would be something you’ve been hiding,” Tristan said.

“Did you… not like it?” she asked, quietly.

“No, I did!” Tristan blurted out. “I do. It’s just… one big surprise after another with you.”

“Well, how about you take a turn?” she asked, eyes half lidded. She placed her clawed hands on his chest, leaning over him, and lowered her face back down to his. “How about it? Let’s find out what you like.”

Before Tristan could respond to what Draya was offering, someone with a very familiar voice called into his hotel room.

“Hey, Tristan! Are you awake?” Bianca’s piercing voice carried through the door as if it weren’t even there. The young girl knocked hard on the locked door four times. “Come on, let’s go! We’re here!”

Draya and Tristan scrambled off of the bed, looking at each other. Draya held one clawed finger to her mouth, staring intently at Tristan before nodding toward the door. She frantically grabbed Tristan’s Pokédex and tapped away at the device.

He shakily walked to the door and took his time unlocking it, hesitating before opening the door. His mind was running at a dizzying pace, trying to process the past few minutes. When he finally opened the door, he felt a weight appear on his shoulders. A long, slender green mass coiled down his arm, gripping it firmly. A Servine looked into his eyes and winked, the red iris shimmering to blue for an instant.

“Draya!” Bianca said the instant she could see into the room. “Look at you! You evolved!”

“I sure did,” Draya nodded, smiling with her fake face.

Cheren pushed the door open the rest of the way, taking charge and the attention of both humans and the Pokémon in disguise. His serious expression managed to snap Tristan out of his panicked stupor.

“Tristan,” he said. “We need to go. Now.”

—————

To Be Continued…

—————



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