I’ve noticed that a lot of weird things have happened to me.
I didn’t ask for any of them—hey, I just wanted a normal career as Trainer. But call it what you want: fate, chance, destiny… I’m stuck with it. Stuck with a stone, which everyone thinks will decide the path of the future. Of course, I have no idea what to do with it, much less how to use it.
My name is Zayna White, and I’ve been chosen. The details of how and why are vague, even to me, but apparently I am one of the heroes of a new legend. Two conflicting ideas, both with innocent intentions, have come head to head, and now only one will prevail. One fight will determine which will be the victor, and it’s been decided that this fight will rage between a “king” and me. On the one side stands a man fervent in his beliefs, with a legendary dragon at his side. On the other side, there’s me: a teenage girl, confused on her own stance and wielding…
…a rock. Yeah, go figure.
I don’t know what to do anymore. People expect me to do the impossible. How can I fight an organization so powerful if I’m just one person? If the Dark Stone actually worked, perhaps I might stand a chance. The myths say it holds the other key—the other Legendary Dragon that matched the other in all power. Yet it will only respond to the heart of one whose intentions are pure, and so far I haven’t seen any dragon action.
Is there something wrong with me? I thought that I could handle this. But maybe I’m not worthy?
…Maybe… was N right all along?
I wasn’t running away. Don’t even think about calling me a coward. When I set out from Opelucid City, I had every intention to head to the Pokémon League and face my “destiny”, but with the huge responsibility I was about to face, I needed some time to think. So instead of heading north for Route 10, I went west with no real destination in mind. I explored the terrain around Route 9, letting my mind wander as my body did. The forests to the north were almost impassible, but down along the East River passage was gentler. Best of all, I was alone.
Seemed like a great opportunity, but that was before the rainstorm—and no regular rainstorm, mind you. I had been keeping my eye on the horizon, and for most of the afternoon it was clear. Towards evening, however, an ominous dark mass gathered from the south. With unbelievable speed, the beastly cloud consumed the sky and unloaded all of its fury on my head. Now, I fought my way through torrential rain trying to find shelter.
Shivers raced up my spine as another roar of thunder shook the drenched forest. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be so intimidated, but this storm was different. It was feral and fierce, attacking me like a predator with every weapon in its arsenal. Wind, rain, lightning… all of it swirled around me in a taunting dance, trying to overwhelm me. Unfortunately, it was working. Soaked to the bone and shivering like a soppy puppy, I trudged through the mud with my sense of direction utterly disoriented.
“Is this some kind of punishment?” I cried to the skies, rain droplets streaming down my face like tears. “Have I done something wrong?”
The ambiguous answer came in another peal of thunder, this time with purple lightning streaking across the black sky overhead. I jumped, and raced a ways farther up the trail, cursing everything I knew. This was stupid. Of all people, why me? Why choose me to pick on?
“Isn’t there some other miserable Trainer you can go plague?” I muttered, folding my arms across my chest.
Suddenly, I slipped. I could probably thank the long, slick grass that grew on the top of a ridge, but I soon found myself sliding down the bank. Water flew into my face, blinding me as I lost all control of my fall. Screaming over the storm, I picked up speed—flying faster and faster until abruptly crashing against a stone. Dazed, I laid there in a puddle until the rest of me could catch up with the fall. Unfortunately for me, however, they brought with them company: pain.
Head swimming, I sluggishly pulled into a sitting position as I gritted my teeth against the aches. A momentary flash of lightning lit up my new surroundings, revealing several other boulders like the one I had collided with. They rose against the dark sky like a giant’s pudgy fingers, their sides glistening with the filmy water that rolled down their sides. The terrain around them had turned rugged and rocky, devoid of any plant life. Just beyond the stone pillars…
I stared at the yawning entrance, trying to figure out its significance. In my fuddled memory, I couldn’t ever recall hearing about a cave on Route 9. Its size was impressive; how could it be missed? Just how lost was I?
Some instinct inside me warned me to be cautious, but right then, I didn’t care. As far as I knew, the cave meant shelter from the rain. I was more than happy to take advantage of that. Dragging my sorry hide out of the gravel, I unsteadily stood and stumbled into the cave’s welcoming darkness. Once out of the storm’s reach, I collapsed against the cave’s damp wall with a relieved groan. Made it. Now all I had to do was wait out the storm. Of course, I knew I should probably dry out—maybe have Rascal start a fire—but I allowed myself a moment’s rest. Just one minute…
So were my intentions, but after five minutes of wishful thinking, I drifted off into a dreamless sleep. Not even the roar of a Haxorus could wake me, and I slept on totally oblivious to the passing of time.
In the morning, I woke with a dreadful headache. Added to my misery, my clothes were still damp, clinging to my skin uncomfortably. I scowled in disgust before remembering the events of last night. I never started a fire! Now I was definitely sorry. But perhaps I could find some dry change of clothes? A quick search through my bag dashed that hope; everything I carried had been thoroughly soaked.
“Great,” I muttered to myself out loud. “Just great. Couldn’t have stayed up for five seconds, couldn’t I?”
Sighing, I turned to the entrance and sought for one optimistic thought. Sunlight streaked through the steaming air outside, bringing with it the happy trills of singing birds. I blinked, trying to see beyond the glare to the skies beyond. A few white clouds dotted its span, but they looked thin and frail, a shadow of their former fury.
“Well,” I sighed with some hope. “At least the storm’s gone. Maybe I can dry out in the sun.” Glancing down at myself, I frowned. “They’re going to be so gross, though…”
I sighed again, wondering why I was talking to myself. How hard did I hit that rock last night? Experimentally, I stood, but immediately I winced at the pain in my side. Yep, pretty hard. I wasn’t sure if I had broken a rib, but I was definitely bruised. Pacing around a little, I found that walking wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Though painful, I think I could tolerate it.
“You’ll be okay,” I reassured myself. “Just gotta get to a Center, and I’ll be fine. And stop talking to yourself…”
Bracing myself, I turned to the cave’s exit and took my first steps out into the sun. The brightness blinded me momentarily, but the gentle rays felt soothingly warm. Cupping my hand over my eyes, I adjusted to the light and made yet another wonderful observation.
I was completely lost.
Yeah, I had no idea where I had come from, or where to go from here. I could recognize the ridge I had slipped down last night, but the direction I came from before that… No clue. It’s times like these when you really learn to appreciate technology. I dug through my equipment and brought out my map, trusting that it would save my carcass yet again. But when I flipped up the screen, one unwelcome message greeted me:
No service available.
I wanted to scream at the display. You had to be kidding me! I could always find a signal, even in the wilderness. The map ran on a GPS system for crying out loud. I fiddled with the stubborn device, but it never changed its message.
No service available.
Growing in frustration, I shoved it back into my bag. That had been worthless. Now what do I do?
“Maybe… the Xtransceiver?” I thought about Professor Juniper. If the GPS satellite wasn’t working, then perhaps I could still get through on the phone. If I could call the professor, perhaps she could help me get out of this predicament. With renewed hope, I dived back into my bag for my other device. If I could call the professor, perhaps she could help me get out of this predicament. With renewed hope, I dived back into my bag for my other device. Flipping out the screen, I immediately dialed her number and waited for her face to pop up.
Like a haunting memory, a familiar message appeared instead. No FREAKING service.
I resisted the urge to throw the thing. Yet I didn’t hold back an irritated holler. Birds fled from their perches at my anguished cry. I imagined that I turned the heads of some other forest critters as well, but I didn’t care. With forced gentleness, I replaced the communicator. The way things were going now, I would end up having to do things the old fashioned way. Sticking my chin defiantly into the air, I randomly picked a direction and prayed that I would luck-out.
After climbing up the ridge, I followed a lengthy meadow towards a pair of hills in the distance. I thought that perhaps I could gain my bearings if only I had a higher elevation, and those hills were the tallest points around. Before I traveled too far, however, I smelled an unexpected whiff of smoke. A fire?
“A camp fire!” I jumped to conclusions, letting a smile spread across my face. I was so certain that that was what it was. A campfire meant campers, and campers meant a chance for directions. Ditching the hill idea, I grabbed a red and white sphere from my belt.
“All right, Lilly! I need your help!”
I threw the Poké ball, which opened up in a rapid white flash. Within seconds, my Pokémon appeared: a hairy, brown and purple dog with a sniffer as good as any—or better. Seeing me, she let her pink tongue loll out of her mouth. Her stubby tail wagged excitedly back and forth.
“Who’s a good puppy?” I lovingly scratched behind her fluffy ears. She barked delightfully back, squirming in place like she was still a Lillipup. Turning serious, I took a step back. “Okay, Lilly. You smell that? That smoke? I need you to sniff out its source.”
The terrier lifted her head and sampled the air, but grew uneasy. She glanced back up at me with a sad whine.
“What’s wrong?” I frowned, confused at her response. Could she smell something else in the wind? Normally, I’m one to pay attention to my Pokémon—but I was getting desperate. “Come on girl,” I rubbed her ear again. “I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing we can’t handle, anyway.”
She stared, unconvinced.
I sighed, “Lilly, we don’t have much choice. We’re lost out here. We need some directions.”
Lilly whimpered again, still nervous.
“Lilly,” I asserted sternly. “I order you: Oder Sleuth.”
The dog blinked, taken aback. Finally, however, she submitted. Lowering her snout to the ground, she hunted for the trail. Guilt stabbed at my stomach. I regretted using force like that, but it couldn’t be helped. I watched her shaggy coat slip through the tall grass, wondering what we would do if I was wrong. Would we end up wandering the woods for months?
I should have listened to her.
The closer we drew to the source of the smoke, the fouler the smoke turned. I began to doubt my previous theory—campfire was supposed to smell sweeter or earthier, right? What we smelled now better compared to a ditch fire, or compost burning. When we broke through a strand of trees, we finally found it: an entire village, burned to black skeletons.
I stopped dead in my tracks, speechless and dumbfounded.
The first question that broke through my numbed mind was an illogical what
? The second was a stunned why
? And the last, as an afterthought, was where
? Before my brain could recover enough to think, I heard Lilly give a threatening growl. Confused as I was, I turned to see men emerge from the woods.
They were another oddity I could not explain.
Each was dressed eerily familiar—like the grunts of Team Plasma. Yet their uniforms seemed more authentic. Over their rugged frames, they wore thick-woven tunics, with chain-mail and beaten armor. Underneath the ring-meshed hoods, their faces were grim. Eyes distant, they commanded an air of experience and sorrow I never had sensed from a Plasma goon. One sat in the saddle of a creature unfamiliar to my eyes, resembling a darkened Rapidash without fire or a horn.
“Stay where you are,” the rider warned as the other men pressed on with their approach.
“C-can I help you?” I warily asked. Dumb question, I know, but I was scared out of my wits.
“Careful,” one of the footmen warned. “She’s got a Beast.”
Lilly’s hackles bristled as she bared her teeth, ready to shrike the moment these strangers showed ill will. I gulped nervously, unsure how to act. These really weren’t Plasma goons, where they?
“Who are you? State your business here,” the rider barked.
“I… I am Zayna White, um, sir,” came my shaky reply. I had never been this frightened before, even when I faced criminals. I sensed something different about these men, something colder, crueler. “I am… I was looking for directions.”
One of the footmen suddenly drew a sword—a real sword—waking me up to the reality of the situation. Lilly and I yelped together.
“She’s a witch,” the footmen sneered. “I tell ya, Cap’n, she’s working with tha enemy. Prob’ly come to plague us wi’ monsters.”
“Look at her garment,” the first footmen added, almost fearfully. “I have never seen any like it.
The rider balefully glared at my Pokémon. “Should she prove so, we shall deal with her accordingly. Bring her back to camp.”
At his command, the soldiers pressed closer. For Lilly, that pulled her trigger. Before they could take another step, she lunged, latching her jaws around the arm of the closest man. The unfortunate victim cried out in pain, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw the sword—
“Lilly, no!” I shouted, though too late. The blade sung through the air, slicing across my Stoutland’s haunch. She released her hold, letting an agonized yelp to escape her maw. I leapt at the man with the sword, grabbing his wrist before he could bring down the weapon again. For my bravery, I was rewarded with a face full of gauntlet. Lights danced in my vision as I fell on my back, dazed by the punch.