“No, of course not,” Inferno replied. “The humans created them. You see,” he continued, noting her look of shock, “he’s one of those genetically modified pokémon. Rich humans here pay quite a lot for one. There aren’t many around, as it’s still a fairly new practice, but there’s bound to be a lot more sooner or later and there’s certainly a strong demand for them.”
“Genetically modified?” Snowcrystal repeated. She’d heard about this sort of thing briefly from the books Damian and the others read, but she was still clueless about what it meant.
“Yeah,” the flareon replied. “Human scientists can do all sorts of strange things. They’ve cloned prehistoric pokémon. They even cloned mew
. And recently, the ones in Stonedust City begun breeding these modified pokémon to sell. They’ve created umbreon with all kinds of different colored rings. They have other species too. Like I said, there aren’t many of them yet, but you see them around in these parts of the city sometimes.”
“You mean, these humans could create their own white growlithe?” she asked hopefully, wondering whether she would be able to walk around with her natural fur colors and not attract too much attention.
“Yes, they could,” Inferno replied, as if knowing what she was thinking, “but they haven’t done that yet. There are no modified growlithe at all yet as far as I know. And naturally
strange colored pokémon, like shinies, are sought after even more than the modified ones. If they saw you with your normal colors, and there was no proof that you came from a lab, you’d be in big trouble.”
“Right,” she replied, disappointment stabbing her chest.
“Only a select few are allowed to sell these types of pokémon,” Inferno continued. “They keep track of what new colorations they create and they aren’t allowed to pass them off as natural. So…yes, I’m afraid you’ve still got to be careful.”
Snowcrystal sighed as they carried on, and after a while they turned around and started heading back to more familiar parts of the city, calmly enjoying the cool night air as they passed the brilliantly decorated buildings. They soon arrived back at a place with towering buildings, and as they passed a street corner, a couple of adult trainers and their pokémon sneered at them. Wildflame sneered back at them, and Alex did a much less intimidating imitation, and they continued on.
“I don’t like this,” Wildflame muttered quietly after a moment.
“Huh?” Snowcrystal responded, looking at the houndoom in confusion.
“Staying in this city,” she whispered back. “We’ve already had to move our camp because someone came too close. If we don’t find anything in the library’s hidden books, I say we go somewhere else.”
“Where?” Redclaw asked, striding forward to walk beside her. “To another city?”
“I don’t know,” she muttered irritably, turning away from him and picking up speed until she was further ahead.
Redclaw looked confused, and was about to follow when Nightshade, who had been walking behind him, placed his claws on the arcanine’s leg. “Don’t,” he told him, “this isn’t the time to…” He trailed off, looking off to the side at the opposite street, where the two trainers they’d noticed before were watching them.
Redclaw noticed them too, and looked to Damian, who was walking blissfully, completely oblivious. The arcanine felt the fur bristle along his neck as he bared his teeth and glared straight in the trainers’ direction, and the two trainers, as well as their pokémon, a vileplume and a ninetales much older looking than Rosie, glared back but sauntered away. They did not encounter the trainers again, but Redclaw stuck protectively close to Snowcrystal until they reached their new camp again. He had not liked the way those trainers had looked at them, and he wondered if their pokémon had noticed Snowcrystal’s fur was dyed, as Nightcloud had. He was starting to realize that it was likely far more dangerous than they realized to take Snowcrystal into the city that way, and he wished they had simply gone back to camp. He was beginning to understand how Wildflame felt.
Once they got back to camp, the pokémon waited near the ravine for Justin and Katie to return, whispering excitedly amongst themselves about what the library could have in store. Redclaw’s unease had rubbed off on Snowcrystal, and she was starting to have a bad feeling about returning to the city. Regardless, her determination to help her tribe back at the mountains made her determined to help out, despite how she might feel.
Damian had let the rest of his pokémon out while they waited, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before they were meant to meet Nightcloud in the library’s circular room. It was decided that only a few of them would go to speak with her, and Snowcrystal felt lucky that Damian and Arien had agreed to let her go.
Looking around the slopes of bare rock, Snowcrystal spotted Scytheclaw a ways away from the others and tentatively padded over to him. “Scytheclaw?” she asked as she approached the scizor, looking up at him warily.
He turned to give her a sharp glare. “This isn’t about healing your scyther friend again, is it?” he asked, his bright eyes narrowing.
“No,” she answered truthfully. “It’s…I just thought it was brave of you to stand up to those pokémon in the park.”
“Brave?” he responded icily, giving her a suspicious look.
“Yes,” she replied, feeling a bit silly as she noticed his reaction, but continuing anyway. “I think you are brave. You don't back down even when you know you can't win. I mean, I think those pokémon thought you were just a coward who would run away if someone stood up to you. But you aren't. You still stood up to them.”
Scytheclaw rolled his eyes. “This is ridiculous,” he muttered. “I’m not going to do anything
for you, understand? I’m only helping you with this Forbidden Attack quest to search for answers for myself and help my trainer. I am not your friend, growlithe, so stop treating me like I am.” With that, he turned and stalked away, heading out over the rugged rocky ground. Some of the other pokémon saw him go, but did not try to stop him, knowing that he would be back before they would make their plans for going into the library after hearing Nightcloud’s words.
Snowcrystal felt a bit disappointed. She hadn’t wanted to ask him anything this time. She had only wanted to be more friendly, maybe try to help some of the pokémon be more of a team, but she now realized how silly that seemed, and she had to admit, some small part of her had still been hoping he would help Stormblade.
“Ah, give it up,” a voice muttered from behind her, and she turned to see Blazefang walking towards her. “He’s not gonna do it.”
“Oh, please,” Blazefang muttered. “Why else would you have been nice to a pokémon like that?”
“I…I don’t know,” she replied, feeling a bit puzzled herself after listening to his words. “I just thought…well…I’m not sure. But I really did think he was brave. Don’t you think that’s the sort of bravery we need to-”
“Ah, I see,” Blazefang responded. “You just want him to do things for us. It’s not much different.”
“I…I didn’t mean it like that!” she cried, but even as she said it, she began to wonder if she had. She didn’t like to think she expected every pokémon she met to help her, but what if she did? “I mean, I thought-”
“Don’t worry about it,” Blazefang replied. “I know what you mean. That’ll be all that useless bug is good for.”
” she corrected.
“Yeah, whatever,” the houndour said with a shrug. “You know, you’re always looking at the good in others. And I don’t mean that as a compliment…no offense. Some pokémon are just, well…not good. Take Cyclone for example.”
“I’m sure the bad things Cyclone’s done certainly outweigh the good,” she stated.
“Well, that’s a start,” Blazefang muttered. “But who cares whether Scytheclaw is brave or not? We could do without him if we had to. Please, Snowcrystal, stop thinking that every pokémon we come across is going to be some great help. We can’t be too careful who we trust these days.” He turned and walked back toward the edge of the ravine, near where the others were waiting.
Snowcrystal realized that he had a point, and that she couldn’t blindly trust any pokémon who seemed helpful. Yet Scytheclaw was a different story. He had a Forbidden Attack, if a strange one, and that made him a part of everything they were searching for. Still, Blazefang’s words had unsettled her, and she decided to put it out of her mind for the time being.
It wasn’t long before Justin and Katie returned, and Katie only hesitantly decided to come with them, curious to know what the mightyena would say, but still not liking the idea of sneaking into the library. She had her azumarill by her side, Justin had Spark, and Damian had Arien. The only other pokémon who came with them were Rosie and Snowcrystal, Rosie only coming because she wanted to see Nightcloud again.
The library was almost ready to close as they walked through the doors, heading to the massive circular room where they knew Nightcloud was waiting. As they’d hoped, there were only a few people or pokémon around. They quickly made their way to the massive room they had spent so much time in over the weeks, and as they’d expected, the mightyena was waiting for them in the center of the room, sprawled out on one of the chairs.
“Good,” she stated as they arrived, leaping down from the chair and running over to them. “You’re here.”
“Nightcloud!” Rosie cried, running ahead of the others to meet up with the mightyena, whose eyes widened in shock as she recognized her.
Snowcrystal watched the two as they excitedly exchanged words and ran circles around a group of chairs, talking rapidly back and forth as they play-fought each other, just as if they had been friends for far longer than Rosie had described. Beside her, Arien folded his arms impatiently, while the trainers and Spark all watched with much happier expressions.
“So, where are the books hidden, Nightcloud?” Rosie asked as the two walked back toward the main group.
“Shh…not so loud,” she replied. “There are still pokémon here. Look, let’s go in one of the hallways. It’ll be quieter. I only told you to come here because it would be easy for you to find me.”
“Hey, we’ve been coming here for weeks!” Spark interjected. “I think we know where everything is!”
The mightyena only shrugged, and they followed her into one of the side hallways, and then to a secluded place near a turn in the narrow passage. Nightcloud sat down in front of a painting of Ho-oh rising from a writhing mass of flames. “Okay,” she began, “listen carefully.” She needn’t have asked, because every pokémon present was listening, and the humans were impatiently waiting for it to begin so they could get a translation from Damian. “Okay,” Nightcloud continued, satisfied that their attention was on her words, “the books are hidden in a very small room. You must first go to the room where the battle strategies books are. There’s a door behind the large lugia painting there. It’s locked, but it won’t be hard to open with a pokémon attack. They aren’t exactly too worried about anyone finding it. They assume no one knows and they’re busy worrying about protecting the rest of the library. Go through the tunnel that winds through the walls and you should come into another room. It’s small and has a low ceiling because it exists between a room on the first floor and a room on the second. You’ll probably see a lot of old books there – the workers in the library like to take them up there to read in private sometimes – but they’re not what you’re looking for. Look around and you’ll see a door that’s somewhat hidden, but there isn’t much in the room and it’s not hard to find. Open it and there will be a short hallway, then you’ll reach the door that leads to the hidden room with the books. I’m not sure how hard it is to open without a key; I’ve never seen the door to the room itself. But that’s how you get to it.”
“Hm…” Spark began to muse as Damian relayed the information to Katie and Justin. “There aren’t any…high tech security devices guarding this thing, are there?”
“In the secret rooms?” she replied. “Only the locks. You see, like I said, they know that only a few people know about them, so they won’t be expecting that. Your problem, however, is going to be the rest of the library. You see, they are worried about books in the main library being stolen. They take it seriously…because if a book isn’t checked out normally, they can’t find the person who has it if it isn’t returned, and there are many books here that are very valuable, even in the normal sections of the library.”
“So, are there humans patrolling the library at night?” Snowcrystal asked, remembering her terrifying experience in the library at night once before.
“The janitors used to,” Nightcloud replied, “though recently they’ve started cleaning during the evenings when there are still visitors. It’s unfortunate, as they’d be much easier to avoid, but you won’t have that window of opportunity. You see…something else guards the library at night, and now, they do it immediately after closing.”
Spark and Snowcrystal gave each other uneasy looks. “And that thing that guards the library would be…” Spark began.
“Ghost pokémon,” Nightcloud replied. “There’s only one camera near the library entrance but they have eyes everywhere else. You’re going to have to find a way to distract them before you try to navigate the library.”
“Yeah, sounds real
simple,” Spark muttered sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, but that’s all I can tell you,” Nightcloud replied.
“Thank you,” Snowcrystal told her, and the mightyena smiled.
“I wish you good luck,” she replied, standing up. “I must find my trainer now. Remember, sneak in through a side window…have the ones who will cause a distraction go first…you can’t be caught on the camera. But at the same time…don’t make the mistake of thinking that being caught by the ghost pokémon is any better.”
With that, the mightyena trotted out of the hallway, and the group was left with her ominous warning. Snowcrystal looked up at Damian after he finished explaining to the other humans. Katie looked back at him in shock, while Justin looked on with eagerness. They waited for Damian to speak, and as he turned and led them toward the end of the hallway, he said, “Let’s get back to the ravine. We need to make a plan fast.”
To be continued....
Like I said earlier, the plot-related stuff ended up having to be moved to the next chapter because this was turning out too long. I think it’s a good thing in the end, because the events of the next chapter will likely be longer than I thought as well.
The purple ringed umbreon and other genetically altered pokémon in Stonedust were actually inspired by a conversation Xanthe once had with someone on DA. This person was talking about people’s pokesonas and insisted that umbreons that had colors other than blue or yellow rings were “breaking the rules” of pokémon. Disregarding the fact that she was completely missing the point (as pokesonas aren’t always meant to be realistic or serious, and in the end, they don’t have to be), it got me thinking about these “rules of pokémon” she seemed to be talking about. Were these boundaries really where she insisted they were? I decided to think about it and find out. I soon thought of the idea of having human-created altered colors. The pokémon world has shown that scientists can do pretty crazy things with pokémon, such as cloning them from fossils, creating Mewtwo, etc. So why not create ones with weird colors? When I thought of this, I assumed this would – in the timeline of most stories I’d write – be a fairly new practice, probably with several pokémon who ended up with weird colors in the wrong places or mismatched rings after they evolved before the humans could perfect it, and scientists would need a good incentive to do it, such as a lot of buyers who would pay large sums of money for one. It then suddenly occurred to me that Stonedust City from The Path of Destiny would be a perfect place for these hypothetical scientists to sell these altered pokémon, and I thought it would be an interesting subject to explore, possibly as a separate short story or in PoD itself. Either way, I thought it would be an interesting thing for the characters to come across to show them a bit more of what the city is like.