The Chase Arc: Dendemille's Daredevil
"Photography is truth. And cinema is truth 24 frames a second." - Le Petit Soldat
On their computer screen, Shine the Luxray and his trainer Tony browsed through a folder of archived photos, footage and interviews from their documentary in the making. One clip featured a gathering of Pokémon playing in what appeared to be a garden. Another focused on one Kadabra in a small cabin, reading through a multitude of levitating books in a matter of minutes. Another was just pure grey as smoke covered the camera. When he saw that, Shine’s eye widened.
“Can you play that from the beginning?” Shine said in human tongue, his voice as certain and clear as a gentleman’s.
Tony clicked the backwards button, which resumed at the start of the fight. The two Pokémon were in a featureless room, facing each other in a battle stance as a security camera watched from above. As Shine remembered, off-screen, there was an audience of staff members taking notes from behind a pane of glass in another room.
The Rapidash started galloping towards the Lucario, who weaved and jumped from place to place in an effort to avoid its opponent’s attacks. The Lucario tried to stop to charge up an aura sphere, but kept having to cancel it each time the Rapidash attacked. Then it looked to its side and smiled. It ran outside the camera’s view and when it came back into the frame, it was holding a fire extinguisher. The Lucario aimed the nozzle at the Rapidash’s face and shot a blast of carbon dioxide at it, filling up the entire room with gas.
Shine chuckled to himself, remembering the day Curio, the Lucario featured in the video, got a severe telling off from one of the directors of the GeL project in front of Shine’s group. Although he had buried so many other memories from his days at GeL, that one stuck in his mind as one particularly pleasant memory out of a lot of painful ones. Then, he thought of Curio again, and balanced on his hindpaws to reach over to the desk.
“Is there any more footage of her?” Shine asked. Tony patted his head.
“Sadly not, I’m afraid,” Tony said, “The guy I got this from said this was all he had, save for one photo with you in it as well.”
“Can you go back to that, please?”
Tony nodded and switched the screen over to a sheet of photos featuring mugshots of the 18 Pokémon involved in the project against a featureless background. Beside the 16 other Pokémon, there was him in his Shinx form looking afraid, and there was Curio in her Riolu form sticking her tongue out at the camera.
An awkward silence filled the room. Tony sighed and rubbed Shine’s ears, looking at him with a grimaced face.
“Sorry Shine. I know this isn’t an awful lot to work with and I know how much you miss all of the friends you made there.”
Shine shook his head.
“It’s not that, mostly. I just wonder what happened to them after the rest of us escaped. I saw Pecha escape, and who knows, she might be doing well outside, but Curio...”
Shine looked over at Curio’s mugshot again and started to feel his eye mist up.
“I don’t even know if she’s still alive. Whenever I think back to that day, I just think what I did was terrible. I just—”
“Hey there.” Tony knelt down to Shine’s level from the chair and stroked his mane. The two locked eyes with each other. Shine felt a hot streak of tears trail down the fur of his cheek. Tony smiled and leaned in to hug him.
“I believe you did the right thing if it meant saving your own hide.”
“But that’s the problem!” Shine heard his voice crack. “If I left her behind and it turned out she died, I wouldn’t forgive myself!”
“It’s a difficult situation, Shine. Just don’t blame yourself for what happened, okay?”
“Good.” Tony broke his embrace and pressed a button on the computer, shutting it down. “I think we’ll call it a day now. I’ll start editing this once I get back from work tomorrow and hopefully I can spin something from it.” He got up from the chair and stretched his arms. “Are you doing anything tomorrow?”
Shine sniffled and wiped away his tears. “No.”
“In that case, do you think you can pick a few things up for us from the shop? Feel free to get something extra, okay?”
Shine nodded and padded over to his bed, curling up inside of it. “Thanks.”
And so, the two settled down early that night as Shine understood Tony had a tiring day. Shine himself dwelt on the thoughts that troubled him earlier, which eventually revolved around Curio.
On the off chance that Curio was still alive, he thought, what would she be doing? Would she have planned to explore the world like she said? Was she getting on fine in the wild despite her sheltered upbringing? Did she meet her family again?
After a while, his thoughts subsided and he fell asleep, putting them at the back of his head until the next time he would have to confront his past.
It was Monday the next day, and it was time again for Shine to run his errands while Tony was at work, getting some extra sweets and a copy of The Regional Roundup for himself on the way. Shine came back to the apartment and dropped off the items in the kitchen. Then he heard a tap on the window above. Bauble, he thought.
Making sure not to knock anything over, Shine climbed over the worktop and padded carefully to the windowsill where Bauble waited outside on the railing. She was a Murkrow with a red string anklet above her foot, and stood in the sunshine where it illuminated her black plumage. She tilted her head to the handle of the window and cawed through the glass. He stood on his hindlegs, trying his best to open the window without Tony’s assistance. He managed, but a pot had to be sacrificed in the process. The window wasn’t wide enough for her to fly in through, but they could hear each other clearly now that way. She smiled.
“Why Shine, it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? I bet your collar will look ever so shiny outside!”
“Not planning on stealing it again, are you?” Shine said.
“Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’ll look so much better out here than in the indoor shade, won’t it?”
Shine let out a sigh. “Alright, come up to the door.”
“And you bring your paper.”
With a flap of her wings, Bauble sprung up out of view from where Shine sat at the sill. Shine leapt off of the counter and exited the apartment through the door flap, picking up the newspaper on the way with his teeth. A moment later, Bauble flew down and the two made their way to one of Ambrette’s many local parks. Once they reached it, Bauble flew over to a clear bench, perching on the seat. Shine ran after her and sat by the edge of the bench, dropping the roll of paper onto the pavement below. He put a paw on it to stop it blowing away in the wind.
“Go on,” Bauble cawed, “What’re you waiting for?”
Shine nodded and unfolded the paper, revealing the front cover.
There was a picture of a Machoke holding up a championship belt triumphantly. Although he had no interest in sports, Shine knew him as Rex Revolver. On the top however, was the headline ‘REX RETIRES!’ with the caption ‘Consecutive four year Machampion calls it quits!’
“He seems pretty satisfied!” Bauble said.
“Aw. Well that sucks.”
“Do you want me to read on?”
“Eh, don’t care for sports.”
Shine leafed through the rest of the paper, trying to find something else of interest to Bauble so he could read it to her. The Pokémon related stories piqued her curiosity the most, so Shine skimmed through anything to do with human affairs. Although he was engrossed in the subject, the last time he tried to read a feature about Kalos’ national debt, Bauble flew off in a huff.
The next article of interest had a picture of camera footage, with a group of Scraggy and Scrafty crowding around something in the middle. Shine read out the headings:
“The Scraggy Dilemma - Should we arrest criminal Pokémon?”
Bauble crowed in anger.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a while! How’s that gonna work out without it screwing up everything else? Do humans get paid to write this crap?”
“Yes, depending on whether or not they’re freelance, they can either get paid for each article they write or...” Shine trailed off, realising that he was going off a tangent.
“But sometimes,” Shine said, “it does amaze me that humans manage to find work doing this.”
“They shouldn’t be paid at all if you ask me!”
Shine brushed aside her comment and continued looking.
“Oh Shine!” Bauble said. “When can I see your film?”
Shine turned to Bauble, who looked at him expectantly.
“Probably never at this rate.”
“What?” Bauble screeched, “Why not? Do you hate me?”
“Trust me, it has nothing to do with that. We’ve got a lot of clips but it doesn’t look like we have enough to work with.”
“Can’t I take one little peek at it?” Bauble said, looking down at Shine with desperate eyes.
“It’s not up to me, I’m afraid. It’s mostly Tony’s project.”
“Forget Tony! Why not do it when he’s out?”
Shine sighed. Perhaps he shouldn’t have let it slip, he thought, but since it wouldn’t do any harm...
“I’ll consider it.”
Bauble pouted and turned her head dismissively.
“Whatever,” she said, “Continue.”
“A Future Without Cars - Gogoats lead to less congestion, study finds.”
“Boring,” Bauble said, “Slow news day, isn’t it?”
“A little,” Shine muttered.
“Dendemille’s Daredevil - The Lucario Who Shook Up Dendemille Town.”
“Finally,” Bauble said, “something that might be interesting!”
“A Lucario was spotted climbing up Port Mill on Saturday. At daylight, the Lucario trespassed on the grounds of the mill while it was being operated and jumped onto one of the blades. Despite the complaints of a few eyewitnesses who gathered outside including the grounds-keeper Franc Lautrec, the Lucario continued to hang until the blade was level with the roof. Once up there, it stayed until one of the workers reached the roof through the indoor ladder. Before it could be caught, however, it climbed down from the roof and fled the area.”
There was more to the text than that, but the more Shine read it, the more he thought of Curio. There had been numerous times in the facility where she trespassed certain areas of the buildings: the staff room, the kitchen, the vents, and an unused attic which she had shared with him and a few others as a hideout before the staff spotted them. The link between her and the Lucario featured in the writing was weak at best, but Shine knew it wasn’t above Curio to climb where she wasn’t allowed to, or further than that, where he thought she wasn’t able to.
“Why’d you stop?”
Bauble’s shrill voice snapped him out of his reverie. Flustered, he quickly looked for an excuse to his silence.
“Sorry, I’m just looking at the photo.”
His eye scanned over to the picture on the right, which featured the Lucario hanging from the windmill as the writing described. On closer inspection, the Lucario’s left arm looked off somehow. It wasn’t the same length as the other, it didn’t bend the same way grabbed onto the blade, and it had a metallic sheen to it like a jewel in the sunlight.
Shine’s heart leapt in his chest. He brought himself as close to the picture as he could, checking the details of the arm multiple times to see if it really was like Curio’s, and more after that, almost as if to try and prove himself wrong. But after the seventh time, there was no doubt about it. The Lucario in that picture had an artificial arm.
The Lucario in that picture was none other than Curio.
“By God’s tail!” he exclaimed.
“What?” Bauble said. Shine didn’t answer. Instead, he shut the pages and stuffed the newspaper in his mouth. Despite her protests, Shine made a beeline for the exit and dashed off further into town where the coast was to Tony’s workplace. He didn’t care how fast he was going or whether or not he accidentally bumped into things on his way.
He just had to tell Tony about Curio no matter what. He didn’t slow down when he reached the cliff-side, going only by inertia. When he suddenly reached the edge of the cliff, he had to make a sharp right turn, which was hard to do with his blindside as the left of him was obscured. He ended up almost falling over the edge, kicking a few pebbles off the cliff face in the process, but staggered back to his feet and carried on his route.
Eventually, Shine reached the coast where the main part of Ambrette Town sat, and rushed past the aquarium over to the neighbouring Marine Conservation Centre, and charged through the entrance into the reception. He remembered where Tony’s office was, which was by his right. Without thinking, he started to run towards the direction of the door.
“Hey hey hey!” one of the receptionists called, an unfamiliar voice of an old man. “What do you think you’re doing here?!”
Shine spat the newspaper out. “Sorry, my trainer’s in there, I have to speak with him!”
Shine ran towards the door, balancing himself on his hindpaws to pull the handle down, but when he did, the door wouldn’t open. It was locked. Shine turned to the other direction, with a door at the far end that led to the same destination, but would’ve taken longer to get in. He glanced at the old man. He was practically white with confusion, mumbling to the other receptionist, who Shine knew as Ines. She wasn’t overly friendly with Shine, but he was sure she would recognise him. Although every other instinct told him to run, he thought it would be best to explain his situation. He padded over to the desk, balanced on his tip-toes and locked eyes with Ines, who gave him a serious gaze.
“Shine, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Everyone in the back including Tony is busy taking care of something important, and we’re just as tied up. They can’t have anybody else coming in no matter what for the whole day.”
She braced herself and retracted a Pokeball from her belt, holding it towards Shine.
“I said you can’t come in no matter what. If you don’t leave, you’ll have to answer to Ignis.”
It was a bitter pill for him to swallow, but Shine took a deep breath and relaxed his stance. He didn’t want to have to cause a scene and deal with her Delphox, of all things.
“Can you at least pass a message to him for me?”
She lowered her Pokeball, but didn’t change her expression otherwise.
“Make it quick.”
Shine rushed over to where he dropped the newspaper and picked it back up, propping it onto Ines’ desk.
“Tell him to read page 12.”
“I’ll see if I have time to. Now scram.”
He walked out of the centre, feeling the urge to run even more than he was used to. The experience left him with a pang of pent-up energy, as he couldn’t tell Tony about it. He ran aimlessly across the beach which seemed to stretch on for ages. Once he reached the edge where the tide came in, he went back and ran another lap, and another, but it still didn’t sate the excitement within him.
Curio was back. After five years of waiting and not knowing of her whereabouts, she was alive and making just as much mischief as she did back then. He would have so much to tell her, about his journey once he escaped from GeL and how he met Tony. She would have a lot to tell him as well, but the most burning question on his mind was how she escaped when they got separated. In any case, the two would have a lot to catch up on.
Then Shine slowed down his pace to a brisk walk. Curio was all the way in Dendemille, which meant he would have to cross half the region to get there. How would he get there though?
Shine considered his options. He could run all the way through the wild and not have to worry about any attacking Pokémon, as he could easily take a group of five small Pokémon at once or a trio of evolved Pokémon. But that would take a week at the least and he didn’t know if Curio would still be there by the time he arrived. He could go by train, which would probably take him there in three days, but he wanted to go even faster than that. As far as he knew, there wasn’t a Magnet Train in Kalos either. How about dragons?
Throughout Kalos, there were locally owned ranches that allow travel through Pokémon. Dragons came to mind when he thought of fast travel; not even the fastest trains in the world held a candle to a Dragonite. If he could find one, he would probably be able to get to Dendemille in an hour.
The issue was cost. Even if he was a Pokémon, buses and trains were only vehicles, and so any Pokémon under a reasonable size could step on there for free if it wasn’t during rush hour. With other Pokémon, however, their handlers were the ones in charge of the labour, and their services required payment just like any other human selling goods. The faster they were, the more their handlers were likely to charge, and Dragonites would be the cream of the crop. Time was money, after all.
That was it then. No matter what, Shine would find a way to make this trip work. With this realisation, Shine rushed back home in a matter of minutes, charging through the flap at such speed that he smacked the wall in the hallway.
Shine fell backwards, slightly dazed from the hit. It was minor, but he would’ve bit his own tail in embarrassment if he could. His stomach grumbled. He hadn’t eaten yet, so once he recovered, he ripped open the bag he fetched from the store and chomped down a couple of mouthfuls of pellets. Afterwards, he went to drink some water from the tap of the sink when he heard that tap again. The window was still open.
“Care to tell me why you dashed off like that?” Bauble cawed, her beak pointed downwards. Shine gave her a confused look, thoughts occupied with meeting Curio.
“Well?” she prodded.
Shine realised that Bauble might be of some help.
“I need to go to Dendemille,” Shine said.
“What?” Bauble said, “How in the world are you gonna get there?”
“That’s something I might need your help with, if you don’t mind.”
“Is there a ranch nearby that takes care of Dragonites?”
“Hmm,” Bauble said, turning her head away. “There might be. But. But-but-but.” She looked at Shine with a cunning smile. “What would you give me in return if I did know there was one? Perhaps, your collar?”
“Excuse me?” Shine sputtered, “What is your obsession with my collar?”
“It is in my nature, you know. You can take it or leave it,” she said, “Besides, I think I deserve something for being abandoned.”
“My collar is--” He paused. Shine was starting to get tired of Bauble’s demands about his collar, which had been going on since she met him. It was easier to let her have what she wanted and get it over with. He didn’t care about it personally, but Tony had given it to him as a present for when he finally got his trainer license. Still, his resolve to see Curio was stronger than upholding some tradition.
“Fine.” He sighed. “Come in through the door.”
Once she entered, Bauble reached over to the back of Shine’s neck to unclasp his collar. She ran her beak through his fur, which tickled a little, but within seconds, the collar was released and Bauble held what was Tony’s memento in her mouth. Seeing how pleased Bauble was with it, Shine felt a knot of guilt tie itself in his stomach. Nevertheless, he tried to ignore it and continued his business with Bauble.
“Are there Dragonites, Bauble?”
“Why yeth, there are,” she said, slightly muffled by what she was holding. “You haff money for that, yeth?”
“I’ll sort that out in a minute. If you don’t mind, can you wait outside for me?”
“Cointh?” She asked. Shine anticipated she would ask about that, as if she imagined there was a vault in the flat that had a pool of solid gold she could gawk at.
“Bills,” he said.
As soon as Bauble hopped out of the door with the collar, Shine used his golden vision to find the safe in Tony’s closet in their room.
Tony was the one that taught Shine how to use money in the real world. While his days in the facility gave him the knowledge of basic arithmetic earlier on, amongst other things, currency was alien to him in such a closed-off environment. Not long after the two officially partnered up, Tony shared the code to his safe, as he trusted Shine to only use it for emergencies. He hadn’t needed to use it in the two years he stayed in Tony’s flat. This, however, was an emergency. A largely personal emergency, but an emergency nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the safe wasn’t Pokémon friendly, as the code could only be punched in on a small keypad. He had to type in the code with his muzzle, which took a few tries but once he entered the right combination, it opened with a satisfying click, revealing the vast amounts of money inside. He gasped at the sight of it, with seemingly endless stacks of paper. ‘Was this really what Tony was sitting on all this time?’
He would only take what he needed however. The price of the Dragonite, he didn’t know, but if he had to guess, it would be around 20000 Pokedollars. So he took ten 2000 bills out and after counting it twice over with his paws, Shine locked the safe door shut.
Travelling to the middle of nowhere with a loose stash of bills in his mouth was undesirable, especially as a Pokémon, so Shine searched in Tony’s drawers for a little bag he could bundle them in. He found a small drawstring bag, stuffed the bills in it, then placed it in his mouth. Now he was ready to go.
As he made his way to the door, however, Shine realised what he was about to do: fly half the region to see someone that might not even be there. As unsure as he was, however, he was determined to see Curio’s antics again and her reassuring voice. But something still nagged at him. He also realised how much it would worry Tony to travel for a few days unannounced. He backtracked to Tony’s bedroom and got out a pen and a pad. Gripping the pen with his mouth, Shine wrote as best as he could on the lined paper.
‘Looking for Curio. Will be back in a few days - S.’
With that, Shine picked the money-bag back up and left the flat.
Bauble had waited on the railing, absent-mindedly staring out into the noon sky, and when Shine came back, she turned to him with a displeased look.
“Took ya long enough.” She said.
“Ith not eathy without handth,” Shine said, “You off all Pokémon thould know that.”
“Can’t hear ya, mate.” She said with a teasing smile. “Follow me.”
Bauble flapped her wings in Shine’s face and glided over to the sign at the other end of the block. When Shine got close enough, Bauble flew off again, gliding into the distance up the road. Once the two knew each other’s patterns of movement, Bauble no longer had to wait for Shine to catch up as he ran after her. They went further up the road, reached the outskirts of Ambrette towards the more mountainous areas of land where the ground got more bumpy, and to a path that sat outside of the forest of Route 9.
When they arrived, Shine saw the most dragons he had ever seen in one area. When he first heard of the ranches, he didn’t know what to expect with how it was organised. He expected all the Pokémon to be boxed into several pens, or kept inside their Pokeballs. However, what he saw separated by a fence was an open field, as the dragon types and dragon-looking Pokemon freely flew around the area and ran through the shallow grass. There were Charizards, Dragonites, Salamences, Goodras and all the like, but as well as that, their young accompanied them in their previous evolutions. While most species kept within their own circles, there were a few that freely mingled with others scattered across.
Plenty of humans operated the field; there were those tending to their own Pokémon by feeding them, playing with them or resting by them, and those who worked in the farmland area separate from the Pokémon area.
There was so much happening at once there, Shine didn’t know where to start. It made him feel dizzy looking at it, trying to keep a track of all the activity there and turning his head back and forth to where his blindside couldn’t see. Then, remembering what he came there for, he shook his head and padded over to the closest barn on the path. Bauble bounced alongside him on the fence.
When he reached the entrance, Shine was greeted by a woman dressed head to toe in flight gear. She had her hand close to her belt, seemingly cautious of the two that approached her.
“If you’ve come here to steal our crops, beat it,” she said.
“We wouldn’t dream off ith,” Shine said. “I need a ride to Dendemille Town as quickly as pothible, pleath.” To complete the request, he bowed politely to her. The woman took off her visor, not taken completely off guard but still revealing her surprise as she arched an eyebrow.
“Well I’ll be. Did that Murkrow bring you here?” She looked in Bauble’s direction. Shine nodded, as the woman gave him a pointed look.
“Well I must apologise. I don’t know what she told you, but we don’t make no exceptions for Pokémon. Even you have to pay.”
Shine shook his head.
“No problem. I’m looking to buy a Dragonite.”
Upon hearing this, the lady chortled, holding her fist in front of her hand to stifle herself.
“A Dragonite? Good one! Where in Arceus’ crack did you find that much money to buy one?”
“Ith in thith bag.”
The woman laughed again, slapping her knee.
“Naw, naw, I apologise,” she said, “I believe ya. I just think I’ve lost it.” She took a deep breath, and presented her gloved hand to Shine.
“Name’s Adele. Pleasure to do business with ya. What’s yours?” Shine placed the pouch in her hand.
“Cool! If you’ll follow me to the field, I’ll walk you through what we have.”
Adele jumped over the fence. Before Shine could follow, he winced as Bauble’s beak tugged at his fur.
“Yeah, I’m kind of banned here, so I’ll take my leave now. I hope whatever you’re doing in Dendemille works out for you.”
“Thanks. Enjoy your collar.”
“Will do!” Bauble gave an appreciative chirp and swooped up in the air, disappearing past the trees.
Shine crawled under the fence and caught up with Adele as they weaved through the field. Already, Shine could sense the attention he was getting from a group of Charmander nearby who all stared at him. They started talking amongst themselves but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. He brushed it aside.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Adele said, “Where’d you learn to speak so well?”
“Through a caring enough trainer and lots of practice.” Shine said, which was a half truth.
“You don’t say. All things considered, you speak much better than half of my workers on the farm!”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“Don’t humble yourself. Actually, we’ve tried our hand at teaching our Pokémon here to speak, and it ain’t easy, let me tell you. We’ve had problems finding other Pokémon that speak like us for the job, so we do it ourselves, and some of them can carry conversations, but they’ve still got a helluva way to go. Others though, they have no focus for it whatsoever. I can’t even get one peep out of them before they fly off!”
Shine couldn’t help but laugh, thinking back to how unreceptive Curio was at first to learn it in the language tests.
“It is always the hardest trying to get the first word out, after all. If it’s not in their nature, leave them be.”
“I don’t know, we’ve been surprised before. Still, a Pokémon such as yourself is somewhat of a rarity around these parts. It’s hard to—“ She paused as a glob of green slime splashed over her glasses from her left side. It came from a Goodra who waved at Adele with a slimy paw. She chortled as she wiped off the gunk and approached the dragon.
“Hell-o A-dell,” the Goodra pronounced carefully in human tongue.
“Good to see you too, Petri.” She welcomed the Goodra with open arms and didn’t hesitate to hug Petri as he coated her with more slime.
“How’s the lessons coming along?”
“Slow and a-nnoy-ing. But not bad.”
“It’ll get better,” Shine chimed in, bringing Petri’s attention to him, “I found it hard to string together words as well.”
“Petri gasped, clutching his chest with his paw, “A new tea-cher?”
“Nope,” Adele said, “Just a visitor of ours.”
Petri gave a disappointed smile.
“Sorry, we gotta go Petri. I’ll come back in a bit. See you then!”
Adele waved to Petri which he returned, and also waved in Shine’s direction. He nodded his head before catching up with Adele, who was still covered in slime.
“Does that come off easily?” Shine said.
“Depends. You hardly notice it after a while.”
The two reached the part of the field where the Dragonites congregated, a group of five who were all huddled around each other. Adele cleared her throat.
“Attention!” she shouted. The Dragonites all turned to face her. She counted them all with her finger, then pointed to a blank space. She grunted.
“Lyra,” she said, and the Dragonite on the far left took a step forward. “Would you be so kind to fetch Accendare, please?”
Lyra nodded. Shine couldn’t even see her flap her wings before he had to shield himself from the gust of wind. When he opened his eye, Lyra was nowhere to be seen in the sky. Then, he saw the two approaching from the far side of the field, and flinched when they landed. The Dragonites on land laughed. He felt the ground rumble once when Lyra landed, then Accendare. Accendare was slightly smaller than the rest and one could see its ribs sticking out slightly, as well as a Postmon’s pager around its ankle. It looked off into the distance with its arms crossed.
“Good! Now,” she turned to Shine, “What’s your pleasure?”
The Dragonites started talking amongst themselves.
“What is a Luxray doing here?”
“By golly, he must be loaded!”
“He can’t be serious.”
“Who’s the fastest?” Shine asked, mostly for curiosity’s sake.
“Well, that’d be Bally!” She pointed to the Dragonite in the middle, who was the tallest of the bunch. “Easy to handle, and can reach the peak of Snowbelle City in just an hour.”
Bally gave Shine a smug smile, but kept silent. So he could get there in half an hour, Shine thought.
Shine had anticipated the steep price tag, just to see how far up he could go.
“And who’s the cheapest?”
Adele chuckled to herself. “Figure you’d say that next.” She pointed to Accendare. “You know this lil’ stowaway’s name. I don’t know how urgent your situation is, but she’ll do a good enough job for you if your only destination is Dendemille. She can get there in roughly an hour and a quarter if you don’t mind the bumpy ride.”
It wasn’t exactly within the hour, but it was close enough. Better than he was expecting for the cheapest. Dragonites truly were first rate.
“Oh,” he whispered. Somewhere, he had miscalculated how much he needed. Speed, handle-ability and rarity were his first standards of measurement. He must have forgotten something in the rush.
“I see. I’m ten thousand short, unfortunately.”
There was a collective sigh from the group of Dragonites. Adele blinked.
“I might as well mention this is a very generous price around these parts. You might get cheaper further east, but for what’s available here, that’s a bargain.”
That was it. He forgot to take availability into factor as well. Adele grunted. She retrieved Shine’s pouch from her pocket and knelt down to Shine. Only then did he realise how foolish he must have looked.
“Sorry for having wasted your time.” Shine said. She smiled to him.
“Not at all! I completely understand. We haven’t had a customer like you come to our ranch before, so you’ve made it worth my while!”
Shine took the pouch from her palm and placed it in his mouth.
He bowed once more before turning back to the path. Then, he saw Petri, the Goodra from earlier in the distance, and stopped. He thought back to the conversation he had with Adele about finding teachers for the Pokémon on the ranch. He hummed to himself, and he couldn’t help smile at the idea he had in mind.
Once more, Shine turned to Adele who was checking on Accendare.
“Adele!” he shouted.
Adele faced him again with a confused look, and Shine held the pouch down on the grass.
“I’ll pay the twenty thousand for Accendare, and work for as long as it takes to teach Petri to speak properly!”
A glint appeared in Adele’s eyes and she clapped her hands together.
“Now we’re talking business! As long as you’re fine with it being unpaid work, we’re square!”
“I don’t mind.”
“Good!” Adele grabbed the pouch and opened it, counting its contents, 20000 Poke dollars in ten bills. The money disappeared in her jacket.
“We need to make sure you'll come back to us to start your first lesson, so me and Accendare will be there to pick you up in two days at the most.”
“Two days?” Shine asked. Even he wasn’t sure he would be able to get Curio back in that time.
“Yup. We can’t make the returning time too open, otherwise it’ll be like you’re getting a trip for free. Is that fine with you?”
Shine looked to his side. Again, he wasn’t certain Curio would still be there, but he had nothing to lose by not taking up the offer except his trainer’s money.
“Yes,” he said, “I might need to bring a friend of mine back here.”
"Same size as you?"
"She's a Lucario."
"Fine. The spikes might be a problem, but it's doable. In that case, we'll be there at 2PM on Wednesday, so don't forget that. Oh, one more thing." Adele walked closer to Shine and knelt down to his level, uncomfortably close to his face with a serious expression.
"We kinda have a serious policy on customers paying us back. If you try to weasel your way out of it or aren't there in time two days from now, well, your ass is grass."
"I can assure you I'll be there." Shine said, unflinching.
Adele backed away from him, smiling again.
"Good! Ahem." She pulled out a walkie talkie and spoke into it.
"Jean, Fio! Accendare's gear please, on the double!"
A moment later, the two young assistants Jean and Fio appeared lugging around an assortment of riding equipment, harnesses, belts, buckles and all. Their faces glistened with sweat and their arms wobbled as they presented the gear in front of Adele. She crossed her arms.
“Alright, get a move on, you two, and be careful.”
The two exhaled and went to Accendare, who held up her paws in the air for them to equip her. She shifted nervously in place as they started to clip and tie the leather gear around her body. As for Jean and Fio, they looked to be 2 feet smaller than the comparatively towering Dragonite, which meant they had to lean or climb up her back to fully secure the equipment. Shine wasn't sure whether he was amused or worried.
The boyish looking Jean tried to wrap the harness around Accendare’s arms, who knelt down with all four paws on the ground. He took one step to the side in an effort to pull the strap back, but missed her back and ended up slipping off of her, catching Accendare’s arm with the loose strap. She winced.
“Damn it Jean, I told you to be careful!” Adele said, stomping over to let the boy down. “The last thing I need you to do is to hurt Accy!” The boy looked up at her with guilty eyes.
“Never mind, I’ll handle this from here on out. Clearly, you need more training.” She turned to Accendare’s side. “Fio, you’ve done a good job, so that’s it for now. Go take Jean back and make him run a lap across the field.”
Fio silently nodded and left with the glum looking boy. Adele leaned in to stroke Accendare’s head.
“It’ll get more comfy with time, sweetie,” she said, “That clod really doesn’t make it easy for you, does he?”
Accendare shook her head in reply.
“There there.” She turned to Shine. “Shall we?”
From there, Accendare went on all fours, presenting the saddle on her back. Adele offered a hand to Shine, gesturing to pick him up, and he sat in her arm as she climbed up Accendare to the front. She placed him in one of the empty backseats of the saddle which were mostly fit for humans but not Pokémon that weren’t bipedal. Nevertheless, he gripped the belt in front of him with ease, but a chill washed over him when he realised he was on the back of a dragon that could cycle the globe in less than a day. He gulped.
“Accendare,” he asked in his own language, “Any tips for first timers?”
“Hold on for dear life?” she said. He couldn’t see her face, but he imagined she looked quite nervous herself. “Oh, and um, thanks for picking me by the way.”
With that, the Dragonite leaned forward and started flapping her wings, sending a wave of movement through the seat, Shine lightly bobbing up and down. Adele gently raised the bridle, and Accendare’s wings beat, progressively getting more rapid. Eventually, the ground below Shine felt weightless. Accendare was in the air.
The rest of the dragons cleared the way, each flying to opposite ends of the field; the young were either picked up on the way or were left to rush to their parents as quickly as possible. Then Adele whipped the bridle.
Without warning, Accendare burst forward. A rush of wind slapped Shine across the face. The ranch was behind him in an instant. Then the trees all became a blur of green. A blur of brown as they passed the cliffs. All the while, Shine had no time to process the level of speed he was riding at. Already, the spike in speed left him feeling dizzy. All he could focus on was holding onto the strap and not letting go. It was something he never wanted to experience again, but the one motivating thought was Curio. If he could be together with her again, if he could nuzzle against her warm body again, if he could talk with her for ages as they loaded each other’s frustrations onto each other again, it would all be worth it.