“...up already! Come on, get up!”
A weird voice was pulling Jack back into consciousness. Something about it was off, but it sounded familiar. It was the same voice he heard before he got knocked out. Shortly after, he was able to feel the hard floor beneath him. He noticed the stale air that was not exactly helping to clear Jack's thoughts. Slowly but surely, he was opening his eyes and saw right into the face of the grass type that must just have saved his life again. Jack still lied in the same dark room with the pedestal, where he found those weird gems, but various parts of the ground, walls and stone table were now destroyed by a recent fight. But what's up with this voice...
The Treecko was looking slightly annoyed, but also relieved. As it opened it's mouth, Jack expected to hear it say it's own name, but was surprised.“Finally! That took way too long...”
Jack was about to stand up but was stunned midway in the process, which resulted in him falling onto his back again. He glared startled at the Treecko. “Wait, did you just...”
“Hey, Jack! You're alright?” Niko was also in the room and appeared to be worried. “I've heard noises, followed them and found our little friend here when he was fighting two of those monsters at once. He got hit pretty hard one time, but seems alright. I just saw you lying there on the ground.”
Jack wasn't really listening to Niko. “...I guess I must've hit my head again... and pretty hard this time, unless you tell me that you can hear him talking right now.” He pointed at the grass type.
“What...?” Niko was visibly confused.
Treecko appeared to be skeptical. “Actually?”
“You're not just messing around?”
“I'm sure you're just luckily guessing what I'm saying...”
“I'm not just guessing.” Both Treecko and Jack didn't move an inch or were able to show any signs of reaction to this other than being startled. “I suppose this is pretty unusual?”
“A human that can understand Pokémon? Never heard of any.”
“Any ideas how this is possible?”
Treecko laughed. “Didn't you already say you've hit your head?”
“This is a serious question. Why are you talking all of the sudden?”
The grass type frowned. “I'm always talking, humans just can't understand us for some reason.”
Now that Jack was concentrating on the way the Pokémon in front of him was speaking, he noticed that he was still just hearing different combinations if it's name's syllables. He must have been automatically turning them into human words inside his head somehow.
“Eh....” Niko was apparently about to regain his ability to speak again. “Everything about this is weird, but can we just focus on getting out of here first? Racheal is still somewhere in here and we have to figure out how to get out.”
I'll have time to think about this after we're out of here. “Fine, let's go and find Racheal first.”
They left the room through the shattered and not-so-hidden-anymore door and went through various corridors, looking for Racheal. Their search turned out to be increasingly difficult, as they had no map and were just running around aimlessly. Eventually, they ran into another Golett, but it was alone and no match for Treecko, although he was unfortunately hit by a shadow ball attack before the ghost type went down.
All the fights were exhausting their protective grass type, even with the energy it could return with absorb. Jack wondered how long Treecko could keep this up. He was the only Pokémon they had with them and as soon as he couldn't battle anymore, they would be exposed. “Are you alright?”, Jack asked just as the Golett fainted.
Treecko trembled for a moment. “I'm fine, don't worry, I can do this.” He didn't sound as convincing as he wanted to be.
Niko looked helplessly around. “I'll go to the next corner and watch out while you take a moment to catch your breath, little guy.”
The grass type glared at Niko in a way that was heavily implying how much he disliked being referred to as the 'little guy', even if Niko couldn't understand him.
While Treecko was resting a bit, Jack felt helpless. Niko must feel the same way. Treecko just does the whole battling and I'm barely giving advice. Do all trainers have to be like that? Just yelling out single words while the Pokémon has to pull off insane reactions and is doing the hard work? There has to be some better way how I can help. I'm basically his trainer right now, that means I'm supposed to be equally useful, right? But how does that work, if I just stand in the back? I can't do anything. It's not like I can help him with regaining his strength...
In that moment, Jack came up with something. Wait a second... “Hey Treecko-”
“I already said it, I -I'm fine. I'll have to be, if we want to get out of here.” He was still breathing heavily.
Next to the grass type, Jack was kneeling down and taking a closer look at him. Various bruises were visible all over his body, some of them dangerously large. If a Pokémon has to endure all this in a battle, then what am I supposed to do? “No, you're not and I'm seeing it. Just let me help you and-”
Treecko frowned. “Please, how do you want to do that? The powers of Pokémon are too dangerous for humans. You have been knocked out in one hit by the same Pokémon that I took multiple punches in a row, and I still fought. Humans are not made for fighting, Pokémon are.”
“I'm not talking about fighting them.”
“Huh?” Treecko seemed surprised.
“You'll need to be in as good of a shape as you can be, if you want to get us out of here. I can't fight those things head on, so I don't need to be in perfect condition anyway. Use your absorb attack on me.”
The grass type was trying to jump upright, but a bruise prevented him from doing so. “Are you crazy?”, he yelled. “You don't understand how the powers of Pokémon work! The energy we use for attacks gives us a certain resistance to them. Two Pokémon of equal strength could not kill each other easily, just barely make each other unconscious. But humans have very little of that energy. Any attack from me, even when I'm careful, can seriously harm you!”
Jack was trying to be calm and convince him. “I took that attack from this Golett...”
“They are not that strong! And you still went unconscious for several minutes. I'll admit, I feared you'd be out for a lot longer, but still...”
“Just do it and stop when it starts damaging me too much.”
“You really don't understand it...” Treecko was sitting down again. “I can only absorb the energy that's used for Pokémon attacks. Humans have close to none of that in them...”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Just 'close to none'? That's more than none, so just try it.”
“Please, I can't help in any other way right now. I don't have to play the trainer, you don't need my commands anyway. I don't want to be useless when we have to fight for our lives.”
“...but I'll immediately stop when you want me to.”
When Jack held his arm in front of Treecko, the grass type hesitated another time. Shortly after, it carefully touched Jack's arm and it's front paw slowly began glowing in a bright shade of green. Jack didn't really feel much and he knew Treecko was holding back. “You don't have to be that careful. We don't have enough time, take more energy.”
The grass type seemed very surprised, but began to drain stronger as his paw lit up brighter. Now Jack was feeling an aching pain, but attempted to not show it. After only a few moments, he began to feel very tired all of the sudden. He tried to delay pulling his arm back for as long as possible, but in the end, couldn't afford to for more than a couple of seconds.
Treecko seemed to be a bit more at ease after this, even though he was still not exactly at his best condition. “Alright... that helped a bit. Thanks.”
Whatever the grass type exactly absorbed from him, it made Jack feel slightly dizzy. “It's nothing. Now we just have to-”
Screeching noises interrupted them. It was a desperate cry of a familiar feminine voice which echoed through the corridors.
Without exchanging a word, Treecko and Jack both started dashing through the corridors, soon followed by Niko. They chased the occasional cries for quite some time, until a flashing movement briefly caught Jack's attention. “Over there!” As they passed the next corner, another one of the ghost types was revealed to them, just as it approached the collapsed Racheal in a dead end.
Without thinking, Jack picked up a loose rock the size if his fist and hurled it as forcefully as he could. He missed his target by a few feet, but it was sufficient enough to draw the Pokémon's attention towards Jack for now. Treecko was already mid-air, and managed to land on it while it was still focused on the human, slowly draining away the ghost type's energy.
As the ghost type went down with a menacing thud, Niko immediately rushed to Racheal's side. “Are you alright? Hey, it's just us, your fine!”
When the girl gradually realized she was safe, she quickly got up and beat the dust off of her pants. “D-Don't tell anyone I've screamed like that. Please. Thank you.”
Niko chuckled. “You can worry about that when we're out of here.” He pointed at Treecko. “And if you want to thank anyone, thank him. He took out how many of those monsters now? Six?”
Jack nodded. “Now we just have to get through those two at the entrance.”
Surprised, Niko turned to him. “Wait, there's more?”
“There are two that were just guarding the exit back in the main room. I doubt they have moved since then. You didn't notice them?”
“I was busy with... panicking...” Niko sighed. “And now I hoped we could simply walk out of here.”
“Don't worry, we escaped until now, we've got this under control. Racheal, do you still have the map? I have no clue where we are.”
“Sure, follow me.” She pulled the map out of her backpack and unhurriedly started walking. There was no trace left of her being terrified or in life-threatening danger just moments ago.
Is she tough or just really naive?
Shortly after, they found the main room and cautiously peeked inside. Two of the ghost Pokémon were still inside, completely motionless, to an extend where they could be mistaken with actual statues.
“And now what?”, Racheal whispered.
“I'm sure our little friend got this.”, Niko threw in.
“Fine with me. Also: Jack, can you tell him to stop calling me that?”
Racheal seemed skeptical. “He's outnumbered. I'm not so certain he can.”
However, Jack had a different plan. “I have no idea where you've learned counting, but I see two on their side and four on ours.”
Niko pulled him back into the corridor. “Seriously? You know how hard those guys hit! We should stay out of this and-”
“-and leave all the work to Treecko? Sorry, I can't sit idly if we can help. We can surprise them, the three of us pinning one of them to the ground while Treecko takes care of the other.”
The girly voice behind Niko agreed. “He has been through too much already, lets help him atleast now.”
Silence. For a few seconds, Niko was shocked, then pensive for over a minute. In the end, he just sighed. “Alright, if we have to...”
A brief discussion of a plan later, Jack crouched next to the room's corner, Treecko on his shoulder, the two others behind them. They were really close to the ghost type's now.
Niko whispered. “I still can't believe I'm going to fight these monsters...”
“Just do what we've planned.”, Jack assured him. “Alright, ready?”
“More or less.”
“Ready if you are.”
We just need to distract them for one or two seconds when were that close. He picked up a rock, slightly smaller than the one from before, and threw it as far as he could into the room, behind the second Golett. Instantly when the ghost types turned towards the noise's source, turning their back to the group for barely a moment, Jack started running straight at them. Treecko jumped directly at the one that was farther away. Jack tried to tackle the other one down, backed up by Niko and, shortly after, by Racheal. Niko and Jack were restraining one arm each, while Racheal held tight to the lower part of it's body. The ghost type was flailing wildly, but couldn't break free from the three humans. Jack couldn't look up to see how well Treecko was doing, but a loud thud a few moments later implied that he was done. Shortly after, the grass type jumped over the human's back's, plainly landing on the Golet's head and absorbing it's energy. The ghost type's chaotic motion gradually slowed down, until it completely stopped moving.
Everyone wordlessly nodded at each other and, after briefly catching their breath, ran towards the exit. Ascending the stairs , Jack could already see the light at the end. He had lost track of time down in the gloomy corridors, as the orange tint of a setting sun greeted him.
A genuine sigh of relief ensured him, that Niko was alright. “Finally, we're out of there...”
“It's not over yet, we still have to get back before dusk falls.”, Racheal reminded him. “Trust me, you don't want to be in this forest at night, I've learned that the hard way.” She observed the sun's light that was barely shining through the orange and yellow leaves. “I'd guess we have about an hour to get back. Maybe a bit less.”
“Then let's hurry, you know the way.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Your sense of direction isn't the greatest, right? Alright, follow me.”
Jack followed her, but made sure he left enough space between them to atleast have the slightest feeling of having some private space after this. As before, Niko walked besides Racheal, and Treecko rested on his shoulder. The grass type was very quiet since they've met up with Racheal in the ruin. “Too exhausted to talk?”, Jack joked.
“Let me give you some advice...” He was still breathing heavily. “Two humans being from another world is already something that no one here would believe...”
“Well, I can't really expect you to trust me with-”
“...but a human, who can understand Pokémon? That's at least as hard to consider being possible. If one of those things is doable, then I guess I can rely on you telling the truth with the other, too. But I would suggest you don't tell anyone else about it. You would probably just get locked up and be declared as insane.”
They walked for a couple of minutes in silence until Treecko broke it. “Oh, and by the way... Thanks. You were not that bad... for a human.”
Jack frowned. “You still did almost all the work.”
Another period of quiet started for the next few minutes. Jack used the time to watch all kinds of Pokémon he could make out inside the forest. Not only that he could see them, now he also heard fractions of conversation. Two Starly fighting over a large pile of berries, a Rattata asking a Pikachu where a specific Eevee was, a Deerling warned a Vulpix about a dangerous Scyther...
“It feels weird to understand everything the wild Pokémon say.”
“Eh, I'm sure you'll get used to it.” Treecko seemed to recover well, even within this short time. “But what are you going to do now?”
He didn't realize it until now, but right now he had no clue where to search for a way home. Maybe there isn't a way to get back by himself at all. Maybe someone in the real world has to do something and they would just have to wait? “I don't know. Maybe there's nothing I can do, but I'll have to search ways to get home. Even if there aren't any.”
“I hope for you that not everything will be as dangerous as this time.”
“I doubt that all future investigations will be safe.” Jack was thinking about something. “I think I need some partner Pokémon, when everything here Is that dangerous.”
Treecko frowned. “Do you even know how to train a Pokémon?”
“I think I have a pretty good idea how that works.”
“And how do you want to get a Pokémon?”
“I guess I'll ask professor Carter for some Poké balls, go into the forest and-”
“No, I mean, a Pokémon that's strong enough to actually help you. I mean, like a Pokémon that has experience, is good in battle, understands your situation...
Jack caught on on what the grass type was referring to. “You mean, like a partner that can take out an entire group of dangerous antique Pokémon? Someone who might already knows something about those ruins because, I don't know, maybe this Pokémon would have lived with a professor...”
Treecko grinned. “A very handsome, good looking-
Jack chuckled. “That's too much now.”
The grass type on his shoulder gazed into the forest. “A Pokémon that's sick of just sitting in one place all the time. Someone, who wants an adventure. A real adventure. Not just this boring battling-all-gyms thing that all trainers do with their Pokémon...”
Jack carefully lifted Treecko up from his shoulder. Holding him in front of him, starring with a smile into his eyes. “I guess we have a deal then? But let me warn you, it might take a while and I have no idea how dangerous it will be or how this will end.”
Treecko returned the smiling glance. “Fine. But you'll have to learn a lot about battling when you want to be a proper trainer for me.”
“Oh, don't worry about that.” Jack put him back on his shoulder.
As soon as the sun began to set, the group of adventurers reached the lab, which also served as Racheal's and the professor's home. Racheal was too exhausted and went to bed immediately. Niko began explaining everything that happened, with a few comments from Jack on the moves the ghost types used. Jack asked Niko in advance to not tell him about Jack being able to understand Pokémon now.
“I had no idea how dangerous it could be...” The professor's bleary eyes showed his long day of work. “Thank Arceus, your all unharmed. Exploring an area this unsafe without any outcome...”
“Actually...”, Jack started, ignoring Niko's questioning expression at the mention of Arceus. “...there was a hidden room. I found those things inside.” He put the three gems that were attached to necklaces, two of them colorless and one in a glowing red, on the table.
Professor Carter observe them with a curious glance. “That's weird. I've read about crystals like those...” He pointed at the colorless ones. “...I've heard about them in reports of what was found in some other ruins. They were described as generic gems, probably valuable to the ancient people. But that red one... I'd like to take a closer look at it.”
“Sure, go ahead.”, Jack replied as the professor took the red gem. “I hate to ask you for even more than you already did for us...” He was looking for the right words. “...but I think it would be safest for us if we had some Pokémon to defend ourselves. Sooner or later, we'll have to search clues elsewhere. I think I know enough about Pokémon to catch one by myself, but I'll need a few Poké balls...”
The professor was thoughtful for a moment. “I'll assume it's fair to give you some when you had to go through that much.” He left the room and came back shortly after with a small white bag that was closed through a cord. He gave it to Jack. “But don't waste them, they're not cheap!”
Jack curiously opened the bag to find six tiny half-red half-white spheres. He picked up one of the golf-ball-sized items and intuitively pushed the button in it's center. It's size rapidly increased to perfectly fit into his hand.
“Just to be sure you know how it works...” the professor added. “...When the ball touches a wild Pokémon, it will try to capture it. It might try to break out, and will probably manage to if it's not weak. Many wild Pokémon want to be captured and trained by trainers, but some, especially stronger and evolved ones, will resist. When you caught one, just push the small button on the side to let it out.”
Jack just noticed there was another small button on the right side, on the ball's edge between the red and white part.
“It used to be that Pokémon can't get out on their own, but since a few years ago, all Poké balls have to allow them to get out by themselves. That's why they're so expensive...”
Jack curiously examined the ball before he shrank it again and put it back in the bag. He looked at Treecko, who was resting in a corner. “I hope he is alright...”
The professor followed his gaze. “I'm sure he is...”
As agreed earlier, Treecko was now approaching the couch where everyone sat right now and leaped on Jack's lap.
They had to somehow convince professor Carter to let Treecko go with him, without giving away that Jack could understand the grass type.
It looked expectantly at the professor while pointing at Jack. “Treecko! Tree-Treecko!”
Something about this was off, not like Jack had planned, but he couldn't figure out what... “Looks like he likes me.”, Jack said, appearing as surprised as he could.
“It looks like he wants to tell me something...” The professor looked slightly confused at the grass type.”
Jack had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. “I think he wants to help me out...”
The professor gazed away for a few seconds. “He's always wanted to travel. I can tell that by how little time he spends in this house.” He looked directly at the grass type. “Is that what you want? Go with him?”
“Treecko!” He nodded
Jack just realized what was off. He couldn't understand Treecko! Thankfully, the professor probably assumed his surprise was because of Treecko's offer. Why could I even understand him in the first place? Was it because I went unconscious again? Wait no, I could only understand him ever since I got...
“Well, at first I'll let him accompany you when you catch your Pokémon. If he continually wants to, I'll let him go with you. He didn't really like the lab anyways.” The professor stood up.
“Oh, and one last thing. Can I take the red gem for now? It... Uh... looks like I've seen it somewhere else.”, Jack lied.
Professor Carter was surprised and appeared to be a bit suspicious. “...Alright. I mean, since you found it it's technically yours. But I'd really like to analyze it at some point.” He left the room after giving Jack the necklace with the red gem back.
Jack looked expectantly at Treecko, the gem in his hand.
The grass type seemed confused. “What was that last part about?”