Caesar Cyprus was an aide to Prof. Oak long before Red was born. Sent off to Cinnabar Island to conduct research, Cyprus, a young boy of 12, is headed for a bigger adventure than he's ever dreamed. Table of Contents Chapter 1: KindlingChapter 2: Fire and WaterChapter 3: Square Off Against the SerpentChapter 4: Warm WelcomeFootnotesAlso by SebaxGuest Book Chapter 1: Kindling T he sun burned when Caesar Cade Cyprus awoke that morning in Pallet town. He dusted his sandy brown hair and rubbed his tired, brown eyes, and rose from his bed. The view he had on his feet was closer to that of adult's than that of a twelve-year-old boy, standing tall at five feet and eight inches. Freshly twelve, in fact, having just celebrated a birthday the day before. Tall, lean, and formal. All three so that it became difficult to separate him from the more aged when it came to the stately way in which he conducted himself. All manners and eloquently-spoken, his Gentleman air was, to be honest, a result of a young man just trying to keep up with others older than he was. He was, after all, an aid to the town’s Professor Samuel Oak, and all the other aides were older teens. To him, it was all necessity to match them or beat them, and it did work for him in some measure. In the world of Science and Pokémon, growing up was of the utmost importance in his mind, even if he had to do it faster than he knew how. Summertime blistered and scorched the two fields to the left and right of the small town. Because of this, the fields were blocked off with great pillars that had been flown in, all while the weather affected the town itself with no more mercy. Suffering just the same, all of Pallet Town was deterred from entering the fields and told to avoid the Pokémon they contained. Cyprus had been told why the previous morning by the Professor, he recalled. “The Squirtle will want somewhere cool to keep them from drying up, so it’s better to keep them to the lake in the center of the field. Pitchers, pools, and bathtubs wouldn't be safe with a horde of desperate Squirtle loose. On the other hand, Charmander will be quite happy with the heat, but also just a bit too powerful and over-charged; we don’t want them going into town to start a fire, which will much easier in this heat. Bulbasaur is fine, as they’ll be using today to have a Chlorophyll feast. Pikachu though… well, they're always such wild cards, and seem to be able to get over the blocks anyway. It’s hard to say what mischief they might cause today. Keep an eye out, I suppose,” Oak had explained to his aides. Soon dressed and out the door, he was back at the lab and working with the most exuberance he'd ever shown in his short life. Being in Professor Oak’s lab was always a treat to such an apt child, but today, Cyprus felt like he was finally ready for the world, as though a single celebratory day had been a threshold he’d gaited over with Triumph. He felt like he could take on the entire world of Pokém- “Oof!” Cyprus was socked in the gut mid-thought by a Geodude he was porting from one table to another. The rock monster had been kept inside a Pokéball, but in his carelessness as he daydreamed, he had literally dropped the ball. Faster than he could realize, he was brought to his knees, cringing and holding tight to his stomach while his nerves and lungs constricted and his vision went in and out. It wasn’t until later that he found himself back in bed before the day had even really started. He was startled and tried to sit up, but found it to be impossible. His stomach was bound in bandages and hurt. It was a dull, stabbing pain all at once, and more intense than any injury he'd experienced prior. He lied back down in degrees. He felt the need to throw up, but lacked the capacity. Unable to relieve his stomach, he looked about his room, having nowhere else to go. The room itself was atypical of a boy his age, as atypical as he was, with few notable similarities to the typical. Books upon books on Pokémon scattered the floor as did records as well as books about foreign lands. It was a room that belonged in a Victorian Age home, but with a then-modern twist with its spiraled prints in the black wallpaper and the fiery orange and red shag carpet-flooring. A single window with a cushioned seat in front, cut out in the wall, brought a radiant summer glow into the somewhat Gothic residence. The entire Cyprus household was made up like that throughout, with mixes of old and new in every nook and cranny. For the life of him, he couldn't even think about anything outside of his immediate vicinity, however. All he could see was all he could process in his mind. His bed was much like the carpet, with fiery-color sheets and a large fluffy pillow made to look like a fire stone was where he was nestled and tucked in without any memory of setting himself in. When he recalled the Geodude, a slight moan escaped his lips as the dull pain elevated back into a stiff, unyielding pain. There was no more than five seconds that Cyprus moaned to the time when his mother burst through the door and into his room in an all-out frenzy. “What is it? What’s happened?” Lilly Cyprus had already asked before even stepping foot in the room. Caesar had inherited her propriety and hair color. She was rather tall, like his father as well, and possessed a healthy, supple frame and youthful beauty. She wore, as was her usual wardrobe, a black dress that was decorated with prints of flowers adorning it. Her high Anxiety, to the best of his knowledge, had not been passed down; as much as he loved his mother, he always counted the fact as the greatest Luck in the Universe. Hell had no fury like Lilly Cyprus riled up. “What’s wrong with my baby?” She was Her determination to protect in the face of a non-serious matter was all at once understandable, admirable, and at least a little humorous. “I’m fine.” Caesar put emphasis on the last word to make it sound less like the lie it was. She was, to Caesar's misfortune, a living Lie Detector. She placed her hands on her hips and glared at her son with a discerning look, her green eyes ablaze. “Is that so? Well, you’re certainly not well enough to go to Cinnabar Island now, I can tell you that.” She crossed her arms. “Cinnabar? …What are you talking about, Mom?” Around company, she was “Mum”, informally, she was “Mom”; it was a rare quirk from a young man who tried his best to be free of them. She flubbed her lips, exhausted, before speaking. “Professor Oak wants you to go to Cinnabar Island. Don’t ask me why! Given the state you’re in now, I was sort of confused- no offense, dear-“ she quickly added, “But he said he’d meant to ask you today. He’s been impressed with the way you handle Pokémon that… err… how did he put it? 'Have been generally compliant'?” She sighed. “I think Wild Pokémon will not be as compliant and such on Cinnabar, why, those are all Fire-types there!” ‘Uh oh’, Caesar thought, as he saw the tears welling up in his mother’s eyes. He was repeating the thought over just before she dashed to cradle his head to her heart. Between the blow to his stomach and the blow to his Pride in that moment, he felt an immediate preference for the Geodude. “Does he expect me to send my poor baby to be cooked alive!?” She cried dramatically. This... was his mother... all---the---TIME. “MOOOOOOOOM!” Coddled with affection that was equal parts in suffocation, Caesar pulled away. “Professor Oak has been talking to us about Cinnabar forever. Don't you see? This is finally my chance; my chance to prove to everyone I’m more than capable to survive in the world on my own.” It had really been two months since Professor Oak had first mentioned the possibility of sending an aide to the new research facility on Cinnabar Island, but that is an debatable eternity to a young boy of twelve. He could see the light fade from her eyes in that moment. The word “survive” produced the same result as though someone had come to her door and said “An Arcanine has eaten your son; terribly sorry about that.” Of course, she could not stand for apathetic apparitions appertaining to Arcanine, all ardently acquiescing an adolescent appetizer, and so she banished them away. “No!” And she latched onto Caesar once more with a loving head-lock. The Irony she was putting him in more danger by herself didn't strike her, having come to one possible life-threatening situation and sticking with it. “I forbid you to be eaten alive!” “I’ll be fine!” “You’ll be fine, yes, because you aren’t going!” “I am!” “Don’t take that tone with me, young man!” Caesar tried to get away again, but found the attempt futile. He could fool everyone and make the world forget his age, but he'd be six-years-old throughout eternity to his mother, and he knew it. Anyone else would be told off, but that was impossible for him to subject his mother to on any given day, no matter how much she went too far. “Pardon me,” a new voice entered the room, startling the pair. It was Professor Oak himself, with sandy brown hair, thick eyebrows above his clear brown eyes, and possessing a youthful, handsome appearance, only then aged 30. He was resplendent in his buttoned white lab coat, and looked serious, but spoke in an easy tone. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but I’m afraid I simply must stress that there's just no one else for the job I have in mind.” “What do you mean?” Misses Cyprus seemed to realize something was amiss at first glance, but returned territorial the moment after. “Wait a moment… How did you get in?” Oak was alarmed, and knocked down from his serious demeanor when he grimaced and scratched the back of his head. “Oh! Well, I uh… erm… well... Ahem! Your husband let me in.” He called back beyond the door way towards the stairs behind him. “Thank you, Cade.” “Not a problem, Professor!” called Cade Cyprus, Caesar’s father, from downstairs. The credence of the support eased Misses Cyprus’ nerves. “I still don’t see why you need my Caesar to go to a place as---” she stifled a tear, “--- as far away as Cinnabar Island.” “It’s quite simple, Lilly.” Professor Oak resumed his more serious and straight-forward manner. “Caesar possesses a profound ability to be able to easily communicate with Pokémon.” The news was heavier on everyone else than Professor Oak cared to or could notice. "Come again?" Lilly practically had question marks popping out around her head with how clueless the explanation had left her. Caesar was no less confounded. “He may not realize the entirety of all Pokémon natures, nor does he always use it when he should or could, but he most certainly possesses a gift. Hm... how do I best explain? Aha! yes, while it’s true that anyone can talk to Pokémon, as this is the basis of Pokémon training, there is something different in the circumstances. While most trainers can only communicate with Pokémon they have earned trust from, a long and laborious process, Cyprus can get through to some of my most stubborn wild specimens… err…” He drew back again, with chagrin. “This is with, of course, an exception in the Geodude… terribly sorry about that.” “It’s alright, Professor.” Caesar bit back the pain rumbling in his abdominal wall. “All the same, I want you to rest up before you go anywhere.” “Right, S-“ “And who says he’s going anywhere?!” Lilly blurted out in tears, while Cyprus struggled to keep his mother from binding him again in an inescapable Death Grip. Professor Oak took the arguments in stride and beckoned to Lilly Cyprus with perfect calm. It eased her up, and Caesar was grateful. “We can discuss it over some Ramen I brought over.” That struck a chord with Caesar. He knew his mother. Lilly Cyprus was a regular gourmand and a proficient chef. In that was a well-known love for "legitimate" Ramen, as she described it; not the sort one would find in plastic pouches with flavor packets, but with noodles made from scratch and flavors borne from her meticulously cared for garden. If there was one thing capable of calming her over-worked nerves, it was the Ramen experience. It was perceptible she was considering her ultimate decision with care. “Oh… alright. I’m going to entertain the possibility. You can expect I’ll talk to your father first, Caesar Cade Cyprus.” Use of the middle name. Never a good sign, but Caesar tried to put on a smile and remain positive. Anything for a chance to prove himself. “Well, you see, I did already take the liberty of speaking with Cade. He couldn’t be more enthused about the idea, truth be told. I don’t think he could be any-“ Professor Oak stated compliantly, but was interrupted by a deep voice booming from downstairs. “Hello? Pendleton? It’s Cade! My boy, … yes… you remember Caesar, don’t you? Well he’s going to be working on his own! My boy! Personally entrusted by Professor Samuel Oak… Yes, the same one… Uh-huh… Alright, well no, I didn’t know it’s 3 AM where you are… Oh!... Terribly sorry… I’ll hang up now… yes, good evening, Pendleton……. Hello? Marci… Yes! Hello it’s Cade! I have wonderful news about Caesar!” The stream went on and on in an ecstatic fashion as Cade made call after call. “Hmmph!” Lilly crossed her arms. “Do I even get a say in this?” “Of course!” Professor Oak said contentedly. “You’re say is final in the matter. I would like to point out however: Everyone else is on board. Right, Caesar?” “Yes, sir.” Misses Cyprus sighed exasperatedly. She bubbled over and twitched, and tried to catch her breath. Each time she opened her mouth to speak though, only tight squeaks escaped from her throat. “Fine.” The word shot out with the effort of a cannonshot. “But you, young man, have to rest. You aren’t going until I say you can go. I'm still your mother.” She continued to coddle him, stroking Caesar’s hair and fussing over him. “Fine.” Caesar’s version of the word was much like his mother’s, but with a slight bit more groaning tossed in. He felt all too much like the offspring of an over-zealous Kangaskhan, stuck in the pouch for an indefinite span of time. Professor Oak chuckled lightly before a beep emanated from his coat pocket. “Oh dear.” He reached into his pocket to retrieve a small, red pager. “I’m afraid I have to go. Lilly, the Ramen we agreed upon is downstairs. I’d love to stay for some, but there’s an issue with that Geodude again. It was Elm this time and it would appear he had an adverse reaction to its Mud Sport move and is being rushed as we speak to-“ He was looking at the pager dumbfounded until he met Misses Cyprus’s panicked expression. She again had Caesar clutched to her side, though she seemed to be waiting for Professor Oak’s next words more than anything. Upon seeing the frenzied look in her eyes, Professor Oak made a last minute salutation and dashed right out before she erupted into a volcano of tears. “Thatcouldhavebeenmybaby!Thankgoodnessyou’reokay!AreyousureyouwanttogotoCinnabar?” Caesar Cade Cyprus sighed heavily while he was crushed with love. His adventure had already started. Chapter 2: Fire and Water P rofessor Oak eased over an answer to a fuming brute of a man who looked inclined to throttle the cornered Professor. “Yes, the bloating should go down eventually.” While Oak spoke, a small boat docked into the narrow waterway near the Professor’s laboratory and bobbed in the waves as it bumped against the land with hollow thud. “I perfectly understand your concern, Mr. Elm. Just be glad your son isn’t an Electric-type Pokémo- Oh my…” The Professor tried to take a stab at some light humor, but wound up with a meaty mitt of a hand clutching the neck of his lab coat instead. Face to face with a large square head and an excessive amount of a tawny brown beard, the young Professor had lost his nerve and degenerated to a blabbering buffoon before Cyprus took any notice of the event. The young boy cocked an eyebrow at the interruption not only due to the fact it had just occurred over the span of the past few minutes, but also because he had to remember who the man was. Father and son in this particular branch of Elms couldn’t have been any more on different sides of the spectrum, since the junior, the aide in question, was a noodle-limbed string bean of a child. Somehow Hogan Elm had spawned such a child while looking more the part of an perpetually angry Pro-Wrestling Viking who moonlighted as a Lumberjack. Either way, Caesar displaced diverting thoughts to tackle the situation at hand. He knew he’d have to rush in. Professor Oak seemed likely to have his head chewed off at any moment. In attempt to prevent that, he walked towards the tense pair and raised his voice, but with great caution. “Professor, the boat has arrived.” Cyprus tried to defuse the situation with an obvious fact. He hoped that the attention the Professor was receiving would be directed toward the small white fishing boat, and not towards him. With some great Luck, it worked. In the next moment, Hogan let loose his vice grip of Professor Oak. That wouldn't be the end of course. The hulking figure shoved the Pokémon Expert onto his lab-coat covered rump for good measure. Without fanfare the brutish patriarch of the Elm line left without another word. Not another word, but Cyprus could swear he heard the steam whistling from the man's ears as he stormed off. Only when the storm had subsided, Cyprus assisted Samuel Oak back to a standing position. “Honestly, I do feel bad about young Elm,… really such a talent; so much potential and a brain to boot…” He took a moment and looked over his shoulder before leaning over to whisper to Cyprus smugly, “Not a bit like his father. That man's never entertained a single thought besides the most basic of instincts his entire life, and I should know; we went to school together. Well, enough about that.” He coughed, resuming a more serious tone. “I suppose we should see you off soon, because it’s a long trip to Cinnabar, you know.” Professor Oak clapped Cyprus on the back and began walking him to the boat. “I wouldn’t want to ask its captain to have to sail through the night. Then again, I trust in the captain’s abilities in any sort of weather. In fact, you should see Captain Oblique in a hail storm, now that I think of it. Reason would have it that such weather would put one at a disadvantage, but cruel weather such as that is a boon to their team. All the same, you two will want to have reached Cinnabar’s main island before sunset so that you can both be given rooms at the Pokémon Center at a reasonable hour.” Here, between the conversation and his path, Cyprus noticed the words “The Letter” written in a big, fancy red font on the rear of the pristine, painted craft. It was a curiosity to him, as was just about any detail that happened to pop out. “Only two? Aren’t you coming along?” Cyprus inquired as he hopped into the boat floating evenly enough on the calm waters. “I considered a trip for myself to make sure Blaine would be there, to get everything settled about finances, but with all the problems arising with Elm and whatnot… Well, I’m sure you understand.” “Professor, I would understand if you simply said you didn’t feel like getting your feet wet today. I can more than understand the reasons you have. I saw him too,” Cyprus added. He had an abounding respect for the local Professor, but rarely had a one on one discussion in order to display it. Professor Oak hopped into the boat and grabbed the solid wooden side rail to prepare an exit soon after. He wobbled, showing a sheer lack of sea legs in the first steps. Cyprus then suspected that maybe the stay at home was for another reason, but didn't bring it up. “I certainly appreciate that, Cyprus.” And then the Professor nodded. The nod was important. It was the first time he Cyprus felt as much respect received as what was given. The fact the cue came from one of the men Cyprus looked up to most produced an elation Cyprus couldn't contain. The return nod, shaking and wide-grinned, caused Samuel Oak to bark with laughter. “You, I must admit, also have a great deal of talent and brains; otherwise, you wouldn’t be here right now.” Chat ceased when a hatch opened to below deck, and a young woman pulled herself up to the deck. Sun-roasted skin, spare, tall, and dressed in denim shorts and a blue spaghetti strap crop top, she was nearly at eye level with the Professor, but more youthful than he was. 'She must have just been tall for her age, like me', Cyprus assumed, 'because I think she barely looks seventeen or so'. The thoughts he suppressed went along the point it did not go unnoticed that she was uncommonly pretty. She possessed a fair countenance with an oval shaped face and bright brown eyes under black eyebrows with weight to them. Her wavy black hair fell slightly below her shoulders and draped her head like an ornamental curtain. Cyprus could see the drapery of the locks, but most of her skull was concealed under a bandanna that had a print identical to the shell of a Lapras. At least, that's what could be made out even though it was blackened with grease. “Captain Oblique.” Professor Oak nodded formally to the approaching person. Granted, Cyprus was mature for his age. He had been told so numerous times by adults he knew and had observed so himself by the out-of-place way he felt around children his own age and the normalcy he felt around adults. He didn’t have time nor the capacity for crushes, but… something about this young woman walking toward them with a bright smile lit his head on fire and removed his ability to think. “Professor Oak.” She nodded back, taking off her bandana to wipe grease off of her hands. Her raven hair was glossy, even more radiant without the cover, and flowed in the wind with a bountiful grace that- “And you must be Cyprus.” Cyprus was thrown from the impromptu daydream and back into Reality. The truth was: he never felt so far off in unknown territory before in his life as when Captain Oblique turned her attention towards him, and he had to think of how interesting anything was but her hair or face or smile- 'Bah! Stop!' This was a strange reaction for him. “We’d go to school together, I think. Ligeia Oblique; but everyone calls me Gia. Wait… I think we’d go to school together; it’s hard to say.” She crossed her arms and stuck out one hip to the side as she surveyed him. “You’re around fourteen, fifteen, right?” ‘This girl is around my age?!’ Cyprus thought to himself as he tried not to gulp and make his uneasiness obvious. But, oh, she wasn't really that close to his age... Assuming she was any age she said, that was quite a difference. But why did that matter? He collected himself. “I’m... twelve...” Cyprus admitted sheepishly. The answer came as a bit of a surprise to the young captain. The evidence was there in her eyes. He could see her already shift from treating him like a colleague to treating him like an infant, just as everyone in the lab always did. Or maybe he was over-thinking it. He had a tendency to do so, here and there. “No kidding? Wow. Kind of tall, aren’cha?” She looked at Cyprus, then down to her own feet and laughed. “I guess I’m one to talk.” “Once you two grow up, I think you’re both going to make me feel very short,” Professor Oak joked. Odd enough, Cyprus noted, this prompted Gia to the strangest response. She stopped laughing, right on the spot. It was there that Cyprus began to connect dots as he looked at the way Gia bit her lip and looked at the Professor, whom, in turn, remained oblivious of the somewhat hurt look. It was a chance perception that caught him off-guard, but... did she have a crush on the Professor? Cyprus supposed he couldn’t blame the girl, because, after all, young women were always coming to the lab to see if Professor Oak was around. If he wasn’t, they’d leave, often enough, rather upset. There was even one young beauty that favored ghost Pokémon heavily, but had shown up less and less since Professor Oak started focusing more on studying Pokémon than battling them; 'Agatha, that's the one,', Cyprus recalled her name. And there was his mother... running towards the boat from the grass patch leading to town. Cyprus’ heart sank when he spotted that she was sobbing and screaming that she had changed her mind… again. In reality, this was the sixth time since this morning she had, but this time she looked as though she was ready to pull Cyprus back into the house and never let him go even so much as outside the front door again. “We need to go. Now.” Cyprus sputtered, while keeping an eye off to the side. She still had some distance left in the fields to the clear before the port could be reached, and even had the barrier blocks to contend with. But that wouldn't hold her long. “Hmm?” Oak replied to the haste with a raised eyebrow at Caesar Cyprus, and didn’t speak again until short thereafter when Caesar nudged him in the ribs. A sharp glare from Caesar indicated Professor Oak towards the racing Lily Cyprus, and resulted in the Professor to nod to Caesar with perfect understanding. Meanwhile, Gia remained oblivious to the pair’s secret understanding. “I was about to say we should hurry. My engine has been giving me a headache lately and I don’t want to test The Letter out at night, since we might already run the risk of her stalling out anywhere.” “I’ll leave you two to it then. Good luck to you both, and especially you, Caesar; be sure to write!” Professor Oak feigned peacefulness while words dropped from out of his mouth. Before anyone could reply, he lifted himself over the railing to set foot back on solid ground as he waved a farewell to them both. “I’ll be in my lab should departures be delayed. I really must thank you, Captain Oblique for the assistance.” With that, he turned and proceeded to run to block Lily’s war-path. Before speaking, Gia gave a subtle look that she was screaming on the inside. The fact that Professor Oak wasn’t riding as a passenger became all too evident for her to process at first, Cyprus gathered. Before she did speak, she wheeled around to face the helm with a bottled-up fury. “I’m going to go start us up. Got any luggage?” The bitter way she said so and asked all but gave away what Cyprus was thinking, but he wasn't going to point that out. “It’s stored in the Pokéballs on my belt.” Caesar managed to say past the doubt she was really listening, but he had a secret pride in knowing the trick. Just storing items in the devices designed to capture wild Pokémon. Simple enough, and efficient. This was despite the fact pretty much everyone did and it was popular to keep bulky items like bikes in them on long trips so the bike and other items could easily fit into a single sturdy bag with plenty of pockets. Caesar Cyprus did not have a bag however; only six Pokéballs, containing clothes, bed sheets, and tenting supplies, all attached to his belt. “Hey,” Gia turned back and gave Cyprus a genuine smile that made him oblivious to his mother tackling his mentor with the ferocity of a half-starved Rattata going at a block of cheese, “You might make a pretty good Pokémon Trainer when you grow up. Might want a backpack though. Helps to be prepared out in the real world.” ‘Ouch.’ Cyprus wasn’t sure if she really meant that or she was coping with the 'when you grow up' line she'd received herself. ‘Can’t I technically be a Pokémon trainer now?’ Cyprus self-reflected, but knew that either way the message was clear, and Cyprus suspected he was starting to feel what she might have felt. And it felt Bitter. Sheer disappointment, that he didn’t know how to explain why it happened in the first place, bubbled up inside him. He turned away and watched his last view of Palett town up close before he heard the roar of an engine and felt the boat lurch forward. At the same moment, Misses Cyprus was too occupied with slapping Professor Oak upside the head to notice that her son was already speeding away. All too fast, his town, his mother, and Professor Oak began to shrink as a deep blue sea began to dominate the scenery. In little time at all, while Cyprus took in the sights, Gia was back on deck and had gone up to the second floor towards the front of the boat to the helm. Cyprus sighed out a heavy breath of oppressive air caught in his lungs. He tried to remove all thoughts, but found them locked too secure in his brain for him to move them out. He was thinking about the Captain. At that point he already knew his plan for the trip: try to stay to himself for the entirety and not turn into a love sick puppy over a girl he just met and did not know from a Diglett hole in the ground. The funny thing about knowing about hormones was that knowing about them did absolutely nothing for controlling them. Each occasional look she shot back every few moments turned into a shift of perspective that Cyprus undertook each time to avoid eye contact. He would look in the complete other way, but knew he saw her eyes each time, so that meant she saw him too. She kept silent, and he kept silent, and he thought it best to keep it that way. That was the decision until she called him forward, then he found he'd rushed to the helm before he knew his feet had carried him there. It occurred when they were out to sea and far out of sight of any visible land mass on a bright and clear day. Again, Cyprus sighed, but this time around, he couldn’t suppress the gulp of dry air he had managed to keep at bay before in his throat. ‘She’s just a girl’, he told himself, but he couldn’t convince himself whatsoever. Worse yet: he knew exactly why this was: being human. She had him already. ӨӨӨGia leaned on the dashboard, crossing her legs where she stood. “So, you work for the Professor, right? Caesar Cyprus?” Gia asked once Cyprus had climbed the ladder. “Professor Oak, yes. There are a few Professors out there; can’t really name any off the top of my head though. Actually, I plan on becoming a Pokémon Professor someday.” Cyprus felt he was saying these things, but the flood of words was largely unlike him. “Oh? What do you plan to study?” Gia seemed half-interested in the subject while they cruised at a moderate speed. The slightest glimmer of interest in the conversation melted Cyprus’ brain into mush and made his tongue feel gooey. “I do not really know... I don't really presume much,” he admitted, shrugging his shoulders. “I never really gave the future that much thought.” “You're a little uptight." "You mean formal?" "Whatever works for you, but be happy you can have a future you can figure out on your own. I took full advantage of the fact I could when I was thirteen. I started entering my Pokémon in official matches and I saved most of the money I earned up from tournaments. Every bit of it, until I bought this boat and now I’ve been sailing for a year; almost non-stop.” Gia stated proudly, gripping the fancy wheel and stroking the button-bedazzled and meter-strewn dashboard with glee. “Nice boat,” was all Cyprus managed to sputter out with as much faux-bravery as possible. “You must be very good with your Pokémon to have been able to afford a top-of-the-line craft like this.” Gia lit up, even blushed, though not too noticeable under all the tan. “Yeah, I am. I can’t tell you how few kids were there at most of the tournaments I went to, and that was because I was in a totally different league. Lonely at the top, I guess. But motorcycle enthusiasts cried after going up against me, so that made up for the fact I didn't really have too many friends. I kind of retired from battling when I bought the The Letter, but, of course, I still keep around my old team.” “Really? What do you have?” “My main choice is my Lass, a Lapras; she’s gotten me out of so many scrapes in-battle and in the real world than I can count. Behind her is Blu, my Golduck, Whomp, my Poliwrath, Cutter, my Meowth that I mainly use for HM moves and is more of a pet, but is probably close to becoming a Persian at this point, oh! And Vapor. Guess what she is.” She described each as if she were talking about the most amazing things in the world, with all the enthusiasm of a fan celebrating their favorite sports team. “Ummm.” Cyprus racked his brain for known Pokémon, or just so much as the ones he knew, and tried to think. “It looks like you favor Water Pokémon save for one normal, so I’m going to guess that Vapor is a Water-type.” He only knew of the wild Pokémon in the area around Pallet and the occasional imported specimen in the labs. He'd never seen or heard of a Lapras, knew about Golduck but had only ever worked with a Psyduck, had studied a small knot of Poliwag and wondered if maybe Poliwrath was an evolutionary form of them, Meowths were everywhere, but Normal-types were just more common around Pallet than Water-types were. 'What on earth would so likely be called "Vapor" that you could guess the species...,' he thought. “Uh huh” Gia nodded. She had a smug expression on her face, and Cyprus figured because she could maybe tell he didn't have a clue. “Come on, Lab Boy: Who’s that Pokémon?” She took on a histrionic tone and did all she could to not explode into a giggle fit. It took a second more, but, at last, he had it. “Oh! Vaporeon?” Evolutionary form of Eevee. A few people in Pallet kept Eevee as pets, but none whom did had any one its evolutions. He only knew because the professor had given a lecture on the peculiar genetics of Eevee and evolutionary stones. “Yup. I know. Kind of obvious, right?” She sighed. He hadn’t seen the matter as apparent, but he didn’t want to say so. That had been a total shot in the dark, and turned out to be a lucky guess. “I got her for my sixth birthday --- as an Eevee and of course. I was already infatuated with Water Pokémon by then. When my Uncle and Aunt, who basically raised me, got me the Eevee, they asked what I wanted to name her, I said “Vapor”. A little Eevee, but I already knew what I wanted her to be, then and there.” “That’s cu-“ Cyprus coughed when he realized his tone had shaken, so he tried to same words again with more sturdy, mature confidence the second time around. “That’s cute.” “Thanks. But I actually didn’t evolve her until I was ten and started battling. For four years I ran around with a little puffball at my side called Vapor and everyone I knew would ask when and if I'd find a Water Stone.” She laughed. “But, that's it. I wasn’t really ever looking for one. As much as I wanted a Vaporeon,... I didn’t want to say goodbye to Eevee. She'd still be the same underneath after it all, but... I don't know how to explain it. Ever feel the same way?” “We just have a pet Oddish in our front yard. Well, it sort of just appeared in our yard one day and my mom got attached to it, so she started treating it like a pet so it stays in her garden. That and the Pokémon I study under Professor Oak are the only ones I ever really deal with.” “That’s weird.” “What? The Oddish? It is a bit --- well, to be frank --- odd. It will attack you if you ever set foot in my mom's garden, but I don't think that-” “Slow down the explanation, Professor. I just mean that you’re twelve and you don’t have any Pokémon of your own yet. Let me enlighten you to another worry some trainers have, so you know if you ever start and you get a Pokémon with more than one evolution. By some point, can’t tell you when though, I had started to worry that Vapor didn’t want to be anything or wanted to be something else entirely. Eevee have a lot of potential. Jolteon, Flareon, and Vaporeon.” "Professor Oak thinks there may be even more, given its unique genetics and the fact there are so many other type classifications out there." "Ha! I'm trying to picture a Bug-type Eevee. No offense to Bug-Types, but gross. That'd be one big, maybe even furry, bug. So, back to the story: one day, I bought three stones: Fire, Water, and Thunder. I sat down in a calm little field with my Eevee and I told her 'Vapor, I want you to pick what you want to be. I don’t want you to think about what I want. Just what you want.' And it wasn’t right away that she picked; I had to educate her in which Pokémon she’d become if she picked a certain stone, heck, I even brought pictures. She’d never seen a Vaporeon in her life. When she saw a picture of a Vaporeon swimming gracefully in the water, her little face lit up and she pulled the Water stone out of the group and towards her. I hadn't even told her the name of that one yet! That's what got to me. She made her choice, instead of me making one for her. In the end, we both got what we wanted, but it was more important she got what she wanted for herself.” Cyprus stood in awe of how peacefully Gia was looking at the horizon, a blanket of softly rolling waves, and felt at ease. It wasn't just because he felt attracted to the girl, but because she had seriously left an impression on him. His throat felt dry as he spoke, “You must really care about your Pokémon.” “I do. I really do... They’re my world, especially nowadays when they’re all I have for company for days without end.” Her voice wavered and she appeared sad. “I don’t know if I should say this, because it’ll probably make you feel bad, but I feel like- I feel... Ever since I started my story I should give you the biggest part of it. Remember how I said my Uncle and Aunt pretty much raised me?” “Yeah. Not unusual.” “Well they were my Great Uncle and Aunt, an elderly couple who retired to Celadon City where I was sent when I was four. I can’t tell you what happened to my parents because my Uncle and Aunt never told me; all I know is that they didn’t decide to just leave me. Anyway, life was pretty normal until I was eleven and all of a sudden it was just me and my Aunt after Uncle Jim went for his morning jog. My aunt had to be told that he had collapsed in the Celdadon Center on his return trip and was already gone when paramedics arrived. Flowers. He was at the store, buying flowers. Always got her flowers every Tuesday. Always showed that he cared. I had to do the same, seeing my aunt like that. Those Pokémon tournaments I competed in were to support the both of us, then she got sick not too long after, and then it was just me.” Cyprus was silent. He didn't know how to respond to such a heavy situation. He'd had, thus far, a pretty quiet life, and had only endured the loss of one grandparent as far as loss in the family went. “That’s one clue I don’t spend too much time around people anymore; I talk way too much now.” She laughed, but it was a deeply suppressed, sad laugh. “I live in a small town. I don’t really get to meet new people a lot. I’m glad I got to learn something today; especially that it was about you. I think you’re very interesting.” Cyprus strung a few sentences together with as much grace as he could manage under the uncertainty. "Thanks." The easy-going moment was tossed into disarray a moment later when the boat rocked with enough force to toss the two to land their faces on the deck. “What was that?!” Cyprus shouted, staying on the floor as Gia hopped to her feet. In no time at all, the boat had come to an absolute halt. They were dead in the water. “Not good. Not good, not good.” Gia was in an all-out panic as she flew to the hatch that she'd appeared from earlier. Cyprus wasn’t sure if she was answering him or if she felt compelled to voice her discontent. Either way, Cyprus tried to reason out the event. Gia had said that the engine had been having trouble so the only logical explanation was- Bam! An audible knock echoed throughout the boat as the vessel gave another violent rock, and this time, much more violent. His logical solution had been debunked by the situation, and led him to follow Gia below deck just as a massive blue head broke the surface of the surf. It scanned the empty deck with hungry, savage eyes as the Gyarados towered from out of the water, most of it still below the surface. Cyprus had been hit with spray from the rise, but he made it below deck. The only evidence either of the two had of the culprit was a mighty, ear-splitting roar that rocked the boat and the surrounding waters by sheer force of the soundwave. Having both heard the roar, Cyprus looked to Gia who looked unsure of what to do next. “The engine needs to be fixed; that thing out there knocked it out of alignment,” Gia whispered. “That out there… I know that cry; Gyarados, and a big one, even for its species. I didn’t think they swam in these waters! I’ve never come across one around here. Any time I have, I was fishing and prepared for them. You never want to unprepared with Gyarados.” She was hyperventilating as she spoke. It seemed to Cyprus the fact the occurrence was odd worried her more than the actual occurrence itself, so this amplified his own nervousness under the pressure. “What do you intend we do? Will the Gyarados just leave?” Cyprus was not better off, since he’d never been in such dire straits before with wild Pokémon. All he knew was that this was an exceptional opponent for even seasoned survivalists and seafarers. He wasn’t entirely sure if he’d be alive in the next hour, and even Gia for that matter seemed to set the seed of doubt of her survival. It took her a moment for Gia to say anything as she quickly looked to a door to the side in the narrow wooden hallway. “How well do you think you could handle a Lapras if I told you all her moves?” He wanted to say 'I highly doubt it', but could not because the words would not leave his throat. “I don’t have any badges.” He said instead, anxious. "Nothing would listen to me." This much should have been obvious, since he’d already said he’d never had any Pokémon of his own. At least, he thought so. “Unless you figure out how to fix a complicated piece of machinery that took me a week to just read the manual for, I don’t think we have much of a choice.” She dashed into what had to be her cabin and came out with a Pokéball that was grey on the top half and crème-colored on the bottom. The blue button in the middle clicked as she touched it and made the ball suddenly expand to operational size. She handed Cyprus the ball, “Is it going to be you or me?” "What's 'it', exactly?" "Do you really expect me to do everything?!" Cyprus choked back the doubt that had been straining him. He took the ball in hand and tried to stand tall, only to be thrown again as the boat gave another forceful lock. Worst yet, or best yet --- he couldn’t be sure of which--, he was thrown against Gia as the pair hit a wall when the boat again suddenly rocked. He didn’t have to say anything, even though he tried to say the words necessary for an apology. All she did was look him dead in the eye as she helped him and herself back up. “Good luck.” Chapter 3: Square Off Against the Serpent C yprus stood by as he watched Gia get to work on the damaged engine. The engine room was a square, open room with only a door and a large mechanical mess that smoked enough black soot to force the Captain to open one of the small, rotund porthole windows. Cyprus knew this was a bad idea, since the smoke being let out was sure to catch the eye of the Gyrados waiting for them. At the same time, he knew it was an educated gamble and a necessary one since the engine was their only hope of getting to Cinnabar in one piece. He was locked so deep in thought that he almost missed Gia speak. “Diagnosis: She’s been knocked out of calibration. I can fix the problem, but with that beast out there rocking the boat every five minut-“ As if on cue, the hull was again rammed with a massive force that was close to capsizing them right then and there. She gave him a look of disgruntled disbelief as she groaned her discontent. "Prognosis: Not good, unless you get out there and show that sappy serpent who's boss." Another rock, another fall for the two. Cyprus stopped to think just how well the ship was holding up, despite all the powerful hits it'd been taking to its hull. “This boat looks like it is mostly wood, but I’m guessing not.” Cyprus summarized once he had corrected himself by the door. “Nope.” She winked, and Cyprus caught that the most recent blow had barely unbalanced her. “Backtracking: I can’t fix my boat with that constantly going on, but Lass is going to help you fix that problem. She’s so well trained for battle that a Gyrados shouldn’t even be anything for her; that is, if you can handle her.” “I’ll try my best.” Cyprus shrugged, gripping the custom ball in one hand anxiously. “You know you’re a moron for going out into the world without a Pokémon, right?” Gia had disappeared behind the engine, while her voice was accompanied by assorted squeaks and clanks. “I’m going to need an analogy. You know “us morons”.” Cyprus returned some sarcasm back Gia’s way. “You might as well spend a fortune on a Jigglypuff concert.” Gia laughed at her quick-witted joke. “Why? Are they bad singers?” “You have to be joking!” Gia’s severity and surprise tickled Cyprus. “Yes, I am.” “Mist, Hydro Pump, Ice Beam, and Sing.” “What?” Cyprus was knocked off his pedestal a bit by the out of context interjection. “Those are the moves Lass knows. Know what each one does?” “Erm… no.” “Hopeless.” Gia audibly slapped her forehead from behind her machinated cover.Another direct hit from the Gyrados awaiting caused the engine to pop and hiss, which prompted Gia to groan even louder and with doubled temperament as before. “You’re going to have to tell me fast before we’re sunk.” The urgency in Cyprus’ voice spoke of his heightened anxiety as the boat right itself. “Trust me; that will never happen.” Her voice sounded disconnected. “Forget that. Listen. Mist raises a mist in the immediate area that gives Lass the high ground, so to speak, so she can’t be affected when the enemy tries to intimidate her in any way. Hydro Pump is a Water attack, and it’s very, very powerful; can’t use it too much though, which goes the same for Ice Beam. Ice Beam is an Ice attack, which is…duh…, and is no exception to the bulk of Ice attacks that stand to freeze an opponent in place. Sing I know you’ve heard of.” “Puts whoever listens to sleep?” “Right. Except you’ll be safe from that since it’ll be pointless to try to put Gyrados to sleep again during the battle; it’ll just wake up before you attack. So, technically you have three moves to work with.” “Oh goody.” “Widdle boys who go ou’ into da big bad wuld widdout protection invwestments shoudun compwain.” Cyprus briefly saw Gia’s pouting face pop out from behind the engine long enough to get the point across. “Lass is strong, but she's also pretty much my main catching technique; her singing has caught me most of my Pokémon from the water.” “I think I still have an idea of how to use it, though,” Cypress stated confidently. “Oh great! You have a strategy, and here I thought I was going to have to do all the brain work myself. You haven't exactly been contributing, you know.” She was becoming more and more bold as the engine started to produce sounds that seemed to feel like it shouldn’t be making them. “I think… you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with my brain work…” ӨӨӨGyrados’ eyes drooped as a bittersweet melody emanated from the released Lass. The song it sang had been ordered almost just as soon as Lass had been summoned from her captivation and the song was a personal request of her owner. The fact Lass was ordered directly by Gia once Lass was out of her ball was a safety measure to make sure they had time to make the next move. It also provided a cushion if she decided to not obey any order from Cyprus. “Great, Lass. You can stop singing now. Okay…” It was time to start the foundation for the bigger part of the plan. “This is Cyprus,” Gia cooed from behind a port window, and brought Cyprus into view for Lass to see and recognize properly. “Cyprus is a friend, Lass. He’s going to tell you what to do. Okay?” As as Gia spoke, Lass beaded her eyes. Cyprus presumed it was a direct sneer at the mere thought someone besides her trainer could or would command her. Worst of all, Cyprus was matched directly with the sneer, which was intimidating in itself, despite the Lapras’ seemingly serene presence. “Please, we really need you to help us.” He didn’t know where else to go than speak, since the cold stare Lass gave him froze him down to his toes. Soon, his eyes filled with surprise as the Ice-type's eyes defrosted and settled to a curious stare. She made an inquisitive murmur of a cry that insinuated Lass had started to… listen. Cyprus tried to capitalize on the moment as much as possible. “I know I don’t have any right to tell you what to do, but right now I have to look out for you.” Lass sighed in a high-pitched melodic moan as her neck craned towards Cyprus’ outstretched hand. Cyprus couldn’t believe it as Lass rubbed her rubbery blue head against his palm gently. “I think you can handle it from here.” Gia tried to hide her own surprise, her voice cracking as she jabbed a thumb back to the engine. “Just take care of them.” “Got it.” Cyprus nodded and whispered to Lass, grasping Gia’s other Pokémon close to his belt loops. He thought about the real danger at stake, and he thought of the care this particular captain had for her Pokémon. He could not risk their safety, and he realized it the more he stood in utter silence; patting Lass’ head. “Hey, you stay here, okay?” Cyprus said as he sneaked back to Gia’s cabin to place her Pokéballs back. He was going to conduct a little experiment. In theory, the experiment was simple. The only flaw was that it was completely reckless and idiotic. Standing in front of a towering monster of the tides was one thing, but trying to communicate with it was another. The icing on the cake was the loud “Hey!” Cyprus exclaimed to snap Gyarados out of its slumber. He exhaled heavily. He was expecting the beast to wake up, and he expected it to see him, but he was not at all prepared to face its penetrating stare. ‘I’m dead,’ Cyprus internalized his personal goodbyes for a moment and choked down the lead bullet in his throat. “W-We,” He swallowed. Whose falsetto was that? That wasn’t his voice, but it came out of his mouth. “We mean you no harm. Leave now, and you will not be harmed.” He said it, sealing his fate for sure; or so he thought. Meanwhile, Gyarados was still facing him down, its eyes several meters above him. Cyprus almost thought he was off the hook before the creature let out an ear-shattering shriek as it reared up and back-flipped into the ocean with a tremendous crash. “Well…” Cyprus had to cover his ears, but the instant he no longer saw the previous danger that had previously face him he stood back up and rubbed his sore throat; he could feel the squeak in his vocal chords. “Now that that’s ove-” The boat was nearly capsized in the same moment he spoke, as Gyarados’ fin threw the boat heavily to one side. The boat eventually corrected itself in a moment, but Caesar had been launched from the deck into the salty sea; and he landed face down, painfully, in the water, tossing his world into a dark realm. Chapter 4: Warm Welcome C aesar's eyes reopened with the sun searing through the lids. They were already sore when all other sensation kicked in and he felt a bed of sand under his back. Ashore, but clueless as to on which shore, he sprang up. Dust flew away as he twisted left and right in a wild frenzy to take in his surroundings. The displacement had wreaked havoc on his nerves, coupled with the sea-drenched clothes sticking to his skin, but he soon caught his breath in the tideside quietude. The question of Where still applied though. "What do you see in the middle of the sea?" an unseen voice called out. "What?!" Cyprus attempted to gain his balance and wobbled when he returned to his feet. "Repeat? Fine. I'll go slower so you don't burn yourself out. What---do---you---see---in-the---middle---of---the---Sea?" The mystery of the voice became deafened by the condescending insult it dealt. 'What was in the middle of the Sea?' Cyprus thought, after shrugging the jibe aside. 'Water, right? Land to land, chances are it's going to be water in the middle and nothing but for miles. "Wa-" Cyprus couldn't get much out before he went into a coughing fit. Salt water spurted from where it had lodged in his throat, and the dryness it left behind sent him back down into the sand. Once the episode had subsided, and he was still alive by the end of it, he answered as he meant to. "Water?" he was so hoarse and quiet that he doubted he could be heard. "Try and a miss." A burst of red light shot from behind a sand dune, twisting and striking the spot in front of Cyprus. "Ponyta!" From behind the same sand dune, a young man wearing circular-rimmed sunglasses jumped into Cyprus' vision and struck a pose. "You chose wrong, so prepare to battle!" "Pokémon battle?!" Cyprus looked the Ponyta up and down with a mix of fright and wonder. Such a majestic beast... that looked like it was going to stomp his teeth out of his skull... "But I don't have a Pokémon!" "Don't have a-" the mystery man was shocked. "What sort of a moron goes out into the world without a Pokémon?!" "You're the second person saying that!?? And what sort of a weirdo looks at an unconscious kid on the beach and thinks 'Huh, I think I'll start randomly asking them stupid riddles and assault them if they answer the dumb riddle'?" "Hmph. Consider it the Cinnabar Welcoming Committee. It's what I do, kid. Ponyta, Return!" He held out a Pokéball, and Ponyta went back the way it came, it a flash of red light. Dusting a bit of sand from his short, ginger-haired mustache, he removed the sunglasses and stared Cyprus down. "Didn't really think you were that bad off. I poked you with a stick every now and again to check if you were breathing." "I have to go home... if everyone out of Pallet is this insane, then I can't-" "Hey, did you say Pallet? As in the town?" "Yes. I did. Professor Oak was sending me to Cinnabar Island to study Fire-types." "Last I heard, the kid he was sending over was lost at sea." "My ship was attacked by a giant... thing. I forget what Gia called it." "Gyarados. Mean old things. Got the drop on her two days ago." "Two days?!" "Safe to say, you're one of the first people I can tell right to their face that you're legally dead. Well, we probably shouldn't discuss that other time with the-" "Wait... the labcoat you're wearing. Oh no. Don't tell me you're Doctor Fuji. Please don't tell me YOU'RE the most respected scientist at the research facility here." "And what is that supposed to mean?! Doctor Fuji happens to be my colleague ya little brat, and I'm the second most respected scientist at this research facility; and I'm pretty well-recognized elsewhere too, for the same fact. Blaine. "The Hotheaded Quiz Master "ring a bell?" "I've heard of you." Cyprus took note that this seemed to please Blaine. "I'm a little disappointed though." This returned the assailant to his previous state of Rage. "The second-most respected scientist doesn't know how to properly attend to an unconscious child who washed up on the beach...?" "I do! Just- I- C'mon. I'm gonna have to phone Sam and tell him you're not as dead as everybody thinks you are." "Working around a lab environment, I've always had a severe fear of idiots who are just Intelligent enough to pass for smart." "And, you know what? I can also call to tell him that he was totally right in thinking you were dead, he just was ahead of the curve and didn't know the How. 'Sorry, sir. Stomped to a pulp by a wild Ponyta, sir. Yessir, I have a Ponyta, but, trust me, this one was wild.' How'bout that, smart-mouth?" "Not exactly as warm as the Pokémon you train, are you, Blaine? Regrettably, my life is in your hands in any case, so lead away." "I'm not so tickled about it myself." He darted around and started storming off, without even a glance over his shoulder to look. "Calls me stupid, and can't even sold a simple riddle. Nerve. Whole lotta nerve," he grumbled. ӨӨӨ"Blaine, where have you been?" A bald-headed man, in his early forties, patted a sedated Vulpix as it lay on an operating table. He'd gone to great lengths to ensure the safety and comfort of all Pokémon to ever enter the Cinnabar Research Facility, from the impeccably clean atmosphere to the soothing tones of a Pokéflute being played from a nearby radio. He removed his stethoscope from his ears and gave his returning aide a dour look. "You were supposed to be here hours ago. Luckily, we didn't lose any Pokémon in your absence." The scolding struck Blaine right away. The proud look on his face faded away as the "second-most respected scientist" story lost its weight. He knew Cyprus knew when he heard him chuckle from behind. "I-" "I'll hear no excuses," the stately man in the labcoat raised a hand, palm out, to signal a stop. "Nor will I entertain any of your riddles if you think you can get out of your duties by fettering away that bright mind of yours on less useful ventures than the tasks you were hired for. Your Growlithe is out of surgery. I imagine he will be very happy to see you, if he's not surprised you showed up so long after the procedure." A guilt-stricken Blaine didn't utter another word as he nodded and left Cyprus alone with his mentor and the Vulpix. It was only after he had gone that the man relaxed and smiled over to Cyprus. He beckoned him over, continuing to pat the injured Pokémon with a gentle hand. "He's a bright young man, but a bit of a hot-head, if you will. He has the audacity to pick on my lack of hair, but the way he stresses himself out tells me he's not too far from the same follicle fate." He stifled a chuckle behind a cough. "I'm Doctor Fuji, and I run this facility. Who are you, young man?" "Caesar Cyprus, sir." He was a bit astounded. THE Doctor Fuji! Professor Oak had spoken of him before. The premier Pokémon Expert in all of Kanto, even above Professor Oak himself. "Oh good. I'd thought the worst of you, my boy, so I'm glad to hear you're still with us. Goodness gracious!" Fuji's eyes opened wide when he realized. "Not for much longer if you stay in those clothes; you'll catch your death of cold. Believe me, it can even happen in a hospital." "This is a hospital?" Cyprus asked as the good doctor dashed to a nearby closet and started sorting through its contents. "In a way. The Pokémon Center on Cinnabar has yet to be built. It's such a small island, and only recently my own home. But... it's... ideal..." he was lost in thought as he checked the tags on each article of clothing in the closet, all labwear and all too large for such a small human to fit into. "For the study of Fire-type Pokémon. Now come along and put these on, will you? I specialize in Pokémon health, but we'll have to make sure you're set to rights before your big assignment. There's a restroom down the hall and the first door on your left." Cyprus left, and the Vulpix drew Doctor Fuji's attention in its trying to stand on feeble legs. It was eased back down by the quick-acting professional, but not without worrying him with a hoarse whimper and convulsions throughout its tiny body. By the time Cyprus returned, dressed and ready, he'd made it in time to see the previous calm of the doctor turn into a well-focused panic to restore life to a dying creature. "I spoke too soon. I spoke too soon," Fuji muttered. "What's going on?!" "I poisoned her! She's having an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. Hell!" he cursed, prepping a needle as fast as he could manage. "Her airways are closing up. I'm going to need you to stand right there Cyprus, and, if you can, just hope this works." It was a tense few minutes in the office. The music seemed so out of place, given the situation. Cyprus felt out of place, unable to do anything as he watched it all unravel. His breath caught in his throat and he felt the pain of the thrashing Pokémon wash over him. He felt his airway block, and he felt the injection. He wanted to call out for help, but couldn't. He was losing his Will to Live, and then... it was gone. The feeling faded away when the convulsions stopped and Doctor Fuji trembled over his patient. "S-she's breathing..." Fuji's voice cracked. "This is never easy. I hear you become numb to it after a time, but that's either not the case for me, or everybody who's ever said it lied. And perhaps one of the darkest Truths is that I know what I'm doing and often at times feel like I don't." Cyprus stood frozen. He respected the man's devotion and empathy, but most of all his open manner in which he spoke. Even Professor Oak hid his emotions behind a lowered brow now and again. Young as he was, Cyprus was convinced that, even if the doctor had failed, he'd have done so with as much propriety. But that moment wasn't over yet. "She's cold too. That's bad. Vulpix have an inner flame that never goes out and is the source of not only their power, but life. Though long-lived, there's nothing I can do if that light goes out. There's... there's also nothing I can do to prevent that from happening. This poor little one is on her own from this moment on, I'm afraid. The injury that brought her in had left her so weak as well... I don't really know for certain if-" he caught himself. "Caesar, I'm sorry you had to see all this. I could play tutor and tell you it's an important lesson, but I prefer a bit more design in my teachings." "It's still an important lesson, sir." Caesar choked out, taking a small but steady step towards the table. "The next part, that is, where I stand here and learn one of the hardest things about what I want to do. How to deal with not knowing." He was facing his elder as well as he could, with the tortured Vulpix separating them. He figured he had done the right thing only when a smile cracked its way onto Fuji's face. "Bright young man indeed. Samuel was right on the button when he talked about you, I can tell. I'll teach you what I can, Caesar. I'll teach what I can, but I sense there's good to be learned from you yet." "Maybe, between the two of us, Vulpix can find that good... and fight? Apparently, I've been fighting for my life, and I didn't even know it. Professor Oak always says we're built to survive, but I'd never really tested it so much. But it wasn't your mistake. She's breathing now, and you did no harm." Cyprus said. He was so unsure, but that subsided when he saw the certainty sparkle in the older man's eyes. "Perhaps." ӨӨӨVulpix made it after all. Not in the best of shape, but enough to feel safe in letting her rest on her own as the sun set and Cyprus was shown to where he'd be staying on the island. The home Doctor Fuji had mentioned was shared by the research staff. The fact Blaine was included worried Cyprus, but the Vulpix occupied his mind moreso than the self-proclaimed "Quiz Master". He tried not to look at him, and it seemed mutual as the small band of researchers made their way to the last building Cyprus had expected. His eyes widened when the large mansion in front of them turned out to be the destination. He'd never seen anything so grand. In terms of Architecture, it was a piece of art, and didn't really seem to fit with the next-to-barren turf of Cinnabar. It was a palace built on nothing but dirt. He couldn't believe he was looking at it, let alone had the opportunity to spend so much as a night under its roof. "Come in. Cinnabar is still developing in terms of making it livable, so it can get quite wild at night. A brief tour, and then I suggest a good night's rest. It's an exceptionally big day tomorrow," Doctor Fuji held the door open to allow Cyprus in, but Cyprus was still rooted and in awe of the exterior. Fuji laughed and tried once again. "I assure you, the inside is just as interesting, and far safer than standing there all night. Come, come." Cyprus snapped to attention and hastened to the request. Big day tomorrow. Right. Field research, and his first chance at it. Who knew what was in store in an area where even the experts were starting to tread? Meanwhile, back in Pallet... Professor Oak labored over a letter. Gia had returned, and delivered the news to him that Cyprus had been lost as sea. Given how hard it had been to have the matron of the Cyprus family agree, Oak knew there was only recourse. He was going to fake his own death, and assume a new life as a sailor aboard the next ship to sail into Vermillion harbor and never speak to another living soul as long as he breathed. But when the phone rang in his office, and he heard Doctor Fuji's voice, everything fell back into place in mere seconds and the bags lying underneath Oak's eyes vanished with the weight of the melancholia. "Hello? Yes? What?! Arrived on Cinnabar this morning? Wonderful! That means I won't have to- Erm... nevermind. Yes, yes, go right ahead. I was just going to bed myself. Good evening." He hung up, and eyed the letter on his desk with a nervous snicker. The letter was turned to confetti, and Oak could, at last, get some rest after days of torment. "At long last...Thank goodness," he exhaled. Footnotes Also by Sebax "Based Forward"- Set 14 years before the events of Kingdom Hearts I, and 4 years before Birth By Sleep, a musically-inclined boy finds himself under the tutelage of Yen Sid after the destruction of his Homeworld of Theate. Studying to be a mage, Base finds himself in over his head in matters he barely understands. "Give My Regards to Bridleway"- Based on the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" TV show, Rarity heads off to Bridleway to be part of a show. With the help of her friends, can she hold her own in the theatre? "Asparagus, the Theatre Cat"- Based on a character from the Poems of T. S. Eliot and from the Musical Production of "Cats", this story details the life of a most histrionic cat as he walks his life across the boards. Guest Book Not a KHV member? Sign the Guest Book, please! I write for the love of it, but I do need, from time to time, some sort of encouragement, or else I just lose interest in posting. Sign Here!