Next chapter is here. I'm so sorry for the delay. Doing everything, even getting out of bed, feels like a chore for me recently. ;;;v;;;
Chapter 5 - A Beacon of Hope
Archie flicked the lights on in his office. It was small compared to what an office should look like. There weren't any computers, bookshelves or stacks of paper. It just contained nothing but a desk, a couch, a small table, and a chair.
He went to the desk and boiled some water in the electric kettle. "Sit down," he ordered while grabbing three bags of tea from a jar.
Ruby and Sapphire conceded. They sat on the couch and watched Archie pour tea into three cups. Once he was done, he handed it to the couple, grabbed a chair, and sat in front of them. He placed his hands on his lap, patting it. "So, first of all, you said that you're not exactly from here. What proof do you have?"
Ruby grabbed the tea and sniffed it; he was surprised about its fragrance. He slowly took a sip from it, and he became more dumbfounded. He didn't know Archie could prepare such a delicious and fragrant tea. He was quite impressed.
Sapphire opened her mouth but closed it immediately. She honestly didn't know how she could provide any evidence. All the stuff she found in her bag weren't the things she had in this reality. She couldn't ask Ruby to provide some, since his scars were gone, and his bag was nowhere to be found. She sighed and held her fanny pack. There must be something she'd missed when she was searching for her Pokedex.
"We don't have any proof, unfortunately," Ruby interfered and held Sapphire's hand. She stopped rummaging through her fanny pack and breathed. "But I'm sure you've noticed how we acted, right?"
"Good point," Archie leaned on the chair and folded his arms across his chest. "I don't know you that much but you look a lot like that gym leader in Johto. You know, Norman? He said he's the professor's friend."
Ruby bobbed his head. His mother often tells him that and despite being on slightly good terms with his father, he would like to not be compared with him. He and his father are very different people. He respects his dad, but he could never be like him. Sapphire taught him many things and one of them is accepting himself and that he is his own person. He's sticking to that because he felt more free and comfortable with it. "Yes, he's my father."
"Not surprised," Archie laughed. "But on a more serious note, I think it's up to fancy pants here to prove if you two are telling the truth."
Sapphire set aside her fanny pack and looked at Archie straight in the eyes. Her fangs poked from her top lip, as she placed her left hand on her lap, clenching it. Her right hand squeezed Ruby's left hand. "How did ya know me?"
Archie was taken aback by the accent. It was odd for a fancy girl like her and at the same time, it sounded intimidating at once. "Well obviously you're Professor Birch's daughter and you're—"
"A prissy and weak girl." Sapphire finished, surprising Archie. Ruby could only look at her with sympathy forming in his eyes. He knew how much she hated her old self, but she shouldn't let it beat herself up; Sapphire is still amazing despite her past.
"Well, I was gonna say 'prim' and 'proper', but yeah," Archie replied. "But you wearing a bloody casual attire took me off guard. That's why I asked why you are wearing that outfit. It looks flat and boring."
Ruby shot Archie a glare. The outfit suited Sapphire perfectly! How dare he called his creation 'flat' and 'boring'? He poured his heart and soul into it!
"And I notice you also have an accent. It doesn't suit your fancy nature, princess."
"Well don't ya think that's enough proof that Ruby and I aren't who you thought we were?" Sapphire stood up from her seat. "Now, tell us what happened to Hoenn! Why is my dad missing? Where's Ruby's dad? Why is Maxie the head of the Pokemon Association?"
"Geez," Archie sighed and stood up while Ruby pulled Sapphire down to sit beside him. "Alright. I'll answer your questions, but not all of them since I don't have any information about your father and your current boyfriend's popsie."
Ruby's eyebrows furrowed; confusion lit upon his face. What did he mean by her 'current' boyfriend? Did that mean Sapphire was in a relationship before in this reality? He never liked the sound of it. Now he was more desperate to find Celebi and fix this.
"Maxie is the head of the Pokemon Association," Archie whirled around and went to his desk. He looked at the picture frame which contained him and Maxie smiling together with the newly renovated Oceanic Museum behind them. He sighed as he recalled the amazing memories he had shared with his beloved. "He replaced his father, who was the former head. No one knew about what happened to his father except me."
Archie stopped and grabbed his electric cigarette from his pocket. "Maxie's father may look like a nice and powerful man, but on the inside, he was a monster. He abused Maxie, forcing him to follow in his footsteps..." He gritted his vape, which was in his mouth, and inhaled as deep as he could. He blew some smoke out of his mouth, still gritting his vape, with Ruby and Sapphire covering their noses.
"Maxie was forced to be someone exactly like his father so he could continue his legacy. Maxie doesn't care about it since once he got enough money, he could always move out of Hoenn and find a stable job in another region. However, since he had an abusive father, his mother suffered the same fate as well." He sighed and placed his vape on the desk. He rummaged through his drawer to find a screwdriver. "It's more than verbal; it's also physical and maybe sexual abuse. Who knows? Maxie may be hiding that last one, and if I were him, I would do the same as well."
He paused, looking at the teenagers in front of him. Should he concerned about their shocked expressions? He just mentioned abuse; it's not like it's equivalent to the end of the world. He coughed, removing those thoughts from his head. Like he cared about these kids. "Anyway, when Maxie had enough, Groudon, or the orb, rather, probably saw this chance and controlled Maxie. It's just a theory, though, but I failed to save him."
Another pause, but this time, he let himself inhale. "His father saved him and as much as I hate that guy for abusing my best friend, he has my thanks for saving him from that goddamn orb."
Archie halted for a bit, for he found what he was looking for and tinkered with his vape. Ruby and Sapphire just sighed when the place was finally smoke-free. They did not like it at all. It concerned Ruby more since his clothes could smell like one.
"Hoenn was safe until Maxie went mad," Archie continued. "I don't know why he suddenly wanted..." He bit his lip. These two were just kids, so it's better to say it now than later. "W-wanted to kill his father but I have a hunch that the red orb, that's used to control Groudon, is ironically still controlling him." He bit his lip. "I don't know, honestly..."
Ruby looked at Sapphire, concern lit up in his eyes. They'd seen what happened when the orb controlled the Maxie and Archie in their reality. This Archie may be right when he said that Maxie went mad.
"Maxie told me about it but I was blind. I thought it was a metaphor when he said he'll kill his father's legacy but a month ago, I received a knock on the door. It was unusually hot. I didn't mind it though, but when I opened the door, I saw Maxie holding his father's dead body. He told me to dispose of it, and I asked him why. His father should be given a proper burial, despite his abusive nature but..." Archie grumbled and placed his hands on his head. His eyes went wide as he trembled in fear.
Ruby and Sapphire stood up from their seats but hesitated. They just watched Archie struggle to continue telling his story. But in their minds, they were starting to wonder if Maxie was someone that important to Archie.
"I saw the look in his eyes. It's filled with greed, hunger for power and...b-bloodlust. He isn't the Maxie I used to..." Archie slammed his fist on his desk. He coughed and quickly grabbed his vape. He took the deepest breath he could take, hoping the berry flavored warm smoke could calm his nerves. It was a struggle to tell this, but it did make him feel slightly better. He wanted to tell Maxie's mother about it, or anyone, really, but he forced himself to hide.
"Maxie..." Archie blew the smokes out of his nose and his mouth while Ruby and Sapphire returned to covering their noses. "Maxie became someone I never recognized. He not only wanted to erase his father's legacy, but he's now willing to kill the people who would stand against him. I founded this cult, or whatever. Emerald calls it 'the resistance', but whatever, I made this group when Maxie killed Tate and Liza. They may be skilled trainers but they're just kids. Yet, he killed them without even considering that fact."
He groaned, recalling the bloody memory. Tate's and Liza's bodies were bleeding while Maxie's eyes were filled with anger and hatred.
He was a coward for just kneeling on the ground as he trembled in fear, too frozen to make a move, too distracted by the terror lying in front of him. "I gathered people like the Gym Leaders, the Elite Four and even skilled trainers like Emerald, but..."
"You never made a move..." Ruby finished, looking at Sapphire. He knew Sapphire would never do such a thing, but he could imagine the pain Archie is going through.
Archie just nodded. His eyes were focused on the wooden desk. He didn't know when he would start.
"Why?" Sapphire questioned.
Archie remained silent. He may have gathered all the elite trainers Hoenn had to offer, but he was scared. He was afraid to face Maxie, because he knew he had to take him down. Archie had never imagined in his life that he may face Maxie in a non-friendly battle and possibly take him down for good.
Sapphire bit her lip as one hand held her elbow. Whatever relationship that he and Maxie had, it must've been something. She would definitely be as conflicted as Archie if Ruby went rogue. Ruby was the last person she wanted to take down. She took a deep breath and approached Archie. She then placed a hand on his shoulder. "Archie, ya don't have to worry."
Archie broke his gaze at the desk and looked up to meet Sapphire's determined eyes. The more he spends his time with her, the more he realizes that this Sapphire is different; a good different.
"We're not gonna take down Maxie. We're gonna find Celebi and fix this mess."
"What the bloody hell?" Archie stood up and gave her a ridiculous look. "Are you mad? Why would we need such Pokemon to fix this mess? Didn't you listen to the whole story? Maxie must be insane since the red orb that's used to control Groudon controlled him instead!"
"I told ya, Archie, we ain't the same people ya used to know!" Sapphire responded harshly and slammed her fist on the desk.
Archie stopped and sighed. "Princess, we have to stop Maxie. The reason why I let you lovebirds go is that I thought you may help us defeat Maxie."
"And we will," Ruby said and placed his hand on top of Sapphire's. His eyes gleamed with the same grit Sapphire had. "If we find Celebi, we can go back in time and stop myself from changing a certain event in the past."
Archie was confused. His forehead puckered along with his eyebrows. "Do you even know what the damned hell you're talking about? What do you mean 'we have to go back in time and stop you from changing the past'?!" His hand dropped after pointing at Ruby. He grabbed his electric cigarette and placed it in his mouth.
Ruby and Sapphire suddenly backed off and moved a good amount of distance away from Archie. They then looked at each other.
Archie blew some smokes out of his mouth and slammed his vape on the desk. "Now I know why you two aren't yourselves; you two are as crazy as Maxie!"
"Archie!" Sapphire spat, glaring at him.
"What the hell do you want now, princess?!"
"We wanna find Celebi because this isn't the reality we're livin'. In our world, Hoenn is nothing like this. The Pokemon Association is doin' fine and the head is definitely not Maxie nor his father!"
Archie rose an eyebrow. Now she's talking about realities? He must be having a crazy dream.
"The reason why Hoenn is in chaos is because of me," Ruby placed a hand on his chest and took a step closer. "I used Celebi's time-traveling powers and changed one event from the past. I didn't know the consequences would be this chaotic. I regret it. Whether you believe us or not, we will find Celebi and you will help us."
"We just need to gather data about Celebi's location and then we'll find it ourselves," Sapphire added and held Ruby's chest in hopes to calm him down. "Just tell us where can we find Hoenn's Pokedexes."
Archie stood silently. He noticed Ruby and Sapphire take another step away from him. He then looked at his photograph with Maxie and sighed. He couldn't believe he would be saying this. "Listen, I don't know what the hell is a Pokedex but if what you're saying is really true then..." He paused to take a deep breath. "What happened to Maxie in this reality bullshit you're speaking of?"
The couple was silent after Archie's question. Sapphire bit her lip while Ruby looked at the floor. They were both wondering if telling Archie that Maxie is gone would either make him happy or upset.
"Just answer these simple questions: is Maxie not insane in this reality you're speaking of? Is he the nice man I..." Archie balled his fists and sat on the chair. He couldn't even say how much Maxie means to him in front of people. He's such a disgrace.
"Maxie wasn't able to control Hoenn," Ruby spoke after a moment of silence. "He was defeated."
Archie had never felt relieved in his whole life. If they really were telling the truth then this was his chance. "Alright," He stood up. "That alone is enough to convince me," Ruby and Sapphire sighed in relief. "I'll help you find Celebi, but..."
They both opened their eyes and looked at Archie.
"I want some time alone with your boy toy there."
Ruby and Sapphire were dumbfounded. What did Archie just call him?
"W-Why?" Ruby choked, shocked at Archie's usage of words.
Archie placed his electric cigarette in his mouth. "I need to have a word with you."
Sapphire looked at Ruby then at Archie. She had no idea why Archie wanted to talk to Ruby privately, but she had a feeling that this had something to do with Ruby's reason for going back in time. She sighed and grabbed her fanny pack off the couch, before approaching the door. Ruby tried to hold her hand, but she raised it, stopping him. She smiled. "It's alright. I'll just be outside. I think I need to talk to Emerald and gather more information about Celebi. He may know sumthin'."
"I like how you're smarter than your royal ass self," Archie intervened, making Ruby glare at him while Sapphire just rolled her eyes. She always hated her past self anyway. Archie shrugged innocently. "Not that I'm saying you're dumb—you just know how to prioritize things."
"Thanks," Sapphire replied before opening the door and left the two men alone. As she went out, she decided to remain outside the office. She leaned her back on it and folded her arms across her chest. She didn't like eavesdropping but she didn't want to be left out from this mission at the same time. She trusted Ruby, but after knowing he let his fear control him again, she had to keep an eye on him. However, this didn't feel right at all; doing this felt like she didn't trust him.
She bit her lip and took a deep breath. Maybe she should stick to her original plan and find Emerald.
Well, it looked like she didn't need to look for him any longer.
"I thought you were still talking to Archie," Emerald crossed his arms on his chest and scanned Sapphire from head to toe.
"He wants to have a word with Ruby alone," Sapphire removed her back on the wall and approached Emerald. He looked different despite his height, yet his outfit choices didn't change a bit. The main difference is his short hair, and she thought he looked cute on it. "Is it alright if I have a talk with ya as well?"
Emerald's eyebrows creased. "Alright, but..." He placed his fingers on his lower lip as his teeth nibbled it. "Will you be able to drop the accent? It's weird hearing you talk like that."
Sapphire just sighed. She could try, but why were people making a big deal out of it?
When Sapphire left the room, Archie sat on the couch with Ruby in front of him. They had an awkward silence at first, with Archie still piping that vape like a machine while Ruby was struggling to cover his nose without a handkerchief. It took Archie at least three minutes until he put his electric cigarette down and looked at Ruby with a grim expression. Ruby just gulped, waiting for him to speak.
"Why did you do it?"
Ruby blinked, taken aback at his question. "Did what?"
"Why did you use Celebi to go back in time?"
Ruby paused and nipped his lower lip. He wasn't comfortable telling it, especially to the man who tried to kill them in their reality.
"If you're not comfortable, then go vague with it. I don't care; I just wanna know."
Ruby took a deep breath and clenched his fists. He had to at least try. This Archie is different from the one he knew, after all. "I thought—I...thought that stopping that Salamence from attacking Sapphire and I would change the future for the better, but it didn't; it only worsened. I just want her to live the happy and phobia-free life she deserved and that certain event is stopping her."
Archie cocked an eyebrow. "Is that all?"
Ruby averted his eyes on the floor to look at Archie. He didn't quite understand. He told him everything he wanted to know, right? How come he was still asking?
"You said you love her or was it an act? Did you do it to—"
"No, of course not!" Ruby intruded, standing up. "I meant what I said; I love her. I love Sapphire, and I did it because I love her."
Archie closed his eyes as a smile lit up on his face. He chuckled, his laugh echoing around the room. Ruby felt uncomfortable just by hearing it. "Alright. If you do love her then I believe you." He stood up and grabbed his vape. He grumbled. "Young love. Such a good feeling. I remember what that felt like."
Ruby's brows wrinkled. "What do you mean?"
Archie shrugged. "I'm not just scared that Maxie will kill the people I've gathered. I'm also scared to take him down. Maxie is more than my friend. I..." He sighed. Here goes nothing. "I..." He couldn't. He wanted to tell the boy, but the words couldn't come out from his mouth. He swallowed the lump in his throat, shifting from his seat. He took a deep breath.
"Maxie...means a lot to me." There was a pause before he could continue, "I didn't know he was going down the wrong path until I saw him kill Tate and Liza right in front of me. I could've stopped him, but I remained frozen on the ground. My feelings for him blinded me until someone had to die. The reason why I wanna help you two is because of Maxie. It doesn't matter if he's defeated in that reality you're talking about. What matters is he never went this path. He was a good man."
Ruby slowly nodded. It's true that people would go to any lengths to protect the ones they love. This must be hard for Archie. "I understand..."
"I can't believe I'm saying this," Archie muttered. "Kid," he called while Ruby just looked at him. "If you really love Sapphire, then guide her. I see she's going on the right path, but you know, still...make sure that she's doing the right thing. Be around her for the good times and the bad, and when she doesn't know what to do, help her make decisions. Be there for her, don't push her away. Being in a relationship, romantic or not, means you're ready to be vulnerable around them. It may take a while but do it at your own pace."
He paused and took a deep breath. He hated to lie but he wanted to at least give the boy some hope. "The reward is satisfying, trust me."
Silence passed. Archie bit his lip and grabbed his vape. If he went deeper then he would just remember the happy times he'd spent with Maxie, giving him more reason to hide. He didn't know if Maxie reciprocated his feelings when he was still sane, but he hoped Maxie got his message: that he would always be there for him no matter what. "Just remember what I said, alright?"
Ruby was speechless. He only nodded, letting Archie's words sink in. Each point stabbed him in the heart. He was doing the exact opposite of what Archie advised. It made him wonder why Sapphire never left him; she definitely deserved someone better.
"I'm sure you had good intentions, but not everything goes your way, kid. Understanding your situation made me think that you screwed up so bad—but I'm not gonna ask if you did. I don't wanna go too deep." Archie stopped to observe Ruby. He suddenly looked pale and...was he shaking? Did he say too much?
"Kid, are you okay?" He stood up and approached the young man, gently slapping his cheeks. He sighed and grabbed a cup of tea on the table.
Ruby managed to regain his senses once he caught the tea's scent. He accepted the cup and inhaled deeply. "I guess," he muttered.
Archie took a step back and dug his hands in his pockets. He couldn't help but pity the boy. His words must have hurt him. "Let's just focus on proving that you're really sorry about all the bullshit you've pulled."
Ruby stopped drinking the tea and set it aside. He clenched his fists. He's absolutely determined to prove it no matter what. He had made so many reckless decisions that became mistakes in the end, and he hoped this would be the last. "I...I will."
I am so tempted to type "okay I believe you" JustAPancake reference, anyone? ksdfds
Maxie killing Tate and Liza is an Injustice reference where evil Superman killed Shazam/Billy Batson. You know that Supes went too far when he killed a kid who can transform into a god. T^T (And Shazam is my fave DC superhero too ;-;)
Not sure when will the next chapter be updated. Like I said: everything feels like a chore for me recently. The new year started with me getting depressed, haha, oh well. If you see me posting a lot of memes on twitter, I am so sorry and you're free to reply with a "go back and write chapter 6". :' )
If you like my work, please consider dropping a coffee on my ko-fi (cap_cavern). The money there will be used to buy a plane ticket so I can visit my boyfriend. ;v;