Of Sand and Shadows @helloyellow
Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Interference

He was awakened the following morning by the sound of footsteps and chatter from the diner overhead. He was slowly gathering his bearings as he sat up, stretched, and yawned, when a familiar smell wafted to his nose...


He groaned. "Aw, hell-"


He was pushed flat on his back as his Espeon leaped at him, eyes wide, tail wiggling in excitement. "Espi! Epsi, espi, espi, espi, espi!"

"No, Neo," Wes shoved the Pokemon off of him with a grumble. "I gave you and Novo plenty of bacon last night. One time deal, remember?"

At the sound of his name and "bacon" being used in the same sentence, the Umbreon lifted his head and yawned. "Umbri?" He pricked his ears forward gave his Trainer a hopeful look.

"I said no, guys." He donned a teal trench coat that fell past his knees and began to pack up his belongings, pausing only to give them a stern look. "Last night was a special treat, but today we have to get on the road as quick as possible, which means nothing fancy for breakfast. And that's final."

Naturally, not ten minutes later, he found himself sitting sitting across from his Pokemon in the diner, watching them each chow down a fresh plate of bacon.

Despite all his griping, he did relish the opportunity to spoil his partners a little. Bacon - or any decent food, for that matter - was hard to come by, and therefore was practically a delicacy. Under normal circumstances, he would have had to resort to swiping table scraps for all three of them, but thanks to the cash he'd snatched from the hideout, he could afford to dote on his Pokémon just a little. After yesterday, he figured they deserved it anyways.

The diner was just as shabby on the inside as it was on the outside. Still, there was a homey feel about the place, peeling wallpaper and rusty metal windows notwithstanding. The smells of various breakfast foods drifted through the air while the signature Western music played quietly in the background. On the wall across from where they sat was a flatscreen TV, arguably the most modern thing about the place. It was showing some old, obscure cartoon that nobody seemed to be watching.

Through the grimy window next to their booth, he could see two men laughing and talking amongst themselves, seemingly rejuvenated after a hearty meal. They continued laughing as they entered their vehicle - an old hover truck of some sort. Neo paused from his feast to watch them intently, his ears pricked forward, eyes trained on a large burlap sack that rested in the truck bed. His gaze remained steadfastly fixed on them, and he only returned his attention to his plate after they drove away and out of sight.

Wes had turned his attention elsewhere. He ate his breakfast quietly while discreetly scanning the occupants of the place. It was relatively empty, with only a middle-aged woman seated up front, dozing quietly in her booth, and a gruff-looking man stretched out at his own booth in the back, face obscured by his cowboy hat. The diner owner could be heard whistling from the kitchen behind the counter at the very front of the train car. No signs of immediate danger, it seemed. Still, the young man was anxious for them to be on their way.

"Here's the plan," he muttered quietly to his Pokemon. They both looked up at him from empty plates, licking the last remnants of bacon grease from their muzzles. "We'll head to Phenac to stock up on supplies, and head straight to Gateon from there. It'll take us a handful of days, but if we only stop for occasional breaks, we should make it in good time. And then, if all goes well, I can get a passport there and we'll be out of Orre. For good." Those last two words felt like a breath of fresh air to him. They were so close now, he could almost taste it. Soon, very soon, they would be rid of this Arceus-forsaken, disease-ridden desert, and they would be free.

Neo chirped softly in agreement while his brother nodded, looking resolute. Wes couldn't help but smile softly and give them each a rub behind the ear. He'd never been much for people, but his partners more than made up for that. As far as he was concerned, there was no need for human company when his Pokémon were far and away better than any humans he'd bothered with.

"We bring this breaking news to you live from Eclo Canyon-"

A female reporter's voice blared suddenly from the TV and interrupted his thoughts. Wes turned his head and felt his chest freeze; raw footage was being displayed on the screen, footage of a familiar metal building, now reduced to shambles, and a pile of smoking debris. The diner owner poked his head from the kitchen and, upon seeing the report, grabbed a remote from the counter and cranked up the volume. The woman up front snorted awake at the noise, and soon everyone present was watching intently.

"Reports of an explosion yesterday have led investigators and authorities to this building, which has now officially been confirmed as the home base for Team Snagem. The scene was already abandoned by the time authorities arrived, and no casualties have been confirmed. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

"Team Snagem is infamous for its involvement in theft, property destruction and Pokemon trafficking. Authorities have been unsuccessful in shutting down the organization..."

"Hah!" Wes gave a start as the gruff man from the back barked out a laugh. "Serves 'em right, the rotten thieves! Shoulda blown the whole lot of 'em away!" He rose to his feet and stretched.

"Aye, I'll level with ya there." The owner nodded approvingly as he spoke, and the woman up front gave a disdainful sniff.

"I don't understand how authorities haven't at least made some progress," she said. "Whoever bombed that shack has done more than they have in thirty years!"

Wes turned back to his plate and inhaled deeply, willing his heart to stop racing so fast. He glanced uneasily at the metal sleeve that covered his left arm from his shoulder to his wrist. The existence of Snag Machines was not public knowledge, and his identity was safe for now. All he needed to do was get moving as quick as possible -

"Howdy, stranger!" A hand clapped on his shoulder, and he found himself jumping again. Inwardly cursing, he turned his head to see the man from the back now standing beside him, grinning down at him. "Those are some mighty fine Pokemon ya got there!"

Wes shrugged off the man's hand and eyed him darkly. "Can I help you?" He growled.

The man chuckled and removed his hat, revealing a surprisingly young looking face and a head of pink hair - pink hair? He offered a hand to the young Trainer. "Name's Willie. Yours?"

He did not shake his hand. "Wes," he answered curtly.

Willie withdrew his hand, though he didn't seem to take any offense from Wes' rudeness. "Mighty fine name. Say, you look like a tough Trainer. Would ya like a battle?"

It was the very last thing Wes wanted. "No," he said, "we're about to leave-"

"Aw, don't be like that! We can keep it short. My Pokemon could really use the training, see."

Wes could feel his annoyance festering inside of him. However, he could also feel the eyes of both the woman and the diner owner on him, and he had no desire to cause a scene. "Fine", he grumbled.

Willie beamed as though Wes had accepted his challenge with friendly enthusiasm. "Excellent! I'll be waiting outside when you're ready, partner!" He strode to the exit, paying for his meal at the front counter before departing.

Wes soon followed suit, Neo and Novo trotting excitedly at his heels. He supposed it had been a while since they'd had a chance to battle - properly, anyway. He figured battling while on the job for Snagem hadn't really counted, considering the main goal had been thievery and not victory.

Willie was standing leisurely in the desert sun, hands in his pockets. The sunlight made his bright pink hair even more shocking to look at, and Wes quietly snorted to himself in disbelief. Pink hair. Unbelievable. Not that he had much of a right to mock strange hair color - his own was such a light, platinum blonde, it was often mistaken for silvery white. Still, at least he could blame genetics instead of poor decisions.

He noticed Willie eyeing the metal contraption on his arm, but if the stranger thought anything of it, he said nothing. After all, eccentric fashion choices weren't unusual in Orre.

The man did, however, squint his eyes a little as he observed the tattoo on Wes' face; a thin white line that went across the bridge of his nose from one cheekbone to the other. Wes was not unused to strange looks at his face, and while stares in general made him uneasy, he'd learned to shrug it off. Still, he sighed a little at the man's scrutinizing look. Speaking of bad decisions...but no, it was better this way. Tattoo or no, he would have been stared at anyway; his choices had been either a nasty scar or this tattoo to cover it up, and he'd chosen the latter.

Willie met Wes' gaze and grinned. "Ready?" Wes gave a curt nod, and the Trainer released his two Pokemon out onto the sand.

Wes eyed the two Zigzagoon that stood in front of their trainer, and inwardly sighed. So much for a challenge for his Pokémon. This would be a quick battle, indeed.

It was over before it had even begun. Wes called for Neo to use Confusion and Novo to use Bite, and before either of their opponents could launch a solid attack, they were both lying motionless in the sand.

Willie sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he recalled his Zigzagoon. "Well, I didn't think I'd win, but I'd hoped to give you at least somewhat of a challenge...hey, you leavin' already?" He exclaimed as Wes started for his motorcycle.

"Yes." Wes hopped on his vehicle and turned to face the man as his Eons followed behind. He noticed Neo walking with a particular swagger after his breezy victory before sauntering into the sidecar. Show off. Novo remained calm and stoic as ever, faithfully watching his Trainer for any commands as he settled next to his brother with a dignified air. "Do you know the fastest route to Phenac from here?" Wes asked Willie.

"Phenac, eh? You gonna take on the Pre-Gym there? You're certainly tough enough." When Wes didn't reply, he shrugged and pointed the way. "Head that direction and you'll be there by early afternoon. It's mostly a straight shot."

Wes nodded his thanks. He was about to start his motorcycle when a thought occurred to him, and he turned back to the other Trainer. "Hey."

"Yeah?" Willie grinned at him again. Such open friendliness from a total stranger. He was far too naive for this place.

"You should be more careful about who you challenge to battle. Your Pokémon are easy targets, and there are still plenty of Snaggers out there." He pulled his goggles over his eyes and gripped the handlebars tightly with gloved hands. "Don't pick fights you have no chance of winning." With that, the motorcycle roared to life and he drove off, leaving a bemused Trainer in his wake.

Phenac city was often referred to as "the jewel of the desert", and it was easy to see why. Laid out in a circular pattern, with the tallest buildings at the northernmost top of the circle, the city gleamed with white stone and crystalline waterfalls flowing along the streets. The desert sun reflected off the sparkling water and white structures, making it blindingly bright to look at.

To Wes, it was a literal eyesore.

Perhaps he simply wasn't used to such pristine buildings and clean streets. His life had consisted of dirt, sweat, and rust, and none of those things seemed to belong in such a perfect place as Phenac. Plus, there was an air of false grandeur about the place that repulsed him. He'd preferred to avoid it on his previous missions if he could help it, but today's errands deemed it a necessary destination.

We won't be here for long, Wes told himself as he and his partners walked to city gate. Just head to the market, grab supplies, and get back on the road. In and out. Simple.

The desert winds billowed the tails of his blue trench coat behind him as he, Neo and Novo approached the city gate. Neo swatted playfully at the swaying fabric before bounding ahead to be at the front of the group, where he usually preferred to be.

They had just stepped through the city entrance and started their way to the center of town when Wes saw the Espeon stop dead in his tracks. He didn't think much of it and continued walking; random things caught Neo's attention all the time. He did stop, however, when he heard a soft, alarmed chirp behind him. "Spi!"

Wes glanced over his shoulder to see his Espeon standing stiffly, fur on end. He was facing away from his Trainer, ears forward, eyes focused on two men in the shadows near the city wall. They were hefting a large burlap sack between them, and were muttering under their breath, glancing about warily.

"Neo?" Wes asked quietly. He approached his Pokémon and knelt beside him, Novo close behind. "What's wrong?"

"Espi." Neo looked at Wes with wide eyes, then back at the men in the shadows. "Esp!"

Wes observed the pair with narrowed eyes. He vaguely recognized the truck parked against the wall and remembered seeing it briefly at the Outskirt Stand. He gave Neo a questioning look. The Espeon continued to stare forward, body rigid, and growled softly.

Perhaps it was obvious, or maybe Wes' personal history had taught him the signs; either way, it was clear to him that these men were not up to anything wholesome, and everything about their demeanor screamed, "shady business". He got to his feet with a sigh and turned away. "Not our business, bud. We're here to get away from those kinds of people, remember?"

"Es-piiii!" He felt teeth tugging at the hem of his pants and saw Neo gripping the black fabric in his mouth, looking up at him with a pleading expression.

"What's the matter with you?" Wes asked irritably. Since when had his Espeon developed such a strong moral compass? "We can't stop every shady person in town. Leave that to authorities or something. Let's go."

"Bri, umbri." This time Novo chimed in, looking up at his Trainer with urgency.

"Both of you now?" Exasperated, Wes turned one last look at the suspicious men. They had set down the sack and now appeared to be quietly arguing with one another - but they weren't the ones who held his attention this time.

The burlap sack was moving.

"Oh, for Arceus' sake." He ran a hand through his hair and looked down at Neo and Novo. "What, they have a Pokémon or something?" Neo's tail lashed, and Novo flattened his ears against his head. He frowned at them. "Not a Pokemon? Then what...?"


He looked at the sack again. Whatever - no, whoever - was in the sack was struggling fiercely, and this prompted a bark and a kick from one of the men.

Merciful Arceus, he thought. Kidnappers? In broad daylight? In Phenac City, no less? Even for Orre's standards, it was rather bold. He glanced back at his distressed Pokémon and sighed. They had come here for a pit stop, nothing more. They had a long road ahead, a city to get to, an unforgiving region to leave behind forever. He had absolutely no obligation to interfere in what was clearly a messy situation, especially considering they were in enough hot water as it was.

Let someone else handle it, he thought. Preferably someone who didn't have an entire gang of thugs out for their blood.

"Not our business," Wes said again, and turned away. "Let's go."

He only made it two steps before Neo sprang in front of him, fur bristling, giving his Trainer a hard, burning stare. Novo stood cautiously at Wes' side; Wes knew the Umbreon would go along with whatever plan his Trainer thought best, especially if it was the safer route. Neo, however, seemed to have his own agenda at the moment.



The two glared each other down for a moment, Novo glancing between them. Wes had all but made up his mind to return Neo to his Pokeball when his brother stepped forward, cautiously moving between them, and looked intently into Wes' eyes.

"Oh, for the love of -" Wes turned on his heel and made his way towards the old hover truck, swearing under his breath. "Fine." His every instinct screamed at him to walk away and to never think about those men again, and as much as he wanted to listen, he couldn't bring himself to say no to the pleading stares of his Pokémon. "This is the only time, got it? Don't make me pretend to be some hero." Neo and Novo chirped and strode eagerly at his heels.

"Wha' do you mean, take a rest? We're almost there!" Wes could hear their conversation as he approached.

"I'm tired, man. An' shouldn't we bunker down till nightfall anyhow? This lil scrap ain't making it easy for us, and I don't want to cause no scene." The second man glared down at the wriggling sack.

"I'll cause a scene!" The first man snarled. His eyes were shielded by his own pair of sunglasses, and some blonde hair could be seen poking out from under his dark beanie. "We're gonna cash in on this haul today, an' I don't care how tired you are! I ain't keeping this extra baggage longer than I have to!"

"Pipe down, Trudly!" his partner hissed. "We can't go around shoutin' our business, someone might hear us -"

"Someone like me, for instance?"

The pair whipped around to find Wes standing a few yards away, arms folded, his Eons at his side. The first man, Trudly, addressed him in a low growl.

"Listen, kid, I dunno what you heard, but you best keep to your own business if you know what's good for you."

Wes raised an eyebrow. "Very scary. Consider me intimidated."

Trudly snarled and took a step forward, but his partner reached out an arm and stopped him. "Ain't nothin to see here, stranger. We're just delivery men doin' our route. Now get gone." He glared at Wes through a pair of orange goggles that matched the absurd color of his hair.

"Funny, I don't recall people being a common delivery item," Wes remarked. Both of the men paled. "Would your 'route' happen to include some sort of human trafficking ring?"

The sack wriggled again, and this time muffled shouts could be heard coming from inside. The second man swore vehemently and gave the bag another kick, producing a yelp from their captive. "Damn it all," he spat at Wes, "You just had to stick your nose where it don't belong! We'll make you sorry, boy!"

He stepped forward and summoned his Pokémon in a flash of white light. Two Whismur hopped forward, tensed for battle. Despite their readiness to fight, it was hard to find the pink, rotund things menacing. Wes snorted. "Is that all you got?"

"You cocky little - " The Whismur trainer's lip curled, and he bellowed at his Pokémon. "UPROAR!"

"Neo, Novo, charge up!" Wes barely had time to give the command before the opposing Pokémon launched their assault. The Eons responded immediately to the veiled phrase, having executed it hundreds of times before.

Neo's forehead jewel gleamed, and a silvery Protect shield formed around him, blocking the Whismurs' attacks completely. Novo, however, braced himself and took the hit - he tumbled backwards, then scrambled back to his feet and howled. Neo's fur bristled and his eyes gleamed as he gained strength from his brother's Helping Hand.

"Neo, Confusion! Novo, Bite!"

They lunged forward. The opposing Trainer bellowed commands, and both Whismur hurled themselves at the empowered Espeon. Novo intercepted a Headbutt from one, staggered briefly, then returned a fierce Bite, fangs tearing into the pink Pokémon. The Whismur's battle cries turned to shrieks as the Umbreon flung his opponent and sent it rolling through the dirt. The second Whismur failed to reach Neo before it, too, was sent flying from his Confusion attack.

"Switch!" Wes' voice sounded from behind.

In a synchronized motion, Neo and Novo gracefully moved across the white stones, each one targeting the others' former opponents. The Whismur struggled to their feet as their Trainer called for another Uproar. The resulting attack screamed through the air, piercing their foes' ears, but it hardly mattered - the Espeon and Umbreon were already upon them. With a final Bite and Confusion, the Eons sent their foes tumbling backwards. The Whismur rolled to a stop at their Trainer's feet, and this time they didn't get back up.

"HAH?!" Trudly roared in fury at his partner, who stood frozen in shock. "Was that the best you could do against some scrap off the street? You're an embarrassment!"

"You're no better," replied Wes dryly. Neo and Novo trotted triumphantly back to him, and he crouched down to rub their ears. Trudly spat a colorful insult at him in response.

"What do we do, Trudly?" The orange-haired man's eyes were wide with fear as he returned his Pokémon and addressed his partner. "M-maybe we should run-"

"Shut your trap, Folly! Don't throw around my name here! We can't have everybody knowin' who we are!"

"...but you just said my name!"

Trudly blanched. "Aw, hell-"

"What in Arceus' name is going on here?" A female voice drew everyone's attention. A middle-aged woman stood a cautious distance away, watching the scene with frightened eyes. A young man in jogging gear walked up beside her, frowning. "I'd like to know that myself!" he said.

Wes stood, staring Trudly and Folly in the eyes as he responded to the people behind him. "These guys are kidnappers," he said simply. "And thought they could get away with it."

"What?" The woman cried. "Do you mean - are you sure - oh!" She gasped in horror at the sight of the still wriggling sack.

Folly swore loudly and grabbed Trudly by the arm, hauling him towards the hover truck. "Time to bail, man!" He glowered at Wes, who returned his gaze nonchalantly. "I'll remember you, kid!"

"Aw, how cute."

The men broke into a sprint and hopped into their truck. The young athlete yelled and started forward, but he only made it a few steps before the truck roared alive and hauled away, plowing recklessly to the city entrance. He turned to Wes in frustration. "We-we have to stop them!"

Wes shook his head. "They'll be long gone by the time we can give chase. No point in that."

"Can you boys help me with this knot?" The woman had rushed to the sack and was frantically pulling at the rope tied around its mouth. The young man sprinted over to help, but Wes hesitated. He had half a mind to walk away right then and there - he'd done his duty, after all - but then decided, more out of curiosity than anything else, that he might as well stay to make sure the victim was all right.

The knot was, in fact, relentlessly tight. Even with two people working at it, it refused to give way. Wes brushed them aside and called for Novo, who stepped forward and gnawed at the rope. Within seconds, the rope was severed, and the woman swooped in to open the sack.

Much to Wes' surprise, a girl burst out of the sack, gasping great gulps of air. Most of her red hair was pulled up into two pigtails, and the rest of it was drenched in sweat and plastered to her face. In fact, she was almost entirely drenched in sweat - not surprising, as Wes couldn't imagine how hot it must have been inside the stifling burlap.

"Oh, you poor dear!" The woman reached out and pulled the girl's blue and pink jacket from her shoulders in an attempt to cool her off. "Those monsters, how could they do this to you?"

The girl looked around, taking in her surroundings. She seemed incredibly disoriented. "Wh-where -?" She broke off in a coughing fit. The Phenac woman placed an arm around her shoulders and tutted with concern.

"You poor, poor thing - do either of you have water?" She asked Wes and the boy beside him.

Wes shook his head, but the athlete promptly answered, "I do!" He procured a water bottle from his pack, crouched beside them, and handed it over. The girl, still gasping for air, gave him a weak smile and took it from him. She opened it with shaky hands and raised it to her lips.

"You need to take small sips." Wes surprised himself by speaking. What did he care? Why had he bothered to stick around this long? Why hadn't he left already? "You're probably really dehydrated, so don't drink it all at once or you'll make yourself sick."

The girl gave him a shaky nod and did as he advised, sipping carefully from the bottle. Her hands were trembling so badly that the woman beside her reached out and helped keep them steady. "To answer your question, you're in Phenac City, dear," she said kindly. "Would you mind telling us who you are? Perhaps there's someone we can call for you?"

The girl lowered the water bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "My name is Rui," she said, her voice now steadying. "Rui Everlin." She looked between the woman and the boy beside her and smiled at them - a surprisingly genuine one, Wes thought, considering what she had just been through and how badly shaken she was. "Thank you much for saving me...I don't know how to repay you!"

"Well, we didn't do much," admitted the athlete as he rubbed the back of his head. He gestured to Wes. "He's the one who did all the work and chased those thugs off. It was real impressive, too, you should have seen it!" He gave Wes a look of shining admiration, which made him feel rather uncomfortable.

The girl named Rui looked up at him with shocking, bright blue eyes. She beamed at him with radiant gratitude. "Thank you - thank you so much! And you are?"

Wes paused. Giving out his name to perfect strangers was not on his list of things he wanted to do today - but then again, rescuing a kidnapping victim hadn't made it on that list, either. "Wes," he said shortly. He didn't offer his full name, and was grateful when she didn't ask for one.

"I'm Dash," said the young man. He and the woman helped the girl to her feet.

"And you can call me Marla, dear," said the lady kindly. "But enough about that - we need to get you taken care of. Who can we call for you? Perhaps we can help you get back to wherever you're from? Oh, we ought to get you to a hospital!"

"No, no, I don't need a hospital, really!" Rui said. "If - if I can get to a Pokémon Center, I can - wait!" She stopped abruptly and her eyes widened as if she'd just remembered something. She turned to Wes with an urgent expression on her face. "Those men you battled - did they have an unusual Pokémon?"

Wes eyed her warily. Unusual Pokémon? Perhaps the heat had disoriented her? "No." He shook his head.

Dash frowned. "They looked like ordinary Whismur to me..."

"You didn't see a Makuhita?" She looked between the three of them. Wes shook his head again. "Oh..." the girl's face fell and she looked deeply troubled.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about those - those - thugs any longer, dear," Marla fussed. "Let's get you taken to a Pokemon Center and -"

"No, wait!" The girl's face was urgent. "I need...I need to speak with the mayor!"

"The mayor?" asked Dash. He gave her a baffled look. "Why the mayor?"

"Those men grabbed me because I saw something," said Rui. "They had a Makuhita and there was something really...really wrong with it. I need to report this to the mayor so somebody knows about it!"

Marla frowned at her. "I'm not sure what the Mayor can do if those people have left town already..."

"They were heading here for something!" Rui said emphatically. Her eyes were wide and pleading. "I think they might come back, and I'm really worried about what they plan to do with that Pokemon!"

Mew above, she's sure passionate, thought Wes. She was awfully fired up and upset, all for a Pokemon she didn't even know. What is wrong with this girl?

"The Center is close to the mayor's house," offered Dash. "We can take you there after we take you to the mayor, I guess...?"

"Oh, would you? I don't know this city well, so that would be really helpful!" Rui beamed at the athlete.

"But you ought to take this young man with you!" Marla gestured to Wes. "If those criminals are coming back, you ought to have someone with strong Pokemon."

"No," Wes said shortly. "I have places to be." He'd taken far too many detours today already.

Marla gave him a pleading look. "Oh, but if those men come back for her...I don't have my own Pokemon, you see, or I would take her..."

Dash rubbed the back of his head. "W-well, I do have my Castform," he said. "He's not a battler, exactly, but...maybe..."

They all looked at him hopefully. Even Neo was looking up at his Trainer with pleading eyes. Traitor, thought Wes sourly. Do you want to get to Gateon or not?

A low, harsh, eerily familiar voice rang inside Wes' head. Sticking your neck out for people is what gets you killed, it snarled. Don't be a fool, boy.

Right. He didn't have time for this.

But then he noticed Novo, practical though he was, shift uncomfortably and look up at him. Never once had his Pokemon led him astray. For all the survival instincts Wes' upbringing had drilled into him, he would always trust his Pokemon, his family, more than anything else.

Wes was done in. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long-suffering sigh. "Fine."

Neo chirrupped happily and Marla beamed at him approvingly. "You're such a kind gentleman!"

I'm definitely not.

"Oh, thank you, thank you so much!" Rui bounded up to him, and for one terrifying second he thought she might hug him. Don't touch me. He was immensely relieved that she didn't.

"That's really generous of you, man," said Dash. He looked relieved. "Maybe we can all go together -"

"No." Arceus forbid Wes get saddled with more unnecessary distractions today. He quickly thought of an excuse. "You two should go to the Town Hall and report this incident. Make sure authorities know about what happened." Not that it will do much, he thought to himself. The only "authorities" in Phenac City were the staff at the Town Hall, and they could do little more than raise awareness and alert the citizens.

Dash nodded. "Alright, good plan."

He and Marla said their goodbyes. Dash left his water bottle with Rui, claiming she needed it more than he did and that he had plenty more where it came from. Rui thanked him and Marla generously for their help, and the two set off in the direction of Town Hall.

Rui turned to Wes with a bright smile. "I'll let you lead the way, then!"

Her bubbly demeanor absolutely baffled him. What kind of person could smile so easily after being kidnapped, for crying out loud? Wes shook his head slightly and sighed again - he'd been doing that an awful lot today, it seemed. "It's this way. Let's go." He didn't even wait for her to respond before setting off in the direction of the mayor's house, Neo and Novo trotting faithfully in tow.

It was already looking to be a long day.

And here is chapter 2!
I plan to write an XD sequel eventually, so I decided to establish the existence of places that are introduced in XD, such as Gateon. (Continuity, hooray!)
As always, comments, reviews and feedback are all much appreciated! Thanks for reading!

1. Chapter 1 1410 0 0 2. Chapter 2 5251 0 0 3. Chapter 3 5829 0 0 4. Chapter 4 4974 0 0 5. Chapter 5 4853 0 0 6. Chapter 6 4209 0 0 7. Chapter 7 2825 0 0 8. Chapter 8 4413 0 0 9. Chapter 9 4921 0 0 10. Chapter 10 6786 0 0 11. Chapter 11 8458 0 0 12. Chapter 12: Belonging 8085 0 1 13. Chapter 13: Evolution Origins 3204 0 1 14. Chapter 14 8911 0 0 15. Chapter 15 6157 0 0 16. Chapter Whatever: Of Fools and Aprils 2946 0 0 17. Chapter 16: Blue 7401 0 0