Of Sand and Shadows @helloyellow
Chapter 8

Hello and welcome back for the next chapter! Before we continue, I'd like to draw everybody's attention to a fabulous new fic I recently discovered: It's called Hybrid: Topaz Edition by Number13teen.

The story takes place in Sinnoh featuring an OC trainer named Topaz and follows him as he uncovers the truth behind a series of mysterious kidnappings that terrorized the region. It's an excellent story featuring some of the best Sinnoh characters like Cynthia and Volkner, some great humorous one-liners, and a unique insight into daily life in the Pokemon world. It's definitely worth a read, so go check it out!

And now, on to chapter 8 :)

Chapter 8: City of Rust

"D-do you always drive that fast?"

It was the first thing she'd said to him all morning - well, afternoon, by this point. They were several hours into their trek to Pyrite, and they still had a ways to go; Wes had only stopped for a brief moment to allow them to stretch their legs and to let Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs.

He quirked an eyebrow at her. "Yeah. Why?"

Rui spluttered a little in disbelief. Her hair was a mess from their high-speed drive, with wispy strands sticking out at all angles. "'Why?' Do you realize how fast that is?"

For all her obnoxious nagging, Wes had to admit he was grateful she'd finally decided to start speaking again. The tension from last night's...episode had carried over into the morning, and for perhaps the first time in his life, he'd found the silence downright uncomfortable. Her inane chatter was at least better than the gaping awkwardness.

Barely, anyway.

He leaned back against the motorbike and watched Neo and Novo chase one another around a nearby cactus. He noticed that Novo, though still limping slightly, was back to his usual self and his wound was already well on its way to being fully mended. Pokémon never ceased to impress him with their insanely fast ability to heal, and the still-present ache in his shoulder made him a little envious of that fact.

He turned his attention back to Rui with a deadpan tone. "So?"

"So," Rui pressed, "don't you think it's a bit reckless?"

"Considering you practically waltzed into a broken-in home yesterday, I don't think you get to lecture me on recklessness."

She didn't seem to have a comeback to that, so she dropped her gaze to the ground and rubbed her boot into the sand with a small scowl. Wes couldn't help but feel a little satisfied at that, considering she was usually the one leaving him without a response.

Still, the silence threatened to return, so he made a little effort to keep the conversation running. "We should make it to Pyrite in a few hours. We're fairly close now."

Rui looked back up at him with a tiny grin. "I guess making good time is one perk of your crazy driving."

"See, you're already seeing the light," Wes replied nonchalantly. He turned back to the bike. "Anyway, let's get going."

Rui sauntered around the bike to slide (well, fall, really) into the sidecar. "Don't get it in your head that I like it. I still think it's dangerous," she sniffed stubbornly.

It was hard to take her seriously most of the time, but especially now when she was so unceremoniously wriggling into her seat. Wes snorted and called his Eons back to him before returning them.

And then, partially out of habit, but largely out of smug pettiness, he hit the gas and launched the bike out into the sands. Wes thought he heard Rui yelp over the bellow of the engine, and he couldn't help but smirk just a little.

Of course driving like this was dangerous. That was what made it fun. It wasn't his fault the bossy redhead was too uptight to see that.

Unlike Phenac, Pyrite was actually easy to miss if you weren't paying careful attention. While Phenac was a shining beacon of white stone and reflected sunlight, Pyrite almost exclusively consisted of rust, dust, and old scrap metal buildings, and if it weren't for the rocky red plateaus encircling it, the town would have blended into the desert altogether.

As they approached the city entrance (or what could loosely be considered as such, as it was little more than an old, creaky boardwalk), the dull strains of music could be heard carrying through the air. It was some variation of bluesy jazz, though Wes couldn't be entirely sure. It was a unique style of music that he'd only ever heard in Pyrite.

He felt Rui step close to him as they entered the city. At least this time, she had the good sense to be cautious and on her guard - not that she was likely to be kidnapped again, not with Wes and his Pokémon around.

Rusted buildings and loosely hanging storefront signs creaked and groaned in the desert breeze. Wes made the very conscious decision to stick to the main roads so as to avoid predatory eyes; all the same, he still caught the occasional passerby leering at the redhead beside him. Pyrite natives knew easy prey when they saw them, and no doubt Rui would have been targeted already had she been alone.

"So, where are we going?" Rui asked apprehensively as she glanced around the place.

"Town square," Wes answered. He kept his eyes forward and walked with a purposeful stride; hesitation and nervousness only attracted unwanted attention in a place such as Pyrite. "I know a few people who hang around there that might be willing to give you a lift home."

Rui looked up at him. "Are they your friends who helped you against Team Snagem?"

"Wh-?" Wes nearly asked her what in Mew's name she was talking about when he remembered what he'd told her in Phenac. "...oh. Uh, no. They're not here."

Rui didn't question this answer, for which he was grateful. He hadn't given much thought into explaining about his non-existent "friends".

He almost snorted at the thought. His experience over the years very convincingly solidified his belief that people were all either rotten to their core - or incredibly stupid. Neo and Novo had proven to be the only source of friendship worth investing in.

"Is that the Colosseum?" Rui raised her eyes to a massive wooden dome in the distance that peeked over the red plateaus.

"Yeah, it is. We aren't going there today, though," he added in case Rui decided she wanted to see it. "You're going home."

Surprisingly, she didn't protest this, and merely nodded. Wes figured she was probably quite ready to be home after the insanity of the last few days.

"Well, well, well, look what the Meowth dragged in!"

An all too familiar voice called out and made them stop. Wes clenched his teeth and suppressed a groan.

A young man slouched from the shadows of a nearby building with a greasy smirk slathered across his face. His torn, baggy, dust-coated clothing perfectly matched the rugged buildings around him, and he would have blended in almost flawlessly were it not for his obnoxiously green, shaggy hair.

He stopped a few paces in front of Wes and tipped his head back, hands tucked in his pockets. "Been a while since I've seen you around here, Lycas."

Wes knew exactly what the rogue Trainer wanted. "Not now, Cail," he grumbled. He moved to sweep past him.

Cail stepped in front of him, blocking his path with another grin. "Why not? You in a hurry?" Wes caught a whiff of the alcohol on his breath.

"Yes," Wes snapped. "Now let us-"

"Oooh!" Cail's eyes lit up as he finally noticed Rui, who had stepped cautiously behind Wes as soon as he'd appeared. Cail's grin widened as he looked back at Wes. "Who's this?"

Rui pressed a little closer to Wes and fixed the green-haired Trainer with narrowed eyes.

"Nobody," Wes said flatly. "Just finding her a ride home. Don't suppose you know anybody off the top of your head that would be willing?"

"Hmmm," the Trainer cocked his head to the side. "I really can't think of anyone...but a battle might jog my memory."

Wes rolled his eyes. Cail prided himself on being something of a gatekeeper of Pyrite, always challenging every visitor to a battle before letting them get too far into the city. He'd never been any trouble for Wes in a battle, but that didn't stop the rogue from challenging him every time he visited.

"We'll battle later. Now if you're not going to be helpful, get out of my way."

Cail raised his hands in submission. "Fine, fine." He smirked at Rui. "I gotta ask though, what's a cute thing like you doing here? You don't look much like his type."

Before Wes could respond, Rui spoke up sharply. "That's none of your business," she said.

Cail raised an eyebrow, then leered at Wes. "Feisty one, isn't she? Is that why you're giving her a shot?"

"We are not a couple!" Rui snapped.

"Oh-ho." Cail leaned into her face with a gleam in his eyes, his smirk spreading wider across his face. "If that's the case...how about a drink with me, then?"

"Back off!" she spat.

The Trainer withdrew with a laugh. "Easy there, Carrot Top. I was only joking."

"What did you just call me?"

Wes sighed and pulled Rui along as they marched past Cail. The Trainer's laughs followed them down the street. "Let me know if you change your mind, sweetheart!"

Rui snarled over her shoulder. "That greasy, slimy little-"

"Look." Wes pulled her around to face him. "You already look like you don't belong here, so people are going to target you and try to get under your skin. Don't fight back or you'll just escalate things."

"He started it by getting in my face!"

Sweet baby Arceus. No wonder she'd gotten herself kidnapped the first time she was here. She was far too spicy for her own good.

Wes sighed again. "Just lay low, alright? We won't be here for much longer."

Rui scowled down at the ground with a grumble. Wes took this as a good enough answer and continued leading her down the street until, finally, the town square came into view.

In all honesty, it wasn't much to look at; in fact, it wasn't even a square. There were no benches or fountains like there were in Phenac. The area was completely open, ringed with a yellow circle painted roughly over the dirty, scuffed pavement. In the center, two Trainers were sparring against one another with their teams; more Trainers lounged around the edges, some sitting with their Pokémon, others lazily observing the battle in the yellow circle.

It was much less a town square, and more of a makeshift battle arena.

Rui's eyes lit up. "This is where I saw Trudly and Folly!"

That wasn't surprising. Battles spontaneously erupted all around town, but if one wanted to show off a powerful Pokémon, this was the place to be.

Wes scanned the area for any familiar faces. Plenty of missions in Pyrite allowed him to get familiar with most of the local Trainers, though they were little more than acquaintances to him. Yet, he'd won enough battles in the area to earn their respect, and he figured he could find someone to take Rui home if he offered enough money.

He inwardly grumbled at that thought. The money he'd snatched from Snagem had been meant for supplies and travel, and yet he'd already forked out much more of it than he would have liked. Still, it was worth it to get this girl home and off of his tail.

Rui suddenly seized his arm in a painfully tight grip. She was staring at the battle square in horror. "Wes..."

Wes looked from her to the battle square, completely bewildered. "What?"

She looked up at him in fear. "There's more of them, Wes!"

He immediately knew what she meant, and he wished he didn't.

Wes glanced back at the battle; one Trainer was commanding a Flaaffy and a Shroomish, the other a Noctowl and Ledyba. At first glance, it seemed like a normal battle - until the Noctowl Trainer shouted out a specific command.

"Shadow Rush!" he bellowed.

The Noctowl dove at the Flaaffy with far more ferocity than was warranted for a mere battle. It tore into the Pokémon with flashing talons and a blood-curdling screech, and the Flaaffy screamed as red spattered the ground.

"HEY!" shrieked the Flaaffy's Trainer. She was spitting with rage. "Control your Pokémon!"

The other Trainer smirked at her. "What, scared you'll lose?"

"You think you're so special with that fancy move?!" She shouted at her Flaaffy. "Thundershock that Noctowl!"

Flaaffy was trembling from head to foot, whimpering in pain, as it tried to get back on its feet. It let out a piercing cry as it launched a small shower of bolts at its foe. The Noctowl let out another screech, tried and failed to dodge the bolts - then, in a rage of feathers and flurry of talons, lunged at the Flaaffy again without a command.

"OY!" The Trainer roared at his Noctowl, but the bird blatantly ignored him and continued to rip at the Flaaffy. The Electric Pokémon, in turn, changed its cries from bleats of pain to snarls of anger, and launched one bolt of electricity after another in retaliation.

Several Trainers around the battle yelled and dove for cover as lightning bolts and psychic blasts shot from the ring and into surrounding buildings. Fluff and feathers flew; the two Trainers shouted helplessly at their raging Pokémon, but both of them were now beyond reason. The Ledyba and Shroomish, temporarily forgotten, exchanged a glance and cautiously edged away from the scuffle.

The girl finally returned her Flaaffy and whirled on her opponent. "What is WRONG with you?" she yelled. "Forfeit this match right now!"

"What?" he shouted back. "Your Pokémon was even worse!"

"YOU started it!"

Wes grabbed Rui by the arm. "Let's get out of here." He made to pull her away before things came to blows - or worse, the police showed up.

She hesitated. "Wait, but those Pokémon-"

"What do you want me to do, Snag them in front of everyone?" he growled.

Rui bit her lip, but resignedly followed him as he led them into a side alley. Wes walked briskly, making sure Rui was close behind, until they reached another secluded alleyway that was a safe distance from the ruckus. He sagged against a dusty wall with a sigh.

"What do we do?" Rui looked at him with wide eyes.

"I...don't know," Wes said. Truth be told, he'd much rather stay out of the whole mess, but he knew Rui wouldn't take that for an answer. He ran a hand through his hair. "We could...report those Pokémon to the police. Yeah. Let's do that."

He knew from the look on Rui's face that she disliked the plan, but she didn't say anything to protest it. She leaned against the opposite wall and faced him. "What about the ones you already have?"

"I can turn them in to the police, too." Wes hadn't thought of this before, but now that he was saying it, it seemed like the most viable option. He couldn't take them with him, and he couldn't in good conscience leave them in the hands of an unsuspecting Trainer, either. "I'm sure that they're more qualified to deal with this stuff than we are."

Maybe. Probably not.

Rui folded her arms and looked down at the ground. "You're right," she grumbled after a moment. "I don't like the idea, but...I can't think of what else we can do..."

It was perhaps the most practical thing Wes had ever heard her say. He shot her a look. "What do you have against the police, anyway? I know they're next to useless, but it's like you've got a personal issue with them or something."

"That's because I do have a personal issue with them." Rui raised her eyes to meet his, and there was a cold anger in both her face and her tone. "They didn't lift a finger when my starter got stolen from me."

Wes stared in shock, utterly speechless for a moment.

"You...had a Pokémon?" He finally asked. He'd never in a million years have pegged Rui as a Trainer.

"A long time ago," Rui said. "But that doesn't matter...she's gone now." She glared back down at her boots.

Suddenly Rui's intense hatred for Pokémon thieves, her disdain for the police, and her obnoxious sense of justice made much more sense to him. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Rui shrugged, but didn't say anything. Wes began to wonder if she wasn't entirely the blissfully naive girl he'd assumed she was.

He cleared his throat. "Well...come on. Let's go to the station. Maybe we'll have a better shot at finding you a ride there, anyway."

She nodded, then looked back up at him with a small, if somewhat forced, smile. "Yeah. Let's go."

Wes decided now was as good a time as any to let Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs. Normally, he didn't like to walk around Pyrite with them out in the open; Snagem may have been the most notorious gang for Pokémon trafficking, but they were not the only ones, and Pyrite was a trafficking hotspot. However, after seeing the mess in the square, he decided some cover would be a good idea.

Once Neo and Novo had a brief moment to stretch, they all set off for the station.

He only knew where the police station was due to years of carefully avoiding it. Even though his Trainer name and record were clean, he had no intention of letting them catch on to his Snagger identity. His every instinct shrieked protests at him as he led Rui deeper into town towards the station; he should be staying away from such a place, not waltzing right up to it, for Arceus' sake.

Do you never learn? That familiar snarl was in his ear again. You're a damned fool, boy.

Wes clenched his teeth. I know. He would never be rid of that voice at this rate...

The Pyrite police station came into view all too soon. Like the rest of the town, it wasn't much to look at; other than the large front door and the symbol of the Pyrite police above it, it was barely distinguishable from any other building in the area.

Rui, true to her usual fashion, was the one to step forward through the door first. Wes was more than happy to let her; the closer he could be to the exit, the better.

The inside of the station was just as unremarkable as the outside. There was a reception desk straight ahead with a very bored looking officer slouched behind it, and to the right was a metal door that was shut and locked securely; Wes knew from conversations with other Pyrite citizens and Snagem associates that it led to a hallway of prison cells.

Wes glanced warily about the place, scanning for any other potential exits - just in case. The only option he saw was another door behind the reception counter and a window on the wall to their left. He decided to only take a few steps in and stay as close to the front door as possible. Neo and Novo, faithful as always, remained close to him on either side.

The officer behind the desk was staring out the window, balancing a pencil on his puckered lips and apparently completely oblivious to their presence. After a pause, Rui cleared her throat and he jumped, sending the pencil flying with a clatter. He blinked sheepishly at his visitors and sat up a little straighter in his seat with a cough. "Erm, hello, what can I do ya for?"

Rui gave him her usual polite smile. "Hello! We need to speak with...uh, whoever's in charge."

He quirked an eyebrow. "On what business?"

Rui glanced at Wes, who merely shrugged. She turned back to the officer. "We wanted to report some dangerous Pokémon."

The officer snorted. "No need for that, miss. We've been getting reports and calls about dangerous Pokémon several times a day."

Rui's eyes widened in surprise. "You - you have?"

"Yes'm. I assure you our force is already working on the case."

"...oh." Rui clearly hadn't been expecting that answer. "Well, we also have some Pokémon that we would, uh...like to turn in."

The officer frowned. "Turn in?"

"Yes, sir. We believe them to be dangerous."

"And where did you get these Pokémon?"

Rui paused, and Wes braced himself. He could always try to step in with a lie and hope it would be convincing...

"They were actually given to us, sir." Wes blinked in surprise as Rui plowed forward without so much as a stutter. "We won a couple of them in a contest, and the other two were given to us by some concerned citizens in Phenac. They didn't know what to do with their Pokémon, so we offered to bring them here."

It was a stretch, but her face was shockingly earnest for such a bald-faced lie.

"Phenac, you say?" The officer leaned back in his chair and folded his arms with a furrowed brow. "That's news to us...how many Pokémon did you say you had?"

"Four, sir."

He nodded, still frowning. "Right. Will you just wait here a moment?" Rui nodded, and he rose and exited through the door behind him.

Wes shot Rui a sideways glance. She threw him a mischievous grin. He would have to ask her later where she'd learned to lie like that.

The officer returned through the door, and this time he had someone with him: an older gentleman with gray hair and a mustache to match. Wes felt an uncomfortable lurch in his stomach; he'd never personally interacted with this man, but he knew exactly who he was.

The Pyrite Chief of Police walked with a serious and dignified air. The lines on his face and bags under his eyes were a testament to his many years on the force. His crisp navy uniform highlighted his sharp eyes, which immediately rested on Wes.

Wes met his gaze evenly and forced himself to remain calm and collected. This man knew nothing, had nothing on him. He would be fine as long as he was careful.

Still, he couldn't help but notice the Chief's eyes briefly flicker to the Snag Machine on his arm.

"Chief, these two have some things to share that I think you might be interested to hear," said the officer.

The Chief nodded to him. "Thank you, Lenin." He gave Wes and Rui a small, polite smile. "And to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?"

"Rui Everlin, sir," Rui said with a small bow.

Wes gave the Chief a nod. "Wesley Lycas."

"A pleasure to meet you both. I am Timothy Sherles, Chief of Pyrite Police. My officer here tells me you have some unusual Pokémon you would like to turn in?"

"Yes, sir," said Rui.

Sherles glanced at the Eons gathered at Wes' feet. "I take it you're the Trainer, son?"

Wes gave another curt nod.

"Very well. If you please, I'd like to speak with you in my office about this matter."

He hesitated. You've got to be kidding me. Stepping into the Pyrite Chief's office was the last thing Wes wanted to do, but he couldn't very well refuse without raising suspicion...

To make matters worse, as he and Rui both stepped forward to follow him, Sherles glanced at the redhead and said kindly, "No need, my dear. I only need to speak with Mr. Lycas. You may wait out here."

Rui blinked. "I...oh. Okay, then." She gave Wes a small smile as she sat in a chair near the door, but he noticed a tiny glint of confusion in her eyes.

Wes followed Sherles into his office with his Eons beside him. Everything is fine, he told himself firmly. Just tell him Rui's story, hand over the Pokeballs, and be done with it. He knows nothing about me.

Sherles' office was a rather small and humble one, quite different from the mayor's in Phenac. There were no windows, making the room feel rather cramped, and the desk was a beat up old thing, its top covered in a variety of papers.

Rather than take a seat behind his desk, however, Sherles stood in front of it and looked Wes up and down with an unreadable expression. He glanced at Wes' companions again. "Those are some fine Pokémon you've got there, son."

"Thank you."

"Now, then. Tell me how you came across these dangerous Pokémon."

Wes chose his words carefully while making sure to maintain eye contact. "As Rui said, I won two of them in a contest at the...Pre Gym in Phenac. And the other two we offered to take from a pair of Trainers that didn't know what to do with them. We all figured out pretty quickly that they're dangerous."

Sherles nodded, keeping his sharp gaze steady. "And how would you describe their behavior?"

"Unpredictable." Wes reflected on the Makuhita's blank stare, on the hatred in its eyes when battling. "They don't seem to know some commands, and they don't always listen. They lose control easily and fight too harshly...and they attack people." The dull ache in his shoulder, though significantly better than the day before, was still a solid reminder of that last part.

Sherles nodded again. "Well. That sounds about right with the reports we've been receiving here in Pyrite. However..." he leaned forward slightly, fixing Wes with that impenetrable stare of his. "I'd like you to tell me how you got those Pokémon."

Wes blinked. "I...already did."

"Oh, yes, you did," replied the Chief cooly. "Now this time, I'd like you to tell me the truth."

Wes narrowed his eyes. The Chief was toying with him, that was all. This man had no real information on him; his intimidation was merely a bluff. "That's the truth. Sir."

"Is it, Mr. Lycas?"

Sherles straightened and leaned against his desk, then tipped his head back and regarded Wes with a critical eye. When he spoke again, his calm voice contained a threatening edge, and Wes felt the blood in his veins freeze over.

"Or should I call you Snagger Leo?"

Author's Notes:

Spicy Rui is best Rui.

Whew, we finally made it to Pyrite! It doesn't look like Wes will be leaving any time soon though...

Next week is where we finally get the ball rolling with the main plot! It's gonna be a wild ride, yo.

Responses to comments and reviews:

Dabber2121: what an excellent question! It will be answered in due time, but I don't want to spoil anything for you. Just wait and see! ;)

Everpeach: Ah, yes, having a bunch of shadow Pokemon definitely does not make for smooth sailing. We have some interesting battles ahead, that's for sure ;)

zelcore: thank you so much for your review! I always get a little giddy whenever someone takes note of my scene setting, as I feel it's one of my weaker points. I have included some references to XD and will include a few more through the story, but they'll be fairly subtle.

Number13teen: AH! Your reviews made my day! Thank you so much! Yes, Orre is indeed a rather...depressing place. Can't blame Wes for wanting to leave it! And maybe an extra side car isn't a bad idea considering what Novo has to say about it - lol!

Thank you all for your comments and reviews! Feel free to let me know what you think of this setup with me responding in the author's notes. It's somewhat of an experiment, so I'd love to hear your thoughts!

See you all next week!

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