Prologue: Of Deception
Mark’s favorite thing about the local Ghastly was their sense of humor. Anyone moving into Jinne City learned to memorize the amethyst welcome sign leading to the main street; there was only supposed to be one painted purple vapor face on the board, in the lower left corner, yet you could often find two or three on it, holding a steady pose. It was not uncommon, when asking a citizen their favorite part of the city, to hear about the screams of inquisitive visitors and trainers.
It was early enough in the morning that the sun barely had its fingertips over the horizon. The Doudo-crow light was not yet solid enough to scare the insubstantial wraiths back into their hidey-holes. Mark, sitting on a bench just past the edge of town, was glancing at the fleeing stars, unwilling and unable to sleep. It was his eighteenth birthday; it was time to officially decide if he was going to become a Pokémon trainer or not. His father, a researcher working on the next big HM at Rei’s gym, had tried to awaken Mark’s curiosity towards technology and partially succeeded. Learning about HM’s was a fascinating subject, but Mark also heard the calling his mother’s side provided him. She was born and raised to become a Pokémon trainer in Moxie City, and her adventure seeking nature had been passed on to her oldest son.
Despite the dangers of being out so early, Mark was not afraid of wild Pokémon for two reasons: one, because the indigenous Ghastly had a tendency to protect humans from unwanted aggressors, for reasons they kept to themselves and; two, not more than twenty feet away, the trainer Dalton was guarding the main path towards home. His Butterfree Ulysses, a blue butterfly half the size of a grown man with white wings as light as a breeze, danced on the air near his trainer with the Flash HM mounted on his forehead. It resembled a small searchlight resting against Ulysses’ skin, glowing like moonlight.
Mark hadn’t meant to look over at Dalton, but when he did he caught the trainer’s eye. A small smile crept over Dalton’s broad face, and Mark looked away swiftly. Before he could react, the seat shook quietly as the giant trainer sat down on the opposite side of the bench.
“You’re still fiddling with your balls, I see.”
Realizing that the gifts had found their way back into his hands, Mark quickly set them down and mumbled, “I don’t appreciate your innuendo.”
The rippling chuckle was barely restrained enough to be respectable to the silent night. “Oh come on, lighten up. You know I’m just joshing.”
Mark nodded, too pensive to say more.
“Still brooding over your decision?” Dalton asked lightly.
“No, I know what I want. I just…”
The pause was significant, but eventually Mark continued.
“…My dad’s always had his expectations of me, and I know I won’t be going the way he wants me to. I’m just worried about how he’s going to respond.”
“Mark, I know your dad pretty well. He’s always been proud of you because you do such a good job at anything you try, and I know he won’t be disappointed if you become a trainer. He’s told me the last time my patrols crossed his midnight wanderings.”
Relief began seeping into the edges of Mark’s worry. The silence that followed was a bit gentler than the one that came before it. Mark was abruptly made aware of Ulysses gracefully landing in his lap. The young man began scratching the Butterfree right above the back of his neck, causing his wings to shiver with delight.
Dalton just smirked. “Hey, no stealing my Ulysses. He may like you more, but that’s only cause you’re too affectionate for your own good.”
“Oh am I?” Mark responded as he turned to look at Dalton. “Should I tone it down so you can save face with your lover?”
Dalton choked on his response for a moment before saying, “Oh no, y-you don’t have to do that. I’m just saying you’re too good at making Pokémon love you. You’re gonna be a good trainer.”
Mark’s cheeks warmed at the complement. “It’s just how my mom and dad raised me, even before Daisy did all her pro-Pokémon stuff.”
Dalton nodded as Mark looked at the sign, trying to hide from the unexpected praise. It was atypical again; Mark counted a Ghastly in each corner and smirked at all the pretenders. However, when he looked at the painted Pokémon, its mouth and eyes grew to terrifying proportions. The startled teen threw himself backwards into Dalton’s lap, sending Ulysses straight up and causing a spectral uproar as the four Pokémon rapidly fled the humans’ sight, giving each other congratulatory chatter.
Dalton gave an inquisitive look, and Mark responded, “They had a Ghastly over the fake one, and when it moved I freaked out.”
Snickering, Dalton said, “That’s new. They’re getting brighter. Better warn everyone about their new trick.” Mark agreed as the two stood up.
When Mark turned to go back to the City, Dalton stopped him and handed him the gifts his mother had given him. “Don’t forget these. You’ll need them to start your journey properly,” he said with a smirk.
“Thanks. I would have completely forgotten about them.” The two men waved goodbye and Mark began walking back towards home, finally relaxed enough to contemplate sleep. As he walked away, he could hear the murmurs of a low soliloquy from Dalton to Ulysses.
You could never call Jinne City dead even at its quietest; the various machines powering the street-lining homes and businesses kept a pulse going in the town of the supernatural. But walking through it at night seemed to bring that pulse to the edge of death; the human element was quiet here, even as the Pokémon element was not. The pitter-patter of Rattata held the street as Spearow owned the skies. None of the wild Pokémon had an interest in the passing human, much to his relief. He was not in the mood to deal with them.
Ambling through his hometown, Mark began to wonder what his starting Pokémon would be. It seemed logical that he would be sponsored through Rei’s gym, because of his father’s job at her gym, but he didn’t really want a ghost-type starter. You could choose a Ghastly or one of two other foreign Pokémon that were pure Ghost type if you could be sponsored through her, but that didn’t seem appealing. He did like the idea of going through Beatrix’s gym and getting a Psychic type, though. He could get a Mr. Mime or a Drowzee or –
The sound of rending space, metal in a blender, unexpectedly filled the night. The air in front of Mark became distorted and bent and torn – a hole, the size of a man, opened up, and beyond it he could see ĐΔřκΩΞ§ζ &ηδ Γ!ξĤŧ –
The hole closed, and lying before Mark was a yellow and tan foxlike, humanoid Pokémon wheezing exhaustedly. Every limb seemed to be bleeding viciously, and he heard a quiet mew from its broken jaw as its tailed twitched beneath it.
A flurry of thoughts ran through Mark’s mind. The arrival had scared him beyond belief, but eventually something helped him focused on the problem: the Pokémon was seriously injured and there was no way he could get it to the Pokémon Center in time without-
He stopped for one last moment; it was an injured Pokémon, and he had a Pokéball.