Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Hero of Unova

Chapter 4

by shoyou100 0 reviews

Disclaimer: Plot a go go, Pokemon a no no

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2012-03-03 - Updated: 2012-03-03 - 12680 words

—The Journey Begins—

"We're right here." Volkner pointed to the blinking dot on the town map. The snow whipped ruthlessly all around them. "Route 217. It'll take the entire morning to get to Mt. Coronet. We'll decide on what to do next once we get there."

"What's there to decide?" questioned Bianca. "We already know which lake we should go to first, don't we?"

"But look at the way the region is split." Cheren noted, pointing at the two pathways branching out from the center of the mountain. "One road goes to the right side of the map, where the other lake is. We could split up and find both lakes much faster than if we all stuck together."

"He has a point." Hilda agreed. "But at the same time, Ghetsis could be roaming anywhere, either hunting for more badges or making his way to Sunyshore. If we spread out so much…" She made as if she was just giving a simple suggestion, but, inside, she was reluctant. She didn't want to separate from her friends.

With this new outlook in mind, Volkner found himself watching her expressions. It was almost fascinating to him whenever she felt an emotion that didn't agree with her demeanor.

Her eyes suddenly flickered toward him and she caught him looking at her. Caught off guard, he averted his gaze before she could see how much she'd surprised him.

"That could go either way." He said, doing his best to overcome the pregnant moment. Raising his voice over a renewed onslaught of wind, he continued. "We can make the decision once we reach the lodge located at the beginning of Route 216."

Bianca mumbled, "Yeah." And Cheren nodded his taciturn agreement. The only one who didn't give any tangible answer was the girl who was now ardently avoiding his eyes. She was... confused and intimidated.

She could feel their strange connection too.

Volkner knew, however, that he couldn't talk about it in front of her friends. For now, their unusual bond would have to be kept quiet.

He turned from her and began leading the way. Wordlessly, everyone followed him.

As they walked together, Volkner couldn't shake off the imposing sense of unease and apprehension that used to come to him when he was much younger and still trying to figure out the world. It was a response he had become unused to and now he was feeling it again, only much more prominently than before. The further they traveled from Snowpoint City, the greater his sense of danger. It eventually came to the point where he couldn't deny it.

It was possible, with each new step, that they were leaving their last place of sanctuary behind.

—The Snow Lodge—

"Where does Zekrom go?" Cheren had finally spoken up after a period of silence between the four people in the lodge. As it was the only source of conversation in the room, Volkner couldn't help but listen in. "He can't circle the skies forever."

"He always finds somewhere to stay." Hilda answered shortly. She huddled a little closer to the only heater in the lodge. She wasn't used to this weather.

Unfortunately for him, even though he was used to it, her vulnerability to the cold seemed to be affecting him too. He found himself also wishing he was closer to the fire.

"So someone just built this place and left the door open for people like us?" Bianca had directed her question at him.

It immediately brought an old memory to mind, though it wasn't so much a memory as a story. Keeping his gaze at a spot on the wall, he replied, "There was a family that lived here many years ago, when the weather wasn't this bad." He remembered how, during one of his visits to Snowpoint, Candice's grandmother just told him the story out of the blue. He hadn't even had to ask.

His silence must've piqued Bianca's interest because she asked next, "Did something happen to them?"

Cheren made an obvious eye roll at the blonde girl, which she didn't seem to catch. Did he think it was going to be a boring, unbelievable story?

Volkner nearly smiled as he thought of how the younger male would soon realize how wrong he was. Then he began, "There was an unexpected snowstorm. It happened when they were all still sleeping."

Bianca started to tense up. She looked a little nervous now. As for Hilda, he didn't even need to look since he could feel her alertness pressing into his conscious.

He continued, "When the family finally awoke, they realized that their house was buried in snow, too much for any of them to dig through.

The family consisted of a mother and father and their two children. None of them owned any Pokemon and the four of them didn't have enough strength by themselves to make a difference in the snow."

"Did they ever get out?" Bianca was leaning forward now, her eyes shining with hope.

"No," said Volkner, feeling no remorse for extinguishing the light in her eyes because he knew how the story would end. "It was because of their youngest child, a small boy. He claimed he could hear the spirits of Pokemon in the snow that buried their house. He said they spoke to him when everyone was asleep.

'Child,' they would whisper to him. 'If you give us something important to you, we will save your family from the snow.' And so, like the child he was, he asked them what they wanted and they replied. 'You must give us your humanity.'"

He saw Hilda's shoulders tense up.


Suddenly, she thought of N. The little boy in this story sounded so much like who N might've been when he was younger, innocent and unknowing. She could easily imagine Ghetsis replacing the snow spirits' voices. He might've told him of the Pokemon lives N would save if he would just do as he said, if he would just become the puppet he'd always wanted.

Volkner's voice flowed easily through her mess of thoughts. "So he did. And then the next day, everyone woke up to find all the snow gone and their son missing. The only signs of life outside the house were many sets of footprints that looked like several Pokemons'. The footprints belonged to ones, rarely seen in that part of Sinnoh, called Snorunt.

The family concluded that their son had been taken away by the Snorunt for a reason they may never understand. Finally, the family packed their bags and left, leaving their home far behind. Later, several traveling trainers found it and refurbished it to become the lodge it is today."

"So…what really happened to the boy?" Hilda found herself asking him. Without even turning around, she knew his eyes were on her back. He was reading into their connection to see what she feeling at the moment. How she knew, Hilda could only owe it to the same invisible line that seemed to be connecting their brains together. She peeked over at Cheren.

She nearly laughed at how hard he was trying not to look interested in the story.

Volkner's voice was somber when he spoke, though Hilda had the biggest suspicion that he was only doing it to create a mood. "The family's remaining child, a daughter, became a Pokemon trainer and came back to the lodge after it was re-done. There she was surprised to find an especially small Snorunt standing in the doorway by itself. Normally, Snorunt travelled in small packs. She assumed that this one had strayed from its group. However…"

"However…? What happens?" Cheren demanded, his inability to stay nonchalant finally showing through.

"The Snorunt approached her and when it came close, the girl knew right then that this Pokemon was her little brother who had disappeared several years ago."

"What, so…she took him back with her?" Bianca pressed.

As one, Hilda and both her friends huddled together to stare at Volkner with focused looks. She wanted to laugh at his slightly unnerved expression, though she felt that he was simply making a face to amuse them.

Or amuse just her, but Hilda couldn't be sure.

"No...She left him where he was because he seemed genuinely happy. She knew he had only chosen to appear before her so he could let her know he was alright. So the brother and sister parted ways after that, knowing that they may never see each other again. They were content, however, with the knowledge that the other was doing well."

"Did this really happen?" Hilda's voice was low, though neither of her friends detected the emotion behind it.

Volkner gave her a long look. He seemed to be concerned with what she was thinking about, though his thoughts didn't have enough precedence in her mind to be any more specific than that.

A reaction? She picked up one last impression from him. With a fascination that Hilda couldn't describe, she returned his searching gaze. In telling her this story, what kind of reaction was he looking for?

"It's only a myth I heard from Candice. That's all." And then he looked away from her, breaking whatever moment they might've been sharing.

The four of them didn't talk for another long while.

—Half an Hour Later, Volkner—

Every now and then he would get an emotional message from Hilda, which would cause him to glance at her every so often.

He had to remain patient. The chance to talk with her about the new phenomenon occurring between their minds was coming soon. It was only a matter of time before he settled the issue with her once and for all over what really happened back in Snowpoint. While he had been willing to save her life by taking on her pain, he hadn't taken sharing his psyche with another person into account.

If he had had a choice, he would never have accepted this sort of outcome. But since he hadn't... Volkner supposed things weren't truly as bad as they could've been. As the twinge of yet another emotion hit his senses, he found himself wondering.

What kind of expression did she have this time?

Almost immediately, as he shifted his eyes to look, Volkner found himself staring into inquisitive, light brown eyes. Hilda, as if she had followed his train of thought, had turned her head to look at him at the exact same time.

In her eyes, he saw... sadness, mixed with an underlying nostalgia. Volkner unconsciously pictured Ghetsis, the man who had been behind everything since the beginning and also the man who had given Volkner his previous head injury. Back in the cave, Hilda had mentioned another man, one who was most likely on her mind right now. She called him N, who was apparently Ghetsis' son, closely resembling his father in green hair and even in the Pokemon they favored. Had he been a criminal once like his parent?

Hilda broke eye contact first, quickly averting her gaze back to the hearth. Her expression never wavered once.

Seeing this, Volkner figured that, despite the possibility that N had been a criminal, the younger male mattered enough to her so that she couldn't think of anything right now, but him. There was no denying he was on her thoughts, for Volkner had begun to see a trend. It was the way her expression tightened so intensely as if she was fighting her own battle over the mere memory of him. However, what truly got to Volkner was the way she looked so crestfallen.

Gradually, an unfathomable irritation that had no reason to be there stirred within him. It surprised Volkner to the extent that he had to question his own sanity. He had known this girl for no more than a day and he was already working himself up over a speculation he had on her private thoughts.

Then, in the middle of being nostalgic and sad, Hilda switched gears. Turning to Cheren and Bianca, she said, "I'm ready to go now. What about you guys?"

Her attitude had changed rather abruptly, but Volkner had no qualms against it. At least it showed that she was able to pull herself out of moments like that.

Eager now to get going, Volkner shifted several times back and forth from one foot to the other, in order to warm them up again. Finally. He had been ready since they'd entered the lodge.

"Yeah, let's go. It won't be so bad once we enter Mt. Coronet. At least there won't be so much snow." Bianca said this as she stood up and stretched.

"Bianca and I will take the road leading to the east. We'll locate Lake Valor. Give one of us a call if you find anything on Turnback Cave in Canalave." Volkner saw Hilda smile and then the feeling of deeply missing someone struck him in quick succession. Catching on, Volkner figured that this was her insecurity towards separating from her friends.

So this was the full extent of Hilda's friendship with Bianca and Cheren. It reminded him of the one he shared with Flint. Had the roles been changed and had Flint been the one telling him their plans, Volkner would've had the strongest feeling that they were telling each other, without actually saying it aloud, goodbye for the last time.

It seemed he had matched her emotions rather accurately because Bianca said, in what must've been a reply to Hilda's conflicted expression, "We'll be alright, Hilda. Really!"

Volkner could tell she said it in an effort to reassure her friend, but it fell short because she didn't really seem to believe it herself either.

"Yeah…" That was all Hilda could say for now.

—Leaving the Snow Lodge—

With little choice in the matter, Hilda headed for their next destination with the inconsolable knowledge that she would soon be separated from her friends.

But, as each step she took brought further and further away from the lodge, Hilda realized something. Yes, it was without a doubt that she was going to miss Cheren and Bianca once they parted ways with her, but seemed that that wasn't the only thing bothering her. What did was the fact that she was going to be traveling alone with the region's eighth gym leader, a man who she had taken to be both motivated and distant.

But then a new bond had formed between them as a result of a selfless act from Volkner, which had been his way of paying her back for saving his life. Things changed when he touched her skin. And, before either of them knew it, Hilda was suddenly pulling words, impressions, and ideas out of a myriad of thoughts from a man she hardly knew. Just how much of their connection was Volkner aware of?

Hilda breathed a sigh of irritation as she gave up on her troublesome thoughts, though no one heard her because it was lost in an arbitrary gust of wind.

At least the snow was calmer here and it lifted her spirits considerably. Snowflakes landed inaudibly on her winter clothing as it became easier to walk in the thinning snow. They were making good time, still a couple hours away from noon. The lodge was growing smaller by the minute. It wasn't until they were more than a half mile away when Hilda was suddenly struck with the uncanny desire to look back just one last time.

She turned back for a look, just a quick one.

In that fraction of a second, the mid-morning sun emerged fully from behind the clouds and reflected off the snow so it shone in her eyes and Hilda had to shield them to see what suddenly looked like a small, child-sized shadow in the snow in front of the lodge.

She squinted as hard as she could make sure she wasn't just seeing a misshaped shadow. However, there were no other trees or bushes nearby that could possibly make that kind of shadow.

It was a Pokemon she couldn't recognize. And it stood there, watching them leave, making no move to either follow or leave its spot.

She kept walking forward, all the while still looking over her shoulder at the figure in the snow. For reasons unknown to her, she tentatively put up a hand and waved, not really expecting it to wave back.

But it did. And she turned away from it somehow feeling a little better than before. Maybe what happened just now had been a figment of her imagination. Or maybe it really happened. Either way, perhaps the story of the little boy hadn't been so sad after all.

Perhaps N's story could end the same way.

—Mt. Coronet—

The place was several times gloomier than Twist Mountain. At least the mountain in Unova had given trainers the opportunity to grab a breath of fresh air by exiting through one of the numerous tunnels built into the mountainside.

Here, the caverns were huge, with many paths turning unexpectedly only to have it result in a dead end. It was almost as bad as the Victory Road in Unova, though Hilda would always remember the first time she had to slide down the face of a mountain.

Luckily, it seemed Volkner had traversed these caverns often enough that their journey took much less time than if it had only been just the three of them.

Volkner eventually came to a stop and Hilda took a moment to study their surroundings. The dim lighting of the cave revealed two large branches in the road.

"The paths split here," Volkner took out the town map. "This entire road, however, counts as Route 211. Once you head east, you'll hit Celestic Town. Look for the town's elder. She knows Cynthia so you could ask her for a Town Map. She most likely has a copy."

"So the fastest way would be to head for Veilstone City and then… Route 214 to get to Lake Valor." Cheren murmured, obviously trying to memorize most of the map then and there.

"You'll need your Pokemon to clear a few boulders in the way, but other than that, it should be easy going from there." Volkner suddenly offered his hand, much to Hilda's surprise. She had expected maybe a formal goodbye from him with as little skin contact as possible, but it seemed he was a handshake sort of guy. "It was my pleasure in meeting the two of you, Cheren…Bianca…"

Cheren took his hand and shook it firmly. "Same here."

Bianca shook his hand as well. Then she smiled and said, cheerily, "Take care! I'll give you a call every now and then, Hilda, to let you know how we're doing."

As Bianca's wavering eyes met hers, Hilda was struck once more with the realization that she might not get to see either of her friends like this again for a long while. "See you, guys…I…" Hilda wasn't able to keep from hesitating. Then she figured that she just didn't care anymore and threw herself at her friends, trapping them in a tight hug.

"Oof!" Bianca exhaled. "You sure hug hard, Hilda."

"I get the feeling we'll definitely see each other again." Cheren's voice was firm. "No matter what happens, we'll find a way to meet."

Hilda held them for a few more seconds before letting go. Neither of her friends said anything as they held her gaze. When Hilda stepped back from them, it was almost like she was finalizing their separation. Then she said her parting words, "Good bye." And turned away.

They replied,

"Bye Hilda, Volkner."

"See you, you two."

She paused in midstep at her friends' goodbyes, her hesitation lasting a whole second. Then she put her foot down and began going her own way.

Just like that the three childhood friends separated, Hilda on a search for joy and sorrow, Cheren and Bianca on a journey for will.

Surely they would all meet again soon.

—Route 211—

"It isn't snowing here." Hilda looked around in pure amazement and some disbelief. Everything was as it should be. The grass was green, the sky was blue, and the water wasn't frozen over. It was no longer just miles and miles of endless snow.

The first thing they came to, once they left Mt. Coronet looming behind them, was a rickety, wooden bridge. Were all bridges in Sinnoh like this? However, she couldn't ask Volkner this at the moment because her euphoria at seeing green grass and blue skies again was too overpowering for any curiosity she might've had.

As it was, Hilda found herself laughing all the way across the bridge as she skipped back and forth on the rickety platform. It was nothing like the ones in Unova, but Hilda supposed having some kind of bridge here was better than trying to cross the fast-flowing and narrow river below their feet.

"Does the weather surprise you that much?" Volkner refused to do any skipping. Hilda felt like giggling as she got the impression that he was unwilling to ruin his public image. He also didn't think it was a good idea to make the bridge shake any more than it did now.

Subsequently, Hilda stopped skipping and answered him, "When I see bipolar weather like this, it reminds me that I'm in a foreign land. In Unova, sometimes it isn't easy to see the sun so clearly."

"I've never been to your region before, but I've heard of it." But Volkner didn't say from who.

Hilda peeked over at him, curious. She swore he had been about to tell her someone's name and that she definitely would've known this person had he said it, but his thought had darted away before she could pick up on it. All she could get from him was the strongest feeling of reluctance.

Volkner caught her staring. "What is it? Did you..." His expression darkened somewhat and Hilda knew then he had caught on to the nature of her side of the connection. She could pretty much read his mind.

Hilda immediately apologized. "I'm sorry."

They had just finished crossing the bridge when she stopped abruptly, preventing either of them from going any further. Volkner didn't say anything and simply waited to hear what she had to say. Both of them knew what was coming now.

Hilda exclaimed, "This thing we have going on in each other's heads!" Once the words left her mouth, Hilda almost wanted to breath out in relief. Finally, this issue was being addressed! "... I didn't mean for this to happen."

Volkner was quiet, his eyes were boring into hers. He hadn't wanted it either, but the words that came out of his mouth next didn't reflect his thoughts at all.

"Your emotions just fly at me sometimes."

It made Hilda wonder at the complexities of the human mind. Just how many layers of thoughts were there? And exactly how many of them did she actually have access to? Then the full impact of his words fell on top of her. Just like she could get a general reading of his thoughts, he must have the same level of insight on her feelings!

Immediately, Hilda was filled with mortification at the various messages he must've gotten from her and how easily he could've used them to gauge her intentions. In her view, Volkner might've gotten the better end of the deal.

Suddenly, he gave her a smile. Hilda got the message. She was... amusing to him? Hilda so taken aback by his reaction that he must've seen it clearly in her face as the smile faded quicker than it had appeared. Then he looked away.

Now Hilda couldn't help but wonder, since he had access to her emotions, if he had caught on to the last sensation she felt right after her blatant surprise. She had been appreciative. Appreciative of his smile because he really did look good wearing one.

"Can you feel mine?"

Hilda stared at him for a moment. "Can I...?" She was about to repeat the question when she shook her head, an attempt to clear it. "No. I mean... It's different for me."


"Well..." Hilda tried to put it into words as best as she could. "I... can feel your emotions if it's a strong one, but it's usually only your thoughts. I don't hear them, but I can get a general idea of what's on your mind... And you?" It was a little hard admitting her apparent invasion of his privacy, but now she deserved an answer from him too. She looked at Volkner expectantly.

At the same time, Hilda also realized the seriousness of her question. Just what could Volkner feel from her? Was there also a limit to how much of her emotions he had access to? Or could he feel everything?

"Like I said, your emotions fly at me." Volkner slowly brought his eyes back to meet hers. "But your thoughts never do."

His gaze arrested her and Hilda started losing grip on whether or not he was even looking at her. Her mind was beginning to swirl like the dream clouds of Musharna. It was strange how a single look could make her feel this way.

Then a clear thought entered her mind. He was going to touch her skin.

Hilda flinched backwards right when Volkner's fingers twitched like he'd been about to reach up and press them light against her-

Hilda felt a flash of uncertainty from him. Why uncertainty?

This time, he gave her a smile that was perfectly symmetrical. Perfectly artificial. "It's my turn to apologize now, I guess. I didn't want to scare you like that." Hilda would remember to watch out for those smiles from now on.

"No." Hilda made an apologetic noise and shook her head. "I overreacted. You were just trying to test out something, right? I mean... what happened back there in the temple, when we touched..."

"So I wasn't the only one who felt it." His relief had been strong as Hilda felt it distinctly in her own chest. Even though the emotion hadn't belonged to her, it still managed to worm its way in until it was.

So that was one of the powers of their connection. They could even influence each other's emotions.

"No," Hilda answered him. "You weren't the only one, but I don't know if you felt it as... much as I did."

Did she want to find out? Volkner's unvoiced question was hovering just above her mind.

Hilda gave him her answer in the quickening of her heartbeat and the returning sensation of a swirling mind. Yes, she wanted to test out the potency of their touch one more time.

She offered him her hand.

No turning back. And, before Hilda could even consider that idea, Volkner clasped her hand.

Hilda squeezed her eyes shut! She fully expected pandemonium to break out, the skies to come raining down, and the ground to break apart beneath them.

But nothing like that happened. Nothing close.

A gasp tore itself from her throat as an unforeseen torrent of emotions collided with her. She had tried to prepare for this, but to almost no avail. The surge had been so much stronger than she anticipated!

There were no words, no thoughts, no sense of identity. Every sensation that boiled through her veins was incoherent and wild. Her mind was being overcome solely by the sheer weight of another person's consciousness practically fusing into hers.

In a panic, Hilda imagined herself reaching out and latching on to one of those flying emotions for dear life. Anything, anything that would stop the relentless assault of unreadable sentiments!

That was where she made her biggest mistake.

The storm subsided and was stripped away until only one emotion remained. Something in her stomach began to burn and spread. Up to her cheeks, causing them to flush uncontrollably. Then down... down to her...

Volkner released her hand.

"What have you done, Hilda?" She barely heard the strangled whisper come from Volkner's throat, but she agreed with him.

Yes, what had she done?

Then Hilda felt pressure against her cap. Dazed, she opened her eyes to see Volkner peering at her, his forehead resting against the brim. It was a strange position for him to be in, but Hilda really didn't feel like thinking logically anymore.

Volkner used no words, but simply gazed at her. His thought was clear.

What had she done to him? He wanted to know the answer? So she told him.

"I don't know."

In that moment, Hilda wanted to exist anywhere else in the world but here. Right now, this was the worst place to be.

"Then we'll just leave it at that." The pressure on her cap was removed. Volkner returned to standing straight up, though he continued to look her in the eye.

His words surprised her.

"Then..." Hilda hesitated. "How about we..."

"Get going?" He finished.

"Yeah. That sounds good."

Wordlessly, Volkner started walking first, though he kept a slow enough pace for her to catch up. Once she was in step beside him, he quickened his pace and Hilda kept up with him.

As they walked, she decided to wall herself in. Mentally. She had a lot of thinking to do and not even Volkner's impressions could penetrate the whirlwind inside her mind.

She was thinking back to the moment she had shared with Volkner not too long ago. That particular emotion she had grabbed while it had been racing by in a never-ending flood, was there a good word to describe it? The way it had been so focused, so... powerful, had Hilda wondering if there was even a decent word for it without sounding crude.

Then she thought of a good one.


Memory of the burning she experienced all over her body sprang unbidden to her mind and, while she was a little embarrassed remembering it, Hilda supposed it hadn't been that bad.

It was just that, unbeknownst to her at the time, Volkner had felt exactly the same way.

—Outskirts of Eterna City—

Any semblance of a normal moment between them had been ruined by what happened earlier.

Volkner found himself watching Hilda from the corner of his eye. Even if he could read her emotions, there he still had that human habit of observation, though it was just as well. Her expressions were something to be seen.

Hilda peeked at him from under her cap, then quickly looked away again. Her eyes were wide with the sheer force of her embarrassment.

Things had somehow managed to turn awkward between them when the journey was just starting! What would it take to return things to simply being partners on a mission? Volkner had the feeling that Hilda had been about to answer him when something in the distance caught her eye.

"That Pokemon statue reminds me of Zekrom. Is it a Legendary as well?" She was pointing at the figure standing tall at the top of a set of stairs.

Nearly smiling at her genuine eagerness to know, Volkner told her, "That is the statue of two Pokemon in one. The head belongs to Dialga, the body to Palkia. They are two separate Dragon-type Pokemon. Legend says that when Dialga was born, time began flowing as well. Palkia was born with the power to bend space to its will, Dialga's counterpart." Feeling her growing anticipation in the story, Volkner couldn't help lowering his voice dramatically. "They say the two didn't get along very well."

"That's just like Zekrom and his counterpart!" Her excitement was infectious.

"Does the other dragon belong to N?" Then Volkner wished he could take that question back. Maybe her friend was still a tender subject for her.

She surprised him when she gave him an answer, "Yes. His name is Reshiram."

Hilda's eyes took on a glazed look. She was filled with the wistfulness that Volkner had long associated with nostalgia.

"Our myth says that both dragons used to be one entity. This entity was supposed to be used by twin brothers to create the Unova region. But their beliefs turned out to be different." Her emotions were getting harder to read now.

Volkner couldn't decide if she was feeling regret or disappointment or maybe even bitterness, but nevertheless her expression didn't sit well with him.

Pausing for a moment in her words to look at him and Volkner could feel her struggling to untangle her mess of emotions. He wanted to tell her that she didn't need to, but before he could she continued speaking,

"I guess if N and I were to represent the twins, then I would be the one who looked for ideals. He would be the one looking for the truth. Maybe he's still looking for it even now..."

Hilda turned her gaze to the statue.

"Because of the conflict between the brothers, the single entity split into two dragons. Zekrom sided with seeking out ideals, while Reshiram sided with seeking out the truth. I think it would be safe to assume that, naturally, the two dragons wouldn't be able to stay together in the same room either."

Volkner had nothing to say to her story. It wasn't simply a tale that she decided to tell him. It was also an issue that belonged solely to Hilda and he didn't think it was right for him to involve himself. They were beginning to lapse into another round of silence when Hilda's attentions were diverted, again, to the top of a strange building that came into view once they climbed the stairs.

"Is that a…spaceship!" She gaped openly at the building. "Forget what I said about our regions being similar. This is just too out of this world!" She laughed once she realized her lame joke.

"Funny…" At his sarcastic tone, Hilda playfully elbowed him in the ribs, much to his discomfort.

"So what was this it used for?" She asked once she finished laughing at the face he'd made.

"This used to be one of the headquarters belonging to Team Galactic. As you can tell from their name, their creativity is about as professional as their building."

"I see… So there had been organized crime groups here as well... Are they still looking to take over the region?"

Her question brought back memories of the first time the entire region had been in considerable danger. Like what was happening now, powerful, otherworldly Pokemon had been involved in the battle. "They used to have a plan for that and they were almost successful in going through with it."


"Their plans were thwarted by a single person. I mentioned her to you once. After saving the world, she came to battle her last gym leader and won." Volkner found himself remembering the moment his last Pokemon had fainted. It hadn't felt very good, but he ended up chuckling, "Her victory shouldn't have surprised me at all."

He felt Hilda's impressment at hearing Dawn's recurring victories. First, she saved her region, then she made herself eligible to face the Pokemon League and, subsequently, defeated Cynthia.

Anticipation immediately followed her impressment and Volkner nearly smiled again. The Trainer within her was most likely thinking of calling for a battle with her fellow Pokemon Champion.

"People sure love their bicycles here…" He turned to see Hilda actually surveying the bikes up close from where they were chained. She was in awe. In her eyes, she must've been overwhelmed by the sight of row after row of bicycles. Were bikes rare in Unova?

"We don't make fancy ones like these. Our's normally have only one gear, but Unova imports these bikes for their richer customers."

Volkner wondered how long it would take him to fully accept the fact that she could read his thoughts. The moment this crossed his mind, she looked up at him apologetically, feeling a combination of frustration and helplessness.

He didn't like it when she looked at him like that. Her expression changed, then, to one of question. He could see it clearly in her gaze. What kind of look did he want her to make?

He grasped her lightly by the shoulder, making sure his fingers didn't touch her skin, and led up up a set of stairs leading to the city's statue. Once they were there, from their vantage point, he pointed at a particularly fancy building right across from the Pokemon Center and said to her firmly, "One of Sinnoh's best bike shops is stationed here." Would she feel better if they took a look at the bike's latest version?

"You think we should buy one?"

Volkner sighed. Apparently, she had read his initial intentions differently. Her brows immediately furrowed as she held up a hand and started small calculative movements with them. "I heard they were very expensive."

Then she turned to him.

"But you bought one anyway, right?" She taunted him playfully.

"No, mine was a present."

Hilda made a helpless sigh at his answer. "Well mine was a gift too, but I... kind of left it back home." She was actually heavily disgruntled by her mistake. "Either way, I'm getting one for both of us to use. Let me see the map."

"As your majesty wishes," Volkner gave a mock bow before pulling out the Town Map. "Route 206 is a cycling road. If you manage to get your hands on a bike, then we can take it for a quick short cut to Oreburgh City."

When he glanced at her to see her reaction, he noticed her eyes weren't looking where he'd pointed. Instead, they'd strayed over to the left of Eterna City where the road would take them through Floaroma Town.

"Did you want to go here?" He pressed the icon on the map and a small description of the town appeared.

He felt her longing. It seeped into his own pool of emotions, past the invisible barrier between their minds. It enveloped him, causing him to breathe in sharply in an effort to control the influence of Hilda's emotions.

She looked up at him when he breathed in like that, but didn't comment on it and simply shook her head no.

She explained her reasoning, "If we go there, we'll have to go through a forest and everything will take longer. Like you said before, the more time we waste, the closer Ghetsis gets to your hometown."

Her words only served to remind him of the whole point of their journey. What had he been thinking? He'd almost forgotten…

Her yearning had made him forget.

Hilda suddenly felt shy and Volkner refocused in time to see her running off by herself into the streets.

In a clearly flustered voice, she said to him, "I'm going to the bike shop whether you're coming or not!"

Did she really want the bike? Though all Volkner could sense right now was her shyness, it wasn't hard to guess that she might be forcing herself to get one.

He felt like laughing at what he had in mind to do. The idea had come up in his head without warning.

So he would put aside his city for this? For someone he hardly knew? Or maybe he could call her the girl who held his thoughts in the palm of her hand. Perhaps she could hear his absurd idea right now, though she currently wasn't giving him any alarming or sudden signals.

Either way, Volkner knew there was no point in thinking otherwise. If she couldn't bring herself to be selfish, then maybe he become selfish for her.

Just this once…

—The Bicycle Shop—

"What do you mean one million dollars!" Hilda exclaimed, outraged at the atrocious price. "No one in their right mind would sell a bike for that much!"

"I mean one million dollars." said the adolescent boy flatly, wiping down a bike as he talked to the angry girl.

"I want to see the owner of this shop. He can probably offer me a better price." Hilda said stubbornly.

"Unless you've saved his life before, I doubt it. Even he has to make a living." The boy hadn't looked her way even once, which really irked her.

By the time Volkner had entered the shop, Hilda was storming out, her hair billowing agitatedly behind her.

As she left, she also passed a middle-aged man on her way out. She was so angry that it never occurred to her he might've been the owner of the shop.

—The Bicycle Shop Owner—

Mr. Rickshaw glanced behind him wondering what in the world had that girl in such a bad mood. Then he remembered his assistant had been in the one in charge of the store and perhaps there was a very good reason for her anger.

When he was about to turn back to scold his assistant for the second time today, his eyes alighted on someone else.

"Ah, Volkner! It's nice meeting you again. How long has it been? Four years?" He was nostalgic for a moment. "You had another young lady with you last time. What was her name? Elesa, I think…"

"Mr. Rickshaw," Volkner's expression had hardened.

Upon seeing the look he received from his words, Mr. Rickshaw wondered what might've happened between the couple for him to the 8th Gym Leader to give him that sort of expression. Apparently, much had changed since the last time the young man had entered his bike shop.

The young woman by his side three years ago had been tall, graceful, exhibiting all the manners of a professional model, and Mr. Rickshaw had immediately assumed she was Volkner's lover. However, now that things appeared to have gone wrong between the them, Mr. Rickshaw couldn't help but wonder if the look on her face at the time had truly belonged to that of a lover. It seemed so sad at the time.

"That time was then and this is now." Volkner's voice interrupted Mr. Rickshaw's rapidly firing thoughts. "We already decided to go our separate ways and I would appreciate if you didn't bring up the past."

"Of course," Mr. Rickshaw nodded sagely. Then he might as well bring up the present. "Who is the girl you are traveling with now?"

"A friend." Volkner replied shortly. "I'll apologize on her behalf if she seemed rude."

There he went pushing his politeness again. "Don't worry about it!" Mr. Rickshaw mustered up his lightest tone of voice. "So you came to get another bike? Broke my last one, did you?" He laughed at his own joke, while hoping it was one at the same time. What if the young man really had broken the bike? "Anyway, I'm just kidding. I can understand why you need one. After all, the green-haired man who recently came to our city defeated our gym leader and is on his way to collect his next badge. I can only assume-"

"Nothing else happened while he was here?" Volkner cut in. He looked surprised. So he knew just how destructive that mysterious man could be.

"Nothing happened to our city. But…" The conversation were becoming serious now. As Mr. Rickshaw spoke, he felt a buried anger welling up in his stomach. "Many people disappeared shortly after he came."

In his mind's eye, he saw the outline of an immense Pokemon, perpetually covered in shadow even though the day had been cloudless. Mr. Rickshaw shuddered slightly at the memory.

"It must've been that dragon Pokemon he had with him. It had a terrible aura surrounding it." He sighed. "The only reason we're still here is because that boy and I watched this happen from the shop window. Luckily, because of our job, we don't have to set foot outside the shop very often."

"I see..." The young Gym Leader's eyebrows were furrowed as he seemed to be considering something. Then he relaxed his face and said sincerely to him, "Thank you for telling me, Mr. Rickshaw. I'm sorry about my attitude earlier." Then he turned to leave. "But as for a free bike, it's alright. One from you was already enough."

Taken back by this turn of events, Mr. Rickshaw commented, "But your friend seemed to want one pretty badly! Perhaps you could give it to her."

"Mr. Rickshaw," Volkner stopped right before the door. He didn't speak for moment, perhaps wondering if he should tell him what was on his mind. He made his decision when he said, "She... wants to go to Floaroma Town... I want to take her there."

Volkner sounded almost unsure of himself when he said that last part and Mr. Rickshaw noticed it easily.

"I see…"

He gazed into the young man's back and, even though their eyes didn't meet, Volkner was conscious of his gaze. As Rickshaw scrutinized him, he began to wonder. Yes, many things had changed since the Gym Leader last appeared before him, especially his eyes. They seemed to carry a weight, possibly even a burden, that hadn't been there before. Rickshaw was almost certain that the girl had something to do it, though for better or worse he couldn't tell.

What he told him was, "You're starting to get this look I don't normally see in people your age, but I want you to remember," He hardened his expression to make sure Volkner paid extra attention to his next few words. "Whatever you end up doing, whatever the choice you decide to make, there is always a consequence. As to what that may be, it depends. The consequences of your actions can either work against you or work to your advantage. Though I can't see the future, I can tell that the two of you have a difficult journey ahead no matter which path you decide to take."

For the duration of his speech, Volkner had been facing the door, but as it came to a close, he turned back around. However, instead of meeting the young man's eyes, which Mr. Rickshaw knew would be bright with strong emotion, he held up his hands and looked at a random corner of the shop.

"And since you refuse my offer of a free bike, I can only wish you good luck." He smiled as he finally matched Volkner's gaze. He had calmed and now his expression was as normal as ever. Mr. Rickshaw added as an afterthought, "Oh yes! And make sure you show her the honey trees there. I hear they tend to attract more Pokemon than any other in Sinnoh."

A genuine smile found its way on to the Gym Leader's face, something Mr. Rickshaw had been waiting to see. Volkner nodded. "I will remember that."

Then he exited the shop and rejoined the girl waiting impatiently outside for him.

Mr. Rickshaw watched them leave.

"Who is she, Mr. Rickshaw?" His assistant boy asked him. "I've seen Volkner before but the girl is something new."

The only thing Rickshaw found he could say was, "She's someone who will become special to him."

The boy shook his head and turned back to inspect his work on the bike he'd been wiping down.

He just couldn't understand adults sometimes.

—Outside Eterna City's Gym—

The doors were intact, the windows still there. All in all, the gym looked perfectly fine. Whether or not the Gym Leader was, however, could be a different story.

Volkner entered first, not hesitating to walk up to the sliding door.

The door opened. Immediately, Hilda was overwhelmed with an explosion of lush green grass and trees. A fresh, healthy scent of forest blanketed everything in the gym.

Volkner peered over his shoulder. "Coming?"

"Right." she breathed. Hilda stepped through the doors, then went over to touch a nearby oak.

It was real.

Volkner passed her without a word, drawing her attentions to him. Apparently, he knew where to find the Gym Leader. She was located all the way at the back of the gym.

Hilda followed him and, eventually, they came across a small clearing in the maze of trees.

There, a girl with short, orange and black hair sat cross-legged, obviously brooding over a recent loss in battle. She wore a green cloak that only went down a little past her chest, of which she wore a shirt that exposed her belly. Her cloak matched her shoes in color.

Instead of saying anything, Volkner simply waited.

The Gym Leader eventually acknowledged to his presence and said, "What are you doing here, Volkner? Shouldn't you be in Sunyshore tinkering with your solar panels?" Her voice was bitter.

"A loss is a loss, Gardenia." Volkner said smoothly.

Hilda smiled at how fitting the Gym Leader's name was.

"But nothing compared to being banished to another dimension."

Gardenia looked up in disbelief. "I thought you were going to say 'losing your life' or some other piece of wisdom. I'm surprised myself why nothing else happened to me, but losing still bugs me."

"I understand. And since you seem perfectly fine, we'll be leaving."

"Wait!" Gardenia stood up. "Where are you headed? If it's Eterna Forest, then I need to warn you about the Gastly outbreak. That man, Ghetsis, must've disturbed the spirits of the Old Chateau and now they're running amok in the forest." She sighed and messaged her temple with one hand.

Hilda wanted to groan in frustration as well. Their journey had barely started and they were already being stopped left and right by countless obstacles.

"The path leading out to Floaroma Town is blocked by a Haunter. And I don't think brute force will get rid of it."

Hilda's senses perked up. If not brute force, then...

"Haven't you tried putting the spirits back to rest? They're all in the Chateau, right?" She asked Gardenia.

"How?" She demanded. Then her face paled a little. "You mean go in there? Why…why would I do something crazy like that?"

In an attempt to look more authoritative and confident of her words, she quickly put her hands on her hips.

"I mean, no one in their right mind would walk into a mansion that really is haunted…not that I scared of it before…" She fidgeted.

"We're not here to test how brave you are," Volkner reminded her. "We just want to know if it's possible to calm the spirits down."

"Probably. I'm not a Medium." Gardenia shrugged. "But I can take you there and cut down the small trees blocking the way to the mansion."

"Sounds like a plan." Volkner shared a glance with Hilda. He had confidence that they would get the job done.

Inspired by his conviction, she nodded, agreeing firmly.

—Eterna Forest, In Front of the Small Trees—

"I almost forgot to stop by the Pokemon center. What an amateur mistake." Gardenia muttered to herself as she reached for a poke ball at her belt.

"Go, Roserade!" An elegant Rose with flowery arms and eyes covered by a mask-like petal appeared in front of her. She pointed at the small trees and they were cut down with ease.

Hilda quickly scanned the Pokemon before Gardenia called it back.

"You've never seen a Roserade before." Gardenia noted. "Where are you from?"

"Unova. It's region that's far away." She answered.

"Is that so?" Gardenia flipped her cloak, letting it billow back. "Well! I'm done here so if you need me again, just go find me at the gym. By the way, I never caught your name." She looked at her expectantly.

"I'm Hilda. It was nice to meet you, Gardenia…?" Hilda trailed off when the Gym Leader gave her a strange look all of a sudden. "Is something wrong?"

"No…" Gardenia shook her head. "I was thinking about something... Well, I'm sure you won't need me to go in there with you. After all, Volkner's here." She grinned. "And he kicks butt. See ya!"

She ran off abruptly before Hilda could thank her for her help.

Then she heard Volkner call her. "Let's go, Hilda. You want to see Floaroma Town soon right?" His voice was warm when he said this and suddenly Hilda felt happiness bubble up in her stomach.

Why was she reacting this way? The question pushed against her consciousness.

Hilda spoke up before she was forced to answer it, "I'm also doing this because that boy tried to sell me a bike for a million dollars." She wrinkled her nose and walking past him. "A million dollars! Seriously…"

She wondered what her deal was. The happiness still lingering in her stomach didn't make sense and she hoped Volkner wouldn't think of it any more than a strange phenomenon that occurred only with girls.

She couldn't bring herself to look at him until they reached the debilitated double doors of the mansion.

"Hilda," Hilda made herself look up at the man beside her. "It's okay to be happy."

His words filled her with an overflowing relief and Hilda couldn't keep a smile from appearing on her face.

It was time to open the doors. She was ready.

—The Old Chateau—

Despite her what she'd thought earlier, Hilda had been completely unprepared for the sudden enmity that struck her mind the moment the Chateau doors swung in. All her earlier confidence immediately scattered like the many shadows she swore scuttled out of the way once they let light in through the double doors. Her smile turned into a grim look.

Sucking in a breath, she turned to Volkner so she could see his expression, but it was unreadable. However, he had sensed the emnity.

She asked him anyway. "You felt that? There was so much…hate."

Volkner closed his eyes. "I think Ghetsis did more than simply disturb these spirits. Giratina must've been powerful enough to infuse some of them with his own violent aura and now they've become a danger to every Pokemon in this forest."

The doors suddenly started creaking behind them.

Hilda whipped around, as did Volkner, only to watch them slam shut in their faces. An unnatural wind blew past them.

Suddenly, she felt something grab her ankle. Then a second hand silenced her as it clamped down hard over her mouth.

She was whisked away before she could even convey alarm.

—The Games Begin, Volkner—

His mind knew something was wrong before his eyes did.

Realizing the absence of weight on his consciousness, Hilda's presence... He no longer felt it! But someone else was standing where she used to be.

He turned to see a little girl looking back at him solemnly. He exhaled sharply in surprise, while taking a step back.

Seeing his reaction, a smile started playing on her lips, which unsettled him further. Then she spoke.

"He took your friend away."

Scrutinizing her, Volkner noted that the girl was wearing an old-fashioned school dress and her brown hair was cropped neatly to her shoulders. She looked no more than five years old. "She's probably in the master bedroom. The Haunter here likes it there."

"Who are you?" Volkner realized he could see the walls of the mansion through her body.

Her answer caught him off guard. "I'm Hilda."

"Funny…" He said humorlessly. "Who are you really?"

The girl crossed her arms and frowned. "Okay, fine. So I can't remember my name." She sighed. "And it's all because I'm a ghost. I can't even remember how I died. But I heard you say your friend's name earlier and I liked it a lot."

"You said she was in the master bedroom?" Volkner promptly walked off before she finished telling her story. The sleeping quarters were most likely on the second floor.

"Wait!" The girl grabbed his sleeve, much to his surprise. She could touch him? "You need a key. All the rooms are locked."

"Do you know where it is?" He couldn't tell if this girl was lying or not. She might've looked like a child, but how long had she been one? Her ghost could be centuries old for all he knew.

"I saw it earlier in the kitchen. You need to go through that door over there." She pointed at a large, conspicuous doorway between the two main sets of stairs.

He approached it and, as he did, the barest of whispers fell on his ears from all sides. So there was more than one ghost watching him, though the voices were most likely impersonated by Gastly.

Beyond the doorway was a dank and ancient dining room. The majority of it was occupied by a single table, long enough to seat a large party of people. There was still silverware and candle holders decorating its surface.

He took one step into the room.

And all hell broke loose.

A candle holder flew at his head. He ducked and heard it smash on the wall behind him. Then the chair nearest him raced forward and he stepped nimbly to one side.

Spying several paintings on the wall, he immediately reached up, took one down, and held it in front of him like a shield.

It was just in the nick of time. He heard the silverware rattle and then there was a whoosh of air as several forks speared themselves into the canvas. The force of the blows caused him to back up against the wall.

Then two hands grabbed his arms. They came from the wall! And Volkner was forced to drop the painting.

Rising into the air, the remaining forks readied to aim for his chest.

No! He couldn't let things end this way!

Volkner fought hard to free himself from the disembodied hands, but the grip on his arms was too strong.

Finally, the forks shot forward and he closed his eyes, preparing for the blow. At the very least, he might be able to stop the bleeding afterwards, enough to survive.

"Stop, Mr. Ranson!" screamed a girl's voice.

The pressure on his arms lifted almost immediately. There was a clatter of falling silverware as murderous forks lay innocently once more on the table.

Relieved as he was at being released, Volkner felt his legs give way. Leaning his body against the wall, he allowed himself to slide down into a comfortable sitting position.

If he was completely honest with himself, he would admit that, throughout the whole ordeal, he had been angry and terrified. Terrified, because he could've died and Sinnoh might've lost all hope. Angry, because Hilda would've been forever trapped in the Old Chateau, alone.

Therefore, in order to satisfy the anger that continued to strike within him, he would make sure she was returned to him safe.

—Several Minutes Ago, Hilda—

She glared at the only portrait on the wall.

It depicted a little girl with hair cropped to her shoulders and a dress Hilda herself would never have worn. Originally, there must've been two. Where the other one used to be was a dusty imprint.

Something about the portrait struck Hilda as familiar. But what was it…?

Sighing, she fell back on the bed she was sitting on. What was the use? It wasn't like she was going to solve anything by staring at a painting anyway.

When she came to, she found herself in this spacious room, lying on a bed that could easily fit more than two people. The room was well-furnished with all the things one could imagine belonged in a normal, albeit slightly old-fashioned, home; drawers, a lamp, and a very soft bed. In another place or time, Hilda might've been impressed. Nevertheless, the years of abandonment had taken its toll and everything looked decrepit in general so there really wasn't much to appreciate.

Hilda heaved herself off the bed and marched up to the portrait. "Why me?" She demanded of it exasperatedly.

"Because you are the perfect vessel for my lady."

She whipped around at the voice that suddenly came from behind her.

It was a butler. He looked old, close to seventy years, but his eyes were sharp and his voice had been that of a man closer to forty.

"Vessel?" Hilda stood with her legs slightly apart, readying herself in case this butler tried anything funny.

"You wound me. Do you really think I'll try to damage the one my lady is interested in?" The butler gave a mocking bow. "Mr. Ranson, at your service."

Hilda did not like him. "So…Mr. Ranson…Do you know why I'm here in this mansion?"

"And why would I know something about that?" If she wasn't overhearing things, then his tone sounded sarcastic. "It's none of my business."

"If you're a spirit, then it is." This butler definitely wasn't human, but…at the same time, Hilda did not get the sense that he was a spirit either.

The butler gave her a look that sent shivers up her spine. "Do you know?" His voice was low when he spoke. "About the story behind this Old Chateau?"

Hilda shook her head no.

He was about to continue, but then he suddenly looked down at his feet, though his eyes seemed to look past them.

"An intruder in the dining hall... One moment please."

Hilda's eyes widened the moment she heard the word intruder. Volkner! She tried running at him to stop him but he had already disappeared straight through the floor.

"No…" She sank to the ground, touching the spot where the butler had gone through. "Please, don't hurt him."

—Dining Hall, Volkner—

"Why won't you let me get rid of this annoyance?"

Volkner blinked twice.

An old butler appeared to be arguing with the girl.

He simply watched the whole affair from the sidelines, deciding that this was one argument he wasn't going to be involved in.

"I like him! He's okay!" The girl yelled back. She seemed pretty adamant about him, which was a good thing. At least it meant the butler wasn't going to try and kill him again anytime soon.

Then she lowered her voice so that only the butler could hear her words.

But Volkner listened hard and he picked up a key word.


With that, the butler was subdued and he nodded to the girl. Then he started walking back into the wall he'd come from. Before he did so, however, he turned his head to give Volkner a disdainful look. Clearly, the butler didn't like him very much.

Once he was gone, the girl tugged on the collar of his jacket, urging him to keep looking for the key. Was this all part of the plan? He did as he was told, though he kept this question in mind.

But, if playing along with this girl led him to Hilda, then it didn't matter.

As he made his way to the kitchen, which was connected to the dining hall, he began formulating a plan of his own. So the girl had mentioned her missing memories.

Now what would happen if she somehow managed to get them back? Would it change anything?

He stepped onto cracked white tiles, illuminated by the light from the many windows in the dining hall. The kitchen resembled one that could be found in well-funded restaurants. Three tables, two of them plated with dishes long abandoned, took up most of the center space.

On one of the plates, he spied an inconspicuous, iron key. As he walked over to grab it, he observed the state of the kitchen.

The white-washed walls peeled with age and there was a stain on the floor, most likely from a spill no one cleaned up. Several pots sat on the stove, still waiting to be picked up by a chef and the three trashcans in the kitchen had been left there so long that their contents had long disintegrated. Whoever used to live in this house had left in a hurry.

"How long have you been a ghost?" He asked the girl casually, changing his voice so that it sounded like he was only trying to strike up a conversation.

She was quiet for a moment and Volkner wondered if he had sounded a little too interested. Then, she told him in a small voice, "Fifty years."

He stared at her then, unsure of what to say.

Fifty years was a long time.

—Master Bedroom, Hilda—

"Your friend is safe, if that's what you're worried about." The butler appeared on the bed this time.

Hilda looked up from where she still knelt on the floor. She was about to open her mouth in a retort when the butler's new appearance made her swallow her words.

"Do you like it?"

Dressed incredibly out of character in a butler suit, a man with Volkner's face sat on the bed before her.

"I decided that if this was the look my lady liked, then it wouldn't hurt to try it on."

His lady…He had mentioned her several times already. Was she with Volkner now? The thought didn't sit well with her.

Mentally shaking her head to clear her mind, she tried directing her thoughts to other things such as the fact that the butler apparently had the ability to change his appearance at will. Spirits couldn't do that, could they? Then something clicked in her brain and Hilda realized something about this butler that she should've guessed from the beginning.

"You didn't finish the story," She said. "You were about to tell me, but you left before you did."

"Ah, yes…" The butler, now with Volkner's likeness, crossed his legs in a comfortable fashion. "The story of the Old Chateau…"

Hilda stared at him, unable to process the sight of Volkner sitting like that.

"Have you ever wondered why this Chateau was abandoned?" His voice was suddenly quiet.

She didn't have to think hard. "Someone important here died. That explains why there are spirits like your lady roaming around here."

The butler stared at her with Volkner's serious eyes, which caused a different kind of shiver to travel up her spine even though it wasn't really Volkner doing it. Then he said, "The Chateau was abandoned because someone went missing." He paused. "They never did find her body."

"Whose? Your lady's?" Hilda stood up. "Is that why she's still here?" She leaned in closer out of curiosity.

"Yes…" The butler suddenly looked very sad and Hilda started to feel a small ounce of pity for him. "Fifty years ago…this place was everything a human could dream of. Beautiful, clean, and, most of all, inhabited by the living. A family of three lived in this mansion; a father and his two daughters."

Hilda's eyes immediately strayed to the portrait of the girl. "One of them was your lady." She whispered.

The butler continued on as if she hadn't interrupted. "There was a single room in this mansion that neither the father nor his oldest daughter would ever visit. Only my lady would. And that was because I lived there."

Hilda decided to stop him there for a moment.

"You're Haunter." Was all she said to him.

He smiled at her, though it wasn't a malevolent one. It was simply…a smile. "Good answer."

Then he transformed before her eyes.

"Even before my lady's family came here, I have long roamed these halls." A purple ghost Pokemon with disembodied hands spoke with the butler's voice. "I was the reason many families left, but if only that had happened with the family of this particular and unfortunate girl."

He went quiet for a moment and seemed to be contemplating his next words.

"They wanted the room blocked up, instead, in their assumption that such a thing might keep me from doing anything out of hand. They had all the workers ready and everything…" Haunter gave a humorless laugh.

"And then my lady came in for the last time, though she did not know it."

"No…" Hilda gasped in horror. "No, they can't have-"

"Blocked their employer's daughter in? Humans have always been careless, even with their own children… I stayed with her to the end." Haunter closed his eyes. "She cried for hours, calling for her father, for her sister. She asked me to save her and I tried. But in the end I couldn't. Her father's assumption had been right."

His eyes flashed red.

"They had a Medium place a cleanse tag on the door so all I could do was watch the girl grow weaker with every passing day. As you can probably guess, there was only one other option I had."

"You took her life." Hilda said shortly.

"I gave her another chance." The Haunter suddenly took on a sinister look and Hilda couldn't help but start to back away. "I waited fifty years for an opportunity like this."

"So the reason why you told me all this..." Dread squeezed her throat and Hilda's hand started inching toward a poke ball. "What's the point if you're just going to kill me?"

"Kill you?" Haunter chuckled, then suddenly lifted up his hand.

Immediately, Hilda felt a force hold her in place. The Pokemon move being used on her was easily identifiable.

"What I'll be doing to you is far worse. Now that I told you the truth, you won't feel so bad after all this is over."

"Destiny bond?" A ball of ice formed in the pit of her stomach, but then Hilda remembered the second part of the move. "You're going to sacrifice yourself for this? But what about your lady? How do you know she won't need you in the future!" She demanded to hear an answer from him!

"Once she gets a new body, she will realize she doesn't need me anymore." As Haunter continued to speak, his body gradually disintegrated before her eyes. "I've always been alone all these years…No one could ever understand me. But my lady…she became my first friend. My only friend."

Only his eyes and mouth were left now.

"And yet she was hurt because of me so I will do everything in my power to make her happy again."

Hilda's chest suddenly began to hurt. She gave a yell and fell to her knees, clutching the area over her heart. It hurt so much!

"I will do anything." Haunter closed his eyes.

Then the rest of his body dispersed and the Pokemon was gone forever.

Hilda screamed. It hurt so bad, she wanted to die. It lasted all of one second. Then the pain stopped and Hilda found herself lying on the ground.

Why did she feel so strange? She was numb all over.

Then she noticed a hand lying next to hers. It looked extremely familiar. Once she raised her head to see who it belonged to, time seemed to stop.

The person lying so still in front of her was herself.

—Earlier, Volkner—

"Mister, what's your name?" The girl was leading the way.

"Volkner…" He answered quietly.

They had left the dining hall and just made it up the stairs when Volkner paused to look at an open room to their right. Several shelves of books were visible through the doorway. "Is that a library?" He asked.

"Yes. But I can't read so I don't ever go in there." The girl reached up to grab his sleeve. "Come on! We gotta hurry! Don't you want to see your friend again?"

"Fifty years and you never bothered to learn?" Volkner raised an eyebrow. "What have you been doing all this time then?"

"I was playing with Mr. Ranson," Her answer seemed honest enough. "And I'm not interested in books very much because I can't pick them up. You have to really like something in order to touch it." She tugged on his sleeve a little harder to prove her point. "See?"

There had to be a few personal records in the library. Volkner decided to take a chance. "You're curious to learn more about your past. Am I right?" He looked down at the girl as he said this, looking for her reaction.

Her expression turned serious and she seemed to consider his question for a moment before she nodded her head with vigor. "Of course! I'd be a dummy if I didn't!"

"Then, how about I read a few of those books in there for you since you helped me so much? We might be able to find out more about the life you had before."

The moment her eyes lit up like she'd been given a birthday present, Volkner knew she took the bait.

"Let's go now!" Swift as a ghost, she ran to the library, her feet never once touching the ground.

It took Volkner at least five minutes to browse quickly through the shelves before he reached a section with several photo albums, though only one of them still had legible writing on the side. The moment he managed to make out the faded, flowing script, his breath caught. No…was it a coincidence…?

The album was labeled Hilda.

He slid the medium-sized tome off the shelf, his eyes staring at the cover still in disbelief. So was this the reason why the girl had liked Hilda's name so much, because she had the same one?

"What does the cover say?" The girl floated up until she could see the book from his point of view.

"It's a photo album." He avoided the question, but kept the girl from noticing by immediately flipping the book open.

The moment he saw the first few pictures he thought his assumption had been correct.

A girl that looked very much like the ghost girl smiled and played in all of the black and white photos. It was an album dedicated almost all to her.

Then the girl said something that truly confused him until he flipped to a later page. "Wait! That isn't me…!"

Several pages in, the photos suddenly had another girl in the same dress with the same face playing with the girl from before. If the album wasn't dedicated to this girl and Hilda wasn't her real name, who was she?

"Hilda…" Volkner had been successful. Seeing the photos had triggered something in her memory. "My sister…I had a sister. Yes, that's why the portrait didn't look like me at all. I…"

The girl had her hands on her head now, holding it like it was going to come apart at any moment! She wailed such a shrill wail that Volkner stepped back, his mind picking up danger.

In that exact moment, he heard a scream come from the direction of the sleeping quarters and was simultaneously struck with a deep feeling of anguish, so acute that he flinched from the mental impact.

"Hilda!" He called out. But, before he could move, the girl suddenly rushed past him, faster than he'd ever seen her go.

She was trying to get there before he did!

Volkner dropped the album at his feet and ran after the ghost. His plan had failed.

But the girl's was working!

He chased her to a long hallway of closed doors, four of them. Looking closely, he noticed one near the end of the hallway where the wood was more prominent, more decorated, and he immediately used the iron key on that door's lock.

The key fit and Volkner twisted it so that he heard a grating click. The door was unlocked now, but he hesitated.

His heart was pounding so hard it hurt.

What would he see once he opened the door? How was he going to cope if he saw her just lying on the floor like a tossed doll?

His heart clenched and Volkner realized the full extent of his uncertainty. It had the potential to drive him mad with anticipation.

No more! This game ended now.

Throwing open the door, Volkner entered the room.

Chapter End

A/N: Bam! Commercial Break.

Why don't you just shoot me now? :)

Tune in next for the exciting conclusion of Volkner and Hilda's Chateau Adventure!
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