Hunting Immoral Morals [SS]
#1
Hunting Immoral Morals

Instalment One





“This is Interviewer Gabby and my Cameraman Ty with eyewitness news!” an urgent voice rang from the tv as the patrons of a busy, yet calm café in a Pokécenter took notice. “We’re here on route 111, near the famed Desert Ruins, known for its mysterious carvings, numerous fossils, and rumored mythical golem-like Pokémon!”
 
Sand whipped around on the screen as the tv crew panned over from the tall, blue haired Gabby to an old, decrepit pyramid. Harsh winds and tossed grains of sand made Gabby almost shout every word as she came back into frame, holding part of her light jacket up against the storm’s might.
 
“Ty and I came here to investigate rumored Pokémon hunting: crimes in which people obtain Pokémon outside of conventional usage, as like trophies or to harvest their natural resources, usually by means other than the conventional battle-plus-Pokéball with cruel and unusual technology and even sometimes stealing already owned Pokémon!
 
“Earlier, we witnessed a shady character enter the ruins, which has been highly restricted to only special scientists as they remain frail, especially in such volatile conditions the region produces, like these sandstorms,” Gabby continued, taking a quick moment to brush sand away from her face with little success. “Then, only moments ago, we heard an explosion come from inside the ruins!”
 
Gabby moved closer to the entrance of the ruins with Ty holding the camera following close behind. Double pillars, cracked and unstable, held open a large slab to a rectangular opening with only darkness beyond.
 
“This is the only known entrance and exit to these ruins,” Gabby continued, “and with the authorities on their way, we’ve decided to capture the face of anyone who attempts to esca-“
 
BOOM!
 
The camera shook and fell to the ground as Gabby stumbled and disappeared from frame. The small chatter in the café that had continued before ceased, waiters walking around halted, and all the people in this Pokécenter café now gave their full attention to the tv as echoes of the explosion subsided. Rocks had tumbled and the pillars and large slab to the entrance had crumbled and lay in desolation. Murmurs from Gabby and Ty could be heard off screen as a figure formed from the entrance.
 
A wide shouldered man, dressed in a leather trench coat, wondered out from the settling dust. Fiery-red hair was visible under a black do-rag and a dark demeanor weighed on him as he shuffled out of the rubble. Painted rocks could be seen poking out from a bag he carried on his back and a thin, meshed net held what looked like a miniature Claydol on his side.
 
“Stop!” Gabby’s voice came from beside the camera, “Are those- Are those pieces of wall from the ruins? You’re stealing priceless artifacts?! And is that- uh- a Pokémon on your side?!”
 
The man took a big step up with his right leg to lean on as he snorted to clear his nose, callously spitting nearby as he took his time to answer.
 
“What’s it to you, bitch?!” he snarled, voice raspy and short-wicked. Gabby gave a sharp gasp, unanticipating the man’s uncouth and readied response.
 
“Hey buddy!” Ty’s voice called out also out of frame, “you watch yourself!”
 
The strange man turned to face Ty who was standing behind the camera and revealed a malevolent smile. But before he responded his black eyes darted to the camera; a few of those in the café flinched. His smile faded quickly as he asked quietly, “Is that a camera?”
 
But before Gabby or Ty could respond the man yelled out, “Heatmor, Fire Lash!” and a bright red whip of fire came flinging out from the shadows behind the strange man, toward the camera, followed by a scream from Gabby, a crash, and then— static…
 
The screen cut to a man and woman at a desk looking shocked. A brief moment passed before the woman realized they were on air and said, “Well, the- uh, authorities are on their way.”
 
“Yes, yes they are,” the man joined in, “and no doubt we send our thoughts and prayers to our correspondents Gabby and Ty.”
 
“Yes, I hope they’re okay, that was… wow,” the woman paused.
 
“We’ll be taking a short break and keep you all updated when we come back,” the man said with a sharp nod as the camera panned out and a commercial soon started.
 
An older man with white scruff for a beard sat next to an equally older lady. He scoffed slightly and shook his head as he looked nearby to converse with an agreeable person. Next to him stood a fairly ordinary looking man. Tall and lanky, the man was dressed in cargo shorts, a basic tee shirt, and had one foot on a chair as he tied the laces to his roughened boots; a large and stuffed backpack with a tent and bag tied to the top gave clear evidence this man was not local.
 
“Say traveler,” the old man friendly rasped, “wha’s yer take on these Pokésnatchers er munchers, hunters er whatever? You know, in my day we just traveled and captured our own Pokémon, trained ‘em in battles and such. But now we got these maniacs on the loose! Why is it yer generation be going agains’ the grain like such?” The old man gave a lighthearted, yet still pretentious hearty laugh at the end.
 
“Oh Herold,” the older lady whispered, quietly condemning his boisterous nature but silently agreeing with him.
 
The traveler looked up at the tv, then back at the elder couple. He pushed up his thin, round glasses toward his pale blue eyes.
 
“Well,” he began softly, rubbing his shaved head that noticeably had an early receding hairline, “I think there’s always been bad people and it’s unfortunate for sure,” he dropped his hand to fully look at the couple as he continued, “but I think a stagnant middle class yet growing population brought people to try and find new ways to make money while an increasingly wealthier upper class with an ever-growing gap between the two has increased a demand for exotic and rare items thus fueling a lucrative black market and more Pokéhunters to exist, which then breeds competition and them becoming more brazen, like that man destroying the Desert Ruins. But,” he threw his hands in the air, shrugging his shoulders, “I’m just traveling with my Pokémon and hope to become a significant battler someday. So, what do I know, ya know? Hahah…”
 
The couple seemed dazed by the intricate answer they were not expecting. But soon the old man jaunted, “Well Winona would never let such filth come over to our city!” The elder man patted the table with his open hand; pride swelled up in his chest. “She’s differen’ from the rest of yer generation. A good heart on her! She protects us and looks out for us. E’en those who live off in the more wild and weathered parts of route 119!”
 
“And her health tips are just incredible!” the elder woman chimed. The older man waved his hand and gave a hearty “oh bah!” as the old woman continued, “oh yes! She gives out health tid-bits and has a whole corner in the market where she advertises her latest findings and trends! Right now, she’s all about that Fermented Shuckle Juice.”
 
“Pfft,” the old man interrupted, “las’ week t’was Doduo eggs, next week be pickled Frogadier legs, bahaha!”
 
Ignoring him, the older lady continued her adoration, “well I hear it has all the essential vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants other berry juices can’t give you! You know, it’s funny. There are supposedly a bunch of Shuckle just right down the road there in route 119, but I’ve never seen one. And yet, the stores are filling up with Shuckle juice! They must have a farm somewhere,” she reasoned as she finished.
 
“So, which creature ’chya start with?” the older man switched subjects to one where his wife wouldn’t speak so much.
 
The traveler smiled politely and responded, “A Houndour. My father gave him to me.”
 
“Oh, how nice,” the old woman said in a sweet smile.
 
Bing!
 
The traveler took a phone out of his pocket as the old man grumbled again.
 
“See! Youngens! Always on ‘em phones,” he scoffed.
 
“It’s my reminder,” the traveler responded kindly. He glanced at the screen of his phone.
 
R: got te pygmy claydol nd sm xtr loot; bttr b goin r u’ll mss out bud kekek
 
“Sorry, I have to get going,” the traveler said. He put his phone back in his pocket and picked up his belongings; strapping himself into his heavy backpack, he began to leave.
 
“It was nice talking to you two,” he said softly as he smiled at the elderly couple.
 
“Oh- oh,” the older woman hummed, “we didn’t catch your name, sonny.”
 
“John McFlidais,” the traveler answered.
 
“It was nice to meet you John,” the elder lady smiled.
 
“Authorities have reached Gabby and Ty en scene and have reported that our crew’s camera was totally destroyed and have only sustained minor burns and injuries. Questions about the identity and whereabouts of the man and his stolen lot have already sparked heated debates online. Some say the items were from obscure myths of the Pygmy Claydol, an effigy from an ancient culture believed to take a role in the revival of the golem Pokémon Regirock…” the news stations trailed on as John nodded at the couple and left the Pokécenter. 


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John walked along the edge of the treehouse village, passing rope ladders and nearing the edge of the quirky town. A large path opened in between two large trees with a sign posted for those entering the town that read: Foretree City. A signpost ahead indicated the continued route to be number 119 and a vantage point for sightseers.
 
As he continued his trek, the path widened to no longer house the giant trees, but instead a large valley basin breathed in clouds and mist. It stretched miles outward covered in trees and thicket brush. The roar of crashing water deafened louder as John got closer to the edge of a cliff, fenced off and marked with large binoculars as a tourist spot.
 
Flicking in a quarter, John peered through the binoculars and found the enormous waterfall nearby. Gallons of water gushed off the cliff and began a river that undoubtedly carved the valley below. Other, smaller waterfalls inveritably caused raucousness down below, but all that could be seen were the tops of conifer trees and the thick mist in between the branches.
 
John followed the path he assumed wound through the forest and valley and found a small clearing where he could hardly make out the top of a white building.
 
“Weather Institute,” he hushed to himself before a click and the binoculars closed on him. He glanced overhead and began down the path. Thirty feet down or so he looked around him: out of sight from the entrance of the town and before a turn in the path before him, there was no one around. John pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and began to go into the woods, sinking into the brush toward the river’s edge and away from any known person.
 
Trees rustled above in the breeze as the dark and damp jungle sang a cacophony of wild calls and sounds below. The waterfall was still pertinent, as John continued toward the river, but birds and insects sang and jittered as unidentified Pokémon dashed between bushes and branches.
 
A clearing finally appeared near the shore of the river and John finally stopped. He took out two identical Pokéballs and let out the Pokémon within. A small black bodied Pokémon with a golden face and buzzing wings darted from spot to spot with unbridled energy, while another Pokémon of equal size hung low in the air; its bronzed shell seemed hallow with empty and cold air as a white halo gleamed above its head.
 
“Scout, Scar, you know what to do. Report in 5,” John commanded, dropping his polite demeanor. The Ninjask and Shedninja gave sharp nods and took off; Scout zoomed off and began to zip around the trees and Scar faded from visibility and began to coast through bushes and brush.
 
John unloaded his backpack on the clearing above the shore, unwinding his sleeping bag and began to assemble his tent. The major waterfall roared far above; it was in a good distance to remain under its noise-cancelling boom, but far enough away where John didn’t have to yell to be heard by nearby ears.
 
Minutes passed as John set up camp and Scout returned with a righteous zip. He buzzed jovially, indicating he did not find any other people nearby. Scar also appeared and expressed the same with a simple nod.
 
“Good job you two,” John said as he returned them to their Pokéballs. He then took out his phone and dialed a complex number.
 
“Are you in place J?” a voice answered after a few rings.
 
“I am,” John responded.
 
“You agree to all contracts needed of route 119 then?” the voice queried.
 
“I am able to find a Feebas. You can tell the collector to sit easy. Obtaining the Shuckle juice shouldn’t be difficult either, I’m sure Winona will enjoy the batch I gather-“
 
“Don’t say names!” the voice over the phone snapped, “Nothing and no one is confirmed, you know better!”
 
John huffed air through his nostrils. “Not that it’s evident, but yes, nothing and no one is confirmed,” he repeated back.
 
“What about the Seviper venom?” the voice continued, “there’s a group willing to up their pay since H failed in the field.”
 
“I can try my luck with the Seviper venom; I brought all the necessary equipment to lure one. Milking it will just be difficult without killing it, though,” John pondered.
 
“Who cares?” the voice responded, “the buyers are willing to pay 750 dollars per milligram of the stuff. They say they need it by the 30th.”
 
“Coincidentally the same day as the President of Unova comes into port?” John replied.
 
“That is none of our business,” the voice said sternly. “Although…” it continued, “we could sell that information to their secret service for a nice penny.”
 
John huffed disapprovingly, but made sure to pull the phone away enough that the waterfall would mask the sound. “Also,” John added, “I saw a group of Pokémon hunters asking others to be on the lookout for exotic Pokémon to stuff for their lodge over in Kalos. One of those, a Girafarig, are rare, but can be found in this valley. I’ll keep my eye out for one and catch one if I can; let them know for me, will you?”
 
“Sounds peachy,” the voice responded, “just peachy. So how are you going to find a Feebas? You’re not going to actually fish for one, are you?”
 
“No, don’t be ridiculous. There are other ways,” John replied.
 
“R suggested dynamite,” the voice said, adding some suggestion in with his voice.
 
“I know R would’ve used dynamite. He always seems to use dynamite. But that lands him on the news and I’d rather keep my business secret; the buyers don’t always like media attention on these matters you know,” John retorted.
 
Feeling the hidden sting the voice made a sound like he was pursing his lips before he responded, “well, R gets the job done. And let me worry about the buyers. Trust me, there’s no short supply of people who want a Feebas.”
 
A twig snapped nearby, causing both John and the voice to go silent. John kept his ears alert while sitting still for a brief moment before he said, deliberately in the same volume as before, “well, I should get going friend, don’t want to stay on the phone for long. There’s a reason I came out to these woods for some good ol’ camping!”
 
“Oh yea, okay then,” the voice responded, intentionally as loud as he was before too, “we’ll miss ya around the office! Don’t get lost now, hahaha!”
 
“Talk to you later, friend,” John replied after a slight chuckle and hung up his phone. Sorting items out and around the camp site John thought out plans while keeping attentive of his surroundings. Soon, his suspicions were confirmed as he heard a presence approaching through the wood.
 
Remaining unaware he made a fire pit until the stranger had broken through the tree line and made herself known. A woman in jean shorts, a black top with an orange vest, and matching orange hat, gloves, and boots came out of the thicket.
 
“Evening, ranger,” John said with a smile once she approached, “something I can help you with?” John continued to finish his fire pit as the ranger looked around to either inspect or intimidate him.
 
“Good evening trainer. Just making my rounds around the area, making sure everything’s up to code and everyone’s doing well,” the ranger responded. A shadow, gliding effortlessly along the shoreline, made its way over land and soon a small pale bird with long wings and a bright orange beak landed on the Ranger’s shoulder. “Could I have your name and see your camping permit?”
 
“Georgie Porgie,” John lied as he took out a slip of laminated paper from one of his pockets.
 
“Do you kiss the girls and make them cry?”
 
“They’re not my cup of tea,” John replied, “but I do like pudding and pie.”
 
The ranger read his camping and trainers permit:

George P. Duram
Trainer’s Permit good until 6/20/2022
Camping Permit good until 10/20/2019.
 
“Looks like you have a good few months left before you need a new camper’s,” the ranger said as she handed the card back to John.
 
“Squwa!” the Wingull on the ranger’s shoulder cried out.
 
“Yes well,” John began to say, looking oddly at the Wingull, “the office is nice and gives me good vacation time, but I didn’t know when I’d take it, so I just got a permit for the whole summer.”
 
“Squwa!”
 
“And I’m sorry,” John continued, “I don’t think I caught your name.”
 
“Squwa!”
 
“Ranger,”
 
“Ranger Ranger?”
 
“Roger Roger,”
 
“Squwa!”
 
“I- I’m sorry, I’m a little confused,” John said with a nervous laugh.
 
“Shh, Koko,” Ranger calmed her Wingull, “sorry, she gets nervous sometimes around strangers. My parents named me Ranger. My friends call me Ray. So, if it’s easier, you can call me Ranger Ray.”
 
“Okay then Ranger Ray,” John smiled.
 
“Well, I’ll be off,” Ray said as she began moving back toward the tree line form where she came, “stay safe, there are dangerous Pokémon around here and, in the water, too!”
 
“Yup, will do, thanks!” John called out as she disappeared. He kept an eye on her as she climbed up through the thick brush and was soon out of sight. John took out the same two Pokéballs as before and released Scar and Scout low and behind his tent.
 
“Scout, go out in the woods and keep and eye out for Ranger Ranger. Scar, stay with me. Use each other’s connection and let me know when she has finally left our area,” John commanded in a soft voice.
 
The insects nodded, and Scout darted out swiftly into the woods. Scar hovered nearby John as he took out a fishing pole and walked to the shore. He cast a line, without any bait, and sat thinking how his friend from the phone would be roaring laughing seeing him actually fish. 


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A few hours of John reeling in his line and casting it out had passed before Scar gave a ghostly nod. John huffed as he drew his line back in for the last time before saying, “my she was persistent.” He packed up the fishing rod and stood up, stretching his legs and back.
 
“Let Scout know I want him to remain out there for a while, keep on the lookout, and have you buzz if he sees anything,” John said as Scar gave another ethereal nod.
 
John went back to the camp, deposited the rod, grabbed a large sack, a smaller backpack, and took out an Ultra Ball. He walked back down to the shoreline as Scar trailed him, keeping toe. John opened the Ultra Ball and a monstrous, metallic beast materialized on the ground with a heavy “thud”. Sharp, steel horns pointed from its face, and a large gash in the otherwise pristine armor across its left eye gave history to the behemoth. Sand depressed under the weight of the Aggron, yet it could move ably as it wiped around to face John.
 
“Alright Mut, this is the plan,” John began, “I’m going to have you crush larger rocks and boulders by the shore. Any red or yellow we see, we grab. We’re not going to battle or harm any Shuckle we find, but instead,” John held up the large sack so Mut could see, “understand?”
 
The enormous Pokémon growled and arched its back, bringing its mouth forward to gurgle in hunger. John smirked, but erased it quickly as he continued, “yes Mut, you can eat any rock you wish, even if it’s a geode, they’re worth less than the Shuckle we’re trying to find anyway. But under no circumstances can you eat a Shuckle if we find one. Geodudes, Gravellers, have at them. But we’re going to come this shoreline and continue down the river until we’ve found enough. Ready?”
 
John took Mut over to a mossy boulder about twice the size of John himself. Mut crawled on all fours like a ravenous crocodile, gathering speed as he approached the rock until he came upon it, leapt onto his hindlegs, and smash the rock into small pieces. Smashing smaller rocks within mighty steel jaws, Mut devoured most of boulder as John saw no Pokémon escape the debris. John, spotting another boulder nearby, commanded Mut to smash that one as well.
 
As the hours passed, hues of gold and rouge swallowed the valley in what had to be a rare sunset. Route 119 was notorious for it’s almost constant rain. John knew Mut would not take well to a heavy downpour, so they continued through the early hours of the night, destroying every medium to large sized rock and boulder, keeping eyes peeled for the bright red of a Shuckle, but to no avail. As Mut tore into another boulder and nothing came about, John decided to call it off for the night. The moon was pulling the tide on the tide while clouds began to obscure its radiance.
 
“Alright Mut,” John called out, “we’ll pick up tomorrow downstream.” The Aggron finished his feast before John returned him to his Ultra Ball. Turning back, John told Scar to have Scout come back as well, and soon they were back at the campsite. Returning his two bug Pokémon, John settled in for the night.
 
The pitter patter of rain soon broke through John’s consciousness as he began to wake as dawn broke. He rustled in his sleeping bag before forcing himself to sit up. Taking out all six of his Pokéballs, he found Scout and Scar’s; he’d have to scout the area again and planned to do so as he picked up his campsite and began searching for Shuckle downstream. But before he opened their capsules and loud noise from outside jolted the crust out of his eyes.
 
“Squwa!”
 
A black painted Pokéball near John’s others opened and the beam materialized just outside of his tent. A ferocious bark sounded followed by a panicked “squwa!!”. John got out of the tent quickly as a large, horned black dog stood in the rain, agitated and teeth barred.
 
“Heel, Jager!” John called to his Houndoom. He saw a frightened Wingull flutter by with feathers floating behind. Ranger Ray stood nearby as the Wingull scurried over to her outstretched arm.
 
“Morning, Ranger,” John said once he put his glasses on and gave a good few practice blinks, “sorry about Jager, he’s not a morning- uh- dog.”
 
“It’s fine,” Ray responded as she consoled her Wingull, “Koko shouldn’t enter someone’s camp and start squawking like she did. But say,” she turned her attention to John, giving a more queried look as she continued, “I noticed some rubble upstream in what looks like someone smashing boulders. Do you know anything about that?”
 
John, with a hand on Jager’s head, cocked his head and furrowed his thin brows as he responded, “Smashed boulders, huh? No, how odd.”
 
“Hm,” Ray grunted, pursing her lips as he looked away toward the river. “You know, there are rumors of Team Aqua being around here.” Her eyes glanced back to see John’s reaction as she added, “know anything about that?”
 
“Team Aqua?” John said with a laugh, “no, I would have no idea.” He shrugged and continued to rub Jager’s head, who now sat attentive by his side. Rain dotted the river and wetted John and his visibly irritated Houndoom as Ray took a moment before responding.
 
John assessed she was still trying to figure him out, but he remained calm and stoic knowing thus far he had done nothing wrong. It almost escaped him, how fresh the woods smelled in the rain at dawn, how the waterfall seemed somewhat pressured and the rapids a tad louder. The serene atmosphere help qualm any nerves that gave way within John as he waited for Ray to buy into his story, and soon, she became hooked and gave in.
 
“Well, be careful out there George,” Ray warned, “they’re petty thieves and I don’t want them to give anyone trouble. Enjoy your travels!” And with that, she set off again.
 
As Ray left John’s campsite again, he took out Scout and Scar and set them to the same jab as the day before. He packed up the site, returned Jager to his Pokéball, and when Scar gave the signal, unleashed his Aggron and began to hike downstream by the shoreline.
 
Rain misted along the path, making the river swell slightly, but nonetheless when a larger rock came into view on John’s side, Mut would crush it with his might and devour most of the debris in his beartrap like jaws. Picking up hand-sized, round rocks, John would toss the geode to Mut who would swallow them whole and give an endearing growl back to John.


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About a mile and a half downstream, while John finished his jerky and granola lunch, they came upon a large, irregular boulder covered in moss and semisubmerged in the river.
 
“You know the drill, Mut,” John said as they got closer to the boulder. Mut came barreling toward the boulder and tackled it with great force. The boulder, instead of crumbling like most the others did, fell into five larger chunks along splits that seemed to have been made previously. As the pieces fell apart and Mut began comping away at the edges, John saw bright red shells imbedded in the rock.
 
“Mut, halt!” John commanded, as flimsy yellow tubes started to wiggle out of the holes of the shells. “Don’t let them escape!” John cried, but right as he opened his sack and grabbed the first, slimy red shell, his heart skipped—Scar was buzzing.
 
John cursed as the Shuckle became more aware of their eminent situation. Waking, they wiggled and popped out of the shattered rock themselves and scurried out in a panic. John reached and grabbed two more as he asked Scar, “Is it the Ranger?!”
 
Scar shook his head but continued to buzz. “Is it a threat?!” John asked again as he opened the sack for Mut to drop the two he had picked up with his mouth. Some of the Shuckle had escaped into the river and were swept downstream as a couple more found haven in the thickets and brush. Scar nodded to answer John as John swore under his breath again.
 
“Tell Scout to bring it here, we’ll be ready,” John commanded. He ran over and reached the last Shuckle that was wobbling away. Stuffing it inside the sack with the others he placed them on the ground and took out a jar with emerald powder from his backpack. Opening the sack slightly, John sprinkled the powder in carefully, and soon the Shuckle were back asleep.
 
“Mut, go hide and be ready!” John said as he returned the jar to his backpack. He could soon hear the buzzing of Scout and some raucous laughter following. John tied the sack tight and walked over closer to the shore to find Scout leading three thuggish looking people dressed in stripes and tattered black clothes. Each had a do-rag with a blue “A” printed on it.
 
They were harassing Scout with a large stick, swinging it wildly like a baseball bat. Scout, however, zigzagged in between swings whiling slowly creeping toward John’s location. Soon, the largest of the three noticed John and stopped swinging at Scout. He looked as tattered and worn as his clothes, more likely due to a refusal to bath and upkeep hygiene rather than resources or age.
 
“Looky here!” he grunted, capturing the attention of the other two, “some poor and unlucky dude.” They sneered as John stood still.
 
“Come back, Scout,” John called out as his Ninjask zipped quickly back to his side.
 
“Whatch’ya doing here, huh friend?” the grunt asked.
 
“Just passing through,” John replied nonchalantly.
 
“Well,” the grunt scoffed, “we got a toll booth here.” He gestured around himself as the other two laughed and jeered him on.
 
“How much?” John responded. The grunt’s sneer fell, finding John’s candor unwelcoming.
 
“For a bold guy like you, a lot,” the grunt sniped before adding, “how much you got?”
 
But before John could answer, one of the Shuckle in the bag shifted in its slumber. The grunt’s eyes darted to the movement in the bag and John tried to play it off by not giving it any attention and responding with, “Not much really.” But it was too late, the grunt had noticed the bag and his sneer was back.
 
“Tell you what, pal,” the grunt began as he reached into his pocket, “we’ll take whatever’s in that sack off your hands as well as whatever else we feel like, and you can be on your way.” The grunt took his hand back out and held a knife, “sound good?” The other two grunts also pulled out knives and changed their stance to look more menacing.
 
“How about you run, and my Pokémon don’t eat you,” John retorted sharply. The grunts broke into laughter, keeling over before being able to respond.
 
“Those cicadas?!” one of the side grunts said.
 
“They couldn’t hurt—a fly!!” the other grunt snorted, reeling back into laughter.
 
“Stop! Really!! Please!” the main grunt mocked in between laughs. John had had enough, however; he needed to get to the fermentation of the berry juices now that he finally had Shuckle.
 
“BEHEMUT!” John shouted, breaking the laughter of the grunts, “USE ROAR!”
 
Leaping onto scene, the monstrous Aggron burst from the bushes near John and charged toward the three Aqua grunts. With each reach, Mut’s claws grappled the earth propelling it forward in a winding fashion like a mad crocodile. His thick and massive rocky tail swung from side to side violently as Mut charged forward. With horns pointed up and a open maw, thirsting the attack and drooling with ire, Mut bellowed an echoing roar that sounded like a scrapyard churning sheets of metal into shreds.
 
“Jesus Chri-“
 
“Holy Arceu-“
 
“Fuck! Run! Run!!”
 
The three Aqua grunts ran from the shore and back into the woods, hoping the shelter would bide them time or space to escape the pursuing beast.
 
“Halt Behemut!” John called out. Mut came to a complete stop, jaw still open and scared, ghostly eye still fixed on the direction the grunts ran off in. “Heel, Mut,” John said milder than before. Mut slithered back to John and eventually stood up to calm down and soon left his feverish state.
 
“Good job,” John commemorated as he stroked Mut’s snout, “you did great.”
 
John returned Mut and had Scout go back out into the woods after a mean with a good drink. He released Jager to help scout the perimeter and ward off any retaliation the Aqua grunts might try as he finally set to work on the Shuckle.
 
Taking them out of the sack, John handled them carefully. Even though their shells were rocky, covered in various fungi, and had pebbles imbedded within them, they were still difficult to hold onto as a thick layer of slime had given their homes within the boulder a comfortable cushion.
 
John took out large corks meant for mason jars and began to plug up most of the holes in each Shuckle. As he would reach the last hole, he would pour in a healthy cup of fresh river water and a handful of Sitrus berries along with another handful of various rare berries: Maranga, Starf, Wiki, Mago, Liechi, Passho, Yache, Watmel, Aguav, Magost, etc. John then took a stick and slightly jabbed at the berries and Shuckle to both crush the berries as well as stimulate the Shuckle to wake.
 
After each Shuckle had woken and the berries were somewhat crushed, John corked the last hole and placed the shell back inside the sack. It wasn’t kind to the Shuckle, and John didn’t enjoy the job, but he knew of other ways to extract and ferment the berry juices that involved wringing of the Shuckle themselves, breaking their shells, or drying them out completely.
 
It was more tedious this way, but without a way to farm Shuckle, as they needed to have many large boulders by bodies of water, this was how it was done for now. John felt his was the most humane way to collect fermented berry juice made by the Shuckle, yet he kept questions about if he should be doing it at all away by the simple thought that other Pokéhunters would be blowing the Shuckle up with dynamite instead.
 
Rain continued to drizzle throughout the day, enough for John to pull out a hooded jacket and zip it up. After all the Shuckle had been corked and the sack tied, John dug a hole off one of the banks. He buried the sack of Shuckle and had Mut come back out.
 
“I have to leave to gather a few other things. I need you to stay here and guard these Shuckle, okay Mut?” John asked. Mut gave an understanding gurgle and coil himself on top of the pile. John made sure there was sheltering to cover Mut and the buried Shuckle so passersby couldn’t see, as well as keeping the rain off of Mut.
 
“I’ll likely be back in a few days’ time, alright?” John said before he left to walk along the riverbank downstream again. But before he could get far from Mut and the Shuckle, Scar buzzed again.
 
“A threat?” John asked as he stopped. Scar shook his empty carcass. John pondered as he looked around and saw a bridge up ahead in the distance. He walked further, taking the hood off his head to look less suspicious as a figure soon appeared on the bridge.
 
A young boy with an odd, white beanie road on a bike with a large, dark blue bird gliding next to him. He was crossing the bridge and didn’t seem to notice John walking along the shoreline only a few dozen feet away. John looked ahead across the bridge to where the trees covered the path again and continued along the hill. Just beginning to peak through the top layer of trees, John spotted a large copper building with blue panels and glass that could be no other than the Weather Institute.
 
“Perfect,” John said aloud as he began to trek up the side of his bank to toward the bridge himself.
 
John had Scout return and had all his Pokémon, barring Mut, rest in their respective Pokéballs as he began crossing the wooden bridge, holding onto the straps of his backpack and looking innocently eager.


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He entered the famed institute and walked into a well air-conditioned building, laden with glass tables and modern art across the walls. Looking around him, he found the foyer sleek and oddly without any security.
 
“Welcome to the Weather Institute!” a woman in professional clothes and hair pulled in a tight bun greeted John. “There seems to be a disturbance on the second level, but I’m a professional; I’m not easily rattled.”
 
“Oh,” John responded, “well, is it okay if I take a tour? I’ve always found weather interesting and have been looking forward to traveling here for some time!”
 
“Of course!” the receptionist replied. “My name is Luna and I’ll be your tour guide. Again, I don’t think it possible to go to our second floor at the moment, but there’s plenty to see here on our main floor.”
 
“That’d be just fine, I think,” John complied. He followed Luna as she left her front desk and began to escort him through the main area.
 
There were trinkets and balloons all held together in displays along the first floor. Luna explained what each one was and how they played intimate roles in studying the local weather and its patterns. John asked about the paintings along the wall which consisted of waterfalls and mist and a curious cirrus cloud with a face that looked more Pokémon than weather anomaly.
 
“I heard you guys had aquariums here, is that true?” John asked.
 
“Yes, just along our back wall here we incorporated local fish from the river, an ambiance and partial ode to what makes the weather in route 119 so wet!” Luna explained as she took John to a long aquarium that stretched the length of the entire back end of the corridor.
 
Water gilded the sides of the aquarium about two-thirds up the wall, giving the two observers an eye level view of the water Pokémon within. Carvanha swam in schools as the occasional Barboach wiggled by. Massive Whiscash hung near the muddy bottom as Magikarp floated in and out of mangrove branches. It was a truly impressive aquarium that mimicked the conditions outside. John scanned the aquarium as Luna hummed along in the background with her explanation of each Pokémon.
 
BANG!
 
John and Luna turned toward the front entrance as something large had just hit it.
 
BOOM!
 
Something large and multilayered had just crashed on the second floor. John knew his time was wearing. He decided to ignore the obstructions momentarily as Luna looked more and more nervous.
 
“Say, don’t you guys have a Feebas?” John asked inquisitively. Luna turned toward him as she regained her bearings.
 
“Uh yes, it’s over here,” she replied as she pointed over to a tube of glass filled with water nearby. “We keep her separate from the Carvanha as they could potentially swarm and eat her. Why so interested in-”
 
CRASH!!
 
A large, shaggy black dog had smashed through the glass doors of the entrance as Luna screamed. Two large men in stripped shirts and pirate like garb stormed the entrance; one dashed over to the unconscious dog while the other faced outside and commanded, “Goldbat, Poison Fang! Sink those teeth in!”
 
But before anything else could happen, a huge, purple bat came crashing into the foyer of the institute as well, being blasted by a stream of water.
 
“Good job, Marshtomp!” a lighter toned voice rang from outside. The boy with the odd, white beanie came in through the damaged doors followed by the same dark blue bird and now accompanied by a swampy colored large bipedal fish Pokémon.
 
“Quick, does Feebas have a Pokéball?” John asked sharply.
 
“Uh- what?” Luna responded, now clearly shaken from the current events.
 
“A Pokéball? Are you able to return Feebas to a safe place?” John continued.
 
Luna’s eyes widened as she seemed to understand what John was asking about. She gave a quick, “right!” before fumbling with keys and unlocking a compartment next to a plaque that described Feebas. She took out a Lure Ball and asked, “you really think they’re after the Feebas?”

“Squwa!”
 
John looked back to the boy at the entrance and watched with boiling anxiety as Ranger Ray came hopping over the wrecked doors.
 
“No,” John responded to Luna as he grabbed for a Heavy Ball in his pocket, “I am.”
 
“George?-” Ray questioned as John opened his Heavy Ball and released an enormous iron behemoth. As the steel snake materialized, it knocked over Luna who still clutched onto Feebas’ Lure Ball and grabbed the attention of every conscious soul on the main floor.
 
“Call Shelly and ask for help!” one of the Aqua grunts cried out.
 
“But she’s still busy upstairs!” the other replied with a quiver.
 
“Then call for reinforcement!” the grunt snorted as he returned his Mightyena.
 
“Did I hear you right, George?” Ray asked with rage.
 
“You did,” John said, dropping all pretense. He stepped over a smaller portion of his Steelix and grabbed the Lure Ball from Luna, wrenching it out of her grasp violently.
 
“Hey man!” the young boy cried out, “that’s not right!”
 
John stopped momentarily and look over at the two in the doorway. “What’s right and wrong is subjective,” he replied before snapping his fingers. The giant, Steelix whipped his tail and crush the column that held the Feebas.
 
“No!” Luna cried out as the helpless fish began flopping on the ground. John pressed the button on the Lure Ball and returned the Feebas.
 
“This is the rarest fish in our known world,” John explained, “Only found here on route 119.”
 
“So, you’re just going to steal it?!” the boy yelled out.
 
“Yes,” John replied calmly, “it’s the best way to do this.”
 
“You could just capture one naturally!” the boy defended, “that’s what my dad taught me, and he knows Pokémon, he’s a gym leader!”
 
John rolled his eyes before responding, “you know this Feebas is going to a gym leader?” All parties looked taken aback sans John who stood, like a pillar, stoic and grounded. “That’s right. A gym leader is willing to pay a lot of money just for this Feebas here. They won’t care where it’s from or how I got it, they just want the fish. Now you’re right I could go and get it another way. But if I take long, like how I would naturally, the buyer would get impatient and asked for someone else to grab one.
 
“That someone else isn’t going to go about things the same way since the price on this fish is so high. Other hunters would drain the lakes and rivers around here, permanently too if it meant finding one of these,” John held up the Lure Ball for emphasis, “even worse would be a hunter who would use sticks of dynamite and blow the living hell out of the lakes and rivers until they found one of these stunned. Imagine the damage to the environment, or how many other Pokémon and wildlife would perish.
 
“This Feebas was living a quiet life here in an aquarium, and I’m going to take it to Sootopolis where it’ll live a quaint aquarium, but now with an owner who will paint it.”
 
“It’s still wrong, it’s immoral!” the boy argued, “you should just work hard for the things you want in life!”
 
“Oh, I’m working hard,” John retorted, “and you don’t know the meaning of working hard. I could tell from the moment you entered here your dad was a gym leader, simply because of that,” John pointed toward the boy’s Marshtomp as he finished.
 
“My Marshtomp?” the boy asked.
 
“That Pokémon is a rare find and worth a lot of money. No regular joe has one, only people who come from wealthy families or ones with rich connections. You’re spoiled,” John added, “and you don’t even know it. But don’t fret, when I leave, you’ll be faced with a moral conundrum. My Steelix with break the rest of those aquariums and you’ll be forced to either save those water Pokémon, come after me to save this one water Pokémon, or stop whatever Team Aqua is doing upstairs. It’ll be your choice, but which ever you choose you will have to face the fact that you either sacrificed Pokémon or allowed a nefarious plot take place. I hope your morals are laden with asterisks.”
 
“I knew there was something wrong about you!” Ray chimed in, “I thought I was being overly paranoid, but I knew there was just something off!”
 
“Take it easy there,” John cut in, “your parents didn’t name you ‘Detective’.” Ray’s face reddened as she pursed her lips and gave a heavy huff.
 
“We’re not letting you out of here,” Ray finally snapped. “At least Brandon and I,” she added, acknowledging the two Aqua grunts who were still in the room with them.
 
“Oh, I think Mjolnir would think different,” John said, rubbing the massive Steelix. Mjolnir’s black beedy eyes fell onto Ray and Brandon as they stood solidly in the doorway; his face, tattered in scars and dinks, shadowed by lumps and roughened patches was twice as big as either of the two righteous souls staring back.
 
“Do you want to know why I call him Mjolnir?” John asked rhetorically. Ray answered nonetheless by spreading her arms out wide in defiance to block even more of the entrance. “Show them, Mjol,” John said softly.
 
Within a second, Mjolnir’s jaws opened and he thrusted forward, slamming his teeth onto the ground near Ray, Brandon, and their Pokémon. Lightning cracked and jolted out from the giant, iron snake’s teeth, electrifying items and people in proximity. The crash echoed with booms of thunder as John took full advantage of the carnage. He pocketed the Lure Ball in a safe compartment in his backpack, threw a leg over the lower end of Mjolnir and held on as he commanded him to escape.
 
Mjolnir broke through what was left of the entrance and began slithering through the ground toward the wood. John held on tight as they escaped, planning how he would hide in the woods while tracking down a Seviper and a Girafarig as well as how he would escape from this route. He also needed to turn back and recover the Shuckle and—
 
BOOM!!
 
A beam of pure energy blasted the left side of Mjolnir, exploding and causing John to fly off Mjolnir’s back. Mjolnir roared in pain as John landed hard, rolling on the wet ground and coming to a stop yards away from where he had been. Getting up was rough, there was a sharp pain on his left side, but John stood and looked back at the source of the Hyper Beam.
 
Ray stood by the entrance with a large, puffy Dragonite standing next to her, eyes narrowed and fists clenched. Mjolnir, nearby, raised his head and gave a good shake. He was going to be fine, they both were more stunned than anything, but without a word John returned Mjolnir to his Heavy Ball, walked to the edge of a thick bush where the hill began to decline sharply, and turned to look back at Ray one more time.
 
Standing solitarily at the top of the hill, in the broken remains of the entrance to the Weather Institute, she radiated vengeance. John took a moment, possibly in admiration, before turning and running down the forested hill to escape his crimes.


TO BE CONTINUED...


Ready For Grading (Concise is fine!)
Pokémon: Feebas, Shuckle
Ranks: Complex -> Hard (Secret Santa), Hard -> Medium (Story Pass)
Characters: 44,185 (sans dashes)
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Claiming.
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