Pitch black. A young man seemed to be sinking in silence, his feelings only connecting to a fleeting sense of existence. He had the urge to call out to someone, a certain someone, but he could only choke in the seemingly endless void. As hopes seemed to fade into the consuming darkness, a light suddenly sparkled in the distance. His eyes finally opening, as if screaming for the brightness, he reached out, begging for the light before him. A figure was within that light, his heart was beginning to burn, yet a hand reached out to him. Trying to identify this saviour, he pushed forward, but his body felt like ice, halting his movements.
Someone, no, something was pulling him away from that figure in the light. Turning around, panic suddenly pulled at every hair of his being as a massive yellow eye bore into his very soul. His body trembled violently as an enormous blue figure stood before him.
Fear of death stronger than the will to live, the name pounded in his head as he kicked and screamed to escape the beast; but it was no use. Kyogre opened its massive jaws, an endless line of white fangs all pointing towards his defenceless body.
It hurt. The beast had not even touched him; yet it hurt, his chest was about to explode. Why did it hurt so much?
He blinked. It could talk!
Dark brown eyes suddenly bulged with fear, the void was beginning to consume him.
Cole jolted up with a gasp.
A cold sweat coating his bare chest, deep brown eyes trembled with fear as he tried to identify his surroundings. Panting slightly, he could see a bright light not too far from him, quickly noticing that he was in a dark cave. "I-It was just a dream..."
'Damnit...' He winced, realizing his bandaged right arm flicker with that red light again. Cole sneered at the oddity before a soft whimper reached his ears. Glancing back, the movement alone sending jolts of pain down his spine, Cole blinked in confusion at the sight of creamy fur.
"...Ninetales?" Cole asked slightly surprised as the fire fox greeted him by nuzzling against his arm. Cole winced again, earning another whimper from the Pokemon. "I-I'm okay," He smiled slightly as he touched his arm; the light beginning to fade he took a deep breath, his whole body aching.
He then shifted himself up off the Fire Pokemon that he had apparently slept on before a voice suddenly called from the exterior of the cave.
"Ninetales? Is he up yet?"
It was Tori. The female Admin entered silently, hardly making a sound as she skipped on a couple of stones towards Cole. She gave him a small nod of greeting before sitting down next to him, handing the older Admin some fruits and a bottle of water. "Took you long enough!" She sighed with annoyance as Cole silently accepted his morning meal. The early morning cries of Wingulls and Pelipers echoed into the cave from outside as Cole downed the water in a heartbeat before looking back to his fellow Admin.
"Thanks," He replied while drying his mouth from a few escaping droplets of water, "what happened last night?" his memory was still hazy from the night before. Trying to put the pieces together, he remembered that there was a powerful storm when they broke into the Oceanic Museum.
Dark brown eyes widening in realization, he dropped the fruits that Tori had given him as he reached for the belt of his black cargo pants. 'Houndoom!' He cursed himself, searching frantically for the Poke ball.
"We still have it." Tori replied with a laugh at her teammate's actions. Cole looked at her, clearly confused by her words before she pointed to the end of the small cave behind Ninetales. "We didn't fail the mission, but you're lucky that I saved your ass and Houndoom...H-Hey, what are you doing?"
Cole stood up quickly, ignoring Tori's pleas. There, further behind Ninetales, was Houndoom at the end of the cave; sleeping soundly with Cole's backpack and upper clothing. The Magma Admin sighed in relief to himself, finally at ease about his Pokemon's safety before a sharp pain jolted from his leg.
Tori had punched him hard in the thigh as he stifled a cry before dropping back onto the cold rocks with a thud. He clutched at his leg as Tori glared at him.
"Did I not just say that I saved your ass?" She asked, putting extra emphasis on her last words. "Let me finish!" She huffed as Cole shook his leg to fight off the burning sensation.
"I was able to get you back here last night after I handled that man." Cole fought back the stinging tears as he turned to the young woman, "Don't worry about Houndoom, I gave him a Paralyze Heal and some Potions to heal his injuries, so he should be fine." She gave him a confident smile as Cole looked back over to his Pokemon.
"And you..." She continued, catching his attention. "You got beat pretty bad from that Thunder attack too." Pink lips then inadvertently formed into a smile she couldn't suppress, "But luckily, it was just a few scrapes." Cole nodded in thanks, looking down to the bandages around his stomach and arms.
Tori's eyes then suddenly twinkled mischievously, catching the man's attention. "You were stuck in that storm for a very long time; so you were completely soaked when I brought you here..." The young woman, sadly, did not notice the dark look her fellow Admin gave her as she continued.
"I didn't want you to freeze to death so..." Amethyst eyes glinted with coyness, "I kiiind of needed to change you..." She let the young man in front of her think for himself as her words trailed, mouth turning smoothly into a devious grin.
With those suggestive words, any normal man, be either first time meeting or knowing her for years, probably would have been kicking themselves for not being awake to savour such a moment of a beautiful woman taking their own clothes off in a secluded cave. But Cole just gave her a dead-panned look as she horribly failed to suppress her dark giggle while covering her mouth. He didn't know where exactly this girl got such bold characteristics from; he could only shake his head, completely aware of her actions.
"I would have been happier dead." He snapped, damming Tori's continuous flow of laughter to an abrupt halt.
"But I was worried about your safety!" Tori whined as she glared at Cole who got up slowly this time, Ninetales trotting out of the way as he shuffled towards Houndoom's waking form.
"From the look in your eyes, I can tell that safety was not on your mind last night." The older Admin shot back, causing Tori's cheeks to tinge pink at his surprising comeback.
"S-Shut up!" Tori barked, glaring at the man's tanned back as he shook out a now dry white t-shirt from his backpack before lifting it over his head. 'As if I would do anything to you!...Guys would kill to be in your position right now you idiot!' Tori prevented herself from sneaking glances, now unsure of who really was getting the most flustered out of this.
As Cole zipped up his sand-coloured jacket and put on his black running shoes, he remained quiet, his thoughts could only piece together what happened the night before. Opening his black backpack, he sighed as the beautiful treasure sparkled in his eyes.
~Dragon Plate~Dragon Plate~Dragon Plate!~
That horrid, mocking voice rang through his head before he shook it from his thoughts.
"Are you heading back to Meteor Falls now?" He asked, drowning out the unknown man's words as he turned to Tori. His eyes scanned over the beautiful blue plate once more before fastening the bag to his body. He then softly petted Houndoom before returning it to its Poke ball.
"Where else?" She laughed. "I'll call Holland later about the success of the mission." Tori replied as she returned Ninetales, now unsure about whether Cole looked better with or without a shirt.
"There was a man at the museum..." His words cut through her thoughts like a knife. "We need to get rid of him."
"What?" Tori's eyes widened in shock before quickly recomposing herself in an effort to prevent her teammate from noticing. He did notice though as she turned away and walked towards the cave's entrance.
"Is there something about that man I should know about?" Cole asked cautiously, his eyes never leaving the woman's retreating figure.
"I don't know him." Came Tori's reply, answer swift as she scaled up the stones towards the light. "I'll deal with it if anyone tries to get in our way. You just head back to that researcher." She did not look back at him, already aware that his eyes were on her.
"When you figure out more about the Dragon Plates from her, inform Holland immediately." Silky smooth strands of black hair danced softly as Tori left the cave in a heartbeat, leaving Cole alone with his thoughts once again.
Every breath hurting, his tired body moved towards the exit as well. Tori was hiding something, but he did not need to worry about that; Holland would get to her eventually. It was not the woman's secrets that made the Magma Admin cringe with each step, but actually the dream. Why Kyogre.
"Everyone has ten minutes to prepare their things! We'll then be calling rooms down, one by one, for a mandatory inspection!"
The P.A system of Slateport's Pokemon Centre announced firmly. Noah glanced at his new friend, eyeing the young woman nervously as she continued to pace back and forth in the room like a Zigzagoon.
"Uhh...Maybe you should finish...packing your things?" Noah asked cautiously, concerned with watching the researcher's repetitive movements.
Elisa tripped slightly, hearing Noah's voice before turning to the source. She smiled thoughtfully before turning to her grey backpack in an attempt to cram her clothes in from the night before. "...I just hope Cole doesn't walk into the centre." She replied with a sigh, finally folding the blue dress with mixed emotions.
Ever since the break of dawn, the Pokemon Centre had been in a panic as multiple police officers barged into the small building, demanding a search of every Trainer's room. Fiddling with the zipper of her backpack, the reason for the investigation from the police did not really come as a surprise to her. They were interviewing all of the guests about last night's events.
The Ocean Plate had been stolen.
"I wonder what that big-shot did to get so much attention." Noah huffed silently, turning to the door as the patter of feet echoed by their small room.
"If he was able to get the Ocean Plate, why didn't he come back yet?" Elisa asked aloud suddenly, thoughts of the rainstorm had clouded her hopes of the young man's safety. He had been out all night, leaving her and Noah to stay up in the lonely room in wonder of what to do with this unplanned plan B: Cole doesn't come back.
Noah peered at the researcher as she stood up and shuffled to the one window that allowed the early morning rays to shine brightly into the room. His usual exuberance faded as he noticed the few bags under Elisa's hazel eyes. 'She probably stayed up all night...' Noah thought sadly, guilt filling his stomach for falling asleep early.
He had learned from Elisa that she and Cole had only known each other for just about a week now, but the young sailor was beginning to form a hunch that their friendship was a little deeper than mere acquaintances. Noah got up from his bed with a long stretch, blood flowing back to his legs as he walked to the door.
"He's fine!" Noah assured with a smile, trying to lift the sinking room out of despair. "If the police are here then it means that he did a good job!" He grinned a little at his words, "So I bet he's just waiting for them to cle-"
The young sailor's mouth stopped midway as he looked over to Elisa. Her sunken eyes had suddenly brightened, complemented with a relieved smile that molded itself onto her face. Noah stared in slight awe, amazed that his words were actually working on someone.
'I-I helped?' He thought in disbelief before trying to repeat himself but Elisa suddenly pushed open the window and began to wave; dashing his hopes as he realized the change in attitude was not his doing.
"Is he holding a bouquet too?..." Walking over to the now smiling girl, he peered outside.
There, not too far from the Pokemon Centre on the bustling morning walkways of Slateport was Cole; although not to the boy's imagination, he returned the girl's greeting with a blank look. The young man then pointed towards the harbour with his thumb where Noah's boat would hopefully still be.
Understanding the message, Elisa nodded noticeably for Cole to see before he vanished into the crowds of the street. Letting out a breath of relief, she locked the window before turning towards Noah who was giving her a bored look. "W-What?" Elisa asked meekly.
"I told you he'd be fine." Noah replied knowingly. The young woman could only muster a small laugh as Noah rolled his eyes. "Geez, I mean I know he didn't come back last night; but it doesn't mean you have to mope around the room all worried..." He glanced back at her expectantly. As if on cue, the young woman's cheeks tinged a light pink from his words.
"I-I was worried about the Dragon Plate!...That's it!" She argued back weakly, avoiding the young boy's ever-blooming grin, she knew that her answer wasn't entirely true...
'I guess...I was kind of worried about him too...' Yet she did not dare say it.
Even though she had just met the strange young man, he had willingly offered to assist her in a task she believed would not be possible. It was almost childish to her, tracking down a mysterious plate that had been thought to come from Rayquaza's body itself, based on a hunch because of weather phenomenon? Her peers and researchers had shunned her work, scoffing at her to give up on such a ridiculous goal, yet she didn't quit.
Looking back at the window before leaving the small room, Elisa smiled confidently to herself. Her unyielding love for legends had pushed her this far and it was Cole now that was further fuelling her drive onto an unknown path.
A path that now held a Dragon Plate.
Dark brown eyes gazed downwards to tanned skin, warmed from the bright sunlight. His arm had stopped radiating with that strange light, yet he remained cautious during his entire trip to the harbour; although looking normal, he concealed it beneath the folds of his jacket.
"This still has to be the effects of the Red Orb..." Cole concluded as he flexed his arm, muscles tightening with each clench of his fist. "It's been two years, yet it never acted up..." He took a deep breath as he raised his hand to Slateport's lighthouse, "until now..." before clenching his fist again.
The Magma Admin flinched, snapping his arm down, he noticed two figures that finally reached Slateport's Harbour, small beads of sweat running down their faces in the warm heat of the seaside city. Only the rippling of waves slapping against wood and concrete of the docks could be heard in the near empty harbour as the pair finally jumped on board. "About time." He mused, the pair seemed to express their own polar opposite emotions as they dropped to the floor in a tired heap from the endless run from the Pokemon Centre beforehand.
Noah was grinning brightly though, the sweat cooling his body as he dropped his backpack with a sigh before walking over to him and patting Cole on the back. "So...who's the thief now, huh?" He laughed mockingly as Cole gave him an annoyed glare. The young sailor suddenly snapped his hand back, knowing that he was a second away from losing it.
"We actually need the Ocean Plate for this adventure." Cole countered verbally, earning a quiet laugh from the young boy. He then walked over to Elisa who had placed her backpack down with a thud as the ship rocked gently with the clear waters below.
"I got it."
Elisa did not look up though, only assuming the sounds to be Cole's hands reaching into his backpack.
"I couldn't make it back to the cent-" He had already formed a good lie about why he did not come back the previous night, yet those words seemed to slip from his mouth as he suddenly noticed the dark bags under the young woman's eyes. She was not looking at the sparkling beauty of the blue plate...But up to him with a relieved smile.
"I'm glad that your safe..." Elisa breathed quietly, her tired eyes glinting with care in the sun's rays.
The words were simple, a common saying that one would express to another, but they were not so easy to accept for the Magma Admin.
'...Was she actually worried?' Stern dark brown orbs that were usually free of emotion suddenly softened from the thought, unsure of what to do as Elisa finally took hold of the Ocean Plate and traced her fingers over the ancient text, hazel eyes longing to understand its mystery. It had been a very long time since he heard words like that directed towards him. He was a part of Team Magma after all; accustomed to a life of hearing orders and completing them, nothing more.
"I got the plate didn't I? That's all we needed." He quickly replied, turning away.
"That's what we're after?" Noah's surprised voice sounded as the young sailor jumped in front of Cole.
"It's beautiful..." He breathed as he slowly put his hand out, not before looking at Elisa for a sign of approval. Elisa nodded happily, earning a grin from the youngest member as he attempted to trace his hands over the text as well.
"It feels cold, right?" Elisa giggled as Noah's eyes widened in surprise from the cool feeling of ice that radiated from their first Dragon Plate. As Noah continued to poke at their newest treasure, she glanced towards Cole who seemed to be entranced in thought.
She frowned slightly, thoughts rushing back to when they had spent the day with Jonbi; placing the Ocean Plate back into Cole's backpack, to Noah's dismay, the Mossdeep student walked up to her colleague and boldly stood up to him.
Noah could barely suppress himself from breaking into hysterical laughter as Cole suddenly jumped back, eyes wide with shock as Elisa continued to observe him with her arms crossed.
"Did you have another vision?" She asked softly, almost a whisper.
"Yeah, at the museum." Cole replied, not surprised that she would make the connection. He was slightly thankful though as Elisa placed a hand on her chin, instead of pushing further into the depths of his robbery.
"So...The plates are showing you locations?" Elisa finally questioned after some thought, earning an understanding nod from Cole. Noah looked back between the two as they pressed their current findings.
"It was the desert..."
'How...' She took a sudden breath, her assumption was indeed correct about the young man's strange power.
"I was in the desert," His face contorted to confusion, trying to recreate the image before him. "and there was a temple there too..." Cole suddenly cursed under his breath as his memories played with him.
Elisa's hazel eyes narrowed, mind racing for information on the young man's description. "Oh!" She jumped, making a strong fist as she grasped at a possible answer. "The Desert Ruins! That could be the location of the next Dragon Plate!"
Cole's head shot up, her answer bridging the gap between memories of past with the present. "The ruins...Yes, you're right." Cole agreed entirely as he gazed up at the sky, white clouds rolling along, he finally remembered. 'How could I forget that place?' A small smirk broke through; multiple adventures that he would go on with his father rushing back to him.
Hoenn's desert and ruins were wrapped in mystery.
Not many people even dared to venture to the Southern region of Route 111's desert because of the natural dangers it bared to travellers and the many Pokemon that inhabited the lands. But remembering his cocky father, he had taken Cole out there, 'Just for the hell of it!' he remembered the reason, to teach him about the Pokemon. The endless sand mountains, the vast cloudless skies, and yes of course, the unbearable heat that ruthlessly beat down on them from above.
That was the desert he was raised in, the center of Hoenn.
"If it's the desert, then we can head to Mauville City and anchor there before walking the rest of the way on foot." Noah suddenly pitched in, catching Cole and Elisa's attention. "I've gone through the river system that's just under Cycling Road. So we should make it to Mauville in a couple of days if the winds work with us." Noah informed as he moved towards the masts, a relieved look on his face, his ship was still in one piece.
"That's great Noah!" Elisa cheered happily, earning a cheeky grin from the young sailor.
The boat began to move gently with the waves as Noah steered the ship softly out of the harbour, the winds beginning to pick up gently on the faces of the young travellers. Elisa then walked over to her bag that was given from Jonbi as she fished out some food for the others that was luckily still fresh for them to eat.
Cole gazed upon his new companions as they eagerly started their own tasks, preparing for the path ahead to Mauville City. A young student that was fighting for acknowledgement from her peers and a sailor that he barely knew anything about. His eyebrows raised slightly in thought of his experience back at the Oceanic Museum.
If Tori had not been with him when they broke in that night, that man could have caught him and Houndoom and their journey would have made an abrupt turn for the worst.
'I was useless...' His face darkened. Was he not strong enough? Glancing at Noah, he recalled Elisa telling him about an amazing battle he had displayed back in Dewford Town that he wasn't able to witness. But the young Admin shook his head sadly, also remembering the result of the said battle.
'I'm the only one strong enough to get these plates; that will allow Elisa to unlock their secrets. They could have been taken to jail this morning, and we only have one...' Cole then walked over to the young woman, glancing at the new rations of food and water that she had bought before eyeing her; he cleared his throat lightly to get the girl's attention. "Were you able to get rid of the picture of the Ocean Plate before the police could see it?"
Elisa's face flushed red to Cole's surprise before dropping back down to the bags in front of her. "They didn't see any of the pictures..." Her last few words were soft before Cole looked away, reliving the events from the night before.
A few moments of awkward silence hung in the air between the two before Elisa pulled out the black notebook that Jin had given her back at the Oceanic Museum. "They held us back a bit longer when they found this." Elisa started, catching the Trainer's attention. "But when I explained to them that I was a student from Mossdeep, they allowed me to keep it once they didn't find the Ocean Plate on me and checked the cameras to see that I left before the robbery..." Elisa smiled softly, courage to make eye contact slowly coming back. "I'll need to read through this a couple of times. Hopefully Jin's work will help us on our adventure."
'That was smart, using her status as a student...' Cole nodded slightly at the girl's wits before the name of Elisa's new alley rang through his ears. 'Two more plates then...' Shaking off the name with disinterest, he attempted to lean down before he suddenly grimaced; his right arm was tingling. He clutched at the flaring skin through his sleeve, noticing Elisa's eyes on him once again.
"...Yeah. Just sore." Cole avoided the woman's soft expression as he began to help with their supplies.
Elisa attempted to say something, but remained silent. 'He's always so quiet...' She frowned slightly, 'Should I ask him about last night?' She brushed the thought away as Cole did not say another word. Her thoughts then moved on to his words from before, their newest location.
'We'll be near Cole's hometown.' Elisa's thoughts wandered as she glanced at the young man beside her, noticing that his expression had changed, to one of muted sadness.
Eyes dimming with somber thoughts, Cole organized their rations for the road ahead, only to glance at his arm. "We're only working together to get the Dragon Plates..."
Elisa took in a sharp breath, "I-I know..." She replied, turning back to her work. He was only thinking about the plates, why did she think otherwise?
As the girl silently organized their rations, Cole peeked from the corner of his eye, he did not feel anything for her downcast expression as she remained focused on her task. He only had one use for this group after all.
Just like always, the ones around him were too weak. He made a fist, hidden from Elisa's eyes. Weakness was the reason he joined Magma.
His family was weak. He was weak.
Five years ago, the only way to lose that weakness was to join Team Magma; in order to repay a dept to Maxie for saving his family's life, and to become stronger so that they would never need to be saved by someone else again.
He believed that he had grown, yet the battle from last night stung at his side, forcing any confidence he had before to disappear. If he could not defeat a random Trainer, what use would he have when real danger threatened them?
He needed to stay with them, with Magma because something; some indescribable feeling pulled at him, preventing him from believing that he was ready for the future. He knew exactly why he did not leave during that meltdown two years ago.
With Maxie's voice suddenly resurfacing from within his heart, the words surrounded him before snaring him in chains that were entangled with a past he did not attempt to break free from.
I know how it feels to be powerless...