Pitching camp had been easier with another pair of hands, at least. She went to bed early, without a word. Aidan decided to talk to the team since he really wasn't arriving at a decision himself.
"Eye-dum, what wrong?" The wooper asked, crumbs from the pokefood completely covering his face.
Aidan smiled a little, amused by the sight after every meal. After getting used to the girl, the wooper calmed down some to a pleasant medium after talking for literal hours on hours. "Guys... There are some bad guys in this cave. They're probably dangerous... I think we should be very careful and avoid them. What do you guys think?"
Elliot looked pleased, giving a snug, satisfied smile to the trainer, and Aidan was pretty sure the shellder was really grateful, even if it was a group vote. "I'm going to fight against them." Elliot said with a voice full of resolve.
Wait... That hadn't originally been the plan, had it? Aidan was going to protest, but Fae spoke up next, looking embarrassed of all things.
She shuffled around on her tiny feet, sighing. "I'm... sorry, Master Aidan, but I would like to fight with the stupid shell, if that's alright. He's pretty weak, so he needs some strong backup, which obviously is me, since someone has to help." Elliot murmured under his breathe, and Fae stuck her tongue out at him, who returned the sentiment likewise.
Aidan was happy Fae was showing some rare team spirit- but against the Rockets? He needed to make sure they knew, that this wasn't just some trainer battles, that they were criminals. Maybe then, the cleffa would be discouraged.
Pickles smiled brightly, contrasting the serious topic in almost every way. "Pickles fight too." Aidan's spirit sunk, and although they had done nothing to him that meant harm, he was a little hurt. All the burning, overwhelming curiosity had disappeared like smoke next to the palpable fear of losing his pokemon.
They couldn't understand, could they? They had to know- needed to know the magnitude of the situation. "Guys, I'm not joking here. They're awful- they're probably really bad criminals! This is serious business, and they probably won't play by the rules. This isn't safe." Aidan felt a urgency deep inside the pit of his stomach- he hadn't actually thought they would've said yes, or stood together. On one hand, he was proud of them for the display of unity as a team, but on the other, he could feel the phantom chills of a broken feline in his arms.
Fae scoffed, marching up to her trainer, wearing a mildly offended look. "You dare belittle my strength, Master?" The cleffa flexed her arms, looking a little silly.
Aidan fought the urge to smile at the sight before him, feeling a little cheered up, but still just as worried. "Yes, Fae. We have no plan against them- what if they're stronger than us? What if they do something underhanded? I'm sorry, but a team of a cleffa, shellder, and wooper..." Aidan paused for a minute, looking at said wooper. Nothing. Just a continuous beaming smile. "... wouldn't probably strike fear into them and cause them to leave."
The discussion went on for a while longer in hot debate, but reluctantly, Aidan was convinced to give it a go. If thing seemed dangerous, they promised to listen and get out of the situation. He only hoped that they would try to remember the promise.
The next morning, or whatever time it was, he woke up to the smell of warm oatmeal. Slowly sitting up, he enjoyed the damp, cold atmosphere of the cave from his warm sleeping bag, groggily watching Fae and Elliot trying to cook and somewhat succeeding.
"Wh... why are you guys cooking?" Aidan managed to croak, sloping forward. He looked around- relieved Pickles was snoozing in his ball, and the mysterious chick was gone. His supplies were untouched... and a eye-catching stone sat where she had been occupying.
"To celebrate that the leech has vacated, Master!" Fae cheerily responded, wearing a little apron that Aidan originally bought as a joke while working at the maid cafe- strangely enough, Fae loved the cutesy, frilly thing. Aidan didn't think she'd like it, for some reason, but it made a adorable scene that made him smile.
He sighed with good humor. “Don’t say that, Fae.”
Elliot was stirring with his tongue, his appendage much more suited to the task than Fae's stubby little arms. "We thought it'd be nice to spice it up a bit and do something for you... and a thank you, I guess. I'm grateful f-"
Aidan sleepily pet the shellder, smiling. Although the two were bickering, they were working together. It had been very slow progress, but they seemed to get along now. Of course, it probably helped that being trapped in a cave wasn't really a good setting for stuff like arguments. The ambience of Mount. Moon seemed to humble and quiet even characters like Fae a little bit.
The breakfast was nice. Pickles talked even while eating and it was a bit of a miracle the little guy was breathing between his words, but it was a calm setting nonetheless. The oatmeal was extraordinarily bland, but it was warm, and all the meals tasted meaningless and indistinguishable for a long time previously.
Giving the mon's a little free time before they packed camp, Aidan investigated the mysterious girl's rock and note. It hardly said anything at all- just that she apperciated the tlc, and that the moon stone that she left was a thank you.
Apparently, she really was a geologist.
They packed up camp and made on their way, despite being completely lost. He now felt a sense of urgency at the back of his thoughts, seeing as they only had about 6 days worth of food at best.
It was nerve wracking, fighting the Rocket grunts. They really didn't seem strong, although the majority of the pokemon were in bad shape.
Lash marks. Bloody welts. Torn ears, tails, broken limbs. Depthless eyes that recognized nothing. Aidan tried to fight mainly with Elliot the entire time. He made excuses, like it was for training, or type advantages, Elliot's high defense. He had barely used Fae and didn't dare thinking about bringing out Pickles.
Camping was quiet and dreary until he released Pickles from his confinements, having been in there for 8 plus hours. Aidan started to make dinner while Fae and Elliot were napping, tuckered out from the battling. Pickles watched the trainer, and was curiously quiet for once.
"What's up, Pickles?" He asked, putting the pan on the little travel stove.
The pokemon stared at its feet, wearing a pained expression that didn't belong on such a cheerful wooper. "D... does Eye-dum hate Pickles?"
Aidan then realized how Pickles must've felt, watching the battles from far away. Really, he had hardly battled with Pickles at all during their entire cave adventure. At the start, Pickles hadn't been in a good state of mind, although he seemed to have mellowed out recently.
The trainer rubbed the amphibian's head for a while, smiling. The little guy had always liked this- except Aidan had to be careful not to touch the whiskers, or else the wooper would panic.
"I could never hate Pickles. I'm just... scared. Because those bad guys don't play nice, and Pickles is very little. I actually love Pickles a whole lot. Understand, buddy?" Aidan carefully waited for upset flailing, a reaction. Nothing in relation to 'buddy' still, thankfully.
Pickles' body completely relaxed, sighing in relief. "Pickles relish happy!"
Dinner was quite a bit more chiper, with Pickles chattering away enough for them all, and some good instant ramen that they all shared from the single pot.
They were moving again, hoping to find the exit. Aidan was getting really worried- if they got too lost and couldn't find their way out in time, it'd be disastrous. He didn't even like to imagine the hypothetical situation too much.
Aidan wasn't sure if it was bad luck or that they were nearing the exit more and more, but the concentration of the Rocket grunts was thickening. Past the wall, he could spot a whole six or seven of them within 90 yards.
He was still scared. They were so close in proximity- what if the others were notified and he and his team were ganged up on? The serious, confident look Elliot wore soothed Aidan's fears- even if just a little.
The team had gotten stronger, more cooperative since they entered Mount. Moon. They were more serious in their battles, since the healing items were extremely limited. Aidan took a moment to meditate, to calm his shuddering breath. He was sure this could be like a suicide mission, but what could they do? It was pretty likely the Rockets were coming through the exit. They couldn't wait it out. If it looked bad, they could make a run for it, probably.
They held a team meeting and made a plan, and Aidan could only pray for luck as he caught the attention of a Rocket.
The Rockets of the area were pretty weak- they each had two pokemon max, and they were only rattata and the like. After fighting them each, Fae managed to Sing them to sleep while Elliot paralyzed them with Lick, and restrained their movements while holding them with his tongue. Somehow, the plan worked like a dream.
Aidan tied them up with an Escape Rope and tried to release their pokemon. Key word: tried. Most didn't actually want to leave- they were too scared. Two rattata and a zubat happily left, though.
Aidan took what seemed to be research documents and quickly left- he wanted to get a lot of ground between the team and the Rockets before they woke up.
Luckily, he had found a gps on the person of one of the grunts and managed to make a map out of the mountain.
Two fossils blocked the path out- which was a small path about the width of a person. Aidan looked around, trying to find the owner, and a didn't take long. A scientist-looking man came out of nowhere, a R emblazoned on his dirty lab coat.
"Why hello there, young sir."
Aidan took a step away from the man, feeling Fae and Elliot tense for battle in his arms. "H-hi."
"I take it you already met my comrades?"
The trainer nodded slowly, wishing for some type of weapon to grasp. Even if it was just a branch or a bat, it'd make him feel safer. "I can't really say I care for their methods, although I can't really ignore your presence here. How about a battle to decided? I win, you come with me. No funny business. You win, you take a fossil, and I give you a free pass. Deal?"
Pickles escaped his ball, standing confidently before Aidan.
Aidan jumped a little, not expecting the wooper to escape his confines. "Pickles-"
"Pickles wanna fight too."
Aidan normally would've decided against it, but both Fae and Elliot needed a breather, and Pickles had some real conviction in his voice. Aidan was convinced- they could do this. They had to, really. They didn't have a whole lot of choices otherwise. "Be careful, buddy."
The Rocket scientist sent out a magnimite and seemed to have only three pokemon on his belt- it was an equal fight. Though the battle was extremely tedious and slow, due to ineffectual electric attacks and ineffectual water attacks on both sides. Pickles had maybe his Slam attack at best, which wasn't much against a steel type. The magnemite had the more offensive sonic boom in it's arsenal, but it wasn't nearly as lively or pumped as the wooper. The battle lasted ages, but Pickles eventually won, hugging and kissing each member of the party; it was a habit he had picked up when the Hoennese dramas were a favorite hit for them.
Next, Fae took the stage, uncharacteristically quiet as she hobbled onto the field. No confident promises or challenges were spewing from her mouth.Aidan too felt her mood, and the two already had their eyes preying for their target, waiting for the second pokemon to emerge.
Another magnemite. Strangely enough, the battle was pretty easily despite being the longest one they had fought yet. Between Charms and Sweet Kisses, the infatuation ability, and Sing, they managed to hold a strong upper hand, even with the minimal offense they had to offer.
"You really aren't bad there, young sir. Ever consider lending your power to the Rocket Cooperation? You'd be paid and treated handsomely, for sure."
Aidan glared at the man, his voice taut and low. "I would never."
The man sighed, shrugging. "It was worth a shot. Go, Voltorb."
The third round wasn't long underway until damnable words left the man's mouth. "Voltorb, use Self-Destruct."
Aidan didn't have hardly any time before the cave began to rock, and returned all his pokemon in a panic, wildly grabbing a fossil and thrusting it into his bag. It was one of the only clear thoughts in his head aside from protecting his pokemon, to save at least one fossil from falling into the Rocket's hands.
Aidan honestly didn't think anything else until he registered he was somewhere out of the tunnel, falling down a slope. The roar of Mount. Moon was behind him, loud and raging.