Chapter 8: Heart of the Beast
"Oh man!" Naomi said. "There it is!"
"Yeah," Rosa said. "Look, there's the rest of the guild right there!" She said, pointing to the rest of the guild at the base of the forest.
"C'mon!" Shin'ichi said, grabbing Naomi and Rosa by the arms. "Let's get down there!" The trio rushed down the side of the mountain, before tripping on a rock and the trio arrived in a pile at the base of the mountain.
"Well, there's the rookie crew!" Loudred said as the three arrived in a pile. "Not exactly the most graceful entrance to the location, now is it?"
"Loudred, please," Chatot said, straightening his monocle. "They are here, so cut the slack."
"Aww..." Loudred groaned as he returned to his spot.
"Now then," Chatot said. "Aside from the slightly late arrival from Team Valor," he said, glancing over to the three Pokémon picking themselves up. "We are here on schedule for the exploration part of our expedition. As you may no doubt see by now, this forest is surrounded by a perpetual fog. However, as the name suggests, Fogbound Lake would be most likely located here within this forest. So! Your objectives are twofold. One, uncover the secrets of Fogbound Lake, and two, find a way to remove this fog."
"Yes sir!" The guild members said in unison.
"The Guildmaster and I shall stay here to monitor things over." Chatot said. "Once you find a point of interest, relay it back to me and the Guildmaster for analysis." He said, looking across the rest of the members. "Now, with no further announcements, you are dismissed!"
As the rest of the guild members filed off into the forest, the trio of Team Valor stayed behind to discuss about their plan for approaching this exploration. "So, I'm open to ideas, what do you guys suggest?"
"I have a feeling we should head for the deepest part of the forest." Rosa said. "If we head for the deepest part of the forest, we might be able to find something to clear up this fog."
"Well, I like that idea..." Naomi said. "What about you Shin'ichi?"
The Riolu didn't answer. He seemed to be spaced out in thought.
"How...why do I feel like this?" The Riolu thought to himself. "This feeling of familiarity... I... I know this place!"
"Hey, listen!" Naomi said, snapping Shin'ichi out of his trance. "Man, you are seriously out of it! You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine..." Shin'ichi said. "It's just... I have this odd feeling that I've been here before..."
"You've been here before?" Rosa asked. "When would a Riolu like you have had time to come down here?"
"Well, that's the thing..." Shin'ichi said, rubbing the back of his head. "Y'see, I'm kind of a human trapped in a Pokémon's body..."
"Say what?!" Rosa said, a shocked look on her face. "That... That's amazing! You're a human?!"
"Well, yeah, but.." Shin'ichi started to speak, but then Naomi stepped in.
"Look, we can discuss this later when we get back to the guild." Naomi said, stepping between the two. "For now, let's just get to work and head into the forest. We may be able to find some answers as to finding the lake, and maybe Shin'ichi's past."
"Since when did you become the leader?" Rosa asked.
"Let's just say a friend gave me some confidence." She said, her eyes rolling to Shin'ichi. "Now let's go." She said, heading for the forest entrance.
"She always like this?" Rosa asked, putting a petalled hand on her hip.
"Eh, not normally." Shin'ichi shrugged. "I guess she got confident."
"Hey, guys!" Naomi called. "I found something!"
"Well, that was quick." Shin'ichi said. "Let's go see what she found."
"What...is this?" Naomi said, looking at the odd red tetrahedron crystal on the ground. "It's some sort of crystal..."
"So, what'd you find?" Shin'ichi said, rushing up to Naomi.
"Looks like some sort of crystal..." Naomi said, picking it up. "Ooh, it's radiating heat!"
"Wait, it's a portable furnace?" Rosa asked, rushing up to Naomi.
"I don't know, but I'll hold onto it." Naomi said. "Who knows, it may come in use later down the road."
"Well, let's go," Shin'ichi said. "This forest ain't explorin' itself."
"Is it me, or is this fog getting thicker?" Rosa said, holding her rose hands out. "I can barely see where we're going!"
"Just stick close to me." Shin'ichi said, his eyes glowing blue. "I think we're reaching the clearing of the forest."
"I hope so.." Naomi said. "I really hope so..."
"Well, looks like we're here..." Shin'ichi said, stopping. "I can hear waterfalls, but I don't know where they're coming from..."
"They're from... somewhere..." Rosa said. "C'mon, let's look around..."
"Hey, hey! Is that the rookies?" A voice said. Naomi's eyes lit up. "Corphish! Is that you?"
"Hey, hey, yeah!" The lobster said, scuttling forward to the group. "Boy am I ever glad I had found you three, hey!"
"Great seeing you two Corphish!" Rosa perkily said. "So, did you find anything?"
"Unfortunately not, hey," He said. "But, I did see something interesting nearby, hey. Just follow me."
Corphish led the three Pokémon over to a large statue. It's age was clearly showing as it's base was tilted into the ground sideways, and chips in the rock statue were clearly showing.
"Wow... Look at this thing!" Naomi said. "This is amazing!"
"Man, you think Chatot would be impressed if we showed him this?" Rosa asked.
"Dunno." Shin'ichi said. "Hey, maybe this thing has something to do with the fog?"
"It could be," Naomi said. "Let's look around..." The three started to look around the base of the statue for anything that could help them lift the fog.
"Hey! Over here!" Rosa said, calling to her fellow teammates. "I found something!"
Shin'ichi and Naomi rushed over to Rosa. "So, what did you find?" Shin'ichi asked.
"Right here," Rosa said, dusting off the side of the statue base. "Looks like some sort of language. I can't read it though..."
"Here, let me see it.." Naomi said, looking at the statue base. "Ah, it's in footprint runes... I can translate this."
"What's it say?" Shin'ichi asked.
"Hold on..." Naomi said, looking at the runes. "Okay... It's a loose translation, but I think I have it. These runes are talking about Fogbound Lake."
"They are?!" Rosa said. "It's gotta be nearby! What's it say?!"
"Hey, relax," Naomi said. "I got this..."
Naomi looked over the runes again. "The way to fortune shall only be revealed by the burning orb of day... reignite the burning life within the earth lord's dead husk... The strong shall be rewarded with masterful riches..."
"Way to fortune?!" Rosa's eyes lit up. "That means the treasure must be close by! What else does it say?!"
"That's all it says," Naomi said, putting a hand to her chin.
"Maybe there's something we're missing, hey." Corphish said. "Isn't there anything else we can do, hey?"
"I don't think so..." Naomi said. "Wait, there is! Shin'ichi!"
"Wait, what about me?" Shin'ichi asked.
"Your visions!" She exclaimed. "Touch the statue! You may be able to see something!"
"Oh... I see, that does sound like a good idea." He said, walking up to the statue. He placed a paw on the statue and took a deep breath.
Silence surrounded the four as Shin'ichi touched the statue. After nothing happened for a minute, Rosa was the first to break the silence.
"Well, anything?" She asked. At that moment, the splitting headache returned before Shin'ichi blacked out. A voice reverberated through his head about placing a Drought Stone into a statue to lift the fog. Then it ended and Shin'ichi reawoke, flat on the ground.
"Hey, you ok?" Naomi said, helping Shin'ichi up.
Shin'ichi nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"So, what did you see?" Rosa asked.
"I didn't see anything," Shin'ichi said. "I only heard everything. Apparently this fog is being sustained by this statue because it's missing a Drought Stone. If it is replaced back into the statue, that should gem ove the fog."
"Drought Stone?" Naomi asked.
"Wait, what about that stone you picked up earlier, Naomi?" Rosa asked. "Could that be it?"
"What, this?" Naomi asked pulling the Drought Stone out of the Treasure Bag. "You think this could be the key to this statue?"
"Hey, could work!" Shin'ichi said. "There's gotta be a slot on this thing somewhere for it."
"What about there?" Rosa said, pointing at the center of the statue's chest.
"That looks like a fitting." Shin'ichi said. "Try shoving it in there."
"Okay..." Naomi said, walking up to the statue. "You think this'll work?"
"It's gotta." Rosa said. "C'mon, put it in."
"Don't rush me!" Naomi huffed, before care fully reaching up and placing the stone into the statue's chest. "Looks like it fits..."
A rumbling occurred as the ground started shaking. The shaking grew more and more violent as the eyes of the statue started glowing red.
"Gaah! Everyone get down!" Rosa said, grabbing the other two and ducking down onto the ground. A bright flash occurred, blinding the four Pokémon...
As the light died down, Team Valor recovered from their 'get down' moment and began to look around.
"Wh-What happened?" Naomi said, getting up.
"Don't know, hey," Corphish said. "But look, hey, the fog's gone, hey!"
"He's right, look." Rosa said. "The fog is gone. Man, the sunlight is harsh!"
Shin'ichi got up and started to look around. The fog had vanished, and it turned out the forest was lush and vibrant. The sunlight was shining down brightly, and large waterfalls were cascading down all around them.
"Guess they'll need to find a new name for this forest, huh?" Rosa said. "'Plain ol' Forest' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue."
"Wait, if there are waterfalls... Where are the cliffs?" Shin'ichi said. He suddenly decided to look up, and what he saw shocked him.
"Guys! Look up!" He said. Naomi and Rosa looked up, and Rosa nearly fell on her back.
"Whoa!" Naomi said. "That's gotta be where it is!"
"Seriously?!" Rosa said. "You think it's up there?"
"Without a doubt!" Naomi replied. "Fogbound Lake... it's gotta be up there!"
What the young Ralts was indicating was a massive sight. Above the team was a massive rock bowl, with waterfalls pouring out from all sides. The large plateu was held up by a thin rock column.
"Hey, hey! This is a massive find!" Corphish said. "I'll head back and alert the Guildmaster!"
"Okay, thanks Corphish!" Rosa said as Corphish scuttled off to the base. "Alright guys, let's get to the lake!"
"Ahem! Going somewhere?" A voice said. The three Pokémon cringed at the voice of the leader, Skuntank, as Team Skull emerged from the nearby bushes.
"You goons again?!" Naomi cried. "Why are you three here?!"
"Woh-ho! Isn't obvious you three?" Koffing gloated. "We're here to claim our treasure!"
"Wh-what?!" Naomi stammered.
"You think you're stopping us?" Rosa said, sharp, blade-like thorns extending from the center of her roses. "I'd like to see you try!"
"Oh, you think you're stopping us?" Skuntank said, chuckling. "Need I remind you of the Noxious Gas Combo?"
Naomi swallowed hard. "Shin'ichi..." She muttered.
"Bring it, gasbag!" Shin'ichi yelled, his fists cloaked in blue aura.
"Oh you asking for it now, Runts!" Skuntank growled, Koffing floating over to him. "How about an extra special dose of our Nox-"
"WAAAIIIIT! COME BACK!" A voice cried as a Perfect Apple bounced into the clearing between the two teams. Soon, tumbling after it was the Guildmaster Wigglytuff, catching up to it and grabbing it before doing a full somersault and landing smack in between the two teams.
"There you are! What have I told you about running off?" Wigglytuff said, polishing the Perfect Apple. "That is the last time I am losing you!"
"Uhh..." Rosa stuttered. "Guildmaster?"
"Huh?" Wigglytuff said, looking at his surroundings. "Oh, friends!" He said looking at Team Valor, before turning to the other team. "And other friends! So, Team Valor, go now, explore the forest."
"What?" Naomi asked. "But Guildmaster, we-"
"Not a problem, not a problem!" Rosa said, grabbing Shin'ichi and Naomi and walking off. "We'll be back shortly!"
"Take care you three!" Wigglytuff said, waving, before turning to Team Skull.
"Guildmaster, wouldn't it be reasonable if we followed with them?" Skuntank asked.
"Oh, no no no, they can handle this by themselves." Wigglytuff said, turning around. "Ooh, I can't wait for their report when they get back!"
Skuntank grew irritated at Wigglytuff's ignorance to them. "Koffing, we're attacking him." He grumbled
"What?!" Koffing said. "Are you crazy?"
"Just do it!" Skuntank said. "Noxious Gas Combo!"
Both Skuntank and Koffing launched the gas attack straight at Wigglytuff...