She had been walking for a long time. The moon shone above her, lighting the path of bare trees towards the distant clearing.
And yet, she persisted. She had to leave, and that was the only way.
She steeled her gaze around; dead leaves danced in the black night while creaking sounds echoed all around her, growing louder by the second. The girl ignored them, and kept her focus on the path ahead.
The sounds didn't stop. They grew in intensity and frequency: a broken twig became a snapped branch, a clattering in the treetops drew a loud thump as a tree fell somewhere behind her, quick footsteps grew heavy and loud, and the intense laugh carried on with no end in sight.
A shiver ran down the girl's back; she searched all around, but she was alone in the trees. The laughter mocked her.
She bared her teeth and reached for her belt, only to feel nothing. She paled and looked at it; all her Poké Balls were gone.
As the realization dawned upon her, she felt something brush across her shoulder; she snapped to attention and turned around. Nothing was there.
She placed a hand over her heart, feeling it race unbridled while catching her breath. The concert of steps and laughs continued as a high wind rose and blew through the forest.
Shielding her face, she ran onward, towards the clearing. The moon was setting, and the light left with it.
Everything became darker, and she widened her eyes, feeling the air escape her lungs. She tried to catch her breath, only for something to crawl over her back.
She snapped to attention and turned around. Nothing was there. And yet, the laughter came back.
She tried to step back only to find her foot caught in a grip. She pulled and twisted but she couldn't shake free. But she had to reach the clearing; she was so close to safety. So she tugged herself forward, one staggering step at a time, dragging the restraints along with her.
That's why she paled, when she saw the clearing far more distant than it ever had been. The forest laughed at her, from everywhere and nowhere at once, and never stopped.
She tried to cover her ears and curl up on the ground, trying to roll away or quell the noise. Instead, she felt the creeping shadow engulf her, leaving no escape.
And then, she could do nothing but scream.
"Agatha! Wake up!"
The loud call and the strong shake was enough to snap Agatha out of her sleep.
Suddenly, Agatha rose to a sitting position, eyes wide and sweat pouring down her face. She placed a hand over her temple and one over her still racing heart, then scanned the area around her.
It was the same forest of sparse woods she went to sleep in, and around her was the same camping equipment she placed that night. It was all normal, with no creeping darkness to be found.
She took a deep breath, and glanced at her side. A young boy with dusty blond hair and wearing a simple striped shirt was giving her a concerned stare.
Agatha tilted her head as the pain subsided, rubbing her blonde hair. "Tony?"
"Thank goodness you are awake." Tony sighed in relief, falling back on his sleeping bag with a thump and a pout. "You shouldn't let me worry so much, you know."
Agatha chuckled a bit, only to turn serious and fold her arms. "So, what was the issue?"
"You seemed like you were having a nightmare." Tony eyed the ground with a grimace. "You rolled around but never woke up."
Agatha frowned as well, and rose back on her feet. She knew those symptoms well enough to be aware of what was to blame.
"Never woke up, huh." She grabbed a Poké Ball from her bag, twisted the cap open, and set it aside. "Ekans, come."
The ball split, and the small Poison-type slithered her way towards the trainer. Agatha gave her a smile, then stood up and turned around, rubbing her chin in thought.
After some time spent contemplating her surroundings, she grinned and pointed at her left. "Mud Bomb."
Ekans squinted her eyes and fired a lump of mud at a nearby tree; a black sphere jumped out of the way, its wide eyes growing even wider as a result before fixating on Agatha, scowling.
Agatha clenched her fists and felt her body tense up as she stared back at the Gastly, but she swiftly pointed towards it. "Bite!"
Ekans leaped towards the Gastly, fangs on the ready. She sunk into its body, and the Gastly dispersed in pain. The Ghost-type gave up quickly as the Ekans fell groundward, wearing a grimace and wincing in pain. It gave Agatha and Tony one last glare before retreating into the forest.
Ekans snorted and snaked back towards her trainer, and Agatha grinned and gave her a gentle pet on the head. At her side, Tony beamed and pumped his fists.
"Yes! Awesome as always, sis! How did you know a Gastly was there?" he asked, eyes brimming with curiosity.
"A nightmare that never ends is a telltale sign of a Ghost-type using Dream Eater on you." Agatha lost her grin, her expression turning solemn. "I've dealt with enough of those to recognize the patterns."
Tony quirked an eyebrow, glancing at the forest. "And you still haven't caught any? They don't seem hard to fight."
"I will never own a Ghost-type, and you should know why." Agatha glared at her brother, before she started gathering her stuff inside her backpack. "Let's go, the earlier we leave this forest, the better."
Tony tried to protest, but another glare was enough to silence the boy. He grumbled and started preparing his own backpack, scowling towards his sister.
"You are such a killjoy, you know?" Tony muttered while stashing things away.
"Well, sorry if I'd like us to leave this forest alive." Agatha scoffed, putting her backpack on as she grinned at him. "Would you like to stay and give company to the Gastly and Misdreavus? I've heard they find the dreams of little kids delicious..."
Tony paled, but tried to feign confidence. "Oh, come on! Don't try to scare me!"
"I'm just stating the truth, won't you believe your older sister?"
Agatha laughed again as her little brother pouted once more and turned the other way. He was an annoying little troublemaker, sure, but it was nice to have a travelling companion to spend time with on the road and to split guard duty along.
Her gaze shifted back to the tall, spindly trees with little undergrowth surrounding them all over, and a shiver ran down her spine.
Those were the Drowning Woods, one of the most infamous locations of the Johto-Kanto border. It rested in the shadow of Mt. Silver, and was widely known as the place where dreams went to die.
No one knew the specifics of what went on in that forest, but it was known to be patrolled regularly by the members of the Elite Four, and several trainers on the route towards the Silver Conference or out were reported missing while traversing it. Rumors about high Ghost-type activity were also tossed around, but no one had spent enough time in the forest to confirm them. It was a handy shortcut, but one only the bravest tended to take.
Agatha shook her head and clenched her fists, keeping an eye on Tony. Even with its infamous reputation, it was the quickest way to the next town, and she couldn't afford to waste time getting lost on the safer path.
She focused on her brother again. Now that they were alone, she couldn't afford to grow complacent of her skills. She needed to improve, and Blackthorn City's Gym seemed like the best challenge she could look for.
She shook her head and looked ahead again, ignoring the creeping sensation of being watched that had lingered until then.
Drowning Woods was proving to be a rather fitting name; The forest only grew denser with trees the more they walked through it, giving one the impression of actually drowning in a sea of trees. There were so many that sun rays failed to pass through the leaves, cloaking the path in shadow.
Eeriness aside, that only gave Agatha more reason to be careful. She measured every step she took while holding Tony's hand tight, while around her Ekans and Zubat slithered and flew freely, circling the path ahead and the trees and bushes on the side. Once their patrol was complete, they returned to their trainer and relayed their findings.
They both gave her a nod, and Agatha replied with a pat on their heads. "Thanks, keep your guard up."
The Pokémon nodded again and returned to their duties. At Agatha's side, Tony observed awestruck at their movements.
"Pokémon are so cool." He beamed with confidence. "I can't wait to get my own!"
Agatha frowned and clenched her fists, then looked over her brother. "A squirt like you? No way. You are too young and too rash for that."
"You say that now, but just wait! You will see me among the Elite Four one day!" Tony puffed his chest and dramatically pointed skyward.
Agatha didn't even try to hide her chuckles. "Yeah, when hell freezes over."
She continued to laugh louder, all while Tony blinked at her. He scowled as she kept going.
"Very funny, Agatha." Tony grumbled and turned the other way as his sister didn't stop.
Agatha's laugh finally subsided a minute or so later, and her expression shifted from amusement to concern as Tony held a firm grip of her hand while still facing the other way.
She sighed. Maybe she went overboard.
"The Elite Four are the best trainers in their region, and they have impossibly high standards to mantain their ranks," she explained calmly with a raised finger. "Not even I'd make it there, for the record."
It was Tony's turn to scoff. "Sure, sure. Don't pretend to be modest now."
Agatha's eyes went wide, then she smiled sheepishly.
"Busted." She then passed her free hand over Tony's hair with affection. "But seriously, you are too young now. You will have your time to become an awesome trainer in the future, but that time isn't now."
Tony didn't respond, instead he glanced at the trees around them, and in particular a row that was wide enough to let someone pass through.
She then realized what he was planning, and gave him a blunt stare. "You try to run that way, and I sic Ekans on you."
Tony shuddered, and Agatha laughed again. Tony would've probably unleashed a snappy retort if something didn't catch his attention and made him watch ahead.
Agatha quirked an eyebrow his way. "What's wrong?"
"There's someone there." Tony pointed further ahead.
Agatha looked that way, noticing a boy about her age, crouched and sketching some Butterfree standing on a tree branch on his notebook. He was completely absorbed in his task, and didn't appear to have noticed them yet.
She kept gazing at the boy, and then she smirked; even if she couldn't see his face, that stupid bowl of brown hair and those baggy pants and shirt could only belong to that Pallet Town idiot.
She instructed Tony to keep quiet, and slowly stalked towards the boy. He drew lines on the page, unaware of the danger coming his way.
Agatha finally arrived just a few steps from him, and barely suppressed a chuckle. She looked at him again, and took a deep breath.
And then, she grabbed his shoulders and gave him a mighty shake. "Boo!"
"Ah!" The boy widened his eyes and jumped on his feet, only to trip and fall on the ground, his sketchbook flying a few feet away.
Agatha and Tony both laughed loudly as the boy rose back up and turned their way, a hand over his heart.
Realizing who they were he scowled, then glanced at the now Butterfree-less branch with a groan. "Thanks for ruining my picture, Agatha."
"You are welcome, Sammy." Agatha rose back up, letting out her last chuckles.
The boy rolled his eyes, dusting off his shirt. "How many times do I have to tell you? It's Sam. Sam Oak."
"Sure, Sammy." Agatha grinned and folded her arms, while Ekans and Zubat caught up to them. "You should thank me, if you waste all your time drawing things, you will never become a better trainer."
"Pokémon watching allows me to study them slowly and try to understand more of them." Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, and exhaled.
Agatha gave him the same amount of attention as the other thirteen times he explained it, yawning and glancing over the notebook.
"Very interesting," she muttered. And then, she noticed just how yellow and consumed every page was.
She tilted her head and showed it to Sam. "What did you even do to this thing? It looks super old now."
"It's way too complicated to explain." Sam groaned and snapped his works out of Agatha's hands, and faced the way out of the Woods. "So, are you going to Blackthorn City too?"
"Yeah, I'm going to challenge the Gym there."
Sam gave her a blank stare. He glanced at the path again, then sent Agatha a quizzical look. "Already? That's not really reccomended for beginners. Javelin Wataru is in the military for a reason."
"One doesn't become strong by taking the easy path. Why are you going to Blackthorn City?"
Sam just shrugged. "It's the closest place from here."
"Boooring." Agatha mock yawned at him, then gave him a toothy grin. "No wonder you can't defeat me, with a drive like that."
That was all she needed to say to make Sammy frown and jump on his feet all flustered. Just as expected.
"You take that back! I've improved a lot from our battle at the Tohjo Falls!" Sam shouted, pointing her way.
Agatha laughed once more, but quickly calmed down.
"Improved, you say?" She grabbed Ekans' Poké Ball, tossing it up and down. "There's only one way to check it."
Sam quirked an eyebrow, and then sighed. "If you wanted to battle, you could've just asked."
"That'd be taking the easy path." She glanced at her brother. "Tony, you're on."
With a nod, Tony ran between the two and raised his arms like a trained referee. At the same time, Ekans reached her place and hissed against Sam.
"Your starter, huh." Sam studied Agatha's Pokémon before grabbing a Poké Ball of his own. "Well then. Charmeleon, time to fight!"
Sam twisted the cap and set the Ball down, and after a few seconds Sam's starter emerged, firing a Flamethrower skyward.
Agatha smirked. That was the fifth time she faced Sammy's Charmeleon in battle, and likely the fifth victory. She knew exactly how to deal with him.
Meanwhile, Tony smiled and raised both arms. "The battle between Samuel Oak of Pallet Town and Agatha Grimm of Viridian City is about to begin! It will be a one on one match, and will continue until one Pokémon is down or a trainer forfeits. You can go!"
Agatha and Sam traded another glance, and their Pokémon did likewise. And then, Sam pointed ahead.
"Let's make it quick! Charmeleon, Headbutt!"
The Fire-type nodded, lowered his head and rushed onward.
"Ekans, Double Team."
Charmeleon grinded to a halt as several copies of Ekans surrounded him, searching for the real one.
Sam frowned. "Flamethrower all around you!"
His Pokémon opened his mouth and spun around, the blazing tongue of fire making short work of each fake Ekans. Sam smiled, only to realize that the snake Pokémon was nowhere to be found.
"Huh?" He and Charmeleon turned around, seeing no trace of Agatha's Pokémon.
As their fruitless search went on, Agatha folded her arms. "Mud Bomb!"
Suddenly, mud was flung from a tree, hitting Charmeleon straight in the eyes; the Pokémon flailed around as he tried to get it off, while Ekans landed from the tree with grace.
Sam went wide-eyed, then focused and clenched his fists. "Flamethrower!"
Eyes squinted, Charmander breathed the firestream towards Ekans. He missed her completely, and Agatha chuckled.
"Tsk tsk tsk. Did you really think that would work now?" Agatha snapped her fingers. "Toxic!"
Ekans inhaled, then let out poisonous smog right towards Charmeleon.
Sam paled. "Dodge that!"
Charmeleon ducked away, only to fall straight into the smog cloud, coughing and thrashing around as his skin took a purple tint. Sam paled, while Agatha looked amused.
"The match is already over." She turned to Ekans. "You know the drill. Keep up the Mud Bombs."
The Poison-type nodded, and readied the mud.
Agatha smirked as she watched the battle unfold exactly like she wanted it to: with Charmeleon's sight incapacitated and several Double Teams up, she kept tossing Mud Bombs to further reduce his accuracy, all while Toxic slowly whittled at his health. Charmeleon could do nothing but goofily twirl around as Ekans kept her distance.
It was a strategy she had been preparing for some time to deal with Javelin and other trainers: aside from Steel-types and Poison-types, it basically offered a free win against every opponent she could face. She could've defeated Sammy easily now, but there was no harm in testing the strategy before they arrived in Blackthorn and iron out any flaws.
As the routine continued unperturbed, Agatha only grew cockier. She looked back at Sammy, already savoring his defeated look.
And then she saw Sam giving her a confident grin.
Agatha blinked, then quirked an eyebrow. "What's so funny? You are losing here."
"That's what you think. We will end this battle in one move." Sam's grin widened, holding his finger up.
Agatha stared at him briefly, before laughing him off. "Hah, nice bluff."
Sam's gaze remained focused, while Charmeleon continued twirling with no rhyme or reason.
Sweat poured down Agatha's face, but she quickly scowled and pointed ahead. "Ekans, use some more Double Team, then Mud Bomb again!"
Ekans' copies immediately surrounded Charmeleon, and all of them charged mud for an attack at once. Agatha sighed in relief; no way he had any trump cards now.
Unortunately for her, Sam did.
"Charmeleon, now! Aerial Ace!" Sam shouted with a grin.
Agatha froze as Charmaleon rushed ahead, claw shining and growing five times larger. He raised his arm and approached one of the Ekans. Both Agatha and Ekans stared at them, as Charmeleon grinned.
A swift slash later, Ekans screamed and flew away. She fell on the ground and rolled over to Agatha's feet, completely unconscious.
Both Agatha and Tony observed Ekans' body without words. Tony then remembered his duty, and raised an arm all flustered. "Uhm, Ekans is unable to fight any longer. The winner is Samuel Oak and his Charmeleon."
Agatha stood still, staring at her Ekans in shock. She lost, against the nerd from Pallet Town. The nerd she always kicked five ways to Sunday in every battle they had until then.
While she continued to dwell on what happened, Sam grabbed some healing items and started applying them on his Pokémon, smiling and rubbing his back.
"Great job, pal. Now take a rest." Sam recalled his friend, then turned to Agatha, offering a Revive and a few Potions. "Here, my treat."
Agatha observed the items for a good few seconds before snatching them away, grumbling as she healed Ekans. That was way too embarassing.
"How was that even possible?" Agatha muttered, spraying over Ekans' underside.
"We were training to be able to hit opponents no matter what." Sam gave a cocky grin. "I taught Charmeleon how to use Swords Dance without giving it away."
Agatha frowned. Swords Dance? There was absolutely no moment where Charmeleon could've made use of it. And then, she thought back of the battle and all the times Charmeleon twirled and turned around, and she went wide-eyed; those weren't an attempt to look around in spite of the Mud Bomb, they were an easily hidden Swords Dance.
It wasn't just a trick, it was one he was planning specifically for her Ekans. One that worked. One that showed how weak she was.
She bit her lip and glared at Oak. "That's cheating. You always need to yell your commands, that's what every trainer does!"
Sam shrugged. "Defeat stings, right?"
Agatha turned the other way and grabbed her shoulders, biting down a retort; she would never give him the satisfaction to be right now. That said, she still glanced over to Tony for support.
"Well, nothing says you can't do that." Tony rubbed his neck uneasily, only to flash a grin as he turned to Sam and quickly changed topic. "Your Charmeleon was so cool, though! You raised him well!"
Sam smiled proudly. "Thank you."
"I wish I could have one." Tony turned his head down, his grin fading into a frown.
"If you want, I can teach you some tips."
Tony sprung back to attention, staring at Sam. "Really? Awesome!"
Sam chuckled, and started to explain. Agatha turned towards them, the loss still burning as she recalled Ekans.
As she saw Tony listen to Sam, she couldn't help but notice how happy he looked. She knew that he really wanted to be a trainer of course, but just how excited he was to start his own journey, in a world full of danger and completely alone...
She grimaced and sprung up, glaring daggers at them. "Don't you dare, Oak! That's my brother here!"
Sam stopped speaking, turning in confusion alongside Tony. Agatha strode towards them with heavy steps.
He cocked his head to the side. "Uhm, what?"
"You aren't going to take him away!"
"I didn't want to do anything-"
Agatha's glare only intensified as she looked ready to punch Sam. Tony jumped between the two, arms raised.
"Hey, sis, calm down. I was the one who was asking him!"
Agatha growled at him. "You don't have anything to learn from this guy!"
Sam probably gave her a look for that, but Agatha's focus was only on Tony. Her brother stared at her with his mouth agape, only to silently stare at the ground.
"Why do you always have to do this?" Tony perked his head back up, confusion drawn over his face. "Whenever I say I want to be a trainer or that I want to learn about Pokémon, you complain and say I can't do it. What, are you afraid that I'll become better than you?"
Agatha paused, the truth of what she said sinking in. She shook her head. "No, that's not it, that's-"
"Then let me learn! What's the problem with that?"
Tony's stare went from confused to furious. He clenched his fists, more determined than ever.
Agatha's heart sunk. She knew what the problem was: the world was dangerous, and Tony wasn't ready for it yet. Tony, the only person she really had left.
"I..." She gulped, and lost courage. She faced the other way. "Sorry, you can't."
She spied her brother's face, how his determined façade was shattered by disappointment. It was all for his own good, it had to be.
And then the determination returned, and he was the one glaring daggers now.
"So I'm right." He pointed against her. "You don't want me to become a trainer because I'd beat you! You are just jealous!"
Agatha gulped again. "Tony, please-"
"You know what? I will prove you wrong!"
Without warning, Tony rushed ahead and tackled his sister, taking one of her empty Poké Ball along. She paled and could only watch as he did so.
"Tony!" Agatha yelled. Her brother didn't stop, rushing past her until he reached the trees.
"I'll catch one of those stupid Gastly, and I'll become a great trainer! No, I'll be the strongest Ghost-type trainer to have ever lived, right in your face! See you, loser!"
And after blowing a raspberry at his sister, Tony disappeared between the trees. Agatha stood there, frozen in place as she realized what happened.
Her brother was now alone in the most dangerous forest of Kanto and Johto, armed only with one Poké Ball. A shiver ran down her spine, and she clenched her fists tight.
She heard a few steps, and turned to see Sam stride towards her, a worried look on his face.
She snapped towards him, teeth bared. "This is all your fault. Now you are gonna help me find my stupid brother! Now!"
Sam sent her a shocked expression, but before he could say anything, Agatha's glare intensified as she grabbed his arm and dragged him along.
"You could've asked, you know!" Sam grumbled, only to turn serious right after. "But you're right, we need to catch up to him."
And thus, Agatha and Sam rushed towards the depths of the Drowning Woods, following on Tony's trail. Agatha focused ahead, fists clenched.
Tony was all she had left, and she wouldn't lose him too.
The deeper Agatha and Sam explored the Drowning Woods, the less light trickled through the dense amount of leaves above. Aside from them, no one else was around, and their steps echoed on the ground and occasional puddles of mud. Their breaths were heavy, any sound bringing them to full alert. It was all uncannily still, but they couldn't shake the feeling that something was there for them.
Agatha pursed her lips and bared her teeth. She didn't know if the absence of any Pokémon was a blessing or a curse, but one thing she could say for sure: she really didn't like that forest's atmosphere, and every second spent there made her want to leave all the more.
She massaged her forehead, grumbling to herself. The moment they found Tony, he was going to get a very deserved punishment for all that mess.
The girl sighed and turned at her left, glaring towards Sam on the side. "So? Have you found Tony yet?"
"No luck here." He sighed, striding back towards Agatha.
She didn't even bother hiding her sneer. "Again? Are you even trying to look for him?"
Sam groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "This is one of the largest forests of both Kanto and Johto, finding Tony was never going be easy."
"All excuses." Agatha scoffed, then shook her head while grumbling. "Whatever. Let's move on."
She scampered away and started looking all around, fists clenched and eyebrows furrowed. Before she could make much progress, however, she felt her arm pulled back.
Agatha hissed and turned around to find Sam holding her hand tight. She quickly broke free, and glared daggers at him. "What's that for? We don't have time to waste."
"That's true, but we won't get anywhere if you are so tensed up." Sam folded his arms, matching her stare.
Agatha flinched, only to shake her head again. "The devil are you saying? I'm fine."
"Your face and body say otherwise." Agatha grimaced and tried to adjust her posture at that. Sam just sighed, and gave a shrug. "I get it, you are worried. My cousin from Alola always gets in trouble when we are together, so I get how you feel-"
"You've no idea how I feel!"
Sam paused, eyes wide towards Agatha. She kept glaring at him, fire in her gaze and fists clenched.
Silence fell again between the two, Agatha's words echoing through the woods. As she caught her breath, Agatha dwelled on her words. Sammy was right, being angry wouldn't lead to anything productive, but he still couldn't understand. He shouldn't even dare to try.
She gazed towards the path, feigning nonchalance. "You're the nerd here. Where do you think he went?"
"Going by our surroundings, I'd say there." Sam pointed at their left, where moved and snapped branches stood.
Agatha nodded and tried to rush that way without even a word.
She stopped and turned around, raising an eyebrow. When she saw Oak smiling at her, it raised further.
He placed a hand over his chest and gave Agatha a solemn look. "We'll find your brother, you can be sure of it."
Normally, Agatha would've laughed at that, mocked him for being sappy, and probably called him an idiot. Instead, she had to fight back the urge to smile and hastily faced away with an exaggerated scowl.
"Umph, like I'd leave without him! Who are you taking me for?" She stomped away, trying to place as much distance as possible between them. Sam laughed it off, and Agatha was glad he couldn't see her red cheeks now.
Before the awkwardness could continue, however, a heavy noise came. Sam and Agatha faced the other way, finding nothing but some rustling bushes.
"Tony? Is that you?" Agatha whispered, gulping right away.
Sam frowned and kept a close eye on the bushes. Both him and Agatha palmed their Poké Balls instinctively.
No Pokémon left the bushes. However, a purple haze started spreading towards them. Sam and Agatha twisted their caps and set the Ball down, and Zubat and Charmeleon emerged. Agatha and Sam then pointed at once towards the oncoming haze.
"Zubat, Wing Attack that stuff!"
"Burn it away, Charmeleon!"
Both Pokémon did their best, beating their wings and firing flames to disperse the gas, only for it to push on in spite of that. Agatha and Sam froze while the mist reached their Pokémon.
Zubat and Charmeleon fell to the ground, coughing and pained and trying to escape from its grasp. Agatha and Sam could only stare, until they snapped back to attention and pointed their Poké Balls again.
Agatha and Sam retired their Pokémon and sprinted the opposite way, as the haze continued on its path. Not even ten steps later, the two trainers were surrounded themselves by the purple mist.
They covered their mouth and noses and pressed onward, but it was for naught; the children fell on their knees, coughing out the foul smog and taking in much more in return.
It wormed its way in their body, filling them with poison. They gasped and thrashed for air, as their senses became dull and their vision blurry. They tried to stand, but they fell down again as everything spun around them.
As unconsciousness neared, only one sentence rung around them.
"The fun has just begun."
And everything went black.
As Agatha reopened her eyes, the space around her was empty and black.
She blinked, but the darkness didn't fade. Confused yet curious, Agatha took a few steps in the nothingness.
She inspected her surroundings, finding only void. Her steps echoed everywhere and nowhere at once. A shiver ran down Agatha's spine, but she strided ahead.
And then, a familiar voice came.
Agatha sprung to attention, eyes wide as she smiled. She turned around, and there he was: Tony, unharmed and staring back at her.
"Tony! You're okay!" Agatha said. She ran back towards him with open arms, only for Tony to raise a hand at her. Agatha skidded to a halt, watching her brother in confusion.
"Tony? What's wrong?"
"Go away. I'm staying here."
Agatha chuckled as her brother kept staring at her. She approached and grabbed his arm. "You are kidding, right? Come on, let's go back."
Tony pulled away from Agatha, startling her; then, he glared her way.
"I've never been happier than now. I want to remain in the Drowning Woods forever."
Agatha laughed off at that, a laugh that grew quieter as she noticed Tony's expressionless face. She widened her eyes, and understood it was no joke.
Tony gave Agatha his back, walking into darkness. "Don't come for me ever again."
Agatha paled, and quickly raced after her brother. "Wait, Tony! Tony!"
Tony didn't respond as he started fading. Agatha ran, shouting louder and louder, the distance between them growing more and more.
"Tony, come back here! I'm sorry! Please!"
The void pulled her back, tying around her neck, arms and legs. Nonetheless she persisted, grasping to the void.
The darkness cloaked Tony more and more. He soon became but a flicker of color, and then, he was no more.
Agatha's heart stopped as she was left alone. The space ensnarled her further, even as she fought back.
She extended her arm towards the darkness, still trying to reach her lost brother.
"Tony!" Agatha shouted, the grip tightening around her body.
The floor cracked around her, and she fell into nothingness. She screamed until the grip on her windpipe grew too tight and she thrashed for air.
The darkness stared back at her as the fall suddenly stopped.
Agatha woke up suddenly, and she found a black face stare back at her. She yelled, and the Gastly flew back, staring blankly at her.
Agatha blinked, then quickly glared at the Ghost-type. She tried to move, only to feel her arms stretched up her head, and her feet hanging. She froze, and then saw vines holding her whole body trapped and hanging from a tenuous branch.
Agatha looked ahead, seeing Sam in the same predicament on a different tree, pale and sweating.
She gulped and steeled her gaze. "What's going on? Why are we stuck here?"
"I'm not sure. All I remember was that gas knocking us out, and then I woke up here." Sam glanced down, and frowned. "This isn't the worst part, however."
As dread coursed through her body, Agatha chanced a look below. She regretted it right after.
Many, many Victreebel waited under their trees, stares aimed at them and mouth agape for food. They all stood still, eagerly awaiting their snack.
Sweat poured down Agatha's face, and then she stared at the Gastly. The dots were easy to connect.
"It was you, right?" She sharpened her glare. "You're the one who put us up here."
The Gastly flew back, eyes wide. It then gave them an harsh glare, and floated above Agatha's branch.
Agatha squinted her eyes and stared after the Ghost-type. "What are you-"
The moment she saw Gastly's fangs biting off at the vines holding her, Agatha paled. Her eyes shifted between the gaping maws below and the ghost about to send her falling to them, and her eyes widened.
She then gritted her teeth, glaring towards the Gastly. "Stop that, right now!"
The Gastly spared her a glance, only to dismiss her and bite at the vines again. Agatha tried to shake herself free to no avail, while she heard the vines slowly unravel.
"Damn!" She faced Sam in a hurry, still trying to get rid of Gastly. "Do something! Now!"
Sam flinched, then observed their surroundings. Agatha could only wait as the vines kept unraveling, staring at the gaping, still mouths waiting under them, all the teeth aimed at the trainers. She glanced back at Sam, hoping for something, anything, to come from that stupid nerd's mouth.
And then, Sam turned back to her. "We must jump."
Agatha widened her eyes, then looked at the mouths ready to eat and digest them beneath their feet. She stared blankly at him. "Are you crazy?"
"Trust me on this."
Agatha observed the dangers below, and shuddered. She quickly turned back to Sam and stared at him intently, waiting for more.
The boy frowned and sighed. "Fine, then."
Sam looked down himself and took a deep breath. Then, he gave his vines a heavy pull; they snapped easily, and the boy fell down, right towards the Victreebel.
Agatha could only watch as her friend fell to his death. Then, she felt her own vines snap as well, and she was sent falling down alongside him.
The world seemed to slow down around her as she focused on the Victreebel again, their gaping mouths and their long teeth, ready to consume her.
Fear coursing through her veins, she squinted her eyes shut and waited her end.
Instead, she rolled over the grass until she hit something and stopped.
Agatha slowly opened her eyes, confused. All around her was grass, mud and trees, but no trace of Pokémon, carnivorous or otherwise.
"What?" She rose back up, scratching her head. "Where did all the Victreebel go?"
"They were never real." Sam dusted himself off while walking towards Agatha. "I only noticed it because they were unnaturally still, and thought it was worth a try."
Agatha held a hand over her racing heart, scowling towards her rival. "You idiot. What if they were real?"
"Between starving to death and attempting to jump away, the second option definitely looks better."
Agatha sweated cold in response. Right then, however, a rattling sound caught her attention. She looked towards it, and soon wished she didn't.
Above them were skeletons, all wrapped in vines just like they were moments before, over every single tree. They waved along the wind, like some macabre decoration.
Maybe it was another illusion, or maybe it was all the people that didn't get the hint of the trap. It was enough to keep Agatha frozen in place, shivering like a leaf.
Sam noticed it, and grabbed Agatha's hand. "Let's go somewhere safe."
Agatha nodded and walked away with him, as the wind moving the skeletons around sent chills down her spine.
The Drowning Woods only became darker the deeper they went through their path. Endless tall trees lined up their path, melding far too much with the darkness surrounding them. Agatha and Sam had been walking for a while, and yet the scenery hadn't changed one bit since. They couldn't do much more than go on, pointing their flashlights everywhere and praying that their bulbs won't give up on them.
As she gave another glance at the ground, she could almost make out a few white stones. The skulls and bones from before flashed by, and a shiver ran down her spine. She gulped and banished the thoughts, then scoffed; she would've killed for more light now.
Suddenly, Sam broke the silence while tightening his grip on the flashlight. "The rumors about this forest must be true."
"No duh, what gave you the hint?" Agatha rolled her eyes.
"Well, the Gastly from before, and the Victreebel illusions." Sam stroked his chin, thoughtful. "Maybe the gas that knocked us out were Gastly too. They can turn into it after all."
Agatha gulped as she tried to ignore the mental image. She grumbled, until she heard a snapping sound; she sprung alert and pointed there, only to find nothing. She relaxed only slightly, and focused back on Sam.
"Nerd." She frowned. "If you can spout random information, what about finding a way to Tony?"
"I'm trying, you know." Sam sighed, pointing his flashlight around. "Not my fault if there are no clues."
Agatha shook her head and searched the path again. She was expecting a Gastly or a Misdreavus to pop up at any point, maybe walking a corpse towards her and choking her or something else of horrific and creepy, or maybe some other scary illusion like a Moltres about to burn them all alive.
She shuddered. Tony was lost here, and they found no trace of him yet. Which could only mean one thing.
Agatha steeled her gaze and took a deep breath. Tony was fine, he had to be. She was only letting the place get to her head, and they would find him soon.
If only she could really believe it.
She felt a shaky hand on her shoulder, and she froze; she turned suddenly, and was relieved and a bit annoyed to only see Sam at her side.
"Don't worry, we'll find him. He has to be around here now." He smiled. "We'll find him for sure."
Agatha stared through Sam. He was shaking like a leaf, his smile was unsteady, and he was sweating all over. He looked completely pathetic and ready to freak out any second.
Her stare turned into yet another glare. She could barely tolerate him, and now he dared playing the fearless guy on her? Who did he think she was?
"You can drop the hero act, you know. Nobody's buying it." She sneered.
Sam widened his eyes, then scowled at her. "You don't look that brave either, you know."
"Excuse me if I care for my brother and want to save him!" Agatha snapped, baring her teeth.
Sam inched closer, replying in kind. "Why, you think I'm just here to have fun?"
"It's not your brother!"
"You are my friends! What do you expect me to do?"
"Help me out and stay quiet! That's all you need to do!" Her glare intensified as she bore into Sam. "You have no idea what we've been through!"
"Do you think everything revolves around you? You aren't the only one with family problems, here!"
Agatha opened her mouth, only for no reply to come; she just stood there, looking at Sam. For his part, Sam appeared just as shocked. The two trainers remained still, pointing their flashlights at each other and trying to understand what they blurted out at each other.
Fortunately for Agatha, a sound of rustling grass came right then, and both trainers pointed their flashlights to the source, ready to run if needed.
Instead, a measly Caterpie came out of the bush and walked towards them. A few Hoothoot, Furret, Gloom, Pidgey and other Pokémon popped up all around the area. Agatha checked each and every one of them; there were no Ghost-types, and they moved too much to be an illusion.
"It's just some wild Pokémon." Sam sighed in relief and relaxed slightly.
Agatha didn't relax, and instead squinted her eyes at them. "No, they aren't, something looks off."
Sam quirked an eyebrow while Agatha studied all the Pokémon. She could feel something wasn't right about them, but she couldn't pinpoint what specifically.
And then she noticed their eyes. Empty, bloodshot, and all aimed their way.
Before she could react, all the Pokémon swarmed over them.
They pinned Sam and Agatha to the ground, pressing themselves over them and knocking the air our of their lungs. They tried to struggle and break free, only for the Pokémon to hold their ground. Their flashlights rolled away, cloaking their struggle in shadows.
Agatha could feel claws and fangs grazing over her body, studying it: her chest, her limbs, her throat too. Some started pecking and slashing at her, and she could only squirm in pain. At her side, she could hear Sam's screams, too.
Even through all the pain, Agatha still struggled. She tried to knock them away, only for each movement to be drowned out by the Pokémon. She could feel her breath become increasingly shallow, as her body sunk on the ground.
She almost gave up, but then she steeled her gaze. That wouldn't be their end.
Agatha tried to reach for her belt and her Poké Balls, only for her arm to be squashed under several Caterpie. She suppressed a scream, and focused; she looked at her body, and then her surroundings, all while a Rattata was ready to sink its fangs in her throat.
And then, she saw the white rock from before. Agatha gulped, and decided to gamble.
She tried to push herself up, hip first, over and over; the Rattata lost balance and delayed the bite, but the swarm pressed on. Agatha slammed her hip against the ground over and over, eyes on the first Poké Ball.
It started jostling with each motion, slowly but surely. And then-
The Pokè Ball clipped off and fell on the ground. The Pokémon turned towards it, and Agatha managed to break her leg free and kick it away.
She prayed and looked after it, until the Poké Ball smashed over the white rock.
Light burst out, and Ekans leaped towards the Rattata to bite it away; the Pokémon stopped their torture and focused on the newcomer, and Agatha seized the chance.
With a heavy push, Agatha managed to stand back up and free herself, running away from the Pokémon as Ekans' Toxic and Double Team kept them at bay. She turned back to Sam, and found him in her previous predicament.
She palmed her other Poké Ball and opened it swiftly. "Help him out, Zubat!"
Her trusty Flying-type soared in and fired a Supersonic towards Sam's attackers, stunning and confusing them enough for Sam to break free too. The boy scampered towards Agatha and grabbed his own Poké Balls, and then his Charmeleon, Exeggcute and Growlithe joined the battle as well.
Both trainers didn't waste time as the wild Pokémon went back to the offensive, countering them as best as they could: attacks flew left and right, as Sam and Agatha tried to push the Pokémon back and Ekans and Zubat poisoned anyone who got close, while Sam's Pokémon worked towards holding the line and pushing their foes back by any means possible.
The Pokémon kept coming for more, but neither trainer was about to give up. They pressed forward, yelling order after order, until all the wild Pokémon were finally knocked unconscious.
As the last Pokémon fell, Agatha spied a Gastly observing them from the distance and then dispersing away. She frowned and clenched her fists in response; of course it was their doing.
While they caught their breaths, Agatha and Sam shared a glance and swallowed in unison while recovering their flashlights. They then ran away from the defeated Pokémon with their teams in tow, worry and confusion swirling in their minds.
Luck was on Agatha and Sam's side as they finally reached a clearing, big enough for several people and with much more light than any other part of the forest. Both trainers were rather pleased as they sat on the ground under some trees, recovering their strength for a little while as they kept an eye out for their surroundings. Sometimes, they could hear cries and sounds in the distance, which never failed to place them in high alert, no matter how much they tried to be calm
As they attempted to relax, Agatha observed Ekans' Poké Ball while her Pokémon curled up at her side. It was cracked all over and the lid fit awkwardly, with little chance of fixing it. She probably needed to buy a new one now.
If they survived the Drowning Woods, of course.
Agatha looked at her surroundings, and tensed up. Wild Pokémon, evil gas, illusions, maybe just some ghosts wanting to mess with them; anything could happen any second, and nothing said that the Ghost-types didn't have other tricks in store for them.
Her eyes went for Sam once again, a few trees away. He was tense and staring at the ground, while Charmeleon and Growlithe kept their guard up around him. She observed him for quite a while before she walked closer and sat near him.
"Hey, how are you feeling?" She placed a hand over his shoulder.
Sam didn't reply, and Agatha lifted her hand away. She gazed at the peaceful scenery, and sighed.
"So... the Ghost-types are out for our blood, right?"
"It seems so."
Agatha shook her head, and passed a hand through the grass blades. "And we have no way out, or to Tony, or anything, really."
There was a lot unspoken between them now, but one thing was clear to both: nothing of what they were going through was something beginner trainers should've gotten into.
Agatha slumped her shoulders and gulped, eyes going for the grass. "I'm sorry."
"What?" Sam quirked an eyebrow and faced her.
"For bringing you into this mess."
Sam blinked quite a few times before squinting at her. "Are you okay?"
"Let's be honest, we aren't gonna make it out of here alive." Agatha gulped down her worry, and forced an uneasy laugh. "So, I want to take responsibility."
Sam stood still for a while longer, before he sighed and adjusted his position.
"If I didn't want to stay with you, I would've run away first thing." His gaze grew firm as he clenched his fists. "I need to be a strong trainer, and I thought maybe helping people was the way."
Agatha perked her head back to him. "I really don't get why you have this good samaritan complex."
Sam didn't respond immediately, simply sighing and keeping his eyes closed. Then, a smile flickered over his face.
"You know my hometown, Pallet, right?"
Agatha nodded. "What about it?"
"Well... it wasn't always called that. It used to be called Blank Town once."
"No surprise they changed the name, then."
Sam couldn't help but snicker at that, but quickly recollected himself and cleared his throat.
"Irony aside, the name comes from my grandfather, Pallet Oak." He rubbed his neck as he grinned proudly. "He was the Champion of Kanto something like twenty or so years ago, and raised more than one hundred fifty-one Pokémon all by himself."
Agatha blinked, and then connected the name. She paled and jumped back on her feet, staring straight at Sam.
"Wait, you mean Pallet the Invincible? The greatest Pokémon Master to have ever lived?" she asked in utter disbelief.
"They called him that too, yeah." Sam chuckled, turning away as Agatha gave him a jealous look and he lost himself in thought. "He became a trainer to protect his city and region, and so he trained until he was unmatched. He had an incredible reputation, and yet strived to live up to it every day, helping others and thwarting crimes whenever he could."
He smiled again, only to turn solemn and pass a hand over his hair. Then, he resumed.
"He passed away recently, after a full life." He grabbed Charmeleon's Poké Ball and contemplated it. "The moment I received my starter, everyone told me that I was gonna keep the Oak name alive."
"Parental pressure, huh?"
"Somewhat." Sam rubbed his neck. "I loved my grandfather, and want to be as great as him. But... I'm just not him."
Agatha scoffed. "What a load of Tauros. You defeated me, you know."
"My grandfather could've found a way to do that in three seconds, and make it look good." Sam shook his head, spying his notebook. "I can fight, sure, and I think I'm good at watching and learning about Pokémon, but I really can't compare to Pallet Oak's name."
Sam paused, looking away from Agatha. She was at a loss of words, but then shrugged.
"You're a nerd, right? Stick to it. Have fun on your journey and try to get better, everything else will come later."
Sam grumbled. "You make it sound easy."
"I guess every issue sounds like that when you don't live it." Agatha sighed, but quickly returned serious. "But really. You're Sam Oak, not Pallet Oak. You need to find your own way to be astounding."
"I'll try." Sam tried to smile, only to frown at the ground right after.
Agatha rolled her eyes and massaged her forehead. "At least you have a family to look up to."
Sam blinked and turned around, and Agatha widened her eyes. She turned away all flustered, and remained silent. Sam kept staring her way.
"What did you mean before, when you said Tony is all you have left and all that stuff?" He frowned, and folded his arms. However, he quickly gulped and glanced away in embarassment. "If you want to talk about it, of course."
Agatha looked back at him, and almost giggled. She took another deep breath, and shook her head.
"No, no, it's okay. I probably exaggerated it." She observed her hands. "My parents... well, they were nothing remarkable, really. Simple workers trying to make a honest living and all that."
She tightened her fists. "And then they had a car accident."
"Sorry to hear that."
Agatha gave him a silent look before she sighed again. "We don't have any close relatives, except a cousin in Sinnoh I don't know much. And so, we were alone. You might see where this is going."
"You had to take care of Tony on your own, right?"
"I tried at least," Agatha muttered as she shifted her position and scowled at the grass. "I wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to him, and to do that I needed to be strong. I wanted to become a trainer already, and this just provided an extra push."
"That's why were you going to Blackthorn City now?"
Agatha nodded. "I saw how powerful the trainers were in the Indigo Conference, a few weeks ago: they could easily command dangerous Pokémon, and the way trainers countered their opponents was simply amazing. It made me realize how utterly unprepared I was.
"Given I had a full year before the next League, I thought facing Javelin of Blackthorn City would be a good way to prepare myself for tough challenges."
"I don't think that was a great idea. You don't face the hardest road when you start walking."
"I needed to become stronger, and quickly. I thought facing Dragon-types, even if the badge didn't count, would've helped me be ready." She grimaced, grabbing a fistful of grass. "A part of me even wanted to actually go through this forest because I can't stand Ghost-types and everything they can do. I felt that if I passed it, I would've conquered my fears."
She scowled and punched the ground. "I'm an idiot."
"Hey, now. No one calls my rival an idiot." Sam gave her a reassuring grin and a pat on the back. "You couldn't know things would end up like this."
"Spare me your pity, please." Agatha groaned, and then exhaled. "Why are we even telling each other all this stuff, anyway?"
"After what we've been through today, I thought it was better to open myself." Sam smiled as he scratched his arm, flustered. "It was nice to talk about it, actually."
Agatha sighed before she let out a brief chuckle. "Same here."
The two looked at each other for a short while before Agatha sighed and worry settled back.
"I wish Tony was here." She gazed back at the ground, grabbing her legs. "I've been a horrible sister to him."
"Hey, come on, you tried your best."
"And it wasn't enough." She passed a hand over her face, fighting back tears. "It's all my fault."
Silence fell as Agatha kept staring at the ground. Sam observed her briefly before sitting closer to her.
"Maybe everything you said is right. Maybe you really are a bad sister, a bad trainer, and probably a bad person too." He gave her a proud stare. "But you're also Agatha Grimm, and you're stubborn to a fault even if the world is out against you. You don't want to let the world win this time, right?"
Agatha turned to him, and almost smiled before it morphed into a smirk. "What are you now, a self-help book?"
"Well, everyone in Pallet does say I sound like a professor at times."
Agatha thought about it, and nodded his way. "Professor Oak. It has a nice ring to it."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, too bad it will never happen." She shrugged.
Sam frowned. "Hey!"
Agatha chuckled, before she contemplated her rival again. For how almost fastidiously nice and nerdy he could be, he knew how to be helpful and even pleasant. She had never really saw him as more than a rival to beat, but after all that happened that day she couldn't deny to enjoy his company, at the very least. She kinda hoped the same went for him, too.
Her musings were interrupted by a shrill cry. Agatha and Sam sprung to alert immediately, and they quickly saw a Gastly looking at them with a big grin, at the edge of the clearing. Both trainers steeled themselves in response.
"You again." Agatha's stare pierced through Gastly. "Haven't you had enough fun with us already?"
The Ghost-type didn't reply, and instead tilted his head and floated away, then turned in wait towards Sam and Agatha. The trainers shared a glance, frowning at each other.
Sam folded his arms, shaking his head. "Following it is a bad idea."
"I don't doubt it, but it's not like we have options." Agatha kept glaring at the Gastly. "And if it really wanted to torture us, it could've done it without warning."
"Let's keep our guard up just in case."
Agatha gave Sam a nod, and then they walked after Gastly and out of the clearing alongside their teams. All the while, Agatha steeled her gaze and prepared herself.
Tony, we are coming, she thought to herself.
They pursued the Gastly while measuring every step they took, but surprisingly enough the Ghost-type seemed content to guide them, without pulling any nasty tricks. Even the path they were travelling was much clearer than the forest had been until then.
Agatha kept Ekans and Zubat on the ready just in case as she glared all over. The lack of danger only made the road appear all the more dangerous, and they didn't plan to fall for any traps this time. Sam seemed to be on the same page as Charmeleon and Growlithe scouted around on their own.
The trip continued that way for a good while, uneventful but tense, with the Gastly sometimes turning their way before continuing to guide them. Agatha briefly wondered what its motive could be, but she soon banished that thought; she had no reason to care, and her only worry was that it could be leading them to walk in circles.
Fortunately, her worries proved unfounded as the group finally reached a clearing, bigger and wider than anywhere they had been before, its lush greenery shining under the moonlight. It was also completely empty, at least at first glance.
The Gastly looked at them and gave a sheepish smile. Agatha didn't buy it and scowled at him.
"Alright, we followed you. Why did you bring us here?" She asked in a firm voice. "We are ready for anything."
The Gastly beamed at that. Before Agatha could question why, it turned back towards the clearing's opposite edge.
She tried to follow its gaze but found nothing remarkable, at least until she noticed a familiar tuft of dusty blonde hair and a striped shirt among the grass. She stared at it with a gaping mouth, which swiftly morphed into a beaming smile.
"Yes!" She yelled, running towards Tony.
Sam and their Pokémon followed suit, but Agatha had eyes only for her brother. She continued to observe him, dreading that his body would fade away or turn into something nightmarish and praying for the best.
Nothing happened; indeed, the closer Agatha got, the better she could see that it was indeed Tony. As she finally kneeled over him, she raised a hand and brought it close to Tony's shirt. It trembled, but she soldiered on and pressed the cloth. Her finger stopped at the flesh, and she grinned like an idiot. He was really Tony, and they could finally leave that forsaken forest.
"Thank goodness." She smiled happily, and gave Tony a gentle shake. "Hey, wake up. It's me, Agatha."
Tony remained still. Agatha tilted her head, as Sam and their Pokémon finally reached them.
She gave him some light slaps on the cheeks. "Tony? Come on, it's not time to take a nap here."
Still nothing. Dread settled in again, as her whole body froze.
"Tony?" she almost whispered, hands trembling and away from her brother.
Sam frowned and checked his pulse and chest. Agatha held her breath as he turned her way, shaking his head and grimacing.
The world fell apart around Agatha. She tried to reply, to yell that it wasn't possible, that he had to be wrong; instead, she could only look back at her little brother, at his almost white skin, how still he was, and how cold it felt to the touch.
She fell to the ground, a raging storm and emptiness inside her.
"No..." was all she could say, barely audible.
And then, suddenly, the forest laughed at her. A long, drawn-out, mocking laugh coming from everywhere at once, one she was very familiar with.
Agatha and Sam sprung up and searched for the crowd, and saw the borders of the clearing lighting up around them. And then the Ghost-types came.
Gastly, Haunter, Misdreavus and Mismagius as far as the eye could see, all laughing in unison and glaring towards them, malice drawn on their faces.
Sam shivered and breathed slowly, but he still prepared himself for a fight alongside his team. Agatha didn't have the strength to do so, as she fell back to Tony and stared at him.
"I didn't want this to happen." She hugged him, feeling his cold body over hers. "I'm sorry, Tony."
"You were really a kind person in the end, sis."
Agatha paled, then stared back at Tony. That was his voice, there was no mistake. But how?
She kept observing her brother's features. Then, Tony's eyes burst open, and his hands clenched around Agatha's throat.
Everything went blurry as Agatha stared at her brother, her grinning brother that was making her lose all air. She coughed and tried to push him back, but it was all too sudden.
Her brother was trying to kill her, and he was happy to do so. It was all wrong and made no sense, and she couldn't ask why as her lungs emptied out.
She almost faded away, and then Ekans jumped over Tony; the snake Pokémon pushed Tony back down, and Agatha fell backwards to safety.
As the girl caught her breath, her eyes went back to Tony. Her brother slowly got back up and walked towards her with long, almost goofy steps, and still grinning and cackling.
Sweat poured down Agatha's face as she stared at him. "What... what kind of madness is this?"
Tony gave one last laugh, and it was only then that Agatha saw his shadow grow much larger. So large, in fact, that it left the ground and took a shape of its own, while Tony collapsed back on the grass.
Agatha shuddered and glared on as the shadow took a purple color and crimson eyes. It was a Gengar, the last evolution in the Gastly line, and it joined the laughter as soon as it appeared. And then, it spoke.
"Why are you so angry? I thought you would've liked to see your brother again." He made a mocking pout before wearing his smirk again. "Though I'm glad it's over, wearing corpses is a chore."
Wearing corpses. Tony was gone, and that Gengar wore his corpse.
Her glare fiercened, travelled through all the Ghost-types around them, and then landed back on the Gengar. She clenched her fists while Zubat and Ekans took their places in front of her.
The Gengar chuckled. "Did you like our little game so far? It's almost cute that you still try to make it out of our domain alive."
"You tortured us enough! What else do you need to do?" Agatha shouted, her fists white and her eyes ablaze.
"Silly human, acting like you can speak against us." Gengar raised his arms, and his mocking stare turned serious. "The Drowning Woods belong to us. Everything else are toys for our own entertainment."
All the Ghost-types floated closer to the team, all charging some attacks. Shadow Balls, Night Shades, some Hypnosis and Dream Eater; all the attacks their species specialized in.
"And when a toy becomes boring, you break it and get another one." The Gengar readied a couple Shadow Balls of his own, and his grin widened. "You know what this means? It means playtime is over for you."
As the ghosts got ready for battle, so did Sam and his Pokémon. Agatha chanced another look at Tony's dead body as rage boiled inside her.
Then, she looked back at the Gengar. She didn't yell, nor did she back down fearfully. She only stared him down.
"You will pay for this."
The Gengar giggled and aimed his Shadow Balls. "Very well."
And the chaos began.
Attacks flew from every direction, Flamethrowers and Supersonic meeting with Toxics, Double Teams, Shadow Balls and many more. However, it was clear the Ghost-types weren't going for their Pokémon.
Sam and Agatha had to duck several hits meant specifically for them, sometimes disguised as illusions or other possessed wild Pokémon that happened to be nearby. They couldn't keep track of everything, and couldn't even trust the ground they stood on as some Grass Knots joined the fun.
In spite of that, however, Agatha, Sam and their Pokémon did their best to return the favor: for as many close shaves they survived, a Ghost fell on the ground, only to be replaced by two more. The battle seemed never ending, but neither kids had time to notice it amidst the heat of battle.
As Sam and his team dealt with the majority of Ghost-types, Agatha had her eyes only on the Gengar. She made her way through each move with Ekans and Zubat in tow, and pursued Gengar until they were a good distance away from the rest of the brawl. It had to pay, and she would make damn sure it did.
After Agatha and her Pokémon survived the latest Shadow Balls barrage, she pointed at Gengar. "Zubat, Ekans, Double Team!"
Copies of her Pokémon surrounded Gengar, closing every possible escape route. The Ghost-type seemed nonplussed as it charged a few Shadow Balls, tossing them and dispelling some clones.
Agatha frowned while her Pokémon brought up more clones to fill the gaps, then eyed Zubat. "Toxic, now!"
Zubat opened its mouth and sprayed the purple ooze all around Gengar. The Ghost quirked an eyebrow at that, then giggled like a maniac as it walked through the waste, his Poison-type protecting him.
Agatha remained calm as Zubat continued to add further poison on the ground. Gengar quickly grew bored, and sprinted to toss a Shadow Ball.
And then, he slipped over the Toxic and fell on his back; Agatha snapped her fingers right then.
"Now, trap him!"
Ekans leaped and coiled around Gengar's chest and bit him, the pain pinning Gengar on the ground; it tried to look for a way out, only to see Zubat ready to hurl a Supersonic at it in case he tried anything funny. Gengar seemed surprised for only a moment, before his usual grin returned.
Gengar clapped and smiled at Agatha. "Impressive, for sure. I've fought against Silver Conference winners that were far less skilled."
"Ekans, Zubat." Agatha's tone was cold and unfeeling. "Crush him."
Both of her Pokémon readied themselves to strike, only for Gengar to chuckle and phase back into a shadow and making Ekans fall on the ground. It returned solid, and tried to sneak away towards the edge of the clearing.
Agatha sprinted towards him immediately after. "Return here, coward! You won't get away!"
Gengar flattened on the ground and Agatha almost missed him, until she grabbed his leg. She pulled the Gengar and readied a punch, only to stop as she saw Tony's scared face. She paled, and her brother smirked briefly.
"Why are you stopping here?" 'Tony' glanced sadly at her. "I thought you wanted to punch me, sis."
Agatha hesitated, then grabbed Gengar forcefully and held him up.
"Stop playing with his body. You killed my brother! You will die!" She yelled, as Ekans readied a Bite.
The Ghost-type laughed again, and Agatha was just about to punch 'his' face, Tony's or not.
Gengar waited calmly and grinned. "Who says we killed him?"
Agatha paused in confusion, and he seized the moment; 'Tony' charged a Shadow Ball, pointed it right at Agatha's chest, and fired point blank.
She closed her eyes and prepared for pain, only for someone to jump in the way and take the hit, sending them flying together.
She rolled through the grass for a while before stopping. She quickly opened her eyes, and everything felt blurry. She expected to find Ekans, Zubat, or even Sam in front of her.
Never did she expect to find a Gastly checking her body in pure concern and smiling like a little kid as she got back up. Most likely the same Gastly that led them there, and that followed her and the others in their nightmare quest.
Agatha was confused. And then, a suspicion snaked her way inside her mind. The Gastly never attacked them, it was trying to make her fall towards the illusion that would've never harmed her, and even led them to Tony's body.
He wasn't harming them, he even tried to help. And then, Gengar's question.
"Who says we killed him?"
She stared blankly at the Gastly, and understood. She couldn't believe it, but she swallowed and gathered her courage.
"... Tony?" Agatha asked. "Is it you?"
The Gastly nodded quietly, and Agatha had no words.
The Gengar had plenty instead as it laughed off louder than ever before; the battle stopped as everyone turned its way, the Gengar calmly walking towards Agatha with the most joyous expression on his face.
Agatha's glance was distant and lost before she focused back on Gengar. And then, rage trickled in.
"You... you are trying to trick us, right?" She bared her teeth. "You didn't have enough fun already?"
Another chuckle from the Ghost-type as he shook his head. "No no, that's really your little brother. Here, have a look."
Gengar snapped his fingers, and flashes of memories flew into Sam and Agatha's minds: Tony coming to the clearing, scared but bravely striding forward; his lone Poké Ball failing, and the Ghost-types swarming over him; Tony pleading for Agatha to come to his help, as he exhaled his last breath; and finally, his soul leaving his body, morphed into a Ghost-type of his own.
As the slideshow ended, Agatha instantly turned back to the Gastly, and he faced the other way in shame and regret. She felt her whole body freeze.
Gengar smiled and placed his hands behind his head. "He came here all brave and happy and yelled at Gastly to come out, trying to catch us. We punished his insolence like he deserved."
Tony the Gastly turned back to Gengar, baring his fangs as he rammed towards it. Gengar stood still, jumping out of the way and squashing Tony under its foot. The once human squealed in pain, as Gengar chuckled madly.
"He wanted to be the greatest Ghost-type trainer, and now he's just a pitiful, useless Pokémon." Gengar pressed him further on the ground as his screams grew louder. It beamed. "Humans are so weak and fun to play with."
Agatha was still lost for all that was happening, but among the chaos, one thought stood out from all the others while Gengar toyed with her brother.
"Change him back, now!" Agatha yelled, staring at Gengar with pure hatred.
"Too late, he will stay like this forever." Gengar kicked Tony away, then cackled and crossed his arms. "But enough chitchat. Have fun, everyone!"
And thus, the battle resumed right where it stopped. Ekans and Zubat tried their best to protect their trainer as Sam's Pokémon dished back punishment towards the Ghost-types under the boy's orders.
All the while, Agatha was completely disconnected from everything around her, with eyes only for her injured Gastly brother, and how it was all her fault this happened to begin with. Deep down she knew it was no time to feel like that, but too much had happened and she had little to no strength left in her.
Virtually alone in the chaotic fight, it didn't take much time for Sam to slowly lose any advantage as his Pokémon were overwhelmed by the ghosts.
"Agatha, I need your help! They are too many!" Sam yelled, ducking under a Will-O-Wisp and looking towards his friend.
Agatha turned his way, and almost got back up to fight some more before she fixated on Tony again. She felt a knot on her stomach, and she didn't even know how to begin with him now.
It was all dark, with no way out. Not for her, not for Sam, and especially not for Tony. There was no hope for any of them.
And then, a new voice boomed through the clearing.
Lightning struck all around the battlefield, fulgurating several Ghost-types and knocking many others away. Both Sam and Agatha snapped to attention as they turned around, seeing two new figures walking into the clearing: a blond man wearing a blue jacket with a prominent lightning tattoo across his shoulder, and a battle-ready Ampharos crackling with electricity.
Sam widened his eyes, recognizing the pair. "Wait, you are-"
"Denki Tekina, most recent addition to the Elite Four." He adjusted his jacket, and studied his surroundings. "I will deal with this, don't worry."
Five more Poké Ball opened up, and Denki was surrounded by the rest of his team: a Raichu, a Jolteon, a Magnezone, an Electivire and an Electrode soon joined, and they all stared at the oncoming Ghost-types. While some of them observed warily the newcomer, a lot of them seemed far more intrigued than scared, with some outright smiling at the challenge ahead.
The maelstrom of attacks and abilities resumed, only for Denki and his team to prove far stronger than any of the ghosts assembled: for an Elite Four member six Pokémon were far from many, and yet all of them could juggle and fight off several Ghost-types at once without breaking a sweat, electricity flying left and right as Charge Beams, Thunderbolts, Thunder Punches and many more were thrown, with the occasional Dark-type move tossed in to counter the ghosts' illusions.
One after another they fell, and the ghosts didn't fail to recognize it. Thus, a Mismagius decided to change strategy and dive into the ground with Phantom Force, ready to stab Denki.
Denki turned to it right as it reappeared; he tried to direct Ampharos to fire a Thunderbolt, but a Flamethrower proved faster as it knocked the Ghost-type away. Denki faced its origin, and found Sam and his Charmeleon grinning at him.
"Not bad." Denki smiled in approval, before he faced the approaching and surviving Ghost-types once more. "They won't let us escape until they are defeated. Think you can help?"
Sam gave a firm nod. "I will try."
Denki and Sam joined forces in commanding their Pokémon, as the ghosts found the odds stacked further against them. All the while Agatha could only watch, at a loss of what to do for Tony or the others.
She looked at her brother, and gulped. "Tony, I'm sorry, this is all my-"
A Haunter flew towards Agatha, a Thunder Punch ready to hit her. She paled and widened her eyes, bracing herself for the pain.
However, Tony rammed into the Haunter and tossed him aside, where a Thunderbolt by Denki's Ampharos swiftly knocked him out.
Agatha quickly recollected herself, only for her gaze to go back to Tony once more. Her brother stared at her with a serious frown, and then tilted his head towards the nearby Gengar cackling over what was going on. The meaning was clear: before anything else, they had to finish their job there.
She nodded, took a deep breath and rose again, staring down the leader of the ghosts.
"Alright." She clenched her fists, and then pointed onward. "Tony, let's do it! Use Lick!"
Tony nodded and floated towards Gengar, giving it a nice lick on the face and knocking it down. Disgust was drawn over Gengar's face, as sparks of paralysis flew throughout its body.
It tried to stand again, before he realized he was laying in the same pool of poison Agatha had prepared before, and that any step would've led him to trip. All while Agatha's Pokémon regrouped and the girl got a hang of which moves her brother had. All while Denki and Sam decimated his cronies, and Agatha's stare and Tony's cocky grin made it clear his fun was over.
It was then that Gengar grumbled and got back up in a huff, an annoyed expression on his face. He had no serious damage beyond the paralysis, but he had lost something far more important than his health by now.
"Tch, you guys are no fun at all." Gengar pouted, then turned around and walked away. "Let's retreat. We will have way more fun toys in the future anyway."
The Ghost-types listened to their leader, interrupting the fight and blending back into the forest's shadows. A few seconds later, no trace of their presence could be seen.
Both Sam and Agatha sighed in relief while Tony screeched after them. The trainers then turned towards Denki, who seemed far less relieved and continued to keep his guard up.
"They are gone now, but it's better to leave before they choose to use another nasty trick." Denki frowned, then walked the way he came from, and gestured towards the younger trainers. "Follow me."
No one questioned it as the young trainers and their Pokémon walked after the Elite Four member, with Agatha clutching Tony's lifeless body close while her brother floated behind her.
The way out of the Drowning Woods was surprisingly close, but Denki suggested to walk further ahead to a safer point, in case any of the Ghost-types felt bold enough to pull another move. Neither Agatha nor Sam questioned it.
The Elite Four member and his Ampharos set up a camp once they left the Ghosts' sphere of influence, giving some spare food to the younger trainers and letting them be as comfortable as he could. And yet, neither of them could shake off the feeling of being watched and that anything might be lurking in the shadows, even as they tried to ignore it.
They explained as much as they could to Denki of their misadventure, with Agatha often looking at Tony's body and his Gastly self fluttering about before she focused back on the older trainer.
"And that's all." Agatha sighed in relief as she ended, her glance going back to her brother. She felt a knot in her stomach as guilt washed over her.
Denki and Ampharos listened quietly to heir tale, then closed their eyes as it ended. They exhaled at once before giving the youths a solemn look.
"You were reckless. There's a reason why the Drowning Woods are constantly patrolled by Elite Four members." His gaze turned to the cursed forest, a hint of regret tinging his voice. "I only had a few turns so far, and you were among the lucky ones."
The two trainers lowered their heads respectfully. Denki looked over them again, and placed his hands on his hips.
"You have the hallmarks to become strong trainers, I can see it." He expression grew stern. "But strength comes also from understanding your opponents. Being a Pokémon trainer means travelling a hard and dangerous path, and to succeed you must understand that while Pokémon can be potent allies, they can just as easily be fearsome enemies."
He contemplated Tony's body briefly before he faced Agatha again, shaking his head and sighing. "I'm sorry for your loss, I wish I could've arrived sooner."
Agatha shook her head back. "It wasn't your fault, Mr. Tekina."
Denki didn't reply as he looked at the Gastly floating around them.
"Are you sure you want to keep that Gastly, however?" He frowned and stared through Agatha.
Agatha clenched her fists and matched Denki's expression. "He helped me, and I don't want to let go of him."
Denki studied Agatha's expression for quite a while, then smiled at her.
"If that is your decision, then alright." His smile turned to seriousness. "Never forget what happened today, however."
Agatha grimaced as she looked over Tony's body. "I can't."
Denki remained with them for a few more minutes before he had to return to his patrol again, making sure to direct them for the safest way to Blackthorn City and leaving them some supplies before they parted ways.
Now alone, Sam and Agatha looked at each other in utter silence. It was still hard to believe that they had made it out of the Drowning Woods alive. Them, at least.
Sam and Agatha watched over Tony's body again, and then at the Gastly as it floated towards them.
Sam contemplated him, stroking his chin. "So... he's Tony, right?"
Tony the Gastly nodded, and Agatha felt the knot on her stomach return. Her attention went back to the corpse, and she frowned in thought.
"That Gengar could enter Tony's body." She turned to her brother. "Maybe it works for a Gastly, too?"
Tony floated back towards his old body, circling it for a good while before nodding. He quickly dispersed himself into gas, and entered back inside it.
Agatha and Sam observed the corpse in wait, shuddering. It was morbid and unsettling, but it was their best bet to solve this easily. It was their only option and it had to work.
The body remained still as seconds never seemed to pass. Agatha checked every limb, every finger and chest movement in hope to see something, anything.
And then, Tony burst out of his old mouth, eyes wide and taking deep breaths as he stared back at Agatha.
She widened her eyes as well, but had no words for it. Sam squinted his eyes instead, and analyzed the clues.
"He's probably not powerful enough to take control. Maybe it's something specific to the Gengar stage?"
Agatha went pale, then gained a fierce look on her face while observing Tony. "Then we just need to train and try until we make it."
"I don't think it will work." Sam kneeled to the corpse, touching his skin on several points. "Rigor mortis is already settling in. His body will eventually decay, and I don't think Tony can make it before his corpse starts to rot."
Agatha had no reply for that, as she looked over Tony's cold and still body. Sam was absolutely right, and thinking otherwise would've just been delusional.
She said nothing as she stared over Tony's corpse, an eternal reminder of everything that went wrong in the Drowning Woods. All that went wrong for her fault.
Tony flew right at his sister's face, concern drawn over his gaseous visage. Agatha grimaced and stretched her arms, trying to bring her brother into a hug.
Instead, she just passed through him and fell face-first on the ground. And there, she cried her heart out, punching the ground and screaming out her anguish. All while Tony and Sam could only watch her.
After a few minutes, Agatha finally calmed down and passed an arm over her eyes, and turned back towards Tony and Sam. It was then that she saw Sam's stern and confident gaze.
"I never felt more powerless than today." Sam eyed the Drowning Woods again, fire burning in his eyes. "Those Ghosts were just acting on their own insticts, and yet they wanted us to die for fun."
Agatha rubbed off her last tears, eyes on the ground. "You heard Tekina. There's nothing we can do for it."
"For now." Sam furrowed his brow. "Nobody should go through nightmares like this just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to find a way to prevent this, no matter how much time it will take."
As she listened, a sad smile lit up Agatha's face. "You really sound like Pallet Oak now."
"I'm not Pallet Oak, I'm Samuel Oak." Sam smiled back and placed a hand over his heart. "And I will make sure to help everyone in my own way. No one should have to pay so much to be a trainer."
Agatha could only look as Sam continued to wear his confident expression. Now, after their most nightmarish adventure yet, he seemed more resolved than ever to reach his goals.
She looked back at Tony, and he stared back at her in concern. She steeled her gaze and shook her head, gathering all her confidence; that wasn't the time to cry her heart out and curse their luck.
She took a deep breath, and the guilt was replaced by determination.
"I will learn all I can about Ghost-types now. Their history, their curses, anything." She smiled confidently. "I will find a way to turn you back into a human, no matter how much time it takes. I swear, nothing bad will ever happen to you now."
Tony smiled back at her, only for his expression to morph into a serious and concerned one. Agatha blinked, and then Tony floated towards Agatha's belt. Both Sam and Agatha looked him over in confusion, until Tony edged a bit closer and stared intently at one of her empty Poké Balls. Agatha flinched, and then shook her head.
"I can't do that: you are my brother, not a wild Pokémon. I can't catch you."
Tony simply stared back at Agatha, his gaze unflinching and a big smile on his face. Even if he couldn't talk, the meaning was clear.
"I want to fight alongside you."
Agatha hesitated to answer as she continued to contemplate her brother. Then, she stared back intently and seriously. "Are you really sure?"
Another nod, and Agatha had no further questions. She still had some hesitation as she clipped away one of her spare Poké Balls and observed her Gastly brother. She had no idea if it was the right thing or even ethical, but it was what Tony wanted and she would respect his wishes.
"Alright, then." She forced a smile while twisting the cap open. "Welcome to the team, Tony. We will become the best Ghost-type trainers in the world now."
Tony chuckled as Agatha tapped over his form, and her brother was sucked inside. She just remained still as the customary shakes ensued, until the Poké Ball stopped moving.
As soon as the capture was complete, Agatha freed her brother and placed the Ball away. Tony gave her a big smile, and Agatha tried to reply in kind.
Meanwhile, Sam rubbed his neck and turned around, observing the lights of Blackthorn City in the distance. "Should we go?"
"Sure. I don't like this place." Agatha rose up and grabbed her backpack, while Tony followed after her.
And thus, they placed everything into their bags and walked back towards the city. The future looked uncertain, but that wasn't going to stop them: they had goals to reach, and they would do anything to make them happen.
The opposing Golem had put up a good fight, managing to outlast a couple of her Pokémon. Alas, the poison scattered all over the battlefield and the several Curses it received proved to be its undoing as it fell on the ground, unconscious. Her Arbok hissed in victory as it stood proudly on her side of the battlefield.
"And the winner is Agatha! This is the power of an Elite Four trainer, people!"
As the crowd erupted into a frenzy of cheering and applauses, the old Pokémon Master smiled and recalled her first Pokémon. After that, she smiled at her challenger and then turned around and left the stadium with nary a word, lost in her own thoughts.
"Always in a rush, I see."
Agatha paused, then faced her oldest friend and rival coming by her side. He was still wearing his now customary labcoat, befitting of his hard earned position as a Professor, but she knew well that inside he was still the same nerd she had known long ago.
She grinned at him. "Samuel. Did you feel like watching battles today?"
"I like to watch your matches when possible, you know that." Sam folded his arms and smiled, only to turn serious right after. "I expected you'd use him, though."
Agatha sighed, eyeing an old Poké Ball on her belt. "He had his fair share of fights today and wanted to rest."
Sam thankfully knew that nothing more needed to be said, and instead walked closer to Agatha, rummaging through his pocket.
"I also wanted to give you this." He produced a map with several annotations and lines drawn over it, and placed it in Agatha's hands. "There's apparently a witch coven in Johto here. Not sure if they are Bloodliners or not, but it seems some of them are capable of transforming people into Pokémon. Maybe they can help you out."
"Thanks for the help. The trip through Johto should be easy now, thanks to you."
Sam smiled briefly, and Agatha scoffed playfully. She still couldn't believe that the little nerd had managed to seriously find a way to pacify aggressive wild Pokémon and making Pokémon training much safer for humans and Pokémon alike. While she often mocked his achievements, a part of her was definitely proud of what her friend had achieved. And maybe, just a bit jealous.
As if reading her mind, Sam turned serious. "You will make it one day. Never lose hope about it."
"I never did." Agatha closed her eyes, and then walked away from him. "Now though, we have an important appointment. See you later."
And thus, Agatha and Sam saluted each other and parted ways, as Agatha readied one of her transport Drifloon for her next destination.
Even after so many decades, the Drowning Woods looked exactly the same as always. The first few times Agatha explored it again it still managed to terrify her, but after requesting to become the sole Elite Four tasked with the patrols, she had enough time to learn the geography of the place and any ghostly tricks they could pull off on her. It went from a horrifying and traumatic location to a mildly threatening forest over time, as her experience and trainer skills grew.
However, she never stopped underestimating it and its ghosts all the same. While the rise of alternate paths had made the Drowning Woods a much less likely shortcut for beginners to take, there was always someone foolish enough to attempt traversing it, and it was her duty to rescue them. Plus, of course, she had her own little plan to do as well.
She smirked as she looked over her bag of empty Poké Ball, and strode onward to the biggest clearing of the forest. Once again, everything was the same as always, and Agatha simply waited until she eyed a shadow crawl out of the woods.
A shadow that took a familiar form and glared at her. "You are here again."
She barely suppressed a wince as she saw the Gengar. She had matured and conquered her fears for the most part, but that Gengar was the only one she would never get used to.
It looked far weaker than ever, probably due to a lack of nourishment, and he was only followed on by a couple of Haunter and some Misdreavus, probably all that was left of the fearsome ghosts of the Drowning Woods after she captured most of them.
Remembering that, she frowned. She didn't like to catch a Pokémon only to keep them in their balls forever, but even after Sam managed to pacify most Pokémon they still proved surprisingly vicious and dangerous, and they had no other option to deal with them. Even now that they could be counted on one hand and they appeared much less frequently, they couldn't be allowed to run freely.
"This is where it ends." She took a stance, and grabbed an old Poké Ball.
Gengar still managed to laugh at that, then wagged his finger at her. "I will never change back your stupid brother. But I can make sure you give him company, if you prefer."
"I will find my way to help him out." Agatha's stare pierced through him as she tried not to react. "I don't need you."
Gengar grinned in response. "Your disappointed face is always a pleasure to see."
Agatha didn't reply as she tightened her grip on her old Poké Ball. Then, she tossed it, and from the light another Gengar emerged. One wearing a confident grin.
For once, worry flickered over the old Gengar's face. Agatha wore an expression matching her Pokémon's as she stepped forward.
Once she was at her Gengar's side, she gave him a look. "Tony, are you ready?"
Tony gave his sister a thumbs up as she readied some Shadow Balls. The Gengar and his cronies were quick to step back and charge attacks on their own, failing to hide their own worries.
"Very well." Agatha's grin widened as she stared at the scared Ghost-types ahead. "Let's get to work."