End of One Journey
Albion had protested when his father called Darren’s victory. Not because there was much doubt as to whether Darren’s single Pokémon had beaten both of his, but because the way in which they had been beaten was, to say the least, out of the ordinary. Brock’s final word on the matter had simply been that since official Pokémon League rules didn’t disallow Pokémon evolving during a battle, he wasn’t going to call a Pokémon doing so cheating, no matter how unexpected it had been. It did result in Darren and Heather being delayed to alleviate the Gym Leader’s curiosity, but within the hour they had still been on the road, Darren now being in possession of two Gym Badges.
Their trip to Viridian City was, largely, uneventful. They spent the night in the forest, after having travelled past nightfall by the light of Amber’s tail, much like during their journey through the Onix’s caves, and reached the city by lunch time the next day. At that point, Heather started to pause every so often to cast a glance over her shoulder or down a street as they passed.
“What’s the matter?” Walking through the city in full daylight, and attracting attention accordingly, wasn’t making Darren very comfortable, but he saw no reason Heather should be so jumpy.
“Viridian City is an easy day’s walk from Pallet Town,” she replied, once again looking around in that near-paranoid manner. “And quicker if you have a Pokémon giving you a ride. My parents come here to shop, sometimes. Mom’s alright, but if Dad sees you…”
Darren shrugged, hiding his own discomfort at that thought. “If he sees me, you spotting him in turn won’t exactly change anything, now would it?”
“I’d like to see him before he sees me, if he’s here.” She shook her head. “There’s no use continuing today, though. Let’s find the Pokécenter; they usually let trainers spend the night.”
“Well, yes. Where were you planning on sleeping?”
Darren grimaced. “Last time I went into a Pokécenter I ended up falling down a hole at the end of a police chase. You might remember that?”
“Oh. Well, that was all the way back in Celadon City.”
“You don’t think they would have called and given the other Pokécenters my description?”
“Eeech. I guess you have a point. Well, we could press on, I suppose, but we’d get back to Pallet way too late to see Professor Oak, and I can’t bring you home with me until we’ve done something about your clothes. Seriously. My dad would judge you faster than Officer Jenny.”
Darren shrugged. “I’ll make do; I didn’t mind sleeping outside last night, so long as you know somewhere I’ll be out of the way…”
“It’s alright. You’ve been a lot of help so far.”
That squared away, they continued to the south end of Viridian City, Darren casting one wistful glance at the Pokémon Gym in passing before it was out of sight, and then Heather lead him along the path back to her hometown. They saw some wild Pokémon at a distance while they walked, but none of them came any closer, possibly intimidated by the presence of Tiger, Fox and Darren himself. Like Heather had predicted, night fell before they reached their destination, forcing them to once again use her Charmander as a living torch — not that the Pokémon seemed to mind the walk.
Rooftops became barely-visible above the trees, outlined in white by the moonlight reflected off the shingles, and then Heather pulled him aside, off the road. The path she walked was narrow, barely even a gap in the underbrush, but lead to a small clearing around a wind-felled tree.
“I’ll come get you in the morning, after Dad leaves for the Gym.” She hesitated a moment, then added, “if anything changes, I’ll send Tiger to let you know. That’ll work, right? I mean, you can understand him…”
“That’ll be fine,” he assured her. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
As Heather, and the light moving with her, disappeared between the trees, Darren made himself comfortable in the hollow left by the fallen tree’s roots. It was only moments after he’d settled that Fox squirmed into his arms in Flareon form, making sure he’d stay warm through the night by sharing his body heat.