Treasure in the Rubble
Darren caught up with his companions considerably sooner than he’d expected, even slowed down by not being able to see the uneven rock floor. They’d stopped to wait when they’d heard the rumble of falling rocks, and far as he could tell in the flickering light from the Charmander’s tail, the girl looked relieved to see him. Her eyebrows pinched together a bit, however, when she saw him limping.
“Are you hurt?”
“Not badly.” He shrugged. “I could’ve gotten out of the way faster, but it’ll heal on its own. We should keep moving; we need to get to the end of this tunnel and hope there’s another way out.”
“Hope there’s another way out?”
“Have you been down here before? If we don’t find an exit, we’ll just have to backtrack and sneak out the hard way.”
“And what if we get lost?”
Darren didn’t bother answering that question in words, simply shrugged a ‘no matter’ kind of shrug, picked up his Eevee, and started walking along the corridor. He’d almost gotten to a point where the Charmander’s light did nothing for him anymore when he heard the girl telling it to come along and he heard her catching up.
They walked in silence.
“By the way,” the girl suddenly said into the fire-lit gloom, “I’m Heather Ketchum, from Pallet Town.”
“Darren Yamada.” It felt a little odd to say his last name out loud. “Sorry for getting you dragged into this.”
“It’s okay, I guess.” She fell quiet, and they walked another little while. “You said you’d tell me about… well, you, and your Eevee. It’s not like we have anything better to do… while… we… walk…”
Following her gaze, Darren didn’t have any major problem figuring out why she’d trailed off. Ahead of them, the corridor narrowed, and in their path, too large for either of them to squeeze past though their Pokémon might, lay a boulder, cushioned by rubble. All of it looked old, or old enough that Darren’s attack on the wall a ways back in the tunnel couldn’t have caused the blockage, though what had was anyone’s guess.
“I guess we’ll have to turn back and hope Officer Jenny gave up looking for you,” Heather sighed. “If we can even get past your cave-in.”
He looked at her, raising his eyebrows. “It’s just a rock.”
“I can’t move a rock that big. I don’t think you can, either.”
“Move it, no.” He walked up to the boulder and tapped it with his clawed left hand. “Smash it, on the other hand… How’d you think I blocked the tunnel behind us?”
“You mean, like a—”
Darren rolled his eyes. “Like a Pokémon, yes. Look, it’s kind of a sore point to me lately, so if you don’t mind…”
“Don’t call you a Pokémon. Gotcha.”
At his wave, she and her two Pokémon backed up, and Fox jumped off his shoulders and joined her. The strange tingling sensation of building power came easier this time, maybe because his current use for the move was more natural, or maybe because he had a lot less pressure on him. He found a weak spot in the rock’s rough surface as though it were second nature, and moments later his fist hit it, causing a crack to form with a loud, sharp noise (which made Heather cry out), and then spread from the impact point as he watched.
When the boulder fell apart, it did so into pieces the largest of which was no more than twice the size of his fist. That did leave a pile of rubble in their way, but the rubble was a lot easier to move, for one, and quite possible to climb over, for another.
“Oh. Oh! Did… didn’t that hurt?”
Darren shrugged. “It probably would’ve if I’d just punched the rock. Like that? I hardly feel it. Let’s keep moving.”
He put one of his large, orange, clawed feet down on the broken rock. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but felt reasonably stable, and though walking over the rubble was unsteady, it didn’t take him long to get across and stand on the firm ground on the other side.
Fox and Heather’s Charmander joined him next, but her Pikachu stopped partway across, waiting for his trainer and when he got her attention, laborously digging at the rubble around what Darren had taken for an unusually smooth piece of rock. She knelt on the pile of broken rock and dug with her Pokémon while Darren waited, impatiently, shifting from foot to foot. He wanted to put as much distance between himself and Celadon City as he possibly could before anyone broke through the barrier of rocks left behind by his cave-in.
Finally, Heather rose, cradling something that judging by her posture and strained expression was rather heavy. A Pokémon egg. Its color was a close enough match to the stone around them that he’d not noticed it in the strange light they had to go by; now that his companion was holding it he could see that it had a violet note to the hue of its grey shell.
She descended from the pile of rubble with a grin plastered on her face, and started walking along the corridor, humming. Since she was going the way he wanted to head anyway, he followed along.
For several moments, she didn’t talk. Unsurprisingly, as just carrying that egg seemed to be a large strain on her. But Darren should have known the peace and quiet couldn’t last forever.
“So, Darren. What’s your long story?”
He had no polite choice but to start telling her.