"Get up, damn it!" the trainer snarled as he set his foot over a downed Eevee.
The Pokemon slowly got back to his feet, his legs trembling over the struggle and his breathing harsh. It wasn't long before he fell back down to the ground.
"Ugh! You're useless," he breathed out as he dug into his backpack and took out a spray bottle of Potion. He proceeded to kneel down to his Eevee's level, "Listen to me, Ghost, do you have an idea of how many of these I have already spent on you? All the time I've wasted trying to make something even a bit worthy out of you?"
The Eevee just lowered his head and remained silent. Of course he knew, after all it had been him, not the trainer, the one who had been doing all the fighting. It wasn't the first time he had ended up like this today, and apparently it wouldn't be the last either.
The Wingull had escaped, that was for sure; it had made sure to peck him several times before trying to get away though. He couldn't do anything about it though: he had tried, but in the end the Wingull had turned out to be stronger than him.
He couldn't help it, he was weak, just like his master made sure to remind him on every chance he had. So much this had been drilled on him since hatching that he had come to convince himself he had been the runt of the litter, despite not even knowing if he had any brothers or sisters for a start.
What he didn't understand was why, if both his master and him knew he was weak, did his master made him fight against opponents that were clearly stronger than he was. This happened to be the case of every wild Pokemon in this area.
He didn't refuse his master's orders though, but even when giving it his everything he was still clearly outmatched. Yet his master didn't seem to understand that, no matter how many times he was brought to the point of exhaustion.
The trainer took the Eevee's head and made him face him. "Listen, this is the last one I waste on you today, you hear me? You better make it worth," he said before spraying his injuries with the Potion.
The Eevee cringed a bit in pain but the relief came immediately after, just like many times that day he could feel his energy coming back at him.
Like that was going to matter, how long before they found another wild Pokemon and the cycle repeated?
Deep down he didn't even fear the pain of the battles; yes, being knocked into the ground was painful, but truth was that he didn't even hold hard feelings against those that had beaten him countless times before.
What he really feared was his master.
These were conflicting feelings: he fed him, gave him shelter, tended his wounds and looked after him in some way (Or at least made sure he didn't die); because of this he felt he owed him loyalty.
On the other hand he also admired, but also feared, the way he had control over Pokemon that were clearly more powerful than he was.
He had already witnessed what a display of disobedience cause. No more than two days ago one of his teammates, a Lairon, had refused to finish off an Elektrike which was already at the point of passing out and giving out every possible sign of yielding, begging for mercy even.
When the Electrike escaped their master proceeded by punishing the Lairon for letting it go. Acting almost on of sheer instinct, the Lairon moved out of the way, causing the trainer to trip on one of his spikes, lose his balance and fall face-full to the floor. Yelling curses at his Lairon, the trainer pulled out a Pokeball and returned him at once.
The Eevee was aware of this kind of power their master had to stop them and was the first reason why he feared him even slightly. The real reason, though, came only a few hours after the Lairon refused to obey.
He never even saw it coming. They had entered at a Pokemon Center, just like many times before, to check them in with the nurses after having trained for hours. From inside his Pokeball everything had been muffled, but he had been able to make out the words "renegade," "dangerous," and "impossible to train." Before he could tell the Lairon was out of his Pokeball and one of the nurses was sticking a needle into his neck, a look of regret in her face.
The Lairon never woke up.
The message had been clear: failing to obey him meant a needle to his neck; he wasn't even sure why but he shuddered at the very thought of it.
Loyalty, admiration, fear, all of them good reasons to obey, but not good enough to do what his master really wanted of him.
He wanted him to evolve into an Espeon, something really unlikely to happen any time soon or even to happen at all. It wasn't that he didn't want to please his master, but that kind of evolution happened almost unwillingly by its own once a Pokemon developed a strong bond with its master.
Given his situation he seemed unable to make that bond; even if he tried there was always a bit of resentment deep inside of him that he simply couldn't let go. His relationship with his master was due to a lot of things, but love or trust weren't part of it. The Eevee didn't realize this though; he knew no other life but this.
Another reason why he was unlikely to evolve was that he feared it would happen. Even if he managed to bond with his master and managed to evolve, what he would evolve into was uncertain: it depended on several, almost random conditions. There was always the chance that he would evolve into an Umbreon by accident, and if that happened he couldn't be sure that his master would hesitate to pull a needle to his neck as well.
"You coming or what?" the trainer turned around as he saw his Eevee space out. The Eevee nodded and hurried over to him obediently.
Despite following a trail made by hundreds of trainers having walked though the same road the wilderness refused to give in: patches of tall grass kept growing over the road here and there.
The Eevee was starting to get worried: the sun was starting to set. If no wild Pokemon appeared it wouldn't be long before his master lost his patience and vented out on him due to having lost another day.
Suddenly, a loud wooden crack, followed by a cry, was heard from high above. The turned around and saw the branch of a tall-looking tree plummeting into the ground behind them, scattering around a bunch of dust, leaves, berries and...
"Finally! A Zigzagoon! Ghost, go for it!" the trainer commanded as the wild Pokemon slowly managed to get back on its feet.
It took the Zigzagoon another moment to shake its head and gather up its thoughts. It let out a loud gasp the second she realized the trainer had just commanded to attack her. She was out in the open, even if she tried to escape there was nowhere to hide.
The Eevee was in a bit of a shock. He had no trouble attacking wild Pokemon since he knew if he didn't they would once they had been threatened, but this was different: this Zigzagoon could barely stand on its feet.
As the Zigzagoon let out a cry in fear he realized it was a female, no older than he was. He wished he hadn't, now he would feel even more guilty if he attacked her. Truth was that fainted Pokemon were sometimes preyed upon; given her size and age her chances of living would be slim.
"Ghost, what the heck are you waiting for? Go get it!" his master wasn't getting any more patient by the second. He had to do something, fast, but what?
It was then that he saw it: there was a ledge to his left. It was a long way down but it wasn't very steep; if lucky enough the Zigzagoon would resist the fall with no more than a few bruises.
Without a second to waste the Eevee growled threateningly and circled around the Zigzagoon. The Zigzagoon cowered in fear and tried to step back, but the Eevee moved around and blocked her way every time she did.
She eventually found herself trapped between the edge of the cliff and the attacking Eevee. She limited herself to whimper, there was no way out now. She could only watch as the Eevee finally pounced on her.
Ghost realized his mistake as soon as he made the leap and tackled against her. The Zigzagoon was lighter than he had expected, he had used too much strength on that jump.
The Eevee grunted in pain as he rolled downhill's along with the Zigzagoon. It wasn't only a longer fall than he had thought, there were rocks everywhere as well. As he saw an old looking tree at the foot of the cliff he knew the worst was still to come.
Both Zigzagoon and Eevee came crashing through the wood. Much to their luck the tree was hollow from the inside and a bunch of leaves along with the dry bark had cushioned the impact, even if just slightly.
The Eevee rose up, groaning in pain and took a look around. This had surely been a wild Pokemon's burrow once, the claw marks and holes on the ground couldn't have been made by themselves.
"Ghost!" the voice of his master at the distance brought his mind back to the matter. The Zigzagoon! He was supposed to take her down or his master would do it for him, only in a more painful way.
He looked around and finally spotted her between the leaves and wood debris, trying to conceal herself. She was panting heavily and seemed on the brink of passing out.
"Way to go Ghost! You've got it cornered. Now finish it up!" the trainer finally found them. The Eevee gasped, but nodded at him before pouncing over the downed Zigzagoon. The wild Pokemon gave a muted cry of fear and tried to squirm free.
One move, one move and everything would be over. This place was hidden enough, with some luck no one would find her; at least until she regained her sense. She was injured; this was the most merciful thing to do.
He raised his paw, extended his claws and prepared to strike once and for all. However, just before he did he looked into her eyes. He regretted having done so at the moment: second thoughts began to cloud him. In those eyes there was no will to fight back anymore, only sadness, despair and true fear.
And was he any different?
Despite his duty to his master, despite his own will to get stronger, he was reminded that the true why reason he was doing this was out of fear. Fear of his master, fear of what would happen to him if he failed. Fear of having a needle to his neck and never waking up again.
He simply couldn't do this anymore, there had to be another way, but how?
It then struck him. He bared his fangs and growled at her threateningly once more, drawing his jaws closer to her head. The Zigzagoon shut her eyes, shivered and whimpered in fear, but stopped squirming at once, knowing her time had come.
"Listen, I'm going to miss on purpose. When I do push me back and run away as fast as you can," he whispered at her ear. The Zigzagoon gasped in surprise but nodded at him, tears of gratitude forming in her eyes.
He raised his paw once more and readied his claws for a Scratch attack. Yes, this was a crazy idea: letting her go meant a strong, painful punishment for him, but if it looked like an accident he wouldn't be straight disobeying his master. He could take one more beating today.
The Eevee felt thankful the moment the Zigzagoon used a Sand Attack, missing him by much but making a cloud of dust; now this would be more credible. Between the dust he laid down his paw full-force right next to her head before feeling her shove him away. Playing with his part the Eevee leapt back and fell on his backside, feigning a grunt as he landed.
The Zigzagoon swiftly scurried away through the gap they had come through before the Eevee had a chance to stand back up.
The trainer watched with his mouth agape, "How on-?! Did that Zigzagoon just-?! What the heck was that Ghost?! Can't even deal with a Zigzagoon?! It was already done for you useless piece of-!!!"
The Eevee didn't even bother to listen the rest, only cried in pain as he felt his master's leg against his underbelly, making him lose whatever balance he had regained.
The punishment went on, the Eevee could only wait and feel the jabs of pain getting stronger, nearly making him regret his decision. However, in-between them he managed to spot the Zigzagoon, already on the treetops, looking down at him, horrified by the sight.
The Eevee furtively cocked his head, motioning for her to run away. The Zigzagoon looked at him sympathetically before nodding thankfully and was soon lost of sight.
By the time his master was done with him his legs were shaky and his abdomen hurt to the point it was hard to stand, even to breath, but his master still seemed more tired than he was.
The trainer then took a look around and noticed the sun was already setting. The day had been gone to waste: his Eevee hadn't beaten a single wild Pokemon during the day and training at night would only cause it to evolve into an Umbreon instead of an Espeon.
He sighed in annoyance, even if he punished his Eevee even more he would probably think it was still for letting the Zigzagoon go. He turned around in the direction of the nearest town. "Come on Ghost, we're done for today," the trainer called him in an almost scolding voice.
The Eevee groaned silently as he managed to get back to his feet somehow and trailed right after his master.
He made sure to keep it hidden from the trainer, but despite the struggle to keep with his pace or his whole aching body, the Eevee felt victorious. He knew he had made the right choice, and not even his master could away take from him the satisfaction of knowing that.
"Ghost! Ghost! Ghost!!!" a voice began to become clear. On second thought, he recognized that voice.
"Lin.." he managed to moan weakly as his vision came back to him and was able to see the Linoone right in front of him.
The Linoone gasped as a few tears began to form in her eyes. "Ghost?!" she mumbled as she rubbed her head against him in relief and tears finally overcame her. "Thank goodness! For a moment I thought you were gone," she sobbed at him, her voice breaking.
The Umbreon felt his head spinning and a cold shiver run through his spine but he didn't mind, he still rubbed his head against hers soothingly, "Don't worry, I'm going to be OK. Still... Could you tell me what happened?"
Lin managed to wipe off her tears and looked at him with a puzzled expression, "You don't remember anything, do you? An Ariados attacked us. He paralyzed me and he was going to get me, but you pushed me out of the way and got you instead. I was able to stop him, but he still managed to bite you and inject you its venom."
Ghost was a bit taken back by this, but after giving it some thought it made perfect sense: despite all poisons having the same purpose of gradually weakening their victim, the way they did so each time varied almost randomly. A strong poison would explain his head lightness, the cold shivers, the confusion and the intense thirst he was feeling, as well as even flashbacks and hallucinations in some cases.
"I managed to suck out the venom, but you were still out for a while," the Linoone explained, her voice at the edge of breaking. "I told you to let him take the berries, that I could just get some more. Why is it always you the one who has to end up hurt whenever you're with me?" the Linoone finally burst into tears one more and buried her head against him.
The Umbreon gasped in shock and was left out of words at a sudden realization. That look of fear, sadness, regret... Those eyes...
He had seen them before.