“Hey, storm’s over.” Arlette shook Aurora, waking her up.
Aurora blinked and uncurled slightly, peering through the window they’d been sitting by for most of the day and well into the night. “I missed it?”
“Don’t know how you managed that,” Soise said, nodding. “Pity.”
Arlette grinned. “Shall we see what needs helping?”
Aurora tilted her head. “I su-suppose we could do,” she yawned, stretching herself out.
They left the centre and the town, soaking their shoes and lower legs in the muddy grass.
“I didn’t think it had got down here,” Arlette said, skirting around a particularly deep patch of mud. “Weren’t they channelling it towards the river?”
“It was too strong,” Soise replied, skipping right through it. “They did what they could.”
“And are still doing so. You girls headed for the tunnel?”
“Certainly headed in that direction.” Arlette nodded, turning to the ranger speaking to them. “We’ll take a trawl and check if there’s anyone else – the nurse said there might be people travellin’ it.”
“Well – be careful, will you? It should be passable now, but there’ll still be water in the lower tunnels.”
Aurora grinned. “We’re good at that. And plenty pokémon between us, we’ll be fine.”
As soon as they left the ranger group behind, Arlette snorted and glanced at Aurora, raising an eyebrow.
“We’re good at being careful?”
“Well… we had to tell him something.”
Arlette grinned back as Soise raced through the grass as a manectric, sniffing at the scents that hadn’t been washed away.
Xenos whistled, tilting his head slightly. Crawn reshuffled feathers and then darted into the sky, cawing delightedly. Xenos whistled again, more insistently, and pointed forward.
“Oh – thanks, Xen.” Arlette tilted her head to nudge him. “Entrance is just ahead.”
“And it’s taken a battering!” Soise called back.
The twins ran to join her, examining the smoothed down surface of the rock tunnel.
“Just slightly,” Aurora snorted.
“That’s quite impressive… I didn’t realise it was that bad.” Arlette ran a hand over the side.
Aurora started to reply but frowned, tilting her head towards the tunnel. Soise flicked an ear to listen, but shook her head.
“What you got?” Arlette asked.
“People coming,” Aurora whispered. “Two… three of them. Plus pokémon.”
Soise frowned. “Joy did say there might be people still in there, huh?”
“What should we do?” Arlette stepped towards the entrance, peering in. “Help them?”
Aurora shook her head, starting to grin. “There’s a lot of bickering… we wouldn’t want to get caught in that, would we?”
Soise laughed shortly and climbed up to hang above the entrance as a crobat. “So what’s the plan?”
“Maybe break it up.” Aurora shrugged. “Come on – let’s get away from here, anyway.”
They retreated to an outcrop from where they could watch the entrance easily.
“Ice fire won’t work,” Arlette said. “It’s too wet – it would just dilute away.”
“So we can’t do epic freak, then,” Aurora sighed.
“Hey – yes you can. I’m here.” Soise grinned, spreading her arms as if waiting for applause.
The twins traded a glance and shook their heads. “Nah. Sorry.”
Soise scowled and crossed her arms, looking away from them. “Then what’s the point of me being with you? Might as well have sent Brith!”
“Because you’re far more fun than Brith?”
“And someone has to keep the ship under control.” Arlette grinned. “’Sides, we could still use your skills.”
Soise glanced back. “Use them how?”
“I was just thinking triplets. We could offer ‘em help and all.”
“What, and just act like there’s nothing strange about it?” Arlette raised an eyebrow.
“There’s nothing strange about triplets!” Soise laughed. “Easy done, that.”
“And it’d probably break up their little spat as well.” Aurora nodded before glancing back towards the cave entrance. “Come on.”
She launched herself over the outcrop and slid down towards the entrance. Arlette followed her, catching up easily.
“So what colours?” Soise asked. “I mean, black – obviously – but for the secondary?”
“Eh… red or purple?” Aurora suggested.
“Red,” Arlette said. “Might as well be the proper trio, huh?”
Aurora laughed, grinning. “Ah, if only Nyx were here!”
“She doesn’t match us properly, though. We wouldn’t be triplets then.”
“We could be quadruplets. I could easily illusion her to look like you. But I doubt she’d up for this particular kind of freaking.” Soise shrugged and caught up with them, spinning an illusion about herself.
When they stopped before the cave entrance, they were three identical girls.
“Oh – Soise, here.” Arlette unclipped two of the pokéballs at her waist. “Ferkay and Diana.”
Soise nodded and took them. “Thanks.”
They could hear the voices more clearly now, see a torch flickering in the darkness.
“We’re almost out, right?”
“Yeah, reckon so.”
“Good, because the torch is dying.”
“Well, if that elekid of yours wasn’t so easily tired–!”
“She’s only a baby!”
They sounded tired. The twins exchanged a glance and nodded. Arlette released her quilava and entered the cave.
“Hello? Are there still people in here?”
Harpy barked and flared his fire higher, illuminating the tunnel. Aurora made a face at the shining walls, the water still dripping from the roof and pooling on the floor.
“Yes! Yes, there are three of us!”
“Anyone hurt?” Aurora asked.
One of the others snorted.
They found the group just around the first bend; two girls and a boy with a meowth and bulbasaur in tow.
“Are we far from the entrance?”
Arlette shook her head. “It’s just around that corner.”
“Oh, good!” the older girl sighed in relief.
“You get caught in that flood?” Soise asked, stepping from behind Aurora.
They glanced between the three of them, the boy beginning to frown.
“I – yes. What are you doing here?” The younger girl nodded, stepping forward.
The older hastened to stand by her side. “Bree, be careful – you’re still hurt.”
“How badly?” Arlette asked, moving to examine her.
“Maybe once we get out of the cave,” Soise said, grinning.
“We came to help,” Aurora explained. “Everyone else is outside with the pokémon; we thought we’d have a trawl through the cave to check.”
“I’m glad you did.”
Arlette smiled. “Well – the exit is just over this way. “Harpy, come on.”
The quilava turned and led the way to the entrance, his flames dimming as they came closer to the light.
Soise was the first out after Harpy, and stood to the side to let the others passed. Then the two girls, blinking as their eyes adjusted to the light. As the younger one sat down on a nearby rock – placing her coat over it first – Arlette moved to her side.
“I’ll be fine until we get to the centre,” she said.
Arlette pursed her lips and tilted her head, examining the girl’s head. “Yeah… someone did a number on this. What happened?”
The girl glanced at the boy, who didn’t notice. Aurora raised an eyebrow and grinned.
“Hey… are you triplets?” the boy asked.
“Sometimes,” Aurora answered him.
The boy blinked, confused by Aurora’ answer.
“I’m Arlette, by the way,” Arlette introduced herself. “That’s Aurora and–”
“Aliyah,” Soise interrupted, dipping her head. “Delighted to meet you.”
“I’m Bree, this is Kathy. And that’s Nathan.” The younger girl answered, gesturing to her companions. “Did you come from the town?”
“Not normally,” Aurora replied. “But today we did.”
Nathan shook his head as Aurora laughed slightly. “Can you speak straight?”
“Straight can’t turn corners,” Soise cut in. “No point to it.”
Bree laughed, doubling over.
“But – what do you mean, ‘sometimes’? About the triplets?”
“What do you think I meant?” Aurora tilted her head. “Kathy, your knee doing ok?”
Nathan scowled. “I don’t know.”
“Oh, yeah – it’ll be fine,” Kathy said, glancing down at the plaster on it.
“We should still maybe get you into the town now,” Soise said, looking around.
Arlette nodded, straightening up. “Yeah, that may be a plan.”
Kathy helped Bree up, and so missed the wink that passed between Aurora and Soise.
“Oh – that’s what I meant to ask earlier. We – I have two friends that were going to go over the top of the tunnel,” Bree said, “By the old powerplant or whatever it is. Have they got in yet?”
“They may have,” Arlette said, returning Harpy. “I wouldn’t know, I’m afraid.”
Bree nodded, biting her lip.
“I can go and look for them, if you want?” Soise offered. “Shouldn’t be too hard.”
“They might be in the town already,” Bree said.
“Yeah, maybe go once we’ve checked the centre or something? It’s not like they could be in any danger, right?”
Soise nodded. “Right y’are.”
They set off, Crawn fluttering from Aurora’s shoulder to circle in the air above them.
As they walked, Soise grinned and let her illusioned blonde hair darken and grow longer, wilder. Nathan caught sight of it and stared, not quite believing his eyes.
“So what were you doing in that cave, anyway?” Aurora asked, glancing back at them.
“Pretty foolish, what with that storm and all.”
“It came out of nowhere,” Kathy said. “We weren’t expecting it.”
Arlette nodded. “It did seem sudden. We were thinking about heading through the tunnel yesterday, but Aliyah was caught up in other things, so we didn’t.”
Soise looked around and laughed. “Can you really blame me? All those ghost types, begging for attention!”
Kathy glanced over and saw Soise’s mane breaking through, and stopped. “Excuse me… Aliyah?”
Soise glanced over her shoulder and laughed, running a clawed hand through her mane. “Looks like I need to work on the dyeing of it, huh?”
“That’s just – what are you?” Nathan lifted a pokéball out and held it ready.
The twins turned and grinned. “The question, dear Nathan,” they chorused together, “Is not what but who.”
“So… who are you?” Bree glanced between them, and her bulbasaur crept closer to her leg.
“We’re the NightGales!” the twins announced, bowing.
“And I… am the night,” Soise said, before laughing and letting darkness eclipse them all.
Bree shrieked, and released the rest of her team in a flurry of flashes.
“St-stop playing around,” Nathan stuttered.
Soise released Ferkay, and his stone rolled to rest at Nathan’s foot.
“There’s no playing here,” Arlette said. “You asked who we were.”
“And so we told you!” Aurora shrieked, laughing.
Kathy gripped Bree’s hand, looking around. “Are you even human?”
“Sometimes!” the twins chorused, the darkness dissipating from around them.
Nathan bent to examine the stone at his foot – and yelped, jerking back as Ferkay laughed and materialised from it.
“Bulby – vine whip!” Bree ordered.
Her bulbasaur extended vines and snapped through the darkness at the twins.
Arlette yelped as one cut across her cheek, and the darkness drew around them once more.
“Show yourselves – stop fooling around!” Kathy yelled.
“As you wish,” Soise whispered, and the darkness disappeared.
The twins and Soise stood before them – Soise as herself, Arlette as a mismagius and Aurora as a gengar.
“You – you’re not even human?” Nathan scowled. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Currently, messing with your minds,” Arlette said.
“Hey – why do I always get the short one?” Aurora asked, examining her illusionary form.
Soise grinned. “Sorry, I ran out of ideas.”
“How about frosslass? That’d work!”
“Right you are!” Aurora’s gengar form disappears, replaced instantly by a frosslass. “Happy?”
Kathy peered at them, trying not to laugh. “I’m sorry – what?”
Ferkay laughed from beside Nathan’s foot, causing him to jump again.
“Can you – not do that?” he complained, kicking at the stone.
“Kinda broke that there, didn’t we?” Arlette grinned, stepping forward. “May I introduce Soise, Master Illusionist?”
Soise took a bow. “Delighted to meet you.”
The illusions around the twins broke, leaving them as human as they really were.
“And we really are humans,” Aurora said. “Aurora and Arlette NightGale. That much we didn’t lie about.”
Bree shook her head, still defensive. “What was all that in aid of?”
“Mostly fun,” Aurora replied. “We’re a bit like that.”
Bree crouched to stroke her pokémon, reassuring them. “Well – it wasn’t fun for us!”
“Well – we did also want to help you.” Arlette stooped to pick up Ferkay’s stone as it rolled to a stop by her foot. “And I’ll thank you not to kick my pokémon.”
Nathan scowled. “Well, I’ll thank you not to do that again.”
“Yeah, you weren’t the best audience we’ve ever had.” Soise folded her arms. “But now we should maybe get you to Violet?”
“Wait – you are actually a pokémon?” Bree stared at Soise. “And you can talk.”
“… Yes,” Soise said slowly, nodding. “That I am, that I can.”
“Then – oh, you could help my friend!” Bree broke into a smile. “She’s been having trouble with one of her pokémon you know, but we can’t understand them at all, so if you could help that would be wonderful!”
“Hey, slow down there!” Soise laughed, holding up her paws.
Nathan frowned. “What kind of trouble?”
“It’s none of your business,” Bree snapped.
“I don’t see why it’s any of theirs either!”
“Hey, kids! Slow down, would you?” Soise laughed, interrupting them. “I’ll do what I can to help, ok?”
“But first – let’s get to Violet.” Arlette nodded. “It’s not that far.”