An Affair on the Fiery Path
Another sandstorm today. It seemed like Route 111 was always impassible these days. Corbyn pulled on his hiking boots and started getting ready for a hike through the Fiery Path.
Corbyn was 19 years old. He had black hair, brown eyes, and an Eevee that he carried around everywhere. He'd promised his friend that he would meet him in Fallarbor Town to catch his entry in the super contest there, but the weather seemed to be trying to prevent that from happening. It shouldn't be a big deal though, there was a tunnel through Mt. Chimney called the Fiery Path that would get him there, if he could get past all the pokémon inside.
Which, he was confident, Eevee could. He pulled on some hot weather clothes and let Eevee out of her ball. "You ready to go, Eevee?"
The little chestnut-brown pokémon looked up at Corbyn with bright eyes. "Veevee!" she exclaimed agreeably, smiling up at him. Corbyn smiled back and headed for the door.
It was a warm day outside, which meant it would probably be even warmer in the cave. Corbyn looked down at Eevee's fur coat as they walked. "You'll be all right if it gets hot in there, won't you?"
"Eve!" she replied confidently.
"That's what I like to hear," he smiled, stooping to scratch her behind the ear. Eevee leaned into his hand and purred, almost losing her balance when he finally pulled away. She loved it when Corbyn scratched her ear; he knew the perfect spot.
They made it to the entrance of the Fiery Path without much incident. A wild Numel stopped them outside, but Corbyn distracted the simple creature with a berry and walked past, not interested in getting Eevee beaten up before they even got inside the cavern.
The air inside was acrid and sulfuric. Steamy water dripped from stalactites above as Corbyn and Eevee sweated through the tunnel. Corbyn wasn't too surprised when a Koffing emerged from a hiding place and attacked, but Eevee managed to take it out with a few simple tackles. "That's my girl," Corbyn praised her. They traveled deeper into the cave until Corbyn heard the sound of crying.
"What the..." he muttered, and broke into a run. Eevee followed right behind him. Up ahead he could see a young girl sitting on the cave floor crying. Corbyn guessed she was only ten or eleven years old.
"Oh my gosh," he panted as he approached the girl. "Hello, are you lost? Are you hurt?"
The girl shook her head through her tears. Her little blonde pigtails flopped back and forth. "No," she sniffed.
That's a relief, Corbyn thought. "What's your name?"
"My name's Corbyn. What's wrong, Florence?"
"I can't get through there," she replied, pointing. His heart still racing from the scare, Corbyn turned his head left down a small side tunnel and saw a huge boulder blocking the path.
"Is that all?" Corbyn asked with a relieved smile. "You had me scared there, I thought you were really in trouble."
"I'm sorry," Florence sniffed.
"What do want to go down that way for anyway?" Corbyn wondered. "There are probably just more dangerous pokémon out that way."
"No, this old man in F-farlabor Town told me," she protested, changing her voice to mimic this old man, "'Deep within the cave lies a fiery treasure.' It's a fire stone, Corbyn, I'm sure of it! If I could get that and sell it, I could maybe get good enough pokéballs to finally catch my own pokémon. But no one will help me move this boulder, they all tell me it's too dangerous deep in this cave."
She seemed to have calmed down quite quickly now that she wasn't alone. Corbyn made an uncomfortable look. The truth was that it was too dangerous for this little girl to be in here alone at all, much less going deep inside without any of her own pokémon to defend herself with. He didn't want to just leave her here, though.
"Tell you what," he suggested. "Why don't I get my Eevee to move this boulder and then I'll go in there and take a look for you, okay?"
"You'll do that?!" Florence shouted excitedly.
Corbyn winced and motioned for her to keep it down. "Shh, yes I'll do it. But I want you to stay out here and keep out of sight, okay? The pokémon in this place can be kind of rough."
"Don't worry about me!" she replied fearlessly. If she'd been upset before, you wouldn't notice it now. "They won't even know I'm here!"
"Good," Corbyn nodded. "Eevee, time to use Strength!"
The little pokémon was apparently much stronger than she looked. Bracing her hind legs against the cave floor, she pushed up on the boulder until with a deep rumble it started to roll back. She scampered over to one side and pushed away from the wall, then did the same on the other side until a bit of momentum began to build up. In just a few minutes the little Eevee had the massive boulder rolling along nicely.
"Wow," Florence marveled.
"She's pretty special," Corbyn agreed. "Now go on and hide. I'll be back before you know it with that fire stone."
Florence hid behind some stalagmites as Corbyn walked back to check out the inner cavern. It was a little dark and he had to pull out his flashlight to see clearly. There was some motion in the shadows, but whatever was out there seemed content to sit back and watch, at least for now. Maybe seeing that tiny Eevee rolling a huge boulder down the tunnel made them reconsider their odds, Corbyn thought slyly.
He reached a dead end and almost turned around, but Eevee cried out to get his attention. "What is it?" he asked, and waved his flashlight in her direction.
Eevee was clutching a pokéball in her front paws. She pushed it across the ground toward her trainer and he picked it up curiously. "What in the world is this?" he muttered. The ball had a wild flame design on it, orange throughout the fire and red up above it. "Not quite a fire stone, but it might be what she was after, huh?" he thought aloud, glancing down at Eevee, who just tilted her head.
"Maybe it's inside," he went on, and reached for the button. As he pressed it, Corbyn nearly jumped out of his skin as the top blew off and fire coming from inside lit up the room. "HOLY-" he started, but without waiting another moment a wisp of fire shot up from the ball, swirled around in the air briefly and then shot straight at Corbyn's chest. He cried out, but the flame seemed to pass right through his shirt and his chest without setting him ablaze. Rather all he felt was a slight warmness in his chest. He dropped the ball to the ground, where the fire died down to a mellow orange glow, keeping the cave lit without making it look like broad daylight.
"What was THAT?" he asked, but Eevee seemed as startled as he was. She walked over to the dropped ball and started sniffing it cautiously. Corbyn stood in place and patted himself down, trying to see if any part of his clothes had caught fire. "Are you okay, Eevee?" he asked warily. "I feel a little warm all of a sudden..."
He shook his head a little and wiped the sweat from his face before noticing Eevee staring at him. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Why are you looking at me like th..."
Then Corbyn noticed what was wrong. He glanced at the back of his hand and his eyes went wide. Fur! Little red hairs were growing out in a thick clump on the backs of his hands and spreading outward rapidly. "Hey, whoa! What the heck-?"
Eevee hurried over to him and inspected his legs. Fur was growing up out of his socks as well, but more than that, his legs appeared to be growing shorter.
To Corbyn it was like the world was growing up around him. Little rocks jutting from the wall slid upwards as the floor seemed to grow closer. "Hey! What gives here?"
Corbyn's legs were indeed shrinking, and so was his waist. He grabbed his shorts quickly in embarrassment to hold them up as the fur spread up his arms toward another patch starting at Corbyn's neck and spreading down his back. As the back of his head and jaw started to grow fur as well, he felt the cartilage in his ears harden. "What am I turning into?" he shouted. One hand still on his waistband, he put the other to his ear and felt it stretching out, growing long and high as a thin covering of fuzz grew from it as well.
"Okay, think," he said to himself, feeling his heartbeat grow faster as the warm feeling in his chest spread out to other parts of his body along with the fur. "What's got fur and big long ear-"
His sight naturally came to rest on his Eevee, looking up at him with a happy kind of fascination. "Oh gosh," he whispered.
Corbyn's hand felt weird to his ear, and he brought it down to look. His hand was growing fur on both sides, save for the skin on his upper palm and fingertips, which was growing thick, rough, and dark. He stared at it, almost mesmerized, until he realized that while it first looked like his fingers were simply curled, they were actually much shorter than they had been just a minute before. His fingers were turning into paws.
"Shoot!" he exclaimed, and leaned against a wall to hold up his shorts while he started fiddling with his bootlaces. If his hands were changing then so were his feet, and if he was losing his fingers then he was running out of time to get these boots off. Unable to untie the laces with his stubby black fingertips, he finally grabbed the right boot and simply yanked until it came off. He stood in his socked foot, the cold stone already feeling drastically different than he knew it should as he worked on the second boot. This one came off as well, and before he turned his attention to his socks, he stopped and noticed that the fur had covered nearly every inch of his body. It was getting more difficult to reach down as well, and he realized his arms were getting slightly shorter as well.
As Corbyn tried to balance on one leg to pull the first sock off though, he forgot how much shorter his legs had become. Losing his balance, the trainer fell to his butt and looked out in front of himself, momentarily taken aback at how even sitting here, his legs were short enough and his feet long enough to take up so much of his field of vision. He hastily removed his socks and looked at the digitigrade paws his feet had turned into. Standing between them was Eevee, an almost jubilant expression on her face.
"Why're you looking at me like that?" Corbyn muttered, still feeling hot and sweaty as he wriggled out of his shirt. He could feel his nose and mouth changing now, becoming smaller and more triangular. Fur grew on the sides of the muzzle even as it began to form. He wondered how much longer he'd be able to talk, and continued, "This isn't exactly something you'd normally-"
Eevee didn't let him finish. With a little shout, "Eeee!" she pounced on his chest and knocked him onto his back. "Ack!" he sputtered as she stood on his chest and rubbed her face against his neck. He could feel much thicker fur growing from there and poofing up like a mane. Feeling Eevee dive right into it was a bit of a shock. "What's gotten into you?"
Eevee didn't answer as far as Corbyn could tell. She just kept purring her little E's and V's and nuzzling up against him. Bewildered, Corbyn waited and watched as his spine stretched out and pushed on his shorts. Thick, golden yellow fur puffed out from his growing tail as it extended longer, shoving his pants off completely and leaving him now naked except for his fur. The mane continued to grow along with his new tail, which he curiously waved back and forth a little. Eevee noticed this and hopped off him to playfully chase it. While she was distracted, Corbyn looked down at his paws and saw that his fingers were now completely gone, leaving only delicate pads and stubby claws. He touched his flame-like mane of fur and then the hair on his head, brushing a little down and seeing it too had grown thick and changed from black to the same golden yellow of his chest and tail. He felt his ears too, which were now extremely long and stiff, and it was easier to move them on their own than by using his paws. At first Corbyn had thought he was turning into an Eevee like his, but looking at his coloration, and the fact that his shrinking had stopped while he was still larger, it looked more like he was a Flareon.
Corbyn tried to say something else to get Eevee's attention, but his mouth only made a strange noise. He smacked his lips a few times and felt the teeth inside had grown smaller and more fox-like. He couldn't possibly speak English anymore.
But there was something else strange going on - Eevee seemed to be glowing. Corbyn's eyes started feeling dry and he blinked several times.The lighting started to seem much brighter and crisper, and he realized his eyes were changing, but even with that knowledge his Eevee was definitely starting to look strange, even though she looked happier than he'd ever seen. "Yon?" he asked, suddenly worried for her.
The light grew brighter, and Corbyn was forced to shield his eyes with one paw as a bright flash revealed Eevee again... only she wasn't an Eevee anymore. Her fur was now pink, her tail wiry and forked, and a tiny, lone red gem adorned her forehead. She smiled serenely at Corbyn. Oh wow, he thought, wide eyed. You evolved? I guess that means something made you like me more...
He paused as it sunk in. Oh. The Espeon approached him as he sat on his tail and she sat down next to him, rubbing her neck against his mane again. Hmmm... Corbyn sighed, until he remembered everything.
The kid! Florence! He suddenly leaped to his feet and looked over at Espeon. Oh god, he thought, looking down at his four-footed posture. I'm really a Flareon. Okay... first we need to get past that kid and out of this cave.
Espeon looked at him curiously. Corbyn looked back, wondering how to talk to her. "Yon! Flur..." he said helplessly, nodding with his head toward the exit. She seemed to understand his gesture if nothing else and followed him as he walked back the way they came.
Walking on four legs was tough to get used to though, especially at this distance from the ground. He tripped over his own feet frequently and Espeon kept leaning forward to catch him. Corbyn just smiled at her and kept going until they were close to the main tunnel.
He peeked his head out to look. There she was: still in her hiding place and keeping an eye open for wild pokémon. She started to turn around and Corbyn panicked, yanking his head back in the passage and hiding in the shadows.
"What was that?" he heard Florence say. "Corbyn?"
He watched from the darkness as she ran past the entrance, out toward the far end of the cave. "CORBYN?!" she shouted again, and he winced, not enjoying the feeling of ignoring her.
"Awwww..." he heard Florence gripe. "He ran off on me too. I bet the guy stole the Fire Stone for himself."
Corbyn cringed. Florence walked past again, and he heard her sit back down by her lonesome. "Lousy trainer... nobody wants to help me."
Corbyn looked back at Espeon and tilted his head at what he saw. She had brought his shirt along with them (perhaps she thought he might still want it?) and was holding it in her mouth. This gave him an idea.
"Yon! Yon!" he cried out quietly, nodding his head and holding out his front paws. She dropped the shirt and watched, confused, as Corbyn laid it out on the ground before crawling back into it, sticking his head out one sleeve. For effect, he also tore a small piece of fabric off and held it in his mouth.
With the shirt wrapped around him like a blanket, he cried out loudly. Espeon jumped back, startled, and Florence's face suddenly appeared in front of the crevice. "Wow!" she said, a big grin back on her face. "Two rare pokémon right here! Hold it right there while I get my pokéballs!"
Espeon got ready to run, but Corbyn stayed where he was. She looked at him, still confused. "Peon? Pe-peon?"
He merely responded with an affectionate rub and waited for Florence to return. "Okay, you two," she said, holding out a couple of regular pokéballs. "Let's see how you like... huh?"
She noticed the shirt he was wearing and the torn cloth in his mouth and burst out laughing. "Hahahaha!" she giggled uncontrollably. "You two scared Corbyn off! What a baby!"
Corbyn felt his cheeks burn, but he stayed where he was. Go ahead, kid, he thought.
"All right," she said finally. "You're mine now!"
Florence flung the first pokéball. Corbyn winced as he felt it pulling on him, dragging him right into the ball. Once inside, he knew he could fight it, but that wasn't what he wanted. He waited as he heard Florence throw one at Espeon too, and he hoped that she would let herself be caught as well.
"Yes!" he heard her shout in triumph. "I got you both! I am so lucky!"
Got that right, Corbyn thought.
Florence seemed satisfied with having caught Corbyn and Espeon. She forgot about whatever might have been deeper in the cave and went home to Fallarbor town, where she immediately let her new pokémon out to play with them. Corbyn wasn't so wild about being shown off to everybody at first, but once the novelty wore off to the girl, things seemed to be okay. Now all he had to figure out was what to do about his old companion...
Espeon sat down aside Corbyn and leaned her head against his side. Florence was out on a day trip with her parents, but she'd been nice enough to let the two of them outside of their pokéballs until she got back. Corbyn looked down at Espeon as she looked back up at him hopefully, then he sighed and gently nibbled behind her ear in that perfect spot.