Tropius Heights was fairly distant from the Illium, which was something of a relief. It was a tall brown apartment building with a stylized Tropius emblem on the entrance, next to the botanical garden. There was nothing too remarkable about the building, inside or out – a few token plants around the lobby for oxygen, a generic pattern on the walls, and a bored-looking woman at the reception lobby. It was a significant step down from the luxury Illium, but far from a hole in the wall. A perfect fit for someone on a budget who wanted to stay under the radar.
It wasn’t far at all to room 203…it was one floor up, and almost next to the staircase. Ash almost wished it had been further – it would’ve given him more time to think, time he really needed. Instead he was stuck standing in front of Alessa’s door like some idiot, too scared to step in.
He could do this. He could do this. He’d faced Brandon, he’d faced the Butcher, he’d faced dying… he could face this girl.
After far too long, Ash took a deep breath and readied the key in his hand…before remembering his manners. Shaking his head, he held up his hand to the door frame and knocked.
At first there was nothing, and Ash wondered how absurd it would be if she wasn’t home after all the drama about coming here. Then there was a slight rustling behind the door, followed by the unmistakable click of the lock being unlocked. “Come in.” she said from the other side.
Ash swallowed and opened the door.
The first thing he saw were the Bug Pokemon in their terrariums. Guess she restarted her collection with the local bugs. Spinarak, Butterfree, a moth he didn’t recognize, Kakuna and Krickitune. They all chittered in interest as the stranger came into the apartment…Alessa didn’t get visitors, Ash guessed.
The girl herself was standing nearby, wiping her hair off with a towel. She clearly had just been showering. Ash had to admit, after seeing her in her uniform and the outfit mirroring his for so long, it was rather odd to see her in a t-shirt and jeans. At least she wasn’t dressed in a towel – that would’ve been beyond awkward. This was already stressful enough.
Alessa smiled and nodded him into the apartment. “Glad to see you’ve stopped by. Come in, have a seat.”
Ash couldn’t detect any threatening undertones in her voice at all…she was genuinely pleased to see him. And while the opposite wasn’t quite true, Ash visibly relaxed and tried to smile back. “Yeah, thanks.”
The apartment was nowhere near as big as his room in the Illium, but then again, it was only for one occupant. There was a small kitchen adjacent to a sitting area with a few couches and a cupboard. There was a fairly large TV in the corner, with a coffee table between it and the seat. Without warning, Ash had a vision of Alessa cutting the doll’s eye out…
Ash shook his head and took the doll out of his bag. “Um…here. I, uh, figured you would want to have this back.”
Alessa blinked as she accepted the rabbit doll back. “Oh…thanks. You restitched the eye?”
Ash shook his head. “No…I kinda got my mom to do it. I told her it was supposed to be a funny-coloured Bunnelby that a fan got me.”
Alessa looked down at the pink rabbit with wide eyes, blue overalls, and an eerie smile. “Sure it is…huh. She does good work.”
“Th – I’ll let her know that.”
Alessa tucked away into the apartment’s kitchen, and Ash took some time to look around. The walls had several paintings and pictures on them…many of them warped renditions of Pokemon, no doubt appealing to Alessa’s taste for darkness.
One that stood out wasn’t a painting, but a photograph. It was a picture of a bloodstained Blastoise that had been outfitted for war, it’s cannons chipped and scarred and…refitted? They looked like real guns, not the natural water cannons Blastoise had. Ash had heard about Pokemon being used as soldiers for war, but he’d never seen one for himself…it looked like it could tear apart whatever it wanted. Human, Pokemon, anything in between…
A wave of discomfort overcame Ash, and he quickly looked away. “So…um…the Black Chrysanthemum wanted you to know that the…painting is ready.”
“Great.” Alessa chimed from the kitchen. Ash could hear the faint whistling of a tea kettle. Funny…I didn’t hear the oven being turned on… “Did you see it?”
“Yeah…He either thought I was you, or your…brother.” Ash snorted. “Funny, huh?”
Alessa paused before responding. “Yeah…hilarious. You wanna know what that painting is of?”
“Yeah…the Infernape that destroyed the White Chrysanthemum. It wasn’t immune to it’s own fire…Ended up burning itself to a crisp. One of the patrons made a rendition of it’s dying moments.”
“Classy.” Ash sighed. “Something you’d like.”
“And what’s your taste in art?”
Ash opened and then closed his mouth. He couldn’t think of a response…he never really thought about what he liked in art. The only thing he really thought about was Pokemon battling…huh, there was a thought.
Alessa stepped out, carrying two cups filled of steaming tea. He was a little surprised with how fast it was ready…then again, Alessa was a – what was the word? Pyrotechnic? Pyro…netic…Pyrokitenic. She made fire. That was how she heated up the tea. Yeah, that made sense.
Alessa set the tea down, and Ash took a careful sip. Considering he was dining with the most evil girl he’d ever known, he might’ve been afraid of poison if this was some crime drama or suspense movie. But poison wasn’t really Alessa’s style…and Ash was confident that she didn’t want to hurt him. Not now, anyway.
“So, what brings you over? It can’t just be the doll or the painting.” Alessa asked.
“Well…no. I just…I’ve been doing some thinking. About…well, our fight.” Ash stammered, unsure about how to start. “Why I challenged you to a fight.”
Alessa raised her eyebrow. “Mmhmm.”
“See… the thing is…well…I’m thinking the reason I made it a battle was…well, that’s all I really know how to do. I don’t know about art or philosophy or anything outside of Pokemon battles…so that’s what I keep defaulting to. That seems to be my solution to everything, really.”
“Does it solve anything?” Alessa asked.
“Quite a bit, actually. I got on better terms with Gary after I beat him, I’ve driven Team Rocket away every time with a battle, I figure I can stop Paul ragging on me once I beat him – “
“Paul? That kid with the purple hair?” Alessa shook her head. “Don’t count on it. He’s a worthless bully…he’ll never think of you any better no matter how much you beat him. He’ll just say it was a fluke.”
Ash nearly denied that, but he couldn’t think of a good retort. That did sound like Paul…he didn’t learn anything from his chats with Brandon or Cynthia, and then there was that nonsense about being ‘the archetypical trainer’. His ego was too big for him to get the hint.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to beat him though. Besides, he wasn’t there about Paul. “Whatever. What he thinks doesn’t matter. This is about…well, you and me.”
A slight smirk came onto Alessa’s face.
“Not like that!” Ash denied hurriedly. “I mean…okay, so yeah. I default to battling whenever I’m in a bind. And I was in a bind back there and…I still am. About you.”
Alessa nodded. “Go on.”
“Yeah…um…the thing is…” Ash took a deep breath, readying himself. “You’re…not a good person. You’ve killed a lot of people…horribly, and hurt a lot more people, worse. And they…may or may not have deserved it.”
Alessa didn’t raise any objections, which surprised Ash a little. Well, at least she’s not in denial about being a villain…that’s something, I guess.
“But…well, I get it. I get why you’re like this. I…know what the Order did…to you and…others.”
Alessa tensed up, but Ash could tell she wasn’t mad at him, per se. “Do you? My mother…my own MOTHER…destroyed my life bit by bit, impregnated me with her cult’s god for her little power play, left me bedridden for seven. Years. With burns all over me that would never heal, never stop stinging, never stop Burning…”
Ash blinked. For a split second, the girl sitting in front of him was on fire. Her skin was blackened, with hideous black marks that seemed to be writhing, the only thing that stayed intact was her eyes, burning with bloodthirsty rage and hatred…but as soon as he registered the image, it was gone…another vision?
“And then…when my father saved me…gave me everything I could’ve wanted, love, hope, a family…the Order came back and ruined it all, murdering my father and trying to destroy me AGAIN!” Alessa smashed her fist into the table. “And now…THIS! I get dragged back into the mortal realm so a lunatic could take my power, and go through this entire f*cking mess all over again…” Alessa suddenly took a breath and tried to calm herself down.
Ash glanced at where Alessa had struck the table. Is that a…burn mark? When he glanced back, he noticed that she was clutching her stomach, just like mothers in the movie do when they’re…
Ash blinked. “Your…pregnant?”
Alessa groaned. “In a manner of speaking. I’ve got ‘God’ inside me. That was part of Dakos’ spell…not only would I be resurrected, but God would be reborn inside me right away. That way, all the power would be his for the taking.” Alessa glanced down at her stomach. “On the one hand, my powers get amplified and I can smite my enemies any way I please. That’s a plus…but this thing is eating away at me, and once it’s born…”
Ash swallowed. “C-can’t you get rid of it?”
“Not now. I need something first…something that won’t be ready for a few months yet. But don’t worry…I want to rid of this as much as you do. Like I said…you won’t have to worry about me soon enough.”
Ash wasn’t sure how he should feel about that, and quickly decided to change the subject. “Wait…if you’re the one carrying ‘God’ or whatever it is, then how could Dakos take your power – or for that matter, how could you give me the power?”
Alessa shrugged. “Well…it’s a rather complicated matter involving conduits to the otherworld and totems and binding conduits to certain items…” Alessa indicated her eye. “…and we really don’t have time to go into the details because that’s not what this conversation is about.” Alessa stated with finality. “The question is: what makes you think you understand what happened to me?”
“Well, the Order did something to me – “
Ash trailed off when he registered the look on Alessa’s face. Her eyes had gone wide, and the color seemed to be draining from her. “…In…Kalville…right?” she swallowed.
Shaking his head, Ash answered. “No. There was an phony orphanage in Sinnoh that was being run by the Order…you…didn’t…know…?”
Alessa’s shock had been replaced with rage…Ash could feel the heat coming from her. “No…the Order died with Dakos…it can’t still be alive…”
The heat was getting unbearable, the paint on the walls was peeling, the windows were cracking, the insects were laughing, the TV was screaming, everything around them was getting darker…
“…Alessa?” Ash squeaked.
Alessa glanced back up at Ash. Her enraged face slipped for a second, and her eyes and teeth tensed with the telltale signs of someone trying to retain their temper. “I…think…you…had…better…leave…now.”
Ash didn’t argue, and he quickly bolted out of his seat, leaving his tea behind. All around him, everything was turning blood red and coal black. It felt like he was surrounded by anger. Running like the devil was behind him, Ash bolted out of the apartment, shutting the door behind him.
Back in the normal hallway, in the normal building, with a door between him and that nightmare, Ash breathed a sigh of relief and started walking towards the stairs that would lead out of Tropius Heights…
Until Alessa screamed, and the world screamed with her.
It was like an earthquake had struck, nearly knocking Ash off his feet. The lights flashed, illuminating bloody shadows for a split second. What sounded like an echo to her enraged roar turned out to be a group of unseen creatures, squealing in bloodthirsty glee like predators anticipating a kill. Ash blinked and thought he saw them in the hallway. The walls peeled away to reveal metal cages, holding Arceus-knows-what inside them…
But the screaming suddenly stopped, and the world returned to normal.
Ash stayed still for several minutes, wondering if that glimpse of Silent Hill would come back again. When nothing happened for some time, Ash shakily started walking out of the building.
All the way to his own hotel, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had just unleashed a monster.