Let's Go Safari!
Kiba's group reached the rest area that their guide, Rin, had been leading them towards just after noon. They'd left behind the dense forest and were now traversing rockier ground that was dotted with small copses of trees. The trail brought them alongside a narrow stream where the rest housea simple but sturdy two-room buildingsat waiting for them.
"We've made good time," Rin congratulated them as they neared the building. "Our lunch is waiting for us inside and we have about an hour and a half to eat it and rest up before we need to move on."
The Inuzuka boy nodded mutely, only half-paying attention to the woman's words.
With Akamaru gone, he felt like he was missing a limb. He was used to the fire puppy always being by his side, sniffing at the air, barking at strangers, and alerting him to wild pokémon. The only time he'd ever confined the growlithe to a pokéball was after Akamaru had been defeated in battle, or when he was being submitted to a Pokémon Center for treatment.
Why couldn't Akamaru come with me? he sulked. They let Naruto bring that egg with him that could hatch any day now! And it's not like I'd use Akamaru to cheat or anything
Lunch turned out to be simple sandwiches, potato chips, water, and cookies. It wasn't anything special but it was filling and reenergizing. Kiba ate his fill in uncharacteristic silence, and since Shino and Hinata weren't big talkers the whole meal was uncomfortably quiet.
um, Rin-san?" Hinata squeaked nervously. "W-will other be c-coming here for lunch?"
"One or two might," the woman replied. "But it's not very likely. All the guides picked different routes through the park to keep our groups widely spaced. Too many people traveling through one area can drive the wild pokémon into hiding and then no one would be able to catch anything."
"Logical," Shino commented with a nod.
"Well, now that we've all eaten, we have about an hour to rest up," Rin told them. "You can stay inside, but if you go outside don't go too far. And remember to visit the bathroom before you leave as there won't be any facilities until we reach the camp set up for us at the edge of the new zone."
Kiba decided to exit the small house and parked himself on a medium-sized boulder to continue brooding on Akamaru's absence.
"Eh?" Kiba grunted and scanned his surroundings for the source of the cry.
At first he didn't see it, but when he stood on top of the boulder he caught a glimpse of a monster near a distant tree stump. Kiba hopped down from his perch and cautiously picked his way over the rugged field to within striking distance. It was a bipedal creature with canine attributes and black and blue coloration.
"Rio!" it cried again and punched at the rotten stump, splintering it slightly.
Kiba watched it from his hidden position behind a small rock pile for a few minutes before making up his mind. He picked up a rock fragment and sent it whizzing into the riolu's floppy ear. It squealed in shock and pain and before it could recover he had it confined in a safari-ball. And a few seconds after that, the red light went out, signaling a successful capture.
"Ha!" he grinned. "Akamaru, did you see"
His voice died as he looked to where Akamaru would've been, had he been present, and recalled that he was alone. Elation snuffed, he slipped his capture into his pocket and slowly meandered back to the rest house. He kicked at a few clumps of tall weeds and loose pebbles as he walked and fell back into his previous glum mood.
Capturing isn't as fun without Akamaru to celebrate with
He was about halfway back when he noticed a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye. Kiba turned to look and froze mid-step. Several yards away there was a small troop of eevees trotting through the field.
Whoa, there are at least ten of them!
Glancing over the terrain, he grinned.
If I can get behind them, I might be able to drive a few towards the house so that Hinata can try and get one if she wants!
Kiba ducked down and did his best to keep the largest rocks and clumps of plants between him and the fluffy little monsters. When he felt that he had the best position he was going to get, he popped up from behind a thorny bush and nailed one of the eevees on the tail end of the group. It busted loose and the pack panicked and started to run just the way that he'd wanted
Hey, is that one gray?
The Inuzuka stood frozen for a handful of heartbeats before he shook himself free and took off in pursuit.
"Hey, slow down you fur balls!" Kiba cursed and flung another safari-ball towards the lightest colored one. "Eevees!" he shouted as loudly as he could so that the rest of his group could hear him inside the house. "Eevees!"
His second throw was another bust. But his third attempt was the charm. The possible gray eevee, however, evaded him.
"Hey guys!" He bent down to scoop up his full safari-ball on the run and almost tripped. "Did you hear me?"
The door to the rest house banged open and Hinata and Shino stumbled out with their guide a step behind them just as the little fluffy horde scrambled past. His two friends hurriedly gave chase and Kiba stumbled to a halt. He'd gotten one eevee; that was enough for him.
If one of those eevees is gray, Hinata will probably get it. He panted and slowly turned back to pick up the shards of the two safari-balls that had gotten destroyed so that he didn't get fined for littering. Hyuugas always seem to have crazy-good aim.
By the time Kiba returned to the house to throw away his trash, Hinata and Shino had come back, too. Hinata had a shy little smile on her face. Shino's expression was unreadable, as usual.
"So, did you catch any?" Rin asked curiously as she leaned up against the countertop.
"I-I got one," Hinata replied.
"As did I," Shino added.
"You caught one?" Kiba frowned. "You're a bug maniac, what are you going to do with an eevee?"
"New things are discovered about pokémon every day. Perhaps a way to evolve an eevee into a bug form will be discovered." Shino adjusted his ever-present shades. "If not, eevees are valuable pokémon and I might use it to trade for a rare bug pokémon."
"Huh," Kiba grunted. "Did either of you get the gray one?"
"A gray eevee?" Rin frowned.
"I-I thought I was s-seeing things," Hinata murmured, fidgeting with the sphere that contained her freshest capture.
"I did not," Shino answered simply.
"Darn," Kiba sighed and snapped his fingers. "It woulda been really cool if one of us bagged it. Then Naruto wouldn't be the only kid in our class with a funny colored critter."
"What does this Naruto have?" Rin asked curiously.
"A silver ninetales," Kiba replied.
K-Kiba, did you get an eevee?" Hinata inquired.
"Yeah," the Inuzuka nodded. "And I got a riolu while I was out there, too."
"Congratulations," Rin smiled.
"Hey, when are we going to get to this new place that we're supposed to be getting a sneak peek of?" Kiba asked as he slipped into one of the chairs at the table.
"Just before dinner," the woman answered.
"W-will we like it there?" Hinata wondered.
Rin's smile widened. "Oh, definitely."
They ran and ran until they came to a thicket formed by a clump of thorny bushes. There they huddled and panted for breath. When it was clear that they were no longer being pursued they fully relaxed.
:That was close!: one of the eevees gasped.
:Too close,: another said.
:We've gotten lazy,: one with a scar on his forehead muttered. :We got too used to the humans with the shells on their heads that were working at the back of the park. It was foolish to think that the harvesters wouldn't return.:
:You're right,: a fourth eevee sighed. :We need to be more careful.:
:We should fight back!: a fifth cried. :If we drive them away:
:We can't drive them all away, there are too many!: the second one protested.
:It wouldn't do any good,: the scarred one grumbled. :How do you think I got my scar?:
:I don't want anyone hurt!: the gray one wailed. :You all should just leave me. It'll be easier to hide if we're in smaller groups, and if I'm not with you they won't:
:.Don't be silly, we won't leave you!: the first one snorted.
:You're special,: the fourth said. :We'll keep you safe, you just stick with us!:
The gray one's ears drooped. :.But
they'll take you all away:
:Not if they can't find us!: a sixth eevee piped up. :I think I know the best hiding place. All we have to do is get there.:
:Take us there!: the second one demanded.
:When the sun starts to set,: the scarred one said. :The harvesters get less active in the evening.:
:Will do!: the sixth one chirped brightly.
The gray one shuddered with foreboding.
I don't want them taken away because of me, but
I don't want to be all alone, either.
"Are we there yet?" Naruto sighed. "I'm starving!"
"We're almost there," Obito replied.
The terrain had changed from thick forest to an open hilly plain dotted with rocks. Sakura had managed to capture a torchic just before they'd left the trees, and Naruto had literally tripped over a huddling snorunt shortly after exiting the woods. Not having an ice-type, he figured it was a good investment and used up three safari-balls before being successful. And Sasuke still hadn't made a single attempt to catch anything.
"Hey, Sasuke, are you ever going to catch something?" Naruto wondered, trying to keep his mind off his growling stomach.
"When I see something worth my time, I will," Sasuke replied.
"And when will that be?" Naruto asked.
"Not yet," was all the Uchiha would say.
"Hey look!" Sakura cried and pointed up ahead. "I can see the house."
"Yep," Obito nodded as his rapidash plodded along the trail. "It won't be long now."
"Will there be ramen?" Naruto asked hopefully.
"No, sandwiches," Obito said. "Dinner might be soup, though."
They forged on at a slightly faster pace now that their goal was in sight. Naruto had to restrain himself from running of ahead so that he could get to his sandwich lunch sooner. He hadn't had much of a breakfast and with all the walking that he'd been doing he was ready to eat a salad if he had to.
But just as they came within feet of the rest house door, it opened and Kiba, Hinata, and Shino stepped out.
"Hey there," Kiba waved. "Come here for lunch?"
"Yeah," Naruto nodded, and then a thought struck him. "You didn't eat all the food, did you?"
"Nah, there's plenty left," the Inuzuka shrugged. "We were just leaving."
"Have you caught anything yet?" Sakura asked them curiously.
"I got a riolu, Hinata caught a chikorita, and we all just picked up eevees," Kiba told her.
Naruto's stomach knotted with something other than hunger. Eevees
The other group's guide, the woman with the purple rectangles on her cheeks, slipped outside and walked over to where Obito was still sitting astride his rapidash.
"Need any help?" she asked him.
"No, no!" he waved her off. "I'm a big boy, Rin! I can take care of myself. Go lead your rug-rats off so I can go feed mine."
"If you're sure
" she trailed off uncertainly.
"I'm sure, I'm sure!" Obito grinned broadly. "Shoo!"
"Alright," the woman nodded and beckoned her charges to follow her away from the house and back to the trail.
"See ya," Kiba waved.
"G-good-bye," Hinata squeaked before scampering away.
Shino merely gave them a polite nod.
And then, within minutes the group had disappeared over a hill and Naruto's party was alone again.
"Okay," Obito sighed once Rin was gone. "Wildfire, down."
The rapidash carefully lay down and Obito practically rolled off the fiery horse's back. His prosthetic leg wasn't much good for the awkward business of getting up from the ground with the aid of Ash and his walking stick. Once he was finally upright he blinked at the young trainers like he'd briefly forgotten that they were there.
"What are you waiting for?" he asked. "Go inside and eat! I'll be right in."
Naruto needed no further prodding and scrambled inside, flung open the refrigerator door, and snagged the first plastic-wrapped sandwich that he found. He inhaled the sandwich before bothering to look for other lunch components. And only when he felt full and satisfied did he pay any attention to what everyone else was doing.
Obito was slowly consuming his own lunch, mainly using his left hand. Sasuke was nearly finished eating and it looked like he'd robbed one sandwich of its tomato slices to eat by themselves. And Sakura alternated between eating her lunch and asking their guide questions.
"So where does the park get its pokémon?" the pink-haired girl wondered.
"We primarily get our stock from pokémon ranches, but we also will take in groups of wild pokémon that that have been relocated if they're a species that we offer." Obito paused for a sip of water. "But we also do what we kind to encourage the pokémon in the park to breed so we don't have to buy replacements for what gets taken by the patrons."
"How do you know what needs replacing?" Sakura asked.
"We keep track of what everyone catches, and once a year we go through and do a census of what we have," he answered.
"The Safari Zone always boasts about having rare pokémon, but what about all the common monsters we've seen, like the rattata and the pidgey?" she inquired.
"The fences around the park's perimeter are primarily designed to keep poachers and non-payers out, and most of the stocked pokémon in." Obito shoved the last bite of his sandwich in his mouth and chewed. "Determined small monsters, especially of the avian variety, can usually hop the fence and get in. Sometimes their numbers get too high and they compete with monsters that we want in the park for food, so we set traps for them to catch them and dump them back outside the fence."
Sakura fiddled with her chip bag and nibbled on her lip in thought. "What happens if a Safari Zone escapes the park?"
"It depends on the species, but if only a few individuals slip out we ignore them," Obito replied and wiped his mouth on a napkin. "If we lose enough valuable specimens we track them down, tag them with tranquilizer darts, return them to the park, and figure out how they escaped so that we can fix the problem."
"So if we didn't want to pay for a safari
" Sakura mused.
"The park's perimeter is huge. It takes days to follow the fence all the way around on foot," he snorted. "And a lot of broke trainers try it so most escapees don't last long."
" Sakura seemed to be out of questions for the moment and a brief silence fell over the room.
So, what do we do now?" Naruto asked.
"Well, I'm going to rest," Obito replied, and made a little show of stretching in his chair. "Feel free to do the same. There's a bathroom there"he pointed to a door"if he feel the need, and over there"he pointed to another door"is a room full of bunk beds for napping, although there won't be enough time for more than a catnap. You can hang out in here, or just outside, but if you go out don't go too far. I'm not the most mobile guy so I can't chase after you if you draw the ire of some wild pokémon out of sight of the house."
Naruto fingered the filled safari-balls in his pocket. "Can we play with our new pokémon?"
"You could," Obito said slowly. "But I'd be careful if I were you. Since they haven't been defeated in battle, Safari Zone pokémon have a greater tendency to run away, especially if they think they recognize the environment."
"Okay," Naruto nodded thoughtfully. Should I or shouldn't I?
Eh, why not!
He keyed open his safari-balls and the totodile and snorunt rematerialized on the floor. The conical ice monster slowly began to shuffle around and poke at the floorboards. The little blue crocodile sat hunched and sullen and glowered at Naruto's sneakers. Naruto pulled his pokédex out of his pocket and scanned them.
"You're a boy," he said to the totodile. "So what should I call you?"
The blue reptile turned up his snout and did his best to ignore the blond-haired boy.
" Naruto tapped his chin as he mulled over ideas. "How about Gator?"
"Good one," Obito nodded approvingly.
The totodile, however, seemed unmoved.
"Gator it is," Naruto muttered and turned his focus to the snorunt. "And you're a girl
"You should get a dawn stone," Sasuke suggested with a smirk. "Then it'll become a froslass."
"Froslass?" Naruto looked it up in his pokédex and frowned at its types. "Ha ha, very funny."
"What?" Obito tilted his head. "What's the joke?"
"Naruto's afraid of ghosts," Sakura answered.
"Ah," the man nodded his understanding.
"I'm not so bad anymore!" Naruto protested.
"Yeah, well how about you call it 'Flurry'?" Sakura suggested, pointing to the inquisitive snorunt. "That's a feminine-sounding name."
"That sounds great, thanks Sakura!" Naruto beamed.
Sakura shrugged and went back to polishing off her chips.
"So," he turned back to the ice creature, "what do you think of"
Somehow the snorunt had gotten on top of the counter where it could peek out a window, and promptly fell outside when the window pane swung outwards from her weight against the glass.
"Wah!" Naruto panicked and dashed outside to retrieve his hard-won ice monster before she could escape.
The snorunt hadn't gone at all. She'd landed upside-down with her pointed head stuck in the loose dirt, leaving her tiny feet waving ineffectually in the air. Naruto recalled the ice imp back into the safari-ball with a relieved sigh.
"Hey, idiot." Sasuke peered around the corner of the building at him. "Your totodile's running away."
"What?" Naruto snapped and sprinted off in the direction that the Uchiha pointed. "Why didn't you stop him?"
"Not my pokémon, not my job," Sasuke called after him.
Bastard! Naruto seethed as he locked on to the scuttling blue blob and picked up the pace. Stupid loose door! All he had to do was keep it closed!
The little crocodile ducked and weaved around rock piles and clumps of brush to try and escape, but Naruto wasn't shaken. He hopped over the boulders and crashed through the bushes and weeds when he could, so the totodile lost ground. And then with a final burst of speed Naruto managed to catch the creature's tail and back leg.
"Gotcha!" he panted. Bleh, too much running after eating
Gator gave him a baleful look, but ceased struggling.
"Don't look at me like that," Naruto wheezed. "We'll have lots of fun together! My mom has a feraligatr; I'm sure that you'll be great buddies. We will be great buddies!"
The totodile sniffed and looked away.
Maybe I should call you 'Sasuke' instead," Naruto muttered pulled the safari-ball out of his pocket. "Well come ba"
The sound of some nearby scuffle made him pause. Naruto glanced down towards the foot of the hill where he saw a sloppy ring formed by a motley collection of boulders. Inside the ring there were five rioluthree sitting on the sidelines and two fighting each other.
"A fighting ring?" Naruto whispered to himself as he knelt down behind some cover so as not to distract them. "Did they move those rocks that way?"
The two fighters circled each other, darted together to exchange a few blows, and then broke apart again to circle once more. It quickly became apparent that one was winning and the other was losing. But the loser refused to quit and kept staggering upright to strike at its foe. The three on the side watched the fight with great focus and intensity.
"Are they fighting over something?" Naruto asked the empty air.
The loser fell to one knee as it gasped for air and the winner waited for it to concede or to rise and attack again. The losing riolu closed its eyes in concentration and a hazy blue glow began to surround it. The glow started to concentrate between its forepaws in a sphere shape
"That looks like aura sphere!" Naruto breathed.
He was familiar with the move; he'd seen Neji's lucario perform it several times before. It had been the move that had allowed Neji's lucario to soundly thrash Hinata's riolu. Oracle should've had the type advantage as lucario was part steel and therefore weak to fighting attacks. But riolus couldn't use aura sphere and that had allowed Kaiten to attack from a distance and batter Oracle into the ground without taking a hit in return.
There sphere started to stabilize
and then winked out like a light, much to the riolu's dismay. The winning riolu sniffed and walked away, with the spectators following its lead. The loser snarled and tried again, but the attack collapsed even faster than the first time.
"Luuu!" it howled in frustration.
Naruto hesitated before slowly standing and picking his way down the hillside. His approach went unnoticed until he stepped into the circle of rocks. The riolu flinched in surprise and tried to use aura sphere again, but the blue glow barely was visible before it vanished again.
"Everybody says that riolu can't use aura sphere because its power isn't great enough," he said while the fighting canine wheezed with exhaustion. "You must have worked really hard to get as far as you have."
The riolu watched him warily.
"I bet that if you kept working at it you'll get it right real soon!" Naruto declared with a grin. "But you need to heal up first, so if you wait right here while I get some berries from my bag"
"Dile!" Gator squawked and tumbled snout over tail into the make-shift fighting ring, then dove behind his legs for cover.
"Huh," Naruto blinked. "What's the matter?" Then he looked back up the hill and saw Ash the houndoom glaring down at him. "Ah
ha ha, sorry! I'll be right up"
"Rio!" the riolu barked and half-staggered, half-crawled up the hill, intent on attacking the houndoom.
"No, no, no!" Naruto cried. "You're in no shape to fight. Ash will trash you!"
The riolu didn't heed his warning and the houndoom didn't seem inclined to go easy on the aggressive pokémon. Desperate to keep them from fighting, Naruto sent a safari-ball flying into the riolu's back. By the time the camouflage-patterned sphere rolled back down the slope to rest at his feet, the red light had blinked out.
"Sorry about that," he muttered to the ball guiltily. "But
maybe I can help you more this way!" And if it learns aura sphere before it evolves, I can prove to Neji a riolu doesn't have to evolve to be as good as a lucario!