Hounds: Max Goes Shopping

Kurugi. July 21st, 2009

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MEANWHILE:

Max rose from the bed and left rather abruptly, with Eev instinctively scurrying after him. Polaris called to him just before he opened the door.

"Where are you off to?" He expected a blunt response, or at least a grunted one-liner. But Max just turned around, gave the artist a mischievous smirk, and hurried out the door. Hari shivered a little, looking back at Polaris.

"He's not a v-very nice g-guy."

"That's why we need him, kid."

-

The bell above the door jingled, causing Ronnie to jump a bit in surprise. He'd owned that little shop on the darker side of town for quite some time, hidden where almost no one could find it, and it had been nearly a year since anyone came through that door. He looked at the entryway, trying to see who had come in, but no one was there. He thought he might have lost his mind, until a little Eevee with a cold face hopped onto the counter. 

"Hehe. Hey there, ya little rat." Ronnie stroked the Eevee behind its ear, moving his other hand under the counter to look for his gun. "I guess that means the boss is here, too. Am I right?"

His answer was a strong arm wrapping around his head from behind, ready to break his neck. The other arm went down to Ronnie's elbow, holding his arm under the counter. A gruff voice in the shopkeepers ear spoke a simple command:

"Drop it."

Ronnie obeyed, leaving the pistol in its place and slowly taking his hand away. Max walked back around to the other side of the counter, with little Eev sitting in front of him, and both giving a cold stare to the shopkeeper. There was a long pause, then both men burst into laughter, hugging and shaking hands over the counter.

"Jeez, boss." Ronnie said through a teary-eyed smile. ""We all thought you were dead."

"Shhh." Max put a finger to his mouth, smiling. Then, with a wink, he said "I am."

Ronnie winked back, sitting down in his chair behind the counter. He leaned back, crossing his arms and chuckling.

"Your just invincible, aren't you boss? Hehe, I wish I could see the look on Catalina's face if she found out."

"Let's make sure that doesn't happen." Max put on a serious expression. Ronnie nodded knowingly.

"Oh yeah. I'd be first on the choppin' block if it did, so don't worry. Secret's safe here. Now then..." Ronnie stood, turning to the wall behind him. It looked to the naked eye like any other wall in the store, especially with the dim lighting, but the shopkeeper grabbed a secret handle and pulled it aside, revealing shelves containing all manners of weaponry.

"What does the boss need from his oldest pal?"

Outside, a young man in a brown longcoat was listening at the door. His fedora was crushed against the wood as the bounty hunter struggled to hear the conversation inside. He had seen the wanted man go inside, but there were no windows or other cracks to listen through. The lone shack stood just next to Pentag Path, giving it a good amount of sorrounding tree cover, which only made everything harder to see. It was truly a great place to have a secret meeting. The bounty hunter had to get inside, but how...

As much as his brain screamed against it, the door was the only way to get a glimpse inside. He would have to be careful, there was likely a bell of some kind over the door, and the old building was likely to creak. He had to move very, very carefully.

"Well, this is certainly a fine armory your takin' with you." Ronnie scratched his head. Max had picked out a wide assortment of knives, most of which so well concealed that Ronnie had forgotten where they were, as well as a set of staves of different lengths, which Max intended to give to the others. 

"You startin' up a new gang, boss? Can I join in?" Ronnie had come around and put a hand to Max's shoulder. His look was a mix of confusion and worry. 

"No. It's just some kids I'm helping out. You hear the stories out of Franc?"

"I'm the biggest ears in the underground, boss." Ronnie nodded.

"Good. Then you know about the 'Franc Fiends'?"

Ronnie's eyes widened. "That was you??"

Max shook his head. "It was a set-up. Like what happened with Eev's trainer. They're good kids, Ronnie, and they're on the run."

The shopkeeper nodded. He knelt down under the counter, opening a hatch. 

"You should take some of these, then."

Max leaned over the counter to look. Under the hatch was the most magnificent stash of firearms he had ever seen. Guns of every size and calliber, with enough ammunition to fight a war. The gang leader stood back up, facing away from the counter.

"I don't use guns. You know that."

Ronnie sighed. "If you're really in trouble, you might need to bend your own rules a little. You might have to..."

"Have to what, Ronnie? Go on, say it." Max growled. The shopkeeper knew he'd stepped on a nerve. 

"Nevermind. I appologize." He closed the hatch and rummaged under the counter. "Well, at least take this."

He tossed a small rock to Max, who caught it without looking. It felt smooth to the touch, and was darker than a moonless night. He turned back to his longtime friend.

"For the rat." Ronnie said, nodding once. Max turned to Eev, who in turn looked up at him. The small pokemon gave a gruff nod and closed its eyes. Eev was ready. 

Max put the moonstone up against Eev, and instantly both stone and pokemon turned into a shining light. Max stepped back as the light grew larger and changed its shape. Finally it faded away, leaving Eev as a newly evolved Umbreon. Max reached down and patted the now much larger Eev's head, then turned back to Ronnie.

"Thanks, Ronnie."

The shopkeeper nodded. "If you ever need a thing, you just call on me. I'll be there, boss."

It was then that their goodbyes were interrupted by the bell ringing, along with a muffled curse. Max and Eev instantly bolted for the door, with Ronnie and his revolver close behind. The three burst through the door to be confronted by a young man in a brown longcoat, who had called out a Raticate and a Spearow to help him. Max sent out Aron mid-run, rushing right past the bounty hunter's pokemon straight for their trainer. When the young man realized Max wasn't going to stop, he turned and ran deeper into the woods.

Ronnie stayed at the doorway of his shop, watching the pokemon battle each other. He wasn't nearly as spry as a younger him had been, so holding the fort was the best help he could offer. He resigned himself to admiring how well Eev had already adapted to its new body, using faint attacks to disappear, leaving the Raticate confuse, and then attacking from behind. It was an impressive victory.

Aron, however, was not doing as well. Spearow was not nearly strong enough to contend with the little rock, but its flying abilities gave it the option of toying with Aron. It would swoop down, peck the poor thing, and fly back up out of reach. Finally, it seemed that Eev had had enough of the torture. It took a page from its trainer, grabbing Aron in its mouth and using all its might to toss it at the Spearow. Aron's face didn't afford it much room for emotion, but the look of satisfaction as it smashed into the helpless bird was unmistakable. 

Ronnie, Eev, and Aron left the two defeated pokemon and hurried off to help Max.

The bounty hunter had to have been native to the woods. His movements were so clean, so easy it was like he'd taken this same path a thousand times before. It took Max's best to keep up: jumping over fallen trees, ducking under branches, keeping watch for dips in the ground. He focused on trying to step where he had seen the bounty hunter step before. It took a fair amount of time for Max to catch up, but finally he leaped into the air and tackled the young man. Max pinned him down, beating him until he stopped fighting back. He pulled a knife from seemingly nowhere, raising it high over his head, blade-down, and....

He stopped. He froze with his enemy right below him. The man was defeated, but if he got word out that Max was still alive, they'd all be in even more danger. He was shaking with rage that he couldn't do it, and terror of what would happen if he didn't. He had to do it. He had to!

Eev, Aron, and Ronnie came into view, running to him as fast as they could. When they came close enough, the shopkeeper put away his gun and stepped to Max's side, gently taking his hand and lowering it.

"It's ok, boss. You don't have to." Ronnie put his free hand on Max's shoulder. "I'll keep him locked up with me. He won't be able to get the word out, I promise."

The former gang leader closed his eyes and nodded. He roughly shoved the knife back in its hiding place, stood up and brushed himself off. 

"Thanks, Ronnie." He said quietly.

Then he left.

The End

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