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Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter i: Good luck, Luck Lewis

Luck Lewis is a young Pokémon trainer from New Bark Town in the adventure-packed region Johto, too enthusiastic for his own good and too optimistic it might be unhealthy. Maple is a secretive researcher who soured over years of isolation and cigarettes, and she has been on a mission ever since the mythical Pokémon Mew came to her in a dream, although she's not yet aware of how important it actually is.

A light-hearted, positive journeyfic where an odd couple explore Johto in the search of badges and legends (whilst having the fate of the universe in their hands).

IMG_6794 (1).PNG

There are few words to describe what my mind has shown me during the blue hours of the night. I will not waste our time trying to, because I believe it wasn’t my mind anyway, but a vision of what could happen. What is bound to happen.
It has been talking to me.
I must listen.
You were right, I have not been myself, but, how could I? I wish I could explain. My “personal project”, as I have been calling it in hopes to appease your curiosity, what I have been calling it to feel normal, has become a force I am unable to ignore for much longer. It is better for everyone this way, for the time being.
I will probably not be back, but know I have good reason to,

Thank you, for everything.

New Bark Town, Spring of 2021.

The very last thing Frankie Lewis told his son before peculiarly disappearing for reasons his mother will never tell, was something that now hung from the boy's wall in the form of a poster of a particularly smiley Sunflora in a grassy field in front of a bright blue sky: carpe diem.

Carpe diem,
and it resonated inside his mind every time he thought about his dad, a nostalgic melody that played at particularly quiet corners of his house. A last attempt at parenthood knowing he wasn't going to be around for much longer, and, after he was gone, he made sure the young Luck Lewis had something positive to hold on to, rather than the heavy shadow of his absence (and give his poor mother a little peace of mind, watching their boy smile at her, mouthing Latin with missing milk teeth). And carpe diem thought Luck Lewis as he tied his shoes, his hands shaking slightly, on a Saturday morning.

A Saturday morning he had been waiting for as long as he could remember.

One quick look at Luck's room was enough to decipher what was going on inside that head of his; walls caked with glossy posters of Pokémon battles, shelves ridden with Pokémon League paraphernalia, Pokémon books and vinyl action figures. The floor, carpeted with the apparent slaughtering of a closet, and a bag, slopply packed with a few pieces of underwear and unimaginable quantities of denim.

Luck was a (aspirign) Pokémon Trainer, dreaming of a world of danger and excitement and a lifetime of adventures.

And the biggest one was just about to begin.

He stared at the mirror, fixing his long blond hair and smiling at his reflection, a smile that melted down to a nervous grimace.

Times didn’t stop under Dialga’s careful watch, and the Pokémon world wasn't left unchanged: the Pokémon trainers that dipped their toes into the turbulent waters of battles and championships grew older by the day. History took its time, but it was finally decided unanimously by the societies of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and other regions alike: it wasn't the safest thing to have an eleven year old wandering around with a health hazard of a creature inside a Pokéball. It wasn't something Luck was worried about, though: sure, he had to wait a couple extra days for that fateful Saturday morning, but isn’t waiting what makes special days even more special?
Pimples or no pimples on his face (and back), puberty or no puberty making his voice sound like an injured Spearow trapped inside a pipe, he was about to leave home, just like his mother and father had done before him, to discover what Johto had in store for him, and it made his insides churn and gurgle as he posed in front of his mirror, practising all he was to do once he got his hands on the precious device that was the red-and-white Pokéball.

After all those years, it was finally here; the second most important day in a Pokémon trainers' life (second only to their dad going missing, of course).
"Come on, Luck", he murmured, patting himself on the cheek and fixing his hair once more, "you've got this, man... heh, you've been waiting for this for so long", he gulped, cold electricity running through his veins, "carpe diem, carpe diem...".

"Luck!", his mother called from downstairs, snapping him out of his mirror-induced trance, "breakfast is ready, come on down!".

"... Alright, here we go...".

"You don't want to keep Professor Elm waiting!".

Luck fixed a couple strands of frizzy, curly hair under his cap as he slid downstairs, hiding his hands inside his light denim jacket and leaning against the wall, "morning, Dandelion".

Dandelion, his mother's old Venusaur, laid on the living room's carpet and snored, contempt. The arrival of spring had made the flower on his back bloom like the ruby rose bushes from his mother's beloved garden, and it opened like a parasol of magenta, filling the house with a sweet, honey-like scent and scattering itchy yellow powder like thin, late winter snow. They had since taken out everything but a couch and the TV — because it was mounted on the wall — from the living room to make space for the cyan behemoth; his mother couldn't quite bring herself to explain to him that he wasn't the backpack-sized, bug-eyed Bulbasaur from so many years ago any more, and a habit of walking outside his Pokéball beside her had now landed them with what was possibly the largest houseplant ever.

"I made Lum berry pancakes", his mother smiled, turning around a slab of golden batter on a sizzling frying pan, a delightful sound he could barely hear over Dandelion's snoring.

"... Lum berry pancakes?", Luck laughed, "where did those come from?".

"Oh, I'm just trying out some new recipes, for good luck, Luck!", she beamed, "I also added some Aguav berries to it, and a little bit of Wepear...".

Luck snorted as she placed his plate on the table: the array of green berries and leafy bits had been arranged to resemble the shape of a stubby-legged, leaf-headed Chikorita. He looked up at her and she shrugged, "hey, choose whatever you want to choose, I'm not saying anything". She sipped from her cup of tea, swirling it around in thought, "... but, I mean, you can't deny how very powerful grass types are in battle...".


"Yes, yes, I know", she giggled, "you don't go for the strongest Pokémon because there is no such thing as strong or weak Pokémon... oh, you're your dad's living image". She walked away from the stove and embraced him in a hug, instinctively fixing his usually messy hair and straightening his clothes, "he would be so very proud of you, Lucky. I am very proud of you ".

"Come on", Luck chuckled into her shirt, taking in the homely scent of pancake batter and shampoo that was making him tingle with nostalgia. He was almost taller than her now, and her thick blond hair, mirror image of his, brushed against his face and tickled his cheek, "don't make me cry now, I don't want to embarrass myself in front of Professor Elm".

"Nothing embarrassing about shedding a tear or two", she joked, masking her voice as it cracked, trying to laugh it off, "or what? You don't want the Pokémon Professor to know you're a little mama's boy?". Luck laughed, pulling away from the hug as she grabbed his face, giving a little pat to his round, sun-kissed cheeks. "You will always be my good luck charm, boy, you hear me? Whether you're here, in Kanto, in Sinnoh, in Alola or wherever your heart takes you....", she smiled, "... but try not to go that far, or I'm really going to miss you". She wiped an astray tear away, shaking it off and laughing, "now... finish your breakfast and get going!".

Luck sniffled, savouring every last bite of the stack of three pancakes drenched in syrup and Moomoo butter: he feared he may never try food quite as good as his mother's ever again, picturing a miserable life's worth of prepackaged meals from the Pokémon Centre (he even ate through the whole Hondew berry leaf that was the stem of the Chikorita's head just because it was covered in syrup). He gulped down a Razz Berry milkshake, insisting he shouldn't brush his teeth because he wanted to "take the taste with him" but going back to do so after being hit with his mother's death stare.

And, when the clock struck ten, he stood in the middle of their home, fixing his hat and pulling the backpack that laid on one of the table's chair's on his back, looking around and remembering every year of his childhood that came before that fateful day; watching the walls painted with memories and hearing ghostly laughs in the hallways, the floor still dirty with the mirage of his muddy footprints from when his feet were the size of his palms and the broken pieces of a ceramic base, struck by a football that came flying from outside.

There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t miss, and yet, he couldn’t wait to get going.

"Goodbye, Dandelion", he smiled, placing a hand on the Pokémon’s rough skin. The Venusaur lazily opened his eyes. One of his vine whips emerged from the flower on his back, twisting around Luck's arm and he caressing it, wishing him good fortune and for him to come back from time to time, just to say hello.

"I'll miss you, buddy".

It crooned a deep-voiced purr as it stood up, walking towards him with the pace of an orbiting planet and nudging its big head against his body.

"He will miss you too", his mother said, trying to hold back her tears. Luck rubbed Dandelion's coarse head and gave him a few pats, "don't get any bigger while I'm out, you hear me?", he laughed, "that couch over there is hanging for dear life".

"Go on, dear! Make mama proud!" his mother shouted at him from the door, Venusaur's green vine waving him goodbye alongside her, "and you'll make me extra proud if you choose the grass type starter...".

"Goodbye, ma!", Luck waved back, laughing to himself.

"Good luck, Luck Lewis! I love you! Say hi to Lorelei for me!".

The sun beamed down on young Luck Lewis's face as he walked across the canvas of white, wooden houses with sky blue rooftops surrounded by emerald forests and sapphire lakes that was the small-but-never-boring New Bark Town. The trees were grand and green, and the breeze blew his hair back as he picked up the pace, his sneakers mushing the carpet of soft grass and kicking the occasional pebble here and there: he could feel it in the air, and it filled his lungs like helium in a big, rubber balloon. Today was the day, the big day; he had gotten up early, chose his favourite jacket and jeans, psyched himself up after an entire week of nervousness in front of his toothpaste-freckled mirror, monologued about motivation for hours on end, gave his Pokémon battle books and CDs one last look and puked, once before bed and once after waking up and thinking of choosing his first Pokémon... this was it, the best day of his life.
And it was only bound to get better and better, for Professor Elm's laboratory was now but metres away, inside, everything he had ever dreamed of.

"Carpe diem, Luck Lewis".

The air conditioning was strong, and a sudden kick of the pungent scent of chemicals got inside his nostrils as though he was being submerged in gelid soap water. Every white-coat-thick-goggles-wearing individual turned to him as the door opened and closed, and he felt his face flushing as silence filled the room, waving hello.
"If it isn't Luck Lewis!".

Professor Elm emerged to greet him and his heart skipped a beat, "Professor...!", he choked, a wave of excitement and admiration washing over him and making him bow, but the man grabbed his hand and stretched it, smiling and fixing his glasses, "come on now, less formalities", he joked, awkwardly, "I get you're nervous, but don't make me feel older than I already am!".

Professor Elm had been Luck's number one idol ever since he read about his discoveries regarding the Pikachu evolution line and Pichu novelty on a Pokémon magazine, many years ago (well, number “one” after his dad and Sage Riperton, the lead singer of his favourite band: Sage Riperton and The Magnemites, naturally). They were both much younger then, but finally getting to meet him made him feel like he was ten once more, watching him on the nature channel on TV (he could almost feel the braces back on his teeth!).

"Now, now, come on", he placed a hand on his shoulder and walked him over to another room in the white, sparklingly clean laboratory. Lining the walls where all sorts of mechanical trinkets and shelves lined up with test tubes, but they were all outshined by its most striking piece of equipment, in the centre of it was a large, capsule-shaped machine, and as they approached it, it opened with a hiss to reveal three shiny red-and-white Pokéballs like fruits hanging from a mystical tree, glinting and sparkling before Luck's celeste eyes.

Professor Elm cleared his throat, shifting nervously, "I have talked to your mother, Luck, and she said you have a rather... unusual request", he hesitated, brushing the back of his head, "it's not something we do very often... well, we've never quite done it before, in fact, but your mother and my wife became quite acquainted… er, she was very insistent that I... oh, darn...", he laughed, anxious, "what's the worst thing that could happen, right?".
He reached over the circular apparatus and grabbed the three orbs, clutching them with nervousness, "just... don't wreck my dear lab" he whispered at them and Luck held his breath, playing with the hem of his jacket and biting his cheeks.

"Are you ready?", Professor Elm smiled, making the boy giggle with excitement and nod, "come on out!".

With the push of a button in the middle of the red and white halves of the Pokéballs, three rays of red light materialised and struck the laboratory’s floor like lightning bolts with laser silence, taking the shape of three different small creatures, making Luck's knees wobble and a shaky breath escape his lips, who were curled up into a smile.

The three creatures were Johto's signature starter Pokémon, and the first one up was Chikorita, the grass type starter in the shape of a short, pear-like, four-legged dinosaur, the colour of light green vegetable cream. The rubbery, attentive creature blined at the blinding white lights and yawned: it was round and innocent in appearance: around its pale neck it had a collar of tiny, blunt thorns. It had a small, stubby tail, a small mouth opened in a smile, and big, shiny red eyes, as well as a parasol-like leaf on top of its head, which it swung around as it found itself free to roam the foreign room.

Then, there was Totodile, the water type starter, which threw a clicky, defiant bite into the air as soon as it was out of its Pokéball. The chubby blue reptile was standing on two feet, both of its short arms together in front of its pale yellow chest. It turned towards Professor Elm, allowing Luck to see the pointy spikes that ran down its back and tail in the same red that matched its eyes, which were surrounded by a black spots that hooded them like eyeliner. Its mouth was wide open, revealing rows of pearly-white, razor-sharp teeth, and it playfully launched itself towards the researcher, who yelped as his calf was caught between the strong jaws. “Bit of a troublesome one, this one”, he chuckled nervously, grunting as he tried to free himself, “... let go, you little…”.

Luck giggled, turning towards the last Pokémon who was sitting, mouth agape, on the same spot where it materialised a couple of seconds ago. Finally, there was Cyndaquil, the fire type starter, looking at him with an air of interest, tilting its head at the sight of the trainer. It was a bit smaller than the other two; a roundish rodent with dark blue fur and a light, beige belly, walking on four short, chubby limbs that occasionally allowed him to stand upright when it wished to see a bit beyond what a quadrupedal horizon revealed. With its long snout it sniffed the air, and it didn’t pry its elongated, small eyes that weren't visible amongst its fur from the young boy, who found himself, too, staring at it. Suddenly, it sneezed, and the four red spots of his back were revealed, exuding heat, projecting vivid flames for a split second.

"Heh, cute little buggers, aren't they?", Professor Elm finally freed himself from the Totodile, stepping a bit further away and fidgeting with his fingers. He always found curious the excitement of young trainers as they were presented with the very three Pokémon he saw every day and that were the cause of many of his headaches (and leg-aches), "one's a walking blade, the other has massive chompers and the third is a fire hazard... heh…”, he whispered to himself, “... well, Luck, you better... uh... you better make your choice quick, buddy!".

Luck took his hat off, running a hand through his hair and kneeling down to meet the three Pokémon at eye level (making Professor Elm cringe at the closeness of the boy’s nose and Totodile’s teeth), wich now looked around at the beeping machines and flashing lights from the laboratory with interest. "Hello there, my name is Luck, Luck Lewis", he smiled, eyes flashing with a turbulent mess of elated emotions and fingers twiddling, nervous at the prospect of the important decision, "and... and I'm going to be one of you's trainer! How does that sound? Trainer? Or... or do you prefer... friend?".

Luck had always loved Pokémon. Once he hit the age when plush dolls were not enough his mother was presented with the task of stopping his countless attempts of bringing “catches” home — not because she was afraid he'd do anything particularly bad with a little Rattata, but because she feared what a protective Raticate without a Pokéball could do to her furniture later on —. He had cried and begged and nagged because he had always felt a burning passion for everything that meant being a Pokémon trainer, just like his mom and missing father, because even though they hadn't had much time together as a family, his mother still saw his smile on his young face when it lit up at the sight of a Pokémon, and the art of battlers and training was the closest thing he had to a family tradition...

And so, he held his hand out towards the three starter Pokemon to let them make the choice for him. "It was only fair!", he thought. In that way, both of them had a say in the matter, and he would be happy knowing his companion, too, chose him as a trainer.

There's a certain kind of static that fills the air when a second in the clock becomes more important than the other, and the laboratory was filled with the energy that moves history forward, the future eyes of those who will one day listen to this tale opened amongst white tiles and stainless steel surfaces, silent and unblinking. When the feeling of time becomes thicker, the barely noticeable change in the atmosphere makes lightbulbs flicker and the air, change direction. Time is an interesting debacle, a creature not precisely alive, and yet breathing and thinking, and it behaves in strange ways when it so desires.

There seemed to be one Pokémon out of the three who appeared to be more interested in him than in looking around the lab, when its other two companions scattered, making grey hairs pop out of the Professor’s scalp. Its two eyes were fixed upon him, or, rather, on his hair, and when he gave it the opportunity, it climbed up his arm and sat down on his neck, nibbling on a strand of his long blond locks, ruffling it with his plushy, round paws. Luck laughed, tickled, and grabbed a hold of him, pulling him off and holding him up.

Time seemed to dance, elated, when young Luck Lewis locked eyes with the warm, blue-beige Cyndaquil, wearing the artificial gleam of a white bulb as a white halo.

"... Would you look at that!", Professor Elm chimed, clearing his throat and shaking the strange feeling that had made his skin tingle, there for a moment and gone in the next, "I think the Cyndaquil likes you!".

"You think so?", Luck chuckled, oblivious. The Cyndaquil raised his arms towards his hair, so, the trainer placed the Pokémon ontop of his head, where it seemed to perfectly fit, "damn, you're heavier than you look, little guy", he mumbled, holding still to keep the nubby rodent from falling, "... I also realise I just placed you on my hair and... well, I'm not really fond of catching on fire, so, if you could do me that favour…".

"You better get used to it, then", Professor Elms laughed, putting the Chikorita and Totodile back into their Pokéballs with a sigh of relief, giving his trusty machine a grateful pat, "everybody loves Fire-types until all of your clothes' hems are black". He turned to the capsule and pulled out the empty, remaining Pokéball, extending it towards Luck, "and he chose you, so, it's not like you can give it back now".

Luck smiled, giving the Cyndaquil a pat and making him squeal excitedly. "... I guess he did'', he laughed, and when he stood up, the Pokemon slipped from his head, falling into his arms, “oops, we gotta work on that”, he chuckled, feeling a sudden warmth running through his veins (and his skin... and his clothes… oh, no, was he on fire already?).

"Your mother already signed some papers for you, so... there's only one more thing left to do before you start your journey, Luck", Professor Elm cheered, walking up to his desk and opening a drawer. Luck and his new Cyndaquil, who was perched on his shoulder, gave him a look of anticipation as he, slowly, took out a little red box and handed it over.

The box, at Luck's touch, revealed itself to be an intricate electronic device, lighting up a screen and speaking through a microphone with a robotic, male voice: "Cyndaquil, the Fire Mouse Pokémon. It usually stays hunched over. If it is angry or surprised, it shoots flames out of its back".

Luck gaped at the talking gadget. "That is your new Pokédex", Professor Elm explained, proudly, leaning over his desk, "it is a collaborative project myself and other Pokémon Professors from all around the world are constantly working to improve and expand upon, and it is because of trainers like you that it is a raging success. It’s a portable Pokémon encyclopaedia upon which you will find precise information about almost every creature you come across in your journey; and your task as a Pokémon trainer, Luck, is to fill as many profiles as you can with as much information as you can possibly find". He walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, "so, I guess we can say that you and your new partner have to catch 'em all!".

The air on Luck Lewis' face felt different as he exited Professor Elm's lab: it was warmer, at least, but that may have just been the Cyndaquil he now had, witnessing the world for the very first time on his new trainer’s shoulder. Luck was never the most observant kid, and what he lacked in brains he valiantly made up for in nerve. But perhaps if he had grown to be a little quieter and more introspective, he could’ve recognised he now marched to a slightly different tune. He wasn’t just a kid anymore, or, perhaps he was, but his role in the course of history had a bit more stakes now that he smiled at the cheerful Pokémon, who looked out towards the horizon with wonder. He took a deep breath, stretching out towards the sky and letting out a victorious shout, jumping and buzzing with excitement, "I got my first Pokémon!".

He took Cyndaquil by the arms and held him like a plush doll, swinging him around and prancing in circles as it squealed, sharing his enthusiasm with high-pitched cries and fiery exclamations of excitement. After a few missteps they ended up on the grass, laughing and breathing heavily. Luck set his eyes on the fat, white clouds that took the shapes of powerful creatures, two words echoing inside his head: carpe diem.

"I'm gonna make you proud, dad".

An idea suddenly popped into his head, "oh, Cyndaquil, come here", he called him, pulling his new, last generation PokéGear his mother had gotten him a few weeks ago for his journey, "let's take a picture!".

Luck's mother's PokéGear vibrated on the kitchen counter, and she dried her hands off from washing dishes as she picked it up, still wiping away tears from bawling her eyes out all morning at the thought of his little Luck with missing teeth being all grown up now. "Dammit, Luck", he chuckled between hiccups and tears, beginning to cry once more, "what an adorable picture, but... you didn’t pick the grass starter!".

And as she ran upstairs to her room to look at a photo album she stored under the bed, the picture she had received on her PokéGear was still lit up on the screen: Luck Lewis, laying on the grass, making a peace sign at the camera next to the bobbly, blue head of his new Cyndaquil friend who smiled at it too, it's snout looking particularly large thanks to the odd angle the picture was taken from.

And the message accompanying it read only two words: carpe diem!
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Chapter ii: Chikorita and Totodile

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter ii: Chikorita and Totodile
Route 29, Spring of 2021

Luck Lewis, upon abandoning the comforting breezes of his childhood home, stood at the edge of New Bark Town, toeing the slightly longer, slightly greener grass on the other side of the white sign labelled with a big 29 in bold, black numbers. When he took a step forwards, leaving the imaginary border that separated his past from his future by crossing the line where the town ended and the wilderness began, he felt chills running down his body, and the tune of the spring gust change ever-so-slightly, making him giggle with nervousness. He breathed in and out, hoping around like an athlete warming up his muscles before a marathon and psyching himself up with murmurs, followed in his prancing by the small eyes of the Pokémon he had not since put back inside his Pokéball, a testament of the bad habits that were to follow him over the years and that he had so acquired from her mother's soft spot for massive beasts.

He turned, looking at his round, fluffy Pokémon sitting on the bed of grass like a plush doll, his toes moving idily and hands resting on his belly as he waited, "... don't look at me like that, Cyndaquil", he sighed, "I'm just... I'm... I'm trying, okay?".

Cyndaquil mouthed a soft whine in a confused tone, slightly tilting his head.

"It's just that... well, this is the first time I've ever left town on my own... or, er, with a Pokémon". Cyndaquil turned his head around, following Luck as he paced like a lost Deerling, talking to himself and shaking his hands. "...but, it's okay, I can do this, we can do this! Okay... alright, okay, I'm ready... I'm ready! Alright! Alright, let's... let's go... okay... I'm ready", he stopped in his tracks, walking up to the Pokémon, "are you ready?". Cyndaquil, clueless, cheered happily, extending his arms towards Luck. He took him and placed him on his hat, taking a deep breath and looking out to the green Route 29 once more.

"... Alright, Route 29, here we come! Don't we, Cyndaquil?", he asked, and the Pokémon responded enthusiastically. "Yeah... yeah! That's the spirit, buddy, here we come! Any moment noe!... Here... here we come!... let's... !".

"Dude, if you're not gonna go, at least don't spoil the view".

Luck turned as he head a voice behind him: a full-toothed grin and mocking raised eyebrows passed him swiftly, a short mane of blond hair with freshly-dyed green tips blowing in the wind as the new figure made its way across the imaginary border that, suddenly, in the face of challenge, evaporated into thin air. Luck blinked, startled, "oh, I... hi, Lorelei", he blurted out, fixing his backpack and hurrying to catch up with her as soon as she left him behind.

"I heard your little monologue back there", Lorelei laughed, making him blush.

"Eh, I was just... Cyndaquil was scared, so I was trying to psych him up, isn't that right, little guy?", he raised his hand to pet his Pokémon, taking it away with a scowl as it burned him with the flames on his back, "... ah, haha... silly little guy". Lorelei turned to him, her fast tongue ready with another snarky comment, but her mocking grin immediately softened at the sight of the small Cyndaquil hanging out on Luck's head, a strand of the boy's blond hair stuck in his mouth. "Well aren't you the cutest", she smiled, half-closing her eyes, "what's his name?", she added, inching to pet it's head.

"Oh, careful, he doesn't really like...", Luck tried, but the Cyndaquil squealed excitedly at her sight and nudged his head into her hand, making him grumble, "he's... uh... his name is...".

Lorelei frowned at his hesitation, "you haven't named him yet?". Luck shook his head and she sucked her teeth, "of course you haven't", she negated, "such bad luck you wound up with Luck as your trainer, Cyndaquil, out of every single trainer from New Bark Town... and you still managed to get the dumbest one!".

"Alright now", Luck pushed her away and they both giggled, "Cyndaquil is very lucky to have me as his trainer, in fact, and so am I for having him as as my Pokémon!", he turned his head, dignified, but snorted into laughter as he looked at Lorelei's disgusted face, "you're so mean, did you know that?".

"I'm not mean, I'm honest".

"In a very mean way!".

After a few minutes of chuckles, fast-paced footsteps and wandering eyes, she turned to him once more, "I see you're following in your ma's steps", she smiled, pointing at the Pokémon that hadn't touched the inside of his Pokéball ever since they had left the lab, "you'll soon have a lap-Typhlosion wrecking havoc in your living-room that way. Say goodbye to wooden furniture".

"Well I... I don't want him to miss anything in the way!", Luck staggered, "just look at these views! And... what if we get lost? That's two sets of eyes on the road instead of one".

"I mean... yeah, fair, you are the type to need help now and then".

Lorelei had been one of the few kids raised alongside Luck in the small New Bark Town, both growing up with blond heads filled with dreams of exciting Pokémon battles and Gym badges. They had known each other since they both wore but diapers, becoming close friends because of their mothers being very good friends themselves, as they actually shared a birthday week (Lorelei was three days older, something she reminded Luck about at every change). But now, having turned into teenagers and aspiring Pokémon trainers, they involved themselves in a bit of healthy rivalry; Lorelei was a few inches taller than Luck, with freshly-dyed hair, an impressive collection of Pokémon trading cards, a constant smug grin on her face and having been to the Pokémon League two more times than him (one of them including the Indigo Plateau Conference, a dream of Luck's), Lorelei had proven to be a tad bit cooler, smarter and... well, overall better than him in almost everything they did together... so, I guess we could say the rivalry was much more latent on one side.

He looked up to her, but he would never admit it, and, at that very moment, he tried to ignore her as they stepped into Route 29, her small lips curved upward triumphantly and her aquiline nose pointed to the bright blue sky as she made fun on him, occasionally getting out a laugh or two that he didn't manage to snuffle.

Route 29 was a deeper shade of green than the green of New Bark Town, courtesy of the tight-knitted forests outlining the path and the patches of tall grass that reached their bellies (Luck's belly, and maybe Lorelei's thighs). The ground was uneven, and they climbed small hills and traversed small slopes here and there, the air smelling like leaves and adventure and freshly-cut novelty as they chatted about the future to come.

"What Pokémon did you get, Lorelei?", Luck asked, twirling his fingers nervously. Lorelei turned to him, her eyes lighting up with an idea, "oh, I know! Why don't we stop to rest for a bit and we have our first Pokémon battle!".

Luck stumbled, gulping, "a Pokémon battle... like, right now?", he swallowed hard.

"What, are you busy?", she mocked him, running up to a nearby tree to rest her backpack against it, "come on! That Cyndaquil is not only there to look cute".

Cyndaquil let out a confused whine, and Luck walked over to another tree on the opposite side to imitate Lorelei. "Okay, buddy", he whispered, taking Cyndaquil off of his head and holding him in front of him, "we're... we're doing this, alright? We're having our first Pokémon battle, and ... oh, and it's against Lorelei", he cried, pursing his lips. Finally, he opted for courage, shaking his head like a wet Arcanine to shoo away any sight of nervousness, "no, I believe in you, Cyndaquil", he gave him a cunning smile, trying to fill himself with confidence, "and I'm going to make you trust me too, okay? I'm going to be the best trainer you've ever seen, that's a promise!". He smiled broadly at the Pokémon, who, in turn, exclaimed it's own name out loud, his cry filled with enthusiasm and determination, "alright! Let's do this, pal, we're going to kick some ass today!".

"Are you done over there?", Lorelei's voice came from a couple of metres away. She stood in the middle of a wide field, a clearing in the path surrounded by forests and the occasional boulder or two.

Luck turned around, letting Cyndaquil on the ground and fixing his hat, "We're ready. Let's see what you've got", he spread out his feet, drawing in a deep breath and pointing forward, his voice booming with a valiant tone, "Cyndaquil, I choose you!". Following Luck's finger pointing at Lorelei, Cyndaquil ran swiftly up on all fours to the middle of the "battlefield", making his back flare up with orange-red flames as he cried out in excitement.

Lorelei giggled, grabbing her own Pokéball from her belt. "That's cute", she clicked it, making it grow in size to fill her entire palm, "let's show 'em, Achillea!". She threw the Pokéball out into the field, and from it erupted a beam of red light. Luck held his breath as it materialised into the shape of a creature, his stomach tying with uncertainty as his brain ran through the possibilities. Even Cyndaquil clenched his jaws in anticipation. When it became tangible a couple of metres in front of its trainer, a small, green Pokémon let out a loud cry.

Luck pulled out his PokéDex; "Chikorita, the Leaf Pokémon. A sweet aroma gently wafts from the leaf on its head. It is docile and loves to soak up the sun's rays.".

Luck exhaled, laughing relieved, "it's... it's a grass type, Cyndaquil!", he rejoiced, "it's a grass type we've got this in the bag!". But he was too busy basking in the confidence he had once again found that he failed to notice the glimmer in Lorelei's eyes, her face filling with satisfaction.

"What's with the name, too?".

"It's a type of flower", Lorelei explained, proudly, "they represent good luck".

"Well, you'll have to look for a new name now, preferably one that means... uh… bad luck!", he mocked her. She snorted, amused. "Cyndaquil, use tackle!".

"Bad luck? I don't want to name him Luck Lewis", Lorelei laughed, placing one feet behind the other to give herself a more menacing position, "Achillea, vine whip!".

Cyndaquil charged at the Chikorita, his steps pulling out chunks of grass as he ran, using his round head to slam against his body. Achillea erupted two long vines from the green bumps adorning his neck, creating a shield between the two by slamming them against Cyndaquil. But the strength of the blow made its grass attack falter, and with a whimper it took a bit of damage, sent back a couple of steps but keeping himself from falling by sliding on the dirt, burying his feet into the soil. "Good job, Cyndaquil", Luck exclaimed, happily, and Lorelei sucked her teeth in discontent. "Now, hit it with an ember!". Cyndaquil took a few leaps towards the Chikorita, drawing in a big breath of oxygen and exhaling it back out in the form of fast, tiny flames, sending them flying towards his opponent.

"Achillea, dodge it, quick!", Achillea, in retaliation, used the green vines to reach out to the nearest tree, pulling his body upwards. The embers hit the ground just barely late enough, lifting grass and mud up into the air with a loud thud. Achillea had avoided the attack and was now hanging from the tree like a tire swing. Luck's grin began to fade, slightly surprised by Lorelei's quick thinking. "Cyndaquil, quick! Use Ember and aim upwards!".

"Achillea, be careful!".

This time, Achillea dodged the ember by flinging himself up into the air, the flaming bits lost to nothingness. Luck's eyes brightened, and he pointed towards the Pokémon that was now falling, "there it is, we got it!", he shouted out, now sweating, "Cyndaquil, Ember once again, but aim for the ground this time!".

"Not so fast!", Lorelei shook her head, smiling, "Achillea, use Mud-slap!".

"Mud-slap? Wait, is that not a... oh, oh no", Luck's face went pale, "Cyndaquil! Quick, dodge it, be careful not to get hit by...!". But the instruction didn't reach Cyndaquil quick and enough, and as he drew in another mouthful of oxygen and Achillea launched himself into the sky to avoid the last lingering embers, it shot a stream of brown, thick mud out of its mouth, targeting Cyndaquil and striking him like lightning. "Cyndaquil!", Luck shouted as it cried out in pain, and by the time the mud-slap dissipated, he could see him laying on the ground, completely exhausted.

"Good job, Achillea", Lorelei called her Chikorita back as it landed on the grass gracefully, contempt, yet refraining herself from carrying out the mocking, loud celebration she had already planned from the beginning, as she caught the sight of Luck running towards Cyndaquil, kneeling down beside him with a pained expression, "hey, hey now... are you okay, buddy? Are you badly hurt?", he asked worriedly, and Cyndaquil crooned back softly, too tired to even lift himself off of his back, "you did great, you did awesome, dude, I... a... you took that like a champ...".

Sighing, Lorelei placed a hand on Luck's shoulder, "step aside", she demanded, and in his panic he complied immediately. Kneeling beside the Pokémon she searched inside her bag and pulled out a purple bottle spray, giving it a few shakes before tending to Cyndaquil's wounds. "There, that should do it for now", she smiled, and Luck exhaled, relieved, as he stopped whimpering in pain, "let's take him to the Pokémon Centre now, though. Cherrygrove City shouldn't be that far ahead...", Lorelei's sentence cut off as she looked up, gasping, "oh... shoot".

"What?", Luck followed her gaze, mouthing the same "shoot" as he caught the shoot-worthy sight before them. The astray embers that hadn't hit Achillea had, actually, found their way to a nearby tree, setting it ablaze like a light house in the middle of the emerald green ocean of trees. Achillea growled, threatened, and took a step back from the raging fire, standing in front of the weakened Cyndaquil with a protective stance.

"Uh... Lorelei?", Luck asked, trembly, "w-what do we do?".

"Don't look at me", she replied, panicked, "you're the fire-type trainer!". The branches were slowly propagating the fire amongst themselves, growing bigger and louder and hotter, one at a time consuming the entire tree, "there's no potion for that!", she gulped, her voice cracking.

But just as Luck was about to have a nervous breakdown and Lorelei, about to run away and leave him to fend for himself, a torrent of water, as if sent from the heavens, came down upon the tree and drenched it, putting the fire out as fast as it started and accompanied by a cheerful, gurgly shout of glee.

But the stream of clear-blue water was no miracle, as it followed the command of a trainer's voice. "Good job, Hammer!"...


"How did you do that!", Luck slammed his hands on the table, his Cyndaquil beside him, now with a plaster on its round head and a couple of scratches healed with potions, imitating him in his own language, staring at the prideful Chikorita with admiration. Lorelei, sat in front of him in the Pokémon Centre's cafeteria, giggled, chewing on a lava cookie, "well, unlike you, Luck, I actually did some research before I got Achillea from Professor Elm. Turns out, this Chikorita was not from Johto, but transferred all the way from the Alola region, can you believe that! I've always wanted to go there, and now, I have a Pokémon caught from there, before I even managed to visit! Anyways, that, in turn, allowed me to teach him the ground type move Mud-slap with the proper training. If you would've paid attention in biology, maybe, you would've known certain Pokémon can learn certain moves if they're transferred from region to region, and, also, that ground type moves are strong against fire type Pokémon, more so if they're weak or young, even if the attacking Pokémon is a grass type".

"Tsk, I did know that", Luck rolled his eyes, "I just... didn't expect your Chikorita to know a ground type move already!".

"Did you not train your Cyndaquil before beginning your journey?", Lorelei asked, but the blank expression on Luck's eyes told her everything she needed to know, "you're so dense, Luck, it's unbelievable", she laughed mockingly, "how did you even know Cyndaquil knew Ember? Did you just... shout a move and hoped it would work?".

"Cyndaquil told me he knew Ember", Luck bragged and Cyndaquil nodded in support. Lorelei raised an eyebrow, "oh yeah? So you can speak to him now?".

"It's just our amazing connection and chemistry", Luck chirped, raising a peace sign towards Lorelei. Cyndaquil imitated him, raising his stubby paw and receiving a mocking snort form Achillea.

"It was quite a battle you fought back there".

In their rush to get to Cherrygrove City's Pokémon Centre, Luck and Lorelei hadn't really paid attention to the mysterious trainer that had helped them by putting out the tree that would've otherwise probably caused a pretty terrible wildfire if left to be managed by the two blond idiots, until she stood right before them, sipping from a canned lemonade. "Lilly!", they exclaimed, their faces lighting up with excitement, "you were the one that put out the fire? That was totally cool!", Luck beamed, his face still dirtied with ash.

Lilly smiled proudly, shrugging it off, "not like you two were going to".

"So, that means...", but Lorelei's sentence got cut off by a chubby, blue Pokémon jumping on Lilly's back with a loud, nasal cheer, making her stumble forwards, "hey there, Hammer! Watch it!".

Luck pulled out his Pokédex and pointed towards Lilly and her Pokémon as she struggled under its weight: "Totodile, the Big Jaw Pokémon. Its well-developed jaws are powerful and capable of crushing anything. Even its trainer must be careful."

"You don't have to say that twice", Lilly added, lifting her arm; Totodile was attached to it, hanging on with its white teeth to the sleeve of her blue-striped sweater. When it finally gave out, it stood upright and lifted his arms up, happily cheering.

"I didn't know you were starting your journey this year as well", Lorelei pointed out as Lilly sat down beside her.

Luck nodded, "yeah, I thought you were focusing on your studies!".

"I am", Lilly grinned, pulling out a hefty schoolbook from her back and letting it slam on the table, the louud noise peaking the interest of the three Pokémon, "my dad told me I could go on a journey if I didn't fall back on any subjects. I am to study for at least two hours every time I reach a Pokémon Centre".

Luck yawned loudly, "whew, what a drag", he stretched out his back, placing his hands on the back of his neck, "my ma didn't even tell me to take a notebook with me, I'm not touching one of those for at least a year, I'll probably forget how to read!".

Lilly snickered, rolling her big, brown eyes, "well, not like it surprises me, Luck. It still amazes me how you didn't fail any subject, I never saw you do a single assignment in all of the years we studied together!".

"I guess we could say it was sheer luck", Luck smiled, high-fiveing Cyndaquil. Lorelei rolled her eyes at them, "... anyways, now that we're all in our Pokémon journeys: what do you want to do next?". Lilly pursed her lips, "well, after I finish studying I think I'm going to check out the Ruins of Alph. My dad has a friend who's a researcher there, and he said he could show me around. I'm planning on writing a report on the ruins, just to have something to show after my journey ends." She pulled out a book labelled "Psychic Studies: The Ultimate Guide to Psychic-type Pokémon", and opened it to a page she had marked with a metallic clip in the shape of a Pikachu's head, "they're studying these mysterious psychic-type Pokémon called Unown there. They're shaped like each letter of the alphabet, which alludes to a possibility of them representing an ancient Pokémon language", she pointed at the page, with had key words highlighted with yellow ink, showcasing the rare sightings of the Pokémon, "I want to explore the ruins and see if I can catch one, maybe, but mostly to write an interesting report...".

Lorelei listened to every single word coming out of her mouth very carefully, clinging to each with upmost interest. Luck tried, too, but his attention span quickly proved too weak, and he started dozing off as he mindlessly chewed on a lava cookie he had sneaked from Lorelei's bag.

Meanwhile, the Pokémon exchanged a chat of their own: Cyndaquil couldn't believe Achillea knew mud-slap already, and looked at him in awe as he rested, royally, on Lorelei's lap, dignified and basking in the glory of having won his first Pokémon battle. The Totodile was very excited to meet the two, and it bounced around them enthusiastically. It was a little too excited, in fact, and so it waddled over to Cyndaquil and grabbed his round head between his jaws, making him squeal out in surprise. "Oh, Hammer!", Lilly reprimanded, her glasses nearly slipping from the bridge of her nose, "what did I tell you? We do not bite our friends!". Hammer the Totodile apologetically hummed, letting Cyndaquil go to rub his head and smiling embarrassedly with his massive teeth, explaining that that was his "love language". Cyndaquil smiled back, slightly unnerved, and Achillea giggled. Hammer turned around and chomped on the table's legs to let out some energy.

"What are you going to do now, Luck?".

Luck pursed his lips, thinking as he rested his back, "I don't know... I probably want to get to Violet City an battle the gym leader", he thought out loud", and get my first badge, you know?". Lorelei snorted, looking at Luck's sincere stare, "... oh, you're serious?", she chuckled, making him roll his eyes.

"Respectfully, Luck", Lilly started, "I think it would be better for you to train a bit before battling Falkner. Even if you're not at a type disadvantage, gym leaders are exceptionally tough! Don't be fooled by their monotype teams, they are usually very well balanced when it comes to effort values, which makes battling them a very hard task!".

"Disrespectfully, Luck", Lorelei chimed in, "you got your ass wiped by a grass type, you better do some work before you show your face in Falkner's gym".

"Alright, alright!", Luck lifted up his hands, "fine, I'll do some training in Route 30 before I leave for Violet City... man, you guys are mean". Lorelei patted him on the shoulder and Lilly gave him a kind smile.

"... You deserve it, dude, you're honestly so dumb at times".

"Lorelei! That's not going to help him at all".
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Chapter iii: Pesky Weedles!

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter iii: Pesky Weedles!

Cherrygrove City, spring of 2021

Luck waved at Lilly and Lorelei as they went on their way from Cherrygrove City and towards Route 30. Cyndaquil was sitting on his head, clinging to his hat with one hand and waving at Achillea and Hammer with the other, dishevelling the young boy's gold strands as he refused to fall down. "See you soon!", Lilly voiced, her pink-spotted dark skin shimmering with the glare of the afternoon sun, which seemed to reflect off of the flower beds and the green grass as though the glossy surface of a sea of velvet, getting smaller and smaller with every step they took, "good luck, Luck!".

"You're going to need it!", Lorelei added, cackling, bouncing around Lilly as they walked away. Luck clicked his teeth, "we'll show her, Cyndaquil", he assured, turning upwards to him as he poked his head out in front of his face, making a gesture with his fist, "we'll become the best trainer from New Bark Town, then, from Johto, and then, the best trainer in the world!". Cyndaquil cheered, and they held a determined pose until the silence got a bit too awkwardly long, and the breeze made their legs cramp. "Uh... but... for now", Luck regained his composure, clearing his throat, "I guess we should... train, a little bit".

"My oh my, is it that time of the year again?". A strange voice made Luck and Cyndaquil turn around: behind them now stood an old man, bald with age but with a long white beard, hunched over a walking stick and smiling at them kindly, his eyes hiding beneath two bushy, silver eyebrows and deep wrinkles, "you must excuse me. Once you've lived enough of them, you stop noticing the years are even passing! Well, of course, you wouldn't know anything about that... huh... a determined stare... a Pokéball belt... a backpack... a starter Pokémon... a look of unrelenting passion, yet innocently ignorant, aha! You're a young Pokémon trainer! Fresh out of New Bark Town!". Luck exchanged looks with Cyndaquil, opening his mouth mutely and smiling in confusion.

"What is your name, young trainer?".

"... Luck, Luck Lewis, sir".

"Ah, Luck, wonderful!", he started enthusiastically, giving him a pat on the shoulder, "it's lovely to see such a promising young man around these lands! Lately, new Pokémon trainers don't give old Cherrygrove city the time of day like before... When it was eleven year olds running around, they were so excited to go visit every single house and talk to everybody, we didn't have enough space to keep them all! But, ah, you teenagers are much more determined, let me tell you that, and because we lack a Gym and have a shortage of strong trainers to fight, we get less and less young lads like you visiting... a shame, honestly, happy faces like that always make me feel so much younger!". Luck smiled again, his pale, golden eyebrows slightly furrowing. "Ah, pardon me", the old man chuckled, "I am the Tour Guide, pleasure to meet you, Luck and Cyndaquil. I assume this is your first time in Cherrygrove city as a Pokémon trainer?".

Luck nodded, "yeah! We arrived yesterday, actually", Cyndaquil clung to his cap, lifting one of his arms up to cheerfully salute, "we had to rush in to the Pokémon Centre after a battle, but... we... we really like Cherrygrove City! Right, Cyndaquil?". Cyndaquil quickly nodded.

The old man beamed, "very well! If that is the case, then, follow me! Follow me now, I'll show you around the city. Cherrygrove might me small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm!".

The guide, despite his years, walked outstandingly fast, and Luck found himself breaking into short springs to keep up with his energy, Cyndaquil bouncing on his head with every step. "... I'm not sweating you out, am I, boy?", he smiled cheekily, "you won't believe me, but these tennis shoes are miraculous! When I wear them, I don't even feel like my feet are on the ground!". He pointed at his feet: he wore a pair of white and red sneakers, detailed with black and lined with pearly laces tied tight, "I think I still have a pair at home... tell you what, I'll let you have them at the end of the tour, how does that sound?".

"I... thanks, sir!", Luck blurted out, cracking an amused smile as he picked up the pace to walk beside him.

Cherrygrove city smelled like freshly-brewed tea and honey, particularly at that time of year. Lawns and streets were covered by a thick rug of soft, well-kept green grass and stubby flowers of pink and purple, knitting into the air particles of yellow pollen like delicate, dusty confetti; they reminded Luck of the one on Dandelion's back, but small and, not attached to a two-hundred pound green beast. The remnants of the morning were still making the breeze chilly, awaiting for the sun to reach its highest point, making the rumbling sea that laid beyond where the buildings ended a mirror of the sky, clear and blue and tranquil as ever. Luck drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs with the clean air that made the trees emerald and the ocasional white cloud fast across the landscape. The old man stopped before a long, square-shaped building with a spinning, tall sign in front to make it recognisable: it was a store, with ceiling blue and walls white, it's windows revealing shelves lined with food and Pokémon goods, "you're already familiar with the Pokémon Centre, I take", he mentioned regarding Cyndaquil's bandaids, "so, we'll just carry on to our next stop... there are not many people here in Cherrygrove, so one nice, small Poké Mart is more than enough for us all, follow me!".

The air conditioning of the store embraced Luck and Cyndaquil as they walked inside, soft jazz music was playing in the background and a bunch of citizens skimmed and rummaged through white, metallic shelves packed with boxed, canned and bagged goods, the constant clicking and beeping of the cash register like the trim of a Pidgey in the trees that surrounded them. "Every city in Johto has a Poké Mart of its own. Cherrygrove's might be small, but, fret not; as you carry on with your Pokémon journey, the Poké Marts will grow in size and stocking! As for now, you can get your basic trainer needs from this very store, from potions and Pokéballs to prepackaged poffins and jelly donuts!".

The guide reached for a purple bottle on one of the higher shelves, similar to the one Lorelei had used on Cyndaquil back in Route 29. With a smile, he paid for it and extended it towards Luck, who took it and examined it, Cyndaquil's long snout fixating on the label that read "Potion". "Here, courtesy of the tour", he gave him a pat on the shoulder, "have a look around and I'll meet you outside".

"That tour guide sure is nice, isn't he, Cyndaquil?", Luck chuckled, turning to face the rest of the shelves, "alright, let's see... I'll definitely need more Pokéballs, to grow the team, you know... maybe some antidotes, for sure, and paralyz heals, you never know when you might need those... man, jelly donuts sure sound nice right now...".

Cyndaquil slid down Luck's back, swinging from his backpack and landing on the cold floor of the Poké Mart. From down there, everything looked tall and imposing and shiny, and Cyndaquil murmured with interest, waddling with his hands together in front of his belly towards one of the shelves at the opposite side of Luck's feet, sniffling through the bright packages and hearing them crinkle with he touched them with his nose.

"Four, five, six, seven... yeah seven's a reasonable number. One if I get hungry later in the day, one if you get hungry later in the day, then, one if I get hungry in the afternoon, one if you get hungry in the afternoon... what do you think, should I grab more donuts?", Luck reached up, noticing Cyndaquil was no longer on his hat, "Cyndaquil?", he asked out loud, averting his gaze towards the ground and turning around in a full circle, looking for the small, blue creature, "buddy?".

He walked towards the end of the shelf, peeking at the next aisle. There, Cyndaquil was sitting calmly, chewing on a piece of brown, dry Pokémon food. "Ah, there you are, you little pain in the ass", Luck sighed, relieved, and picked him up from the floor, "don't do that again, you're going to make me pull out the Pokéball... and where did you get that? It... smells kinda nice...".

Luck paid for everything he had picked out, which now towered heavy in a basket, and made it fit inside his seemingly-bottomless backpack. "I wonder where the guide's going to take us now... I don't know about you, but I'm dying for some breakfast".

"How did you find the Poké Mart", the guide asked kindly as Luck erupted for the glass doors.

"Great! I got all I needed, I think... at least enough until I reach Violet City".

"Excellent", he smiled, lowering his eyes to Cyndaquil, "well, that's one very pretty necklace! Is that charcoal? I didn't know they sold those in there". Luck frowned, turning Cyndaquil around: sure enough, he had a piece of black stone wrapped in string attached to his neck, "hey... where did you get that?", he asked confusedly, staring at the Pokémon. He looked at him intently, his pale eyebrows meeting in the middle of his forehead as he examined him: Cyndaquil's fur seemed suddenly... lighter than before, and he could've sworn his belly was a bit more beige than yellow...

Then, it dawned on him, and his pupils went small with surprise, "ah! You're not Cyndaquil!".

"... Well, he is, but he's not your Cyndaquil".

Luck turned around, watching a figure in a green hoodie emerging from the store, carrying in its arms an almost identical round Pokémon. Almost identical. "Cyndaquil!", Luck let the fake Cyndaquil down carefully, and once his arms were free Cyndaquil launched himself towards them, squealing happily, "oh, you stupid little thing", he lamented, "you almost gave me a heart attack!".

The other Cyndaquil walked over to the figure in green, who smiled at him with contempt. "Thank you!", Luck turned to them, "I didn't notice he had wandered off... and, I'm sorry for taking your Cyndaquil".

"It's okay", they smiled, "Pepper has a habit of ditching me whenever he smells food around him".

"Your Pokémon is very relatable", Luck laughed. He looked at them closely, narrowing his eyes at their round nose, choppy, short blond hair, their brown, amber-ish eyes and the mole near their lips... "Wait a second", he said, "... Lotto?".

Lotto smiled, blushing lightly and brushing the back of their neck, "heh, that's me!".

"I almost didn't recognise you! I think it's the... em...".

"... Haircut?".

"You never used to wear green, did you?".

Lotto smiled. "I didn't know you were starting your journey as well! I thought you were going to wait another year or two".

"I guess my ma wanted to sack me earlier", they laughed awkwardly, "... I'm joking. She just saw everyone else leave and allowed me to go as well".

"Well, that's cool!", Luck chirped, "and you picked the coolest starter, too". Both Cyndaquil looked at each other, finally breaking into a cheerful, entertained exclamation of the name they shared. Then, Lotto's PokéGear rang, and after one look at it they clicked their teeth, "oops, gotta go", they shifted, smiling doubtfully as they patted Luck's shoulder, "I... see ya around, Luck!". And after an exchange of numbers, they vanished, running off into Route 30.

"Friend of yours?", the guide's voice called Luck's attention back. "Yeah! That was Lotto. Bit younger than me, so we didn't really talk that often, but they've always been very nice, and their dad's a chef, made the best pastries... man, don't do that again, you hear me?", Luck picked Cyndaquil up, staring at him sternly.

"Did he not respond to his name?", the guide asked, tilting his head slightly as he watched him, too.

"... His name?".

"Yes, Pokémon names come in handy when there's two identical creatures who can only word a few syllables", he smiled, knowledgeable, "you should call him by his name more often!".

"Oh, yeah, his name...", Luck bit his cheek, looking at Cyndaquil's puzzled look as his brain rummaged through jumbled thoughts, most of them taking shape of tea and jelly donuts (he really should've eaten back at the Pokémon Centre), "his name is...".

Four, five, six, seven... yeah seven's a reasonable number. One if I get hungry later in the day, one if you get hungry later in the day, then, one if I get hungry in the afternoon, one if you get hungry in the afternoon...

"... Seven", he mouthed, his eyes still locked on the Pokemon's face. As he saw it light up, he smiled, "Seven, his name is Seven!", he repeated confidently, smiling as Seven squealed happily.

"... Alright then... Seven?", the guide smiled sympathetically, but the way his frown slightly twitched told on himself, "well, it's coming from a boy named Luck, after all", he thought, but eventually softened as he watched the boy and his partner share the moment, "... follow me, Luck and Seven, we still have a few more spots to visit! Did you know, Luck, that Cherrygrove City is actually the smallest town in the world? I kid you not! You'll also find it interesting that....".

The old man walked Luck to where Route 30 started, pointing out that, if he was patient enough, he might see the occasional hot pink Hoppip flying amongst the Pidgeys and Spearows, and that they sometimes appear green, too, but only sometimes and if you're really lucky. Following this, he took him to meet some of the neighbours; Cherrygrove City was a quiet, meek town with pretty scenery and blue skies, so, the vast majority of the population were older people who retired alongside their ageing Pokémon, and something about Luck's fresh, young face and milky, slightly crooked smile, and Cyndaquil's stubby roundness made them exchange smiles and beam cheerfully, handing out even more jelly donuts for Luck to happily pocket. "What can I say? Cherrygrove City loves Pokémon trainers!".

The last stop was the beach: a small, calm shore outlined by rocks and spotted with two white sand islands like rubber floats that swam astray. "The water is a deep blue", the old man mentioned, staring off into the sea, "those are our islands, we call them Lapras and Blastoise. I've heard interesting stuff washes up there from time to time, but I've never been there myself. I get very easily seasick", he chuckled, "ah, Luck, I haven't asked you: what are you planning to do, young man?".

"Me?", Luck asked, receiving a nod, "... well, Seven and I are planning to train very hard and fight all of Johto's gym leaders...", he began, oblivious to the satisfaction in the old man's eyes; he had heard it perhaps ten thousand times, but it never failed to make his heart fill with joy, "and then, the Elite Four, and then, aim for the Championship!", Luck smiled, "isn't that right, Seven?". The Cyndaquil answered with determination, letting out an enthusiastic cry that bounced away on the cerulean mirror.

"That is exciting to hear", the guide replied, "it is very important to have a healthy amount of ambition... if I can give you a piece of advice, son", he turned to him, his eyes peeking from beneath hung eyelids with a slightly blue wisdom, "while you're chasing that big goal of yours, do not forget about the bigger picture. What do you want to do once you're a Champion? What are you winning all those badges and beating the Elite Four for? What will you do afterwards?". Luck's eyes wandered off to the sand, a silence wafting between them like salt in the air, "... but, ah, don't worry too much about the future", he gave him a pat in the back, then scratched Seven's head, "you're young, and you should enjoy that to the fullest... hm, how does breakfast sound to you right now?".


"Here you go, Luck and Seven", the old man cheered as he laid two plates on his kitchen table, where Luck and Seven stared, eyes-open wide and mouth slightly ajar, at the steaming portions of food that filled the small house with an intense, spice-packed scent, "two healthy plates of Sweet Toast Curry, a traditional recipe from Galar, don't eat it too fast!". Seven sat in front of his plate, digging his paws into it and taking pieces of fluffy, thick toast up to his mouth, chewing merrily. Luck wanted to do the same, but opted for a spoon, taking in a bite of the reddish-dark orange, chunky curry and the yellow, soft rice with politeness. He exchanged a look with Seven, the idea of asking for some to take with him flashing into his mouth as soon as he started chewing.

"Do you prefer red or blue aprijuice...", the old man asked, smiling fondly at the sight of Luck, who had crammed food inside his mouth to the point where he could only mutter a short "'ed". As he went back to the kitchen counter, Luck began to look around the house, chewing, now, slowly; it was a small, bright single flat. The floorboards were a light shade of chocolate and the walls were lined with white wallpaper and windows with green curtains tied with green bows. From there, he could see the small living room with a red couch and wooden bookshelves packed with Pokémon books and small trinkets. He noticed a picture mounted on one of the walls in the kitchen just beneath a clock and over a bonsai tree: it was a man, the uncanny resemblance to the old man (minus the beard and plus a bit of hair) told him it probably was him when he was younger, and he was sitting under the shade of a tree next to a blue Pokémon with a large beak and a head that ended in four spikes with a red, glossy gem on the forehead, both smiling to the camera.

"Times does fly by", the old man noticed him staring, smiling longingly as he sat down in front of him, "that's why I tell all Pokémon trainers to cherish every moment, even when times are rough and skies are grey".

"Were you a trainer, sir?".

"I was, although not a very ambitious one. I did it because it was fun, and because it was what all of my friends were doing, too. I had a really good time when I was your age". The old man reached into his pocket, pulling out an aged, rectangular tin container. He opened it, revealing five badges that, despite their obvious turn and wear, shone, polished and cared for. Luck's eyes lit up, "no way! You've got gym badges?".

"Indeed. I never made it to the League, but I enjoyed my time battling, and so did my old pal Greta", he looked down, "what a noble fighter she was, best Pokémon I've ever met".

The old man cleared his throat, reaching into his other pocket for a small, pill sized black chip he had brought with him and placing it on the table. Luck swallowed a mouthful of curry and looked at it curiously, Seven imitating him. "Can I take a look at your PokéGear?". Luck complied, taking it out of his jacket and handing it over. The old man insisted the chip into a small slot on the side and the device let out a clicky chirp. "Take this as a gift, from old trainer to young trainer".

Luck took it back, looking at it for a minute and noting it now had a national map feature. He smiled, thinking back to the sense of humbleness that his mom had taught him and aiming to say he was unable to accept it, but way too thrilled to actually mean it, "thank you very much, sir!", he exclaimed, still eating despite the excitement.

"That's the real wonder of a Pokémon journey", he began softly, "you get to go places you've only ever heard on the TV, and you walk and walk and check off every location on the map until you swear you'll never see a landscape as amazing and beautiful as the one before, and yet you say the same thing the very next day. And you get to do it with the wonderful creatures that are Pokémon, the best of friends you can find and the kindest, bravest of companions... you've got a great life to look forward to, Luck and Seven". The old man smiled once more, sipping out of a cup with red-tinted juice. "Speaking of which", his face lightened up, any sign of nostalgia-fuelled purple tint that had come over his features drifting away like a slow Drifbloom, replaced by a sky-blue look of contempt and satisfaction, "you've got to train a bit before you go off to Violet City and challenge Falkner, don't you?".

"... Yeah", Luck accepted, slightly hunching his shoulders with defeat. "Ah, don't feel ashamed, young trainer, everyone's got to work hard before becoming an expert in something! Practice makes perfect, and training makes a champion!", the old man smiled, his lips slightly curled upwards with a hint of slyness, "... I'll tell you what, I know of the best training spot for fire-type Pokémon such as Seven right there".

"You do?", Luck asked, his interest peaked.

"Follow me, it's right around the corner!".

And the old man wasn't lying, it was really just around the corner! But in the figurative sense of the word, as it wasn't literally around the corner, it actually was much more close, right... in his backyard.

"Look at them, greedy little scoundrels", he muttered, placing his hands on his hips, standing next to Luck in the door that led to his backyard, "as soon as the tulips and Cheri berries start to bloom they're on them like parasites". They stood before his garden, neatly arranged with colourful flowerbeds and a pretty lawn set with two white chairs and a glass table. Luck looked closer: attached to some of the flowers and the stems of small berry bushes were countless beady-eyed, horned worms, eating away with pleased, round, beige faces and a nubby pink noses. He pulled out his Pokédex; "Weedle, the Hairy Bug Pokémon, It attacks using a two-inch poison barb on its head. It can usually be found under the leaves it eats".

"It's a bug type Pokémon", Luck declared, looking at Seven with amazement".

"Bug-poison, but, yes. And your fire-type Pokémon just so happens to have a very prominent type advantage when fighting against them", the old man pointed out, "perfect for the no-risk training your young Cyndaquil needs!". Luck looked around: it was clear that he was struggling with a Weedle problem in his yard, and that he was desperately looking for a way to stop his berries from falling to the ground, half-eaten, before they were even ripe, and his flowers from withering and dying after enduring countless small bites from sharp-toothed mouths. Luck then should've recognised that perhaps, only perhaps, he was taking advantage of Luck's fire type Pokémon and his search for somewhere to train to find a free and quick fix for the Weedle invasion...


He adjusted his cap on his head, closing his fist and smiling with determination, "Seven, we'll wipe this place clean in no time, won't we?". Seven cheered, his back exploding with orange-yellow flames.

"Good luck, boy, I hope you find this... training fruitful", the old man said before hurrying back inside his house, "be careful with my plants though, I don't want them to catch on fire".

Luck breathed in deeply, walking up to the flowers and locking eyes with a Weedle, watching it carelessly munch on greenery, unaware of his calculating stare and racing thoughts. "... Seven", he turned to him and smiled, amused, "use tackle!".

The Cyndaquil charged up, running at full speed towards the little Pokémon and slamming against it with all his might. The Weedle let out a cry, bouncing off the flower bed and onto the grass, rolling for a couple of metres before stopping, dizzied. The rest of the Weedles stopped, stunned, and turned their heads towards Luck, "oh, shit, I... Seven, use Emb... no, wait, there's too many plants for that, we're going to make another tree catch on fire. I... er... use tackle, again!".

Seven struck another Weedle away from the plants, sending it flying with a loud thud. After that, though, the rest of the Weedles began to screech, raising their horned heads or the stinger at the end of their tail in a threat, "be careful with the stinger, Seven, the PokéDex said it's highly venomous...", Luck looked down as he finished his sentence, noticing that one of the Weedles had made its way towards them and used its head barb to attach itself to the rubber sole of his shoe, fortunately, not able to go through the plastic and reach his foot. Luck yelped in surprise, kicking forward and managing to make the Pokémon unstick and soar through the garden like a kicked football ball. This time, the Weedles hissed angrily, jumping out of their hiding between flowers and leaves and pointing their horns directly towards Luck and Cyndaquil.

Luck shouted, now scared, "Seven! Use... ah, I don't know! Do something!".

Luck grabbed him and shielded him between his arms, closing his eyes tightly and clenching his jaw, expecting the worst. But just as the Weedles were about to strike them like missiles, Seven let a black cloud escape from his back, covering them like a dark, thick, dome-shaped veil. Coughing, Luck and Seven managed to crawl out of the smoke. Leaving behind a horde of confused, dizzy Weedles. He batted the air with his hand, swiping the dust off of his clothes. He patted himself, noticing he didn't have any poisonous stingers on him, laughing with relief, "that... whew, that was close", he smiled, looking down at Cyndaquil, who searched himself for wounds too, "that was totally rad!", he said, "I didn't know you could do that! Was that... was that Smokescreen just now?". Seven smiled proudly, exclaiming its own name with enthusiasm, "that's so sick! ... man, Lorelei's right, I really gotta learn that moveset of yours, buddy".


After several more Smokescreens and Tackles under the big, bright sun, Luck let himself fall to the ground, wiping sweat off of his forehead and taking off his cap to let his head cool down. Seven sat down too, exhaling exhaustedly. In the opposite end of the garden now laid a pile of fainted, weakened Weedles, and the flower beds and berry plants shivered in the wind, healthy once more. "How do you feel?", Luck asked, and Cyndaquil sighed. He stood up on all fours and cried out with strength, the flames on his back flaring up several inches taller than before, "woah! There you go!", Luck exclaimed loudly, clapping with glee and high-fiving the creature, "looking good, buddy!".

"My, my!", the old man poked his head out of the door, "... and you didn't burn down my garden!", he added, and Luck side-eyed the black smoke ashes he had huddled to a pile and hid under one of the chairs, "now that's a job... I mean, now that's training well done, Luck boy!", he beamed, "come inside for a glass of water, I have something for you".

As Luck and Seven drank, sitting comfortably on the couch and dozing off, the old man approached them, holding a cardboard box between his hands. "This is for helping me out with the Weedles back there", he finally said, smiling calmly. Luck took the box and opened it, revealing a pair of black-red-white sneakers. Him and Seven gaped at them, pulling them out. "Thank you, sir!", he exclaimed, kicking off his old (and now very punctured) shoes and trying them on. "They're the best for getting to places quickly!". Luck stood up, feeling the soft soles under his feet as he took a couple of steps around, followed by Seven's admiring eyes, "what do you think, Seven?", he asked, turning around and "posing". Cyndaquil crooned happily, but let himself fall backwards on the couch, tired. "Little guy fought a horde of bugs today, you better get him to the Pokémon Centre", the old man said kindly, "... and, afterwards, you should head out to Violet City".

"Really? Already?", Luck asked, his eyes wide. "Don't get too confident just yet", he laughed, "you still have Route 30 and 31 to get through, and Pokémon there can be pretty vicious". Luck nodded, but a smile spread across his face.

"Thank you for everything, sir!".

"It was my pleasure, Luck", the old man smiled, standing outside of his house as he walked off to the Pokémon Centre, "take care of Seven... and don't forget about little Cherrygrove City when you become the next Champion of Johto!".
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Chapter iv: Houndour packs a bite!

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter iv: Houndour packs a bite!

Route 30, spring of 2021

We come back to young Pokémon trainer Luck Lewis as he's prancing away from the quiet Cherrygrove City after a busy morning and action-packed noon, muscles still sore from cleaning up mounds of passed-out Weedles, but spirits up high and smile wide, ready to embrace the journey to come. Stepping out into Route 30 was considerably easier than stepping into Route 29 back in New Bark Town, and he had a feeling it was only bound to get easier. Seven was strapped to his hat once more, only this time it was on backwards, so his tummy had a more comfortable surface to lay on, which caused him to occasionally dose off and pull it, dishevelling his hair as he got comfortable again, his arms hanging on his forehead.

Luck was scanning his PokéGear, analysing the map upgrade he had received from the tour guide and planning inside his head with a focused frown. "... So, after Route 30 and 31, which are... right this way, we should be in Violet City", he spoke out loud to the half-asleep Cyndaquil, "if we pick up the pace... I think we might be able to reach it before the sun gets down, what do you think, buddy?".

Seven whimpered, barely audible, and Luck took it as an answer, "... yeah, I think it's reasonable too".

He took in a deep breath, smiling and fixing his backpack on his back, skipping with excitement, "so, Violet City... the gym leader there is Falkner, who uses flying types. Getting a type advantage is going to be pretty hard, I mean, what are flying types even weak against, anyways? Rock and Electric and... Ice? I don't think I've even seen an Ice-type Pokémon in my life! On the bright side, we won't be at a huge type disadvantage either, because you're a Fire-type! I've heard Kanto's first gym after Pallet Town is Rock-type, heh, that would've been rough, but Flying-type? We can manage that... I think... I hope. We're very strong after that training, aren't we, Seven? We can take a gym challenge no problem, smoke some trainers, get all those badges, yeah, I believe in us! ... Seven, are you asleep?".

Route 30 was a long and steep way towards Violet City, and, with the added weight of the sleeping Cyndaquil and his jam-packed backpack, Luck's legs were starting to get tired. He looked back, unable to see Cherrygrove City between tree tops and hills , "whew, we've been walking for a while now, haven't we?", he sighed, pulling out a flask of water from his backpack and giving it a swig, "I wonder if we're even close now... to be completely honest, I haven't gotten the hang of this map just yet, and it doesn't help that the sun makes it hard for me to focus on my PokéGear's screen... I wish there was, like, a subway station, or something. I know Goldenrod City has some, but they should connect them to the rest of the region, it would make Pokémon Trainers' lives so much easier! Well, until we get a Pokémon who can learn Fly, of course, then we'll never have to walk like this again... we, I'm doing all the walking here, you've just been asleep this whole time!...".

Luck's train of thought got interrupted as he felt himself bumping into someone, "oh, sorry", he muttered, taking a step back, nearly dropping Seven, "didn't see you there, dude, I was looking down".

"Ah, don't worry!", the kid he had bumped into smiled awkwardly, taking a step back, "I... uh... I wasn't paying attention either...", he smiled, straightening his shirt and fixing the blue cap on his head; he looked about Luck's age, and his sporty attire and oversized bag told him he probably was a Pokémon trainer as well, walking through Route 30 to reach Violet City. They exchanged more awkward apologies until a little head with wide ears poked from beneath the boy's arm, peeking shyly at the conversation.

"Oh, sweet, a Rattata!", Luck beamed, pulling out his Pokédex: "Rattata, the mouse Pokémon. Rattata will chew on anything with its fangs. If you see one, it is certain that 40 more live in the area".

The boy's Rattata hid between his arms and he smiled, looking at the PokéDex interestedly, "you're from New Bark Town, aren't you?".

"Yeah! My name is Luck, and this is Seven", Luck grabbed half-asleep Seven and showed him forward. Seven yawned, his acrid breath amusing the young trainer.

"I'm Jesse, and this is Goldie, my Rattata", he lifted up his arm to show her, but Goldie hid behind him, clinging on to his clothes and making his freckle-covered, dimpled cheeks blush lightly, "she's, uh... she's a bit shy". Luck bowed slightly to be at Goldie's eye level, waving at her with his hand, "hey there, Goldie!".

"You're... come here, you little... you're headed to Violet City, aren't you?", Jesse asked, trying to make small talk as he twirled around, trying to catch Goldie from under his clothes. "Yup", Luck said, proudly, "Seven and I are going to challenge Falkner and get the first badge".

Jesse finally got hold of the Rattata, and he held her between his hands to keep her from running away again, "sweet! I saw two trainers before you talking about Violet City's gym as well. They were from New Bark Town too, maybe you know them?", he struggled against Goldie, placing her on the crook of his arm like a baby, "two girls, one with glasses and the other with blonde and green hair, she in particular couldn't stop talking about her Chikorita "beating a fire type in his first battle" whilst the other went on about... ruins? I think?".

"Lorelei", Luck muttered, scowling.

"What's that?".

"Oh, nothing", he added. "Woah, Lorelei, let it go already", he thought, but he knew deep down that if someone had to let go of that disastrous first battle, it was him; he was still extremely mortified that he had not only lost with a type advantage, but that he had lost to Lorelei! The one person who would never stop rubbing it in his face!

Suddenly, the confidence the Weedle training had given him had turned into shame, and he tried to shake away the images of Seven being hit by that horrifying Mud-slap. He knew he had to become a better, much stronger trainer if he ever wanted to beat Lorelei and become Champion of the league, and that it was going to require a lot of work...

He looked at Jesse, watching him and Goldie and thinking, when his face lit up with an idea, "hey, Jesse! Tell you what: we should have a Pokémon battle!".

"A... Pokémon battle?", he repeated, his brown eyes tinting with a bit of nervousness.

”Yeah, Seven against Goldie", Luck clenched his fist, smiling with determination, "it'll be so fun, and it'll help us toughen up!".

Jesse looked down at Goldie, who's nose twitched skittishly, and bit the inside of his cheek, "...what do you think?", he asked her, and she covered her red, glossy eyes with her purple paws. Jesse's face washed up with thought, his eyebrows furrowing. Finally, after a couple of seconds, he shook his head, his smile suddenly brighter than before, giving Goldie a comforting pat before facing Luck, "... alright... alright! We will battle you!", he exclaimed, excitedly, "we'll give you all we've got!".

Luck backed off, leaving a good chunk of space between them just as he had done with Lorelei, "alright, Seven, we're winning this one", he whispered, "that training with the Weedles has definitely made you tougher, and we can go against a Rattata no problem, right? With no problem!", Seven squealed in agreement, pumped by the sudden change of energy in the air, "yeah, that's the spirit!". He let the Pokémon down, placing one foot after the other and clenching his fists, "are you ready, Jesse?", he smirked, "Seven, I choose you!".

"Okay, Goldie, we've got this", Jesse exclaimed, holding his Rattata and throwing her forward softly, "go!". Goldie landed, still, on all fours, her eyes wide and tail raised, frozen in alarm. She raised her eyes, slowly, and her pupils shrunk at the sight of Seven. "Rattatas are very quick, Seven, be careful, and use Tackle!".

"Careful, Goldie". Seven charged at the purple Pokémon, pointing its snout down to hit her with his big head, gaining speed and strength. Goldie, with a cry, bounced and stepped out of the way, making him stumble to a halt a couple of metres forward, nearly falling on his face, "good job, Goldie!", Jesse exclaimed, smiling proudly (and a bit amazed).

"Seven, behind you", Luck pointed, making Cyndaquil turn around swiftly, "use ember!".

"Dodge it again, Goldie, and use Tail whip!". Seven's back fired up with tall, orange flames, releasing large fire speckles out of his mouth. Goldie managed to dodge the first few, jumping around the field in agile zig zags, but as she came to the ground after a particularly big jump, an astray ember hit her square, throwing her back with force, scraping the grass out of the soil, "nicely done, Seven!".

"Goldie! Are you okay?", Jesse shouted. Goldie sprung up, her fur now dirty with dirt and ash. She looked at Cyndaquil, who's back was still covered by burning fire and stood in a threatening position of battle. She sniffled and let out a squeal, running off into the surrounding forest and getting lost between the tall grass. Seven, confused, lost the fighting posture, hunching slightly as he looked back at Luck, who shrugged, equally confused.

"Goldie!", Jesse voiced with affliction, standing on his tips to look further into the forest, "come on, don't be that way! Come back!". He looked at Luck and blushed, rubbing the back of his head, "I'm sorry, she's... we don't fight very often, and she's a bit shy…".

"I… uh… It's okay", Luck smiled sympathetically, "Seven can be very scary at times". The Cyndaquil raised his head, the flames on his back finally appeased, and smiled, making a squeaky sound.

Jesse rubbed his temples, "I befriended Goldie a couple of years ago. I found her as a baby and she let me feed her berries. I didn't even have to fight her to get her in a Pokéball, she just let me catch her one day, and we've been best friends ever since", he began, sighing, "we were so excited to begin a journey together... but... she's always had a bit of anxiety when it comes to fighting. We've been trying to work through it, but… it's been tough".

Luck picked Seven up from the ground as he walked over to Jesse, placing a hand on his shoulder as he stared at the tall grass, longingly. Seven imitated him, placing a hand on the boy's arm. "I just... it feels like I've been failing her as a trainer".

"No one who looks at their Pokémon they way you look at Goldie is failing as a Pokémon trainer", Luck reassured him, decidedly, seemingly suddenly hit by inspiration, "fighting is... well, it's scary!", he laughed, "imagine being Goldie's size and some guy sends you to fist-fight a fire-breathing creature, doesn’t it sound wild? No wonder she's having a hard time!". Jesse smiled sadly.

"I'm sure that, with a bit of training, you'll have a powerful victory-machine of a Rattata sooner than you think!", Luck patted his back, directing his gaze to the shrubs of tall, thick grass and trees, "... but... she is taking a long time to come back".

"She's done this before", Jesse fidgeted, "she usually comes around after a minute or two, once she thinks everyone forgot about the fight going on".

Luck bounced on his feet, turning idly on his spot and listening to the quiet wind and sizzling of the moving leaves. The clouds passed them by as the seconds turned to minutes, and he checked the time on his PokéGear every now and then.

"... Anytime now", Jesse whispered, "anytime". He huffed, crossing his arms and biting his lip.

"... Hey, man", Luck said, "...do you want to go look for her?".

Jesse sighed, "yeah".

Jesse and Luck, with Seven strapped to his hat, tip-toed through the tall grass, pulling low branches aside as they walked off Route 30 and into the thick greenery that bordered it, "the first things my ma told me before leaving home were to: stay on the route's road, and to avoid going into tall grass", Luck said, smiling cheekily with a nervous giggle, "she'd kill me if she saw me right now".

Jesse chuckled, "at least you've got Seven, if a Pokémon randomly jumps me, I'm screwed!". They advanced slowly and carefully, every now and then voicing a quick "Goldie! Come here!", to try and grab the little Rattata's attention. "I'm sure I saw her going this way", Jesse uttered, "she couldn't have gone that far. She's probably... hiding under a bush, or… up a tree, or something…”.

The blond boy's eyes lit up, and he grabbed the other by the shoulders, "Jesse, that's a great idea!", he exclaimed, beaming. "Huh?", the dark-haired boy muttered, but he had already started walking away from him, "where are you going?".

Luck approached the base of a tree, wrapping his hands around the sturdiest-looking branch and pulling himself up. Seven squirmed on his head, making him drop his hat and latching on to his long, blond hair. Luck breathed with difficulty as he made his way through the branches, climbing up carefully and trying not to get stuck between twigs and leaves.

"... What are you doing?", Jesse had to ask, picking his cap from the ground and looking up at him, worriedly squinting.

"Just... give me a sec", Luck managed, pulling himself up once he neared the top of the tree, showing his face through the rustling foliage. From up there, he and Seven had a better view of the tightly-knit forest, squinting at every square inch of the canvas of emeralds and sages.

"… Well? Can you see anything?", Jesse shouted at him, "and please don't fall".

Luck watched, careful, like a hunting Braviary, "... hmm… not yet", he replied, "can you see anything, Seven?". The Cyndaquil inspected the view quietly, negating softly. But then, suddenly, he cried out in surprise, "what? Where?", Luck nearly fell from his place, clenching the branches strongly with his eyes wide-open.

Seven pointed at a particular spot, not very far from them, and Luck saw it: a patch of grass was shaking, quivering with activity. "I see something, Jesse! Over there!", Jesse followed the aid of Luck's finger despite not being able to see anything from where he stood, "a patch of grass is moving!".

"Do you think it's Goldie?".

"It's worth a shot!".

Luck climbed down the tree, his hands scratched up and his hair embroidered with tiny bits and pieces of the tree. Jesse smiled apologetically, swatting a chunk of bark off of his shoulder.

Now with more urgency, they walked towards the spot Luck had located, trying not to stray away from the imaginary path whilst keeping an eye out for any passing critters. "Goldie? Are you there?", Jesse asked loudly, "come on, you don't have to fight Seven if you don't want to". The pained look on his face twisted Luck's heart, and he joined in on the choir, "yeah, we're actually pretty cool dudes, Goldie! We... we even have some jelly donuts to share, if you want to!". Seven looked for her too, mouthing the same two syllables that translated into worried calls.

They walked directionless, trying to keep in mind the place they had located. "Man, why is she so tiny?", Jesse lamented, "she can hide basically everywhere! She could be... she could be anywhere in the forest now, how are we supposed to...", Jesse's words were interrupted, for they finally seemed to have stumbled upon the shuffling Luck and Seven had seen up on the tree. They stopped, staring at the shaking patch of green. "... Goldie?", Jesse asked, carefully, and the grass stopped moving, "... is... is that you?".

From the tall grass erupted a piercing, loud howl, freezing Seven and the two boys in their places. Out and towards them jumped a Pokémon, black and grey, with pointy ears and a brown snout with sharp fangs, "oh, that's definitely not Goldie!", Luck cried, "run!".

Jesse and Luck stumbled and began running back to Route 30, the Pokémon trailing behind them, threatening them with gruff barks and heavy paws. Luck pulled out his PokéDex without stopping, holding it strongly to keep it from falling: "Houndour, the Dark Pokémon. Houndour hunt as a coordinated pack. They communicate with each other using a variety of cries to corner their prey. This Pokémon's remarkable teamwork is unparalleled".

"That's not good news!", Jesse exclaimed, huffing, feeling each step he took taking a took on his knees, the grass under his feet occasionally slipping precariously, "if there's more of them we're totally done!".


Goldie the Rattata walked, alone, through the tall grass, easily navigating it in discrete silence, her tiny paws barely raising a whisper as she advanced. She sighed, thinking back to the fight from a couple of minutes ago. She had told herself she wouldn't run away from a battle after the last time, she had sworn, for her and Jesse! But something about Seven's fiery flames and getting struck by the hot ember had filled her with fear and embarrassment.

She looked down, frustrated; she didn't want to let Jesse down, not after everything they had gone through together. It was a dream of theirs to see the world, working as a team to take on challenges and basking in the glory of victory; having fun! Being strong together! And yet, she couldn't even manage to stick it up to a first evolution Pokémon the moment things got a bit complicated. Jesse had told her he was patient, and that he didn't want to push her... but she wanted to push herself, she didn't want to be a coward! She didn't want to be petrified everytime she sensed the smallest bit of danger... but, oh, why was it so hard?

She had decided to go back to them now. It had been a couple of minutes, and Jesse was probably starting to get worried. She lifted her nose into the air and sniffed it, finding her way back to the path through the tall, thin blades of grass, occasionally looking up to peek at the blue sky, searching for courage to become a better partner for her best friend in the blue absence of clouds.

As she started to get closer, however, there was another thing that came to her attention. With her ears the size of cups she picked up a mutter in the distance: the faintest of murmurs, dancing through the afternoon zephyrs, mellowing just loud enough to make her whiskers tingle. She tried to decipher it, untangling the barely audible notes to determine what it was about the noise that made her so... worried?

"Jesse... you better... you better hurry up, buddy", Luck muttered, out of breath. "I'm sorry I... man, I need to organise my stuff better". The two boys and the bouncing Cyndaquil ran through the forest, jumping over bushes and rocks and pushing grass aside, hearing the unrelenting growls and barks of the Pokémon behind them. Jesse was sure that he carried with a repel, however, he was also aware that he might've placed it under every other thing he carried with him, and Pokémon trainer bags had a tendency to be neverending, item-swallowing wells, "it... it should be here! I'm sure I bought one!", he struggled, out of breath, trying to keep his bag from spilling all of his belongings on the way. Luck clicked his teeth, "if only I hadn't bought so many jelly donuts...".

"Aha!", Jesse voiced, victorious, showing Luck a little silver spraying can stamped with the faded image of a Pokéball in the middle, "a super repel! Eat that, Houndour...". He turned around, shaking it and abruptly stopping his running to face the menacing Pokémon, pointing the can right towards its face and spraying it, shielding his face away.

But he soon discovered that he should've read the label better, and that he shouldn't have put all his trust on a single item to stop getting attacked by a creature with fangs the size of his fingers. The Houndour jumped right through the cloud of sour-smelling gas, landing on him and pinning him right down to the ground.

"Ah, shit", Luck gasped, freezing. Jesse cried, holding the empty can of repel between him and the jaws of the Houndour, feeling its hot breath and saliva fogging his face and all of its weight pressing him to the ground and grass beneath. The boy shouted, trying to kick the Pokémon off, "Luck, help me!", he demanded, and Luck fumbled nervously, "I, er... yeah, Seven!", he called, and Seven whimpered in fear, "use, uh... use Smokescreen!".

The Cyndaquil, hiding as much as possible, showered Jesse and Houndour in a cloud of black smoke. Jesse's voice erupted from within the dark, "it didn't work!".

"What? Why not?", Luck coughed, wafting the soot with his hand.

"I don't know, but it's very much still on me!". The smokescreen faded away to reveal that Jesse was still in the very same position, trying to squiggle away from the Houndour as it growled, holding its place of power with his paws, detailed with silver rings.

"Seven, use Tackle!", Luck demanded, Seven looking at him with terror, "... I know buddy", he grimaced, "but... uh, we have to do something!".

"And I'd prefer it to be quick!", Jesse struggled, "this can isn't going to last forever, much less if it decides to incinerate me!". Luck looked at Seven, who cowered, trembling, and sighed. He adjusted the straps of his backpack and took a step back, rolling up his sleeves.

"... What are you doing?", Jesse's face got pale.

"I... I guess I'm using tackle", Luck uttered, leaning slightly forward and psyching himself up with little jumps.

"Wait, Luck! Is that the best... I don't think that's the best idea!", Jesse shouted, clenching his eyes as he saw the boy begin to run, roaring a battle cry and charging at the Houndour, who lowered its ears in confusion, even resting his bite for a second to figure out what he could possibly be doing.

Luckily for most likely everyone, Seven had jumped off Luck's head, possibly sensing the bad idea brewing under his hair before it came out of his mouth, so, his dome of blond hair now provided the best platform for a new individual to jump on. From out of the grass pounced a small, purple Pokémon, Goldie! And she leaped from the ground and onto Luck's head, using him as a trampoline to gain height, managing to strike the Houndour like a sky-scent missile. She bared her teeth, two shiny, sharp daggers of white that gleamed under the sun, charging them with a yellow-orange glow as she fell down before sinking them into a bite, grabbing hold of the Houndour's back.

It yelped out in pain, jumping off of Jesse, who crawled away quickly, and began bucking and squirming, trying to shake Goldie off, who was stuck to him with unimaginable strengths Luck had wound up on the ground after being jumped over, his face covered in mud and grass, but helped Jesse up as he neared him, patting away the dirt from his clothes and Seven untangling little branches and pebbles from his hair.

"Goldie!", Jesse exclaimed happily, his eyes shining with pride and joy, "you saved me!". The Houndour bucked its paws back and Goldie let go, flying through the air with her legs extended and landing on Jesse's arms, who embraced her lovingly, giving her a twirls, "oh, I was so worried about you, don't ever leave me again!", he cried. Goldie let out a couple of tears, hugging her trainer and whining. Jesse stroked her head, "I can't believe you just did that, you were so brave!", he praised her, "was that Bite? Hyper fang? You're such a strong Pokémon now! I'm so proud of you!".

"Hey, guys... this is a lovely moment, but... someone's probably mad", Luck mentioned, pointing a shaky finger towards the Houndour, who looked back at them sternly, snarling. Jesse clutched Goldie harder, whispering, "...on the count of three, we run". Luck nodded, trembly, "... one...".

"Two...". The Houndour began chasing them once more, and, with a squeal of fear, they began their flee.

This time their feet managed to save them, and they found their way back to the road and out of the tall grass. Route 30 opened up before them, and the short, mowed carpet of soft green felt like clouds under their tired feet. They located a small, red-roofed shack just over a hill and ran towards it, not stopping to take a breath until they closed the door behind them, not knowing if the Pokémon was even chasing them anymore, but too afraid to look back. Luck slammed the door, leaning on it and breathing with difficulty, his chest raising and deflating like a racing Rapidash's.

Jesse leaned against a wall, wincing and grabbing his chest, Goldie, in his arms, looking scared into an adrenaline rush. "... I can't believe we just did that".

"... Me neither", Luck laughed, "that was... that was crazy". Just then, after a few seconds of recovering their breath, they laughed dumbly, "we're alive!".

Jesse and Luck embraced in a hug, Seven and Goldie joining in, "we didn't get eaten alive!". They jumped, laughing, and it was only when they finally raised their gaze that they noticed the two people who were already inside the house.

They stopped, letting go of themselves and standing still, just then noticing they had just barged into a living room, interrupting two people's conversation at the dining table: an older man, who eyed then with surprise, stopping mid-sentence to gape at the scene, and a woman, who's eyebrows were raised with mild annoyance. The two boys reddened, looking at each other briefly before turning to them once more, "uh... hi".

"... Why, hello there", the man welcomed them with a confused, yet warm smile, sitting in front of a steaming cup of tea. He beckoned them, looking at their dishevelled attire, "... by the looks of it, I believe it's safe to assume you two are Pokémon trainers", he pointed out, "did you just finish a battle? You look a bit tired... and... terrified".

"Nuh uh, it wasn’t a fight at all", Luck negated, "we just barely escaped a Pokémon that attacked us! It scared us to death!".

The man raised his eyebrows, "is that so?".

Jesse nodded feverishly, "yeah, it came out of nowhere and pounced right over me! My Rattata just barely managed to keep me from being eaten!". The man welcomed them in with a hand gesture, his house looking very similar to that of the tour guide's, back in Cherrygrove city.

As soon as they felt comfortable enough, the homely aura of tranquillity contrasting with the thrilling last couple of minutes, they found seats at the table, dropping with exhaustion, "did you boys run all the way here?", he asked, sipping from his cup, and the boys nodded. "We were being chased, we just barely got off safe!".

"I did manage to register the Pokémon on my PokéDex before we had to run away, though", Luck explained, pulling the device out of his pockets, "it was a Houndour, I had never seen one before, and... oh, huh, according to this... it is rarely seen around these areas, if ever! Weird, it doesn't seem like it belongs here...".

"It doesn't". The second individual, who hadn't as much as raised her eyebrows, finally spoke, crossing her arms. The older man's eyes widened, "oh, could that be the same Pokémon you were talking about earlier? The one that took your case?".

She nodded, her face appearing tired, "Houndour are pack Pokémon, you seldom see them alone until they evolve into Houndoom. Someone must have abandoned this one here". The man rubbed his forehead, "oh my", he lamented, "... my, I will never understand people who are able to do such things to the wonderful creatures that Pokémon, and now that Houndour it's causing everyone trouble! Poor thing, must've resorted to theft out of hunger and fear".

"The Houndour stole something from you?", Luck asked, making her clench her jaw.

"It... caught me by surprise", she blurted out, clearing her throat, "managed to take a case from me that I haven't been able to retrieve for the past... four hours", she sighed, barely visibly frustrated through her stoic, sharp features, "it isn't very big, so it managed to snatch it right off my hands and ran away before I had the chance to react".

Seven, then, called attention to himself by an exclamation. Everyone's eyes fell to the ground, where he now stood having abandoned his spot on Luck's head. He waddled towards the woman, showing her a small, electric blue case lined with yellow. Her eyes widened, frowning as she stood and up knelt down to the Pokémon's level, "is that my case?", she asked softly, and Seven nodded. She took it and inspected it, opening it and her face softening with relief, "why, this is my case".

Luck leaned towards Jesse, whispering a brief "where was he even holding that?", to which the boy shrugged.

She looked at the Pokémon, her face barely painting with the faintest of smiles, "thank you".

"You're welcome", Luck smiled widely, taking a step forward and picking Seven from the ground, holding him like a plush doll, to which he protested, squirming in his grip, "we're always happy to help". The woman, once back to her absurdly straight posture, barely lifted her nose at him.

The old man, however, beamed happily, "are you trainers heading to Violet City, by any chance?", Jesse nodded, making him place a hand on the woman's shoulder, who was several inches taller than him, "oh, well, isn't that just perfect?", she looked at him, her eyes blank, "you boys can then escort Maple to Violet City. That way, nobody gets hurt, chased or robbed again!". She shot him an acid look that he couldn't quite comprehend, for he kept on smiling widely with his hands clenched together in expectation. She turned to the boys, looking at them with a slight look of disapproval, "I... I don't think that is the best idea", she told him, but he patted her back friendly.

"Why not? It is a win-win situation! And surely you'll bump into each other on the way there, so, just accompany each other and may everyone reach Violet City safe and sound!".

She looked at him, his smile and wrinkly features exhuming cheerfulness, and sighed, "… okay, fine".

The old man clapped with glee, "wonderful! I'm well aware Pokémon trainers are strong enough to protect themselves, but, still, there's no harm in some adult supervision here and there, now, is it? And the protection of two lads and their Pokémon never harmed anyone. I love Pokémon journeys, they remind me so much of my childhood... oh, but, before you go, can I tell you kids a few things about Apricots?...".


The air between the three of them had a slight taste of awkwardness as they walked through the rest of Route 30. The woman, having spent as much time as possible on her PokéGear, now worried it might run out of battery, resorted to pretend being very fascinated by the greens that surrounded them, ignoring the two trainers and trying to walk faster to leave them behind.

Jesse's soles crunching the soft grass were loud through the silence, and Seven's soft snores from where he had fallen asleep (on top of Luck's head, naturally) were like a conversation in code meant to be whispers from someone who didn't know what whispering meant. Luck occasionally raised his eyes to her, doubtfully debating whether he should try to make the atmosphere lighter with small talk.

She was tall, maybe about his mother's age, with a stern look of brown eyes under a pair of thin glasses. Her nose and lips were small, eternally pursed into an unfriendly look, and her dark hair was slicked back into a loose ponytail. She was wearing something that wasn't really that formal but that, in Luck's eyes, was full business attire: she was dressed in a dark grey blazer and pants, carrying a suitcase with an air of professionalism he could only associate with stuck-up business people from the big cities of Unova.

"... Uh... my name is Luck", he finally said, smiling nervously, "my Cyndaquil, Seven, is asleep right now... and... this is Jesse, and his partner Rattata, Goldie. It is very nice to meet you".

The woman looked at them both, her face unreadable, and, after a couple of seconds, she uttered the first word she had said ever since they left the Apricot man's house: "Maple".

Luck nodded, pursing his lips and swinging his arms, "... Maple", he repeated, "cool, cool... uh... so, what are you doing in Violet City, Maple?".

"Something important, so, we better get there as soon as possible", she replied, cold as ice.

Luck clicked his teeth, "yeah, as soon as possible", he agreed, "because… because we're also doing something important, right, Jesse?", Jesse turned to him and nodded, intimidated into a nervous silence by Maple's seriousness, "we're going to challenge the gym there, to get our badges", he smiled, stretching out his arms, "first of many, may I add".

"Your first gym badge?", Maple raised one of her eyebrows, "... no wonder you couldn't fight off a Houndour". Luck choked on his spit, almost tripping, "I, a... well, we... we just started our journey", he defended, baffled, and crossed his arms, "and it's not like you could either".

Maple raised her nose a bit higher, "I don't carry Pokémon". The blond boy frowned, "what? Why not?".

"I'm not interested in Pokémon battles, I find them rather... brutish", she stated simply, "that Houndour merely caught me by surprise. It wasn't where it's supposed to be and it didn't act like it's supposed to act, so, I wasn't expecting it".

"Yeah, us too, right, Jesse?", he asked, making the boy nod again, "we totally knew Houndours aren't supposed to be in Route 30, so we didn't prepare against a Houndour scenario before, like we did do with every other Pokémon". Maple eyed him shortly, "right" she stated, with a hint of sarcasm that missed Luck.

Route 30 was a seemingly never ending climb through hills and patches of tall grass. Jesse and Luck occasionally spotted wild Pokémon with amazement, pointing at them and listening to Luck's PokéDex intently. Maple pushed them forward, unable to believe that was how her evening had ended up looking like, and baffled at the amount of time two kids could spend reading information about a single small Pidgey they saw for a split second before it flew away. "Pidgey have an extremely sharp sense of direction. They are capable of unerringly returning home to its nest, however far it may be removed from its familiar surroundings", the device spoke out loud, making then ogle at the Pokémon that had already flown away.

"You will see those at least fifty more times on our way", she insisted, tired, "you surely can read whilst walking".

Against all odds and after a couple of exhausting minutes, a sign on the side of the grassy path indicated they had reached the end of Route 30, and they were now standing on Route 31. Luck and Jesse high-fived as Seven's head popped out of his bag, blinking its drowsiness away.

Maple sighed, throwing her head back and resting her neck on her shoulders, mumbling a low "thank you". They rested next to a clear, celeste lake, where Seven and Goldie inched to have a drink and Luck shared a jelly donut with Jesse, which Maple rejected.

"That sure was a long walk, huh?", Luck sighed, smiling and sitting down. "Yeah, but I can see the entrance to Violet City from here", Jesse added, pointing towards the end of the Route, which was surprisingly short, "we've basically made it!".

Maple, who had barely taken a second to stretch her legs, clapped, "alright, we're nearly there, we can take a rest once in Violet City". Luck frowned at her, completely exhausted, "give us a second, man", he groaned, "what even is it that you have to do in Violet City? You seem suspiciously rushed".

Unaccustomed to the informal, straight-to-the-point Luck, she stumbled for a second, recovering her composure and clearing her throat, "we've meddled for a while on the way here, there's no use in resting now that we're metres away from our destination".

Luck glanced at Jesse with a pained look, he shrugged. "Alright then", he sighed, standing up with trouble, "although you're still suspicious". Luck dragged his feet a little whilst Maple, determined, mapped their way forward, barely taking a moment to look at the passerbys that friendly waved at them, "the quickest path is just straight ahead", she mentioned, eyeing the dark cave.

"How do you feel about the gym battle, Luck", Jesse asked as he picked up his backpack, Goldie perched on his shoulder. He smiled, "Falkner? I'm fairly sure we can take him no problem, right, Seven?", he raised his fist up for Seven to bump it, "we trained hard in Cherrygrove City, and... we basically won our battle against you". Jesse pressed his lips, slightly tilting his head, "uh, well, it did get interrupted, and Goldie didn't faint... so... I think it was more so a no-contest".

"I don't think that's an actual thing for Pokémon battles", Luck retaliated, "if someone withdraws from a battle then the opponent wins by default".

"Then... maybe you won in theory". Luck frowned, "in theory? What's that supposed to mean? Because we won, fair and square".

"Only because Goldie ran away".

"Because of Seven's sheer demonstration of power!". But their debate got interrupted by the faint sound of Maple smirking. Luck raised his eyebrows, for he didn't think it was possible that woman could laugh at all, "what?".

She shook her head softly, watched by the two boys, "you two have no idea what a gym battle actually is, do you?", she mentioned with an air of superiority, "it doesn't look like you've prepared yourselves enough, and I can bet your only Pokémon are those two out here, underlevelled and undertrained".

Luck and Jesse looked at Seven and Goldie, who drank from the lake. Seven's snout allowed him to reach the water easily, but Goldie was having a harder time, and with seemingly the push of a breeze, she fell into the lake. Seven squealed, trying to get her back up, but fell too, and they both splashed dramatically in the still, mirroring waters of the small, calm lake.

"Tsk, what do you know about Pokémon battles, anyways?", Luck scoffed, kneeling down to help the Pokémon out of the water, "you don't even carry a Pokémon with you". Maple crossed her arms, "it isn't secret knowledge the fact that a single Pidgeotto can lift both a Cyndaquil and a Rattata in the air with a mere gust", she added, mockingly, "that's just simple physics".

Luck mocked her back, mouthing "physics" in a funny voice as Goldie and Seven crawled out of the water, sneezing. Jesse took out a towel from his backpack and began drying off his Pokémon.

Seven shook the water off of his fur, but Luck snatched him from the ground and showed him to Maple, holding him up to be at the level of her face, "this guy? Oh, this guy wiped more than thirty Weedles in ten minutes, no rest!". Seven grimaced, dripping; there really were like ten or twelve of them, but, who was he to contradict Luck?

Maple rolled her eyes, "fine, I was just trying to help you out, Pokémon Trainer", she remarked sarcastically, "take your first evolution starter Pokémon against Falkner, go ahead", she spun around, begging to walk away, "I fucking hate kids".

A couple of minutes later they had managed to get to Violet City's gate without murdering each other. The guard saluted them happily, always delighted to see young faces going through for the first time: it felt like an important moment, like he was part of a budding story and the next step of an adventure. Sure, familiar smiles were comforting, but the wonder in a kid's eyes next to their energetic Pokémon as they checked their map, making sure they're in the right direction and wondering what the new city has in store for them; it made him feel hopeful for the future.

Maple, on the other hand, had other thoughts about Pokémon trainers, and she patted the boys on the head, "farewell", she stated shortly, "see you never", she mouthed, and disappeared quickly like a cloud of smoke.

The two boys watched her leave and turned to each other, giggling. "We're not that annoying, are we?", Jesse asked, and Luck negated, "no I don't think we are".

Goldie and Seven approached each other, nuzzling their heads in goodbye.

"What are you going to do now", Jesse fixed his bag on his back, "are you going to Falkner?".

"... Yeah", Luck stated, "you?". The dark-haired boy bit the inside of his cheek, "I don't know, I still think Goldie and I have some work to do. I've heard there's a great Pokémon School, maybe we should visit that first". Luck nodded, rearranging his hat.

"... Well, good luck, Luck", he smiled, patting him on the shoulder, the dimples on his cheeks visible like two particularly deep freckles. Luck laughed, "come on now", he extended his arms, wrapping him in a hug, "it was nice knowing you, Jesse. We have to have another battle in the future!". He let go, slapping Jesse's hat so that it was covering his eyes. He giggled, fixing it, "give me your PokéGear number. Once Goldie's at her full potential, Seven is not going to see the end of it".

Luck and Jesse entered Violet City at the same time, but quickly went their separate ways. Jesse waved, running towards the Pokémon School, Goldie bouncing in his arms.

Luck watched him leave, making sure he was gone before turning around, speeding through the gate and straight back to Route 30 (making the guard do a frowning double take).

"Oh, Maple is right, Seven", he muttered, lamenting, "I can't make you fight Falkner all alone, he's got two Pokémon as well! We need to catch another Pokémon, quick...".

Luck and Seven walked side to side, thinking as they traversed the tall grass patched between Route 31 and 30. One was completely concerned, his eyebrows furrowed and head filled with possible strategies and the faces of hypothetical Pokémon that made his fingers tingle near the Pokéballs in his belt. The other, breathing deeply, looking upwards at the sky, which was pleasantly sea-blue with the fading sunlight, wispy with paintbrush strokes of pale pink and orange, hidden amongst the humid stems of thick, green blades.

"According to the PokéDex, we can find Caterpies and Metapods, Weedles and Kakunas, Pidgeys, Rattatas, Zubats, Poliwags, Hoothoots, Ladybas, Spinaraks and Hoppips... the gym leader is a flying type trainer, to which none of these Pokémon have advantages against... however, bug and grass-type Pokémon are at a disadvantage, which is not very good... which leaves us with Pidgeys, Rattatas, Zubats, Poliwags and Hoothoots... which one sounds cooler, Seven?".

Seven raised a little whine, making his trainer nod, extremely focused, "... hm, yeah, good point... I'm torn between a Poliwag and a Zubat, because the poison type might come in handy later on, but so will the fighting type... should we catch both of them? I mean, it can't do any harm. Although you are going to have to knock down both a Poliwag and a Zubat for that, which... uh... well, I'm sure you can manage alright", he grimaced with his mouth.

"Yeah, surely... Seven! Be on the lookout for round, blue Pokémon and flying, blue and purple Pokémon! Although it doesn't make sense to be looking for Zubat outside while the sun is still out... ah, man, I wasn't really planning on going to the Dark Cave right now", he shivered, "we're not even dressed appropriately!".

Luck rustled the tall grass, "come on, Poliwag, come on out...". They advanced in careful silence, their eyes wide open for any signs of movement amidst the thick grass. Luck held a Pokéball in his hand, "okay, Seven, when we find a Poliwag you're going to tackle it, yeah? But don't go too hard, just what's enough to make it weak... we've got this, buddy, we're going to catch ourselves a Poliwag and we're going to get that badge if it's the last thing we'll do...".

Luck's determined speech came to a halt, as, through the corner of his eye, he managed to catch the movement of the faintest of shadows. He turned around, following the sizzling of the grass as something moved, crouched down, around them. "There you are!", he called, "quick, Luck, use Tackle...", Luck began, but he bit his tongue as the Pokémon raised its head from its cover: it was the Houndour that had chased them before!

A knot tied in his stomach and his eyes widened, "oh... heh, hello there, fella", he said, trying to appear less terrified than what he actually was.

He picked up Seven and sheltered him between his arms, "we... we didn't think we'd meet again so soon", he chuckled, taking a careful step back.

The Houndour looked at them carefully, unblinking, assessing their every movement like a predator, ready to pounce at any moment. It looked at Luck, who swallowed hard, then at Seven, who covered his face, then at Luck, and then at Seven again. The boy braced himself, expecting the worst, but the Pokémon simply sighed, huffing through its nose and lowering its head, resuming whatever it was doing before.

After a couple of seconds, Luck turned to Seven, exchanging confused looks, "... I thought we were gone", he admitted, still whispering, "I thought it was going to, like, eat us, or something". Seven mumbled in agreement, and they both raised their gazes to see if they could still see the Houndour: they could, it walked through the tall grass and to a nearby rock, which protruded like an island of rugged, brown edges. It climbed it with a single jump, curling to a ball and giving them its back.

Luck watched it, taken aback by the sudden lack of aggression after it had almost made Jesse pee himself a couple hours before. He tilted his head, staring at it, Maple's words echoing in his mind: "Houndour are pack Pokémon, you seldom see them alone until they evolve into Houndoom. Someone must have abandoned this one here".

Pursing his lips, he began walking forward, nearing the Houndour with care. Seven pulled at his shirt, bewildered. "Shh, I've got this", he reassured him, "just... give me a second...". He approached the Pokémon, noticing it wasn't reacting to his movements much more other than twitching its ears a little. Luck sighed, plopping down next to the rock and resting his back on it, then making the Houndour lift its head and look at him.

Trying to act like he wasn't about to crap all over himself, he smiled, "hey", he greeted it, "I still haven't forgiven you for almost giving Jesse a heart attack back there, but, I'll get over it". He looked away, trying to appear as less threatening as possible, "... I'm sorry about the Rattata bite on your back, by the way, Goldie really charged up that one, huh? ... but, to be fair, you were trying to char her trainer to a crisp". Finally, the Houndour gave in, and it turned its head away to lay back down, sighing deeply.

Luck turned to Seven, who was on his lap, and smiled incredulously, making a gesture of victory with his fist. He fidgeted with his fingers, trying to find correct words in his brain and licking his lips, "but... it's okay, though", he chirped, "I don't blame you... I mean... things are probably very confusing right now, and, if I were you I would probably hate every trainer's guts too! I'd bite all of their asses off!", he joked, turning to the Pokémon with a grin. Once he heard his words in the air, though, they didn't sound as good as he thought they would, and he bit his cheek. Seven cringed at him, placing a palm on his face, negating and making Luck shrug: he usually didn’t have a way with words (unless it was to get himself out of trouble).

"I... uh...". Finally, he sighed, resting his head on the rock, "I'm sorry", he stated sincerely, "I don't mean to come off as insensitive, it's just... woah, the concept of a trainer abandoning their Pokémon is so strange to me", he looked at Seven, placing a hand on his head and petting his fur, making him raise his face attentively. His gut twisted, only then thinking what Houndour must've felt, watching its best friend walk away after being left there, alone, wondering if they were ever going to come back, awaiting for someone who was just so selfish, "I can't imagine leaving behind a friend... just like that", he frowned, "I've only known Seven for a bit now, but, I can safely say I would most definitely die if I were to lose him".

He looked at the Houndour, who was still laying on the rock, facing away from him, and thought about what he had just said, "... well... what I was trying to say is... true friends never leave each other behind", he smiled, sniffling lightly, "and I'm sure you were a fantastic friend, Houndour, you just... er... you just encountered the wrong person. There are a lot of bad people in the world, and yet there's not a single bad Pokémon. That's what I like the most about them, actually... but it also means that, sometimes, life is unfair".

He stood up, glancing at the motionless figure and it's hunched ears, picking Seven up and placing him on his hat, "I'm sure you will find a true friend, Houndour, and even though it might be hard, your previous trainer doesn't deserve you moping around like that", he grimaced, "or wanting to kill random kids on the road...".

He sighed, and began walking away, "let's go, Seven", he said, "we can try to find a Poliwag tomorrow. The sky is about to get dark, and I really don't want to be stranded out here in the middle of the night...".

But as the sky turned indigo, peppered with white, and Luck made his way back to Violet City, deep in thought and hugging Seven a bit tighter, he heard a set of footsteps that were not quite his own.

He stopped, frowning, and turned around slowly. The figure that was following them froze, and he could see it from in between the grass, hiding its face with wide eyes and a cautious look: it was Houndour! Luck tilted his head, smiling with his lips pressed, "hello", he exclaimed, "... you're not going to pounce on me, are you?". The Pokémon didn't move, looking at the boy with an unreadable expression. Luck knelt down, "or... do you want to come with us". The Houndour flinched, and Luck opened his arms, "come on, now, we're a fun lot, aren't we, Seven?", Seven nodded, cheering out loud, egging Houndour on, "I am still on my journey to become a powerful trainer, but, I can promise you one thing: I'll try my best to be the very best friend you could ever find!".

Luck dug a hand in his backpack, searching for a bit before pulling out a slightly squashed jelly donut.

The Houndour lifted from its crouching position, finally raising its ears and its eyes gleaming with a new, hopeful light. Suddenly, it's small, black tail started to wag! It lowered its chest, leaving its bum up in the air, and barked, challenging. Luck raised, regaining his composure, and smiled with excitement, "oh? So you want to battle first?", he chuckled, placing the donut in his pocket, "alright, fair enough, Seven! Go!".

Seven choked, looking at him, bewildered, "you heard me, buddy", Luck winked, "to catch a wild Pokémon we gotta weaken it first!". Seven clung to his clothing, so Luck had to peel him away from himself, dismissing his tantrum, and laid him on the ground.

Seven turned around, peeking at the Houndour and smiling nervously, waving a timid "hello" with his hand. "Seven, use tackle!", Luck pointed forward, booming.

Seven, shaking, approached the Pokémon waddling, who towered over him, several inches taller, and breathed in deeply. Holding his breath and clenching his small eyes, he took a step backwards and pushed into it, barely mustering any strength and cowering right afterwards.

The Houndour, however, seemed to have taken a pretty devastating blow, and it dropped down with a whine, falling to the ground and rolling away, lying face-up on the grass and holding its paws up, defeated. Seven stopped hiding its face, looking at the Pokémon confusedly and, then, down to himself, staring at his paws.

"... Oh, you did it, Seven!", Luck celebrated, jumping. Seven, finally, joined in with the celebration, bouncing around Luck happily, the flames on his back bursting with pride. The boy took a step towards the Pokémon on the ground, who was still stiff, its eyes closed tight, and pulled out an empty, red-white Pokéball from his belt, "welcome to the party, Houndour".

He pressed a button in the middle, throwing it at Houndour and watching it dissolve into a red beam of light, swirling and bolting until it was absorbed by the device. The Pokéball bobbed once, twice and thrice, until it remained still, a clicking noise from the inside indicating it had successfully locked.

Luck picked it up, Seven on his shoulder, and they both looked at it in awe, "... we just caught our first Pokémon, Seven", Luck whispered, exalted.

He leaped, punching the air in cheer, "... we just caught our first Pokémon!".
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Chapter v: Hey, Coach!

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter v: Hey, Coach!

Violet City, spring of 2021

“So, you’re telling me… this Pokémon chased you and your friend through the forest for miles, nearly charred him to a crisp, attacked you and your Pokémon, had been wreaking havoc in Route 30 for days and stole something from me … so… you went back and caught it?”, Maple raised her eyebrows incredulously, “and named it Donut?”.

Luck smiled, his wide teeth making him look kiddish-ly cheeky as he ate through his heavy breakfast, Seven eating a bowl of dry Pokémon food on the table, and a new Pokémon sitting beside him on the Pokémon Centre’s cafeteria booth, nudging against him and wagging its tail. “Her name is technically Jelly Donut, but I call her Donut for short”, he explained, sharing a bite of pancake with her, using the same fork, later, for himself, making Maple scowl.

“That wasn’t the point I was trying to make…”, she sighed, negating with her head, “alas, I guess I never will understand Pokémon Trainers”.

The series of events that ensued that morning could be described as a very lucky coincidence, or a very unfortunate arrangement made by a superior entity conspiring against a single person in particular for its sick entertainment (depending on who you asked): Maple had been sitting at that very table for a couple of minutes now, carefully jotting down information into a notebook, the strong scent of her coffee keeping her wide awake, when she noticed, with the corner of her eye, a familiar head of blond hair: the young trainer she had met the evening prior, Luck, or something ridiculous like that, and he emerged from the Pokémon Centre’s hallway that led to the lodging rooms, his eyes puffy and hair dishevelled, yawning loudly after having woken up just a couple of seconds before, a round, giddy Cyndaquil perched on top of his head.

She tried ducking, mouthing a curse before taking her suitcase up to cover herself, but it was too late: Seven had turned just in time to recognise her and pointed at her, exclaiming with excitement. Luck, then, turned her way, waving with a juvenile smile on his face and walking over to approach her, noticing she was alone. She looked at him, not returning the wave, in awe, watching him stretch and sit down at her table with a contemptuous groan, not possessing an ounce of shame, as if they had scheduled a friendly get-together and this wasn’t just a fateful encounter between barely acquaintances. And just after she came up with the perfect excuse to leave before the kid got too comfortable (she was in a hurry because she had a conveniently vague work meeting to attend to), he got a nearby Chansey’s attention, asking her to bring two plates of berry pancakes and a couple Poké Puffs and kibble.

Luck stared around, neutral to the fact that he had crashed the poor woman’s breakfast; Violet City’s Pokémon Centre was much larger than Cherrygrove City’s. The front desk was the first thing in sight as you entered the lobby, but it grew to the sides like a small, roofed plaza. The walls surrounding the main room were lined by vending machines, PCs, computers and static phones in booths for trainers to thoughtfully phone their parents (most of them excited single mothers) as they embarked in the journey of their lives, and the waiting room had a plethora of colourful couches and loveseats, assorted so that most were facing a large widescreen TV, which was airing a broadcast of a Pokémon Contest from Hoenn (a Zigzagoon onscreen performed a series of amusing tricks on a big, bright stage framed with velvety curtains that got a few “awws” from Luck and the public on screen). The cafeteria was also significantly larger, packed with chairs and comfortable booths on a polished, squeaky tiled floor, catered by dozens of Chansey waiters and — most importantly for Luck — possessing a much longer menu with great breakfast options.

Maple, in turn, stared at the table and debated, looking down at her sad, lonely coffee mug and at Luck, who placed his Pokémon on the table with total disregard of hygiene and began scanning the menu like a sniffling Herdier. She sighed, melting back to her spot mouthing a low “ah, fuck it”.

“Besides, Donut is sorry for taking your case”. The Houndour nodded, eyeing Luck to notice if he was distracted, aiming to steal the rest of his pancakes from his plate despite having already demolished several Poké Puffs. Maple looked at them: trainer-Pokémon communication had baffled the scientific community for ages, and yet, something about this kid’s clueless face told her he wasn’t lying. He could either really understand the gibberish coming from his Pokémon… or he had deluded himself to think he does, so much so that they developed an “under-the-table” way of communicating each other’s thoughts. Eventually, she decided she didn’t really care, not anymore, and ate her breakfast as fast as possible to get away from the messy kid once and for all.

“I thought I wasn’t going to see you again!”, Luck remarked, receiving a look that said Maple did so too. He gasped, leaning forward, “are you on a journey as well?”, he asked, “I’ve never seen an adult on a Pokémon journey, that’s… so cool!”.

“I’m not on a journey”, she stated, slightly annoyed, “I am… on my way to accomplish an important task”.

Luck frowned, thinking for a moment, “… so, basically, a journey”.

Maple rolled her eyes, “yes, basically a journey”. Seven looked at her interestedly. "That is great!”, Luck began, “you’re on a journey… I’m on a journey… what are the chances!”. Donut slipped a chunk of pancake off the plate, munching on it and its thick syrup loudly. Luck managed to catch the other one with his fork, lifting it whole like a slab before she managed to snag it as well, “maybe we’re meant to be friends!”, and he bit into the pancake like a caveman.

Luck enjoyed the idea of a solo journey: navigating through the world like a vagabond, travelling alongside powerful creatures like an intrepid explorer of ancient times, defeating powerful trainers with sheer wit and determination left and right… however, he also knew a big portion of the journey was to make friends! His mother had told him so before he left home, at least, demanding he mailed pictures her way every weekend (despite the fact that PokéGears could now send pictures, but she always said mail was “more special”). He couldn’t quite understand the unfriendly look on Maple’s face, though, as last day’s apathy seemed to have been completely forgotten by both him, Seven and the thieving Houndour, who was now panting derpily. Perhaps, in Luck’s mind, because she had been the one who had given him the idea of going back to catch another Pokémon, him catching Donut was, in part, thanks to her!

Maple stared at him blankly, watching him maul the pancake like a wild Pokémon, wondering what she had to do to be left alone. “Don’t you have a Pokémon gym to challenge?”, she asked, and Luck’s jaw tensed. He nodded, swallowing hard, “yeah, Falkner”, he sighed.

Maple raised an eyebrow, ultimately deciding a tiny bit of prying couldn’t hurt, “you don’t seem very thrilled about it”. Luck bit his cheek, looking over at Seven, “I just… I can’t help but second guess myself, I guess”, he confessed, but shook his head quickly, making his hair bounce like a Furfrou’s, “but I have to snap out of it”, he said, smiling and holding his hand in a determined fist, “I have to be the best trainer for Seven and Donut, and… and the best trainer can’t be a wimp! We’re going to do this! Whether the world is ready or not!”.

“Do you know any moves that are effective against flying types?”, she asked, and Luck pursed his lips, his smile slightly falling, “uh… Seven knows ember and smokescreen, does that count?”.

Maple ate the last bites of her pancake, stoic, cleaning her mouth with a napkin and folding it before standing up, “well, good luck, kid”. As she was aiming to leave once and for all, Luck grabbed her by the arm, his face contorted with desperation, “wait! Help! I have no idea what I’m doing!”, he pleaded, receiving a startled look from her and the few people they shared the Pokémon Centre’s cafeteria with, “please, you obviously know a lot about Pokémon battles, just… coach me on how to be a better trainer!”.

She looked around, embarrassedly apologising to those around them, and then at him, sternly, and he let go, intimidated. "If… if you help me battle Falkner, I’ll… I’ll help you reach the important thing you have to do!”. Maple narrowed her eyes, thinking quietly for a second, “how?”.

Luck slanted back to his seat, sighing, “… I… I don’t know”, he accepted, defeated, “but I’ll do anything, just, please… help me this once, and I’ll never bother you again, ever”, he clenched his hands together, “never ever, I promise!”. Seven pleaded as well, crying, holding his head down and his hands up, pressed together. Maple bit the inside of her cheek; she did need to reach Goldenrod City as soon as possible, and with that Houndour mishap (plus taking a bit more breaks while hiking than she originally thought, overestimating her stamina after all those years), time was thinning out. Besides, she barely had had enough to pay for that single cup of unsweetened, black coffee…

“Fine”, she sat back down, surprising even herself, “just this once”. Luck’s face lifted, “really?”, he stumbled, aiming to give her a hug over the table. But when her eyes turned to daggers, he sat back down, his face still bright, and he made a gesture of victory, high-fiving Seven as Donut licked his plate clean.


Luck’s gaze followed the building upwards, gaping at its tallness, barely able to see the spear at the top of its tiled rooftop, which seemed to scrape and hide amongst the very clouds; Sprout Tower was a wooden pagoda several stories tall and several centuries old, the rumbling activity going on inside giving it the illusion of swaying with the wind, murmuring the battle cries of training Pokémon inside like ghostly war cries of ancient warriors. Luck’s insides churned and the tips of his fingers tickled. Seven, on his head, ogled at the precarious structure with his mouth open.

“… Let’s go, then”, Maple patted him, uninterested, strutting towards the entrance of the tower. “Wait!… I’m going to battle… in there?”, Luck asked, his voice shaky with excitement, and she hummed a confirmative “mhm” that made him and Seven chuckle, nervously thrilled. “It’s a very popular Pokémon training spot”, she explained, “most of the trainers you will battle in Sprout Tower use Bellsprout or Hoothoot; the latter is great for flying type practise, and, seeing as your team already consists of two fire types, strengthening on grass types will prove to be very helpful, particularly for a rookie”.

Luck frowned, pouting, “I’m not a rookie”, he mouthed, but Maple ignored him, pushing him towards the tower. Luck scoffed, “come on, Seven”, he whispered, clenching his hand to a determined fist, “we’ll show her who’s the rookie”.

With the way the tower creaked under his feet he couldn’t believe it was still standing after all those years, and the very ground swayed like a boat at sea. The building was composed of square rooms, wooden ladders and a wide, long pillar as a backbone, keeping the never-ending pagoda standing despite the unrelenting force of battling Pokémon. Each level hosted an array of ageing sages with buzzed heads and purple robes, proudly looking over their Bellsprout and Hoothoot as they courageously battled every fresh-faced trainer approaching them. Young, old, brand new and familiar faces plagued the building, and Luck had to duck several times to avoid astray attacks in the form of flying boulders, mud splashes, and the occasional vivacious flame. His eyes glinted, and Maple couldn’t help but find amusing the joy overpowering the kid’s face at the sight of such display of disarray and chaos.

“Are you seeing this, Seven?”, Luck plucked the Cyndaquil off his head and held him against his chest, crossing his arms and around him holding him tight with excitement. Seven squealed happily, inducting he was, in fact, seeing it. He followed Maple up a few ladders until the number of trainers per floor started thinning out. Luck’s arms would’ve ached at any other time, but the adrenaline that had replaced the blood in his veins with sparkling water prevented him from feeling anything other than elation, despite having, at that point, climbed up several stories. Finally, they encountered a sage who wasn’t battling, and Luck’s stomach turned upside down.

“Hey, kid”, Maple called to him, trying to appear like the climb didn’t have her breathing like a racing Ponyta, watching his body tense up, “you’re up against a bunch of sticks with a living flamethrower, what are you so nervous about?”.

“I don’t expect you to get it, Maple”, he responded, rather condescendingly, “but Seven and I take Pokémon battles very seriously”. The Cyndaquil nodded in agreement, supporting his trainer with a serious gaze, “but every opponent is a monumental challenge to overcome, because an intelligent Pokémon trainer is never, ever overconfident”, Luck filled his chest proudly: his mother had always said that to him, and saying it himself felt very satisfactory and professional.

Maple snorted, but composed herself back to her serious, constant frown, “… alright then”, she stepped away, signalling towards the sage and his Pokémon, “show off those intelligent battle strategies”.

Luck took a deep breath, approaching the sage. He lifted his sight up, several inches taller and peaceful of expression, his hands together and clutching a a string of prayer beads, in the middle of which bore a round Pokéball motif. He smiled softly, “Pokémon trainer, have you come to the tower today to train your Pokémon’s mind and body?”. Luck turned to Cyndaquil, immediately excited by the sage’s tone, and nodded furiously, “yes, sir!”.

The sage chuckled, his face suddenly adopting a younger, much more excited gaze as he pulled out a Pokéball from his robe, pressing a button in the middle and making it grow in size, filling his whole palm, “well, then, we’ll give you our all. Bellsprout, go!”. Luck jumped out of the way, barely reaching the other side of the room as the beam that erupted from the sage’s Pokéball materialised into a Pokémon, it’s body, thin like twigs, with leaves for arms and a bell-shaped yellow head, out of which came a crooning sound of readiness. Seven followed, jumping off Luck and landing on a menacing stance, his back erupting with heat.

Luck pulled out his Pokédex: “Bellsprout, the Flower Pokémon. Its thin and flexible body lets it bend and sway to avoid any attack, however strong it may be. From its mouth, this Pokémon spits a corrosive fluid that melts even iron”.

“Hey, Luck”, Maple called, already baffled, “you could’ve easily looked at your Pokédex afterwards, buddy”. Luck looked up, mouthing a quick “huh?” before he noticed the twiggy Pokémon that was rapidly moving towards Seven. “Bellsprout, Acid!”. The hollow interior of Bellsprout’s wide mouth gargled, and out of it erupted a splotch of hot, purple liquid. “Crap… Seven, watch out!”. Seven hopped, avoiding a direct hit, but when the Acid hit the ground it splashed in his direction, dirtying his face. Seven cried, his body tensing up, and tried to wipe the liquid away, his movements suddenly slurred. “Oh no, Seven!”, Luck called, worried, “are you alright?!”.

“He’s poisoned”, Maple explained, tired, unable to fathom how that kid was where he was without recognizing the most basic status afflictions. Luck bit the inside of his cheek, his frown furrowed in worry. “You better call him back, kid, you can let your other Pokémon continue”.

“Bellsprout, Vine Whip, now!”, the Sage was relentless, and from the small, twiggy Pokémon came out two thick, long vines. Luck thought, watching them inch towards his Cyndaquil, “Seven, bite them, and burn them with ember!”. Seven, weak but determined, was snatched by one of the green filaments, but he managed to sink his teeth into the other, mustering up flames with a cry. The Bellsprout cried, withdrawing the damaged appendages. “Nice one!”, Luck cheered fiercely, set on, “you can do this, Seven!”. Seven got up on his feet, trembling, but stood his ground, looking determined through a clenched jaw. Maple raised her eyebrows.

“Bellsprout, Vine Whip once more, mind the flames!”. Bellsprout hopped around the disoriented Seven swiftly, trying to make him dizzy before striking. “Seven, keep alert!”, Luck tried, but before either of them noticed, Seven was seized by the vines once more, suspended in the air. “Wrap! Bellsprout!”. Seven tried wriggling himself out, but the grip of the green strands seemed to only get tighter and tighter, squeezing him like rope and making him whine. “Oh, no, Seven!”.

“Keep him where you’ve got him, Bellsprout”, the sage chanted expertly, “use Growth!”.

The Pokémon’s feet, previously short and sturdy roots, grew longer and slimmer, slithering in between the wooden floor’s cracks and cementing to the ground. Luck watched, amazed, as it mustered strength from, seemingly, thin air, feeding itself with glowing energy. He looked back at Maple, his eyes painted with worry once more, holding his hands together . “Kid, come on, you’ve got the type advantage!”, she began, slightly more invested than she would’ve liked to admit, “besides, an attack is boosted if it’s the same typing as your Pokémon, and your Cyndaquil’s ability also makes fire moves stronger. You’ve literally got to land one hit to end the battle”.

Luck turned back around, assessing the situation through pressed lips; he doubted Seven would withstand a move powered up by Growth through his poison, even if it was a grass-type move. He looked at his struggling Pokémon’s face, knowing he had to act quick. “… I mean, it can’t hurt to try… Seven, look at me!”, he called for the Cyndaquil’s attention, who struggled helplessly against the Wrap, “hey, buddy, you’ve gotta listen carefully, alright? Charge up an Ember, but don’t let it go, you hear me? Don’t let it out just yet!”. Seven watched him, slightly confused, but did as he was told, trusting the boy with a little grunt of affirmation: he stopped wriggling and fighting the green vines, filling his lungs up with air, which was getting hotter and hotter.

The sage, on the other side of the field, tried to assess what Luck was doing, “… Bellsprout, finish the Growth up”, he said, “we’ve got to end this, now! Use Acid ”.

Luck grimaced, watching the Bellsprout’s body being circulated by the glowing energy and the constriction around Seven tightening, “man I hope this works”, he whispered, trying to appear unfazed but given away by the terrified look in his eyes, “Seven, use Ember, now!”.

The moment the Cyndaquil opened his mouth, the pressure of the vines squished his stomach, the space of the scalding vapour inside giving away. Hot flames escaped from his mouth, but even he was surprised at their strength: like a popped balloon, the pressure made the embers launch with rocket-like strength, dancing and swirling through the air like a lively spirit of heat, not scattered, but in a torrent, like an orange geyser. The Bellsprout charged Acid, but it choked at the sight of the red and orange storm coming its way, “Bellsprout, dodge!”. But its roots were still unwrapping from the floorboards, stopping the Pokémon on its spot and subjecting it to a full-on hit from the powerful Ember. A loud crash echoed through the room and dust and ashes blocked sight of the battle. Luck turned away, coughing and fanning the debris with his hand, the sage imitating him, and just after the grey dust finished snowing it was that they were able to see the aftermath of such intense battle: Seven was on the ground, slowly picking himself up, hiccuping and trembling in his poisoning, but the foe Bellsprout was laying still on its back, too exhausted to get up. Luck’s eyes lit up, and he turned, incredulously, to Maple, who squinted at the scene.

“… We did it”, he whispered, turning his head quickly to Seven, “we did it! Good job, Seven!”. Seven raised his eyes, faintly smiling through his pain as the boy ran towards him. Luck grimaced, remembering he was poisoned, and picked him up from the messy battlefield with care, wiping dust off his fur. “That was a great battle, buddy, good job, I’m so, so proud of you…”.

“Your fighting spirit is remarkable”. The boy looked up: the sage had withdrawn his defeated Pokémon, and now stood before him with an extended hand: he opened it, revealing a small, roundish berry, pale pink and rosy in colour and lightly speckled with white. Luck recognised it from his lectures on botanics, “a Pecha Berry, thanks!”, he exclaimed, relieved, taking it from him and handing it to his Pokémon, “come on, Seven, eat up, it’ll make you feel better”. The Cyndaquil took the remedial berry in his hands, sniffing it softly before digging his teeth into it with a squish.

“I can see you’ve got an outstanding bond with your Pokémon”, the sage remarked, smiling kindly, “he trusted you even when you didn’t trust yourself”. Luck’s eyebrows raised slightly, hugging Seven the tiniest bit tighter.

“I assume you’re up to face Falkner, is that correct?”. Luck nodded, “yes, sir, but we wanted to train a bit beforehand”, he explained, biting his cheek, “we’ve heard he’s very tough”.

“He is, indeed”, the safe chuckled softly, reaching inside his pocket, “a great trainer, Falkner, I remember when he used to be but a little boy, like you! His father, what a strict man he was, and a great trainer, which makes sense. They say pressure makes diamonds, don’t they?”. The sage pondered for a moment, before anchoring back to the room, ... “I assume, then, you don’t have only one Pokémon? Ff you’re challenging Falkner”, he asked, pulling out a Pokéball, different to that of his Bellsprout.

“I… no, I don’t!”, the boy hesitated, grabbing Donut’s Pokéball from his belt.

Maple was startled, having been dozing off for a few minutes now, as she felt something being pushed into her arms: it was a little, round Cyndaquil, “what the…”.

“Hold Seven for a bit, will you? Donut’s up”, Luck said shortly, leaving her scrambling and running away with the expression of a kid who’s a scare away from shitting his loosely-fitting jeans. Maple looked down, Seven staring at her, regaining his strength as the effects of the poisoning dissipated. She sighed, annoyed, shifting him to hold him more comfortably, “what did I do to end up as a nanny?”.

Luck stood before the dusty battlefield once more, his fingers wrapped around the Pokéball of the Pokémon he was going to train with for the very first time. “Okay, I’ve beaten this guy once already”, he whispered to himself, pretending to have more confidence than he really did , “we… we can do this… we can do this! Donut, I choose you!”. With the touch of a button, the Houndour materialised before his eyes, her head slightly lowered and paws spread out in a menacing position. She growled at the sage, appearing as threatening as possible, and barked. Then, she turned her head to look at Luck, her eyes twinkling with adoration, and panted happily. Luck chortled, suddenly realising he had no idea what he was doing, and he hadn’t taken a moment to figure out which moves Donut knew.

He saw the sage gulp, his face barely moving. He was clearly not expecting to see that Pokémon coming out of the kid’s Pokéball, “… Hoothoot, come out!”.

As if Luck made it a point to ignore everything Maple said, he pulled out his PokéDex: “Hoothoot, the Owl Pokémon. It has a perfect sense of time. Whatever happens, it keeps rhythm by precisely tilting its head in time”.

“Woah, cool”, he muttered, watching the Pokémon lift from the ground, followed by Donut’s gaze. It appeared to only have one leg, but, as it flew overhead, it was revealed it possessed two sets of sharp claws. It’s body was round, possessing two wings so small it was incredible they managed to give it flight. It’s eyes, lined by thick, black lines in the shape of lower eyelashes and crowned with eyebrows akin to clock hands, were a striking shade of red, and they watched the kid and his Pokémon with analytic calculation.

The Hoothoot cried, looking down at Luck and Donut. “Hoothoot, use Peck!”.

“Donut, dodge!”. The flying Pokémon came down the air beak-first, flying straight towards Donut. However, swiftly, and seemingly without worry, she hopped out of the way, grunting as she dodged the fast attacks, “way to go!”, Luck cheered.

The sage clenched his fists, placing one foot behind the other, “Hoothoot, chase that Houndour with Peck!”, he commanded, “it can only outrun you flying for so long!”. The Hoothoot reincorporated from the missed attack, raising up in the air once more and trailing behind Donut like a jet. Donut began to run, a determined look plastered on her face, adorned with white fur in the shape of a skull, as she picked up speed, circling around the small room and making both trainers take a step back.

“Luck, you can’t win a battle on dodge only”, Maple’s voice was heard, making Luck grimace. “I know! I… I... I know”.

Finally, after several seconds of fruitless chase, Hoothoot managed to land a Peck. Donut whined, tripping over her feet and falling down with a grunt, “Donut!”, Luck lamented, and she stood up with troubles. Maple’s eyes suddenly sparked with clarity: “this idiot doesn’t have a clue of which moves his Pokémon knows, does he?”.

Luck bounced on his feet, mouthing curse words under his breath, “Donut, you… uh… keep dodging, buddy!”. The sage’s nervousness over the unfamiliar Pokémon had wafted away, and he stood, powerful, directing the Hoothoot with ease, “Hoothoot, use Echoed Voice!”. The Pokémon hung in the air, hovering over the running Donut, who shook her head to remain focused. It drew in a deep breath, releasing it in the form of a powerful hoot that made the walls of the room shake even more than they already were. The sound waves struck Donut, sending her flying until she landed a couple of metres away. Luck covered his ears, the screeches of the Pokémon drowning every other sound in the pagoda. Donut tried to pick herself up, but the sound kept her chest on the ground, and she used her wide paws to block her ears.

“Luck!”, Maple shouted, covering her own ears. Seven, now on the ground, covered his own, whining and pressed to Maple’s leg. Luck turned, his jaw clenched and eyes almost shut. “Your Pokémon is a first-stage evolution fire-dark type! It should know Ember, Smog or Bite! You need to start attacking, now! Hoothoots can learn Confusion very early on, which is a super effective psychic attack against dark types!”.

Luck grimaced and nodded, having heard almost everything she was saying. He turned around, looking at Donut in her crouched position. The flying Pokémon’s throat finally seemed to tire out and the piercing, booming shout came to an end, leaving a ringing silence in its place that made them all dizzy. All, but the sage, who did not appear fazed whatsoever by the booming hollering, and wasted no time, “Hoothoot, Peck, once more!”.

“Donut, roll on the ground to avoid it… and… and use Bite!”. The Hoothoot came down from the air, it’s sharp beak aiming towards Donut, who was rubbing her ears uncomfortably. She looked up, her pupils reducing in size, and rolled to her right, covering herself in dust but avoiding the attack by a feather. Luck smiled, regaining a bit of confidence, “on your feet, Donut, now! Use Bite!”. The Hoothoot picked itself from the ground, but before it could turn around, Donut's jaws were closed on it, accompanied by a sonorous chomping sound.

“Up in the air, Hoothoot, now!”. The Hoothoot cried, flapping its wings rapidly and rising to the ceiling of the pagoda. But, to Luck’s and everyone’s surprise, Donut didn’t give in, and they both soared to the air. He tensed his jaw, “oh, crap… Donut! You alright?”, Donut answered in the form of a determined howl. The sage gasped, shocked, “Hoothoot, shake that Houndour off!”.

The Pokémon shook, bouncing Donut around like a yo-yo, her paws, limp, swirling like ribbons, as if she had mustered all her strength to her jaws and had turned the rest of her body to soft rubber. “… Alright, we’re doing this… okay… Donut, don’t you let go of that Hoothoot!”. The Hoothoot flew around the room, but Donut’s bite didn’t relent, trailing behind it like a kite’s tail. Maple and Seven’s eyes followed the spectacle with gaping mouths. “Hoothoot, Peck it off!”. As Hoothoot attempted to reach Donut with its beak, Luck’s eyes glimmered, “Donut, Smog! Er… if you know that move, that is”.

And Donut did, in fact, know that move. Similarly to Seven’s Smokescreen, a cloud of black smoke erupted from Donut’s mouth. However, this smoke had a slight violet hue, and it wasn’t light and fluffy with soot, it was constructing and reeking of ammonia, and it adhered to the Pokémon in the air like soapy foam. Luck and the sage stared with silent attention until a Pokémon fell from the angry, black cloud: it was Donut! And she landed gracefully on her four paws, lowering her chest to the ground to ease her fall. The Hoothoot, eventually, fell too, but this one like a satellite out of orbit, and it crashed against the floorboards with a loud thud. Luck's eyes widened, "Donut, you've got it now! Use Bite once more!".

Excitedly, Donut pounced on The Hoothoot, and she pinned it down with a snarl, biting down on its brown and white feathers. The Hoothoot cried, trying to fight the canine off but, eventually, tiring out. Luck, having flashbacks, shouted, tripping over himself a bit, “er, it’s over now, Donut! You can let go!”, he told her, sweating, “you’ve won!”. Donut’s ears perked up, and she took her eyes away from her opponent to look at the boy. Her tail starting to wag. “Yeah, that’s a good…!”, Luck began, but the air got knocked out of his lungs as Donut pounced on him instead, this time, not snarling or growling, but pushing him down to the floor and covering his face with saliva that reeked acrid. Seven also jumped on him, making him laugh, grasping for air under the Pokémon’s weight.
They had done it, they did it! They beat two Pokémon in a row and defeated the sage!

“You fought valorously, young trainer”. Luck pushed Donut’s face aside, looking at the sage, who extended his hand towards him once more. He took it, standing up with his aid and stretching it, “and you as well, sir, your Pokémon were extremely tough!”.

The sage smiled softly, his eyes old and wise despite the fact that his face was young: the kind of wisdom gained through introspection, and not precisely the one that comes with age, “they are, they truly are, but we still must work to become stronger, stronger together”, he began, caressing the two Pokéballs that now hid in his cloak, “for even if a Pokémon is trained to near perfection, mastery of the art of battle is achieved only through a special bond between trainer and Pokémon”. He averted his eyes to the two fire-type Pokémon that sat at Luck’s feet like guarding, stone shishis, “and I can see in your eyes you are someone who loves Pokémon very dearly”.

Luck looked down; Donut was looking up to him, smiling a derpy smile with her tongue out, and Seven held on to his leg, lovingly sitting on his foot and curling up to rest. He smiled, “I do, a lot”.

“Luck!”. Luck turned around, just in time to catch something flying his way: it was a purple spray bottle, a potion. Maple approached them, crossing her arms, “are you finished, kid? We’ve got possibly five more sages to battle”. Luck looked down at the bottle, clenching it with decisiveness. He had gained a new confidence, one that didn’t come from cocky celebration, but of understanding, from the beginning of mastering an art, like a painter proud of an oil painting that didn’t smush.

Smiling, he turned to his Pokémon, determined, “we’re only bound to get better and better!”.


But by the time they left Sprout Tower, the lesson learned had, seemingly, wafted away, as if coming out of the reach of the sage’s aura has turned Luck back to the excited, mouthy idiot he was before.

“Did you see us battle, Maple?”, he jumped around, Donut’s Pokéball back in his belt and Seven on his head, laying limply and completely exhausted, “Seven was here, and then he was there, but then, he was there! And when he used Ember it went whoosh, and the other Pokémon went ack! And they all perished to the wrath of the mighty Cyndaquil! Oh, and when Donut beat that Hoothoot up in the air? As if she were a flying-type? And those moves! I didn’t even know Donut knew Smog! It was awesome! We beat every single sage without whiting out one! Did you see it, Maple?”. Maple ignored Luck’s babbling as she looked down at her PokéGear. “… We thought the battle was completely lost then, but suddenly, the pressure the vine had on Seven’s abdomen turned his Ember into a Flamethrower!… ”.

“I was there, kid”, she said, possibly for the fifth time.

“Yeah, you were! And, did you see when…”.

They halted in their step, Seven nearly falling off Luck’s head from the sudden lack of movement, Maple lifting her sight up her screen. They had been walking back to the Pokémon Centre for a rest (a journey that seemed longer than an entire plane flight for Maple, and the boy didn’t seem to need air when he was talking about Pokémon battles), and when they finally reached it, they noticed a figure standing at the door, as if waiting for them.
Brooding, intimidating, the kind of figure roughened up by the passage of time, and he lifted his face to reveal an older gaze of courage, his features sharp and cunning: a man you respect simply by putting your eyes on him.

Maple’s eyes widened, her brows furrowed, and when the man saw her, his face cleared up like the sky on a windy day, seemingly dumbfounded.

“… Martina Maple”, he said, approaching them, “you’re back”.
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Chapter vi: Old friends, new friends.

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter vi: Old friends, new friends.

Violet City, spring of 2021

“Good afternoon! Miss Lewis, is that correct? This is Martina Maple, I am a Pokémon Researcher from Ecruteak City. I met your son, Luck, in Route 30, shortly as he found himself barely escaping a wild Pokémon attack… yes, it was quite frightening, but, fear not, he actually went back and caught the thing, so, it couldn’t have been that bad… at least he’s not traumatised… yes, I told him the same exact thing, but, you know, kids and Pokémon … anyways, through a series of unfor… well, through a series of events, I found myself helping your son with his Pokémon training. As a former trainer myself, I have some amounts expertise to share, and we took the liberty to decide that…”.

“Hey, Seven! Did you take my PokéGear and hide it again? You little shit, I can’t find it anywhere, I’ve been looking for…”.


Luck jumped, startled, as he heard his mom’s voice coming from, seemingly, thin air, making him stumble backwards in confusion, clutching the jacket he had been searching the pockets of.

“What did I tell you about cussing?”.

“… Mom?”, he turned around in circles until he noticed that Maple, who was leaning against a wall of their Pokémon Centre lodging quarters holding his PokéGear in her hand, was on a call with his mother, one of her arms holding the device to her ear and the other wrapped around her chest. Even in nightwear she looked soberly formal. Amused, she took the PokéGear away from her and toowarks Luck,

“That’s not the language of the respectable young man I raised!”.

“I… uh… sorry, ma”, he chuckled awkwardly, sending a deadly stare towards Maple, who rolled her eyes. He asked her what on Earth could she possibly be doing through silent, exaggeratedly mouthed words, but she ignored him, returning the device to her ear, “… well, as I was saying…”.

Luck complained in grumbles, snatching his PokéGear away as Maple ended the call, receiving a frown, “where did you get my PokéGear from… and, most importantly, why were you talking with my mom?”, he scolded, staring at the device and flicking through its different screens: the contact list, the radio gadget, the Johto map and the texting application, as if Maple had somehow corruptedthem in the minutes she had it in her possession, “how did you even get this thing unlocked?”.

“Your password is the number seven repeated four times”, she stated simply, raising an eyebrow and crossing her arms, “and I needed to speak to your mother and ask if she was fine with having me follow her kid around”, she explained, patiently, “it’s called courtesy… and not wanting to get arrested”.

Luck jumped on the room’s bunk bed, immediately calling dibs on the lower matress. Seven was peacefully sleeping on the pillows, curled up into a blue-beige ball and snoring lightly, exhausted from the previous’ hours hard work; with every breath that went in and out, tiny embers exhumed from the red spots on his back like miniature, dancing Volbeats of amber and yellow. Luck looked at Maple, watching her closely as she started typing into, this time, her own PokéGear.

“... Stop staring at me”.

“I will”, Luck began, resting his weight on his hands and leaning back on the disarranged covers of the bed, “when you tell me why Walker, the Walker, from Pokémon Adventures, was waiting for us in front of the Pokémon Centre, why he knew you by name, and why you totally ignored him!”.

Maple raised her nose from her device, furrowing her eyebrows at the fact that Luck knew who Walker was, “Walker from… what, now?”.

Luck’s eyes widened, and he wasn’t able to mask his excitement with his previous annoyance as he shuffled through his bag, digging through the seemingly endless piles of junk and curious trinkets, finally pulling out a slightly squashed book with a flashy cover: “Pokémon Adventures: Gold, Silver & Crystal (Volumes 8 to 15)”

Maple chuckled, surprised.

“Pokémon Adventures”, Luck remarked, baffled at the fact that Maple hadn’t heard of it at all, “only the best series in history”.

“So this is what you waste all of your time in? Comic books? Is that why you didn’t even know Seven was poisoned and that Ember isn’t a super effective move against flying types?”.

Luck ignored her, flipping through the pages of his booklet. “There, there he is!”.

Maple approached him, leaning in to look at the visibly worn-out pages of the comic book, observing a caricature of Walker in black and white, sketch-like traces, accompanied by a Skarmory. She raised her eyebrows, slightly amused, “… now, what is Walker doing there?”.

“In this part”, Luck began, crossing his legs, clearly passionate, “Walker has to visit Chuck, his gym leader friend, but is attacked and drops to the ocean from his Skarmory. Chuck thinks he’s dead, but, he isn’t, of course, how could he be! He’s the best flying-type trainer… and then, they both fight his attacker, which turns out to be, you’ll never guess it, Suicune, the legendary Pokémon! They couldn’t defeat it, though, but they believe he’s deliberately challenging leaders, as if it were a trainer itself, so, then, they have to go warn…”.

Maple started laughing, cutting Luck off. He bit his cheek, back to being annoyed, “yeah, laugh it up”, he whined, “clearly you’ve never read actual good literature”.

“That’s a load of bollocks, kid, you know that? Right?”, she pointed out, “Walker has never battled with a legendary Pokémon. Sure, he’s a skilled trainer, an amazing one, even, but he’s probably never even seen Suicune before”. She took the book from the boy’s hands, inspecting it from cover to cover, “I wonder who wrote this, and, most importantly, how I never found out about it…”.

“I think you’re the load of bollocks”, Luck asserted, “Pokémon Adventures may be an… artistic rendition, but its inspiration comes from all-real tales from epic, timeless trainers. It even says it on the back!”, he snatched it back from Maple’s hands, turning it around and pointing at the fine print at the bottom of the back cover, reading “inspired by true events”.

Maple sighed, exasperated, “trust me, kid, I’ve known Walker for decades, we worked together. If there’s any chance he had battled Suicune, I would’ve surely known about…”, she bit his tongue, watching Luck’s eyes go wide.

“… You worked with Walker?”.

“… Well, I… didn’t work with him per se, I meant we were… like coworkers, in the way that we had a cordial relationship”. But the damage had been done, and the kid looked up to her with gleaming admiration making his light blue eyes sparkle like polished aquamarines, “I was not best friends with your comic book hero, kid”, she snarked, climbing up to her bed on the bunk bed, “now, go to sleep and let me sleep, you’re battling Falkner tomorrow”.

“So, if you know Walker, do you know Falkner as well?”, Luck fell back to the bed, staring at the bottom of Maple’s mattress as though he could see her through the springs and bolts, “is that how you’re going to help me win the battle? Do you have a lot of secret techniques against him?”.

“Yes”, she began, piqued, “it’s called knowing a thing about Pokémon battles”.

Luck thought, pursing his lips, and frowned, “... hey, I thought you thought Pokémon battles were “brutish”, how come you’re suddenly an expert and a “former trainer”?”, he demanded, “were you really a Pokémon trainer before? What happened?”.

Maple clicked her tongue, debating whether this was a conversation she was willing to follow or not, “I… was, perhaps, we could say that ”, she elaborated, her voice slightly awkward, “I certainly know about Pokémon, and… even though I wouldn’t call it field expertise, when it comes to theory…”.

“No way”, Luck asked, flabbergasted, and erupted in laughter at Maple’s soft scoff, “you lied to my mother!”, he cackled, “you’re a horrible coach!”.

“Hey, kid, listen to me”, she started, unable to believe she was arguing with the invisible shape of the boy’s voice, making hand gestures before she stopped herself, slightly embarrassed, “I’m helping you battle Falkner and that’s where our ties end, alright?, Maple snarked, “ I’m not your “coach”, we’re not friends, we’re not even acquaintances, and the minute you get that badge and we reach Goldenrod City, I’m out and you’re on your own. You’re just a random kid from New Bark Town and I’m just a random person you found on Route 30 who pitied you enough to give you advice as to not make a fool out of yourself in front of a gym leader”, she turned on her bed, covering herself with the blankets and closing her eyes, annoyed, “go to sleep now… tsk, I don’t have to be any sort of role model for someone who’s grown enough to have nose hairs”.

Luck covered his nose, clearly not listening to half of the words coming out of Maple’s mouth, “I don’t have nose hairs!”, he shrilled, his eyes opened wide, “you ass, I don’t have nose hairs... I don’t have nose hairs, right? Maple. Maple, hey, I don’t have nose hairs, right? … Right? You were just saying that… Maple?… do I really have nose hairs?”.


If Luck hadn’t been nervously biting his nails, overthinking his every move and paying no mind to anything other than flying-type Pokémon and gym badges ever since he stepped foot outside Route 31, he may have noticed how beautifully calm Violet City truly was: a quiet, still community of white houses with purple rooftops, guarded by the green sentinels that were the thousands of pines that appeared in such quantities they seemed mitotically reproduced, surrounding the town like an impenetrable force field. There was a tranquillity that could be breathed in the air, the damp scent of petrichor and soil of a small, periwinkle city, not yet ridden by the slight spice of soot but stripped from the aromatic pollen of flowers and fruit trees of smaller places akin to Cherrygrove City. Everything looked older, wiser. The architecture, far from being antiquated, gave the city a feel of nostalgia, even for a time neither Maple and much less Luck ever got to experience, and in the northern part of the city rested a lake of still, celeste waters, perfectly translucent and quietly whispering, rippled by the tiny zephyrs that managed to escape from the tight forest. But the lake might as well not have been then for Luck, for there was another building right where the wooden bridge began to cross its crystalline second sky and reach Sprout Tower, hidden at the end and now standing like a flag on a conquered mountain: the Violet City gym.

Every Johtonian gym appeared the same on the outside: semi-cylindrical structures withround, orange rooftops and walls lined with windows, a Pokéball emblem on its top like the jewel of a silver crown. Luck could peek at the inside from there: he couldn’t see Falkner, but he could see the silhouette of a trainer and their Poliwag, who valiantly battled against a fast little Pidgey.

“Alright”, Maple was not far behind him, and she dug her hands in her long tweed coat: it was particularly cold for that time of year, but Violet City often was. You wouldn’t know if you looked at Luck, though, as he was covered by light sprinkles of sweat even though he was dressed in nothing but a t-shirt under denim overalls.

He jumped around, visibly nervous, so she made a gesture with her hand for him to calm down, “you’ve got this, kid, you hear me?”, she began, her almost careless tone being surprisingly motivational (if she wasn’t worried at all, then, he shouldn’t have been either, right? Because the reason she wasn’t worried was not because she didn’t care about him, but because she had an enormous amount of trust in the fact that he was going to win that battle… right?)”.

“You’ve trained a lot, yes? And you trust your Pokémon or whatever that Sage said”, she patted him on the shoulder, “you’re going to win this badge… I mean, come on, it’s a Pidgey and a Pidgeotto”.

Luck took his bag off his shoulders, picking up the Cyndaquil that had been stuffed there, comfortably warm. “Seven, this is it”, he said, holding him at eye level. Seven stared at him for a bit, finally crying out in excited determination. Luck laughed lightly, slightly nervous, “well, it’s good to know one of us is confident”, he mouthed.

Maple eyed him confusedly as he stared, deep, into his Pokémon’s eyes. She looked around, trying to put distance between them so that passerby-s wouldn’t think she and him were related. Finally, Luck put Seven down, taking a few steps back and signalling, with his hands, that he ran towards him. She, then, had to approach him. “… What are you doing?”, she inquired, slightly impatient.

“I asked Seven to use Tackle on me”, Luck answered, simply.

Maple blinked a couple of times, narrowing her eyes at him, “… you what?”, she asked, baffled.

“You know when you’re trying to get someone to clear up their head in a stressful situation so you slap them?”, Luck explained matter-of-factly and as if Maple was the one who was unreasonably doubtful, “well, it’s that, but Seven’s hands aren’t big enough for a good slap”. Maple turned to Seven, who was getting into position. He was scared to go too hard on Luck and knock him out, but, his ideas almost always ended up working out fine, so, he might as well…

“Kid, I don’t think this is the best…”, she started, but something in the boy’s eyes told her he wasn’t, in that moment, listening to anything other than his own stupid thoughts, “… fine”. She stepped aside, deciding it was at least amusing to watch it unfold, “I did promise your mother to keep you safe, so, try not to get visible bruises”.

“Are you done playing hard to get, Maple?”. At the sound of a man’s voice, both Luck and Maple lifted their eyes. The kid’s pupils, then, went wide, and his mouth opened to attempt to exclaim a name: “Walker…!”.

Walker flinched as the blond was hit, at full speed, by his Cyndaquil’s round head in a Tackle, knocking him back several feet and dragging him through the ground with a pained grunt, lifting dust all around him and receiving worried stares from those walking by, who stopped and stared at the spectacle. “Don’t worry”, Maple would say, saluting them with her hand and a pleased smile as Luck laid on the ground, dizzied, “that’s his Pokémon, they do this all the time”.

Luck groaned, Seven now by his side, mortified, apologising profusely and helping him get up, pulling at his clothes. “Is that what you guys feel when you’re battling?”, Luck mouthed at him, rubbing his jaw as he, slowly, pulled himself up, feeling his every muscle ache, “woah, suddenly I feel guilty”. Seven patted his leg, still apologising.

Walker looked at Maple with slightly unnerved curiosity. Maple returned his gaze, shrugging.

Luck didn’t know what to do with himself; he was standing in front of Walker, someone who he had seen time and time again in the countless evenings he spent reading and rereading his volumes of Pokémon Adventures. He fixed his hair the best he could, swatting dust off his clothes and holding his Pokémon up, “hello, my name is Luck, Luck Lewis… and this is Seven”, he began, breathless, unable to contain his excitement despite trying to make his voice deep with seriousness, “and, I have to say… I am a very big fan”.

Walker raised his eyebrows, suddenly lost for words, “… oh, I… thank you, young Luck Lewis”, he managed, rubbing the back of his neck, “… I didn’t realise I had done something worth admiration as of lately”.

Luck frowned, “no way, you’re kidding, right?”, he dropped the proper act, scrambling with his bag and making Maple pinch the bridge of her nose, “kid, don’t…”.

Confidently, he pulled out his copy of Pokémon Adventures once more. Walker’s eyes went suddenly bright, as if having seen an old friend he had lost to the depths of his memory and the passage of time. With child-like wonder, he took it in his hands, flipping through it with an involuntary smile, “would you look at that”, he chuckled, reaching the chapter of his appearance and turning the booklet around to get different angles, “… my, I remember when this was being written. Quite the fun project, it was. You know? I nearly wasn’t in it; Falkner managed to talk me into it before I could back out. I never really gave myself time to do things like this, and perhaps I should’ve. That way, I’d have more fun memories like this…”. He raised his eyes to Luck’s, softening his features with sincerity, “thank you, you brought good memories to mind”.

“Of course!”, the boy grinned brightly, “you’re such a badass in it!… respectfully”, he blushed lightly, “when you’re fighting Suicune with Chuck? That’s one of my favourite moments from the whole series!”.

“I told him it was all…”, Maple tired, but Luck interrupted her by searching in his bag once more, taking out a black ink pen.

“Would you… sign it for me? Please?”, Luck asked, bouncing on his tiptoes with excitement. Walker laughed, thinking for a moment.

“Actually, I know someone who had, quite frankly, the most fun when Adventures was being written”, he explained, searching for something in the pocket of his coat, “and who deserves to sign it more than I do”. He pulled out a Pokéball under Luck and Seven’s peeled, enticed eyes, clicking it’s centre, from where a red beam of light gave shape to a shiny, chromed Pokémon, who shook its wings as it found itself outside, its feathers, more scale-like than feathers and sharp and long as knives, rattled with light, metallic jingles.

“I don’t believe it”, Luck whispered to Seven, too excited to muster more volume, “it’s Walker’s Skarmory!”. Carefully and with his hands shaking, he slipped his PokéDex out of his pocket: “Skarmory, the armour bird Pokémon. It is entirely encased in hard, protective armour. This Pokémon flies at close to 190 mph. It slashes foes with its wings that possess swordlike cutting edges”.

The Skarmory turned to them, smiling amiably. Luck pulled his PokéGear next, “Lorelei won’t believe me when I show her”, he mouthed, giddy, and raised his phone in the air, placing himself, Seven and the Skarmory before the frontal camera, as well as the mostly confused, slightly embarrassed Walker, who wasn’t sure if he was supposed to smile or not.

The Steel-type Pokémon, then, took the pen with its beak, signing the front cover with a sloppy doodle. Luck hugged the book close to his body as soon as it finished, twirling around sheepishly.

“Seven, this is the best day ever”, he said to his Pokémon, who interestedly gazed at his recently signed paraphernalia, “there’s no one that can stop us now!… Walker!”, he called for his attention, turning his cap backwards, “I’m going to absolutely destroy your son in a Pokémon battle! … respectfully”.

And with that, he was gone, sliding inside the gym with his Cyndaquil clutched with one hand and his comic book with the other, leaving nothing but a ghost as the glass doors slowly closed behind.

The old Skarmory returned to Walker’s side, who, then, turned to Maple, who had been intentionally avoiding his gaze. As Luck walked out of ear-shot, she sighed, leaning against a big pine next to the shadow of the gym’s huge structure, taking a cigarette out of the box she hid in her coat. He crossed his arms, his voice sarcastic, yet calm, “it’s nice to see you again as well, after all this time”.

The woman eyed him briefly, white smoke filtering through her slightly open lips, flicking the ash off with two fingers, “don’t tell me you missed me”.

“I did”, he stated honestly, “we all did. After all, you practically vanished”.

Maple’s saliva had turned suddenly sour, and it wasn’t precisely because of the unpalatable warmth that filled her mouth. Luck’s yapping, alongside Pokémon cries, was now like the booming of music from a far away party, a passing cruise that’s barely a bunch of dots in the distance, gently shaking the air when seen from a dark beach, miles away and longingly silent. She had been purposefully avoiding a situation as such ever since she came back to Johto, hiding her face in the shadows and never staying at the same place for too long… but being around a kid as reckless as Luck had brushed off on her, she supposed. She tapped the ground absent-mindedly, calculating the possible outcomes of the conversation she was about to have in quiet ushers.

“I didn’t “vanish””, she decided, marking quotation marks in the air with her fingers to exemplify his exaggeration, “I told you I was going away”.

Walker raised an eyebrow, “well, what you call an explanation really wasn’t any better than disappearing without one”, he shook his head, “but, I digress, I didn’t come here to argue. I heard someone had seen you around Sprout Tower and I wanted to see it for myself… It is good to have you back, old friend”, he smiled, turning to the place where Luck has disappeared from, “I didn’t know you decided to have children”.

Maple scoffed, offended, “don’t be stupid”, she rolled her eyes, “we saw each other four years ago, and that kid is clearly ten”.

“I know, it was a joke”, he replied, frowning slightly, “and isn’t he like… sixteen?”, he mouthed, but Maple didn’t hear him. “Who is that boy, Luck, anyways? He’s got a peculiar name…”.

“He’s just some kid I found on Route 30, I took him to train at Sprout Tower yesterday”, she stated, “we’re helping each other”.

“ …You’re a teacher now?”.

“We’re more like… business partners”.

Walker stared at her, trying to read her blank, stoic features. Finally, understanding made him sigh, “still focused on that “personal project” of yours, are you?”, he asked, his voice slightly saddened.

“Well, it did cost me my job”, Maple remarked, and Walker chuckled.

“Whatever was it about?”. The woman looked at him sternly, challenging him, and he raised his hands in defeat, “hey, can’t knock me for trying”, he smiled apologetically, “… Maple, you were always so secretive”.

“But I didn’t remember you always being so nosy”.

Walker laughed, brushing his hair with his hand. “… Hey, did you hear Kanto followed in our steps?”, he changed the subject, “it's been a few years now, and Professor Oak is apparently really benefiting from having aid. Turns out he can’t do it all after all, not after all those years”.

“It’s an amazing module. It worked well in Hoenn and it would work well in Kanto”, Maple remarked, ever-so-slightly bitter.

“It is”, he tiptoed, “… and it worked well in Johto, too, that’s why we were surprised when Elm announced your retreat”.

Maple let out a dry chuckle, taking a drag from her cigarette with her lips pressed, “you heard him: “you’re a great coworker with wonderful ideas, but I think you should take some time to yourself and self-reflect””, she repeated the words engrained in her brain, still knowing them by heart as if not a day had passed during all those four years, even if her wrinkles and gray hairs said otherwise, “code for “you’re a nutjob and it’s starting to show”.”.

Walker’s smile faltered, watching her decimate the cigarette in seconds, “…did you?”.

“What?”, she asked, flicking the ash off the orange butt one last time and pocketing it, sucking her teeth to taste the nicotine remaining on her tongue.

“Take time to yourself? Self reflect?”.

Maple looked at him briefly, huffing, and looked away, “yeah, that’s where I’ve been these past years: enjoying a fancy getaway in Alola”, she said, sarcastically, “I'm actually a yoga instructor now, isn’t that something?”.

Laughter erupted from somewhere inside the gym, a cackle so characteristically youthful they both knew exactly who it belonged to the moment it filled the air, accompanied by Pokémon cries and a slight tinge of melancholy. Walker raised his face, looking up at the sky as the columns of smoke evaporated, turning into fat, white clouds, “I don’t know what you’re up to these days, even though I would like to… but I think you being here is a sign, and I see good change coming your way”.

Maple raised an eyebrow, smiling, amused, “yeah? A “sign”? Have you been talking to Will lately?”.

The joke flew away, and Walker only looked at her sincerely, “I see in Luck the same thing I saw in Falkner when he was his age, but failed to realise until but a few years ago: that spark, the kind of joy that only exists in a mind and body so young, so eager”, he sighed, “sometimes I debate whether I’ve been too harsh on Falkner; whether I jaded him too soon. He’s a prolific gym leader, and he’s able to fight and win with honour, and accept defeat, too… and yet… There's often a look in his eyes that irks me: a look too much like mine… such eyes of a man who’s learned it all in a way that there are things he’ll never learn, not until they’ve aged. He'll never learn that strength can turn into violence, that wit can turn into carelessness, that dedication can turn into…”, he raised his eyes, careful, “… to mania”.

He gave in, looking out into the distance. His face had aged a lot in those four years, or so Maple thought, but maybe she forgot how his face looked like from the beginning. His skin had always been rough, and when wrinkles covered it they did so like the rifts a drought leaves in sand-like soil. She wondered if he thought the same of her own face, for she had a hunch she knew exactly which one of them had had the most amount of sleep in those four years. Which one had burned through such an amount of cigarettes a cabin could be built with the scrunched-up butts. Which one of them could hardly recognise themselves in the mirror…

She tuned back to the conversation. “… But he used to have that very same face I see in Luck now — granted, with a bit less hair —, so full of life and pure expectations, the kind that inspire stories of adventure”, he turned to her, smiling softly, a gesture so foreign in his usually cunning, sharp face, “and I still remember what I felt every time I looked at him, but was never willing to admit: that revitalising sense of youth that makes you want to pack your bags and hit the road in search of new thrills… and I believe that’s going to help you a lot, Maple”, he stated, watching her scoff softly, “even if you don’t see it yet, I think you need it more than anyone”.

He stroked the Skarmory’s head in the silence that ensued, and Maple debated on whether to light another cigarette or not. It could’ve been minutes or it could’ve been hours, but the bubble they existed in had, seemingly, no concept of time, and the only thing that moved were the richly green leaves of the pine tree and the ripples of the lake. “I would like to catch up with you, Maple”, Walker finally said, “there has to be something we can talk about, after all these years”.

“… Are you going to spend the whole time asking questions?”, Maple half-smiled.

“Are you going to spend the whole time avoiding them?”.

It had to have been more time than they thought, for, at that moment, someone busted out of the gym, their hair flying forward for a few seconds before settling back down. It was Luck: sweaty, red-faced, heavy-breathing Luck, clothes dishevelled and carrying with an exhausted Cyndaquil. He spotted them, still in the same place they had been before, and cleared his throat, trying to appear as if he wasn’t as tired as he was and approaching them calmly.

“Don’t tell me you battled Falkner already?”, Maple asked, looking up at the sun, “it couldn’t have been that long since you left”.

“No, I didn’t battle Falkner yet”, Luck said, “because Falkner isn’t even here!”.

Walker frowned, “… he’s not?”.

Luck negated with his head, “I battled with a bunch of bird keepers before, and when I reached the room Falkner was supposed to be in, he wasn’t there! The man at the door then told me he had seen him leave to a cave of sorts, which he didn’t tell me at all before I went in, so he just watched as I battled every trainer before and probably laughed his ass off when I looked for the gym leader and couldn’t…”.

“Cave? The Dark Cave?”, Walker interrupted him, but it’s not like Luck really minded at all, “… what could Falkner be doing there?”, he asked himself, “flying-types do great against ground, but not so much against rock…”.

Luck shrugged, “they didn’t tell me anything else, only that he left in sort of a hurry”, he looked at the man’s face, who seemed deep in thought, “… hopefully he’s not in trouble…?”.

“Falkner? In trouble?”, Maple remarked, “it would surprise me”.

“Things haven’t been the same these past couple of years”, Walker blurted out, suddenly, “… or, I mean… some things aren’t”, he grimaced, raising his face to her. Maple lifted an eyebrow: it was rare to see Walker that distraught, “there have been certain weird things happening in Johto…”.

Luck looked at them both, trying to feel included in the sharing of serious stares but failing, ultimately letting himself fall against the wall, releasing a tired breath and drying sweat off his forehead, “don’t mind us”, he muttered out loud, “Seven and I just battled several times in a row in record time”.

“Oh, yeah”, Maple frowned, “why did you do that?”.

“… huh?”.

“The optional battles before the gym leader?”, she explained, “… you did know that, right? That they’re optional?”.

Luck fell to the ground.
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Chapter vii: Falkner? I hardly know her!

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter vii: Falkner? I hardly know her!

Violet City, spring of 2021

"... Hey, at least it was valuable training", Maple tried, receiving no answer from the blond boy she had accompanied to the Pokémon Centre, "right?... Kid?". She turned, having previously been too focused on her PokéGear to look at him: Luck was snoring, deeply asleep on one of the Pokémon Centre's couches, mouth wide open and covering his face with his newly-signed comic book. One of his legs was propped up on the seat and the other hung lazily at his side, his arms following a similar pattern: one was hanging, almost touching the floor, and the other was rested on his Cyndaquil, who soundly slept on his stomach, curled up and accompanying the boy's concert with his very own small snores.

Maple caught herself chuckling, her frown souring at herself. She shook her head, biting the inside of her cheek.

"Luck? Luck Lewis?".

The boy sprung up, the booklet falling from his face and Seven rolling off the couch in the shape of a fuzzy sphere, the deep-sleeper barely waking up from the impact as he hit the floor. Luck wiped the drowsiness off his face, trying to tame his frizzy, big blond hair as he got up and walked to the front desk at the reception, "I'm here!".

A pink-haired nurse smiled kindly at him and his very apparent drowsiness, holding her hands together, "your Houndour has regained all of her strength", she chirped.

Two swing doors behind her opened, and out of them erupted a stretcher with small, rattling wheels, pushed along by two round-shaped, smiley pink Pokémon, holding eggs in belt pouches and nurse hats over rosy long frills. Luck giggled, surprised, and quietly scanned them with his PokéDex: "Chansey, the Egg Pokémon. It lays nutritionally excellent eggs on an everyday basis. The eggs are so delicious, they are easily and eagerly devoured by even those people who have lost their appetite".

On top of the metal stretcher was a black Pokémon, which began wagging her tail at the mere sight of the boy's big hair. "Donut! How are you...?", he began, joyfully, but, and answering his question, Donut got on her feet and jumped at him from her stretcher, landing them both on the ground in a slobbery hug.

Maple turned at the sound of the commotion, wondering if that kid ever managed to go a day without winding up on the floor.

The nurse chuckled softly, placing Donut's Pokéball on the desk before her, waiting for Luck to get up, "your Pokémon is now healed. We hope to see you again!", she cheered as Luck rose, rubbing the back of his neck, "thanks! ... you probably will...".

He returned, Donut now safely inside her Pokéball, to the sofa, where Maple had her eyes raised to one of the TVs, which was playing a nature documentary (in Sinnoh? Maybe? It was about some ruins in mountains covered in snow, and Luck was never that good at geography…).

"Well, everyone's good as new again", he smiled, rubbing the Cyndaquil's head, "you guys deserved a good rest, huh, Seven?", he smiled, patting him playfully, "that was some Flying-type training...", he tried to joke, but sighed, falling down to the squishy seat with a grunt, making the furniture squeak as he slouched, defeated, "... I just wish we had actually gotten to fight Falkner... you know? After defeating all of his grunts... I thought that, by this time, I would've already had a badge on me", he clicked his teeth, "it's making me feel like an awful trainer".

"We'll challenge Falkner tomorrow", Maple tried her hand at consoling, which didn't translate to her cold, harsh tone and the blunt edge of her emotional intelligence , "when he's done... sorting things out".

"Oh, yeah", Luck frowned, distracted from his moping and pulling out three jelly donuts from his bag, handing one to Seven, "whatever could he be doing in the Dark Cave? You seemed surprised".

"Falkner hardly ever leaves his gym", she explained, "quite obsessed, that one, guess it runs in the family. If he abandoned it like that, out of the blue... well, he must've had a darn good reason to". Luck extended a Jelly donut to her, but she refused. Instead, he stuffed both of them in his mouth. Maple rubbed her chin, "… kid, have you heard of any strange things happening around lately?".

Luck blinked, his cheeks wide with food, and negated, speaking through a mouthful of his snack, "what d'ya mean?".

Maple grimaced, annoyed, watching him sloppily eat with visible disgust, "... Walker mentioned something about "odd happenings" going on around the country. Now, granted I haven't been here for long, so I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary, but Pokémon trainers are notorious for travelling all around by foot, and I was...", she asked, looking at his clueless face as he chewed, his cheeks full and eyes, wide and sparkly. She sighed wondering why she even tried, "... nevermind... probably just a figure of speech".

Luck chewed in silence as Maple thought: despite trying to not give it much importance, she couldn't help but dwell on Walker's words; he had always been a serious, severe man, not the kind to joke or exaggerate. So, for him to use such cryptic language...

Ah, it must've been the passing of years. After all, she couldn't pretend to know a man she hadn't as much as thought of in nearly five years.

"Hey, Maple", Luck spoke, pulling her out of her trance. He looked at her, fidgety, like a little kid waiting to ask his mom to allow a sleepover, "... what do... what do you think about checking out the Dark Cave?", he suggested, carefully, but visibly excited by the idea, "just to, you know, investigate ".

She eyed him sternly, "kid, I'm sure you're going to get the chance to battle Falkner tomorrow...", she stated, although she couldn't deny her interest wasn't peaked (that, and the fact that another delay on her way to Goldenrod City really did pain her), "you don't have to go looking for him, he's probably just... training, or something".

"Yeah, but... aren't you even the slightest bit curious?", he tried, standing up to pace like a preacher, as if to sound more confident and persuasive by using broader hand gestures, "just to snoop around for a bit, check out if there's anything interesting, maybe find some Pokémon or treasures... or, I mean, help out if possible, of course!... Hey, maybe they aren't even there anymore! It has been a few hours, after all... I don't know; I think it's a great idea, don't you, Seven?", he asked his Cyndaquil, who nodded enthusiastically, jumping on his shoulder to join in on convincing Maple, "Seven thinks it's a great idea too. Seeing as we have some spare time... and it could also work as more training for my battle with Falkner!".

Maple pursed her lips, looking at the boy with narrowed eyes, "... fine", she gave in, surprisingly, watching the boy make a gesture of victory with his fist, excitedly fixing his backpack on his back. "But we're going in and out, you hear me? No wandering about. As soon as we get a good look at whatever there is to look at, we're coming back here, not a second later…".


Caves had always excited Luck. When he was eight years of age and still carried around a stuffed Lillipup as though his life depended on its old, worn-out fur, his mom took him on a summer trip around Hoenn, and one of the places of interest in the agenda she had put together was Meteor Falls. Perhaps it was the fact that he was barely taller and definitely half as heavy as most boulders that made up the tall, concave cave, or perhaps it was the scent in the air: wet soil, mossy rocks and a light blue hue he could taste in the non-existent breeze, clogged with water so crystalline he could swear it wasn't there at all, but he felt enchanted by the tourist attraction. The atmosphere below the earth clung to his skin, painting it the same shade of violet that made the rocky formations so ethereal around him. His mother pondered how meteors could've possibly fallen inside a cave, but Luck was much more preoccupied by gaping at the aether they had just stumbled upon, forgetting even to snap pictures with the disposable camera that hung from his neck with a strap embroidered with Plusles and Minuns, which they had bought at a stall outside for a few Poké.

He needn't a disposable camera now, however, for he pulled out his PokéGear and posed with Seven in front of the frontal camera, trying — and failing — to get Maple in frame. "Come on", she said, annoyed, fixing the collar of her coat as she buttoned it around her body, expecting the cold musk of a cave, "before the sun starts to set".

Unlike the Hoennian Meteor Falls, which had grown in popularity to become a coveted touristic spot, Dark Cave was as crude as it got: a bona fide hole in the wall, like a gaping mouth with jagged stalactites for dentures. But that did everything but deter young Luck, "isn't this exciting?", he buzzed, "we're, like, explorers right now. Imagine if we found a fossil ", he turned to Seven, his face bright with glee, "Seven, are you gonna help me find a fossil?".

"If you can find a fossil in fifteen minutes, then, be my guest", Maple remarked, poking her head inside the cave, "... they weren't joking with the name, huh?".

And indeed they weren't. The moment Maple walked in she seemed to be swallowed by the night itself, disappearing into the void of a shard of infinite universe, carved and hidden inside a mountain. Maple took her PokéGear from her pocket, activating the flashlight feature and illuminating a small radius of the cave around her like an island of light in the middle of an inky ocean. Luck, instead, placed Seven on his head before stepping inside; the Pokémon, diligently, took in a deep breath and erupted fiery flames from his back, transforming Luck into an orange-yellow beacon.

Dark Cave wasn't as small as the entrance alluded: outside their light sources they could make out much room still left, and the ceiling could've might as well extended to the heavens themselves. Luck turned around, feeling the rock walls with his hands, "woah", he said, hearing his voice echo, "this is so sick''. As far as he could see, the cave went deep into the mountain's guts, transforming into a maze-like underground with multiple passageways, ridges and inclinations. He could also hear the sound of water, the faintest of murmurs accompanied by Zubat hisses made grandiose by the odd enclosure of being inside a giant rock, "... what could Falkner be doing?".

Maple shivered, "it's quite cold in here…", she muttered, but Luck didn't share the feeling, warmed-up by his blue-beige, furry heater.

"I wonder what kind of Pokémon we could find…", Luck thought out loud, not paying attention to anything but his own, wandering ideas.

"Let me guess: Zubats and Geodudes", Maple answered.

Her sarcasm didn't register for Luck — it very rarely did —, and his eyes went wide with wonder, "you bet!", he exclaimed, excitedly, "Zubats, Geodudes, Onix , maybe, I wouldn't doubt there's Rattatas around, too!". Maple could definitely identify that child-like wonder Walker so talked about when describing Luck, although she failed to see the appeal of it, simply rolling her eyes at the blond kid’s babbling.

Seven looked up, softly murmuring in awe. Luck raised his eyes, "cool, isn't it?", he giggled, trying to look up without tumbling the Pokémon from his place, "scary... but, so cool!". They walked along a straight path to minimise the chances of getting lost, occasionally stopping to analyse interesting things they found in their way: for Maple, it was slight whispers, pit-patters and the occasional foot or paw print, for Luck, it was mainly rocks he found pretty, which were now starting to fill the front pockets of his hefty backpack.

After a while they had managed to leave the light from the entrance behind, now completely surrounded by the black guts of the Dark Cave, the sort of place that felt tight and huge at the same time, and that would cause someone to lose their sense of what the world was if left inside for too long. Maple stopped and breathed in deeply, feeling Luck crash softly into her back, "oh, sorry, Maple", he uttered, tripping over himself and placing a hand on the wall for support.

She straightened her coat, "I think that's enough". She turned, looking at Luck, who had managed to dirty his face with mud already, "we should go back. Falkner must've surely returned to his gym by now...".

Out of one of the cave's intricate passageways and interrupting Maple came out the faintest, most subtle of exclamations. It was brief, but unignorable; and it was also unequivocally human. Maple, Luck and Seven all turned towards the rock artery that seemed to have gurgled the anomaly. It couldn't have been their imagination, for all three heard it at the exact same time, but, still, they waited to see if it would announce its presence again.

"... Well, that was off...", Maple began, but Luck shut her up with a short hush, his eyes focused on the darkness of the tunnel, ears perked. She raised an eyebrow at him, mildly offended, but complied, staring, too, at the stillness of the cave. The only thing that was heard for a few seconds was the low hiss of the flames on Seven's back. That was, until the strange noise came again: there was no doubt, someone was in that cave with them.

Luck turned to Maple, who bit the inside of her cheek, "... possibly hikers", she suggested, "mountaineers that decided to dwell in a bit of cave exploration".

"Do you think they're in danger?", Luck asked, gazing into the abyss as if staring a little longer was going to dissipate the shadows, "they could be lost".

"No, I don't think so", she quickly dismissed, "they're most likely just fine. Let's go, kid, so that we're able to return to Violet City with sunlight".

Maple's footsteps began walking away, the light of her flashlight with her, but Luck didn't move. He was looking, still, at the place where the sound had erupted from, narrowing his eyes and fidgeting with his fingers, "... what do you take, Seven?", he asked, "should we go investigate?".

The Cyndaquil took a moment, looking at Maple, who was quickly disappearing, and then back at the possibility of an adventurous rescate mission. With determination, it issued a positive cry. Luck, satisfied (and most likely having already known what Seven was going to say), adjusted his backpack on his shoulders and grabbed his Pokémon from his head, holding him forward to illuminate the tunnel and turning the cap on his hair around backwards.

Even though they couldn't see very well before, Luck and Seven quickly noticed that the walls around them were a lot smaller: the echo wasn't as grand as when they stood upon the gallery that was the main cave, and they could suddenly hear their own breathing, as if someone was behind them, blowing on their shoulders. It unnerved Seven a bit, but Luck seemed undeterred, focusing on the phantoms of the sound he had heard before and with a very clear goal in mind. After a few seconds to his footsteps in the silence, he began to call, "hello?", his voice was loud, and it crawled through the passage in search of a way out, "is anybody there?".

"...!", someone answered, but they couldn't quite pick up the words. "Someone is definitely in here, Seven", Luck pointed out, "hey! Who's there? Do you need any help?", the boy picked up the pace. With every long step he took, the mutters were more and more clear, "we've come to help!", he continued, now almost running.

It was after a while that he could, finally, understand what the voice was saying: "stay back!".

Luck froze, clutching Seven tight, protectively, and listening.

"... hello?", he called again, the hairs on his arms rising ever-so-slightly, "… is everything okay?".

There was a back-and-forth between bodiless whispers, revealing to him that there were, in fact, two people there, and one of them seemed strangely... familiar.

"Wait, Falkner... I think I recognise that voice... could it be...?".

Footsteps now came from the other end of the tunnel, and a figure turned around the corner, flashlight in hand. Luck placed his hand in front of his face, the white light blinding him for a bit. Then, when the new individual was close enough, he recognised him: "Walker!".

"Luck?", the man frowned, lowering his flashlight, "...my! What are you doing here, boy?".

"Maple and I, we... well, we came to check out Dark Cave, too", Luck explained, sighing, relieved, at the sight of a familiar face, finally loosening the grip that had Seven so pressed to his shirt, which was now black with ash, "we didn't think you'd be here anymore, but, still, we were... curious".

From the shadows behind Walker appeared someone else: a man, a tad shorter than him and with a more lean, swift-looking build covered in bright blue robes, a shade almost equal to that of his hair, straight, combed downwards and slightly frizzy, giving him the appearance of someone who hadn't stopped rushing since he left the bed. It was Violet City's gym leader, Falkner.

"... Do you know this boy, father?", he asked, and Walker nodded.

"He's... uh... well, Maple's acquaintance".

"... Maple?", Falkner repeated, seemingly dumbfounded, "as in... Martina Maple? ".

"Yes, lad, I can assure you don't know another Maple", Walker dismissed, “Falkner, this is Luck, Luck, this is Falkner”.

Luck waved awkwardly.

“But, surely we can find a better place to talk about this some other time", he turned to Luck, who had been surprised into quietness, "we must get you out of this cave, Luck... frankly, we must all get out".

"No, I have not yet found that trainer's lost Pokemon", Falkner retaliated, clearly refusing to leave and revealing the nature of the discussion Luck had overheard in agitated, echoey whispers.


""It is a gym leader's duty to not only honourably battle trainers, but to provide zealous guardianship to their host town", isn't that what you always said to me?", he began, passionately, "I'm answering a distress call from one of my citizens and I'm not letting them down... you'd understand if you had read the letter that arrived at my door. Someone is truly in trouble, and they're out here".

"You've been searching for hours now, lad".

"Well, you can escort...".

"... Luck!", Luck told him, flustered as Falkner's gaze fell upon him, having already forgotten his name, "Luck Lewis".

"You can escort Luck out of the cave, and I'll follow suit as soon as I'm finished", Falkner was dead-set on staying, crossing his arms, stubborn, and something in Walker's face told Luck exactly where he had gotten that from.

"Falkner, listen to your father...", he insisted, but the blue-haired man looked at him sternly.

"I think I've done enough of that in my life...".

The bickering blended, suddenly, into the background, as Luck locked eyes with a speck of yellow, emerging from a growing crack in one of the tunnel's walls. He tilted his head, narrowing his eyes, and began walking towards it, watching it take shape as him and Seven got closer, washing orange light over the compacted dirt: it was a Pokémon! Digging its way out of the very wall!

"Woah! Hello, there", he exclaimed, forgetting abo the two men and calling for its attention. The Pokémon turned around to show its face, as it seemed to have been digging tail-first; it poked its head out of the whole, it's eyelids permanently closed, and raised slightly to the sound of the boy's voice, curiously inspecting the air with two small prongs protruding from its chin. Luck consulted his trusty PokéDex: "Dunsparce, the Land Snake Pokémon. Its drill-tipped tail is used to burrow into the ground backwards. This Pokémon is known to make its nest in complex shapes deep under the ground.

Dunsparce was an oddly endearing, flat-ish creature, coloured a striking yellow and cyan that contrasted heavily with the dark browns and grays of the cave. It was chubby and roundish, with a head bigger than its body and a pointy, drill-like tail. It had no limbs but two comically small, white wings on each side of its back, which were pressed onto it to allow sliding around in the dirt. "Dunsparce? I've never seen one of those before!", Luck exclaimed, amazed, "look, Seven, this is a Dunsparce".

Seven looked at the Pokémon intently, exchanging a few hellos before squealing with excitement. "I've gotta take a picture of this, you're just so cute!...".

Luck pulled out his PokéGear and intended to snap a picture. It was just then that the bickering father and son managed to spot him after he had left his place behind them. "Luck, boy!", Walker called, "don't go wandering off like that. Come on, we've got to get you out to safety, Maple will sure be worried about you".

Before he knew it, Falkner was behind him, and he crouched to look at the Pokémon he had found, "ah, I see, you've found a Dunsparce, that’s not an easy Pokémon to come by".

"Isn't he adorable?", the boy remarked with a high-pitched tone, snapping its picture, "look at its big, round cheeks!". The Dunsparce stared, blankly and blindly, at Luck, and he couldn't help but grab its head and rub it. Falkner chuckled.

"... Seven", Luck began, his eyes wide with an idea, "should we catch this Dunsparce for the team?".

"I don't know about that, Luck", Falkner answered instead, and they both stared at him attentively, "Dunsparce are endemic to the Dark Cave, so, people are usually discouraged from catching them, so as to not mess up the populations. Besides... I... well, I wouldn't call it the best Pokémon for a Pokémon trainer, to be completely fair", he added, correctly guessing Luck was a trainer based on youth and pep alone (and maybe a bit of the outfit).

Luck nodded, understanding, biting the inside of his cheek, "bummer, huh, Dunsparce?", he sighed, giving the Pokémon's round head one last rub, "we would've been the best of friends".

"I'm sure Dunsparce's got many friends here", Falkner reassured, "as they tend to burrow together... in fact, his friends must be very close by...".

And, as if his words had summoned them, indeed they were, and the wall from where the Dunsparce was poking out began to shake and stir.

"... What is happening?", Luck panicked shortly, clutching Seven tight and trying to remain on his feet as he stepped away from the wall, hearinf it quiver and crumble. Falkner looked at it too, then, at the ceiling, "… Dunsparce", he mouthed, "they're all burying at the same time, they're... they're going to cause a cave in", he turned to Walker, "father, we must...".

And, just like that, Walker was gone, replaced by a pile of dirt and rocks and blocking his flashlight out of sight. Falkner took a step back, covering his face and stumbling as big rocks fell before him, showering him in dust and rubble. Luck turned around, blocking Seven out of the debris' way.

Over the sound of the crumbling mountain, Falkner shouted, "dad!".

The cave-in only took a few seconds, and, before they knew it, they had been completely sealed away from the other half of the tunnel. Falkner patted the new wall desperately, calling out for his father.

Finally, after a few seconds, a coughing voice came, "Falkner! Are you alright?!".

Falkner sighed with relief, "... yes, I'm fine", he turned around, glancing at the crouching teenager, "the boy and the Cyndaquil are fine too".

"What could've possibly happened?!".

"It was the Dunsparce"!, he explained, shouting to make his voice travel through the blockage, "they must've dug through a key part of the tunnel's structure, causing the ceiling and walls to cave in!".

Luck raised his head slowly, opening his eyes to notice he wasn't, in fact, buried alive. Seven did the same and whimpered, crushed not under rubble and rocks, but under his trainer's weight, "oh, sorry, buddy", he smiled, regaining his composure and turning to Falkner, who was kicking and clawing at the newly formed barricade.

"... Can't even dent it", he released, frustrated and flustered, as he fixed his hair, "... Luck", he referred to the boy, "surely you're to challenge my gym. Quick, pull out your Rock-type Pokémon".

Luck stared blankly, grazing his Pokéball belt with his fingers, "I... uh.. Rock-type Pokémon?”, he muttered, “I… have a... Houndour? ", he suggested, embarrassedly.

Falkner blinked, "... you have no Rock-type Pokémon", he clarified, "for the Flying-type gym. Not even a Geodude".

Luck smiled guiltily, making him sigh.

"Lad, there's another way out of the cave", Walker spoke through the other side, his voice muffled, "it's that escape route that leads to Route 46. It shouldn't be that far, you'll only have to find your way around the cave a few correct turns and passages... I'm... I'm sure you'll be able to do it".

Falkner rested his forehead on the wall, nodding, "alright", he made his father know, "I'll notify you when we make it out. It shouldn't be long, so... keep an eye out. I know my way around this cave", he smiled, "I'm a better gym leader than you think".

"... You have no idea".

Walker was softly talking to a wall as Maple reached his location in the tunnel, holding her PokéGear tightly, "... Walker?", she spoke, and he turned around.

"Ah, Maple".

"What was that, just now?", she asked, slightly unnerved, "is everyone okay? Did something happen?".

Walker turned to his side, eyeing the pile of dirt that now cut the tunnel in half, a severed nerve in the complicated system that was the Johtonian underground formation, "the tunnel caved in, Dunsparce were digging around in bulk".

Maple nodded, mouthing a short “ah”.

She then peered around, as if looking for something, "... hey, have you... seen Luck around here, by any chance?".


"Do people get lost around here often? In the Dark Cave?".

"Not anymore".

Luck walked alongside Falkner through what was remaining of the cave's tunnel, following along the path of darkness through the light made by his flashlight and Seven, who, for once, walked on the floor.

"The Technical Machine for Dig was perfected a couple of years ago in such a way that most Normal-type Pokémon can now learn it and use it to escape most caves. It has saved gym leaders and police much trouble".

"… Cool". Luck stared, mouth agape, at the cave, still holding on to that sense of excitement and adventure despite being in a less than favourable situation, "it's been a long time since I was in a cave, it's so... sick".

" "Sick?" ", Falkner repeated, exasperated, "that's not the word I'd use. "Humid", "cramped", maybe, "unpredictable" at best".

Luck chuckled. ”… So, is it true there's someone in danger?".

"It is", Falkner stated sincerely, "a Darumaka. Her trainer wrote a letter to me saying he thinks she ran into the cave after a battle, and that he has been too scared to follow after her, as she was his only Pokémon".

Luck pursed his lips, "that sucks", he simply said, "I hope we can find that Darumaka".

" I'm going to find that Darumaka", Falkner remarked, "we are going to get you out of this cave, and then I'm going to rescue her".

"Hey! Seven and I could really help out", Luck remarked, vocally supported by his Pokémon, "it would be way easier to do so with three eyes instead of one… er, pairs , three pairs of eyes, that is, because we each have two".

"No, it's too dangerous".

"Dangerous? How dangerous can it be?", Luck was also remarkably stubborn, "it's a cave, how big a threat can fit in here?".

"Tell that to the five mountaineers that went missing this past summer".

Seven stopped, dead in his tracks, and watched the man's back as he continued on walking. After a few seconds, he ran to catch up, "wait, really?", he asked, intrigued, "I thought you said no one got lost anymore?".

"They didn't. We hadn't had a rescate mission in almost three years, not until those poor, unfortunate souls...".

Luck's eyes were wide, and he exchanged looks with an equally stupefied Seven, "... and uh... what did you do?".

"Well, there was nothing we could do, really", Falkner's tone was alike to that of an elder, telling a story of legend to the newcomers of a land built upon the entangled roots of history, mystical and fantastical, "they went in to study Pokémon, in search of an adventure. A thrill, just like everybody else... but they never came out".

"Just like that?", Luck's nerves were crisp, and he was suddenly hyper-aware of his surroundings, turning to face even the slightest of whispers, "... no one... no one could save them? What could've possibly even happened to them?!", his voice shrieking a syllable in much teenager fashion, too astonished to take notice.

"Nobody knows, as nobody could do anything for them", Falkner narrated severely, "it was as if the cave had swallowed them and their Pokémon whole, no trace to leave behind...".

The boy's interrogations, eventually, came to an end, and they walked together in silence; but Luck's head was suddenly filled with ideas so loud that if they were to be freed, their echo would've finished the caving of the tunnel the Dunsparce left incomplete, each of them more sinister and terrifying than the last, haunted by five ghosts that disappeared between rocks and dirt…

After a few minutes, Luck stopped listening to his own breathing, and a change in the cave's artificial weather indicated the roof and walls around them had suddenly disappeared: they had managed to walk to the end of the tunnel, and now found themselves in the middle of an open chamber. Falkner noticed it, too, and took a second to mentally map the underground system, "we should be near Route 46's exit now", he muttered, looking down to a compass he pulled from his pocket, "that's... south, for us".

"Woah, you really know your way around here", Luck admired, and Falkner's face sparkled with pride. Illuminated by Seven's soft glow, Luck noticed Falkner was, actually, very similar to his father in more ways than stubbornness alone; he had those same, small, sharp eyes, a pointed nose and a cunning smile of thin lips and white teeth. His hair was intensely blue, swooped downwards and to the side, and he still was missing several wrinkles to look unrecognisable from Walker, but the likeness was undeniable...

They continued on their way, walking amidst the darkness like sailboats through a star-less night.

"So... Falkner", Luck remembered, suddenly, he was exploring a cave alongside the gym leader he had spent sleepless nights fantasising about beating, "how long have you been a gym leader for?".

Falkner took in a deep breath, filling his chest, "it has been more than ten years now... thirteen, to be precise. My father used to run it before, did you know that? He was Violet City's gym leader for thirty six years", he lifted the hem of his coat with a swift hand movement, revealing a belt lined with Pokéballs, "Flying-type Pokémon run in the family", he grinned, hiding them once more.

Luck chuckled, "is it hard?".

Falkner looked down at him, thinking, "... yes, yes it it is hard", he nodded, "but it is also extremely rewarding", he eyed him, smirking, "I never thought of myself as someone who likes kids, but, well, I guess I was one myself when my dad passed the gym on to me. I was barely twenty, can you believe that? Just ending my education and just returning from a Pokémon journey, but with so much more to learn and see still... It's a special kind of feeling to be a part of so many people's lives: the first gym to beat in your goal to collect all of Johto's badges. Not many battle all gym leaders, in the end, but everyone battles me, and that is... an honour, to put it in a way".

He stretched out his hands towards the ceiling, relaxing his muscles. Something in his face told Luck that his question had blown off the cork of years worth of bottled-up thoughts, which had not been shared with anyone, fermenting and aching to be released. To be scratched like a bad itch.

"Although, to be fair, I only realised this in the last maybe... three, four years", he admitted, laughing at himself, "the rest of the time I was just trying to impress my father. My admiration towards him had become my only drive, and somewhere along the way it became an obsession: I had to be better than him, prove myself that I was not only worthy of his acceptance, but of his pride. Of his admiration. He had to admire me the way I admired him, and that was the only goal with which I defended the gym until I knew better", he sighed, looking at Luck once more, his face reddening at the realisation of what he had confessed to a totally random teenager. He cleared his throat, "… dads , huh?".

Luck laughed, "yeah...", he rubbed the back of his neck, making a grimace, "or, well, I wouldn't know. I didn't grow up with mine for much".

Falkner's eyes were still on him, "... a father's presence is sometimes almost as haunting as his absence", he understood.

But Luck, carefully watched by his Cyndaquil, smiled at them both, "I have good memories of my dad, even if they're not many", he explained, simply, "my ma has always been there for me, and she never made me miss anyone else. Sure, I wished for him to be here from time to time, but the memories I have of him have always made me remember him as a distant, good dream. I think... I think he did a good job as a dad, whilst he could, and I have never resent him for being absent, or anything", Luck pursed his lips, deep in thought, "... I know he wanted me to be a Pokémon trainer, which did fuel my want to do so at some point... but, I guess I don't think about him as often", he tilted his head, "I'm just happy he was my dad, even if it was for a little while".

Their chatty walking had taken them across the cave, and a change in their footsteps indicated they were now, suddenly, near water, turning their echoey clicks into mushy whispers.

“… Water?", Falkner mouthed, confused, "but we... we shouldn't be near water, if we're heading the right way. Dark Cave's water deposits are deeper into its core, and we've been trying to get to its exits for a very long time now...".

"Did we take a wrong turn, or something?", Luck asked, trying to discern any landmarks inside the neverending darkness outside of Seven's warm glare.

Falkner negated, "no, we couldn't have. I'm sure this is the path that takes us to the Route 46 exit, I've taken it myself countless of times... but, then, how on Earth did we end up near water?".

Luck knelt down, making ripples in the still, mineral lake, as if to expertly assess its existence, "maybe you hadn't seen this lake before, and that's why you don't recognise it".

"Believe me, Luck: I would've realised there was a lake like this here before. These don't form from one night to the other... unless… unless there's something forming them...".

The look Falkner sent his way left Luck uneasy. He stood up and stepped away from the lake, eyeing it suspiciously, "what do you mean?", he inquired, "like... an earthquake?".

"Perhaps, although we would have noticed an earthquake, Luck, it's an earthquake", Falkner thought-out loud, "I was thinking more so... a Pokémon".

The man wrapped his fingers around a Pokéball and threw it upwards: it opened, revealing the silhouette of a small, airborne Pokémon who appeared up in the air, floating by the grace of its yellowish, feathery wings, "Pidgey", Falkner referred to it, "help us find an exit out of this cave. I believe we're not as safe as we thought we were".

Diligently, the Pidgey listened to its trainer's instructions and nodded once, flying away with a chirp, disappearing with such speed you would've thought it was never there in the first place.

Luck coughed, "... what? Why are we not safe?".

Falkner bit his lip, "I'm not completely sure, but I do know many Pokémon are capable of creating formations such as this, Pokémon which are not usually seen in this cave. It's actually a popular legend that many caves themselves have been created by Pokémon, albeit, ones much more powerful than one that could create lakes such as this. Still, I have to get you out of here, Luck, with Pokémon like that around this cave is not safe for young trainers".

"But, Seven and I want to help you find the Darumaka", he insisted, Seven supporting him with an enthusiastic cry.

Falkner did not give in, "you have to understand, Luck. I cannot put you under my responsibility just like that. I mean, what are you, twelve? Thirteen?".

"I'm fifteen, sixteen in a couple of months", he crossed his arms, frowning slightly, "and I think Seven and I are perfectly capable of defending ourselves", he filled his chest, "I'm a very strong trainer, actually, and you would've already known that if you had been at your gym earlier today, where I defeated all of the trainers in there, without taking a break".

"You may have won a couple of Pokémon battles, but there's still many things to learn before you challenge the real world", Falkner explained, "you can't always face problems with only your knowledge of battling. There's experience, and knowledge to...", he stared at the floor, his eyebrows raising slightly, understanding something that had been buried in his head for several decades now, "when you're young you... you think you know everything ...".

It took him a little while to notice he was talking to himself, and Luck's attention had shifted to a couple inches above his head, "... hey, Falkner?", he uttered, his celeste eyes wide like dinner plates, one finger pointed towards something that stood, tall, behind the gym leader, "could... uh... could a Pokémon like that make a lake?".

Falkner furrowed his eyebrows, now able to hear disturbances in the cave's dark silence outside of his own bubble of thoughts, turning around, "oh, shit ...".

He yanked the boy by the arm and pulled them both behind a large boulder at the sound of a loud roar, Seven following them with agile, little hops. Luck let himself be dragged, crouching, but didn't peel his eyes away from the Pokémon that had erupted from the shadows, his face vibrant with both fear and a great sense of fascination.

"Is that an...".

"Yes, yes it is", he shushed him, "now, stay quiet, there's a chance it didn't see us yet. They don't have particularly good eyesight...".

Luck complied, but he couldn't help himself, rising from their hiding position to better gaze at the enormous Pokémon that now accompanied them in the cave. He recognised it very well: it was an Onix, and that was the first time he was seeing an Onix face-to-face. He quietly pulled out his PokéDex: "Onix, the Rock Snake Pokémon. It has a magnet in its brain that acts as a...".

Falkner pulled the boy down once more, closing the device still in his hands, "what did I just tell you?", he told him off, whispering fastly.

Luck raised his hands, "I'm sorry!", he apologised, unable to contain a wide, nervous grin, "I've never seen an Onix in real life. It's so... cool ".

"Cool and heavy enough to crush us both", Falkner remarked, "Onix are not aggressive Pokémon. In fact, despite their size and poise, they're actually very pacific creatures, and often struggle to make good fighting Pokémon. Even still, if it just so happens to run us over...". Falkner lifted himself from behind the boulder, analysing the situation, "if we wait for a couple of seconds it might go away. Onix will hardly ever look for trouble...".

But this Onix seemed to be set on proving Falkner wrong. The growls it let out were visceral — as visceral as a throat made of stone could achieve —, like rocks tumbling into the depths of a well, echoing through the cave and making the ground tremble. It was shaking and stirring, crashing loudly against the walls with a body made of rough boulders, increasing in size from the tail to the head. Luck wondered how they hadn't heard it before, for, now that it was mere metres away from them, it appeared to be undergoing a messy, blaring battle with another, seemingly invisible Pokémon.

Falkner pushed Luck down, ducking, just in time to avoid the Pokémon’s tail, which flew over their heads like a spinning blade. Luck covered Seven, shutting his eyes. Rocks threatening to crush them seemed to be a theme of the evening.

"Why is it so mad?!", Luck raised his nose, slightly opening his blocked eyes; his cap had been pushed down, covering them and hindering his eyesight with golden strands.

"I don't... I don't know?", Falkner mouthed, his pupils dilated in fear, "but we have to get out of here, stat".

They scrambled to get up, correctly assuming the giant Pokémon was only getting closer and closer. Now, Luck could see what was going on in its entirety: the Onix was fighting against an invisible force, invoking attacks and bashing its head and tail against the cave in desperation.

He narrowed his eyes, focusing... perhaps it wasn't an invisible force at all, "Falkner!", he called, running behind the gym leader as he searched for cover, "can you see something near its head? Or is it just me?".

Falkner tried to take a moment to look at the Pokémon in the eyes, whilst also rushing to find something to hide their bodes with. He pushed Luck behind a column and pressed himself to the chalky surface, turning around. His breathing was loud, and he had to cough as his throat dried up, taking a deep breath, focusing his eyes on the Onix's head. After a few seconds, he frowned, "... what?... ".

Luck also peered around the column, now able to corroborate what he had seen before: the Onix's face seemed to be orbited by wispy, gauzy silhouettes, as if made of violet smoke, barely tangible enough to make out the vague shape of bodies and pairs of wings, flapping and fluttering near the Pokémon's eyes, stressing it out.

Falkner reached inside his pocket, pulling out a shiny Pokéball. He clicked the button in the middle, "Pidgeotto, go!".

The Pokémon that materialised was similar to the small Pidgey that had gone off to find an exit a couple of minutes before, but much brawnier and elongated. It stretched out its wings, shaking its head and the crest of red feathers that crowned it, "use Gust near that Onix's head!".

Luck watched, opening his eyes wide at the dark, as the avian creature lifted off. Swiftly, it rose up and avoided the lofty Pokémon, flying upwards until it found itself inches away from the rock frown. With a cry, it flapped its wings, rising in speed and strength until they started stirring the musky air around them, creating breezes that turned into hurricane blows and bating them in the Onix's direction. It groaned, turning its head away, but it hadn't been Falkner's target; the purple, misty shapes flew away with the Gust, weighing nothing but a sigh, and disappeared into the nothingness that was the cave's darkest crevices.

"What was that?", Luck inquired, turning to look at Falkner, whose face was like that of a Pokémon on alert, barely leaving space of thought for coherent debating.

"I, uh... I'm not sure... Pidgeotto, be careful now! You don't want to anger it more!".

The Pidgeotto's wings returned to its sides, flapping occasionally to keep it up in the air. The Onix turned its head back to it, blinking. They stared at each other, and something in the gargantuan Pokémon's beady, black pupils made the Pidgeotto wince in nervous fear.

"Pidgeotto, come back here!", Falkner called, but as he did, the serpentine Pokémon growled, slamming its tail against the ground with a strength that almost knocked both him and Luck down, making the ground judder and crack. With the force of the blow, levitating rocks erupted from beneath, flying out from both sides of the Rock-type Pokémon and towards Pidgeotto, who, desperately, swirled and twirled in the air to avoid the super-effective projectiles.

"Use Mud-slap and aim for its face!", Falkner, determined, committed to the battle, clenching his teeth in a way that tensed his entire face. The Pidgeotto dodged the Onix's attacks, soaring near the walls of the cave. With its sharp talons, it dug through the surface and flung fast pieces of mud towards the Pokémon. However, the Mud-slap was quickly subsided by Onix's next attack; white rings of energy appeared, surrounding the rock giant like ripples in the fabric of existence, and out of them poured out large, grey-and-brown boulders, flying towards Pidgeotto. It dodged the first few, but was inevitably struck by the rocks that followed, wailing as it fell, like a failing aircraft.

"Pidgeotto!", Falkner cried, leaving the cover of the column and flinging himself towards his Pokémon, managing to catch it before it crashed into the ground. They rolled a couple of times until they hit a wall with a thud. Falkner made sure his Pidgeotto was alright; however, when he looked up, he realised they were just beneath the Onix's head as it, still, tossed and hurled grey boulders that slammed against the cave and disintegrated into rubble. Luck's eyes widened, "Falkner!", he called, stepping away from the column.

"Luck, run! ", the gym leader instructed, covering his Pokémon with his body and narrowing his eyes amongst the dust, "call for help!".

But Luck was frozen in his place, his mind racing inside his skull as his eyes travelled across the scene. He turned to Seven, sharing a look of mutual understanding, "... I know this is not ideal, buddy", he began, "but Falkner and Pidgeotto will surely be crushed if we leave them here".

Seven stood on his four paws, his back erupting with flames, and nodded, trying not to look at the massive Pokémon so as to not deter his courage. Luck smiled, making a gesture with his fist, "that's the spirit!".

"Luck? What are you doing?", Falkner, distressed, called, struggling to get up as he was bathed in the pebbles of the projectiles, "don’t try to battle it, Fire-type attacks won't have much effect against Rock and Ground-types!".

Luck thought for a moment, calculating their moves as he batted dust away from his face, the only thing in his mind being the image of five lost, most definitely buried mountaineers, seeing their horrified faces plastered on theirs…

He shuddered, "… okay, Seven, we're doing this". Surprising the small Cyndaquil, the boy took it in his hands and placed him under his arm like a football, charging towards the massive, hollering Pokémon.

"Luck?!", Falkner's voice cracked, watching the boy run, full-speed, at the Onix.

Going unnoticed, the small kid and his Pokémon managed to reach the Onix's body, hopping on top of it. Once saddled on the behemoth, he placed the Cyndaquil on his head and began climbing, as if it was a rock wall in the shape of a gigantic snake. He could feel his heart hammering against his chest, and he was a fright away from peeing his jeans, "we... we are doing this, Seven!", he called, his voice squeaky with fear, “we’re bringing this thing down!”.

The Onix suddenly bucked, and he hugged one of the grey boulders, pressing his body against it with a shrieky yelp.

Seven was nearly pushed off, scrambling on the boy's head. He managed to grasp his long locks, remaining on top, but knocking his cap down. He watched it, slowly, fall to the ground, now noticing how far they were from it. The Pokémon gulped, climbing back up to his spot on Luck's noggin as he resumed climbing once more. The Onix's body was rough and jagged, providing enough edges for Luck's fingers to grip, and he made his way up the boulders, which were getting bigger and bigger. Finally, ignoring his bleeding hands and white knuckles, he wasn't able to climb any further, and was now near the Pokemon's neck

"Seven! Now's our chance!", he told his Pokémon, "climb up to the Onix's head and use Smokescreen!".

Seven nodded, pushing himself up from Luck's head and landing on the last boulders that led to the Onix's head. He held on to the rocky spine that erupted from its forehead and jumped on its snout. Scared, it jerked, leaving Luck hanging with a single hand. Seven called to him with a shout, worried, as the Onix's pupils focused on him, cross-eyed.

"I'm okay!", Luck exclaimed, pulling himself back to his spot and flashing Seven a terrified smile, "go on!."

Seven turned back around, startled as he noticed the Pokémon was staring at him. Nervously, he squeaked, apologising with a small smile. He opened his mouth, releasing a could of thick, black smoke.

The Onix growled, blinded, and turned around in its spot, "good job, Seven!”, Luck shouted, blinded as well but holding on, mustering all of the strength in his scrawny arms, “now... let's try and bring this big boy down! Use tackle!".

As nothing but an orange lighting bolt illuminating the insides of a black cloud, the Cyndaquil struck the Onix square in the forehead. Compared to his size, he might've had the same strength of a particularly strong fly crashing against someone's face, but he was persistent, bumping his head with as much strength as he could pull out of his body, receiving annoyed growls from the Pokémon below him, who thrashed and squirmed like a mechanical Tauros.

"Seven, use ember!", Luck tried, "give it all you've got!".

Hot flames filled Seven's mouth, released in the shape of fiery speckles. They didn't seem to have much effect, but the sparkly spots hitting the Onix's eyes made it whine, shaking its head. Seven clung to the Pokémon, trying to remain attached, but eventually flung off, flying back and towards the ground, aiming to meet the same fate as the lost cap if Luck hadn't caught him by the leg, bringing him and and pressing him against his body, "caught ya", he smiled, laughing sheepishly.

The distressed Onix let out a cry, suddenly dropping downwards. Luck's stomach turned as his previously upright position tilted, and he was now nearly laying down, still grabbing on to the turning boulders. He screamed, unable to think clearly; had they actually defeated the thing? Was it fainting?

"Luck!", Falkner shouted, "it's burying! You have to jump off!".

Startled, Luck realised the Pokémon was now carving a hole for itself in the ground. He let go, thrown off of its body and rolling on the ground, just in time to watch it disappear to the depths of compacted dirt below the cave, taking with him the cacophony of the battle and leaving them in a ringing, calm silence.

After a few seconds Luck was able to lift his head up: they were still alive. Covered in rocks, dust, dirt and debris, very scratched up and almost suffocating Seven with his arms, but they were alive! Alive! After riding an Onix like a Ponyta!

He sat down, placing his Pokémon on his lap and cleaning dust off his coat, "… Seven, dude, you're a legend", he told him, laughing, "I can't believe you did that just now".

Exhausted, he exhaled, rubbing the back of his head with his hand, closing his eyes tightly, "man, that Onix really did a number on us...".

And when he opened his eyes up again, he was suddenly facing his lost cap. It was hanging limply, blackened and destroyed, from Falkner's equally as muddied hand. Luck smiled, taking it and shaking it to regain its shape; it was comically squished down, like a corpse of what it once was, but, still, he placed it on his head, then taking Falkner's hand to stand up.

"That was...", the man looked at him closely, "one of the most unbelievably stupid stunts I've ever seen someone do", he finished, making Luck blush, embarrassed, "let alone successfully ".

He sighed heavily, letting his head fall back to his shoulders and negating, letting out a laugh, going over the events of the past few minutes like a surreal dream sequence, “… successfully”, he repeated, convincing himself, "... what would we do without teenagers".

He looked back at him, placing a hand on his shoulder, "let's get out of here".

“… Hey, maybe that’s what happened to the mountaineers”, Luck suggested as they walked in silence, “got attacked by a wild Onix”.

“… To who?”, Falkner frowned.

“The ones you told me about”, Luck reminded him, “five mountaineers that went missing, maybe they encountered an Onix like us and didn’t make it out alive”.

“… Oh”, Falkner remembered, laughing, “oh, no, I made that up, Luck”, he confessed, chuckling, “to scare you into wanting to leave the cave”.

Luck blinked, frowning offended, “hey!”.

Once they picked up the pace again, both quiet in their efforts to believe that what had just happened actually happened, it wasn't long until they heard a familiar cry through the cavernous cave: it was Falkner's Pidgey!

It cheerfully flew back towards its trainer, startled by the change in appearance once it got close enough to see them, "don't worry, Pidgey", Falkner smiled at its confused stare as it looked both at him and Luck alternatively, "we ran into a... situation ".

Without further inquiry, it flew around them in circles and then set off in the path it had found towards the exit.

Quickly, Luck was in the presence of something he thought he would never see again: sunlight. He squinted, popping out of another hole in the wall as he covered his eyes with his hand, and he saw the striking green of the grass and trees from Route 46. He threw himself to the bed of soft, emerald blades, swearing he was to never enter another cave in his life as he gripped the ground, feeling the breeze and the dimming sunlight of the sunset wash over him, "we did it!", he cried out, "we're alive! ".

He turned, facing upwards at the sky, which was slowly turning a pale shade of lavender and orange, not wanting to peel his eyes away from the passing clouds as he was faced with the gruelling task before him: walking all the way back to Violet City.

"I swear I could sleep through the whole night just right here", he told Falkner, "go ahead without me, I just want to... not exist for a few hours".

Falkner chuckled, releasing Pidgeotto from its Pokéball, "come on, they're waiting for us back in Violet City", he smiled tiredly.

Luck turned his eyes to him, seeing him dab his Pokémon with the contents a hot pink spray can. The Pidgeotto stretched its wings, sore, but visibly better, and crooned as he patted its head, nibbling at his hand with its pinkish beak.

"Get up", he told the boy, "and grab a hold of Pidgey!", he instructed, standing suddenly still.

"Use fly!".

Pidgeotto elevated up into the air, soaring over Falkner's head and latching onto his shoulders, carrying him off the ground and up towards the sky.

" Woah! ", Luck exclaimed, amazed. He noticed then that Pidgey was flying in circles around his head, tweeting and chirping excitedly.

With a pained groan, the boy stood up, "... uh, okay”, he doubtfully paced, “how are we doing this?", he asked, but the Pokémon had already clung to his shoulders. He yelped as he was, suddenly, lifted off his feet, grabbing Seven with one arm and Pidgey's foot with the other, it's nails digging into his shirt and poking at his skin. With strength that he couldn't believe was hidden in the small Pokémon, he was carried away from Route 46, following the silhouette of Pidgeotto and the dangling gym leader.

He watched the trees get smaller and smaller, his legs swinging and swaying in the air, and he couldn't help but whine, scared, "holy... shit", he mouthed, distressed, air brushing against him as they battled it to fly forward, making his clothes wave like flags around a pole and his legs shake frantically.

"Luck!", he heard his name, and he raised his terrified eyes to Falkner, who was flying a bit in front of him, "stop moving around!".

He stopped kicking, letting his legs fall downwards laxly, swaying to the motions of their flying carrier. Luck gulped, looking down, "we're flying, Seven!", he giggled euphorically, feeling his insides churn, "we're... we're flying...". He shook his head, trying not to think about the possibly horrid list of things that could happen whilst being attached to a small, winged Pokémon.

He looked up and the Pidgey looked down, flashing him a calm smile. And so, he sighed, opting to enjoy the view.

Johto was a pretty, miniature model from up in the coulda: the trees were shiny splotches of evergreen, viridian and jade on a canvas that slowly rolled under him, appearing and disappearing before his eyes. Excitedly, he watched a city appear under his feet, and the speckles of pinks and whites revealed it as Cherrygrove City.

Once he got accustomed to the feeling of tiny claws digging into his shoulders, Luck's body relaxed, his sore muscles soothed by the spring breezes and feeling weightless by the lack of floor under his soles. He stretched his arms, caressing the low-hanging clouds of the indigo afternoon and breathing in the clean air of Tornadus' kingdom.


Maple was looking down at her PokéGear, the scent of a charged, black coffee keeping her senses awake as she sat in the Pokémon Centre's waiting room. She lifted her eyes as the doors run open, her gaze falling upon a particularly dirty teenager and his particularly dirty Cyndaquil.

She frowned, relieved for a second and confused in the next, "... Luck?".

"Oh, hi, Maple", Luck smiled, grateful at the sight of her face.

“… What on Earth happened to you?”.

From behind him also appeared a man, equally as covered in dirt and ash, whose dark blue eyes widened at the sight of her.

She returned back to her stoic expression, her jaw tensing slightly, "Falkner".

"Maple", his voice did not hide his surprise, and he exchanged a look with the man that was sitting beside her: his father, "I... didn't know you were back in town".

"I... haven't been for that long", she remarked, "couple of days, really, and not by my own accord".

Falkner's eyes went back to Luck, remembering Walker's words about him as he hurried forward to the reception desk, where a pink-haired nurse looked him up and down with a combined, polite smile of surprise and worry. “Right, you're with Luck", he mouthed, "... huh, you never struck me as the motherly kind".

"I... what leads you to believe that kid and I are related?!", she asked, bewildered, referring to both of the equally as puzzled men, "there can't be two people in this world that look more different than him and I!".

"I'm sorry, I just assumed!", Falkner apologised, raising his hands as a sign of peace, "it's just... well, a strange friendship dynamic to guess at first glance".

Maple fixed her coat, sitting with a straight posture and raising her chin, "we're not "friends" either, this is but a temporary agreement", she cut the conversation off, sipping from her white porcelain mug.

"... Nevertheless", Falkner rested his face, too tired to act tough and flashing her a soft smile, "I'm glad you're back. I was worried about you, having not heard anything from your end in years".

Maple couldn't respond, limiting herself to sharing his gaze for a brief moment before clearing her throat, "are you okay? You two look like you were dragged through the mud".

Falkner looked down at his attire, sighing and mouthing a curse under his breath, "yeah, these clothes are surely ruined", defeated, he chuckled, "I think I ought to go home after Pidgey and Pidgeotto are better, could really use a long, warm bath".

"Maple, you won't believe what happened in that cave", Luck's voice startled her as he came back, for it belonged to an ashen face and a head of hair that could've passed him as a Mareep any day, "we were walking, trying to find an exit after the tunnel caved in, when there was a wild Onix that attacked us! So, Seven and I, get this, started climbing it?! To be able to defeat it! And then...".

"A wild Onix attacked you in Dark Cave?", Walker inquired, shocked, "why, I've never heard of such a thing before...".

Maple tried to listen in to the conversation as Luck's nagging drilled into her head, unable to focus on either the sensible storytelling nor the comic book- action-fuelled, dramatised epic narration with mouth sound effects and hand gestures.

"It did seem to be distressed, though, which probably prompted the attack", Falkner pondered, taking a seat with a groan that evidenced his sore legs.

"Oh, yeah", Luck chimed in, "and there were these... like... things, flying around his face", he frowned, "purple ghost-ish figures, of sorts".

""Purple ghost-ish figures"?", Walker frowned.

Falkner grimaced, "it's hard to describe, really, but something was bothering that Onix. It wouldn't have attacked us otherwise, that I know. Trained Onix are hard to make good fighters of, let alone those in the wild. I've seen Hoppips more aggressive than them...".

He sighed heavily, letting his head fall down to the seat and his hair swipe off his head, revealing the parts of his forehead usually hidden behind a cerulean fringe, "I'm glad none of us got seriously hurt... but, I still wish I had managed to find that lost Pokémon", he lamented, "some poor trainer is now missing his Darumaka and all I was able to do was nearly get another trainer and I killed...".

"... Excuse me?". Beside them, in another sofa at the Pokémon Centre's waiting room, was a woman, who's eyes had been previously buried into a Pokémon magazine, and she softly called for their attention, "are you Falkner? The city's gym leader?".

Falkner turned to face the woman, her spotless, well-groomed appearance making him suddenly self-conscious of the state he was in, "yes, I am", he tried to fix his hair, "Falkner, Violet City's gym leader, at your service".

"Well, I didn't mean to overhear, but...", the woman fixed a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, embarrassedly, "I couldn't help but notice you were talking about a missing Pokémon, a Darumaka, in particular. Was this Darumaka talked about in a letter you received?", she asked, "addressed from a trainer named Keane?".

"... Yes", Falkner nodded, "is this your Darumaka? If that's the case, then, I assure you, I will go back to that cave and won't rest until I...".

"Oh, no", the woman smiled, "Amulet is not mine, she's my son's, Keane. He wrote that letter to you yesterday when we thought she got lost in the cave", she explained, "and, today... well, Amulet appeared at our doorstep, knocking on the door! As if she had never left! We thought you had rescued her, but just assumed you were a busy man, managing that gym of yours, and left before we even got the chance to thank you...!".

Falkner blinked, opening his mouth and trying to think of what to say, "... so", he reiterated, "you... got your Darumaka back?".

"Safe and sound!", the woman beamed, "my son and I would like to thank you, but... did you really not have a hand in this? At all?".

Falkner exchanged looks with the rest of the group, letting out an exasperated laugh.

In a matter of a couple of hours, Seven, Pidgey and Pidgeotto returned to their trainers, fresh-faced and with healed wounds. Pidgeotto was perched, gracefully, on Falkner's shoulder, glancing over the Pokémon Centre with a watchful eye, whilst Pidgey flew around the room at ankle level, chased by a cheerful Seven. Luck, however, couldn't be worse, and he had sunk into the couch with a pained expression, his ravaged hat barely holding on to his head.

Maple patted him on the shoulder, "let's go rest, kid", she groaned as she got up, stretching her back, "... but... a shower first, definitely”.

Luck complied, pulling himself up from his seat. Seven noticed it, stopping by his side as the Pidgey returned to its trainer, nuzzling its beak against his head. He turned around as they began walking towards the Centre's lodging quarters, flashing Falkner and Walker a tired smile, "see you later", he beamed, "and... sorry for getting myself in trouble".

"Luck! Wait up!".

Falkner approached him, fidgeting with something in his pocket. He looked briefly at Maple, who had purposefully avoided any form of goodbye and continued on walking. He huffed, turning to the boy, "I... well, I really couldn't let you go by without saying this", he began, "what you did back in that cave, it was... it's safe to say it's one of the stupidest things I've ever seen someone do".

Luck's face fell, ashamed, and he rubbed the back of his neck with an awkward chuckle.

"It was careless , short-sighted , incredibly dangerous, and it could have ended in both of us getting badly hurt ... and, even still, you saved us", Falkner laughed, "you saved us all!".

He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, whose face was suddenly bright with excitement.

"I... I can't even begin to comprehend how it is that you did it, but, you did, and I... I can't thank you enough for your courage and quick-thinking, and… wel, sheer luck, I guess", he dug his hand in his pocket, pulling out something hidden in his fist, "this isn't something I typically do... in fact, I've never done this before, but I can't think of a better way to show my gratitude".

He opened his hand, revealing a small, shiny, silver emblem in the shape of a hexagon. Luck's eyes widened, shining with the light that reflected off the metallic artifact, "... really?!", he mouthed, and Falkner nodded.

He took it in his hands, carefully examining the engraved wing design: it was the Zephyr Badge! The one from Falkner’s gym!

"You deserve it, Luck", Falkner reassured, "I couldn't make you battle me for it after saving mine and my Pokémon's lives".

"Thank you so much!", Luck cheered, embracing Falkner in a hug that both of their beaten-up bodies resented.

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter viii: Righteous Raikou

Violet City, spring of 2021

“… And then, once we were all back in the Pokémon Centre, Falkner came up to me and told me I was the bravest person he had ever met, can you believe that? Me! But it’s true, and he thanked me for saving his and his Pokémon’s lives by giving me this!”, Luck opened up one of the sides of his denim jacket with his hand in the pocket, revealing a shiny, silver emblem pinned to the inside, “the Zephyr Badge! My very first Johto gym badge!”, but his smile was perhaps even shinier than the piece of metal.

Luck's voice could be heard from almost everywhere in the Pokémon Centre, booming from the inside of a phone booth. He was enthusiastically talking to a flashing screen, and on it was the half-worried, half-amused face of his mother, who listened to the ins and outs of the events of the previous day with a cup of tea clenched between her hands.

“… That’s… certainly a tale to remember, dear”, she chuckled, unsure, looking at the plaster that rested on top of his round nose and the cuts and bruises on his hands, “I’m glad you’re having fun and creating invaluable experiences, and I’m trying not to worry about you as much… but, well, do try to be more careful, you two, yes?”, she smiled, tiredly, “for your mother”.

“Yes, ma”, Luck lied, “this was a one-time thing, I swear I won’t be riding any more Onix anytime son… or, er, any other equally dangerous Pokémon, that is. Right, Seven? We won’t, I promise”. Seven nodded, perched on his head and showing his right hand up to his trainer’s mother in signal of his word: no more riding dangerous Pokémon, no ma’am!

“Also, can you mail me another cap? I kind of destroyed mine”.

“Come on, kid”, Maple approached him, having returned the keys to their quarters at the Centre’s front desk and paid for what they had in the cafeteria (sure, it was Luck’s money, but the kid had just upped and left to make a call, leaving her his entire wallet as if it didn’t hold a big chunk of his parents’ life savings), “the sooner we get moving, the better. That way we can hopefully reach Goldenrod City by…”.

“Ah, hi there!”.

She froze, realising she had interrupted Luck’s call, and the person on the screen she guessed could only be his mother (well, it wasn’t that risky of a guess, really, as she would recognise that loud, big blond hair anywhere).

“… Maple, isn’t it? Martina Maple?”, the woman’s voice was soft and gentle, even through the grainy speaker’s of the Pokémon Centre phones.

“Oh, yeah!”, Luck grabbed Maple by the arm and pulled her into frame, her jaw tensing with annoyance and embarrassment, “this is my friend Maple! She’s helping me with my Pokémon training”.

“… Hello, Miss Lewis, how are you doing today?”, she gauchely greeted the digital image, fixing her glasses on the bridge of her nose, “I apologise for the state of your son today. I know I promised to keep an eye on him, but, yesterday, he just…”.

“It is not a problem, Miss Maple, really”, the blond woman smiled warmly, her eyes narrowing in the same way her child’s did, only hers were a lighter shade of blue, wisened up by the wrinkles that come with years of laughter and tears, “I know my Luck very well, and I don’t fault you for struggling to keep him out of trouble, I know I do myself!”, she giggled, “he is a teenager, after all”.

Her face relaxed, batting her eyelashes, and she pushed her golden hair back behind her shoulders, which were half- hidden under a woollen, pink boat-neck sweater, speckled with moles and freckles.

“And… please, call me Pina”.

“… Well, we’re off to Azalea Town now”, Luck broke the silence with an awkward mumble, frowning slightly, and Maple blinked, snapping out of the kindness-induced trance. Seven eyed Maple curiously, exchanging looks with her and the screen.

“… Right, we are leaving”, she cleared her throat, fixing her glasses once more, “I just left out keys at the desk, yes, that is what I was doing”.

“I’ll mail you some pictures from the next Center, ma, don’t forget about my cap!”, Luck waved at the screen.

“I won’t”, his mother beamed, waving softly herself, “I love you, Lucky boy! Take care! Love you too, Seven, don’t let him get into more trouble! And don’t forget to have fun!”.


As soon as Luck and Maple stepped out of the Pokémon Centre and into the cold air of the morning, greeted by the dormant silhouettes of old buildings and the whispering shades of pine trees and flower bushes, a figure dressed in black peered from around the corner: it was Walker.

“Hey, Walker!”, Luck greeted him enthusiastically, receiving a soft grin in return. Maple groaned lightly, miles away from the boy’s enthusiasm.

“Are you making a habit out of this?”, she sneered, crossing her arms.

“I would, but I know you won’t be staying long enough for that”, he retaliated, “you weren’t thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, were you?”.

“You know I hate goodbyes”.

Walker pulled out a hand he had hidden in the pocket of his thick, fleece coat, and placed it on her shoulder, “whether you like it or not, Maple, we love you, and we’re glad to have you back”, he stated sincerely, making her shift awkwardly, “Falkner sends his regards, he’s busy with the gym leader duties he postponed yesterday. But I didn’t want to let you go before I bid adieu”.

“… Well, it was nice to see you again”, Maple was cold, smiling in a way that looked more like a grimace than a smile, “it was good catching up with you”.

“… Don’t be a stranger, you’ve got my number”, Walker finally added, signing and giving up on getting anything more from the stoic woman. He flashed Luck a smile before sighing deeply, “take care of yourself, Maple, really, and don’t let time pass you by”.

They watched him walk away in the pale lavender of the morning. Maple’s eyes lingered on him, as if his words still clung in the air, orbiting her and her tired, brown irises.

“What a cool guy”, Luck beamed, breaking the spell, “I wonder where he’ll be off to next… anyways, let’s go! Azalea Town awaits!”.

Violet City was waking up as Luck and Maple’s footsteps wandered the empty streets like airy spirits. Windows began opening up, fishermen settled by the lake with their plastic cases and big buckets of chum, and silver, glass and wooden wind chimes sung alongside morning bird Pokémon, who poked their heads out of the trees and yawned at the clouds that covered the white sun of dawn.

“Azalea Town”, Luck read from his PokéNav, oblivious to the morning euphony in the sudden focus he kept, “”Where People and Pokémon Live in Happy Harmony!”, but, most importantly, where I will go and get my next badge: the Hive Badge!”.

“You seem pretty confident”, Maple raised an eyebrow, a gloomy, dark rain cloud next to the bouncing, jolly young trainer, “Falkner had you pretty shaken up”.

“Maple, I’ll have you know that I am actually very knowledgeable when it comes to Pokémon”, Luck began, “and I am, in fact, aware of the great edge I have over Bug-type Pokémon with my two Fire-types. Seven and I already wiped a yard-full of Weedles in one afternoon once without breaking a sweat, and that was days ago!”, he recalled. Seven, on his head, listened attentively, wondering why the story changed a little bit every time Luck recounted it, particularly when it came to the number of Weedles…

“Well, it’s good you know at least that”, Maple mumbled, “remember to not get overconfident… but, it is true that you would have to be the biggest idiot to flunk this battle…”, she remarked turning her eyes to him. After a few seconds, she pursed her lips, “… maybe do train a bit before the battle”.

Luck took a deep breath as he stepped out of the gate separating Violet City from Route 32; he could always taste the presence of the ocean in the air. The deep blue mirror called for his eyes, reminding him of home. Route 32 was a scenic, long, downwards path that stretched as far as Luck and Maple could see, connecting the calm Violet City to the small and buzzing Azalea Town, passing through the transited Union Cave.

Luck shuddered at the thought of another cave.

Maple was walking at the downtown pace of a busy city-dweller, whilst Luck and Seven strolled behind leisurely, taking in their surroundings one step at a time and thinking about how everywhere in Johto seemed so green that time of season.

Route 32 was sunny, and Johtonians gathered on its soft grass to enjoy the gleam of the sun in outdoorsy activities, mostly pretty picnics and shouty Pokémon battles. Luck watched, adamantly, as a pair of eager-faced youngsters battled, one with a Rattata, the other, with an Ekans. He stopped in his tracks to stare, and Seven followed along, fixating on the exchange of fast moves that made bolting sounds in the air.

“Use Wrap!”, a blue-haired girl in a green beret shouted, directing her long Pokémon and pointing towards the small, agile Rattata that bounced around the field, “try not to miss the little thing!”.

“Counter with Bite!”, her opponent, a girl in a mini skirt, retaliated, jumping around so as to not lose sight of her tiny Pokémon, clutching her hands together and bucking her feet backwards as she bounced.

Luck was intently observing their strategies, his eyes peeled at the display of moves from both remarkably fast Pokémon.

That’s why he didn’t notice when Seven’s gaze wandered off the battle.

A patch of moving grass caught the Cyndaquil’s attention. He tilted his head, wondering if it was only his imagination, and just when he was about to turn back to the Rattata/Ekans showdown, a large shadow bounced from one shrub to the other.

Seven jumped up, startled, and stared at the moving greenery, sniffling the air with his long, blue snout.

Out of the patch of grass he saw the faintest shade of blue: a thin, branch-like object that swam up and hid back down into the emerald sea.

Curious, but not wanting to distract Luck from the battle he seemed to be so enthralled with, he walked over to the tall grass, carefully seeking to see if he could catch a glimpse of whatever was hiding in there once more. He stepped into the shrubs, his eyesight covered by green, and stopped, lifting his face to sniff the air: it wasn’t as much of a scent that he was picking up, more so a slight tingle, as if breathing in television interference. It made the fur on his back stand, his senses sharpened by the dynamic particles that bounced around in the air.

Seven kept on walking, traversing the grass until he found himself out in the mowed, well-kept lawn carpet of the Route once more, this time, near to where he could see the waves of the sea ripple and crash. He breathed in the salty air, forgetting momentarily about what he was looking for to gape at the blue that extended for as far as his small eyes could see, making him feel exceptionally tiny.

He only remembered when he felt a presence stand behind him. He turned around, thinking Luck had caught up with him, but was met, instead, by a pair of sparkly eyes, shining cunningly like fiery, red opals.

Seven squealed, startled, for the eyes belonged to a Pokémon that towered before him like a sentinel, it’s figure blocking out the sun and releasing tiny shocks of lightning from its striped, yellow fur. Its face was a mere inches away from him, and he could admire its mythicality and poise, which made his legs weak with fear: it had a cross-shaped muzzle the colour of the spring sky, and surrounding his red eyes was a pewter-black faceplate, adorned with two bumps on his forehead and small, pointy ears. Two long, sharp fangs hung from his muzzle, both of them longer than both of Seven’s arms, and from its head grew a lavish, mauve mane, light and fluffy like stormy clouds, floating around him like a following ghost.

It studied Seven carefully, sniffling him, and he could but freeze, gaping at the huge entity that had just so silently materialised next to him, trying not to move an inch. Despite its imposing appearance, the formidable Pokémon seemed to only be curiously interested in tiny little Seven and not meaning to crush him under the weight of a single one of its paws, watching him and the horizon they shared with dilated pupils of contempt.

Seven shut his eyes tightly, finally mustering enough courage to ask the yellow giant a simple question of “who are you?”.

But no answer came, and as he, slowly, opened his eyes once more, he noticed it’s was gone, instead replaced by the rustling of a nearby grass patch.

A bumbling figure then emerged from the emerald green, and Seven had never felt so glad to see anyone else before.

“Seven! You little asshole, I told you I don’t like it when you run away like that…”, Luck begun, pushing the tall grass away from his path, “what are you even doing here…?”.

But he was interrupted by his Cyndaquil jumping on top of his head, nearly knocking them both down, “woah! Be careful there!…”, he stumbled, placing a hand on his Pokémon and noticing how startled he was, “…hey, buddy, you okay? Are… are you shaking?.”

Seven whimpered, holding on to Luck’s hair as he tried to pry him off to look at him, “What happened?“, he asked, worryingly raising the thrill of his voice as he couldn’t keep Seven from clinging to his scalp, whimpering like a terrified toddler.

The grass shook for the third time that morning, and Seven raised his face, falling suddenly dead silent. He pointed towards it with a shaky hand, warning Luck of the presence surrounding them. He raised an eyebrow, “what? Over there?”, he asked, and Seven nodded feverishly, hiding his eyes once more. ”What is it?”.

Luck began approaching the tall grass, but Seven stopped him with a scared cry, freezing them both in their places. The boy narrowed his eyes, suddenly nervous: what was hiding in that green void, and why did it scare Seven so much…?

“… H-hold on, right there!”.

Out from in between the tall blades erupted a bubbly individual, tripping over himself and with the words stuck in his tongue. It was just a… guy, with a large camera hanging from his neck and a pair of thin glasses perched on his round, wide nose.

The mysterious man stood up before Luck and Seven, slicking back his hair and fixing the tie around the collar of his shirt. He smiled, taking in a deep breath to regain his composure.

“… Good morning, Pokémon trainer”, he briefly referred to Luck, but before hecould answer anything, the strange you g man turned instead to the Pokémon on his head, pulling out a crinkly piece of paper from his pocket, unfolding it to reveal the picture of a great, feline Pokémon, “good morning, little Cyndaquil, did you, by any chance, happened to see a Pokémon that looked exactly like this one just not?”.

Seven inspected the photograph for a moment, and then confirmed his question with a soft hum.

The man then let out a low, airy cry, as if the air had been kicked out of his lungs by a low kick, and dropped the picture, which twirled in the air a couple of times, aiming towards the ground before being caught by Luck.

“… Oh, by Arceus”, the man muttered, scrambling about, as if desperately searching for something lost, “by Mew… by Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza…”.

“Dude, are you okay?”, Luck inquired, turning the photo around and inspecting it, “… hey, isn’t this that one electric Pokémon? … Uh…”.

“Why if it is Raikou, the righteous god of thunder”, the man turned sharply towards them, his steel-grey eyes shining with the bright light of passion behind the enlarging lenses of his glasses, “the Pokémon that contains the speed of lightning and the sheer power of the world’s storms in its unrelenting spirit. Whose roars send shock waves ablaze, shuddering through the air

and whose steps shake the ground, as if lightning bolts from the heavens were striking the Earth, one after the other. One of Johto’s legendary beasts, and the single entity to whom I’ve dedicated my soul and body to track, in hopes of, someday, encountering it and taking its photograph… and I’ve come close, oh, how I’ve come close! And today was one of those days where I saw the opportunity right in front of me and I let it go… slipped from my very hands, a cruel game of fate and chance, and I’ve been playing for a long, long time…”, he blinked, clearing his throat as he rubbed a hand through his forehead, noticing he was sweating, “the name’s Ello, by the way, member the Documentarians and Investigators Apropos of Legends Association; DIALGA, for short, glad to meet you, nevermind the unfortunate circumstances”, he extended his hand towards Seven, who curiously shook it, and then towards Luck, who hesitantly did so too.

“… Wait, so… Seven saw Raikou? ”, Luck asked, confused, and looked upwards towards his Pokémon, “did you see Raikou, buddy?”.

“Why, indeed he did”, Ello nodded, pulling out his PokéGear and showing Luck a digital image of a Johto map, a blinking icon with the shape of a Raikou’s face located just over Route 32, “I have been tracking it for the past few weeks, for it roams the country in patterns that are very hard to predict, narrowing down his location to this very route… but, I was too late”, he sighed, putting the device down, a single, astray auburn strand poking out of his slicked-back hair style, falling on his forehead, “and your Pokémon just so happened to be at the right place in the right time…”.

He lifted his face, flashing him a defeated smile, “all I could get were these photos”, he exclaimed, holding the camera hanging from his neck in his hands and showing the pictures in its memory to the boy and his Cyndaquil.

Luck tried to gage what he was supposed to be looking at, but the shots merely showed patches of blurry, green grass, spots of blue sky and the slightest silhouette of what appeared to be something’s tail…

“Well, I’m very sorry we spoiled your… encounter”, Luck apologised, rubbing the back of his neck, but the apology got stuck in his mouth as he raised his eyebrows, surprised: the man fell to the ground, now sitting with his legs sprawled open and his back hunched down.

“It’s okay”, he stated, but it clearly wasn’t, and his face was like that of the saddest Lillipup, “I just… need a minute to get over it, that’s all. Just a minute”.

Luck exchanged worries looks with Seven, who shrugged, the previous nervousness now gone from his face, wiped and replaced with compassionate pity. He looked down at the man: he could’ve never imagined people could be this… unhappy.

“… Uh… Is there anything we can do to help you?”, he tried. Ello's eyes were lost, seemingly, into the nothingness, and the neck of his jacket was all scrunched up around his neck, the sleeves damp with squishing grass under them.

“Unless you’re hiding the almighty Raikou in that bag of yours, there’s really nothing you can do”, he sighed heavily, his glasses falling to the tip of his nose, “I’m a… I’m just a lost cause”.

Luck cleared his throat, patting him on the shoulder, “hey, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of chances to see another legendary Pokémon, like… uh… Suicune! Isn’t Suicune around Ecruteak City? Or… man, what’s the other one’s name? I was never good at History…”.

“You don’t get it, Pokémon trainer”, the photographer lamented, raising his big, downcast eyes to him, “I’ve devoted my time, years of my life to tracking down Raikou. It’s… it’s what has kept me going for the better part of this decade, and I promised to one day capture its power and grace in a photograph, I’m a photographer, after all, I should be able to do at least that! And it is my duty as a member of DIALGA to make good on that promise… but… maybe I overestimated myself as a researcher, as a person , and… perhaps… perhaps I’m just not worthy enough to be in the presence of a god such as Raikou…”.

Luck took the PokéGear from the man’s hand, the screen still showing Johto’s map. The blinking icon of Raikou’s face was still right over them, on Route 32, “maybe Raikou isn’t even gone”, he suggested, positively, “I mean, Seven saw it just now, it could be… enjoying the view, or… brewing up storms, whatever Raikou does, still loitering around”.

“I don’t think so…”.

“What? It just stopped at Route 32 to say hello to a Cyndaquil and left?”, Luck crossed his arms, “I’m not an expert, but that doesn’t sound like legendary Pokémon activities to me at all”.

Ello fixed his glasses, slightly lifting his spirits, which manifested as the shimmering enthusiasm returning to his eyes, “… still, I… I would have to… look everywhere, at all times… I couldn’t possibly cover all of Route 32 before it disappears…”.

“Well, that’s where we come in”, Luck stuck out his chest, determined, and smiled brightly, pointing at the Pokémon perched on his head, “my Pokémon and I will help you search for Raikou, that way, we’ll cover more ground, and are less likely to lose it!”.

Ello picked himself up, wiping dirt and grass off his blazer jacket and pants. He fixed his glasses again, taking in a big breath, and smiled, more to himself than to Luck and Seven, “that… might just work, Pokémon trainer… if we’re extremely lucky”, he nodded, holding his hands together and thinking in silence.

He uttered to himself, planning a scheme inside his head, and managed to regain his excited demeanour, “by Arceus, we just might do this!“, he exclaimed, “come round! We must discuss all there is to be known about Raikou before we set out on this search! Here, let me start from the beginning: when Ecruteak City’s Tower burned down, about a century and a half ago, three Pokémon were stuck inside with no escape, rumoured to be Flareon, Vaporeon and Jolteon, which, upon burning with the mystical flames that engulfed the tower…”.

Maple’s eyes caught sight of a head of blond hair, “kid, I swear to all that’s good”, she grumbled, stomping towards him and through the clumps of tall grass”, you don’t stop wandering off like that I’m going to …”.

She stopped, having backtracked enough to recoup with the young trainer, but startled at suddenly finding him in company of an awkwardly lanky man that had erupted out of nowhere and who was dressed peculiarly polished, splashed with mud on his round face. She raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, Maple”, Luck and Seven greeted her with a short wave, “hey, guess what; Seven just saw Raikou”.

Maple crossed her arms, her eyes bouncing from one individual to another, trying to figure out the scene she had walked into, “… Raikou? The Legendary Pokémon”, she inquired sarcastically, “in the twenty minutes I wasn’t around?”.

Luck nodded happily.

“… Kid, you know I couldn’t care less about what’s going on in your life”, Maple sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose with annoyance, “you don’t have to lie to me about whatever nonsense you’re up to, but if you don’t get a move on we’re never getting to Goldenrod City and I’m possibly going to kill myself”.

A frown appeared on the boy’s face, “what? I’m not lying!”, he defended himself, “Seven really saw Raikou like ten minutes ago!”.

“What? Was Raikou taking its daily walk through Route 32? Was he running errands?”, Maple mocked.

“… Uh, not precisely, but, the answer might be shockingly close”, Ello answered for Luck, trying not to be an uncomfortable third and making himself heard in the conversation that had been previously ignoring his existence entirely,, “… Raikou it’s a roaming Pokémon, and I have tracked it’s patterns of movement around Johto down to this specific Route at this specific time, in hopes to meet it, of course… but, Seven the Cyndaquil sort of beat me to it”.

Maple turned to the man sharply, looking at him up and down: from the unsure smile, to his strange attire, to the camera dangling from his neck. He cleared his throat, shifting under her calculating gaze.

She narrowed her eyes, “I know your type”, she scorned, suddenly, “you wouldn’t happen to know a Eusine, would you?”.

“Why, of course I do”, Ello’s response came out strong and proud, as if this was a topic he was particularly confident to talk about, “I am a member of DIALGA, after all, Documentarians and Investigators Apropos…”.

“Yes, I’m aware of DIALGA”, she cut him off, her face not softening a bit, “you prancing pseudoscientist who swarm legendary and mythical Pokémon like mindless paparazzi”, she viciously stated, “I’ve had several run-ins with your peers before, and I wish I could say they were pleasant, or fruitful, at the very least”.

The young man was at a loss, shifting awkwardly and eyeing Luck, who stared at both of them, mouth agape and confused.

Maple’s nose scrunched up in disapproval, raising it, “well, it was nice to meet you”, she concluded coldly, turning to leave and head back on track to reach Azalea Town, “kid, come on, we don’t have all day”.

“…Wait! I told Ello I was gonna help him find Raikou!”, Luck explained, snapping out of his trance, “… since we kinda spoiled it for him and what not”.

Maple blinked, shaking her head, “what? Kid, we don’t… what do you even think you’re going to do?”, she chuckled sarcastically, “are you going to call Raikou up? Invite it for supper?”, she sneered, “challenge it to a battle and hurl Pokéballs at it until it decides to listen to a Pokémon Trainer not old enough to drive? Don’t be ridiculous, come on”.

We think it may actually still be around this Route, I’ll have you know”, Luck defended himself, ignoring her jabs. He dug inside his pocket and pulled out his wallet (an Indigo League souvenir which had seen many calendars fly away; its Pokéball emblem had started to fade off with them), extending it to Maple, “you can go ahead and book us a room at the Pokémon Centre, we’ll catch up with you in a bit”.

Maple stared at him indignantly, but, finally, took the wallet and began storming away, mouthing unintelligible but most likely obscene murmurs.

Ello stared at her back, releasing a nervous breath he had been holding on to, combing his hair back and shaking the nervousness Maple had instilled on him. “Was… was that your mum?”.

“Oh, no , and I thank all legendary Pokémon for that”, he chuckled, raising his eyebrows and shuddering at the thought, “Maple as my mother, man, could you imagine?”, he referred to Seven, shaking his head from side to side. “… Anyways”, he said after the moment died down, turning back to the photographer, “where do we start looking?”.

Turns out, Ello wasn’t kidding when he said he had been tracking Raikou closely for year . Luck crossed Route 32 with him until they came upon a spacious tent, set up in the rocky corner of a slope, surrounded by trees and funny-looking artefacts.

“Excuse the mess”, the photographer apologised as he stepped in, “these temporary accommodations are very practical… at the expense of luxury”.

But lacking luxury was perhaps a bit of an understatement; despite it being a sizeable tent, a single sleeping bag in disarray floated like a lonely island upon tides of books, gadgets and pictures that carpeted the floor and makeshift shelves and a foldable desk, over which rested a large map littered with pins and markers, scribbled over and stained with coffee.

Luck took a long look around, every inch on that tent hidinga different sort of interesting thing to look at. He reached forward and towards the desk as Ello shifted and searched for something inside a pair of black duffle bags. Luck grabbed a bunch of round enamel pins, each of them labelled “DIALGA” with bold capital letters, varying only in colour scheme.

“… What is DIALGA, anyways?”, he suddenly asked, making Ello stumble over himself.

“… Documentarians and Investigators Apropos of Legends Association”, he began, smiling, as he brought closer four different cameras, two of them hefty and ostentatious, and two of them smaller, digital devices, placing them on the desk, “was formed by Eusine in 2003. An association dedicated to discussing legendary and mythical Pokémon, and provide an enriching environment for Pokémon experts and researchers to theorise and discuss”.

“Are you a legendary Pokémon expert?”.

“Well, er…”, Ello blushed, “I guess we can say that, but I’m far from the most knowledgeable in DIALGA, no, not even close… you should meet Iqra for that, now that is what I’d call a proper legendary Pokémon expert… nevertheless, our job is to investigate everything legendary and mythical, from Pokémon history to patterns of movement of mythical and legendary Pokémon and their effects on people and our world, including natural and supernatural phenomena occurring every single day”, he puffed his chest proudly, just to let it deflate once more with a heavy sigh, “… I may know more than the average Joe about legendary Pokémon, but, at the end of the day… I’m a photographer, and despite having dedicated my best years to finding and photographing Raikou, I still haven’t gotten a single decent shot”, he fixed his glasses, smiling weakly, “… but I’m trying to not lose hope, because… DIALGA still has my back… I’m trying to hard…”.

“Why Raikou specifically, then?”, Luck took one of the cameras, pressing a red button to turn it on and watching the lenses focus itself, “if it’s so hard to find”, he turned the camera towards Seven, who had hopped on the desk, and he posed for it, squealing happily, “choose another one that’s not a “wandering Pokémon”, or whatever”.

A glimmering shine took over Ello’s grey eyes, “Pokémon Trainer, Raikou is the most majestic, graceful, intimidating yet beautiful beast I have ever seen. I don’t think you comprehend how big of a part he is of my life, both as a researcher and a person…”, he sighed, the story he was meaning to tell made him bubble in excitement and nostalgia, “my story with it began when I was just a kid. My mother gifted me my first camera the day I turned ten. All of my friends couldn’t wait and start their journeys as Pokémon trainers, barrelling down the streets to knock on Pokémon Professor’s laboratories… but battling wasn’t ever for me: I appreciated the innermost beauty in each and every Pokémon, and how I could capture it in such a way that their souls seemed to split in fragments, each kept in a photograph I would then treasure in my album”.

Ello approached the desk, fetching something hidden under the map, followed by Seven’s attentive stare: a chunky, worn-out notebook, its cover chastised by the passage of time but very clearly taken care of, having already been patched up and fixed on weak spots with tape and string. He flipped it open, revealing the first pages.

Amongst doodles, stickers and stamps were eight instantaneous photographs of aged appearance, each depicting small Pokémon frolicking in the grass.

“This was my passion, I discovered it”, Ello continued, looking fondly at the pictures, “I knew it was my calling the moment I had that old camera in my hands… but, even still, I never thought I would be a legendary Pokémon expert, not until I was in high school. My school took us on a field trip one day to Ecruteak City, and I decided to take a detour and explore the forest, camera in hand, aching got those backgrounds of fiery Autumnal trees”.

He skipped a few pages in the album until he landed on one about a quarter in. The pictures in those pages were brightly orange, often depicting Hoothoots, Noctowls and Pidgeys, still, perched on branched with leaves like ambers. However, one picture stuck out from the rest: it was blurry, a mesh of blues and oranges and as if Ello had taken it whilst falling down a cliff. In it, Luck could vaguely make out the shape of a Pokémon with a sharp, blue tail…

“I saw Raikou, with my own eyes”, he recounted, his face brimming with excitement, “… I… I saw it, and when I gazed upon those red eyes I felt its energy coursing through my veins, as if its mere presence electrified the air. And, when it saw me , it didn’t run away. Raikou stood in its place, sharing that moment with me, allowing me to be in its presence as if… as if it trusted me…”.

Ello got lost in his thoughts, snapping back after a few silent seconds, “by the time I took my camera out, it was gone, but the static in the threads of our world still lingered, I could taste it in the breeze… ever since that day I have not rested: I need to find Raikou, and I must take it’s picture… competently”.

He skipped to the last pages of his album, which, in contrast to the mostly clean, well-thought out display of photographs that predated them, were covered with countless pictures in disarray, each depicting blank landscapes, blurry action shots and shadows and corners of what could be a great yellow Pokémon if you squint at them and turned your head to the side.

Luck wasn’t the hardest person to impress, by any means, and you could probably gain his admiration by telling a simple story in legendary fashion. And so, that was exactly what happened, and his eyes shone bright at the sight of Ello and his tale, “we’ll help you find Raikou, Ello”, he asserted, pulling out Donut’s Pokéball from his belt.

“Donut, Seven and I will not rest until we’ve searched through every inch of Route 32!”.

The Houndour materialised in the middle of the tent, wagging her short tail at the sight of her beloved trainer. Seven greeted her enthusiastically, grabbing hold of Ello’s album and tilting it for her to see, excitedly filling her in on the adventure of the day.

Ello lent his digital cameras to the pair of Fire-type Pokémon: Seven took it in his hands, and Donut got it hanging from her neck, tensing at the touch of the photographer and making him take a step back, smiling apologetically. They looked at each other, gaping at the artefacts with interest.

Luck, in turn, got to keep one the more complicated, expensive professional cameras (funny for Ello to think he would be any less dangerous to it than the thumb-less creatures).

“You’ll be able to feel Raikou’s presence before you even come close to see it, so, be mindful of static in the air”, Ello mentioned, “it also really enjoys to hang around the tall grass most of the time, so, I’d spend more of my time looking there, and he’s hardly ever where a lot of people congregate, it prefers hiding spots and corners… ah, Pokémon trainer, you have no idea how much this means to me”, he seemed to be buzzing with excitement, barely able to stay still and fidgeting with his glasses, which he had taken off to wipe clean, “I’ve spent so much time trying to meet with Raikou that most people have just given up on me at this point, telling me I’m wasting my time chasing a legendary Pokémon who moves at the speed of lightning… but the sole reason I joined DIALGA in the first place was to explore this bond I feel that unites us, and I will not give up even if I’m at the brink of madness”.

Luck blinked, “… you’re welcome”, he smiled, sharing a look with Seven, “… we’ll for sure try our best!”.


Seven and Donut had taken to the northern part of Route 32. Turns out: big, muscly, scary Donut wasn’t yet confident enough to stroll around alone all willy-nilly, and her jaw clenched as she found herself away from Luck. Seven noticed this. He hadn’t quite forgotten about that first interaction with the Houndour, and he couldn’t deny that he sometimes flinched when she turned to look at him with a sudden movement… however, the sight of her little tail pointed towards the ground and her big, frightened eyes darting from one stranger to the other really did tug at his heartstrings, and so, he decided to stick by her, flashing her a smile of slightly faulty confidence.

And Donut put up no fight, lowering her head and following Seven, no questions asked, crouching behind him as if she didn’t double him in size. Trainers around them stopped to point them out, initially mellowing at the sight of Seven and “his cute, round cheeks” and “adorable stubby legs”, and then hurrying off when they caught a glimpse of Donut’s threateningly alert demeanour. Once they ventured into the tall grass, trainers got lesser and wild Pokémon started to appear more often, although they had almost the same reaction: every Rattata, Weedle and Sentret that even dare approach them would flee at the mere sight of the Dark-type Pokémon, which was a benefit Seven hadn’t counted with before. He always turned back, amused, when Donut’s looks made smaller Pokémon scurry off in fear, and she started catching up on that: the way he would giggle and praise her with amusement made her tail wag in excitement, and she beganmaking it a point to be as scary as possible whenever anyone stood in their way.

Somewhat having forgotten about the assignment in the first place, Seven and Donut hid in the grass, giggling as they waited for their victims to show their faces. Whether it would be a poor Rattata, Pidgey or Weedle, the moment it walked by the pair, Donut would jump out her hiding and startle them, making them run away with a squeal and leaving them behind, laughing and scheming for their next encounter.

This on time, however, someone startled the wicked pair instead, popping beside them in their grassy hiding spot with a yappy bark.

Donut winced, bouncing from her spot and landing a few feet away, and Seven’s back erupted in flames, making a ball out of himself by hiding his face under his arms. Donut blinked, breathing heavily, at that who had scared them so badly, having snuck up on them with quiet, quick footsteps: it was a quadrupedal, yellow Pokémon, static buzzing off its fur and sporting a sharp, bolt-shaped tail…

Donut’s ears perked up, her eyes going wide, and she called Seven with a single exclamation of “Raikou! Did we find Raikou?!”.

Seven popped his head back out and tilted it, looking at the Pokémon with his small, long eyes. It barked back at him, panting excitedly.

It was much… smaller than before, and surely less threatening: this Pokémon’s yellow-brown fur was covered by a bunch of fluff that made it look like a cream puff. Its legs were small and stubby, unlike its ears, which were big and pointy, flouncing with every movement and threatening to plop on its face and over its small, beady, green eyes. Around his neck, tied, was a band of violet-blue fabric.

It barked once more, a squeaky sound that resembled a rubber toy being squished. Seven looked over at Donut, unsure… well, it certainly was a rather electric Pokémon, and it was also definitely yellow. And if Raikou’s power was as great as Ello described it, then… it could surely shape-shift to its advantage! It made much sense!

Seven squealed with excitement, making small Raikou wag his tail, lowering his upper body and pointing his butt towards the sky, indicating that playtime had started. Donut shared a look with him and their newly found yellow friend, figuring legendary Pokémon were much less menacing and much more playful than they imagined…

Seven grabbed hold of his camera, pointing it towards Raikou and snapping a picture with an audible click. Raikou, in turn, yapped, pouncing on the Fire-type Pokémon and taking the camera between his slobbery jaws. Seven huffed, baffled for a moment, and then cried out in reproach as he was stripped from his camera, trying to get it back but finding his arms were far too short. Raikou toyed with him, waging his bolt-shaped tail like lightning amongst a fat, grey cloud, hopping around with his stubby legs with the device hanging from his mouth before breaking out in a speedy run, leaving the pair behind. Seven panicked, beginning to run behind him but soon seeing himself outsped. It was only logical, anyways; how could a Cyndaquil ever outspeed a beastly legendary Pokémon?

And so, he watched him get away, disappearing into the tall grass and taking Ello’s camera with him…

Until Seven felt himself getting swooped off his feet. He yelped, flinging his arms into the air, and closed his eyes shut, the ground beneath him disappearing. But as soon as he was off the floor, he was back on it again, except, this time, the floor was the furry back of a black Pokémon. He opened his eyes: he was riding Donut! Galloping through Route 32 clinging to her back and neck like the Jolticks poking out of Raikou’s behind. Seven nervously lowered his head, clutching Donut with all of his might. But she turned her face to him for the briefest moment, flashing him a confident smile that allowed him to shake off a bit of his scare.

He raised his nose from between the Houndour’s small ears, noticing how truly fast they were going.

Soon, Raikou’s panting could be heard once more, and Seven was shocked to see that they had started catching up to him. He knew Donut had to be fast, for her legs alone were taller than he was in his entirety, but he never imagined she was that fast (say, as fast as the god of lightning!).

He felt the spring air running through his fur, the sun peeking and hiding behind white cumulus spotting the grass with shadows and lights. He saw the occasional Rattata and Weedle left behind in their way, the sky sprinkled with the greens and magentas of airborne Hoppips and Skiplooms like lazy zeppelins as light as cotton balls.

Donut stretched her neck; Raikou had been getting closer and closer, it’s lightning bolt tail now straying closer and closer. She opened her jaws, taking one final lunge forward and clasping the god between them. She took a mouthful of yellow fur, stopping in her tracks, ripping several blades of grass from the ground with her big paws. Raikou was now hanging from the Houndour’s mouth, happily panting with a lost look of clueless fun. He let go of the camera, quickly apologising to Seven as he got down from Donut’s back to pick it up, wiping saliva, mud and grass off its surface.

Seven smiled at him doubtfully, a smile that turned into a disgusted grimace, as Donut released him. Raikou’s spirit seemed unfazed by the speedy run, still bouncing around them and barking, exclaiming about playing and “getting lost” and “doing it again”.

The Cyndaquil looked over at Donut, surprisingly finding that her tail was wagging along the other’s, entertained by the yappy little guy. Seven raised his eyebrows, smiling amusedly, and released a chuckle as he pounced on him once more, covering his face in slobber that felt strangely fizzy.


“So, does everyone in DIALGA study legendary Pokémon?”, Luck asked Ello as they exited the tent together, watching Donut and Seven walk away up Route 32, losing themselves in the tall grass.

“Precisely”, Ello explained, “although not scientists, we’ve each devoted our lives to field studies and researching legendary and mythical creatures, trying to comprehend the mystical, spiritual and scientific equally”, he smiled, although it faltered as a thought came to his head, “… er… if you don’t mind me asking… your… friend , who is she? I’m not sure why, but, she looks strangely familiar…”.

“… Oh, Maple? ”, Luck recalled, stretching his arms up and groaning lazily, “someone I met in Route 30 that’s helping me train to gain gym badges. She’s a… uh … well, she knows a bit about Pokémon battles, and…”.

He pursed his lips, noticing he hadn’t asked himself that question before, although it seemed very obvious: who the hell was Maple?

“It’s just… she holds an opinion of DIALGA that’s very prevalent in the scientific community”, Ello proceeded, noticing Luck’s lack of information, “just because we lack the fancy degrees and the expensive labs, they discredit us as “foolish paparazzi” and “annoying hobbyists””, annoyed, he marked the quotation marks in the air with his fingers, his frown slightly soured by the concept, “of which we are none, and I can guarantee you we most likely know more about these Pokémon from experience alone than most small-minded people in lab coats playing with PokéDexes and test tubes…”.

Ello seemed to notice he had worked himself up. He looked briefly at the boy and cleared his throat, “… we’re… different kinds of people, I suppose”, he chuckled, tiredly, “scientists forget about the humanity of it all, sometimes; DIALGA researchers have formed unimaginable bonds with these unimaginable creatures, and it’s all because we know that, behind the data and facts and intimidating amounts of history and power, they still hold the same capabilities of knowledge, emotion, and willpower that Uxie, Mespirit and Azlef gifted all creatures on Earth, including us. So, at the end of the day, we’re really not that different to them…”.

“… Well, Maple isn’t a scientist. I think she’s just an ass”, Luck shrugged, “…and, hey, if it’s worth something: I don’t think you’re a “prancing pseudo…”, whatever she said”, he smiled reassuringly, giving him a pat on theback, “you’re clearly a very smart legendary Pokémon Expert”.

Ello cheesed, hiding his blushing by fixing his glasses on his nose, “… thank you… heh, it’s been a while since I’ve heard that” he chuckled sadly, “it’s just that, lately, I’ve been feeling more like a failure than ever. I’m a Pokémon photographer, I’ve been so for decades, and there’s only been one Pokémon I’ve been chasing ‘round like crazy… and I haven’t been able to get even one decent action shot”.

“That changes now!”, Luck suggested positively, lifting his camera up and walking away from the photographer, “we’re finding that sucker right now, you and I, whether it likes it or not!”.

“Yeah…”, Ello raised his voice as Luck walked away into the grass, watching him walk away with interest, “… and, don’t call Raikou a sucker!”.

Luck now felt weird walking around without the weight of Seven resting on his head, particularly when wandering into the tall grass. He had always heard it was dangerous, but, he figured a couple Rattatas and Pidgeys couldn’t really do that much harm.

He had to decline several battle challenges from young, fresh-faced trainers around the Route. He had to insist he let his Pokémon go take a stroll around out of their Pokéballs for a few minutes, for most of them demanded he showed them his clear lack of filled Pokéballs in his belt and bag (he hadn’t realised yet that those habits, although learnt from his mother from a young age, were not the norm amongst most Pokémon trainers) before leaving him go along in his way.

“Heh, well, it’s just me now…”, he had resorted to talking to himself after the first ten minutes. He was never that good at focusing on a task, nor was he at being bored, “finding Raikou, a legendary Pokémon… sounds simple enough, right, Sev…?”.

He had grown increasingly uneasy. The weight of his belt felt strangely light on his hips, and the tall grass grew taller and more menacing around him, trapping him amongst its green tentacles and darkening his sight. He traversed south until he saw the rocky silhouette of Union Cave, hidden behind trees and ledges. He sighed, frustrated, and tried to pay attention to the shadows and intricacies of the spring landscape before him for the faintest spot of yellow and purple.

However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that… someone, or something, was watching him.

He occasionally turned his head around, but what he saw behind him was always the same, sunny Route carved between hills and pines, never the bothersome, invisible eyes that dug themselves into the back of his neck.

He clicked his teeth, turning his face back to his task, before doing it once more a couple of seconds later.

That was that, until something, which distracted him from the weird feeling entirely, poked its nose out from the grass, sniffling the air with a quick, whiskered-nose; a spot of yellow and purple.

Luck’s eyes went wide, but his eyebrows soon furrowed: that… couldn’t be Raikou… well, Raikou just couldn’t be smaller than Seven , no way!

He knelt before the creature, analysing it with interest as its eyes met his. Luck tilted his head, “… huh, hello there”, he remarked, amused, “who are you?

He pulled out his Pokédex, although no new entry was created: that before him, was a Rattata.

But a Rattata unlike those he had ever seen before, for its fur was yellow, and its big, sharp eyes were a striking shade of violet brightly.

Luck reached into his bag and pulled out a piece of what was leftover from his jelly donuts, handing it to the peculiar Rattata, who took it in its hands and began sniffing it interestedly. Carefully, he pointed his camera at it, framing it carefully and snapping a picture.

“… It’s no Raikou, but I’m sure Ello will be impressed”, he said to himself, “… this is one weird ass Rattata!”.

He heard a giggle behind his back, and, this time, when he turned around, he was able to catch the shadow of a small, green silhouette with the corner of his eye, flying away before he could even call out for it.

He frowned, looking around himself trying to spot his stalker, when a couple droplets of water grazed his nose, light as dandelion spores.

Luck looked up, noticing the sky was a pale shade of gainsboro gray.

By the time he had walked back to Ello’s tent, the sky was crying bullets. The clouds had cooped up into a thick quilt of blacks and silvers, and the wind shook the cones off the pines and the daisies off the grass. He was covering himself with his jacket, soaked from head to toe.

The tent’s thick fabric was barely enough to keep his head from being pounded by heavy raindrops. He shook his head like a sopping Arcanine, his long hair now longer, darker when wet.

He searched around the Route landscape of watercolour splotches of greys, greens and forget-me-not blue, narrowing his eyes at a few patches of moving tall grass, announcing the approach of two creatures like sharks in muddy waters: it was Donut and Seven!

“Seven!”, Luck cried out, waving his hands, as the Pokémon whimpered and struggled through the big bog that had been created under the heavy precipitation. Seven’s snout parted through the green sea, and behind him, the great shadow of hefty Donut, dripping from all ends of her short, black fur. Seven cried out in relief as he, finally, found his trainer in the middle of the downpour.

Accompanying them, however, was another, happy-go-lucky individual, who, in contrast with the Fire-types, bounced around energetically in the rain, playing and trying to catch the droplets with its mouth; an excited Pokémon with long, pointy ears and bright, yellow fur. “Who… what?”, Luck tried to ask, but shook his head, “doesn’t matter”.

He withdrew Donut into her Pokéball and threw his jacket on his Cyndaquil, who disappeared under the dampened denim. He picked him up, holding him like a wrapped newborn baby. The small, yellow Pokémon yapped at him, running around his feet, “okay there”, Luck giggled, jumping from one foot to the other as it pounced on his shoes, “at least you’re enjoying this weather… woah, it’s so strange: just a couple hours ago the day was so bright…”.

Luck looked around once more, expecting to see Ello barrelling back at any minute, soaked, the lenses of his glasses splashed with iridescent speckles of water, his neatly slicked back hair dripping over his face…

But he never came, and the storm only got louder and louder, the sky cracking up with sharp, whipping bolts of white.

“… Maybe he found cover somewhere else”, he mumbled to the Pokémon, his bottom lip quivering slightly, now cold under the tent’s cover. He hugged Seven close to his body, “… yeah, most likely”.

Thunder interrupted his thoughts every couple of seconds: booming sound waves that split the Earth in two and made the very ground shake. A heart-stopping warning of what’s yet to come, the grand roar of a beastly creature…

Beastly creature …”, Luck thought, and his eyes went wide.

Could this be Raikou’s doing?

He abandoned the cover of the tent once more, calling out for Ello, his voice squashed under the sound of the wind like the wet grass under the soles of his soaked sneakers, washed away with the rain water. “Ello? Can you hear me?!”, he shouted, placing his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice made small by the storm’s chants, “did you do it? Is this Raikou!”.

The yellow Pokémon then barked. Luck turned to it, noticing it wasn’t looking at him, but upwards. He followed the gaze of its beady, green eyes up a tall hill, climbing through its rocky ledges and grassy stumps to the top, where the silhouette of a man standing over the Route opened his arms to the sky.

He couldn’t really tell from a distance… but there was no reason to doubt it: that had to be Ello, whose jacket flew in the wind like a flag wrapped around its pole. Luck raised his eyebrows, his hair flowing backwards against the wind, and narrowed his eyes in an attempt to figureout what he was doing, “Ello!”, he shouted, accompanied by the canine’s yaps, “What… what are you doing?!”. But it was futile.

He saw him take a forceful step back, seemingly pushed by the violent smacks of static-charged wind. Luck worried the lanky man was going to blow away, but Ello held on, one arm covering his eyes and one still open to his side, inviting, challenging, and at its end he was holding a small object he could only guess was a camera.

The thunder got rowdier and the lightning, brighter. The sky was furious at Ello, and clouds seemed to swirl around his spot on the hill. Now, Luck worried the man was about to be struck by the sharp bolts like a flesh-and-bone lightning rod.

And, perhaps he was, but not in the way that he expected. At some point, the clouds surrounding Ello got so heavy and charged with light that they materialised into a solid, breathing being, and, surrounded by energy, the head of a beast was painted with shards of electrified ice and photons. A beast with fangs that could break through mountains, and eyes that showered Ello in red glimmer. Luck gasped silently, fumbling with himself until he managed to pull out his PokéDex, whose screen reacted to the energy in the air by glitching and blinking repeatedly: “Raikou, the Thunder Pokémon: it embodies the speed of lightning. The roars of this Pokémon send shock waves shuddering through the air and shake the ground as if lightning bolts had come crashing down”.

Man and Pokémon stood before each other, and Luck was in the presence of the culmination of a dream. Luck was in the presence of a god, and he felt a chill down to his bones.

Ello pulled himself together, bringing both hands to his camera and snapping a picture. Luck heard him shout, a roar that might’ve just paralleled the strength of the thunderous lightning, and, then, he collapsed to his knees.


Luck was waiting in the tent, sitting on the ground and covered by his wet jacket, eyes frozen on a downwards stare as the events of the past hours played in his head, which was still dripping. Seven was beside him, shivering despite being wrapped in a towel Luck had managed to forage from in between Ello’s mess, breathing hot embers into his hands in an attempt to warm himself back up. Surprisingly, the yellow Pokémon had stuck around them, and was now happily sniffing everything he could find, wagging his tail and barking every now and again with neverending energy.

The door zipped open and the three of them turned their heads to it: Ello stepped in, looking as though he had been caught in the midst of a tornado, but smiling a smile brighter than the sun in the sky, which had wafted away the vicious storm and replaced it with an enjoyable warmth before any of them even had the chance to dry up.

Luck locked eyes with him, and couldn’t help but smile too, “did you…”.

Yes ”, Ello interrupted him, his knees wobbling slightly, “yes, I did”.

Luck stood up, reaching for him and extending his hand up. Ello went to shake it, but the boy smacked them together in a high-five, “way to go!”, he cheered, making a gesture of victory with his fist, “I knew you had it in you! Can I see the picture? It looked insane even from a distance!”.

Ello laughed, nodding, and grabbed the camera that was hanging from his neck, booting it up. After a few tries, its screen stopped glitching, and he was able to inspect the memory, “… is it gonna do that everytime now?”, Luck asked, slightly worried.

“Probably”, Ello dismissed it, nothing staining his bright humour at that point, exhuming enthusiasm through his very pores, “here you go”.

Luck bit his cheek. The picture… well, it was mostly covered in yellow light, speckled with lines where the camera failed to withstand the static in the air, and exceptionally grainy, nevermind the visible water that clung on to the lenses…

But, the subject was undeniably Raikou, and he could clearly make out the entirety of its face and it’s gleaming, red eyes.

Luck looked up, looking to find the slightest hint of disappointment in the photographer’s eyes, but hit by the sight of who was possibly the happiest man alive.

“I… I can’t believe I did it”, he muttered, forgetting Luck was even there, “after all this time, I… I met Raikou… I met the god of thunder!”, he placed his eyes on the boy, grinning warmly and clutching his shoulders, giving him ab involuntarily string shake,“th… thank you, thank you, Pokémon Trainer!”.

“Me?”, he laughed, “I hardly did anything!”.

But the photographer shook his head, this time not noticing his glasses falling to the tip of his nose, “you did more than you could ever imagine”, he explained, his voice cracking in the depths of his throat, followed by a stream of tears that hid amongst the raindrops already embroidered on his face, “you reminded me of why I started doing this in the first place… How… how it could all go wrong and, still, if I just hold on to this passion… if I just… trust, then, someone’s going to believe in me, like my mother once did. And you were that someone today, when I needed it the most… a… a total stranger, a total stranger! A kid, who would’ve thought!”.

Luck blinked, surprised, and smiled nervously, “well”, he rubbed the back of his head, flustered, “it… was hard to imagine someone with your kind of mind giving up… I just, wanted you to keep being this excited about photography, because it made me excited, too!”.

Ello sobbed.

Seven jumped on Luck’s head, taking a look into the camera. He frowned, mouthing to his trainer.

“What’s that, Seven?”, Luck hummed as Ello wiped tears off his round cheeks, trying to keep himself together, “yeah, that’s Raikou, pretty cool, huh?”.

Seven cried, pointing towards the back of the tent and taking both of their gazes to the yellow Pokémon that had been following them for a bit now, and which was now chewing on an empty can of soda.

“… Wait, Seven, you’re saying this is Raikou?”, Luck inquired, making Seven nod. The boy giggled, “I… uh, buddy, I’m not sure about that one”.

Ello chuckled, choking back tears, “… although it is impressive you managed to find one in Johto, and I really appreciate the effort”, he began through a stuffy nose, “Seven, this is a Yamper”.
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Chapter ix: Small town, big Pokémon

Guy Orion

Guy (!)
New Bark Town
Pokémon Opal
Chapter ix: Small town, big Pokémon
Azalea Town, spring of 2021

Luck squinted at the glare of the evening: they had finally made it!

He released a tired, relieved sigh, raising his muddied face towards the sky, “thank you!”, he exclaimed, to whoever might be listening, “thank you, Arceus, for the sky and the grass! Thank you for allowing me to see them one more day! Thank you for not creating the world inside a musky, damp, nasty cave!”.

Luck and his two (well, three) Pokémon had managed to walk through Union Cave without him passing out. He didn’t get into any battles, or anything, but still, he needed Donut out of her Pokéball. Obviously, he said it was for her to “not miss the incredible landscapes” hidden inside a small, connective cave, and it was totally not for emotional support and she totally didn’t have to place her forehead on his hand to guide him as he shut his eyes close from time to time.

The few people commuting between Violet City and Azalea town eyed the loud boy, weirded out, some hurrying off and avoiding eye contact and some slowing down as circled around him, sharing looks and mutters of worry as Luck kept praising all there was to praise for getting him out of the cave without having to fist-fight any other angry Onix. Seven, on his head, patted him reassuringly, and Donut put two paws on his back, wagging her tail, joining in the celebration. Also, and as the last tale recounts, there was another Pokémon joining the party: a Yamper! Being held in Luck’s arms and panting happily, occasionally breaking his lost, clueless stare into the nothingness to bark or lick the grateful boy’s chin.

However, and as they melodramatically exited the cave, his ears had perked up, listening to the air and sniffling. After a few seconds, he barked once and jumped, sprinting off and away from Luck.

“... Can… can I not have a single moment of peace?!”, the boy lamented, “Yamper!”, he groaned loudly, clenching his eyes shut for a second before running behind the Yamper, followed by Donut, who was prepared to dash and catch him again if needed.

“Hey, Yamper, wait up!”, he called, tiredly, “I haven’t put you in a Pokéball yet!”.

But the Yamper wasn’t playfully running away this time, and he seemed to have an objective; the thing he was running towards turned out to be a small, young girl, sitting under the shadow of a hefty tree near Azalea Town’s entrance and a couple steps away from the famous Slowpoke Well. She lifted her face up as she heard an agitated, staticky ball of energy dashing towards her, revealing a pair of tear-stained, pink cheeks . “… H-Honey?”, she doubtfully mumbled, frowning confusedly. The Yamper threw himself on her, landing on her open arms and snuggling into her woollen sweater. She blinked, smiling incredulously, “... Honey! Oh… oh my, I can’t believe it’s you! It’s really you!”, she hiccuped, choking back tears, shutting her eyes tightly and chuckling into the Pokémon’s yellow fur as he licked her face clean, “I… I thought…”.

Luck stopped running a few steps before her, watching the scene unfold as he tried to catch his breath, “… huh, so I guess it is weird to see a wild Yamper in Johto”, he told Seven, who shortly hummed in realisation.

The girl turned to him, her dark, ginger hair dishevelled under a red and green, plaid beret, wiping tears away from her cheeks before addressing him with a mopey, yet lilting brogue, “oh, hello”; she smiled weakly, “s-sorry, I… didn’t see you there…”, she tried to regain her composure, her hands slightly trembly.

“Hey, no worries”, Luck smiled awkwardly, raising his hands up, “are you… Yamper’s trainer?”.

“I am”, she sniffled, smiling at him with soft, kind eyes, “did you bring him back to me?”.

“Uh… I guess we could say that, yeah”, Luck turned towards his Pokémon with a smile, hanging a medal on his neck under their judging gaze, “… he did kinda just dragged us all over”, he opted to confess, laughing awkwardly.

But the girl, as she stood up, roped him into a tight hug, “ guh rev mah a-giv”, she sing-songy mumbled, “thank you so much!”. The trainer cheered through overjoyed sobs, squishing the boy, who barely managed to keep his footing, Seven precariously balancing on his head. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without my darling Honey, I’ll… I’ll remember this, I’ll remember you, forever!”.

She buried her face in his shoulder and let go, fixing up her clothing with a new, bright, determined look on her soft, freckled face, wiping the last trails of snot from her nose and mouth. She appeared to be around his same age, maybe even younger, and definitely a dedicated Pokémon trainer. Luck remembered the panic that had invaded him that moment where he thought Seven was lost, so he was very glad he could help.

The Yamper, Honey, barked up at him, wagging his tail. Seven climbed down his trainer, landing on the grass next to the elated Yamper. He smiled and patted him on the head, receiving, in turn, a face-full of fizzy saliva and a tackle that pushed him down to the ground.

Donut grabbed Honey by the fur on the back of his neck, lifting him up like a cub off of Seven and down to the ground once more, nuzzling his head with hers. Seven stood up, mouthing his goodbyes through a pained groan as he wiped himself free from goo. Honey’s trainer wept once more, startling Luck, “they’re… they’re mates!”, she exclaimed, moved to tears, her voice cracking, “oh, that’s just too cute!”.

After the very emotional, mushy goodbyes came to an end, two trainers wished each other good fortune in their travels, one excitedly setting off to continue exploring the foreign region, the other, hurrying off to the Pokémon Centre to take a much-needed break (and gobble down whatever he could find in the cafeteria), now carrying with a little gifted Sweet Heart, hidden in crinkly, gold wrapping.

Quite a frequent client of the Pokémon Centre Luck was now. The nurses had carefully replaced the bandages on his reddened, flustered face, softly scolding him for not being careful enough, and he now sat on a table at the cafeteria, chewing down on a sandwich, considering signing up for one of those novelty Pokémon Centre Rewards digital widgets for his PokéGear.

That was, until a familiar trill shook him out of his thoughts. “Long time no see, misfortune!”.

He turned towards the voice, choking with his food at the sight of a choppy bob of blond and green hair, accompanied by a face he knew almost as good as his own. “Woah, and misfortune indeed. What the hell happened to your face?”.

“Lorelei!”, Luck exclaimed through a cough, swallowing his bite of food and watching her sit down at his table, “w-what are you doing here?!”.

“Do you even have to ask?”, she raised an eyebrow, taking out a small, chromed case from one of the pockets of her bag, flashing its contents at him. There, sparkling like polished jewels, were two gym badges; one of them Luck knew very well, but the other, a red, ladybug emblem, he recognized as the enticing Bugsy’s Hive Badge.

“No way, you already beat Bugsy?”, he gasped. Lorelei put away her badge case with a smug smirk, “of course I did, didn’t even break a sweat”. The wisenheimer clicked her teeth, looking down at him with her nose up in the air, “and I assume you haven’t. Not that I’m surprised”.

He rolled her eyes, “I literally just got here, like, thirty minutes ago”.

“I guess we could say I’m way ahead of you”, Lorelei stretched her arms behind her head, ignoring him in a jokingly pompous fashion, “and I’m surely gonna become champion before you, and then you’re never gonna be able to beat me! ”.

“Yeah? Oh, okay, let’s have a battle right now, then..!”.

“Luck!”. Another voice, soft, like a mouthful of ice cream after a particularly spicy dish, reached the quarrelling pair alongside the face of another friend, this one, smiling, bright like the morning sun, “hi! I knew you were bound to catch up at some point!”.

Lilly came up to him, wrapping his head into a hug before sitting down, too, next to Lorelei, who chuckled victoriously at managing to work the boy up, just as she always did. Lilly placed her hefty baggage on the table. She had recently upgraded to a hiking bag, and she slumped it down with her hands to be able to look at her friends over it, fixing her round-rimmed glasses. “Where’s your Cyndaquil? Is he healing?”.

“… Yeah, he is”, Luck answered happily, glaring at Lorelei as he took another mouthful from his lunch, “ ‘s name Seven now, by the way”.

“Seven?”, Lorelei’s eyebrow was up in the air once more, but, before the joke could come out, Lilly giggled, “that’s so cute! I’m glad you finally came up with a name. I’ll have you know that it’s been proven naming helps strengthen the bonds between Pokémon partners even further, something interesting about interpersonal Pokémon-trainer relationships” she smiled, and Lorelei opted for just shrugging.

Lilly slouched on her seat, releasing a tired exhale, “Hammer is also resting. We just had our battle with Bugsy, and he really excelled: a clean, solo, Totodile sweep! … Heh, not to brag, or anything, but I did spend a lot of time perfecting a rough version of the Ice Beam Technical Machine to teach him so that he could take on Scyther all by himself. Granted, a Rock-type move would’ve been more ideal, but Ice was more than enough this time…”.

Luck listened to about five words of her sentence, “you beat Bugsy already too!?”, he asked, floored.

Lilly closed her mouth, eyeing Lorelei, “… yes”, she smiled apologetically, “sorry, I thought you had as well.

Lorelei’s smile was sneering and sharp, and Luck narrowed her eyes at her, “… no, we haven’t… yet. But, we will, as soon as we’re out of this place!”, he reassured, flashing a confident, defiant smile, “because I not only have Seven now, I’ll have you know. On Route 30 I also caught a Houndour ”, he smiled proudly, putting emphasis on the Pokémon’s name.

Lorelei’s face betrayed her, revealing her shock, but Lilly was quicker to voice her surprise, “a Houndour? On Route 30?”, she inquired, interested, “I’ve never heard of that before”.

“No, she’s pretty rare and unique”, he bragged, crossing his arms and leaning back on his chair, “I’ve just been smoking trainers left and right, up and down, cruising the Routes with my eyes closed. Everyone’s just so afraid of her I immediately have an upper hand in every battle!”.

“That’s an awesome find, Luck!”, Lilly, elated, congratulated him sincerely, “I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Houndour before. It’s not the safest Pokémon to seek out for investigation, as they usually move in packs and can be quite the threat for the average trainer, but I’ve always found them unequivocally adorable!”.

“Well, you’ll meet her, but do know that she’s in no way “adorable” ”, Luck told her severely, “just.. try not to run away in fear; she is very imposing, and I don’t think you two have ever seen a Pokémon this terrifying before in your lives…”.

“Luck? Luck for Seven and Donut!”. A sweet voice rang through the cafeteria: the nurse at the desk of the Pokémon Centre called for Luck with a melodious tone, interrupting his train of thought.

He closed his mouth and cleared his throat, awkwardly getting up with a chuckle and a “… heh, that’s me” , to receive his healed Pokémon.

“Thank you for waiting”, the woman mellowed, Seven and Donut being wielded into the room on metallic stretchers by humming, waddling Chanseys, “we've restored your Pokémon to full health. Please, come back again any time!”.

Donut’s effusiveness when it came to reuniting with her trainer was always unmatched, and she hopped off the stretcher and straight into his arms. Luck was getting used to it, though, so, this time, they didn’t drop to the ground, and he caught the big canine like a massive, slobbery toddler, “... easy there, bud”, he smiled with a pained grunt, bouncing her a couple of times as if cradling a baby, “glad you’re feeling better now!”.

Seven was also excited to see him, and he was thrilled to be back at his spot on top of the boy’s head. Luck felt his warm belly as he laid down, fitting him like a fuzzy hat.

“Is that your imposing Pokémon?”, Lorelei asked from across the building, Luck flashing her an annoyed side-eye.

“Don’t listen to her, Donut”, he put her down, rubbing her head and face one more time, “you’re very scary and powerful, I promise”.

Donut tilted her head.

“Hello, Seven!”, Lilly smiled as Luck went back to their table, noticing Lorelei had already snatched what was left of his sandwich, “you look very much stronger than last time”.

Seven smiled, humming back happily as Lilly reached to pet him. Donut, however, at the sight of other trainers, hid behind Luck’s chair, her ears pressed to her head and tail, static, frozen in the air, alert. Lilly pursed her lips at her, her frown slightly furrowing with sympathy, “so… this one’s Donut”, she said, softly.

Luck placed a gentle hand on his Pokémon’s head, “yeah. Maple thinks she must’ve been abandoned around Route 30, you know, because they’re not usually there, and all, so… that’s why she’s kinda afraid of other people”.

“That’s fucked”, Lorelei chimed in, severe, “I can’t believe people are capable of doing such things”. The blond kids seemed to agree on something for once.

“It’s a shame. Being a trainer is such a marvel of the modern world, and it really sucks that those who don’t truly understand Pokémon take advantage of that, and they use them as… disposable… destruction machines! It’s an interesting phenomenon, human morality, and battling often pushes these limits of ethics and compassion when it's carried out by horrible people like that”, Lilly sighed, “… anyways, who’s Maple?”.

Luck’s eyes went wide, “oh! Of course!”, he placed a hand on his forehead, “you haven’t met Maple yet! She’s a friend, I also met her on Route 30”. He turned to Donut, whispering “you were a way better encounter tho”, before turning back, “she’s pretty rude most of the time, and annoying, as well, old, too, but… eh, I still like her. She’s helping me train for my gym badges and I’m helping her… get to Goldenrod City, I guess”.

“I thought you wanted to go through your journey by yourself”, Lilly frowned confusedly.

“Yeah, you could’ve just said you didn’t like us”, Lorelei raised an eyebrow, jokingly recalling the time where they had asked Luck (and by they , it means Lorelei excitedly chatting with Luck about their soon-to-be journeys next to Lilly, who was trying her hardest to pay attention in class during school hours) if he wanted to join them in their Pokémon journey.

“Well, yeah, I did want to go by myself, but… it’s a bit harder than I thought”, he smiled guiltily, “... besides, Maple told me we’ll go our separate ways once we reach Goldenrod City”. He snatched his sandwich back from Lorelei, cramming the last bit inside his mouth despite her protests, “... she also told me we’re not friends, but I think she’s lying… you should come along and meet her! I do have to look for her, though, because we got separated in Route 32. Oh! About that! Guess which Pokémon Seven met in Route 32! Spoiler alert, it’s Raikou, as in, the legendary Pokémon…”.

Azalea Town, at first sight, was somewhat similar to Luck’s quaint, quiet New Bark Town: green, small and spotted with red and blue-roofed houses like square, identical blooms in the spring grass, scattered around hills and surrounded by a thick forest of tall pines and robust oaks.

There was one major difference, however, and that major difference was a daunting mound of bricks and glass, standing in one of the town’s corners like an intimidating, dormant giant, the next step in Luck’s journey towards the championship: the Ázalea Town gym, and it populated the town’s streets with fresh-faced, hopeful trainers and spots of colour in the shapes of powerful, healthy Pokémon. He wondered what New Bark Town would be like if it had a gym of its own…

“Scared?”, Lorelei startled him, talking into his ear as they walked, side to side, through the airy city of whistles.

“You wish”, he scoffed, fixing the neck of his jean jacket, pointing upwards and towards the small, round Cyndaquil that sat on his head, looking around with wonder-filled, small eyes, “you see this? This is a Bug-slaying machine if there ever was one. Bugsy won’t even know what hit him”.

“Hey, Luck”, Lilly called from under a paper braid floppy hat, “do you know where this friend of yours is?”. Her eyes were focused on a paper map in her hands, skimming through it and trying not to wrinkle it too much.

“… I don’t know, somewhere around here, probably”, Luck answered absentmindedly, looking down at Lilly’s cumbersome map and not hearing Lorelei mouthing “duh” beside him, “why do you carry that around, anyways? Don’t you have a PokéGear?”.

“Oh, yeah, but I just find cartography so fascinating”, she smiled excitedly, “there’s so much character in every map, so much style. Digital gadgets might be practical, but they would never replace the charm of a paper…”.

Lilly’s words got lost in the air as she took a tumble, stumbling over herself almost falling to the grass. “Woah, there”, Lorelei exclaimed, grabbing hold of her arm, “careful!”.

“What even…”, Lilly muttered, regaining her balance and fixing her hat. She looked down at her feet, noticing that that which had tripped her seemed to be a great, roundish, brightly-coloured sack of sand…

“Woah, a Slowpoke!”, Luck pointed out, kneeling beside the supposed sack of sand, which was, actually, a lazy, pink creature, “I heard this place was popular because of these guys”.

The Slowpoked raised its face towards Luck. He had always found them curiously charming: their rounded, beige muzzles had wide jaws, which gave them a permanent, goofy smile of tiny white teeth. It focused its blank, clueless eyes on him, blinking slowly and yawning, its belly flat on the ground with its legs sprawled at his sides. With its long, tapering tail down behind it, it was quite the long obstacle.

Seven jumped off his head to land near the other Pokémon, cheerfully saying hello and receiving not much more than a dragging smile and a low hum. Luck pulled out his PokéDex: “Slowpoke, the Dopey Pokémon. It catches prey by dipping its tail in water at the side of a river. But it often forgets what it is doing and spends entire days just loafing at water's edge”.

“Hey, I know someone that reminds me of you”, Lorelei spoke to the Pokémon, kneeling, too, beside Luck and patting its head. The boy glared at her.

“I’m glad the town’s Rangers managed to get the poaching problem under control”, Lilly smiled endearingly, looking around. The pink Pokémon loitered the town’s landscape like fleshy, slow-crawling flowers, and she wondered how distracted she truly was to miss them. “These guys aren’t very smart, in most senses of the word, making them a huge target for illegal hunting. Oftentimes, poachers took their tails without them even noticing, for their ability to sense pain and danger is one of the lowest in all the Pokémon kingdom…”.

“I’m gonna catch it”, Lorelei exclaimed, having heard about half of what she said.

“Not if I catch it first”, Luck retaliated, having heard about a fourth.

The two blond trainers scattered to pull out Pokéballs from their bags, watched by their tired friend and the oblivious, pink Pokémon, whose tail Seven was now attempting to lift, proving to be extremely heavy.

Luck wrapped his fingers around an empty Pokéball, pulling it out with a triumphant grin and watching it simmer red under the sun.

Lorelei chuckled dismissively, “yeah, good luck with that”, she mocked, pulling out a Pokéball of her own, only this one was a deep shade of aquamarine, its top half adorned with protuberant black bands, as if encased by a net. Luck gaped at it, “woah, why does yours look weird?”.

“It’s a Net Ball, I got it from a merchant at Violet City”, she remarked, proudly, “it’s catch rate is almost quadrupled when used on a Water-type”. She clicked the button that separated the different-coloured halves, watching it grow in size, “bet you haven’t even bought Great balls”, she sneered, “don’t worry, I’ll let you visit Slowpoke from time to time”.

Luck frowned, determined, “yeah, well, you’d need a Masterball to be able to beat me, because I’m going to catch this Slowpoke even if I have to beat you up myself for it”, he turned to his Cyndaquil, “Seven, use Tackle!”.

Hah, Achillea, go!”, Lorelei also pulled out her own Pokémon’s Pokéball. Luck expected her speedy, spry Chikorita to materialise before their eyes. But, instead, the silhouette of red light grew bigger and taller, almost as tall as Luck himself. His eyes went wide as the Pokémon before him let out a cry. Achillea seemed to have been stretched and furnished since the last time he saw him: his body was yellow and plump, and his neck was now long, sporting around it a collar of curved, green leaves. The leaf on his head was longer and sharper like a sword’s blade, but his face kept the same look of big, red eyes and round snout, toughened with determination by a fierce frown.

“Woah, your Chikorita evolved!”, Luck pointed out, unable to hide his enthusiasm.

“Correct”, she giggled, “say goodbye to Slowpoke!”.

“Oh, we’ll see..!”, Luck mouthed.

Their stares would’ve dug pits in the half-asleep, pink Pokémon, if Lilly hadn’t raised her hands towards both of them, snapping her fingers before their Pokémon could attack.

“Hey, big-shots”, she called, “did you not hear what I said?”.

Her two friends stared at her, “… Azalea Town Slowpokes are now protected by Pokémon rangers ”. Lilly gave them a severe look, but Lorelei and Luck only shared a confused gaze between each other, still clutching their Pokéballs up in the air.

“… Which means that people can’t hunt them for their tails, nor can trainers catch them for battling”, she explained, “guys, we learned about this in Biology last year, remember? Ecology and conservation? “When a species is declared protected by rangers, Pokémon trainers are not allowed to catch them, which helps regulate populations…””.

Luck groaned, cutting her off when he realised what she was trying to say “... man, that stinks…”, he put the Pokéball back in his bag, sighing, “bummer, you would’ve been an incredible Pokémon, Slowpoke”.

“… Yeah, if I were the one to catch you”, Lorelei interrupted him, placing a hand on the Pokémon’s head, “if Luck had managed to catch you might’ve just dodged a bullet”.

“No, it would’ve…”.

The sound of the bickering was now the accompanying orchestra to young Lilly’s thoughts. The breeze ruffled her tight, black curls, and she held on to her hat as an idea illuminated her face, “oh, yeah!”, she snapped the two blond boomboxes back into a civilised conversation, “Luck, do you want to buy your own Net Balls?”.

“Sure!”, the boy sprung upwards, forgetting about the Slowpoke debacle the moment another interesting thing appeared before his eyes.

“Mr. Kurt’s house is not far from here. He’s a prolific Pokéball artisan who still uses apricots to craft Pokémon-trapping devices almost indistinguishable from those made in factories. My dad is a huge fan of his work… frankly, most Pokéball collectors are. I think we can pay him a quick visit, it is one of the town’s biggest landmarks for visiting Pokémon trainers”.

“Any help Luck can get with catching Pokémon is great”, Lorelei chimed in, having said goodbye to the dopey Pokémon.

“Oh yeah? Where are your other Pokémon then”, Luck turned to her and stated, accusingly, “as far as I know, you only have one Pokémon, and I have two…”.

Lilly pulled the bickering pair by their arms, moving the group forward as they continued arguing aimlessly. Seven, on Luck’s head, admired the Bayleef that now followed them, stroking his ego and making him raise his sharp, green leaf up into the air.

Azalea Town truly was a sunny place. It was surprising to see that many people populating such a tiny town, and the air that traversed it seemed to be charged with an energetic, revitalising feeling of hope, painting townsfolk faces with tenacity. However, the cheerful buzz was left behind as they found their way to Kurt’s house: a quiet, wooden cabin hidden in a forest clearing and at the top of a hill, surrounded by ledges and tall pine trees, kept away from the busiest part of the town where the vibrant chatter was replaced by the sound of spring breezes wafting through glass wind-chimes, and the tittering of bird Pokémon. The curtains were drawn and the door was locked, and the only indication of the house being inhabited was the column of light-gray smoke escaping from the brick chimney.

The three teenagers and the two Pokémon stood before it, gazing up the hill. Lilly turned to Luck, egging him on with a head gesture.

“… What?”, he inquired, “should I just… knock?”.

“... Yeah,”, Lilly nodded, shrugging, “… I guess”.

“… I… uh, I thought he would have, like… I don’t know, a Pokéball store, maybe?”, he eyed the silent cabin, unsure. Seven agreed with him with a confused squeal, hanging from his shoulder, “I didn’t think we would go to his… straight-up house”.

“Come on, since when are you scared of being annoying?”, Lorelei nagged, her Bayleef playfully shoving him forward, “go on, knock”.

Luck glared at her, but turned towards the cabin, taking in a deep breath. “… Yeah, what’s the worst that could happen? Right, Seven?”, he asked his Pokémon, shrugging with a nervous smile, “and we could get so many cool Pokéballs… a Masterball, could you imagine? I’ve never even seen one in real life… I wonder what apricot he would need for that, though…”.

Luck walked uphill. Now closer to the cabin, he could make out the faint sound of chatter from the inside. A tone and pace that sounded… strangely recognisable.

He knocked, holding his hands behind his back and pursing his lips.

“… I’ll be just a moment”, he heard, right before the door’s lock twisted and the face of an older man dressed in a blue, cotton kimono robe appeared in front of him, furrowing his thick, bushy eyebrows and looking at the boy up and down.

“Yes?”, he asked, rather harshly, his bob of grey hair tied at the back of his head and out of his face, revealing the deep wrinkles that soured his frown.

Luck gulped, letting out a startled chuckle, “…uh… hi”, he began, nervously, “are you Kurt? I heard this is the place where…”.

Luck’s words trailed off as his eyes peered around the man’s silhouette, noticing that there was another individual inside the cabin, sitting at the kitchen table. Luck raised his eyebrows, his face softening up with familiarity, “oh, hi, Maple!”, he smiled, waving enthusiastically.

Maple turned her head sharply, her eyes widening as he saw the dopey boy at the door, waving at her like a toddler spotting their parent at a school dance, “… kid?”.

Kurt shot Luck a confused gaze, turning back to look at her, and pointing at him with his thumb, “you know this boy, Professor?”.

“… “Professor” ?”, Luck frowned.

Maple’s pupils went small, her face suddenly painted of startled horror. She shot up her chair and flew to the door, snatching it away from Kurt’s grip, “you’ll excuse us, kid, we’re… uh, busy”, she muttered, panicked, and slammed the door in his face, ushering the man away until the cabin was dead silent.

Luck stared at the closed door, blinking blankly. The wooden plank before him didn’t mutter another sound, and, once more, the cabin didn’t give a sign of life, even the smoke at the chimney petering out, leaving them still in the calm, pink evening. “… Huh…”, he muttered, confused, and clenched his hands together, “that was… weird, right? Seven?”.

His Pokémon agreed, tapping on the door as if he was to make sure they really had been locked out.

Luck cleared his throat, looking around awkwardly before walking back to where Lorelei and Lilly waited.

“… What happened?”, Lilly frowned, making the boy rub the back of his neck.

“Uh… er, good news and bad news”, he started, smiling, unsure, “good news: I… found Maple!”.

“… Your friend?”, Lorelei inquired, making him nod, “... well, where is she?”.

“That’s… the bad news”, he chuckled embarrasedly, “she uh… she was in there with Kurt, and kind of… sort of… slammed the door in my face”.

Lorelei raised an eyebrow, looking at him sternly. But as the silence between them grew longer, the corners of her mouth then curled up slightly, and she snorted with laughter as she shared a look with Achillea, who also found the situation comical. Luck rolled his eyes, “oh, shut up, both of you”.

Lilly smiled, but shook her head to and spoke to him, seriously and softly, “what? Why?”.

“I don’t know!”, Luck raised his hands, letting them fall to his sides with a smack, “she just didn’t want to see me yet, I suppose… they… they were talking very secretively, too, so I don’t think they would’ve let anyone in, even if it wasn’t me… and I also think he called her…”.

“Quite some “friend” you got yourself, Luck”, Lorelei mocked, pitying with a faux sympathetic smile, “can’t even stand to be in the same room as you! Not that I blame her, anyways…”.

“Yeah, laugh it up, Lorelei”, Luck glared at her, “Maple is just busy right now, you’ll see when you get to meet her, she and I are actually the bestest of friends…”.

“Shame we didn’t get to see Kurt”, Lilly ignored them, sighing in defeat, “I wanted to send my dad a picture. And he’s still missing an aluminium gray Heavy Ball for his collection”.

“Don’t worry, Lilly, I’m sure we can come back”, Lorelei comforted her, “Luck’s gonna be stuck here for a while, anyways, trying to get his second badge”, she mocked him in a mutter, receiving a scornful look from her friend. “… Yo, Luck!”, her face brightened, taking a step backwards, “race you to Bugsy’s Gym!”.

And with that, she dashed off, her footsteps muffled by the squishy layer of spring grass and dirt that covered Azalea Town, laughing under the bright colours of the nascent sunset and besides her quadrupedal, leafy partner. A shout followed her, alongside a bouncing cloud of golden hair and a blue-beige rodent with a flaming back.

Lilly sighed, fixing her hat and calmly trailing along.
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