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Pokémon Pokemon: Legendary Adventures (The Journey Begins)

chapter 1/Authors notes

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
PokemonLegendaryAdventuresLogoWhiteBG.jpg
artcredit: Hawkosa
Instagram/Deviantart
[Hawkosa's art is absolutely incredible to me, for one key reason. He has a talent for being able to replicate a wide, wide variety of different art styles, ranging from DBZ, Sailor Moon, comic, cartoon styles, and even more 'realistic' sketches. What you see on their Instagram/Deviantart is just a small fraction of what I know he is capable of. I commission almost all my art from him. His prices are also fair and I simply can't help but praise his work, considering I'm very happy with the results! Check him out!]

Summary:
Koamaru's dream is to be the first to capture a legendary pokemon. He has his journey through Sinnoh all planned out, along with the Perfect Team. Until he ends up with a Zubat as his starter. With his Perfect Plan seemingly ruined, he's left with a single question - What does it mean to be a great pokemon trainer?

Fanfiction.net
Preface:
This story is designed to be a vanilla classic journey story centering on an OC of my own creation. I have spent a fair amount of time browsing fanfics, but one thing that always saddened me was the lack of OC-centric stories. Many of the recent top reviewed ones were self-inserts, isekai type stuff, or featured heavy canon characters. As good as they were, I wanted a simple story set in-universe. So I had no choice but to write my own, lol.
Legendary Adventures features an original main character and an original plot. While certain elements from the anime/games/movies will play a role, the plot itself is not based on anything but my own design. It is intended to emulate a feel similar to the anime. Lots of adventure and friendship stuff. Expect episodic tales, but with a little bit more gravitas than the anime sometimes affords. Universe logic is also primarily anime based.

Feedback:
All feedback and advice is appreciated! I also would love that even if you can't leave a review, a quick shout on the discord or react on the chapter makes me smile if you're reading. I also freely admit I'm a sensitive bean so if you point out positives as well as negatives it makes my heart happy.
However

This story is already 175k+ words written, and my current focus is on completion, not editing. Therefore, when reviewing older chapters, I have a preference for:
  • Temperature reads
  • Small scale, specific actionable tweaks
    These in particular are helpful, as I intend to try and 'tighten the screws' so speak, so if you can offer insight this way that would be most helpful!!
  • Minor grammar edits
  • Meme-y garbage!!
I definitely still accept other feedback, but I doubt I will be able to implement it for a long time so I wouldn't want you as the reviewer to feel like you wasted time. For newer chapters, feel free to give broad strokes critiques on things like character, grammar, plot beats, themes and honestly whatever.

Disclaimer: This story is meant to be similar to the anime, with a few sprinkles of game logic. It is a classic badge collection adventure. World logic is mostly like the anime so if you have any problems, take it up with the anime, because that's where I get most of it from. I'm not really trying to explore aspects of pokemon rights politics or ethics. While I appreciate the interest in the topic, that's not my cuppa tea. Just think of it a bit like another story set in the anime-verse :cool:.
Although that said, I do take some liberties with other aspects of worldbuilding. I try to find new ways to explore the ideas already present.
Enough rambling from me now, onto the story!

an_unplanned_pokemon_by_hawkosa_ddyvhbv-pre.jpg


Just one week left. Koa crossed off today's date on his wall calendar. He flipped to next month's page, June. The 3rd had been circled in red, along with a message from his cousin that read "Don't slack Little K." Koa rolled his eyes at the nickname. In one week he would turn fourteen, which was the minimum age to apply for a Trainers license in Sinnoh.

He glanced down at his watch. 6:05. Grabbing his worn but much loved jacket off a chair, he swung on his backpack and jogged downstairs.

The faint murmur of the TV echoed through the living room. His cousin was sprawled on the couch in front of it, fast asleep. He walked over and shook him awake. "Hey Blake, I'm going out."

Blake grunted and sat up, yawning. "Good morning to you too, Koa. Take Absol with you. He needs the exercise." Putting his fingers to his lips, he whistled. Toenails clicked against the wooden floors, and a moment later an Absol emerged from a hallway. When he spotted Koa, he trotted over and nuzzled his hand.

Koa rubbed Absol's head vigorously, eliciting a pleased rumble from him. "Nice to see you too. Ready for a little exercise?"

Absol barked eagerly.

"You're never that happy to see me..." Blake muttered to the Absol, his tone playfully bitter. Absol sniffed and turned his back on Blake before walking towards the door. Koa grinned and followed. Blake sat up. "Oh! I nearly forgot. Be back by 8:30."

"Why?"

"Because I said so." Blake replied, smirking. The smirk softened to a fond smile. "It's a surprise."

Koa nodded in acknowledgment and hurried for the door. There was little point in trying to pry any more information out of Blake. He was too stubborn to give out anything.

"Hey!" his cousin called sharply. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

Koa paused, his hand on the door handle, and cringed. "What?"

Blake left the room a moment and came back holding a Great Ball in one hand and a baton in the other. "Tsk tsk. You should always carry your pokemon's pokeball with you. And something to defend yourself."

Koa rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah." His cousin tended to be paranoid, in his opinion. Most pokemon wouldn't attack humans or seriously harm them. Only the angriest or most territorial pokemon would. And even then, humans were tough. Although he supposed it could come in handy if he ran into any an He tucked Absol's pokeball into his pocket.

A rush of salty air greeted him as he stepped outside. Closing the door behind him, he drew in a deep breath of familiar ocean air. The simple gray buildings of his hometown, Canalave, rose all around him. He began his usual routine, starting with a few basic warm-ups.

Avian cries broke the quiet morning as a flock of Pidgey and Starly landed a few feet away, watching with expectant gazes. He grinned and waved, then pulled out the pack of seeds he always kept with him, tossing them a few. The birds descended upon them, pecking them up in the blink of an eye. They shrieked and bobbed their heads in their own version of 'thank you' before flying off.

Once he finished stretching, he broke into a jog, heading north. Absol bounded alongside him, keeping pace easily as he wove through the town. Lately, he’d altered his morning jog to carve through the city instead of heading straight to the outskirts. With the day fast approaching when he would set out on his journey as a trainer, there was no telling when he’d return to Canalave.

As he crossed near the beach, a pang of nostalgia struck him. He’d miss this city. His gaze shifted to his left, to the only two-story building in town. Or rather, he’d miss one specific building. The library. Ever since the day his cousin had first introduced him to the concept of unlimited free books, he'd been hooked. Most of his spare time had been spent in those walls, reading, researching, and making small talk with the librarian. She'd been the one to introduce him to the section on legendaries, with its well-loved couch and beanbag chairs. Mythology and legends became his escape from all his fears and worries.

When he was young, the section used to be filled with kids his age. They would all dream about the ones they wanted to see, which ones were cooler, and who was the strongest. They would pretend to have epic battles and write silly stories about legends. But as the years had gone by, he soon found himself alone on the couch, his only company a scruffy plush of Mew. While everyone else moved on from their ‘legendary phase’, as adults deemed it, he couldn’t. He didn't have anything else, so his love never once wavered.

History and legends spoke of ancient trainers who befriended the powerful beings. Earned their respect and trust through the honored art of battle, or through acts of valor. League winners and gym trainers didn’t make history. They were remembered for a season until someone else came along. But those trainers? That was something no one could forget. If he could build his team and battle a legend, then he could make his own history. One that belonged to him and his pokemon and no one else.

With renewed vigor, Koa quickened his pace, jogging back inland. He left the city through the west gate and followed a worn dirt path into the woods. The sparse trees thickened until the path was nearly invisible, and his surroundings darkened, the faint dawn light barely penetrating the leafy canopy. Absol darted in and out of the trees, moving like a shadow.

Despite the lack of distinct markers, he jogged swiftly through the brush navigating with an ease born of familiarity. Finally, he stopped in front of a tree that was taller than the others. Root like vines wrapped around its trunk and spiraled upwards, forming a web-like tangle near the crown of the tree. Absol stopped at the tree's base, then stretched and yawned, curling up for a quick nap.

"Don't get too comfy," he declared with a grin. Dropping his backpack onto the ground, he held up his watch and switched it to the stopwatch mode, then pressed the start button. Taking a half step back, he lunged forwards and grabbed hold of the tree, securing his feet against one of the vines. Then he began to climb. He moved swiftly as he could, taking care to secure his hold before moving upwards. No need for a repeat of last month's accident. If he got injured now, he might have to postpone getting his trainer's license.

He shimmied up the tree, his movements more an afterthought than anything else. Before he knew it, he’d pulled himself into the crown of the tree. Pulling out his stopwatch, he hit pause. 1:47.

"Woohoo!”

A startled Hoothoot glared reproachfully at him before flying away.

The Trainer's License exam featured a rock wall that he had to climb in 3:00 or under. If he could climb a tree in less time, he was sure to pass that part. Of course, climbing the wall was far from difficult, but he always liked to see if he could one-up himself. While a lot of trainers he spoke to dreamed of challenging the League, he had an entirely different goal. He dreamed of becoming an explorer. Trekking across the wilds, with nothing but his wits and a strong team at his side. Sighing, he leaned back in the tree and closed his eyes, giving his aching limbs a rest. His thoughts circled back to his perfect team.

'A Comprehensive Guide to the Trainer’s Journey', a book which he basically swore by, described how a trainer's first pokemon was the key to their journey. The ‘starter’, as the term had been coined, was representative of what kind of trainer one was, and could become. Cynthia and Garchomp, Lance and Dratini, Steven and Metagross.

Koa and Luxray.

He grinned at the thought. First, he'd catch a Shinx. They were cool, powerful, and intelligent. Then a Starly. Unassuming in their first stage, but absolute powerhouses when they evolved. Then a Gyarados, a Garchomp, a Nidoking and a Hitmontop. Or Hitmonlee. He hadn’t decided on that bit yet. And of course, a fossil pokemon. Perhaps a Bastiodon, like Canalve’s gym leader used. Together, they covered a lot of common weaknesses and types. A team like that could take on a legend. A team like that would be remembered.

After several minutes of daydreaming, he sat up, then shimmied down the tree. If he wanted to make it home in time for whatever Blake had planned, he had to leave now.

By the time he reached Canalave's west gate, the sun had risen well above the horizon. He glanced down at his watch. 8:19. Not bad.

As he approached his house, he spotted his cousin standing outside, waiting. Absol trotted to Blake's side and sat down.

Blake waved. "How'd the training go?"

Koa grinned, the memory of his earlier triumph still fresh in his mind. "Great! I beat my time. I think I'm ready."

Blake grinned proudly. "Good job. I hope you're not too tired though."

"Why? What did you need me to do?"

"I have a few books and some research notes I want you to take to Professor Rowan. I was going to just mail it, but I figured you'd like the chance to see him again. He's going to be in Jubilife City this week for a special teaching session at the Trainer's School."

Koa's grin grew as his cousin spoke. "Sick!" he exclaimed, pumping his fist in the air. Professor Rowan was a close friend of his cousin, who was a Pokemon researcher. He'd met the Professor a few years back and immediately grew close to him. It seemed as if Rowan had a never-ending wealth of knowledge, and with his help, he'd learned a great deal about pokemon. "Thanks, cousin!” He paused. “That’s gonna be a pretty long walk though...” he mused, almost to himself. “At least five days, accounting for travel time. There’s no way I could-”

"Oh, you won’t be walking.” Blake gestured to his bike, which leaned against the side of the house. He flashed a broad smile. “You can borrow my bike to get there. It'll cut down your travel time."

“Yes!” Koa grinned widely. The trip would be cinch by bike. He started towards it, then froze midstep. "Wait! What about work?" A note of panic slipped into his voice. "I work today and tomorrow-"

"Relax, Little K." Blake chuckled. "I already cleared everything with your manager. You're good to go for the next week."

Koa beamed and grabbed the bike. "Thanks!"

Blake held up his hand. "Be careful with that bike. They aren't cheap, you know," he said. "Take route 218 straight there. I'm guessing you already have enough basic supplies in your backpack?"

Koa nodded impatiently. Ever since he started training for the trainer's exam, he got in the habit of keeping a backpack of necessities- first aid kit, map, a knife, clothing, a sleeping bag, tent, and rope. Not to mention the baton he always kept at his side, although he abhorred the thought of having to use it. "Of course. Besides, this is a quick three-day trip, not a wilderness excursion."

"Good. You should be able to make it there by the morning after tomorrow if you keep a steady pace. I recommended resting at the Ranger's Lodge before you cross the bridge. And don’t rush! It's not a good idea to cross the bridge after dark. You can get supplies there too. There's another lodge on the west side that-"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know how to travel, dude." Koa swung his leg over the bike.

Blake handed Koa a paper bag. "I packed you lunch."

Koa took the bag, stuffing it into his backpack. "Anything else, mom?" he said teasingly.

Blake rolled his eyes and returned Absol. He handed the ball to Koa. "You can take Absol, but no battles! He's there for protection only, got it? Last thing I need is a call from Officer Jenny about an unlicensed trainer using my pokemon in an illegal battle."

"Okay already. I get it," he took the ball and clipped it to his belt. "Are you done? Can I go now?"

Blake sighed. "Yes, that's all I guess. Please at least try not to be too reckless."

Koa rolled his eyes and nodded, then pushed off and started pedaling. He zoomed out of Canalave, exiting the city in less than an hour, taking the east gate. Within the hour, he was on the way, the city at his back.

xXx

The next couple days passed in a pleasant but sweaty and tiring blur. At one point, a strange hooded trainer on the back of a Zebstrika almost mowed him down, but the trip otherwise remained pleasantly uneventful. He also passed by several trainers over his two days of travel, and a few even challenged him, but he was forced to refuse. If he was caught, he would be prohibited from getting his trainer's license. Last time the police hadn't pressed charges but he doubted he would be so lucky if he did it again. Even though anyone was technically allowed to carry a pokemon, only licensed trainers could catch pokemon, participate in battles, or try for the gym circuit.

By the dawn of the third day, he’d made solid progress. He crossed the bulk of the route and entered the last stretch, an area cutting through a sparse forest. As he entered the woods, a loud shriek sounded from somewhere ahead and to his right. Koa paused. The sound came again. It sounded like a pokemon in distress. Curious, Koa dropped his bike and hurried into the woods.

A faint trail wound through the woods a short distance, leading to a tiny clearing with a single tree. Unlike the rest of the trees in the area, this one's leaves were a golden yellow, and a sticky coating covered the trunk. A honey tree. He knew there was one near Jubilife, and he wasn't exactly surprised to find another.

At the edge of the clearing, a small Zubat lay still on the ground. Koa's eyes widened and he quickly shuffled closer. It fluttered weakly at his approach, squeaking in fear. Its ears flicked erratically and it kept twisting its head side to side.

Right. Zubat saw with sound, not their eyes. Because they didn’t have eyes.

“Easy there,” he whispered softly. The Zubat stilled at his voice, turning towards him. It flapped its wings again in a vain attempt to fly, then gave up and dropped back to the ground, seemingly too exhausted. Koa knelt beside it, examining it closer.

Pokemon battling in the wild for sport or territory was quite common. Usually, the match would end when one side conceded. If he had to guess, this particular Zubat probably pushed himself way too hard and over-exerted himself. Poor thing. He could see no visible injuries, which meant it was probably just suffering from exhaustion. He glanced around. No berry trees in sight. His gaze returned to Zubat, whose chest rose and fell with rapid breaths.

"Alright, hang in there," he murmured. Recalling the potion he kept for Absol in case of emergencies, he started to take his backpack off his shoulder, then stopped. If something happened, he might need it later. And yet... Zubat was here, right in front of him. Absol could handle himself, and he was nearly at Jubilife. He couldn't bear to walk away and leave pitiful little thing just laying there.

Sure, it would recover with time, but if something happened before then...

Uncapping the potion, he sprayed the Zubat. After a few moments, it fluttered to life, emitting a happy shriek. Judging by the size of its fangs, it was male. He wondered what he was doing all the way out here. Zubat and Golbat tended to stick to colonies. Usually, they lived in caves, although some lived in forests or in cities. This one also didn't seem as bothered by sunlight as other members of its species. What had brought it out here?

His question was soon answered when the Zubat started to flutter towards the honey tree. A warning cry from its branches made him pause. The purple head of an Aipom poked out and glared at the Zubat. He guessed the Aipom had claimed the tree as its own. He knew the monkey pokemon were fairly fond of honey. The Aipom didn't seem surprised to see the Zubat either. Judging by the condition Zubat had been in, he guessed it tried to get some and got attacked for it.

"Huh, I guess you wanted some honey?" Koa mused out loud. He'd never known Zubat to be lovers of honey, but there were always exceptions, he supposed. The Zubat chittered and nodded its head. Koa turned back towards the tree.

"Hey Aipom, how about it?" he called. “Can Zubat use your tree?”

The Aipom let out a shriek and shook its head adamantly. It bared its teeth and clutched the trunk tighter.

Koa crossed his arms and frowned. He eyed the Zubat thoughtfully, then the Aipom. “You don’t want the whole tree, right Zubat?” he asked, turning to the flying type. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the Aipom’s expression.

Zubat bowed its head slightly, almost as if guilty, then shook its head. Just as Koa suspected. Zubat had probably gone straight for the tree in his eagerness. Aipom’s territorial instincts had kicked in and it had attacked.

Koa turned back to face it. “Zubat just made a mistake. He only wants a little bit of your honey, not your whole tree. Right?”

The Zubat nodded emphatically. The Aipom’s expression shifted to an apologetic one. It eyed Koa and the Zubat for a moment, then slowly nodded. With a grateful squeak, Zubat flew to the tree, landing and licking the honey off.

Koa shook his head, a smile tugging at his lips at the comical sight. After watching for another moment, he returned to the road. Jubilife was only a couple of hours away now, and he didn’t want to linger any longer.



In no time at all, he found himself zipping between the highrises of Jubilife on his bike. Just ahead, he could make out the wide, many-windowed building of the Jubilife Trainers' School. He stopped outside, leaving his bike on the rack, then hurried through the doors.

The hallway looked just as he remembered it - a narrow stretch of grim hardwood floors, classrooms lining either side like little jail cells. He’d only been once before, for a seminar for new trainers. And once had been enough. He'd given a presentation about his goal to battle and catch a legendary. The mocking laughter had been the final straw for him, and he knew better than to discuss his dreams openly.

Pushing the unpleasant memory from his mind, he wound through the hallways to the auditorium doors. By the sound of it, Professor Rowan was still giving his presentation. He leaned against the wall outside, drumming his hands on his leg. After a very agonizing fifteen minute wait, the presentation had finished and the attendees had filed out. Finally, Professor Rowan emerged.

When his gaze settled on Koa, he smiled. “Ah, Koa! You’re here already, excellent. I assume you brought the papers from Blake?”

Koa nodded, taking them from his backpack and handing them to Rowan. “What’s the research on?” he asked curiously. He’d considered taking a peek at them himself, but the idea seemed rude, so he’d resisted the urge.

“Your cousin has been helping me study the link between battles and evolution,” Rowan said as he tucked the files into his briefcase. “You see, our research indicates that most trained pokemon in their second or third stages are much younger than their wild counterparts.”

“Huh,” Koa mused. “So... evolution is completely different from aging?”

Rowan stroked his beard, his gaze drifting to the ceiling. “Not quite. We believe evolution is distinct from age and maturity, although only to some degree. And of course, it depends on the species. Some species are even impossible to find wild at all, such as Umbreon and Espeon. I am sure there is a human component to this.”

Koa’s eyes lit up. “That’s why Pokemon seek out the companionship of trainers, right? Pokemon who battle with humans are always lots stronger than wild ones, even the ones who fight a lot.”

“Correct,” Rowan said with a brisk nod. "There's also plenty of other benefits for Pokemon who seek training." He started down the hall, motioned for Koa to follow. Koa darted after him, his gaze never leaving Rowan. "So how is the training going?" he asked.

"Great!" Koa replied enthusiastically. "I'm ready for the exam, I think. And I even have my whole team planned out," he added proudly.

Rowan frowned. Or at least his normally stern face got slightly more stern. "Planning ahead is good, but remember not to limit yourself. Unexpected occurrences always happen during a trainer's journey."

"I know," Koa said, trying to hide the impatience in his voice. He didn't really mind surprises, but he didn't want his team to be one.

Rowan narrowed his gaze and eyed Koa, but remained silent for several moments. “Koa, I hope you understand something,” he said finally.

Koa gazed at him questioningly. “What?” he asked, a note of hesitance in his voice. It was the sort of tone that usually preceded an adult's lecture.

“The bond between Pokemon and trainer is sacred.” Rowan’s tone became quiet, but forceful. “It allows both to reach unprecedented heights. Why Pokemon have chosen to live and serve alongside us is something even Oak and I don’t fully grasp, but it is not something to be taken lightly. Make no mistake, Pokemon choose to fight with us.” He paused. “By working together, there is little we cannot accomplish, regardless of the pokemon or the trainer. All that matters is your hearts and drive. Do you understand?”

Koa grinned, then nodded. “Yeah, I understand.” And there's nothing me and Luxray can't accomplish.

After that, Rowan lightened up. For the next hour, Koa caught up with him, asking various questions about his research, and letting Rowan use him as a soundboard. Some of the topics were too nebulous for Koa to really understand, but Rowan always said that the layman’s perspective could be more helpful than another scientist. All too soon, the day had grown late and it was time for Rowan to depart.

"I have to get back to my lab, but keep your phone with you once you start your journey. I may need your help with a project of mine soon."

Koa's eyes lit up. "What project?" he asked eagerly.

"You'll have to have some patience, my boy," Rowan said. Koa knew that tone of voice all too well. Try as he might, he wouldn't get any more information from him. Rowan was more stubborn than a rock.

"One more thing, young man."

"Yes?"

"Make sure you stop by the lab as soon as you get your license. Your cousin and I have something for you that we've been working on."

Koa's eyes widened. He longed to know what it was, but he felt certain neither Rowan nor his cousin would spill a word of whatever his surprises were. With great reluctance, he bid the Professor goodbye.

xXx

The next day, he started on his return journey. On the last leg of his journey, he found himself on the final stretch of Route 218 in the very late evening, thanks to oversleeping at one point. The last colors of dusk were fading from the sky, and he could just barely make out stars. He figured he had about an hour's worth of biking to get back to Canalave. Normally, traveling after dark was dangerous, but he had Absol for protection, so he wasn't very worried. Plus, 218 was usually a fairly safe route.

His thoughts drifted as he biked down the final stretch. The sky gradually darkened more and the moon began to rise. He didn't see the dark shape in front of him until it was too late. Koa cried out in shock as he crashed into something, the impact sending him flying off his bike. Behind him, a low growl arose. He rolled to his feet just in time to see a very angry Mightyena glaring at him. Slowly, he raised his hand in a pacifying gesture.

"Easy boy. I'm sorry, it was an accident. I didn't mean to run into you."

Apparently, the Mightyena didn't care for his apology. It snarled in anger and took a step towards him. Koa reached for Absol's pokeball.

The rogue Mightyena lunged forwards, knocking the ball out of his hand. It rolled several yards away. The Mightyena snarled, prowling in between him and the ball. Koa gulped. His heart beat a little faster and he stared anxiously at the pokeball.

"Easy buddy. I don't want to hurt you," he spoke in as calm a voice as he could muster, and held his hands out. "How about you let bygones be bygones?" The Mightyena growled louder and took a step towards him. It wasn't listening. Clearly it was majorly pissed off. Koa hesitantly reached for the baton clipped at his side. It wouldn't hurt a pokemon much, but maybe it would deter the Mightyena, show it he meant business. The Mightyena lunged for him. Koa dove to the ground, rolling away from it. He scrambled to his feet, still eyeing Absol's pokeball. Mightyena remained between him and it, cutting him off.

Suddenly, a loud, high-pitched screech from above assaulted his ears. The Mightyena whimpered and flinched. Koa looked up, towards the source of the sound. Several feet above, a small Zubat hovered in the air. It screeched again, then dived at the Mightyena. The Mightyena leaped away, then glared at the Zubat, as if contemplating attacking. Apparently, it decided it wasn't worth the trouble and gave a single bark, then darted back into the woods.

Not wanting to lose his opportunity, Koa grabbed Absol's pokeball and picked up his bike. He glanced up again, but the Zubat had disappeared. He frowned in thought. That was odd. Singular Zubat didn't tend to be aggressive. Why would one attack a Mightyena out of the blue? As he got back on his bike and continued his trip home, he contemplated the Zubat. Could it have been the one from the honey tree? He quickly dismissed the thought. There were hundreds of Zubat in the world. Perhaps this was just the Pokemon gods smiling upon him. Either way, he was grateful not to have to use his baton, even for defense.

xxx

The morning of his trainer’s exam dawned, and Koa with it. Despite waking a little later than he would have liked, he still had plenty of time to dress, pack his things, and do a final check before leaving. The closest exam center was in Jubilife, which meant they would have to take a special bus there. He hadn’t decided yet if he intended to leave straight from Jubilife or head back to Canalave, so he made sure to be prepared either way. When he had finished packing and heading downstairs, his cousin was awake and waiting for him already.

The bus let them out at the gates to Jubilife, and his cousin walked with him the rest of the way. They stopped in front of a large, squarish building with a massive domed roof. Bold letters above the doors spelled out 'DTL' and in smaller letters beneath it read "Department of Trainer Licensing.' Koa started for the double doors.

"Good luck, Little K," his cousin called.

"Oh please. I got this. Luck is for losers!" Koa replied, smirking.

"That's why I offered it."

Koa's smirk disappeared and he shot Blake a scathing glare. After a moment, he smiled. "Not bad, I'll give you that." Koa turned and headed inside. Several soon-to-be trainers milled about inside, most around his age or a little older. Some were chatting, while others showed off pokemon they had gotten. He brushed by them, heading straight for the front desk. A woman with straight black hair, pale skin and a serious face sat behind the counter, staring blankly ahead.

"I'd like to register for the Trainer's License exam," he said.

The lady looked at him, then down at her computer. "Name?"

"Koamaru Averon."

"Age?"

"14," he replied. It felt good to finally say it.

She took another look at him then typed in some more information, murmuring to herself as she did. "Eyes, brown... skin, light. Hair dark navy." She looked back up at him.

"Height?"

"Five foot four."

"Hometown?"

"Canalave City."

She finished typing, then looked up at him. "You're all set." She slid a slip of paper over the counter towards him. "Here's your exam pass. The first part will begin in five minutes. Please wait in the lobby."

He let his attention drift as he mentally prepared himself for what lay ahead. The exam consisted of three parts. A test of physical prowess, tests of knowledge about the pokemon world, and finally, a simulated battle. The physical test and knowledge test he knew well, but he was slightly less certain about the battle test. You never knew what pokemon you would get, or what opponent you would face. On the bright side, they weren't required to win, merely demonstrate their skills.

"Hey, rookie!" A blue-haired boy waved to him from a cluster of other teenagers. "Come on over!"

Koa shuffled over towards the kids, and they parted to make space for him. There were five in total - the blue-haired boy, a muscled boy who kept glancing at the floor, a girl with teal curls, a confident-looking boy wearing a cape (which Koa thought was a bit extra), and a girl with the neatest green bun he'd ever seen.

The blue-haired boy cleared his throat. "Name's Galen. We're all talking about what we wanna do with our pokemon when we get our license. Our goals an' stuff." He grinned. "I'm gonna be a Dark-type specialist. My dad’s gonna help me find a Murkrow."

Must be nice to have parents helping your journey. Koa quickly pushed the bitter thought away. He had Blake, and that was plenty.

Galen gestured to the teal-haired girl. "Hilgar said she's gonna become a coordinator and Cade over there is gonna be a dragon type specialist." He pointed to the caped boy, who nodded calmly in agreement. “And you said you’re gonna try to win the league tournament, right?” He nodded his head towards Bun Girl.

She nodded, flashing a determined smile. “Gonna try to win the Lily of the Valley in a year.”

A couple of the kids let out low whistles, and Koa understood why. To both qualify for the league tournament early next year and win it was an impressive feat.

"What're you gonna do?" Galen asked. Five heads swiveled to stare at him expectantly.

Koa gulped. "I want to c-" He caught himself and coughed awkwardly. "I'm gonna research legendaries."

"Sweet! Like Dialga and Palkia and stuff?" Galen asked. "You think they're real?"

The muscled boy cleared his throat. "My dad said they're just a bunch of crazy worshippers who exaggerated stories. All that legendary stuff is nonsense. No way can a pokemon really control time and space."

Hilgar snorted. "You seriously believe that Morris? It's somehow all fake?" She rolled her eyes. "Oh, legendaries are real all right."

Morris frowned. "How do you know?"

Everyone looked at her expectantly.

She gave him an exasperated look, which she shared with everyone else as if expecting someone to finish her sentence. "Team Galactic? Unless we all collectively forgot about the crazy cult who tried to bring about an apocalypse."

Koa flinched at the mention of Team Galactic as a grim silence wrapped around the group. They had been responsible for terrorizing Sinnoh region only some five years ago. The general public never knew the full extent of what they attempted, but they knew it involved trying to capture the sacred guardians of Sinnoh's three lakes. Because of them, the age for a starting trainer had been raised by two years, from 12 to 14.

“Just because some crazy cult tried to catch some Legendaries doesn't mean they're still around." Bun-girl glanced around as if trying to see who agreed with her. "For all we know, they vanished or died centuries ago and left us to our own devices. Besides, the news says they failed. Never caught a thing."

Koa’s jaw twitched. And I suppose you believe everything you hear on the news?

"So you think this crazy cult spent all their time chasing wobbuffet tails?" Hilgar said. "Chasing dead myths? No, they failed because legendaries are gods who aren't even Pokemon-"

Koa cleared his throat, feeling tense. "That's not true." Hilgar stared at him, looking offended. “Legendaries are real.” The other kids fell silent, looking at him. “And they’re still around,” he added. “Yeah, a long time ago legendaries were worshipped as gods. Pokemon like Palkia and Dialga or the titans, like Rayquaza. Even Yveltal and Xerneas. But they're still Pokemon."

Cade nodded thoughtfully. "True. We humans are the ones who chose to call them 'gods' because of their actions in protecting humanity and our world."

Hilgar relaxed slightly and sighed. "I mean that they're not like a regular pokemon. You can't catch them or anything. They do their own things while us mortals do ours."

"No." All eyes turned to him. Koa did his best not to squirm. "I just mean... In the past... legendaries would work with humans willingly and stuff." He mentally smacked himself. And stuff? That's the best you can do? "There are a lot of stories where legendaries have been... I mean, were caught by humans." he paused awkwardly. “So it’s not impossible.”

For a moment, it looked as if Hilgar wanted to make a comment, but Cade spoke up first. He let his gaze drift across the group before speaking. “History indeed speaks of Legendaries who joined with humans. It is not unheard of. It is fact, actually.” His tone carried a certain amount of authority that Koa couldn’t help but be jealous of. “Although it certainly seems unlikely in our present time. I will admit I have not heard of any such occurrences in a long time. Not since Ho-Oh and Lugia separated from the towers of Johto about 200 years ago.”

Koa eyed Cade with new respect. He clearly knew his history. And could articulate it better.

The others seemed impressed too, Galen nodding appreciatively. “You sure know your stuff, huh?”

Murmurs of vague agreement spread through the group, while Hilgar muttered something under her breath that Koa didn’t catch.

A door beside the registration desk slid open and a man with graying brown hair and a clipboard stepped out. "Attention!" Though quiet, his voice carried easily over their conversation. "My name is Fyren, and I'll be your head instructor today. The Trainer's License Exam will begin now. Please follow me."

Koa hurried after him, relieved to be free of the conversation. The rest of the trainers, about thirty, filed in behind him. Putting aside his frustration, he focused his attention on the tests ahead. One last hurdle, then he'd be free.

xxx

A couple hours later, he sat anxiously on one of the hard-backed chairs of the auditorium, tapping his foot against the ground. The first two parts of the exam, the physical and the knowledge test, had gone great. He cleared the hurdles and rock wall easily, only outmatched by Cade, who’d practically glided up the walls.

He’d handed in his written test before most of the class too, except for Cade again, and he’d been confident on just about every question. But everything had gone downhill during his battle aptitude test. It had seemed so simple, when he’d gotten a Hippopotas and the instructor sent out an Eelektross, an electric-type. Yet he’d lost it, and humiliatingly too. Poor Hippopotas never even got to land a hit.

The instructor's advice to him rang in his mind.

"Never assume, young man. Eelektross has a special ability known as Levitate, which causes ground attacks like Earthquake to miss. And although type advantages can win a battle, don't forget that a skilled trainer must also account for his partner's weaknesses."

Fyren stepped onto the stage, holding his clipboard. "I will now announce the trainers who will receive their license."

Koa shook himself from his thoughts and focused on the stage. This was it. If he didn’t make it now, he’d have to wait a month to try again.

One by one, he called up each of the trainers who passed. Most of the trainers he’d met earlier were called onto stage. Unsurprisingly, Cade was among them.

He watched with a hint of envy as the caped boy strode confidently across the stage to receive his license. More names were called. With each name that wasn't his, Koa became more worried, jittering his leg and tapping his fingers.

"Koamaru Averon."

Koa literally leaped out of his chair, barely holding back his exclamation of joy. He ran onto the stage, grinning widely as Fyren handed him his license, along with a simple Pokeball belt. Finally. He could be a proper trainer. As soon as he was able, he raced out of the building. As soon as he stepped outside, he jumped in the air and shouted. He spotted Blake a few feet away, smiling proudly.

"Good job Little K. Keep this up and maybe I'll have to start calling you Big K," Blake said, chuckling. Koa rolled his eyes.

"I have a gift for you, by the way." Blake reached into his jacket and pulled out a small box.

Koa's eyes widened when he saw the picture on the front. "A Poketch?" he stammered. "Thank you!" he hugged his cousin, then stepped back to examine his new prize. He tore it out of the box and put it on. It booted up flawlessly. He'd wanted a Poketch for months now, and planned to buy one after he started his journey. Now he could save his money for something else.

"So what now? Straight to Professor Rowan’s lab I hope? I know he mentioned having you stop by once you got your license."

Blake's eyes looked far away, and despite his upbeat tone, Koa knew better. Sure it would mean starting a little later but...

He shook his head. "I'll take the bus back to Canalave with you. I have a few supplies to pick up, and I'd love to visit the library one last time." Technically, it was true. He did want to see the library again, and he could always stock up before he left. Of course, he didn't bother mentioning that he had everything he needed to set out on his journey now. Blake would miss him, and even though Koa wouldn't admit it out loud, he knew he would miss Blake.

The sky had begun to darken by the time they reached Canalave. Koa visited the library before it closed that evening, then purchased a few extra potions and pokeballs from the Pokemart. He bid farewell to his coworkers at the shop, then returned home for the evening. As he lay in bed that night, he silently marveled at the fact that his pokemon journey would begin tomorrow, for real. He would travel to Sandgem, and soon, catch his first pokemon. Thoughts of his perfect team floated through his mind as he finally drifted off to sleep.

xxx

The next morning, Koa awoke bright and early. He checked his bag again, making sure it had all his supplies - plenty of pokeballs from the shop, as well as a few potions and his usual supplies of clothes, a sleeping bag, tent, and a small pocket knife. Once his backpack was ready, he logged onto his computer for what might be his last time. With a few clicks, he logged into his favorite website, a forum for legendary sightings. Skimming the list, he scrolled until he found the listing for Sinnoh pokemon. He didn't expect to see anything - Sinnoh didn't feature many roaming legendaries like Kanto or Johto did, but it was always worth a check. To his surprise, there was one new addition to the forum.

Potential Regirock sighting at Ore Caverns?!

Koa eagerly clicked it. He skimmed the information. A trainer had posted a blurred photo of what appeared to be a Regirock. The silhouette definitely looked like a Regi, although the trainer also admitted she only caught a glimpse and was uncertain if it really had been the legendary titan.

Koa sat back for a moment, contemplating. The Ore Caverns lay within a small mountain range directly south of Canalave. If he left now, he could be there by the afternoon. Of course, it would mean getting to Sandgem much later. Although... he could always trek straight through the wilderness and get to Sandgem, if he went off route. He grinned and nodded to himself. It was decided. He would take a quick detour to the caverns, then head Southeast and cut through the wilderness to Sandgem.

Grabbing his backpack, Koa sprinted downstairs, taking the steps two at a time. Blake was waiting downstairs for him, his hands behind his back. "I was wondering when you were going to come down. I have something for you. Two somethings, actually. I was gonna have it sent to you but since you stayed the night I figured I'd give it to you now." Taking his hands from behind his back, he held up a brand new leather jacket. It was red and dark navy blue, with white highlights. The elbows were reinforced and it sported multiple pockets.

"Sick!" Koa quickly took it, eagerly discarding his worn jacket and putting on the new one. It fit perfectly, snug, but still flexible. The inside material was pleasantly soft yet breathable, and the outside felt surprisingly tough. It would serve him well on his travels.

Blake then pulled an object out of his pocket. It was a pokeball, but unlike a regular pokeball, this one was black with red and gold striping.

"Wow, a Luxury ball!" He took it almost reverently. While not as expensive as an Ultra ball, they weren't exactly cheap either. He slipped it into his pocket. "Thanks, Blake." He gave his cousin a quick hug. His cousin gripped him tightly, and for a moment, Koa couldn't escape the embrace. After a long second, Blake released him.

"You better be careful out there, Little K."

Koa nodded. "I will."

Blake ruffled his hair, but Koa didn't pull away. This was the last time his cousin would ruffle his hair for a long time. "And check in once you get to Sandgem. Taking the bus, right?"

Koa nodded again. “Probably,” he mumbled in half-hearted agreement. He didn't bother to mention his little detour. If his cousin found he went exploring in a cave without any pokemon, he would probably be furious. Besides, he didn’t want to miss a chance at meeting a legendary. A quick stop wouldn’t hurt, right?

xxx

"Sorry, no one is allowed past this point without a Trainer's License and at least two badges." Two guards blocked the cave entrance, barring the path forwards.

"What?" Koa cried out. This was his first time hiking all the way to Ore caverns, but he'd assumed he could just go right in. Although granted, he'd never been far from Canalave. The farthest he'd ever gone was Twinleaf town, to visit his cousin's friend. And even then, he always traveled on official routes.

"Why not?" he demanded.

The guard looked down at him and frowned. "This is not a cave that is on an official route. It's not safe for inexperienced trainers, plus there have been sightings of a dangerous Golbat colony."

"You should know better than to goof off in an unexplored cave," the second guard added, giving Koa a look of disdain.

Koa gave him a dirty look and grit his teeth. Yes, he knew that, but he assumed the frontier lands around Canalave were safer. Still, how bad could the cave be? He eyed the two guards. They wore matching frowns. Not the type who would give in to convincing... "Alright. Guess I'll have to come back later." He put on his sincerest disappointed face and walked away. As soon as he walked around a bend, and was hidden from sight, he began scanning the landscape. Most cave systems had multiple entrances. There was no way he was passing up the chance to go inside now that he was here. Plus, the Zubat line was not that dangerous. As long as he kept quiet, he should be fine.

Another several minutes of searching led him to a small opening partway up the slope, half-covered by brush.

"Nice!" Koa got on his hands and knees, crawling through the small opening. It appeared to be a long tunnel, perhaps made by a pokemon of some kind. For a long time, the tunnel remained fairly narrow, and Koa wondered if perhaps it led nowhere. After a good several minutes, however, the tunnel slowly widened, until he was able to stand up straight. The tunnel continued forwards for another few feet, before dropping off a few feet into a chamber. He hopped down, landing with a small thump. Koa dusted himself off and took a look around. Pulling out his flashlight, he shined it all around.

The cavern he stood in was medium-sized, perhaps as big as an average house. One large tunnel on the opposite side stretched away into the darkness. Koa decided to head for that one first. Keeping his flashlight trained ahead, he started towards the tunnel. He hardly took a step before a bluish shape darted in front of his flashlight beam. He gave a sharp yelp of surprise as a strange weight landed on his head. Dropping his flashlight, he batted the object off his head in a panic. It landed on the ground with a shriek of surprise. Koa grabbed his flashlight and aimed it at the shape. The beam revealed the small bluish body of a Zubat. He frowned and peered closer. The Zubat's fangs indicated it was male, and the unusually thick fur on its body was sticky and matted. With honey. Koa groaned. Something told him this wasn't just a random Zubat. It was the same Zubat from the honey tree last week.

Zubat fluttered into the air and shrieked happily, then settled on his head again. What was it doing here? Koa sighed and shook his head, displacing the bat. "Oh no you don't. Scram," he whispered.

Either the Zubat was ignoring him, or didn't care, and immediately dived for his head again. He ducked out of the way and made a shooing motion. "No!" he recognized the behaviour quite clearly - Zubat wanted to join his team. There definitely was not room in the Plan for a Zubat as a starter, or at all for that matter.

Unfortunately, the Zubat didn't seem to get the memo. He squeaked again and dived for Koa's head. He dodged it again and tried to keep walking. The bat kept squeaking happily and fluttered after him.

Koa stopped and turned around, glaring at the Zubat. "You can't come with me," he said firmly. Zubat chirped and did a little loop. Koa tried again. "I can't be your trainer. Find someone else." Zubat was a perfectly fine pokemon, but he wanted a Shinx as his starter. He'd done his research and Zubat simply lacked the natural strength of pokemon like Starly and Shinx. Plus they were flighty and difficult to evolve to their final form. No one even knew what exactly triggered their evolution.

Zubat simply squeaked and fluttered towards Koa.

Growling, he smacked his head with his hand. Clearly, the Zubat had no intention of leaving. If it kept following him, it could alert every wild pokemon in the area to him. Which, more importantly, could scare off any Legendaries. Legendaries were notoriously elusive and generally avoided being seen by humans much. Its erratic behavior could draw the wrong kind of attention.

With a long sigh, Koa withdrew a pokeball from his pocket and tossed it at the Zubat. It arced through the air, striking the Zubat on the head and encapsulating him in red light. The ball landed on the ground, rolled once, then dinged. Koa immediately cursed. He'd grabbed the Luxury ball his brother gave him, instead of a regular pokeball. With a sigh, he picked up the ball and attached it to his belt. Later he could have it transferred to a regular ball, he supposed. Then he could release it. There was absolutely no way in Arceus' name he was keeping a Zubat. No. Way.


 
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chapter 2

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 2: The Unplanned

Koa continued through the cavern, trying to keep his mind off the Zubat he'd just caught. As soon as he got out of here, he was releasing it. As admirable as its persistence was, he just couldn't picture himself making it to the top with a Zubat. He approached a tunnel ahead, examining it curiously. The walls were smooth and somewhat uniform. Probably made by an Onix. "Alright Regirock, where are you..." He pulled out his camera and started walking.

His ultimate dream was to actually capture a legendary. It was a dream he'd never shared with anyone, not even Blake. Though for now, he would settle for a picture of Regirock. Beings like Palkia and Dialga were out of his league, but he believed it was possible. Perhaps one of the trio of legendary birds or dogs. He'd read research papers suggesting there could be more than one of the species. Personally, he wasn't sure he believed that, but if it were true... That would be something. Or perhaps he could even catch a mythical pokemon, like Shaymin. He turned his attention back to his surroundings.

The cave wound in a series of tunnels and caverns and ledges and slopes. He took care to mark which routes he'd gone down, so he wouldn't get lost. For almost an hour, he explored with no trouble. As he walked, he kept his flashlight trained on the area in front of him. He saw a few wild pokemon, although only from a distance. He'd just emerged into another cavern when a cry of challenge broke the silence.

Koa looked across the cavern to see a small Machop glaring at him. It gave another roar, smashing its fists together in a challenge. Despite its demeanor, it didn't look particularly tough. With a small sigh, he slowly withdrew Zubat's Pokeball. He didn't want to turn down a challenge, but he really wasn't interested in battling with a Pokemon he didn't want to keep.

"Go Zubat," he muttered.

Zubat emerged from the pokeball with a delighted shriek. He immediately faced down the Machop. The Machop seemed surprised at the appearance of an aerial foe.

"Wing Attack?" Koa called. He had no idea what the Zubat's moves were, nor did he care. He just wanted to keep exploring.

Zubat shrieked and dived at Machop, his wings glowing. Before Machop could react, Zubat struck it with two solid blows. Baring his fangs, Zubat sunk them into Machop, delivering a solid Bite attack. Machop cried out and shook itself free. It glared at Zubat, still defiant, although Koa could tell the Wing Attack had greatly weakened it. It leaped into the air, its leg glowing white. Zubat twisted sideways, barely dodging the attack. He delivered another Wing Attack, sending Machop smashing to the ground. Machop didn't get up again.

Koa returned Zubat with a sigh. Despite Zubat's triumph, he couldn't find it in himself to be impressed, not when Zubat had the type advantage. He was beginning to regret not going straight to Rowan's lab. Maybe if he had, he could have found a Shinx. Or at least gotten whatever surprise Rowan had for him. Even so, the Zubat had battled well on its own. For a Zubat, at least. His heart was still set on a Starly though.

Scanning the cavern he'd ended up in, he realized it was a dead end. He left the dead-end cavern and took another tunnel. This one ended up opening into a much, much larger cavern. Large stalactites and stalagmites emerged from the ceiling and floor, and small pools of water were scattered about.

A heavy rumbling noise drew his attention to a ledge on the far side of the room. He shined his flashlight towards it just in time to see a large shadow move away. Could that have been Regirock?

Sprinting in the direction he'd last seen it, he dodged stalagmites and began scaling the wall up to the ledge. A few moments later, he'd dragged himself onto the ledge. He started forwards, but his foot hit air where he expected solid ground. With a cry of shock, he tumbled forwards, rolling down a steep slope. The rough ground tore at his jacket and scraped his limbs. A few moments later, he smacked into something hard, coming to a stop. He let out a groan of pain, and lay still for a few moments, then slowly sat up.

"Ughh..." His entire body ached all over, but it didn't feel like anything had broken. He turned to see what he hit. His tumble had taken him just inside a small cavern. A round green boulder had stopped his fall. Green boulder? The cave's walls were a brown color. Which meant...

"Shoot!" He leaped to his feet just as the boulder seemingly came to life, two arms and two legs popping out, followed by a small brownish head. The Golem roared at him in annoyance.

A light emerged from his belt and coalesced into the form of Zubat. He shrieked at the Golem, who roared in return. The roar shook the tiny cavern, small rocks falling from the ceiling and rattling the ground.

"Zubat, get back!" he yelped.

Golem tucked into a ball and rolled at Zubat, his body moving so fast it became a blur. It smashed into him hard, sending him flying into a wall. Zubat squeaked in pain and lay still. "Zubat!" Koa yelled. A golden orb of energy appeared in Golem's mouth and it fired it towards Zubat. Koa darted towards his fallen pokemon. At the last moment, he grabbed him and rolled out of the way as the orb exploded behind them. Cradling Zubat close, he stared down Golem. He needed to get out of here, fast. A few yards away, to his left, was another entrance. If he could distract Golem, he could escape through there.

Golem roared angrily, causing the room to shake. Koa grabbed a rock from the ground and hurled it past Golem. For a brief second, it glanced away, towards where the rock landed. Koa bolted, sprinting by Golem and through the tunnel. He kept running, trying his best to remember the paths he took. For almost ten minutes straight, he kept running, until he was sure Golem wasn't following.

Finally, he stopped in another cavern, breathing heavily. Kneeling down, he set Zubat on the ground carefully and pulled a slightly squashed Oran berry out of his bag. Drop by drop, he carefully squeezed the juice into Zubat's mouth.

A few moments later, the Zubat began to flutter its wings. Koa smiled in relief, then gave him another Oran berry. Within a few minutes, he was looking completely restored. Koa opened an HP checker app on his Poketch and scanned Zubat. A few seconds later, the results popped up. Full HP.

"Phew," he murmured. He still didn't want to keep the Zubat, but he didn't want to see it hurt, either. Until he released it, it was technically his pokemon. His responsibility. Regardless, the encounter only made him more desperate to capture a real pokemon.

"No more challenging ridiculously strong pokemon," Koa snapped. He pulled out Zubat's pokeball and returned him, shaking his head. Taking a deep breath, he ignored the pitter-patter of his heart and the fact Zubat had come terribly close to getting hurt. Silly bat! Why had he even come out of his Pokeball like that?

Koa stood up and dusted himself off as best he could. "Well, might as well look around." The cavern was large, even bigger than the first one he encountered. Tragically there was no sign of Regirock, although he'd come to suspect what he'd seen earlier had simply been another pokemon. He wandered slowly through the room, carefully checking the ground for tracks or signs of Regirock. He'd made his way almost halfway around the cavern when something caught his eye. Poking from behind a stalagmite, he spotted something white. He crept over to it and peered around the stalagmite. A crumbled set of human bones lay scattered on the ground, gnawed clean.

Koa took a step back and shuddered, looking away. Likely an errant researcher or hiker who had wandered too far. What does that make you? He thought. A chill traveled down his spine and he forced his gaze away from the skeleton. There was no evidence of a pokemon skeleton, so he could have simply come in alone and been overwhelmed. Besides, they looked pretty old. Something else quickly drew his attention away from thoughts of being killed by wild pokemon.

An unusual stone object lay several feet away, a much lighter and grayer color than the cave rock. It resembled a piece of a large jaw bone, almost twice as big as his head. "It's a Jaw Fossil!" He picked it up and stroked it.

It felt heavy, although still lighter than he expected based on its size. He'd found plenty of fossil's before, while out with his cousin or when he snuck into caves on his own. But he'd never found any complete enough for regeneration.

"I thought these were found in Kalos, not Sinnoh," He murmured to himself. Perhaps it belonged to the explorer? Pushing the thought aside with another shudder, he contemplated his next move. If he could get to the museum in Oreburgh City, he could revive the fossil into a Tyrunt. "Sweet!" He shouted. His voice echoed through the cavern, bouncing back to him.

As the noise faded, he heard scratching and fluttering above him. A vague sense of dread filled him. Slowly, hesitantly, he aimed his flashlight towards the ceiling. An entire colony of Zubat and Golbat hung from the ceiling. A nest. Their wide-open eyes gleamed in his flashlight beam as they glared down at him. He took a step back and stumbled, his beam sweeping wildly across the ceiling. Loud screeching filled the room and the sound of hundreds of wingbeats echoed as they left their perches, swarming the cavern.

Their deafening cries rang in his ears, and they began to dive at him. One whizzed by him and scratched his jacket, tearing straight through the leather and cutting his skin. Another made a dive for him. Koa ducked and it whizzed by just inches above him. He shuddered. This must be the Golbat colony the guards had referred to.

The Golbat coalesced into a swarm, shrieking their displeasure. One dove at him again. Koa threw his hands up, narrowly avoiding being bitten in the face, though he paid for it when Golbat bit his shoulder. Flinching in pain, he batted it off. His heart pounded in his chest. A horrifying thought occurred to him. The Golbat didn't seem to be interested in just driving him off. They wanted him gone, whatever it took. This wasn't just about escaping. It was about survival. Koa backed away, his heart pounding.

His mind began to race and he cursed himself. Why had he come here? He'd trespassed and ignored the warnings. The image of the human remains flashed through his mind. Would that be his fate? Shaking himself, he set his jaw. No. I have to figure something out.

Suddenly his Zubat emerged from his pokeball again. He faced the swarm, shrieking and chittering angrily. One Golbat, larger than the rest, flew forwards, shrieking angrily in return. The two seemed to engage in some kind of brief conversation. A tiny flicker of hope burned in Koa's chest. Then it died.

The Golbat dived at Zubat, its jaws wide open. It snatched Zubat out of the sky, tossing him to the ground. Zubat squeaked weakly and fluttered back into the air as the horde of Golbat began to draw in around them. Zubat opened his tiny jaws and let out an ear-splitting screech. The horde backed off slightly.

Zubat turned to him, chittering urgently, then took off towards a tunnel Koa hadn't noticed before. Koa bolted after his Zubat. He weaved through the tunnels, gasping for breath. Behind him, he could still hear the wingbeats of the colony. They weren't giving up as easy as the Golem had. He ran faster, gasping for breath. Taking out Zubat's pokeball, he returned him. No sense letting his foolish Zubat get injured more. Not that he cared, it was just... more convenient. He could run faster this way.

Behind him, he could still hear the furious cries of the Zubat and Golbat, their wingbeats like a roaring beast. The light of his headlamp bounced erratically with each step, but he continued his blind run. Taking a few wheezing breaths, he pressed on. After a few minutes, he spotted a tunnel that was lighter than the others. An exit, perhaps? He raced down the tunnel. The roar of the wings behind him faded.

As he turned a corner, the light almost blinded him. He kept going, emerging from the cave and onto a steep forested slope. Half-sliding, half running, he hurtled down the hill. At the base, he crossed a thin dirt path and collapsed at the edge of the woods on the other side. His breaths came in ragged heaves, and his vision swam. He could feel his heart hammering rapidly in his chest, and he felt sick. Wearily, he peered across the road. The Golbat colony was gone.

He released Zubat from his pokeball. Koa could feel his tiny rapid heartbeat and his wearied breaths. Zubat didn't seem too badly injured although the most concerning was a set of bite marks caused by the Golbat's fangs. He needed a pokemon center. Although his own Zubat would likely be immune to the dangerous diseases wild Golbat could carry he wanted to get the bite looked at.

"Foolish Zubat," he murmured. He scratched it gently between the ears. "Still, I owe you a thanks, I guess." He paused. "You saved me." Twice. He was convinced Zubat had been the very one that saved him from the Mightyena some days ago.

Zubat flashed a lopsided grin and chittered, as if proud of himself.

Raising his head, Koa looked around.

To the south, just past the trees, he could see the shining expanse of Lake Verity. A sigh of relief escaped him. If that was Lake Verity, then that meant there was a Ranger outpost not far. He glanced at the sky. It was evening. He needed to get to the outpost quickly. If he got caught when it was dark out, with Zubat in this shape, it wouldn't be good at all. He stuffed the fossil into his backpack and cradled Zubat in his arms. After taking a moment to orient himself, he set off at a steady jog, trying to ignore his own pain.

The sun had started to set by the time he reached the outpost. Like all outposts, it consisted of a sturdy wall to keep out pokemon, and guards stationed at the rim to discourage flying pokemon. Inside was a small base for the guards, a couple of houses, and most importantly, a pokemon center. He raced through the outpost and burst into the Pokemon Center.

"Nurse!" He shouted. "My pokemon needs help!" The nurse, an older woman with short-cropped gray hair, hurried towards him. Her Chansey trotted beside her, pushing a gurney, and she carefully took Zubat from him, setting him on Chansey's cart. "What happened to it?"

"We were attacked by a colony of Zubat and Golbat. And they bit him too."

The nurse nodded. "Wait here." She pushed his Zubat through a set of double doors. Koa started to follow, but the doors locked behind the nurse. With a sigh, he picked a chair near the doors and sat down. The longer he waited, the more worried he grew. He pushed the worry down, deep into his mind. He wasn't even sure why he cared so much. After all, he still planned to release Zubat soon. Next time he'd be more prepared, that was all.

The Golbat flock had been nothing more than an unexpected occurrence, and once he had a proper starter pokemon, wild pokemon wouldn't be a problem. Plus, he still had the Plan. With a full team of strong and diverse pokemon, he could go anywhere. His guilt dismissed, he reflected on his next steps. The first stop was circumventing Lake Verity. From there he could travel to Route 201, which would lead him to Sandgem, which was only a half day's walk away. After he stopped in to see Professor Rowan, then he would make his way to Oreburgh and revive his fossil. Then he could train more and get back to his Plan.

Sometime later, the nurse came out. Chansey followed close behind, pushing a cart with Zubat on it, who seemed much perkier. "Your Zubat will be fine. Let him rest tonight, and try to avoid hard battles for a day or so."

Zubat chirped happily and fluttered onto his head. A grin spread across his face, but he quickly let it fade. No, he had to stay focused. Zubat was simply his responsibility for now. That was all.

"Thank you nurse..." He glanced at her nametag. "Nerene."

She gave a nod in response. "It looks like you were injured too. Didn't you see the guard stationed outside the entrance?" her tone was annoyed, and Koa couldn't help but be reminded of Blake when he got mad at him for doing something dangerous.

Koa said nothing.

"Get over here. No sense in healing your pokemon and letting you catch all manners of diseases." Nerene led him to a side room and helped bandage his deeper wounds, and had Chansey use her abilities to heal the less serious ones. She was none too gentle, and Koa started to wish he'd simply suffered through the pain. "Alright, there," Nerene grumbled. "Now stay out of dangerous caves."

Koa mumbled a thanks and headed out of the Pokemon Center. It was too late to be out on the road, so he got a room at an inn and stayed the night.

The next morning, he awoke early. He had a lot of ground to cover to reach Route 201. Since he wouldn't be traveling by official routes for the first part of the journey, it would be harder. Fortunately, if he stuck to the lakefront, it wouldn't be too strenuous.

After traveling for a few hours along the lakefront, he reached the beginning of Route 201. He let out a sigh of relief. From here it would be easy. A long, packed dirt path wound through sparse woods ahead. He glanced at his Poketch. Almost noon. Which meant he could be in Sandgem by this evening.

For the next couple of hours, he followed the path, enjoying the scenery. He saw quite a few wild pokemon, but none that really interested him. He did plan to catch a Starly, but for now, he really only wanted a Shinx and his fossil.

A loud screech erupted from the forest. A moment later, a Galvantula emerged from the woods, scuttling across the road. It turned around, firing an Electroweb towards the trees. The attack was swiftly countered by a white bone sailing through the air. It struck the Electroweb, breaking it apart.

"Get back here you lousy bug!" A man emerged from the woods, in hot pursuit of the Galvantula. A Marowak followed close behind him.

Koa took in the situation quickly. The Galvantula had stopped at the side of the road, eyeing the Marowak warily. It appeared battered, and its breathing was heavy. A rubber shackle dangled from one of its forelegs. Its pursuer wore dark camo clothing and specialized rubber gloves. A large net was strapped to his back, as well as several ropes. Disgust welled up in Koa. The man was obviously a poacher. He froze when he saw Koa. Their eyes met, and for a moment, Koa saw panic flare in the poacher's gaze. Then it turned to disdain.

"Scram kid, this doesn't concern you."

The Galvantula backed away a few steps.

The poacher growled. "Trap that thing!" Marowak gave a nod, then dove into the ground. A moment later, the Galvantula gave a cry of surprise as the ground underneath it collapsed, half burying it.

"Leave it alone!" Koa shouted. His fists clenched and his body tensed. Poachers were the worst kinds of criminals as far as he was concerned. They illegally captured pokemon using cruel and unfair methods, usually only to sell them for terrible things.

The poacher turned to Koa, scowling. "Marowak-"

Koa whipped out Zubat's pokeball, almost on instinct. "Zubat, attack!" he called, tossing his pokeball. Zubat was weak, and even though he had the flying advantage, he wouldn't stand a chance against the Marowak in a proper battle. But he didn't have much choice either. He couldn't just let the poacher get away.

Zubat appeared in a flash of light. He hardly finished emerging from the ball before letting out a blast of soundwaves. Supersonic. Marowak dropped its bone, covering its ears.

"Quick, use Supersonic again!"

Zubat opened its jaws and unleashed another series of powerful soundwaves. They struck the stunned Marowak full on. It staggered in circles, dazed and confused.

The Galvantula took the opportunity to scramble free from the hole and disappear into the woods.

"Curse you, brat!" The poacher pulled out a pokeball and quickly returned Marowak. He pulled out a small object from his pocket and hurled it towards the ground. There was a loud bang and cloud of thick, dense smoke enveloped the area.

Koa unexpectedly sucked in a mouthful and started coughing. His eyes began to water and his throat burned. Zubat squeaked and coughed as well, and he quickly returned him to his pokeball. At least Zubat would be protected from the fumes there. It took almost a full minute for the smoke to clear. When it did, the poacher was gone, unsurprisingly. Still, at least the poor Galvantula managed to escape. Judging by its appearance, it seemed the Galvantula must have escaped from the poacher. They definitely weren't native to this area of Sinnoh. As soon as he got to Sandgem, he vowed to report the poacher.

Shaking his head in disgust, he continued down the route. In the distance, he could catch the first glimpse of the buildings of Sandgem town, which meant he only had another hour of traveling to go. Hardly a minute passed before he felt a strange tingle down his spine. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. He spun around, coming face to face with a Galvantula. The very same one he'd saved only minutes earlier.

As he watched, it slowly approached him. Then, from the fur on its back, a tiny Joltik leaped off, landing in front of him. Koa gasped. Galvantula was probably Joltik's mother. Given how small Joltik was, the baby could have been hiding on Galvantula the whole time. The Joltik scurried forwards, its tiny blue eyes gleaming with determination. It chittered defiantly and took another step forwards.

"Oh boy..." Koa muttered. He recognized the look in its eyes. It wanted to come with him. He fought the urge to groan. The Plan was to get a Luxray, not a Joltik. As he stared into the Joltik's eyes, his heart began to soften. Despite its size, it displayed an unusual ferocity. Well, Joltik was still an electric type. And a Galvantula would be a strong addition to a team... "Are you saying you want to come with me?"

The Joltik nodded, its eyes gleaming.

"My dream is to become the greatest explorer ever." Koa turned and gestured to the far off hills of Mt. Coronet. "I'm going to climb that mountain one day, and find the peak. And along the way, I want to raise a team of powerful pokemon. Do you want to come?"

The Joltik bounced up down, tiny sparks leaping off its fur. Koa chucked at the display. "Alright then, I guess that settles it." He withdrew a pokeball from his bag and held it out to Joltik. It sprang forwards, tapping the button in the center. The usual red light emerged, drawing Joltik in. A moment later, the ball dinged.

Koa couldn't help but grin. He'd caught his first pokemon! His starter.

The Galvantula, who until now, had waited quietly, gave him a nod of respect. Then it turned and vanished back into the forest. He watched it go, then set his sights on the route ahead. The last leg of his journey flew by. He kept Joltik in his pokeball for now, though as he walked, he contemplated potential nicknames for it. Once he reached the gates of Sandgem, he paused to release Joltik.

Joltik churred happily and scurried up his leg and onto his shoulder. Koa patted it gently. "So what do you say, buddy? Want a nickname?"

Joltik gave a little hop in acknowledgment.

"Let's see..." Koa mused. "How about Jolt?"

Joltik immediately delivered a small shock to him.

"Guess that's a no," Koa gasped. After a long (and somewhat painful process), he settled on a name he thought the Joltik would like. "How about Hazard?"

The Joltik made a chittering noise and hopped off his shoulder, letting tiny sparks fly. Judging by its eyes, it seemed quite happy with the choice.

"Hazard it is then."

Koa returned it for the short walk through Sandgem to Rowan's lab. His mind was focused on only two things - reporting the poacher, and finding whatever Rowan had in store for him.

Sandgem reminded him of Canalave. It was one of the few coastal cities in Sinnoh, though quite a bit smaller than Canalave. Most of it consisted of long roads with a few scattered houses, spread far apart. The breeze carried the familiar tang of salt and sand, and the noon sun warmed his back. The open fields and wide space made it an excellent choice for Professor Rowan's lab and gave the researcher plenty of space to keep a wide variety of pokemon.

As Koa approached the lab, however, he saw a large crowd gathered around it. Several police officers were also roaming the grounds. Koa frowned. This was definitely not normal. He hurriedly pushed his way through the throngs of onlookers, ignoring their dirty looks. Near the entrance to the lab, he spotted Professor Rowan, talking to an officer.

"Professor Rowan!" he called.

The Professor turned towards him, then waved him over. He said something to the officer, who nodded, shook his hand, then left. Koa raced up the path to the lab.

"Professor, what happened?" he searched the Professor's face anxiously, trying to find any clue of what transpired. He looked even more cross than usual, and his gaze was dark.

"A robbery, I'm afraid. Come inside, I have to explain some things to you."

Koa's clenched his fists and followed him inside. Rage bubbled in him as Rowan led him to the main room, which was empty, and sat down. How dare someone rob a pokemon Professor? Poaching was bad enough, but to rob a Professor?

"I have some bad news."

Koa turned to face Rowan, trying to prepare himself for the worst, although he had no idea what the 'worst' actually was.

"The people who broke in escaped with a great deal of valuable research and equipment. They also took a pokemon from the nursery." Rowan let out a long sigh before continuing. "I'm afraid that pokemon was meant for you. Your cousin and I were going to give it to you as a gift for becoming a trainer."

A mix of emotions swirled through Koa's mind. "When did they break in?" he asked stiffly.

"This morning."

Rage burned inside him. He felt like punching a wall. As it was, he settled for clenching his jaw. Deep down, he blamed himself. If he'd just come straight to the lab instead of going to that cave first... He pushed the thought away. The deed was long done. Besides, he might never have found the Jaw fossil if he hadn't gone exploring.

Rowan continued. "I am sorry, Koamaru. I can offer you one of the pokemon I keep for young trainers starting their journey."

Koa shook his head numbly. Even though he would love a chance at one of the starters, they weren't part of his plan. Besides, he knew Rowan had a class graduating soon, and he didn't want to deprive him of the rare 'starter' pokemon.

"Well, there is little to be done now, except hope they find the crooks. I do have something else for you, however." Rowan stood up and strode to his office. Koa trailed behind, trying to bury his disappointment.

He watched as the Professor moved a picture of a Staraptor from the wall, revealing a hidden safe. Typing in a code, the safe clicked open. He retrieved a small object from within. Closing the safe, he turned around to face Koa. "Here you are, my boy. Your very own Pokedex."

Koa's eyes lit up, and he reverently took the device. It was a slim, rectangular device painted bright red and black. He flipped it open, revealing dual screens. "Wow..." he breathed. Pokedexes were generally reserved for those in a Professor's personal class or could be bought. However, they were somewhat expensive.

"Thank you!" Koa closed the device and carefully slipped it into the inner pocket on his jacket. Pokedexes were absolutely invaluable devices, right up there with PokeNavs and Poketchs. They were not only capable of looking up information on Pokemon but could also be used to research moves, abilities, and just about anything else a trainer could want to know about a Pokemon.

"I've also taken the liberty of registering your capture system personally," Professor Rowan continued. "So if you do choose to capture more than six Pokemon, they will be sent to my preserve."

"Thank you," Koa said. At least there was one piece of good news. Even though he currently had no intention of trying to catch additional Pokemon, it was comforting to know that if he changed his mind he would have someone he could trust to look after them.

Rowan cleared his throat. "Well, I expect you'll want to get back to your journey. Where are you headed next?"

Koa eagerly explained how he'd found the Jaw fossil, and planned to have it revived as soon as possible.

Rowan nodded sagely, his eyes twinkling as if remembering something fondly. "I was just like you in my younger days, you know. Full of energy. Well, you'd best be off then. If you're walking, it will take you at least two days to reach Jubilife."

Koa shook his head. "I think I'll take the bus to Jubilife, then walk to Oreburgh. There isn't anything I really want to catch on Route 202."

Rowan nodded thoughtfully but didn't say anything else. Koa bid him farewell, then hurried out of the lab. He made a quick stop at the Police Headquarters to report the poacher, then headed north, towards the bus stop.

"Hey, wait up!"

Koa frowned and glanced back to see a girl racing towards him. She stopped a few feet away, panting as she caught her breath. He groaned inwardly. Right now, all he wanted was to get on the road and get to Oreburgh.

"You just left the lab, right?" she asked.

Koa nodded. "Yeah... what do you want?" he asked suspiciously. He eyed her carefully. She looked close to his age, but he'd never seen her around the lab either, which meant she wasn't an assistant.

"I was wondering if you knew anything about the break-in. I'm investigating it, and I think it may be connected to a series of other robberies. Did Professor Rowan tell you anything?"

Koa shook his head. "No. Is that it? Because I kinda have a bus to catch..."

The girl frowned and sighed. "I'm an investigator. I'm trying to see if the recent crimes are in any way connected to Team Galactic. Do you know anything else about what happened?"

Koa shuddered at the mere mention of the name again. He knew all too well the atrocities they'd committed, trying to kidnap the Lake Guardians and almost succeeding, trying to rewrite the universe- He pushed the thoughts down. Fortunately, they'd apparently been thwarted before they could do real damage, which was all that mattered. Besides, those details weren't public knowledge.

"I don't really know much, sorry," Koa said.

She flicked out a business card, handing it to him. "If you see anything else, call me." Without another word, she turned and jogged back towards the lab. Koa watched her go, then resumed his trek to the bus stop. The disappointment of missing out on the pokemon Rowan had for him still weighed heavily on his mind. To distract himself, he released Hazard from his pokeball.

"Alright buddy, let's see what you can do." He pulled out his Pokedex, scanning the Joltik.

Joltik, the Attaching Pokemon. They attach themselves to large-bodied Pokémon and absorb static electricity, which they store in an electric pouch. This Joltik is male and knows the moves Absorb, Electroweb, Bug Bite, String Shot. Its ability is Compound Eyes.

"Cool!" The moveset was fairly good, considering. Absorb and Bug Bite would give him good offense, while String Shot and Electroweb could trip up opponents.

Holding out his hand, he let Hazard scurry onto his shoulder. Just the sight of his new Pokemon cheered him up. Soon, he would be in Oreburgh. And not long after that, he would have a real, honest to goodness Fossil pokemon on his team. In the distance, he saw the bus approaching. A grin spread across his face.

Tyrunt, here I come.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

busy dizzy lazy
Staff
Hey, what's up! Figured I would check this story out, since I always enjoy a good trainerfic. I like the mix of classic elements (I mean, we're starting with the good ol' "getting a starter" deal) and your own takes on things--like the way we end up getting that starter, heh. This review covers the first chapter.

I think this chapter gives a great introduction to Koa's character--hardworking, driven, independent, and a bit stubborn/rigid in his thinking. Having him be the exploring type gives you a perfect excuse to have him get involved with some of Sinnoh's legends, ruins, and wild places, although to be fair I suppose your standard battler is still going to be mighty interested in legendary pokémon. I'm curious to see how his interest in exploring will give him a different approach to journeying than a more "standard" battle-focused trainer. I'm also interested to learn more about what Koa likes about exploration/what he intends to do with his life after his trainer's journey! Is he interested in mapping uncharted areas, seeking out new pokémon species, excavating archaeological sites, etc.?

Given that, it was a little strange to me that Koa put so much emphasis on the battle-readiness of his ideal team. Yeah, you want strong pokémon in case you run into anything scary while out on your journey, and a diverse team so you can handle a variety of potential threats, but I would have expected a little more emphasis on things that would be relevant to explorers as well, like having pokémon that can help you out in a variety of different terrains, or perhaps having pokémon like tropius who could provide you with food/water in a pinch. Nevertheless, it doesn't look like Koa's going to be able to assemble quite his dream team here, and I liked how you used the contrast between Koa's meticulously planned final team and the pokémon he actually ends up with to show a bit of how this journey's going to challenge him. He's meticulous and great at making plans, but what he's going to need to learn on his journey is how to change things up on the fly and handle the curveballs life throws at him.

I also liked the worldbuilding that we got to see this chapter. You've clearly put some thought into how the pokémon world would work, even though you've set the story in a familiar region. In particular, it was very interesting to see pokémon portrayed as a bit more animal-like than I often see them. And with Koa prepared to go toe-to-toe with them himself on occasion! The baton is interesting; normally I don't see trainers carrying anything other than pokémon to protect them from wild pokémon encounters. Often they just wouldn't do much for you against much more than a caterpie! It's a different dynamic when humans may expect to have to defend themselves from pokémon directly, and it was cool to see it come into play a bit here. Curious whether it'll end up being at all relevant once Koa starts putting a team together. All in all, there are a lot of rich details in this opening chapter that make the story feel grounded and Sinnoh like a real, lived-in place, occupied by people who consider their lives perfectly normal and ordinary despite the magic beasts and legend lore.

I've gotta admit, I was surprised when Koa decided to sneak into Ore Caverns at the end of the chapter. He'd struck me as a pretty rules-following type up until that point, so the fact that he ignored his official warning and the potential danger was surprising to me!

There was absolutely no way in Arceus' name he was keeping a Zubat. No. Way.
Hmmm, X to doubt. I'm curious to see how Koa will be forced to come around on this point!

If I had one criticism of this first chapter, it would be of the pacing. It's great to see the care and detail you put into Sinnoh, but I think you may have overdone it in a few places and bogged the chapter down a bit as a result. For example, the digression about how the PC storage system works didn't seem all that relevant to the chapter, and by the time it might become relevant, I'll have forgotten about it, since it was introduced so eary on. Other, more logistical pieces--describing how Koa got from A to B, where he spent the night, etc.--also struck me as a bit unnecessary. The mention of him making a pit stop to let Absol out to roam around a bit does make the bike ride feel like a very believable, recognizable road trip, but it's also exactly the kind of detail you'd elide if you were talking about your road trip to a friend. I don't think it added much besides extra words, and in general I think trimming down some of that kind of overhead would let the more interesting, dynamic parts of the chapter shine brighter.

Koa's bike ride to see Professor Rowan as a whole felt like something that could have been cut or reworked in general. To me, there are essentially two important things that happen there: the meeting with the zubat and the mysterious rider on the zebstrika. The former, you need! The latter I think could wait; I assume that's an element of the soon-to-arrive overarching plot showing its face. But I don't know that it's really doing much for you here. There's plenty of interest going on in this chapter without it--I'm not sitting here wondering when the evil team is going to show up, or anything. Since it doesn't actually affect anything in this chapter, I think it would make sense to introduce that conflict at a later time. The biking scene is over 2,000 words long, and in the end Koa doesn't even get what he wanted from Professor Rowan; his only reward is a few lines of dialogue that could probably have been delivered without so much lead-up. It was a bit of an anticlimax, and then Koa just turns around and is narrated biking home. On the whole, I didn't feel like as much was accomplished in those 2k words as there could have been, and it seemed like a bit of a detour away from the meat of the chapter, Koa taking his exam and setting off on his journey.

Meanwhile, your prose is pretty clean. Just a few small punctuation things, typos, etc. under the spoiler.

You seem to have a pretty firm grasp on dialogue punctuation, but there were a couple little mistakes here and there.

"You'll have to have some patience, my boy." Rowan said.
Here, you want a comma after "boy" instead of a period.

"Thank you!" he hugged his cousin, then stepped back to examine his new prize.
"He" should be capitalized--"he hugged" isn't a dialogue tag; what you have is a competely unrelated sentence following the dialogue, so it should start with a capital letter like any other sentence.

Related to dialogue, one thing to watch out for is what's called a direct address, where one character refers to another by name, title, or some other descriptor. In these cases, you always put a comma before the name. For example, you do it correctly here:

Good morning to you too, Koa.

However, you miss the comma a fair amount. For example:

"Hey Blake, I'm going out."
This should be "Hey, Blake, I'm going out."

"Hey watch it you moron!"
Here a character is referring to another as a moron, and it works the same way as a name; it should be written, "Hey watch it, you moron!"

Similar deal here:

"Easy buddy. I don't want to hurt you,"
Should be "Easy, buddy."

Or here, where a term of endearment is being used:

"Good job little K.
Should be, "Good job, little K."

In just one week he turned 14, which was the minimum age to apply for a trainers license in Sinnoh.
At least a couple times, like here, you call it a "trainers license" when it should be "trainer's license."

The only things of note on the west half was the library and the gym.
*were

Root like vines wrapped around its trunk and spiraled upwards, forming a web-like tangle near the crown of the tree.
"Web-like tangle" is correct... which means you also need a hyphen in "root-like vines!" Same situation where you have a compound modifier ("X-like"); the words want a hyphen between them.

out his stopwatch, he hit pause.
Looks like part of this sentence got eaten.

He distracted himself with his job at the local pokemart, saving as much extra cash before he began his training journey.
I think you're missing some words in this sentence.

Fyren handed him a card, then posed for a picture before leaving the stage.
The way you've written this, Fyren's the one posing and then leaving the stage. Assuming you meant the kid, changing it to, "Fyren handed him a card, and he posed for a picture..." would fix that.

Koa nodded again. He didn't bother to mention his little detour. If his cousin found he went exploring in a cave without any pokemon, he would probably be furious.

"Sorry, no one is allowed past this point without a Trainers License and at least two badges." Two guards blocked the cave entrance, barring the path forwards.
Was there maybe supposed to be a scene break here? The sudden switch to a new location was jarring.

Koa gave him a dirty look and grit his teeth.
*gritted

In the end, there's a lot of fun stuff going on in this chapter, and it sets up for a fun next chapter, too. I'm curious to see how Koa will handle his honey-obsessed new friend, and whether his perfect team plan is going to go even more wrong. I'm also excited to learn more about this version of Sinnoh, and the legends that are, you know, kind of in the title. :P I know that the earlier chapters are a bit old, so it'll be fun to watch how your writing grows and changes as the story goes on. Nice work! Hope your writing is going well.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Hey, what's up! Figured I would check this story out, since I always enjoy a good trainerfic. I like the mix of classic elements (I mean, we're starting with the good ol' "getting a starter" deal) and your own takes on things--like the way we end up getting that starter, heh. This review covers the first chapter.

....

AHHHHHHH HAHHAAA THANK YOU! MY first review!!!!! Man I am so excited right now..... Thank you so much for all your in depth thoughts!!!!!

To address a few stuff, beginning with those typos... Yeah, dialogue formatting is my biggest struggle. Especially in my earlier chapters. (As you can see, hehhe)

I really really suck at remembering those darn commas, lol. I do think I got better in later chapters, but I'll probably try and go back and fix the ones you pointed out.

And yeah, there's supposed to be a scene break at that part you mentioned. Guess it got lost in the formatting...

You're absolutely right about that bike scene part. Looking back, it is a bit unnecessarily long. If I ever have a chance, I'd love to go back and rework it. The reason for this is likely that the first 5 chapters are based on my first version of the story, so a lot of old details get left in. The only truly necessary part is really establishing the Zubat encounter and the mysterious stranger.
In hindsight, I think back then I was eager to simply show that traveling between cities takes time. And as for the pc thing... yeah I didn't even realize it, but I really don't need to mention it yet, cause it won't become relevant until like, way later lol.

And I'm glad that sneaking into the cave surprised you! :)
I wanted to build a different dynamic than just either 'rules following' or 'rush into rule breaking'. He kinda has his own rules he follows, as opposed to just following society's, so to speak. He's willing to break certain rules if his pride leads him to believe its not a big deal. I was aiming for a very dynamic sort of character.

And you know, pointing out that Koa's over-focused on battle-readiness is strange is good. Because to put it bluntly, Koa is stupid. He's got a heck of a lot to learn. That said, his reasons for needing a super strong team do go beyond just exploring (apparently I don't allude to it yet, which is weird... guess its only in summary...)
But as the summary will reveal, and later chapters mention, he also dreams of catching a legendary. Which if it is possible, he knows he'll need a really strong team for that. Of, wether or not he succeeds remains to be seen.

To cap things off, I'm glad you brought up about his life's dreams for later and what he wants to do with exploring. I've thought about it just a little, but now that you've brought it up, its something I'll surely keep in the back of my mind. I have some ideas brewing for later arcs ;)

Thank you thank thank you for taking the time to read this and give such in-depth insight!!!!! This really made my evening! Getting this kind of feedback helps a great deal. I'll definitely take your advice into account when I inevitably do a re-tweak of chapter 1! Thanks again!!! :D
 
chapter 3

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
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Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 3: Rocky Road to Success

Here is chapter 3! As you can see, I am recording a list of all of Koa's Pokemon at the start and end of every chapter, just to make things easier to remember. In this chapter, Koa will face his first gym challenge... How will he fare?

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Zubat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Supersonic, Absorb, Bite, Wing Attack



Getting to Oreburgh wasn't hard at all. He left Jubilife through the east gate, taking route 203 towards the Coronet mountains. In the distance, he could just make a smaller series of mountains that extended from the Coronet Mountain range, creating a natural wall on three sides of Oreburgh City. Far in the distance, beyond the small mountains, the shadow of Mt. Coronet loomed, its peak disappearing into the clouds.

The route was fairly simple, mostly consisting of a long, winding path through spare woods, and near the end, and gentle slope leading to Oreburgh Gate, a passage through the mountains. He was still at least a day's journey away, though he was sure he could reach the passage by tomorrow morning if he kept a good pace. There was a small lake halfway along the route where he planned to rest, then set out early the next morning.

He hadn't been traveling for long when he caught sight of a small Starly at the edge of the path. Koa quietly took a pokeball from his belt. The opportunity was too good to pass up.

"Go, Hazard!"

Joltik emerged in a flash of blue light. Starly chirped in surprise and then opened its wings, preparing to take off.

"Use String Shot and immobilize it!"

A burst of sticky web shot from Hazard's pincers, wrapping around Starly's body and one of its wings. It fluttered its remaining wing in a panic. Hazard jerked it to the ground.

"Now, Electroweb!"

A small glowing ball of electricity formed in front of Joltik. As he launched it, it spread into a wide web of crackling electricity, pinning the Starly down. Within a second, the Starly was knocked out. The web faded, leaving only the Starly behind. Koa took out an empty pokeball, ready to capture it.

Something made him pause, however. You already have a flying type. Zubat. You should train him. He stared at the Starly, uncertainty gripping him. He would desperately love a Staraptor, yet... His hesitation cost him. In a moment, the Starly recovered. It blinked a few times, cheeped smugly, then took off. Koa watched it go and groaned. Well, there would be plenty of opportunities to catch another Starly. He just wanted to catch the right one. That was all. And when he did, he would release Zubat. For sure.

Satisfied, he continued on, allowing Hazard to remain on his shoulder. The little Joltik had taken to absorbing electricity from his Poketch after battles, but Koa made a note to pick up a battery pack next time he was in a city. Though his Poketch had a powerful solar battery, battery packs were more efficient. Plus, they were specially designed for electric types like Joltik and Pichu. He was excited by the prospect of continuing to train the determined little Joltik.

"Koa and Galvantula..." he murmured the words softly to himself. They had a nice ring to it. Sure, he hadn't caught the Shinx he wanted, but there were still five slots on his team. A Galvantula was an apt replacement and there'd be plenty of chances to catch other Pokemon. To finish his team and his plan, then... Then he'd reach the top.

For the next few hours, he traveled in peaceful solitude. As the sun began to set behind the mountains, he spotted the glimmering surface of a small lake. With a whoop of delight, he ran the short distance to the water's edge. He dropped to his knees, splashing his face with the cool, refreshing water. After enjoying the water for several moments, he sat back. Time to make camp.

Once he'd set up his tent and sleeping bag, he sighed contentedly, and leaned against a tree, taking a moment to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. About three seconds later, he sat up again. Time to train.

Hardly had the thought even crossed his mind than a light flashed from his belt and Zubat appeared. He let out a happy screech and did a little loop. Koa rolled his eyes and shook his head. He had to admit, even if Zubat wasn't good in battle it was kinda cute. "You wanna stretch your wings?"

Zubat screeched and flared his wings as if mimicking a battle cry. Koa rolled his eyes, then released Hazard.

"I'm going to do some quick training with Hazard, so just stay out of the way, ok?"

Zubat looked slightly crestfallen, head drooping and body dipping in flight.

A sharp pain tore through his ankle and he looked down to see Hazard glaring at him, pincers clicking threateningly. "Ow! What's that for?" he said crossly, staring at Hazard.

The Joltik chittered and nodded expectantly at Zubat. His gaze bore into Koa accusingly, and sparks danced across his fur.

Koa sighed. "Sorry Zubat," he said, somewhat reluctantly. "I didn't mean to sound harsh. Right now I'm going to work with Hazard but I'll try and train you later, ok?"

Zubat gave a high-pitched three of delight and flew at Koa, nuzzling his cheek, his fluffy fur brushing Koa's skin. Koa patted him reasuringly. "You can uh... Watch I guess if you want though." He didn't see what difference it made since he couldn't keep Zubat, but there was no harm in it either he supposed.

After Zubat squeaked in acknowledgment, Koa turned back to Hazard. He didn't bother watching to see if Zubat stuck around, though. Besides, he had more important things to worry about. Like starting Hazard's training. Oreburgh wasn't far off, and he would need to be as strong as possible. "Alright Hazard, ready?"

Hazard eyed him for a long moment, then hopped off his shoulder and took up a battle stance.

From what he knew of Joltik, they couldn't produce their own electricity. However, with training, they could greatly expand the amount of electricity they could store. With enough training, they could even grow strong enough to not need a charge for several battles. By that point, he would have evolved into a powerful Galvantula and could create his own electricity.

He started by having Hazard practice his Electroweb on a nearby tree, then use his String Shot. After a solid hour of building up endurance with his attacks, Koa called it quits. The sun had nearly set completely, and he was fairly worn out from everything that had happened.

"Good job, Hazard!" Koa patted Hazard appreciatively. The small bug chirped in delight. Koa returned to his camp and fed both his Pokemon. Zubat returned from somewhere looking rather proud of itself, but he couldn't tell why. he honestly hadn't even seen the Zubat leave. Nor was he particularly interested. Both Hazard and Zubat chose to return to their pokeballs to rest and he turned in for the night. His dreams were filled with legendaries and thoughts of climbing Mt. Coronet, only to be greeted by a giant Zubat instead of a legendary.

He awoke fairly early, eager to continue on his journey. He opted to leave both Hazard and Zubat out of their pokeballs. The weather was pleasant, and the exercise would be good for them. Or Hazard, at least. He didn't stop to battle much, although he let Hazard take out a few Bidoof and another Starly. He decided to wait until after he got his Tyrunt to catch a Starly. For now, he was simply happy with Hazard. There'd be plenty of time for training a Starly later. Once, he saw Zubat fly off towards a Kricketot to challenge it, but he didn't pay any attention to the fight. Judging by its behavior when it returned, however, he supposed it must have won.

Halfway to Oreburgh Gate, Koa took a moment to stare at Mt. Coronet. His heart filled with longing. One day he would explore its depths. No telling what kinds of treasure lay inside, not to mention the legends he'd read about in the Canalave library. How Arceus had formed Sinnoh, and how, at the highest peak of Mt. Coronet, lay the Spear Pillar. The place where Palkia and Dialga, the gods of space and time, had been created. A place no one had seen in years. According to some, it didn't even exist, but he knew better. A place of proving.

The only way to the pillar was through the caves, but the caves were like a maze. The deepest depths were filled with countless strong wild pokemon, who could easily destroy a Pokemon and its trainer. Even the Gym Leaders didn't venture too far into its depths. Many a trainer had tried to fly to the pillar, only to be met with unpredictable winds and freezing temperatures. It was truly the ultimate test.

Pictures of legendary Pokemon swarmed through his head. He saw himself climbing the mountain, being lauded as one of the first trainers to reach the Spear Pillar in centuries. Photographs of Sinnoh's deities in hand, he would be on national news.. He would be famous and loved. He would show the whole world how there was nothing he couldn't achieve. But above all that, perhaps... just maybe he would have a chance to meet one of Sinnoh's greatest legends.

"We'll make it there one day, Hazard," he pointed towards Mt. Coronet. "Maybe we'll even see Dialga and Palkia." Maybe even another...

Hazard chirped. From somewhere behind, Zubat screeched his agreement.

Finally, Koa dragged his gaze away from the mountain and continued walking. As he drew closer to the mountain range, the ground sloped and Koa could see Oreburgh Gate not far ahead. A wide tunnel cut through the mountain. He knew that just on the other side was Oreburgh City, famous for its mines and museums. He'd gone there with Blake on a few occasions and was familiar with the city and its gym leader, who happened to be the son of Canalave's own gym leader, Byron.

A man wearing a police uniform stood outside Oreburgh gate, leaning on the cave wall. As Koa approached, he looked up. "Hey! You there!"

Koa gave him a questioning look.

"You see any shady characters around?"

"Shady characters?"

"Suspicious people. There's been some crimes committed lately In Jubilife and Oreburgh, and we're trying to track down the criminals responsible."

Koa shrugged and shook his head. "No... sorry." He'd only see a few other people out walking about, and none looked very suspicious. Although he supposed any criminal worth his salt wouldn't be very good if he looked suspicious.

The officer sighed and waved him on. "Alright, keep going."

Koa took a step, then the officer held out his hand. "Hang on. Lemme see your Trainer's License."

Koa handed it over. The officer looked it over before handing it back. "Congratulations man. Good luck out there. Are you gonna try for the gym circuit?"

"Maybe. But I've got a lot of places to explore too."

The guard nodded. "I understand. Don't forget though, a lot of places require badges for entry if you plan to explore."

"I'll keep that in mind," Koa said. He started towards the exit. "Have a good day," he called back.

"Same to you!" The guard replied.

The Oreburgh Gate path was a bit long but turned out to be an uneventful walk. He only saw a couple of Geodude, which he was able to defeat a bit too easy to make it really worthwhile. He considered the guard's advice. Truthfully, he'd always known he would have to take on the gym circuit eventually. After his experience at the Ore caverns, he was considering going for the gym circuit sooner, rather than later. He knew for sure that the highest levels of Mt. Coronet were restricted to all but the most accomplished trainers. Perhaps after he got his Tyrunt, he would try for it. Eventually, the light at the end grew larger and brighter, until he emerged into Oreburgh City.

Oreburgh city was a sturdy mining town nestled between mountains. To the south lay its mines, where the Gym Leader Roark worked, and farther to the east lay the bulk of the Coronet Mountain Range, stretching almost far north as Snowpoint City. The north area was mostly housing, and perhaps the most important building - the Oreburgh Mining Museum. He hurried through the town as fast as he could run, not bothering to take in the sights.

A massive steel and glass building took up the northeast portion of the city - The Oreburgh Mining Museum. He burst through the door and skidded to stop. Roark himself stood just inside, talking with a woman in a lab coat. After a few more seconds, the woman nodded and walked away. Roark turned and noticed him.

"Roark!" Koa blurted. He hurried over to the gym leader.

"Hmm. Koamaru, isn't it? I remember your cousin, Blake. You live in my father's city, right?" Roark asked.

Koa nodded.

"What brings you out here? On another trip with Blake?"

"Nope!" Koa said proudly. "I got my trainer's license. And I found a Jaw fossil!"

Roark raised his eyebrows. "Incredible! A Jaw Fossil? Tyrunt are native to Kalos, so it's very unusual to see one here in Sinnoh. May I see it?"

Koa handed the fossil over. Roark turned it over slowly in his hands, nodding. "An excellent specimen indeed. More than good enough for revival."

"Sick! Can you do it now?"

Roark handed the fossil back and shook his head. "I'd love to since I've never had the pleasure of seeing a Tyrunt, but I'm afraid it's not that simple. Tyrunt are very tough pokemon, and hard to train. Unless you have at least two gym badges, then you'll have to wait."

Koa gritted his teeth, suppressing his frustration and disappointment. He'd come all this way for nothing? No. There was something...

"Fine. I challenge you to a battle!"

Roark chuckled. "Very well, if that's what you want. But I warn you, I won't be going easy on you. Meet me at the gym. And I suggest you prepare well." Roark gave a brief wave before striding out of the museum.

"We're gonna defeat him, Hazard. Then we'll beat another gym. Whatever it takes to get Tyrunt." He glanced down at Hazard, who clung to his shoulder, then at Zubat, who dutifully hovered a few feet behind him. If he didn't get Tyrunt, then all his efforts in the caverns would have been for nothing. Clenching his fists, he stomped out of the museum.

Without waiting, he walked straight to the gym and burst through the doors. The inside of the gym looked as if it had been carved from rock. The walls and ceiling resembled a cave and a few gym members milled about. The gym leaders arena was located at the rear of the cave, on a raised platform of rock. Roark stood at the base, beside a steep slope, waiting for him.

"Alright let's battle!" Koa shouted as he approached.

"Are you certain you're prepared? I can wait as long as-"

"I'm ready. I want this badge."

Roark gave a nod and led him up the slope, effortlessly scaling the steep incline. Koa jogged after him. He slipped once, but regained his balance and continued.

Finally, he stood at the top. A large arena stretched out before him, Roark at the far end. Another man in miners' clothing stood to the side. The referee, Koa guessed. The miner spoke up. "This will be a one on one match! Koamaru Averon of Canalave vs Roark of Oreburgh! The challenger is free to use up to six pokemon, the defender will use three. Substitutions are allowed. Please choose your pokemon."

Koa pushed away a flicker of fear. Three pokemon? He could have sworn Roark used to use only two. And Hazard was weak to rock types. And ground. He swallowed and took a breath. There was no going back now. Besides, Roark was regarded as the first in the gym circuit. Koa felt sure he could handle him.

"Let's show them how it's done! Go Hazard!" Hazard sprang from his shoulder and hissed in challenge. Koa swore he saw Roark quirk an eyebrow at the choice.

"Boulder, show them how tough we are." Roark tossed out a pokeball, sending out a Geodude.

The referee stepped over to button on the wall and pressed it. A glowing barrier flashed around the open side of the arena then faded. Koa recognized it as one of the safety measures implemented to prevent heated battles from damaging gyms. The barrier blocked any kind of stray energy, while still allowing free movement.

"Battle, begin!" The referee called.

Roark crossed his arms. "First move is yours, Koa."

Koa stared at his opponent. This Geodude looked much tougher than the ones he had fought at Oreburgh Gate. But it couldn't be much harder, right? Against those Geodude, a few double effective Absorb attacks were all he needed.

"Hazard, use Absorb!"

"Dig!"

Before Hazard could make a move, Geodude disappeared underground. Hazard froze in confusion and panic.

Koa realized what was happening too late. "Underneath-"

Geodude erupted from under Hazard, launching him into the air with his fist. Hazard squealed as he fell.

"Rock Throw!" Geodude began to materialize a large rock in front of it.

Koa stared, his mind whirling as he tried to think of a counter. A moment later, Geodude hurled the rock. It smashed into Hazard, sending him flying into the barrier. He fell to the ground with an unceremonious thump. Slowly, Hazard got to his feet. He was battered and worn, and Koa guessed he could only take one more hit.

"String Shot!"

Hazard gathered his strength, then rapidly fired a blast of sticky webbing, binding Geodude tight.

"Now use Absorb!"

Hazard's eyes glowed red, and tendrils of energy began to flow from Geodude to him.

"Break free and use Rock Throw!" In a surprising display of strength, Geodude tore through its bindings. It looked weakened but clearly could still go on. A large rock materialized in front of it.

"Dodge!" Koa cried.

The warning came too late, however, and the rock crashed into Hazard, sending him flying back. The super-effective attack proved too much for the small bug, and he collapsed.

The referee gestured towards Roark. "Joltik is unable to battle! Roark wins the first round."

Koa's shoulders drooped as he returned Hazard and whispered an apology. It was over already. He was about to turn and leave when he remembered. He still had one more pokeball. With a grimace, he took out Zubat.

"Go Zubat," he said, unenthusiastically.

Zubat emerged in a flash of white light and fluttered about the field, looking confused.

"Seriously?" Roark called. "A Zubat? Now you really don't stand a chance."

"We'll see," he muttered angrily. His anger boiled over, and he wished he could charge across the field and fight Roark himself for the badge. He'd probably have better odds, too.

"Boulder, Rock throw!"

It hurled the rock straight at Zubat. Koa stared at Zubat, unable to muster the drive to give him a command.

"Dodge," he called finally.

At the last second, Zubat whirled out of the way, only getting his wing grazed. Koa felt torn between anger and apathy. He didn't believe it was possible to win with Zubat, but he felt angry that he hadn't even beaten Roark's first pokemon.

"Wing attack?" Koa realized he still didn't know all of Zubat's moves. Nor did he particularly care. He couldn't keep Zubat as a battler, so what did it matter?

Zubat's wings glowed and he dived with surprising speed, striking a solid blow on Geodude. It slid back, grunting in surprise. Roark quirked his eyebrow but remained silent.

"Dig," Roark said, his voice confident.

"Absorb," Koa said, after a moment's hesitation. He remembered seeing a Zubat in a cave use it once. Hopefully, his Zubat knew it.

Zubat opened his jaws wide. Red energy emerged, drawing out the Geodude's energy. With a practiced roll, Geodude shook free of the attack and dived underground. Zubat fluttered above the hole uncertainly, his gaze flitting between his trainer and the hole.

A second later, Geodude erupted from the ground behind Zubat. Zubat's wings glowed as Geodude raised its fist. The two moves collided in the air, creating an explosion of smoke and wind. When the dust had settled, Geodude lay fainted. Zubat looked injured but was still airborne.

Koa's eyes widened. He'd expected Zubat to faint after one hit.

The referee's voice echoed through the arena. "Geodude is unable to battle. Koamaru wins the second match."

Roark folded his arms and nodded. "Not bad, Koa. But you'll need a lot more than that to beat my next pokemon!" He selected a pokeball from his belt. With a flick of his wrist, he tossed it onto the field.

A massive, towering Onix exploded onto the field, roaring its dominance.

Koa covered his ears, fear trickling into his heart.

Roark gestured dramatically to the hulking beast. "Rocky, use Screech!"

A deafening, high pitched cry rang across the battlefield. Zubat crashed to the ground, squealing in distress.

"Rock Throw!"

"Dodge, Zubat!" Koa yelled, his ears still ringing. Either Zubat hadn't heard or chose to ignore him. Either way, the fight was over moments later when Onix's boulder smashed into him. With a sigh, he recalled Zubat. "Unbelievable..." he muttered under his breath.

The referee raised his hand. "The match is over. Gym leader Roark is the winner!"

Roark returned Onix, then crossed the field to Koa. "You started strong, but you can't just rely on a single pokemon. Your Joltik wasn't anywhere near strong enough or tough enough to handle multiple pokemon in a row. Especially at a disadvantage. And your Zubat was-"

"I know!" Koa snapped. "Look, clearly, I made a mistake. No need to rub it in."

"I only-"

"Just stop. Hazard and Zubat need rest. And I have other things to do than stand around here all day getting lectured." Without waiting for a response, he turned and stormed away.

As he exited the gym, guilt consumed him. Roark had always been a friend to him and Blake. Still, he didn't need to hear all the ways that he failed. All he'd asked for was help reviving his fossil. So what if he didn't have any badges? That didn't mean he could tame a Tyrunt. For a moment, he considered sneaking into the museum and doing it himself, before dismissing the thought. No need to become a criminal. Not yet anyway, he thought jokingly.

After healing his pokemon quickly at the Pokemon center, he stocked up on supplies, then found a quiet spot near the edge of town. He needed to figure out where to go next. Taking out his two pokeballs, he sent out Hazard and Zubat. Hazard gave him an apologetic chirp and nuzzled his ankle.

Koa chuckled and stroked his fuzzy body. "It's alright buddy. You did your best. I should have trained you better before fighting Roark, especially since you were at a disadvantage. And I should have researched him. I didn't realize he had three pokemon." He mentally cursed himself for not looking up Roark's third pokemon while he was at the Pokemon Center. Oh well, he could do that later.

Hazard chittered and scurried up his arm, nuzzling into his neck. With that settled, Koa whirled on Zubat, who had perched on a rock nearby.

"You! I didn't even want you on my team. And today's battle proved you don't have what it takes." He frowned. In a slightly quieter tone, he continued. "It's my fault for not getting rid of you sooner. I'm taking you back to the Pokemon Center and releasing you." Even as he spoke the words, a pang of guilt flickered through him. He'd thrown Zubat into a battle he was utterly unprepared for. Whose fault was that?

Zubat chittered in alarm and fluttered in circles. Koa tried to brush him away, but he remained undeterred.

Koa groaned and reached for Zubat's pokeball. Zubat screeched in alarm dived into the pokeball, knocking it out of his hand. "What the heck!" Koa yelped. He gave a resigned sigh. "Look, Zubat. I'm sorry." Zubat stopped flitting about and hovered in front of Koa.

"I never should have even caught you in the first place. And I definitely shouldn't have thrown you into that battle. You weren't ready and I didn't even try to help you. That wasn't fair to you," he sighed. "But... you're not part of my plan, so you can't be on my team."

A jolt of electricity shot through his body, making his fingers tingle. "Ow!" He looked down at his shoulder to see Hazard glaring at him. Realizing his words, Koa tentatively patted him. "I'm sorry, buddy. I didn't mean you. Besides, you still fit into the Plan, sort of."

Hazard's fur fluffed up and he continued to glare at Koa. Koa withdrew his hand and sighed, looking at Zubat again. Perhaps Hazard had a point. Truth be told, Zubat was a nice pokemon. Loyal and eager too, it seemed. But you didn't make it to the top or catch legends with 'nice' pokemon. He needed a strong team. It was the only way...

"Okay, fine. I'm not catching a Starly until after I get Tyrunt, so you can stay for now."

Zubat screeched happily.

"But, as soon as I do, I'm releasing you. Or sending you to stay with Professor Rowan. Got it?"

Zubat shrieked and did a loop, then landed on his head. Hazard buzzed with annoyance from his shoulder, clearly not fully satisfied with the decision. Koa did his best to ignore him. The Zubat had pluck, sure. But Zubat just wasn't a good pokemon. Starly was naturally strong and became even more of a powerhouse when it reached its final form. He sighed inwardly. That was just how it was.

"Well, the next step is Eterna City." He paused for a moment, contemplating. The fastest route would have been going north and taking the Bike Path. Unfortunately, the Bike Path required a bike, which he did not have. That left one other option. Backtracking to Jubilife, traveling north to Floaroma City, then continuing north through Eterna forest. The trip was at least a week, probably more, since Eterna Forest was huge, and difficult to navigate. Oh well, at least he could get in some good training for Hazard. His route featured plenty of weak pokemon, as well as some water types.

xXx
Tall grass tickled Koa's legs as he followed Route 204 north. With every inhale of breath, he could smell a faint sweet scent of flowers, carried on the southern breeze. The trees all around had been cleared to make a straight forward grassy path. Small ponds dotted the area, giving the route a calming feel. He'd been traveling for the better part of a day and a half, and in the distance, he could just make out the cliff face that signified the start of Ravaged Path. The quickest route to Floaroma town. The walk had been pleasant, but prosperous as well. A few weak Starly even gave him the chance to train Hazard a bit.

As he waded through a patch of grass towards the entrance to Ravaged Path, a spot to his left rustled. A brown furry pokemon emerged, followed by a young girl.

"Hey there!" she called, waving at him. "Wanna battle?"

Koa sized her and her Bidoof up. "Sure!" he replied.

Hazard could use the chance to train against something that he didn't have a super-effective attack against.

Koa grinned and took out Hazard's pokeball. "Go Hazard!"

Hazard emerged onto the path with an excited chirp. He and the Bidoof locked gazes for a few seconds.

"Start with String Shot and immobilize it!" Koa called.

Hazard launched the blast of sticky webbing straight for Bidoof.

"Dodge, Bidoof," her trainer called. Her Bidoof leaped backward, displaying unexpected agility.

Fortunately, Koa had practiced with Hazard's String Shot, improving its strength and distance. The web extended and wrapped around Bidoof, sending it tumbling to the ground.

"Electroweb!"

The girl said something Koa didn't catch.

As Hazard charged the attack, Bidoof began to spin rapidly in place. Koa quickly recognized the attack as Rollout.

"Launch Electroweb now!" he called.

Bidoof shot forward with surprising speed, just as Hazard released Electroweb. The two attacks collided, Bidoof spinning and pressing against the Electroweb for a moment. There was a small explosion and Bidoof was sent flying back.

Koa grinned. Electroweb hadn't done too much damage, but Hazard remained undamaged. His attacks were getting stronger.

"Bug Bite."

"Defense Curl! Block it."

Hazard's pincers glowed white, growing slightly longer. Then he charged at Bidoof.

Bidoof's eyes widened. It squeaked in terror then quickly curled into a ball, its fur glowing with a faint metallic sheen.

Hazard's pincers clamped onto it, but Koa could see that the attack did little damage, thanks to Bidoof's Defense Curl.

But Defense Curl wouldn't protect against everything. "Now, Electroweb!"

Hazard quickly shot a blast of electric energy, covering Bidoof in a web of crackling electricity.

It squealed in pain, then fell limp. The web faded, leaving the Bidoof unconscious.

"Nice job, Hazard!" Hazard chirped happily and discharged a few sparks triumphantly.

Bidoof trainer returned it, then nodded. "Your Joltik is pretty impressive. Here, a little reward from Bidoof and I."

To his surprise, she handed him a few poke.

Koa accepted it, then bid the trainer farewell. After she had gone, he took out the battery pack he'd bought in Jubilife, allowing Hazard to recharge himself. The device had cost him a pretty penny, but it was worth it.

"Alright, take a good rest. We'll be at Ravaged Path soon, and I want you ready to battle." He took out Hazard's pokeball and returned him. Standing up, he continued down the path. As he walked, he spotted a few trainers, some having battles or training, but didn't challenge them. He to save Hazard for Ravaged Path, after all.

Koa pressed on, emerging from the grass at the entrance to Ravaged Path. He strode inside, the light behind him fading. The main area of Ravaged Path was fairly straightforward. A staircase sloped steeply upwards to a path that curved to the right, emerging on the top of the cliff. Unlike Ore cave, which had yet to be fully mapped, thanks to Onix's and such, Ravaged Path was no more than a small cave with an underground lake. Just as he ascended the stairs, a Geodude leaped from a ledge above, barring their path. A grin spread across Koa's face. Perfect. Training time.

As it turned out, Hazard was able to take out the Geodude fairly easily. Using a combination of String Shot and Absorb, he wore it down rather quickly. From there, it was simple to finish it with Bug Bite.

Despite how easy the battle was, it did give him some confidence for his eventual rematch against Roark. In the back of his mind, he was already trying to figure out a strategy to beat him. Of course, it would be a cinch once he caught his Tyrogue. They were known to hang outside Eterna, and he planned to catch one after fighting Gardenia. Within the hour, he exited the cave to the upper half of Route 204.

From here he knew it was a fairly straight shot, past some trees and through some patches of overgrown grass. At the pace he kept, he figured he could make it to Floaroma by tomorrow morning. He only saw a few other people along the route, which didn't surprise him. Floarama wasn't a very large town, so there weren't many travelers. Once the sun started to set, he made camp for the night. Hazard seemed content to remain in his pokeball, so he let Zubat out to stretch his wings.

The next morning, he awoke to a strange weight on his chest. Blinking his eyes, he opened them to see Zubat nestled against his chest, sleeping peacefully. Or at least, he assumed he was sleeping. Zubat's lack of eyes made it hard to tell. Watching it, he almost pitied the poor creature. Almost unconsciously, he reached up and stroked it gently between the ears. Its blue fur was extraordinarily soft and fluffy.

After several moments, he sat up slowly. Zubat gave a soft squeak and fluttered into the air, shaking its head. "Time to go, buddy." Zubat screeched excitedly and began to fly about. He seemed so happy. Koa decided to let it stay outside its pokeball. Floaroma town was close anyway, so he wouldn't be flying far. He packed up camp, then released Hazard to travel on his shoulder.

A few hours later, he spotted Floarama's infamous wooden arches, which had been built only a few years ago. They marked the entrances to the town and added to the flowery, bright feeling of everything.

As he passed under the arch and into Floaroma town, he was assaulted by a mix of earthy and flowery scents. Floaroma town consisted of groups of small, quaint cottages with large fenced-in gardens all around. Just inside the town walls, to his right, was the Pokemon Center, and just north of that, the Pokemart. Directly beside the Pokemart, he saw the town's most well-known attraction. The Pick-a-Peck of Flowers shop.

Hazard scuttled off his shoulder towards the shop, eyes gleaming eagerly.

"Man I guess you guys must be pretty hungry," Koa mused. He'd run out of fresh berries not long ago. Now would be the perfect time to stock up.

Hazard trotted ahead, up to the flower shop. A young lady who was tending a berry plant noticed him.

"Hello there!" she said cheerfully. Her hand shot out as she tried to pet him. Hazard chittered in alarm, his fur fluffing, and nipped her. "Ouch! What was that for?" She shook her hand and frowned.

Koa hurried over to the woman. She shot him a glare. "Is this your Joltik?"

"Yeah-"

"Well, you should teach that thing some manners! What a beast."

Koa clenched his fists. "Maybe you shouldn't just touch other people's pokemon!"

"Hmph. Just keep that thing away from me. I don't want it trampling my plants."

Hazard shot her an angry glare as he returned to his perch on Koa's shoulder. Koa glared at her back, wondering how a Pokemon as tiny as Joltik could possibly trample anything.

"Don't worry Hazard. You're not a beast, and your manners are fine," he murmured. He stepped inside the shop, a bell above the door chiming as he walked in. Zubat darted inside after him, then landed on his head. He sighed, not bothering to shoo it away.

"Hello, welcome to Pick a Peck of Flowers!" A young woman behind the counter greeted him cheerfully. A Roserade stood beside her, watching them. "Can I help you?"

"Well I want to get some berries for my pokemon," Koa said. His voice trailed as he stared at a sign behind the lady, detailing the different berries they carried. He realized he had no idea what kind of berries his Pokemon liked. Most Pokemon would eat Oran berries, but they usually had a favorite as well.

"Is it for that adorable little Joltik?" the woman asked. "And Zubat I assume?"

Koa nodded.

The lady smiled. "A Zubat? I'd definitely go for a Pecha berry. They usually love sweet things. As for the little guy..." She tilted her head and tapped her chin. "You look like you'd like something spicy, wouldn't you?" she cooed.

"Rosy, bring some Pecha berries and Tamato berries please."

Koa suddenly remembered the honey tree where he first found Zubat. "Actually, can you add a jar of honey as well? I think my Zubat acquired a taste for the stuff."

At the mention of Honey, Zubat perked up and shrieked happily.

The Roserade nodded and disappeared into the back of the shop. A few moments later, she returned with three packages balanced expertly in its hands. She placed them on the counter. One contained a few Pecha Berries, the second Tomato berries, the final one a jar of honey.

"200 Poke!" The saleswoman said.

Koa dished out the money, then purchased some sandwiches for himself from a nearby cafe. Then he led his pokemon to some picnic tables near the flower meadows where he sat down to enjoy his meal. As soon as he opened the jar of honey, Zubat screeched and attacked it voraciously. Koa laughed at the display, watching as the little Zubat practically buried his head inside the jar. Hazard made a strange noise he could only assume was some kind of laugh. Zubat was rather sweet, he supposed. He would almost be sad to see it go. Almost. Shaking his head, he set to enjoying his own lunch.

After he finished eating, and his Pokemon finished their meals, he headed for the east gate, towards Route 205. If he continued east, he could reach the famed Valley Windworks. Valley Windworks was only an hour or so outside town, making it a suitable place for training. He planned to train there a bit, before heading north for Eterna Forest.

Once he reached the Windworks, he paused to take stock of the area. A wide open grassy expanse spread out before him, with a paved road leading to the gates of the actual Windworks plant. In the distance, Windworks river wove around the factory before flowing back to the west. Suddenly, Zubat gave an ecstatic screech, launching himself off his head. He flew straight towards a small golden leafed tree on the side of the road. He latched onto the bark and began licking it delightedly. Koa rolled his eyes. Well, as long as Zubat was distracted with his honey, he could work on Hazard some more.

Koa singled out several small rocks scattered in the area. "Alright Hazard, let's keep working on your electricity. Rapid-fire Electroweb on those rocks."

Hazard sprang off his shoulder and began launching Electrowebs at the rocks. At first, it could barely last five minutes without a recharge. Koa continued working with him for the next hour, however, only stopping to allow him to recharge. According to the Pokedex, by discharging all their electricity and then recharging, they could slowly expand their storage capacity. Pretty soon, Hazard was able to last longer and longer without a recharge. Koa guessed he could go at least fifteen minutes. That would be more than enough to last in a battle against Roark.

Feeling satisfied, he let Hazard rest for awhile. In the distance, he saw Zubat flying about, dipping and diving through the sky. As he watched, he couldn't help but marvel at how well the Zubat had adapted to sunlight. He supposed Zubat had gotten used to it from its time pursuing honey trees.

Looking a little closer, he realized Zubat wasn't just goofing off, however. Was he... training? Curious, he continued to watch. Zubat would spiral through the air, pull off some acrobatic tricks, then pause to open his jaws and fire a soundwave at a small tree. It looked like he was trying to use Supersonic. Each time he did it the waves of sound spread out across a wide area and disperse quickly, not even reaching the tree. Koa frowned and narrowed his eyes, watching carefully.

"You know, you barely open your jaws when you use Supersonic, but if you open them wider you can make your attack stronger."

Zubat paused, hovering, and stared in Koa's direction. Then he did another loop and fired a wave of sound energy at the tree, this time opening his jaws much wider. The soundwave carried several more yards this time, visibly rattling the sapling. Koa smiled to himself before turning back to Hazard. "Good job, buddy." Hazard chirped appreciatively, then looked pointedly at Zubat.

Koa gulped and shifted awkwardly. "Uh... Nice work, Zubat."

Zubat shrieked happily and landed on Koa's head again. Koa held back a sigh. It occurred to him he was beginning to grow used to the Zubat's presence. After a good rest, he started towards Route 205 once more.

The walk to Eterna forest was nearly two days from where he was, but he was looking forward to it. Route 205 was a simple route. The first bit consisted of a beautiful flowered meadow, shifting into grassy plains and small canyons. He traveled in relative peace for several hours. He battled a few trainers with Hazard and won most of them. That evening, he made camp at a spot where the canyon split, and the land met the bank of Windworks River.

As usual, he set out early next morning. He hoped to make it to the edge of Eterna by nightfall. According to the maps he'd studied, there was a small cabin just outside the boundary of the forest. It served as a rest stop for weary trainers. If he could reach it, he could rest there and get a solid start on Eterna Forest tomorrow morning.

He hadn't been walking long before he spied a young boy in a purple tunic. The boy was instructing his Meditite to attack a tree. The Meditite would summon an attack, then strike the tree. Over and over, they repeated the motion, not unlike the training he did.

As Koa approached, the boy stopped and whirled to face him. His eyes darted to Zubat before breaking out into mocking laughter. His Meditite stopped training to mimic him.

Koa clenched his fists and strode up to the boy, stopping less than a foot away. "What's so funny?"

The boy pointed and laughed again. "A Zubat! How pathetic indeed, to use such a weak, common pokemon. The-"

Koa punched him in the face. "No one calls my pokemon weak!"

Zubat screeched at the boy, who crawled so his feet, a hand clamped to his nose. "How dare you attack me in such a manner?"

"How dare you talk to my pokemon like that?" Even though he didn't intend to keep Zubat, he wouldn't put up with anyone insulting his pokemon either. "How about your Meditite vs my Joltik? I'll show you what power looks like."

The boy laughed. "No way! Your Joltik looks almost as pathetic as your Zubat. Almost. It doesn't prove a thing unless your sad little Zubat can beat my Meditite." The Meditite grinned cockily and smirked at him.

Koa balked. He highly doubted Zubat stood a chance against the Meditite. Hazard could handle it. But Zubat was weak and inexperienced. Still, his pride (and Zubat) had been challenged. If he backed out now, he would be a coward. "Fine," he growled. "What's your name?"

"Kody," the boy replied arrogantly. "With a 'K'. Meditite and I are going to become the greatest Psychics ever."

Koa rolled his eyes. "Alright Zubat, get ready to fight."

Zubat launched himself off Koa's head and took up a battle stance, hovering a few feet above the ground.

Koa glared at the boy. "If I win, you admit that my Zubat is awesome. And give me, say, 200 poke."

"What if I win?" Kody demanded.

"You get the satisfaction of knowing you're right. And 200 poke."

The boy mused for a moment before nodding. "Alright fine. I'll show you just what a mistake you made with a weakling like that. Go Sai!" Meditite hopped forwards took up a fighting stance.

"I'll give you first move," Koa said, smirking.

"Your loss. Sai, use Confusion." A wave of blue energy surged towards Zubat.

"Confuse it," Zubat opened its jaws, firing a nearly invisible soundwave at Meditite. It struck Meditite, who began to teeter.

"Wing attack!" Zubat dived down and struck Meditite, knocking it back.

"Come Sai, let us finish off this foolish Zubat! Use Hidden Power."

Sai began to charge a ball of energy, but his concentration slipped and it exploded, knocking him into a tree. Zubat dived down and struck him again with Wing Attack. Sai yelped and slumped to the ground.

"Finish him!" Koa cried. Could he actually get lucky and win this?

"Counter with Psyshock." Sai shook his head, clearing it, then launched a glowing bluish orb.

Koa didn't even have time to process what was happening, and neither did Zubat. The attack knocked him out of the air, and he crashed to the ground, stunned.

"One more time Sai." The second Psyshock hit Zubat, sending up a cloud of dust from the force of the impact.

"Zubat no!"

Zubat gave a groan and tried to stand.

"See! Just as I predicted, your Zubat is weak." The boy smirked and Sai gave a taunting cry. As much as he wanted to, Koa couldn't bring himself to make a retort. Kody was right.

Zubat made one last attempt to stand. To Koa's surprise, he let out a defiant shriek and charged Meditite with Wing Attack.

Kody remained unfazed. "Confusion, slow it down."

Meditite's eyes glowed blue, and a blue glow surrounded Zubat. Zubat briefly halted midair before being slammed unceremoniously into the ground, unconscious.

Koa's shoulder's sagged. He returned Zubat, then paid out the money he owed.

"Ha! See, I was right," Kody gloated. "Zubat is pathetic." He strutted off, his Meditite floating after him.

Once he had gone, Koa released Zubat again. He gave it a potion to restore it, then sat back and sighed. Zubat fluttered to life and stood up awkwardly. He squeaked sadly and ducked his head, almost as if he was ashamed. Koa stroked his furry blue head thoughtfully.

Zubat had lost, unsurprisingly. What did surprise him was that he should have fainted much earlier, after the first Psyshock. The fact that he survived the second shocked Koa even more. And then... he reflected on the battle, how Zubat bravely tried to keep fighting anyway. Even when he was exhausted. Despite how he'd rejected Zubat constantly, he had clearly put everything he had into the battle. Another thought occurred to him, one he'd tried to avoid thinking about. Technically, Zubat was his starter. Not Joltik. It was the first pokemon he acquired after becoming a licensed trainer.

A trainer's starter was special.

Confusion brewed inside him. His head said not to keep Zubat, regardless of what it had done. Plenty of books he read mentioned how flighty and unpredictable they were. How they were a weak species, hard to train. Yet his heart said otherwise. Even after he'd gotten angry at Zubat after their loss to Roark, it had persisted. For him.

"Oh Zubat, I'm sorry!" he cried out. "I've been an awful trainer to you. You fought so hard for me and I didn't fight for you."

Zubat perked up slightly, lifting his head as if staring straight at Koa.

Hazard chirped encouragingly from his shoulder as if to say 'about time'.

"This whole time I've been thinking what a terrible pokemon you are, but I'm the one who's terrible. I should have been training you to bring out your strength. A good trainer works with his pokemon, no matter what. But instead, I doubted you, ignored you, and dismissed you. " Koa took a deep breath. "Can you forgive me, Zubat?" Even as he spoke the words, he felt a pang in his heart. Why would Zubat even forgive him, after he'd been so awful?

Without hesitation, Zubat shrieked happily. He flew into the air, doing a little loop before landing on Koa's head.

Koa blinked, then laughed and patted him, grinning from ear to ear. The tension in his heart lifted. Even if he didn't deserve Zubat's forgiveness, he vowed to make it up to him. By the legends themselves, he would help Zubat become strong, no matter what. "Now that that's settled, how about a nickname?"

Zubat squeaked amiably.

"Hmmm... let's see. Flutter? No, that's dumb. Dracula? Too cliche. How about...Echo?"

Zubat gave a delighted screech and nuzzled against his cheek.

"Echo it is then." He glanced happily between his two pokemon-no, partners. A surge of pride flowed through him. They weren't part of the Plan, but they were good. Besides, there were still 4 more slots on his Plan. It just needed a bit of adjusting. "Now, it's time for some hardcore training! Roark is too tough to beat right now, but Gardenia is a grass-type gym leader. The two of you should be able to handle her pretty easily." The only obstacle standing in his way now was Eterna Forest.
xXx​

  • Hazard (Male Joltik) - Electroweb, Bug Bite, String Shot, Absorb
  • Echo (Male Zubat) - Supersonic, Absorb, Bite, Wing Attack

And there's chapter 3! Koa has suffered a humiliating defeat, though it is due to his own poor choices. But he has learned a valuable lesson about being a trainer. Next up is the Eterna gym. Will he put his lessons to good use?
 
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chapter 4

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 4: Every Roserade Has its Thorns

Ah yes, here we are at chapter 4. We finally reach Koa's first real gym battle. Perhaps he will learn from his humiliating loss to Roark? As always, enjoy!

Zubat, the Bat Pokemon. Even though it has no eyes, it can sense obstacles using ultrasonic waves it emits from its mouth. This Zubat is male and knows the moves Supersonic, Bite, Absorb, and Wing Attack.

He'd stopped to rest for the evening near a place known as the Wayfarer's Cabin, and took the time to properly see Echo's moveset. Once the Pokedex finished relaying the moves, he had Echo demonstrate each one. He was fairly impressed - Echo had a solid handle on all his moves.

Now he was eager to begin training and make good on his promise. After everything Echo had done for him, he intended to return the gesture. No matter what it took, or how long, he'd help Echo become the best Zubat ever. The plentiful bug pokemon that lived in the forest would be perfect training for him too. For now, however, he decided to settle for working on teaching Echo Confuse Ray. It worked on the same principle as Supersonic but was much more potent and accurate.

To his surprise, developing the Confuse Ray technique proved easy. After a solid couple hours of practice, Echo managed to change his Supersonic into the concentrated golden orbs of a Confuse Ray. Another half-hour of practice and Echo had mastered the attack fairly well, able to hit targets from a good distance away.

"That was sick!" he cried happily to Echo, as he launched his tenth flawless Confuse Ray at the rock they'd chosen as a training dummy.

Echo screeched happily and flew around his head, delighted at the praise. Koa chuckled, playfully dodging and swatting at him. Taking the time to actually work with Echo made him realize that whatever he may have lacked in 'natural strength', he was more than determined to make up for with spirit and pluck.

xxx​

Wayfarer's Cabin, a large cabin built at the edge of Eterna Forest, was a place where trainers and pokemon could rest briefly. A tall wooden fence surrounded the cabin, and an Arcanine sat at the gate, watching his surroundings intently. It acknowledged him with a bark as he approached, then moved from in front of the gate. Koa stroked him gently, scratching behind his ears before going into the cabin. He briefly wondered about its trainer. It looked happy and well-cared for.

The cabin looked empty, though a sign near the door instructed weary visitors to help themselves to food in the cabin, or to take a quick nap in the beds. Koa took a breath and sighed happily. It had been a few days since he slept in a proper bed. Once Echo and Hazard made themselves comfortable, Koa took a shower then made himself cozy in one of the beds. His gaze drifted to his pokemon - Echo, perched a short distance away on a lamp, and Hazard, curled up on his backpack. Echo kept shifting on his perch as if he couldn't quite get comfortable.

"Echo," he whispered.

The Zubat's ears twitched and his head swiveled towards Koa.

Koa patted his chest. "Come on," he whispered. With a happy chirp, Echo launched off the lamp and plopped on Koa's chest, nestling into his neck. Smiling softly, he stroked his soft fur, then tucked his own hands behind his bed. Plan or no plan, he was happy to have the Zubat by his side.

xXx​

The next morning, Koa stood in front of Eterna Forest, gazing into its murky depths. He'd read a lot about the forest. Long ago, woodcutters had carved a path leading to Eterna City. They had also attempted to create paths through the rest of the woods but were stopped by hordes of wild pokemon and eventually gave up. The path became frequently used by travelers, but he also knew that every book about this place warned against straying too deep off the path. Dangerous pokemon lurked there, pokemon who would not hesitate to attack a human or another pokemon. After the incident with the Golbat, he had no desire to test that. Besides, he was more interested in caves than forests.

With a glance at his two companions, he started into the forest. The outside sounds faded, replaced by the distant humming of bugs and gentle chirping of bird pokemon. Thick shade enveloped him, cloaking the forest in a cool, eerie stillness. He moseyed through the forest, taking in the sights as he walked. He spotted a few other people, some young bug catchers and a few junior pokemon scouts.

The first day or so of his trip through the forest remained uneventful. Echo and Hazard both got in some excellent training against the weaker bug pokemon. Echo had a bit of difficulty with a Misdreavus, but soon triumphed thanks to his powerful Bite attack.

The third day, however, proved more interesting. Not too long after he set out in the morning, a girl burst out of the brush. "Hey! You're the kid who lost to my brother, and punched him in the face, right?"

Koa stared at her, puzzled. "What?" She wore a set of distinct purple clothes and had familiar dark gray hair.

"My brother, Kody. We come to Route 205 and Eterna Forest to train. Has a Meditite, about yea high?" she continued, gesturing.

Koa scowled and nodded, recalling his defeat at the hands of Meditite. The memory of the loss still left a bitter taste in his mouth. "Yeah, but for the record, he insulted my Pokemon, then I punched him."

"Fair enough," she said with a shrug. "He gets punched in the face a lot honestly." She paused and smirked. "But that's not what I'm here for. My brother and I have a little contest. Who can get the most wins in a row. So that means it's up to me to beat you too! Come on out Psy!" She tossed a pokeball, and a Psyduck emerged. She grinned at him. "Name's Rachel by the way."

Koa frowned. He was in no particular mood to face anyone related to Kody. Still, at least she wasn't as rude as him. Something she'd said made him pause, however. "You and your brother nicknamed your Pokemon the same name?"

At that, Rachel frowned. "NO. Psyduck's name is Psy. P-S-Y. My ridiculous little brother spelled it S-A-I or something."

Koa chuckled, then reached back, patting Echo, who found a new perch on his shoulder. "Want to give it a shot, Echo?"

Echo shrieked and fluttered onto the battlefield.

Rachel eyed the Zubat skeptically. "How about we make things even more interesting. I'll wager 500 Poke I can win. Winner takes all."

Koa grinned. "Sounds like an extra 500 Poke in my pocket. I accept."

"Psy, Water gun!" The Psy blasted a shot of water, knocking Echo out of the air. He shook his head, catching himself midair and recovering quickly.

"Now tackle it!"

"Quick, Bite!" Koa called out. The Psyduck seemed well trained, but Koa had a feeling it wasn't as tough as his Zubat.

As Psyduck approached, Echo narrowly dodged, then sank his jaws into it. Psyduck squealed in terror. A blue glow wrapped around Echo and yanked him away, smashing him into the ground. After a moment, Echo got up, battered but still strong. Their training had paid off.

Koa grinned. There was still time to land a good hit. "Absorb."

Red tendrils of energy trickled across the battlefield to Echo, leeching Psyduck's strength and restoring Echo's.

"Psy, use Confusion one more time!"

Blue light enveloped Echo.

Panic filled Koa. He did not want to lose again, and he didn't want Echo to lose either. As tough as Echo had become, he was still vulnerable to Psychic attacks. "Confuse Ray!" Koa called.

Three glowing golden orbs formed in front of the Zubat's jaws. He blasted them at Psyduck. They collided, making Psyduck stagger back. It dropped it's hold on Echo. It's eyes flickered blue, then it hurled itself headfirst into a nearby tree.

"Psy, snap out of it!" Rachel cried.

Koa grinned, feeling pleased. It was time to end this. "Finish it with Wing Attack." Echo dived at the stunned Psyduck, his wings glowing brightly. He struck it with his wings, knocking it out cold.

Koa grinned in triumph. The speed at which Echo had knocked Psyduck out showed that Echo had gotten much stronger.

Rachel returned her Psyduck to its pokeball and walked over to him. "Huh. Pretty good. Your pokemon are certainly tough. Clearly you've been training since you fought my brother. Not that he's that good," she added with a chuckle. "Well, good luck. You're pretty close to Eterna City. Maybe I'll see you around." She waved a final goodbye, before jogging into the forest.

After she left, Koa let out a breath of relief. "Nice work, Echo!"

Echo shreed happily and did his trademark loop before settling onto Koa's head. Koa chuckled and stroked Echo's head. "Alright, get some rest." Echo nodded in agreement. He took out Echo's pokeball, returning him.

For the next few hours, Koa traveled in pleasant silence. He was contemplating taking a break for lunch when loud, derisive laughter broke the silence.

"Hey, still got that loser Zubat?"

Koa whirled towards the voice, his fists clenched, to see Kody. Kody, who'd been standing just a few feet away, flinched back when he saw Koa's clenched fists.

Koa relaxed his stance and smirked. "How about a rematch?"

"Why, you want to lose again?" Kody asked, his voice positively dripping arrogance.

Koa shrugged but said nothing. This time, he was confident he could win. Echo had been working hard, and he was much stronger than the last time they'd fought.

"In that case, I am more than happy to oblige," Kody said. "Go Sai!" A pokeball hovered onto the battlefield, releasing a familiar Meditite.

Grinning, Koa took out Echo's pokeball. "Go Echo!" As he tossed out the pokeball, it rattled violently midair, then burst open, spilling out blue light. The light coalesced into the silhouette of Zubat for a second. Suddenly, the light began to glow even brighter. Bright bluish light began to swirl around the form of Zubat.

Koa gasped, barely able to believe his eyes. Echo was evolving! As he continued to watch, the blinding light doubled in size. The silhouette shifted from the small, wiry form of a Zubat to the tall, powerful form of a Golbat. With a final surge of energy, particles of light surged outward, leaving behind an angry-looking Golbat.

Echo let out a deafening screech, making both Koa and Kody cover their ears. He stood, glaring down the Meditite. Meditite shrank back, shaking with fear. Koa couldn't take his eyes off the new form of his friend. His Zubat had actually evolved! He knew Echo was close, given his relative strength and power, but he had no idea how close.

Kody stood in open-mouthed awe before shaking himself, trying to regain his composure. "Doesn't matter. That thing is still weak, just like its trainer!"

Echo's glare grew even angrier if that was possible. He was not fond of people mocking his trainer.

"Meditite, use Feint!"

Meditite closed its eyes, focusing. A second later, it appeared behind Echo, its hand glowing white and raised to strike.

"Behind!" Koa shouted. He figured there wasn't time to finish the entire command, but he trusted Echo to understand.

Echo whirled around, his wings glowing with energy. Wing Attack met Feint, and for a second, the two moves stalemated. Echo screeched and pressed harder. Meditite was thrown back and crashed into a tree. It slowly began to stand, its limbs shaking with exhaustion.

Satisfaction flowed through Koa. Time to end this fight. "Now, Bite."

Echo's jaws glowed with energy, his fangs nearly doubling in length. Koa immediately recognized the technique as Bite's more powerful successor, Crunch. He dived towards Meditite

"Meditite, Confusion," Kody called.

Meditite struggled to its feet, its eyes glowing blue.

A blue glow surrounded Golbat, halting him in his tracks just inches from Meditite. Echo pressed against the weak psychic attack, his eyes glistening with determination. Meditite began to tremble from exertion.

"Don't give up, Echo! Show him how hard you've been training!"

Echo roared and pressed forward, breaking through the Confusion attack. He sank his fangs into Meditite, nearly swallowing it whole. Meditite cried out in pain, struggling to escape. Echo clamped his jaws tighter, and Meditite fell still.

"Yeah!" Koa shouted. Echo spat out the unconscious Meditite and screeched triumphantly.

Kody stared at Meditite, his gaze distant. Slowly, he pulled out a pokeball and returned it. He stared at the pokeball for a moment, then looked up. "Well, I guess I was wrong. Your Zubat - sorry, Golbat, is impressive. You've trained it well." Kody strode forwards and offered his hand.

Koa examined it for a moment, then shook it. "Thanks."

As Kody left, Koa couldn't stop grinning as he stared at Golbat. Gardenia didn't stand a chance.

xXx​

Koa heaved a sigh of relief as he finally entered Eterna City. Two Noctowl perched above the gates and he waved to them as he passed through the gate, reveling in the feeling of sunlight on his skin. As he emerged into the city, he paused to take in the sights. Quaint, weathered brick buildings lined uniform streets. The architecture gave the city an old fashioned feel, and combined with the cobblestone streets, reminded Koa that Eterna City had been Sinnoh's first city. He quickly set aside his observations of the city in favor of something he was far more interested in seeing.

Turning north, he took off, excitement renewing his strength. There was something here he wanted to see, something he'd only ever seen in tour guides. He'd just rounded a corner and started east when he spotted it. Two towering metal statues, carved in an elaborate representation of Palkia and Dialga. He stopped in front of the statues, breathless, staring up at them in awe. They loomed over his head, gleaming in the late afternoon sun. Each statue stood at least 20 feet tall, although he privately wondered if the real pokemon were even larger. With some effort, he dragged his eyes away from the statue to read the inscriptions below them.

The one beneath Dialga read,

"The creation of DIALGA,
The giver of time...
In laughter, there is tears...
And, likewise it is with time.
The same time flows on.
For it is the blessing of DIALGA."


While Palkia's read:
"The birth of PALKIA.
The creator of parallel dimensions...
Alive, yet not alive...
Everything drifts in space...
To arrive in the same universe.
It is the blessing of PALKIA."


"Cool..." he whispered, stroking the text.

"So you came here to see the statues too?"

A voice behind Koa startled him, causing him to jump. He turned around to see the caped boy from the trainer's license exam. Koa grasped for his name, but he couldn't recall it. A fact that frustrated him, since he'd known his legends and history well.

"To think that Pokemon themselves hold mastery over the fabric of the universe. Time and Space..." his voice trailed for a moment. "Antimatter."

Koa perked up. "You mean Giratina?" Just the thought of the shadowy dragon sent shivers down his spine - although they were more from excitement than fear. The great dragon, balancer of time and space. Ruler of the Distortion realm, supposedly. A fact which he wholeheartedly believed.

The boy tilted his head, his dark hair falling to the side slightly. He quirked an eyebrow at Koa before nodding. "Indeed. Although I am surprised to hear you know of Giratina. Not many do know it seems, and even more, are ignorant of the legends."

Although he didn't look much older than Koa, he sounded odd. His voice had some kind of dialect or accent, although not one he'd ever heard. And the way he spoke sounded unusual as well. Not to mention he had a really weird outfit. "The legends are so cool! I know everything about them pretty much. Once I'm strong enough I'm going to find the Spear Pillar."

At the mention of the name, the boy broke into a chuckle, shaking his head. "Certainly you jest? No trainer has managed to navigate the maze of tunnels within Mt Coronet, nor braved the skies above. If you know the legends, then surely you know that the legends themselves have hidden that place." His voice was disbelieving but not scornful.

"Doesn't mean I'm going to give up. Who are you anyway? I remember you from the license exam, but what are you doing here?"

"I'm here for the same reason as you, I suspect. To visit these statues, and challenge Gardenia, among other things." He frowned and looked down at his watch. "Alas, I am afraid I have tarried too long. I have business to tend to, as well as preparation for my gym battle."

"Good luck then, " Koa said as an afterthought.

The boy paused and glanced back at him, a faint smile playing across his lips. "I have no need for luck. All I require is the strength of my partners and our skills." He strode swiftly away from the platform. Koa watched him go, his eyes narrowed with curiosity. A moment later, he smacked himself in the head. I forgot to ask his name!

The boy seemed unusually mysterious, but he also seemed like he knew a lot about legendaries. Maybe he would run into him later. He jogged back through the city to the pokemon center, where he stopped to get his pokemon a checkup. By the time he was done, he found it was far too late to challenge the gym. Burying his frustration, he settled for a small room in a nearby inn. Going to sleep was too difficult this early in the night, so he stayed up, planning for tomorrow.

Gardenia should be fairly easy, but just in case, he had picked up a trainer's guide from the pokemon center to read up. Supposedly, Gardenia had a Cherubi, Turtwig, and Roserade. The Cherubi he wasn't particularly worried about, and the Turtwig likely wouldn't be too much trouble, but the Roserade did worry him. It was stronger than the other two. At least he wouldn't have to worry about his Zubat being poisoned. That was one edge up. And Joltik couldn't be paralyzed either.

Koa rolled over in bed and addressed his pokemon. "Here's the plan guys..."

For the rest of the evening, he formulated different strategies with his Pokemon.

As usual, he awoke early the next morning and took a short jog before returning to a cafe for breakfast. He set out for the gym immediately. Since Eterna was a larger city, there would no doubt be a fair few challengers, and he wanted to get there before them. As he walked to the gym, he passed by the south gate. A large sign posted beside the exit read "Cycling Path Ahead-Bikes Only!"

He watched enviously as a young woman sped by on her bike, zooming through the exit. Aside from his cousin's bike, he never had his own, since they were so expensive. The Cycle Shop in Eterna was the only bike distributor in all of Sinnoh, and the process wasn't cheap. He set aside the thoughts as he approached the gym. After Roark, he didn't intend to lose.

Outside, the gym looked fairly average. Unlike the rest of Eterna, the gym's architecture had a distinctly newer feel, and it was painted in shades of green. Taking a quick breath, he stepped inside. A rush of warm, slightly muggy air greeted inside of the gym resembled a giant greenhouse, with rows of trees and various plants growing all about. Although they were not in any specific order, they still seemed very precisely planted. A forested scent hung thickly about, and he took a deeper breath and closed his eyes, the scents reminding him of the woods around Canalave, minus the ocean scent.

"Hiya! I see you're enjoying my gym."

Koa opened his eyes to see a young woman with short orange hair and a green tunic. Gardenia. She smiled brightly, and her eyes seemed to give off a sparkle. "I'm here to challenge you to a battle."

Gardenia smiled at him, although her pleasant gaze seemed to size him up as well. "Hm. You have a winning aura about you!" She nodded towards another woman tending to a flower patch. "Lavender, meet me by the arena please." The woman nodded and hurried away, and Koa followed Gardenia.

They wove through the rows of plants, until they emerged to a wide space bordered by thick, sturdy trees in uniform lines. Bright sunlight filtered from the open ceiling above. They took their places on either end of the battlefield. Lavender emerged from a path between the trees, a Nuzleaf trailing behind her. Gardenia waved in acknowledgment before turning back to Koa.

"So, challenger. What's your name?"

"Koamaru," he replied.

"Pleased to me you, Koamaru. As is custom, I will use the traditional three pokemon. You are free to use as many as you like."

"All I need is two," Koa said confidently.

Gardenia nodded and continued. "Would you like to wager on this match?"

Koa paused for a moment. He'd forgotten about the wager rule. Any challenger could choose to wager money on an official challenge if they wished. Some gyms would allow anything from a minor 1 poke, to thousands more. There were restrictions on the amount of course, and only trainers were allowed to make wagers. His thoughts drifted to the Cycle Shop. Maybe... it was a long shot, but if he won, it would pay off.

"How about 10,000 Poke." It was basically all he had, so if he lost, he would be broke. But if he won, it would pay off handsomely.

Lavender gasped softly, and Gardenia's eyes widened. "Well, I like your spunk. Are you sure?"

Koa nodded determinedly. "Absolutely."

"10,000 it is then. Lavender, could you go over the official terms please?"

"Certainly, Miss Gardenia. This will be a single battle match. The challenger, Koamaru, will be using two pokemon. The defender, gym leader Gardenia, will use three. The battle will continue until one side is out of usable pokemon. The challenger may substitute, but the defender cannot. The terms of the wager is 10,000 poke, winner takes all. Trainers, send out your starting pokemon."

Koa unhooked Echo's pokeball and tossed it out. Almost simultaneously, Gardenia sent out Cherubi. Perfect.

Lavender raised her arm. "First move belongs to the challenger. Battlers, begin!" A loud chime echoed through the gym.

Echo let out his trademark screech and glared at his opponent. Koa sized up the Cherubi. It was a gym leader's pokemon, which meant it wasn't a pushover. But with the type advantage, Koa felt fairly sure he could end this battle quickly.

"I'll let you go first," Gardenia said.

"Wing Attack!"

Echo wings glowed and he dived straight for Cherubi.

Unfazed, Gardenia gave her order. "Dodge Cherubi!"

Cherubi sprang easily out of the way. Echo whirled, attempting to pursue with Wing Attack. Once again, Cherubi nimbly leaped out of the way. Three more times, Echo dived at it with Wing Attack, only for it to dodge. Koa scowled. He hadn't expected Cherubi to be this fast.

"Alright Echo, back off!" Echo fluttered backwards, eyeing the Cherubi angrily. Koa knew he needed a new strategy, and fast. Echo was quick, but as a Golbat, he could never compete with Cherubi's speed. "Echo, return," he said, finally. Holding out Echo's pokeball, he returned him.

"Alright, go Hazard!" Grinning, he tossed out Hazard's pokeball. Joltik emerged in a flash of light. He faced down his opponent, his eyes gleaming dangerously.

Koa took a moment to gather his thoughts. If he could slow Cherubi down, he could win. But the real challenge would be tripping up Cherubi without Gardenia realizing what he was up to. "Start with Electroweb, Hazard."

Hazard nodded and fired off a blast of electric webbing. It sailed through the air, straight for Cherubi.

"Dodge it again and use Magical Leaf," Gardenia said. Cherubi leaped to its right, and the web landed harmlessly on the ground, still crackling with electricity. The leaves on its head glowed bright green and it hurled a flurry of sharp leaves at Hazard.

Koa's eyes widened. "Fend it off with Bug Bite!" Hazard's pincers glowed and he began desperately snapping at the leaves as they flew at him. He managed to deflect most of it, but many still struck, battering him slightly.

Now Koa had a plan, however. He spoke calmly "Electroweb to the right."

Joltik's eyes gleamed in understanding. He fired an Electroweb, aiming just to the right of Cherubi. As he expected, Cherubi leaped left to dodge.

"Quick, String Shot!"

As Cherubi leaped left, Joltik fired at the spot, covering the ground in a mess of sticky webbing. Just as Koa expected, Cherubi crashed directly into it. It cried out in shock and distress as it found itself firmly stuck in place.

Gardenia's eyes widened in shock as she realized what had happened.

"Now, Bug Bite!" Hazard lunged at the trapped Cherubi, sinking his jaws into it. "Keep going, Hazard!"

"Get out with Magical Leaf," Gardenia called.

Cherubi frantically began launching its leaves at the webbing. Hazard continued to cling to it. A few strands were cut, allowing Cherubi to get free.

"Get that thing off of you with Growth!" Gardenia shouted. Cherubi closed its eyes, its leaves glowing green. After a moment, its body suddenly grew, dislodging Hazard and tossing him a few feet away, unharmed. Cherubi was left panting, clearly exhausted from the super-effective attack.

Koa grinned. "Don't let up. Electroweb!" Hazard fired off the attack.

"Block with Magical Leaf!" Gardenia cried.

The two attacks collided, but Hazard quickly fired a second Electroweb. The two webs combined, doubling in strength. They overwhelmed the leaves, crashing through them and trapping Cherubi. Electricity flowed through the Cherubi, shocking it mercilessly and knocking it out.

Hazard gave a cry of triumph, and Koa cheered.

The referee raised her hand. "Cherubi is unable to battle. Joltik is the victor."

Gardenia smiled as she returned Cherubi. "I have to admit, that was pretty impressive. A lot of trainers struggle with my Cherubi's speed. You adapted well." She took out a second pokeball. "But you have a long way to go. Go Twiggy!" She tossed out the pokeball. With a flash of light, a tough looking Turtwig emerged.

Koa eyed it uncertainly. After Cherubi, he wasn't sure what to expect from this Turtwig. Hazard looked worn out from the multiple electric attacks however. "Alright, Hazard. Return. Go Echo!"

His Golbat emerged from his pokeball with a screech. He and Turtwig locked gazes. "Alright Echo, up in the air," Koa said. Echo launched himself into the air, hovering several feet above the battlefield.

"Twiggy, Razor Leaf." Turtwig's leaves glowed and it swung its head, launching a volley of leaves up at Echo.

"Block with Wing Attack." Echo began to strike back, knocking a few of the leaves away. Turtwig hurled a second volley. Several struck Golbat, hitting him back several feet. Koa grimaced. The attack had hurt, even with Golbat's resistance to grass type.

Gardenia smiled. "Twiggy, use Tackle!" Turtwig sprinted forwards and leaped up with unexpected grace. Before Koa could react, Turtwig crashed into Golbat hard, knocking him back. Turtwig landed and cried out a challenge.

Koa scowled. Turtwig's physical moves were clearly stronger. He needed Echo for Roserade, which meant he needed to end this quickly. "Echo, Wing Attack! Don't stop."

Echo dived at Turtwig, wings glowing. He began to swing at it relentlessly. Turtwig gracefully dodged each one.

"Now Twiggy, retaliate with Bite." Turtwig opened its jaws wide and leaped for Echo.

"Confuse Ray!"

Gardenia's eyes widened in a panic, while Koa grinned. Turtwig, already midway through his attack, had no way to dodge. Just as it sank its jaws into Golbat, Golbat blasted it with Confuse Ray. Turtwig let go, falling to the ground rather ungracefully. It slowly got up and began to stagger about.

"Finish it with Wing Attack, Echo."

Echo shrieked gleefully and began to pummel Turtwig over and over with his wings. In a few seconds, the battle was over.

"Turtwig is unable to battle. Golbat is the winner!"

Gardenia frowned and returned Turtwig. "You've got spunk, Koa, I'll give you that. But it's not the end yet. Go Roserade!"

A Roserade emerged onto the battlefield in a flash of light. It spun in a circle, dramatically flourishing its flowers.

Koa contemplated carefully. Roserade was the pokemon he was most concerned about. It was her trump card, and stronger than the rest. Echo hadn't suffered too much damage, but he was hardly fresh either. Maybe Hazard could finish the job.

"Alright Echo, take a rest. Hazard, finish her!" Hazard burst forth, sparks dancing across his fur.

"String Shot." Hazard blasted a huge chunk of swirling webbing towards Roserade.

"Weatherball," Gardenia said confidently. Roserade charged a swirling ball of fire between its hands. It hurled it at the web, burning through it easily. It continued on and smashed into Hazard.

His Joltik cried out in pain as he was knocked back. Slowly, he got to his feet, his sides heaving. Koa gritted his teeth. How had she managed to pull of a fire attack? A second later, his scowl deepened as he looked up, noting the bright morning sun shining through the glass roof of the stadium. He'd initially only thought it was just to add to the atmosphere, but now he understood. Of course. Gym leaders could work the gym to their advantage. He looked down again at Hazard.

Joltik couldn't last much longer after taking a hit like that. But perhaps there was a way to get a hit in before he fainted. A way he could help ensure Echo's victory.

"Do you trust me, Hazard?"

Hazard looked back at him. Their eyes met and he nodded, his blue eyes sparkling with determination. His desire to help his team burned in his gaze.

"Electroweb."

Hazard summoned everything he had. The charge took a second longer than usual, and Koa guessed he was running out of charge. No matter, this battle would be over soon. Joltik launched the web across the battlefield, straight towards Roserade.

"Really? That's all you got?" Gardenia called. "Destroy it again with Weatherball."

Roserade grinned and fired another Weatherball. Koa smiled. Just as he hoped, Gardenia had used the same counter. The two attacks collided in midair, creating a small explosion of smoke and light. "Quick Hazard, launch yourself with String Shot."

Hazard nodded in understanding. He launched a precise string of webbing at a tree behind Roserade, using it to yank himself forward.

"Now Bug Bite!"

Hazard sailed forwards, pincers glowing. He emerged from the smoke created by the blast from Weatherball and Electroweb, straight for Roserade.

Roserade's eyes widened in surprise. A split second later, Joltik collided with it, sinking his pincers into Roserade's body. It cried out in pain.

"Get rid of it with Magical Leaf," Gardenia called.

Still cringing from the bite, Roserade raised its hand, aiming it awkwardly at Joltik, who still clung to its body. Koa knew there was no point in trying to dodge now. Joltik could never get away in time, his best bet was inflicting maximum damage. Roserade's hands glowed, and a volley of leaves shot out, knocking Hazard off. He landed a few feet away, unconscious.

Koa quickly jogged onto the field and knelt next to the Joltik. His eyes opened and he churred happily. "Nice work, Hazard." He glanced up. Across the field, Roserade was panting heavily and looked fairly worn out. Hazard had done his job. Now Echo could finish it.

Gently picking Hazard up, Koa set him on his shoulder and returned to his side of the field. He tossed out Echo's pokeball confidently.

Echo emerged, standing on the battlefield and glaring down his opponent. Roserade met his gaze evenly.

From Koa's shoulder, Hazard gave a cry of encouragement to his teammate. Echo glanced back, locking eyes with him before nodding.

Koa eyed Gardenia from across the battlefield. Despite her situation, she still seemed calm.

"So you think you have me cornered?" she called.

"Sure seems like it," Koa replied.

Gardenia chuckled. "Let's find out! Roserade, Magical Leaf." Roserade blasted a flurry of leaves straight at Echo.

"Charge and dodge, Echo." Echo flew forwards, spinning to the side to dodge the flurry of leaves. "Now, Wing Attack!" Golbat wings glowed and he struck Roserade hard, sending it flying. It crashed to the ground, sliding several feet.

"Nice!" Koa pumped his fist. Roserade slowly pushed itself to its feet, its body trembling with the effort. It stood up straighter and cried out a challenge. Echo shrieked in reply.

"Wing Attack, again," Koa called. One more hit could end this fight. Echo dived at Roserade.

"Flash!" A bright light exploded from Roserade's hands, lighting up the entire stadium. Koa shaded his eyes with his hands. It faded after a moment, but the damage was done. Echo fluttered erratically about the stadium, his eyes screwed shut. His movements grew more erratic and he began to spin about in confusion. Koa muttered a curse. This wasn't good. Echo was panicking.

"Weatherball," Gardenia called. Roserade charged up a fiery ball and hurled it at Echo.

"Dodge!" Koa cried out in a panic. Echo spiraled awkwardly in the air but failed to escape the attack. It crashed into him, knocking him into the ground. Golbat shakily stood up and glanced frantically about.

Gardenia grinned triumphantly. Panic began to grow inside Koa. Echo was panicking, and if he couldn't see, he couldn't dodge. He was a sitting Farfetch'd. As Koa stared at his friend, his heart hammered wildly. He'd come so far with him, he couldn't lose now. Then it struck Koa. A thought so obvious he burst out laughing. Gardenia stared at him in confusion. Koa ignored it, focusing on Golbat.

He spoke quietly, his tone soothing. In addition to calming Echo, he didn't want Gardenia to hear him. "Hey Echo. I know you can't see right now and it's scary. But remember being a Zubat? You didn't need to see back then. Just relax and listen."

Echo stopped glancing about, his tiny ears twitching. His body stilled, and when Koa finished speaking, he gave a low shree of acknowledgment.

"Alright Echo, Confuse Ray," Koa said softly. He doubted the move would make contact, but it would serve as a good distraction. His eyes still closed, Echo charged a series of golden orbs and launched them at Roserade.

"Magical Leaf, Roserade. Destroy it." Roserade shot a volley of leaves at orbs, shattering them.

"Crunch!"

Echo shot forwards, straight at Roserade.

"Poison Sting," Gardenia called. Roserade quickly shot a volley of tiny purple needles from its hands.

"Dodge up, then right," Koa said.

Echo pumped his wings, lifting him several feet into the sky. Roserade tried to follow the movement with Poison Sting, but Echo whirled right, dodging a second time. And then he was upon her. His jaws opened wide, fangs glowing with a black aura. Roserade gave a single shriek before being swallowed.

"Spit it up in the air and use Wing Attack!" Echo spat out the battered Roserade, sending it soaring into the air. It flailed wildly as it started to fall back to earth. Echo lunged after it and struck it hard with Wing Attack. It crashed to the ground, finally unconscious. Echo landed and blinked a few times, the effects of Flash finally clearing. Seeing the defeated Roserade, he gave a cry of triumph.

Koa leaped into the air, pumping his fist. "Yeah! You did it Echo." Echo shrieked again and flew over to him, landing on his shoulders. Koa almost buckled under the weight but stroked his friend appreciatively.

"Roserade is unable to battle! Challenger Koamaru and Golbat are the victors!" Lavender called.

"What! But... how?" Gardenia cried. "I blinded your pokemon!" As she spoke, she frowned sadly and returned Roserade. She crossed the battlefield to Koa and offered her hand.

Koa shook it. "That might have worked if you were facing my Joltik, but not Echo. Golbat's hearing is sick. I realized after you used Flash that he could use his ears just as well as his eyes," Koa said.

Gardenia chuckled, then smiled cheerfully. "Of course! I should have thought of that myself. " She withdrew a gleaming green object from her pocket and handed it to him. The Forest badge. "I might've said it before, but you're really tough! Wasn't it hard for you to raise your Pokémon to be so good? I guess that's a measure of how much you love your Pokémon."

"Thanks," Koa said, a bit uncomfortably. If only she knew... "Echo and Hazard did all the work though." Grinning widely, he accepted the badge. One more to go...

"I believe this is yours too." She paused and turned, picking up a briefcase from Lavender, who had just arrived. She handed it to him, and Koa took it carefully. "That's your 10,000poke."

Koa gave a loud whoop.

"Be careful." Gardenia chided, her voice serious. "There have been robberies lately. I don't recommend traveling with that very far."

Koa nodded, then practically ran out of the gym, barely able to contain his elation.

Half an hour later, he sat in a grassy area at the eastern edge of Eterna City, enjoying lunch with his pokemon, and relishing the new bike he bought. He couldn't wait to take it to Cycling Road and really test it out. Although he still had one thing to do before leaving. Find a fighting type. He knew this area might have some, and a fighting type would really help against Roark. A grass type could work as well, or even water, but he wanted a fighting type badly. Or rather, he really wanted a Tyrogue. They were diverse and powerful, and any of its three evolutions would make an excellent addition to his team. Of course, they were fairly rare as well, but he was sure he could find one.

Once he finished lunch, he packed up and headed east from Eterna. Route 211 featured canyons and valleys that stretched all the way to Celestic Town. However, he was only interested in the very first stretch, where his Pokedex said Tyrogue could be found. Once he arrived, he released Echo. Echo immediately did a little loop, then perched on Koa's back, making him stagger. "Alright, Echo. I'm hoping to find a Tyrogue before I face Roark again. Think you can help?" Echo shrieked in agreement and took off. Koa watched him go, then set to exploring himself.

The hours dragged by. The sun dropped lower and lower into the sky until finally, night fell. Koa returned to Eterna, his shoulders sagging. Not a single Tyrogue. He'd seen a few Machop, which Echo defeated with ease, but no Tyrogue. He guessed he'd underestimated their rarity. As he sat in the room he rented for the night, he realized he had a choice to make. He could keep hunting for one, which could take days. Or he could head back to Oreburgh, earn his second badge, and get his Tyrunt. He took out his backpack and carefully withdrew the fossil from its special compartment. Stroking its rough surface, he dreamed of the magnificent addition to his team. New resolve filled him as he made his choice.

"I'm coming for you Roark," he growled. And for you, Tyrunt.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Absorb, Crunch, Wing Attack

There you have it. After much work and training, Koa has earned his first badge. The real question is, can he beat Roark?
 
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chapter 5

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 5: Rematch and Revival

So we arrive at Chapter 5! Koa must now rematch Roark and earn the chance to revive his fossil. The real question is, can he pull it off with just a Joltik and a Golbat? It won't be easy, that's for sure...


Koa stared at the long stretch of road before him. Cycling road. The only route in all of Sinnoh designed for bikers, tailored just for them. Unlike most of the routes crisscrossing the region, this road was smooth and flawless, its concrete pathway well maintained. A thick median split it down the middle, dividing two lanes of traffic-bikes coming and going. Breaks in the median allowed for riders to make u-turns. It was every cyclist's dream. The road had been designed at a slight incline towards Oreburgh, while the opposing side inclined towards Eterna. It wasn't enough to hurtle you forwards against your will, but once you got going, it was easy to keep going. It was also his fastest route home. Normally the nearly 60-mile walk would take almost three days. Here, it would barely take a day.

"Ready for this?" He turned to his pokemon, who stood by his side - a fierce Joltik, and an eager Golbat. They both gave cries of agreement. Koa grinned and took out their pokeballs, returning them. He planned to travel pretty fast, and he didn't want to risk anything happening to either of them.

Koa took in the road before him one last time, then mounted his bike and pushed off, coasting down the hill. As he pedaled down the hill, he passed quite a few other travelers going about their business. He gazed across the edge of the road, taking in the scenery. The route bridged a forested valley, through which a winding river ran. A brief temptation seized him to pull off to the side and look closer, but the weight of his backpack reminded him of the fossil that it held, and his mission to resurrect it.

Thoughts of a Tyrunt filling his head, he pedaled harder, picking up speed fast. For a good couple of hours, he kept a steady, even pace. Most of the trainers he passed were too focused on where they were traveling to ask for a battle. It wasn't until almost noon that he encountered a trainer who challenged him.

His opponent was a cyclist named Nicole. She sent out a Starly, so Koa led with Hazard. As it turned out, her Starly was fairly new, and Hazard was able to defeat it after a couple of Electrowebs. Her next pokemon, however, proved much more difficult. It was a rather sturdy Ponyta who was proving to be fast. So far, it hadn't landed a good hit, but neither had he.

Hazard stood at one end of one of the rest areas, and Ponyta stood at the other. Both faced each other down, breathing hard, but still full of vigor. Koa knew Hazard couldn't keep this up forever, though. He could switch, but he wanted to practice fighting at a disadvantage. He would need the experience to fight Roark.

"Not so easy to take down my starter, is it?" Nicole called, grinning proudly.

"Hmph," Koa grumbled. "Don't get used to it."

Hazard suddenly turned back to face him and chirped in determination, hopping up and down. Koa grinned in sudden understanding.

"Use Tackle again!" Nicole shouted. Ponyta galloped forwards, its head lowered.

Koa smiled. He trusted Hazard to handle this. Hazard stood stock still as Ponyta approached. At the very last second, he lunged forwards, straight between Ponyta's legs. Sticky webbing shot from his mouth, wrapping around Ponyta's legs as he did. Ponyta squealed in shock and crashed to the ground, hard. It thrashed wildly, but Hazard quickly launched more webbing, immobilizing it further.

"Now Bug Bite," Koa said confidently.

"Keep it away with Ember," Nicole said panickedly.

Hazard, however, positioned himself carefully on Ponyta's neck, just out of its reach. Pincers glowing, he sunk his fangs in. Ponyta squealed in distress again and thrashed wildly, but Hazard clung on as determinedly as ever.

"Finish it with Electroweb!" Koa called. Hazard sprang off and fired Electroweb. The attack struck the Ponyta squarely, pinning it in place and shocking it. A moment later, it fell still.

"Yeah! That was amazing, Hazard!"

Nicole sighed and returned Ponyta. "That was pretty impressive, I have to admit," she called.

Koa grinned. "Thanks! But it was mostly my Joltik's idea." Hazard chirped happily and scurried up his leg and onto his shoulder. He stroked Hazard's fur and his fingers tickled with static. He was practically bursting with pride. Joltik had not only won the fight but given him the perfect idea for how to really utilize him in battle. By using his tiny size to his advantage, he could do things most pokemon couldn't. Like fit between a Ponyta's legs.

As he continued down Cycling Road, his mind whirled with new strategies and planning. He stopped briefly for lunch and let Hazard get in a good charge from his battery pack, then continued on. The day wore on. He ran into a couple of other trainers and was able to defeat most of them fairly easily. He realized taking on Gardenia first had made them rather strong for the trainers in this area.

Day turned to dusk, and he let Echo out to fly behind him and get in some exercise. Another hour dragged by. In the distance, Koa could see the smaller mountains and foothills of Oreburgh. Finally. Almost there-

A loud screech of warning yanked him out of his thoughts. He snapped back to reality just in time to see another biker swerve in front of him. Swerving sharply, he narrowly avoided a head-on collision. His bike spun out of control and he flew over his handlebars. Instinctively, he threw his hands over his head. A sudden pressure wrapped around his shoulders and he jerked to halt a half-inch away from smacking the pavement. The pressure vanished a second later and he fell to the ground, though with considerably less force. Puzzled, he rolled over to see Echo hovering anxiously above him. Laughing wearily, he reached up and patted him. "Thanks, buddy," he said, realizing just how much worse the accident could have been. Turning around, he glared at the offending biker.

"What's your problem?" he shouted.

The other rider, a young woman with straight blond hair and condescending eyes, turned and gave him a fake smile. She looked to be at least twenty. "You were the one who wasn't looking where you were going, sweetie."

"What? You cut me off!" Koa exploded. He clenched his hands into fists. Echo shrieked angrily and glared at the woman.

"Oh, I'm sorry sweetie, I didn't see you there." She tilted her head and blinked at him as if he were a small child. "Oh, what a... interesting pokemon. Did you want to battle?"

Rage boiled inside Koa at the sound of her tone. It dripped with blatant condescension. She spoke as if he was three years old and was being introduced to his first Pokemon. He dearly wanted to smack the attitude out of her. As it stood, he could at least run her for everything she was worth.

"Yeah, let's battle. Winner takes all," he added with a growl.

The woman grinned. "Sounds good. Show him up, Shinx!" The woman shouted. She tossed out a Pokeball and a Shinx emerged in a burst of light. Jealousy flickered inside Koa at the sight. It quickly faded, however. Unlike most of its species, this Shinx wore a smug smirk that resembled its trainer. It made the normally adorable Pokemon look almost ugly.

Koa reached for Hazard's pokeball, but Echo fluttered forwards, shrieking defiantly. "You want to fight her, buddy?" he asked, surprised. His Golbat nodded, his eyes gleaming eagerly. "Ok then, you're up."

The woman laughed haughtily. "Hey sweetie, you do know that flying is weak to electric, right?"

"You do know owning a pokemon doesn't make you a pokemon trainer, right?" he shot back.

The woman frowned but appeared at a loss for words. Koa grinned and capitalized on the silence. "What's your name? I like to know who I'm about to defeat."

"Megan," the woman replied, still managing to sound haughty. "You can go first," she added.

A low growl rumbled in Koa's throat. "Confuse Ray!" Echo shot a trio of swirling gold orbs.

"Dodge." Shinx nimbly leaped out of the way.

Koa scowled. "Echo, Confuse Ray again." He was reluctant to let Echo get close, not when fighting an electric type. Once more, Shinx dodged.

"Now, use Spark!" Megan called. Sparks crackled across Shinx's fur then cloaked it in electricity. It leaped from the air, straight for Echo.

"Echo, dodge and use Wing Attack!" Echo spun neatly out of the way. Koa stared at his dodge, intrigued. A thought began to dawn on him. Unlike when other pokemon he faced dodged, or even Hazard, Echo was different. Thanks to his naturally erratic flight patterns, he had a way of being unpredictable. Of course, he probably would have realized that sooner if he'd paid attention to Echo in the first place. Well, all he could do now was be better...

He was snapped out of his thoughts by Echo's Wing Attack colliding with Shinx, knocking it back several feet. It shook its head, then grinned, barely fazed by the attack.

Perhaps he could whittle it down. "Absorb!" Echo fired a red ray towards Shinx.

"Dodge, my pretty," Megan said. Shinx jumped left, then right, then left again, dodging it each time. It grinned smugly, raising its head and closing its eyes for a split second. Echo lunged forwards, eyes burning in rage. His jaws gleamed purple, dripping toxic poison. Koa's eyes widened in surprise. He recognized the technique as Poison Fang, a deadly bite learned by only a few poison types. It wasn't as strong as other attacks, but it carried the potential to deliver toxic poison to a pokemon.

"Move!" Megan yelled. Shinx's eyes shot open. It froze, its mouth open in a look of shock that mirrored its trainer. A moment later, Echo sank his jaws into it. It squealed and writhed about, but Echo simply clamped his jaws tighter.

"Spark!" The panicking Shinx covered himself in electricity, shocking Echo. Echo spat it out and screeched angrily. The Shinx landed heavily on the ground. It slowly stood up, but its eyes were glazed and a purple sheen covered its body. Poison Fang had done its job.

"No! Shinx, get it again with Spark," Megan shouted. Her hair looked a bit disheveled now, and she was clearly in a state.

As the weakened Shinx charged the attack, Koa chuckled. "Is that the only move it knows? Echo, take the hit and use Confuse Ray."

Shinx feebly leaped up at Echo. The Golbat grinned, charging Confuse Ray. As Shinx hit him head-on, it crashed into the Confuse Ray as well. The battered Shinx dropped to the ground, landing on its side and twitching. It shocked itself twice in succession before falling unconscious. Echo landed in front of it, placing one of his claws on its body and shrieking in triumph.

Megan scowled and returned Shinx. Wordlessly, she took the prize money out of her bag and handed it to Koa.

Koa accepted it, unable to stop himself from smiling. "Thanks, sweetie," he called, as she departed. She shot him a furious look before hopping on her bike and pedaling angrily away. After she had gone, he turned to Echo. "That was sick, Echo! You learned Poison Fang!" Echo screeched happily and flapped into the air, landing on Koa's back. He licked his hair and emitted another happy screech.

"Grooss," Koa said, laughing. He wiped off the saliva, then patted him. With Echo's new attack and Hazard's new strategy, he felt more confident than ever he could defeat Roark.

xXx​

The next morning, well-rested from his stay at the Pokemon Center the night before, he entered Oreburgh Gym. Ten minutes later, he stood once again on the battlefield, facing Roark. This time, he felt complete and utter surety. The battle wouldn't be easy, but his little trip had given him plenty of new ideas for strategies. Using them would be the only way to defeat Roark when he was at such a disadvantage.

After the referee had declared the basic rules, Koa put down a bet of 1000 poke. Enough to have a bit of spending money, but since he wasn't exactly poor at the moment, he didn't bother with a larger wager.

With a blast of a horn, the battle began. Just as he hoped, Roark led with Geodude.

"Hazard, come on out." Koa tossed out Hazard's pokeball. After his last battle against Roark, he'd given his strategy plenty of thought. Hazard was much stronger than the last time he faced the gym. All he needed was a couple of super-effective Absorb attacks. The real trick would be overcoming Geodude's mobility. But he had a plan for that as well.

"An intriguing choice. I'll let you go first," Roark said.

"Bug Bite," Koa said. Hazard darted across the battlefield towards Geodude, his pincers glowing.

"Dodge it with Dig," Roark called.

Geodude grunted and disappeared underground. Hazard paused his charge and narrowed his eyes.

Koa grinned. He hoped Geodude would try the same tactic again. "Up and use String Shot," Hazard nodded and jumped upwards. Aiming straight down, he fired a huge mass of sticky web. A second later, Geodude burst from the ground directly beneath Joltik. His eyes widened in surprise as he collided head on with the web. He struggled futilely and crashed back to the ground, immobilized.

"Absorb. Don't let up," Koa said. Hazard landed on the bound up Geodude. His eyes glowed red, and Geodude glowed as well, as his energy was quickly sapped.

"Get out of there, Boulder," Roark cried.

Geodude roared in pain, exerting all its strength. A full five seconds later, it managed to wrench itself free. It was too late, however. As soon as he broke free, he collapsed from exertion, out cold.

"Geodude is unable to battle. Koamaru is the winner."

Roark smiled and returned Geodude. "You've gotten a lot better, Koa. But can you win?"

He took a pokeball from his belt. "Let's see how you fare against this. Go Cranidos!" He tossed out the Pokeball. With a flash of blue light, a small blue and gray dinosaur emerged. It roared a challenge before grinning at its opponent.

Koa's eyes widened in surprise. He'd expected Onix. Well, he'd just have to adapt.

"Feel like switching?" Roark asked.

"I'll stick with Hazard," Koa replied. Hazard chittered and glared at Cranidos.

The referee raised his hand. "Battle, begin."

"Electroweb!" Koa shouted. Hazard fired a blast of electrified webbing towards Cranidos.

Roark remained unfazed. "Break through with Zen Headbutt." Cranidos growled and charged forward, his head glowing blue. The two attacks collided in an explosion of smoke. A second later, Cranidos emerged, damaged but still strong.

"Dodge!" Koa cried frantically. Hazard tried to move, but it was too late. Zen Headbutt collided with him, knockin him into a rock on the battlefield. He slid to the ground, momentarily stunned.

"Come on Hazard," Koa begged. After a moment, Hazard crawled to his feet unsteadily. He gave a cry of determination and glared at Cranidos.

"Not bad, your Joltik is tougher than I expected. But I doubt he can outlast Cranidos," Roark said.

Koa ignored the comment. "Use Absorb." Joltik's eyes glowed red, the same glow enveloping Cranidos. Cranidos flinched in pain as his energy was leeched.

Roark gave his command just as the attack subsided. Headbutt." Cranidos charged across the ground faster than Koa expected.

"Slow it with String Shot," Koa called. Joltik opened his jaws and covered the ground in front of Cranidos in sticky webbing. Cranidos stampeded over it, its feet sticking to the web. Though not enough bring it to a stop, it did slow Cranidos down substantially. "Grab on!" he shouted, just as Headbutt connected. The attack hit hard, but Joltik managed to latch onto Cranidos' head anyway. Koa grinned. Joltik certainly lived up to their title of 'Attaching Pokemon".

"Absorb again!" From his spot on Cranidos' skull, Hazard began frantically leeching its energy.

Roark's eyes widened as he realized what was happening. "Shake it off!" Cranidos screeched and thrashed his head about wildly. Hazard shut his eyes and dug in, refusing to let go. Cranidos' struggles began to weaken, and Koa grinned. Just a little more...

"Head Smash it into the rocks."

Koa balked. Head Smash? He didn't expect Roark's Cranidos to know such an advanced technique.

Cranidos' whole body became cloaked in energy. With a defiant roar, he flung himself at the nearest boulder. The rock exploded, sending smoke and flecks of pebbles flying. Koa gritted his teeth. No way was Hazard still standing after something like that.

As the smoke cleared, his suspicions were confirmed. Hazard lay unconscious in front of the shattered remains of the rock.

Cranidos shook its head, its eyes drooping with exhaustion. It gave a weak roar of triumph, then collapsed. Roark groaned.

The referee raised both hands. "Both Cranidos and Joltik are unable to battle. The match is a tie!"

Grinning madly, Koa returned Hazard. Although the battle hadn't gone quite as he hoped, he'd still managed to take down Cranidos, Roark's toughest pokemon. "Good job, Hazard," he murmured, putting the pokeball away. He looked up, staring down Roark, who grinned back at him.

"That was a pretty great strategy, clinging to Cranidos like that. I have to say, you caught me off guard."

"Better get ready to hand over that badge," Koa replied.

Roark took out his final pokeball. "I'm not giving up yet. Go Rocky!" He tossed out the pokeball. A familiar Onix emerged with a roar.

Koa grimaced. He'd hoped to have both Hazard and Echo available for this fight. Still, he was confident Echo could handle this.

"Go Echo!" Echo emerged onto the battlefield with his trademark screech. When he saw his opponent, however, he faltered and backed up slightly. Koa guessed he was remembering his last fight with the behemoth. "I've got your back this time, Echo," he said.

Echo turned to glance back at him and screeched happily. He faced his opponent confidently.

"Battle, begin," The referee called.

"Wing attack," Koa said.

Echo dived at Onix, wings glowing.

"Catch it with Slam, Rocky!"

Koa grinned and stayed silent. He'd worked with Echo enough that he knew what to do. Echo swiveled out of the way, only getting grazed by the attack. His wings made contact, though Onix hardly seemed bothered.

"Poison Fang, quick."

Roark's eyes widened as he heard the attack. "Slam, again." Onix swung its tail too fast to dodge.

This time, the attack connected full force with Echo. However, Echo weathered the hit, sinking his jaws into its tail. Though it did little damage, thanks to Onix's tough hide, Koa could tell by the way the Onix groaned that it had been poisoned. Now it was a matter of outlasting it.

"Let's see if you can really outlast my Onix," Roark said. "Rocky, Rock Throw." Onix growled and began to levitate several stones in the air. It hurled them at Echo.

"Crunch, destroy them," Koa said. As each rock flew at him, Echo sunk his jaws into it, shattering them. One made contact, knocking Echo back, but he managed to avoid the worst of it.

"Fly up Echo, and avoid his attacks."

And so began an elaborate game. Onix hurling attacks at Echo, who desperately dodged each one, and Echo struggling to keep up his strength. A few connected, damaging him, but he remained in the air. After a couple of minutes, both pokemon were worn down. Echo was breathing heavily, and Onix could barely hold itself upright from the poisoning.

"Rock Throw, one more time." Onix hurled a boulder straight for Echo.
"Wing Attack!" Echo spun midair and struck the rock with a glowing wing, hurling it straight back at Onix. It shattered over Onix's head, causing Onix to roar in pain.

"Confuse Ray," Koa called. One more attack could end this. Echo fired the golden orb, striking Onix dead on. It roared again, its eyes glazed over. With another cry, it hurled itself against one of the few remaining rocks in the stadium. The rock shattered and Onix slumped to the ground, knocked out.

The referee cleared his throat. "Onix is unable to battle. Golbat is the winner. As such, the victor is Koamaru!"

"Yes!" Koa yelled. "Nice job, Echo." Echo screeched happily and fluttered onto Koa's back, bringing him to his knees. "I knew you could do it." Echo screeched happily again. Koa rubbed his fur and looked up at Roark, who had returned Onix and was approaching him.

"Those were some impressive strategies you displayed. It's not every day someone challenges a rock-type gym with a bug type and a flying type." He held out his hand.

Koa took it, and Roark pulled him to his feet. "Listen..." he rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, trying not to look Roark in the eyes. "I'm sorry about how I behaved before. You were just trying to give me good advice, and I ignored you."

Roark grinned good-naturedly. "I'm just glad you seemed to have learned your lesson. And, I believe these are yours." From inside his jacket pocket, he withdrew two objects. One, a pouch of money, and two, a small, shining badge. It vaguely resembled a boulder, with pokeball like lines encircling it. "The Coal badge. Don't let it get to your head though. I'm still not reviving your fossil until you show me two badges."

A sly smile spread across Koa's face, and he slid his badge case out of his pocket. Flipping it open, he gestured dramatically to the Forest Badge. Then he placed the Coal badge inside as well. "See? Two badges."

Roark gasped. "You beat Gardenia?"

"It was easy with Hazard and Echo's help," Koa said.

Roark nodded. "Not bad. Well then, now that you have two badges, a promise is a promise. Let's see to your fossil."

xXx

Once inside Oreburgh museum, he followed Roark past the various displays, to the rear of the museum and through a door marked 'Staff only'. They descended a flight of stairs. At the bottom, a long corridor lit by white fluorescent bulbs stretched before them, and thick glass windows allowed a peek inside various labs. Roark led him to a sliding door with a plaque reading 'Revival Lab'. Unlike some of the other labs, there was no glass window allowing a glimpse inside.

Roark knocked on the door, then called out, "Jared? It's Roark."

A few moments later, the door slid open revealing a short man with glasses and long grayish black hair. The lighting gave his light skin an even paler look, and Koa wondered how often he got out of the lab. Behind him, Koa could see several desks with computers, and various rows of equipment.

"Ahh, Roark. Always a pleasure to see you down here. What can I help you with?"

"A friend of mine would like to revive a fossil. This is Koa. He discovered a Jaw fossil in Ore Cavern."

"Really? How odd. I've not known Tyrunt to be found anywhere on Sinnoh. How odd..." he murmured. "And Ore Cavern of all places. Hmm..."

Jared, murmuring to himself as he turned and walked into the lab. The room itself seemed like a pretty average lab, but what caught his eye was the machine on the far side, behind a set of keypad locked double doors and a thick plastic window. It was huge and advanced looking, consisting of a small metal cube-like contraption on one side, hooked to a far larger metal box by various tubes and wires.

"If you would hand me the specimen please."

Koa dragged his eyes off the machine and unslung his backpack, gently removing the fossil. He handed it to Jared.

"Excellent. This will only take a few minutes. I must admit, I am terribly excited. We've never revived a Kalosian fossil here before." Jared strode to the door and punched in a few digits on the keypad. They slid open and he stepped inside, walking over to the smaller of the two metal containers. Koa hurried to the plastic window. With the press of a button, a tray slid out from the machine. Jared carefully placed the fossil inside and closed the tray. He typed in something on a panel at the front of the machine, then stepped back.

Bright flashes of light pulsed from the machine and it whirred and beeped loudly, before settling into a steady, low hum. Very little happened for the next several minutes, and Koa found himself growing quickly bored.

Loud alarms blared, and the lights overhead flickered. There was a distant noise, like a dull boom, and the room went dark. The machine's hum grew into a high pitched whine before it exploded. Shards of debris hammered against the glass and door and Koa ducked.

"Jared!" Roark shouted. A low hum filled the room as the backup generators kicked in, and orange light filled the room from safety lights ringing the room. Through the glass, Koa could see no sign of Jared. The machine had turned to a heap of smoking, twisted metal. He followed Roark to the door as he typed in the code. The doors slid open and he covered his nose as he stepped into the smoke-filled room.

Koa held his breath, his eyes burning as he peered through the smoke, which was only growing denser. He thought he saw orange flames licking at the remnants of the machine, but he wasn't sure. Roark moved slowly about the room, desperately calling for Jared. A high pitched squealing roar filled the room, and something large brushed by Koa's leg. He yelped and leaped away, almost crashing into Roark, who was picking up a stunned Jared off the floor.

"Watch it! We have to get him out of here. Help me lift him, and keep him still."

Carefully as he could, Koa threw Jared's arm over his shoulder, helping him out of the room. Roark lay him on the floor outside. Koa glanced up and yelped in shock.

Just a few feet away, by the room's exit, stood a stocky, reptilian pokemon. Dark brown scales covered its body, which vaguely resembled Roark's Cranidos, except its head was far larger, and its legs were thick and powerful. It roared again, then charged at the doors, smashing into them and warping the frame severely. Jamming its jaws into the gap, it tore the door apart with its jaws, creating a hole big enough to fit through.

Koa gaped at it, unable to believe it. He'd read books about the strength of a Tyrunt's jaws, but seeing it in person was far more impressive, and frightening.

Roark cursed and looked up from Jared. "Koa! That's your Tyrunt! It must be trying to escape. You go catch up to it. I'll keep an eye on him!"

Shaking himself, Koa scrambled to his feet and nodded. He raced out the door, barely hearing Roark's command to be careful. He sprinted down the corridor, taking the steps up to the ground floor two at a time. Emerging onto the ground floor, he was met with chaos.

Large crowds of patrons were all surging towards the exit. Their voices filled the air with a cacophony of sound, and Koa covered his ears. A few officers were desperately trying to calm the crowds with little luck, and between the dull backup lights and the roar of the crowds, no one was really listening. Screams erupted from the people near the exit.

"Run!"

"Dinosaur!"

"Get the kids!" a young woman's voice screamed.

"Move!" Koa shouted, barreling through the crowds and pushing people aside.

"Sir please-" an officer began. He ignored the words, brushing past and plunging into the crowds. After a great deal of jostling and shoving, he broke free and staggered out of Oreburgh museum, his heart beating wildly in his chest. He looked left and right, before shouts of surprise drew his attention farther down the street, to his right. Tyrunt stormed down the street in a wild rush, in the direction of the north gate. Koa bolted after it, shouting for it to stop.

Weaving through the streets, he followed as best as he could, although he nearly lost sight of it twice, and it was running faster than him. The only thing that prevented him from losing sight of it entirely was the fact that it would stop every so often as it tried to figure out where to go. As the western wall of the city drew near, Tyrunt swerved sharply north, straight for the gate. Which, unfortunately, was wide open, since it was during a busy hour of the day, and Route 207 was relatively peaceful. Tyrunt made it through the gates long before he could even cry out for the guards to close them. Steeling himself, he continued through the gate.

At the very least, it was out of the city now, and hopefully out of danger. As he ascended the rocky slope outside town however, he quickly lost sight of the pokemon. Once at the top, he stopped, looking all around. His breath came in short gasps, and his limbs ached, but he couldn't give in now. To his right, a rocky valley extended, and he could just make out one of the many entrances to the inner caves of Mt. Coronet. Ahead, tall grass and trees spread evenly before him, before sloping downwards, forming a valley, over which Cycling Road ran. Considering the speed at which Tyrunt had been running, and its head start, it could easily be long gone.

For a moment, Koa feared that he'd lost the Tyrunt for good when he spotted footprints heading north. The ground sloped sharply down, and Koa could see the remnants of an old path that followed underneath Cycling Road. In the softer parts of the ground, he could just make out more of Tyrunt's footprints, following the path.

Immediately, Koa broke into a run, but he was forced to slow only a few minutes later. He wasn't sure how far away Tyrunt was, and he didn't want to expend all his energy. For several minutes he kept a steady jog through the valley. The deeper he got, the more the noises of Cycling Road grew distant, and the harder it became to spot the footprints. He began to see more wild pokemon as well-several bird pokemon out hunting, and the musical tones of Kricketunes and Kricketots calling to one another. He even saw a few Stunky glaring at him from the bushes, but he ignored them. The tree dotting the slopes became thicker and denser, and he only saw more and more wild pokemon. He longed for his backpack, with his supplies and food inside. No time for regrets now. At least he had his pokemon.

As he crested a slight rise in the ground, he spotted a herd of Rapidash and Ponyta. They were grazing at the base of the hill, several yards ahead and below.

At first glance, he thought the herd small, but the longer he looked, the more he saw, scattered all about, some in the trees and some in the open. There had to be at least fifty. A small movement in the woods just east of the herd caught his attention. Tyrunt crouched downwind of a Ponyta who had wandered away from the herd.

The sight filled Koa with fear. Alone, he had no doubt a rock and dragon type like Tyrunt could take down a Ponyta, and likely even a Rapidash. But against a herd? They could badly injure it. And probably would too. While wild pokemon weren't normally dangerous, if one felt sufficiently threatened, they could pose a serious threat.

Barely had he processed what he was seeing when Tyrunt emerged from the wood, running straight for the Ponyta. Almost instantly, the entire herd stopped eating, their heads jerking up as they stood erect. A loud neigh echoed through the valley, and the herd split. Most raced away, heading into the woods to the west, although a group of three Rapidash stayed behind. The strongest of the herd he guessed, judging by their size. The Ponyta sprang away, racing after the rest of the herd. Tyrunt gave chase, then stopped short as one of the Rapidash blocked its path.

Koa held his breath and began to edge down the slope towards Tyrunt. Maybe, if Tyrunt surrendered and backed down, the Rapidash might let it leave. His hopes were dashed seconds later when Tyrunt roared and leaped for the Rapidash, his jaws glowing with energy. The Rapidash kicked out hard with his front hooves, striking Tyrunt hard and knocking it back.

Koa let out a yell and charged down the hill towards the group. All three Rapidash turned away from Tyrunt for a moment, then one moved towards him and reared up, neighing threateningly. Koa didn't slow, and much to his horror and frustration, the attack had only made Tyrunt angrier. It charged at the Rapidash again.

The Rapidash's mane flared up, and his body became wreathed in flame. He charged at Tyrunt, overwhelming it with sheer power and sending it flying into a tree.

However, Koa no longer had time to concentrate on Tyrunt. He was nearly at the base of the hill now, and the other Rapidash was only a few yards away. It lowered its head and charged.

Koa stopped and jumped sideways, but the Rapidash moved much faster than he was ready for. Pain exploded across his torso as it collided with his body. The impact knocked him down hard, and he crashed into the ground. There was a frightening crunching noise as he rolled over and stopped. A moan escaped him and he lay still for a few seconds, trying to collect himself. His senses felt dulled, and the world seemed distant. The pained cries of Tyrunt drew him out of his stupor. He staggered to his feet and reached for his pokeballs, cursing himself for not using his pokemon earlier. Instead of smooth round spheres, his hands met three cracked pokeballs. He jerked his hand back, looking down in horror. All three pokeballs had cracks webbing them and running through the button on front, as well as chips in several areas where the inner casing could be seen.

A sick feeling churned in his stomach. The opening mechanisms were ruined. His pokemon would be fine, after a trip to a pokeball repair shop, but with them in such a state, it would be impossible for his pokemon to leave their pokeballs. Tyrunt screamed in pain and Koa looked up.

The fossil pokemon lay some distance away, near the base of a large boulder. A web of cracks showed where Tyrunt had been knocked into it, and the three Rapidash stood just a few yards away, glaring at its nearly motionless form. Tyrunt itself was badly battered and burned, and a nasty looking gash ran from its shoulder down its side. Still, Tyrunt stood and snarled weakly.

The lead Rapidash neighed defiantly and stamped his hoof. Koa drew a shuddering breath. This wasn't like a battle. This was a wild pokemon, forced to defend itself in any way necessary. Rapidash prepared to charge. In Tyrunt's state, such an attack could seriously injure it, or kill it.

"Get away!" he screamed, charging forwards. He lunged for Tyrunt, wrapping his arms around it and struggling to lift it and pull it out of the way. Unfortunately, it was extremely heavy, and before he had even stood up fully, he felt the Rapidash crash into him. Heat seared across his back and the force threw him forward, his body hitting the boulder. Pain exploded across his body and he crashed to the ground. In a daze, he looked up to see the furious Rapidash preparing to charge again. Fear froze him in place.

Instinctively, he closed his eyes and braced for the worst.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Tyrunt?
 
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chapter 6

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 6: Unstoppable, Immovable

How did Koa fare after his disastrous encounter with the Rapidash? And is Tyrunt ok?

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack


The sound of distant murmurings and faint but steady beeping brushed the edge of Koa's consciousness. Part of him felt weary and groggy, and he longed to simply roll over and slip into the comfortable darkness again. But with noise, came awareness, and with awareness, pain. As he shifted, hoping to fall asleep once more, a powerful, throbbing pain thundered through his skull. He took in a sharp breath, and a tight pain clenched around his chest. Slowly, gently, he breathed out again, then in. With each breath, the initial pain dulled, though it didn't fade completely.

The sounds around him grew more distinct, separating into mechanical and human noises, as well as pokemon. The dull murmur of voices blended with faint beeping. With great care, he forced his eyes open. Dull, soft yellow light filled his vision, along with a mess of blurred shapes. He blinked a few times until his vision cleared somewhat and he was able to distinguish his surroundings. Plain white ceiling and walls, spotless pale blue floors, and an odd machine with a display screen by his bedside. Crisp, stiff white sheets were draped over his body. His mind fumbled for the word. A few seconds later, it came to him. Hospital. He was at a hospital.

Koa turned his head and grimaced as a dull ache filled his head. To his left lay an open curtain around his bed and past that, a closed doorway. Through a small window in the door, nurses occasionally walked by, sometimes with a pokemon. He glanced to his right, moving his head little as possible. A window in the wall provided a view to the outside, although blinds blocked out all but a few slim tendrils of bright light. Was it day out? How long had he been here? And why was he in a hospital?

Biting his lip, Koa thought back as far as he could. He'd beaten Roark, then followed him to the Oreburgh Museum for something... Right. His fossil. He'd gone to have the Jaw Fossil he found revived. With that revelation came the memory of entering the revival room, and handing his fossil over to be revived.

Beyond that, however, he remembered nothing. He let out a slow sigh and shifted slightly in the bed. For the first time, he became aware of bandages covering his back. There was distant, itchy pain, but it didn't bother him nearly so much as his headache or sore torso. Maybe he'd been in an accident of some kind? And where were his pokemon? There was no sign of them or their pokeballs.

"Hey!" His voice came out in a dry croak, and he licked his lips and swallowed. "Hey? Anyone there?" Irritation festered in him. He was thirsty, hungry, and generally confused. He wanted proper clothes, and he missed his pokemon.

Just as he was about to get up and try to find someone, the door opened with a faint squeak. A figure walked in. As he drew nearer to the bed, Koa got a closer look.

The figure was a young woman with wavy red hair tied into twin buns on top of her head. She looked to be around 30. A pair of sport sunglasses were perched on her head, and she wore a traditional white doctor's coat with a red cross-stitched on the chest. Her frame seemed oddly muscular for a doctor, but the thought was quickly pushed aside in favor of questions.

"Why am I in a hospital?" was his first.

"Please, relax. My name is Maria, and I'm a neurological expert at the hospital," she said. Her voice was gentle and a bit high pitched. She spoke with a slight accent, but he couldn't remember where he'd heard it. Definitely not native to Sinnoh though. "I'll answer your question, but first I have to ask you a few questions. Are you a boy or a girl?"

"What?" he exploded. "What kinda question is that?"

She laughed, almost doubling over. "Just kidding," she said, smiling brightly. In a more serious tone, she continued. "What is your name?"

"Koamaru Averon," he replied, squelching his frustration.

"Who is the current leader of Sinnoh, and Champion?"

"Hah. That's easy. Cynthia."

"What are the three basic elemental types?"

"Fire, water, grass. Are we done yet?"

"Soon. How old are you?"

"14."

She nodded and wrote something on a clipboard in her hand. "And what is today's date?"

After a few seconds of consideration, he shrugged painfully. "June? I think?"

"Close enough. Don't worry, I don't expect you to know the exact date. I just wanted to assess your condition."

"Now will you tell me why I'm here? And where are my pokemon?"

"Your pokemon are all fine."

Koa breathed a sigh of relief. One less thing to worry about. "Where are they then? And what happened to me?"

"Your pokemon are downstairs in the Pokemon Wing of this hospital. We would have taken them to the Pokemon Center, but once we repaired their pokeballs, they wouldn't go far."

"Repaired their pokeballs?"

"You were attacked by wild Rapidash and their pokeballs were cracked during the fight."

At her words, memories surfaced. The sound of a pokemon crying out. A Rapidash charging at him. Burning pain and something crashing into him. Running, trying to catch something. The memories were more like snapshots than a full memory, but now he could get a general idea of what happened. An image formed in his mind of seeing Rapidash surrounding an injured pokemon, preparing to charge. His pokemon. The Tyrunt he'd had revived.

"My Tyrunt!" he cried, sitting bolt upright, ignoring the dull wave of pain that accompanied the movement. A brief wave of dizziness swept over him.

Maria stepped forward, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, or you'll make yourself worse. The Tyrunt is fine, luckily. It'll be a day or two before she's properly healed, but otherwise, she will make a full recovery. I didn't realize she belonged to you."

"Yeah uh, I was at Oreburgh Museum to revive her fossil..." his voice trailed off as he pondered what Maria had said. "She? My Tyrunt is female?"

Maria nodded. "Also, once you feel up to it, the local police would like to talk to you."

"Police? What for? I didn't do anything," he protested.

"Of course, you wouldn't remember. The museum was robbed. Several fossils were stolen, among other items. The police and Roark have been speaking to witnesses."

"How long have I been here?" Koa asked.

"Not long," Maria said. "Roark brought you in earlier today. You're basically just bruised up from your little fight with the Rapidash. Maybe next time, you should think about having your Pokemon do the battling, hmm?" She grinned at him cheerfully.

Koa slowly lay back down in bed, a sudden weariness overtaking him. His anger dissipated, replaced by exhaustion. His pokemon were safe, as was Tyrunt, and he was alive.

Maria started for the door.

Koa glanced over at her drowsily. "When can I leave?"

"Tomorrow evening. You really only have to stay overnight, so the medicine we gave you can finish healing you. Good thing humans are so tough huh?"

That was enough for now. His eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep. The rest of the day passed by in a bit of a daze. The nurses brought him a bit of a late lunch, which he nibbled at. After lunch, sleep utterly evaded him, so he watched TV. For a few minutes, he watched The National Sinnoh News. There were an assortment of reports, ranging from swarms of pokemon to weather and traffic reports. There was a special on the christening of a new cruise ship, the S.S. Blackbird. He changed channels, stopping on Oreburgh Local News. A reporter stood in front of the museum, talking.

"...ago, the Oreburgh Museum, known for its impressive coal exhibit and fossil revival capabilities, was robbed. According to local Gym Leader Roark, who was on the premises at the time, the police are working diligently to recover the stolen items, which range from fossils to rare gems and other priceless artifacts. Police are still investigating possible suspects, and have declined to comment so far. In other news..." he changed channels until he settled on an old cop show he used to watch.

At some point, he dozed off and awoke when a nurse came in to take his dinner order. None of the orders sounded appetizing, and he was forced to settle for a burger and some sort of berry dessert. When his meal came, he picked at it, barely eating half. His stomach felt queasy, and his back burned. He wondered where Blake was, or if anyone told him what happened. When Maria came back, he'd ask her.

As the night dragged on, and good tv became scarcer, he found it hard to sleep. The bed wasn't particularly comfortable, and he always felt slightly too hot or slightly too cold. Finally, sometime after midnight, sheer exhaustion won out, and he drifted into a fitful sleep.

After breakfast, Maria came back to check on him. She told him that Blake had been informed, but had yet to actually show up at the hospital and that he could leave later today. When he begged to see his pokemon, she refused, insisting he wasn't allowed until after he'd recovered. Then he was forced to take some more tests, which he grudgingly did. Afterward, he took a walk down the hospital hallways before returning to his room. As he wandered past other rooms and saw people visiting or nurses with pokemon, he only felt more lonely, so he returned to his room. There was still an hour or two to go before he would be released, so he decided to nap. He had just begun to doze off when the sound of the door squeaking and footsteps awoke him.

Koa opened his eyes and glanced toward the door. Blake stood there, staring at him. For a moment, his cousin didn't say anything. He stood, staring, his posture stiff. Then he clenched his fists, striding towards the bed. "What were you thinking? No, forget that, clearly you weren't thinking! How many times do I have to tell you? Stop rushing into things. Be smart, watch what you're doing! This isn't a game, Koa. You could have been killed."

Anger bubbled up inside Koa, and he glared at his cousin. "What did you expect me to do, let my pokemon get hurt? I had to do something, or my Tyrunt could have been killed! Besides, I'm not dead. Who cares what could have happened? Whatever happened, happened. Stop making chasms out of Drilbur holes!"

"How can you be so..." he shook his hand in the air in frustration. "-stupid! Next time you might not be so lucky."

Koa's scowl deepened. "Geez, if you just came here to complain and shout at me, why even come? Just go back to your research." He clenched his jaw and turned away from Blake, at least as much as he could without causing himself too much pain. Tears began to form in his eyes, and he forced himself not to blink or let Blake see how upset he was.

A tense silence hung over the room, broken only by the beep of the machines, and Blake's heavy breathing. "I'm sorry Koa. I was just-"

"I don't want to hear it." Koa snapped. "I'm tired. Let me rest."

Blake gave a long sigh, then walked out of the room. Wiping his eyes with his arm, Koa blinked several times. Why did his cousin have to get like that? It felt like nothing he did was right. He hadn't even asked how the accident happened! Hot tears gathered in his eyes. He swallowed and brushed them away. Pull yourself together. He pushed aside his bitterness and focused on thinking about his pokemon, and where he would go next.

Hearthome seemed like it was the next logical choice, although it was far away, and would require a hike across Mt. Coronet. Of course, there was the option of taking one of the buses to Hearthome, but that left no room for training, exploring, or much sightseeing. Maybe he could join one of the hiking groups that regularly crossed the mountains? Nah. Better to take his own path. Besides, he was dying to explore at least some of Mt. Coronet. Soon, he fell asleep, dreaming of wandering the mountains and seeing legendary pokemon.

The next time someone came into his room, it was Maria. "Good news Koamaru. All your tests came back fine, so you can leave today. If you would like, you can change into your regular clothes and we'll get you checked out."

A half-hour later, he'd changed, signed all the necessary papers, and was on his way to the Pokemon Wing.

The Pokemon Wing consisted of a large glass dome, connected to the hospital by a hallway. Inside was a sort of greenhouse, with a miniature lush forest. Two smaller sections had also been created for different types, such as a cooler indoor spot for ice types, a tank for water types, and a warm sandy area for pokemon who preferred heat. The entire area was sectioned off, and attendants and nurses moved about, playing with the pokemon or tending to injuries. He stepped inside the fence.

A loud screech echoed through the enclosure and something crashed into Koa. He staggered back and grunted. Opening his eyes, he saw it was Echo, who had wrapped his small talons tightly on Koa's shoulder, clinging on. He rubbed his head and chuckled. "I missed you too Echo."

A moment later, Hazard leaped from a tree and scurried over to him, nuzzling his foot. Grinning, he knelt down and ruffled Hazard's fur. One of the attendants, a middle-aged woman, quirked her eyebrow at him. "You must be his trainer. That Joltik hasn't let anyone touch him in the past two days."

Koa smiled. "Sounds like Hazard alright. He's not very affectionate to most people."

The attendant chuckled. "Obviously you're Koamaru Averon then? Maria said you'd be stopping by. These are their pokeballs. They've been repaired, but be careful. You might want to consider investing in Great Balls." The attendant handed him two pokeballs.

Koa nodded as he took them from her. "Ok sure. Where's my Tyrunt?" he asked excitedly.

"Right. Follow me." The attendant said. She led him to a smaller building, consisting mostly of a hallway with rooms lining it. Large windows allowed a view into each room. She stopped in front of the first one. Through the window, he spotted Tyrunt curled up on a small bed. Her eyes were closed and her sides rose and fell steadily. All the wounds from the Rapidash seemed to have healed fine, which didn't surprise him, since Pokemon were fast healers. However, a faint scar ran along her torso, barely noticeable as a faded line running across her scales.

"The scar was a serious wound, so it did leave a slight scar. Other than that, she has been healing well. We gave her something to keep her calm, and all her wounds have healed. You're free to take her home."

Koa smiled widely. His first fossil Pokemon. "Awesome, thanks. Does she have a pokeball?" The attendant nodded and stepped inside the room. She took an odd-looking pokeball from a case near the bed and pressed a button, returning Tyrunt. She stepped out of the room and handed him the ball. Koa examined it closer. It was dark brown, almost black in color, ringed by a black line around the center. The front sported a golden helix shape. He recognized it as a helix fossil.

"What's this?"

"A new pokeball Roark and his team engineered. A Fossil Ball. Designed to help fossil pokemon feel safe and comfortable."

"Cool!" he clipped the ball to his belt.

After bidding the attendant farewell, he hurried out of the hospital, quite eager to leave. He didn't bother returning his pokemon to their balls either. They seemed to miss him, and the feeling was mutual. As he strolled through the city, heading to a small part just outside the southern edge, Hazard nestled himself comfortably into his hair. Echo flew in happy loops above his head, stopping occasionally to perch on his shoulders or cling to his back. Tyrunt however, he kept in her pokeball. Better to get somewhere away from the crowds and noise, just in case. He headed to a secluded spot outside the city, a clearing surrounded by sparse woods.

Koa turned to face his Pokemon. "Alright everyone. Make sure you give Tyrunt her space. I don't want her to feel threatened or nervous."

His pokemon all moved back several paces, and Echo perched a few feet away. By this point, Koa's excitement was boiling over, and he couldn't contain himself any longer. Unclipping the Fossil Ball from his belt, he tossed it dramatically into the air, releasing Tyrunt.

She lay curled in the same position he'd last seen her, her tail wrapped around her body, almost touching her snout and her legs tucked underneath her. Gleaming black eyes flicked open, and she sprang to her feet, scanning her surroundings. A low growl rumbled in her throat, and she bared her teeth.

Koa reached towards her. "Hey, calm down. My name is-"

She roared and lunged at him. He yanked his hand back, narrowly missing getting bitten. Hazard tensed up, and Echo moved forwards, but Koa motioned for him to stay back before turning to Tyrunt.

"Whoa relax! I'm not trying to hurt you. I want to be friends." He held out his hand again, but she snapped her jaws threateningly, glaring at him. Koa frowned and sat back, then retrieved a pouch of jerky. He tossed a piece to Tyrunt. She glared at him, then the jerky. She took one sniff, then stepped on it, crushing it beneath her powerful hind legs. Koa gasped, then sighed. He remembered reading that Tyrunt's were powerful, independent pokemon, but he'd figured after saving her life they would get along fine. Clearly this would take longer than he thought.

The next couple hours dragged by. Koa tried everything he could think of. He tried to talk calmly and approach slowly, but he couldn't even take more than a couple steps. He tried food, but Tyrunt never ate any. Finally, he settled for scanning her with his Pokedex. At least he could find out her moveset.

Tyrunt, The Royal Heir Pokemon. Its large jaws have incredible destructive power. Some theories suggest that its restored form is different from its form of long ago. When unhappy, Tyrunt will go on an angry rampage. This Tyrunt is female and knows the moves Tackle, Stomp, Roar and Tail Whip. Its ability is Strong Jaw.

Koa grimaced. None of her moves were particularly good. Still, he didn't expect much. She had just woken up after all. And there would be plenty of time later to teach her better ones. And Strong Jaw was an awesome ability. He made one last attempt to reach out to her but was quickly rebuked with a glare and a furious snarl. Once more, he sighed. It wasn't that he'd expected her undying loyalty or anything for saving her. But couldn't she see that he just wanted to be her friend?

Eventually, he gave up. He returned Tyrunt to her pokeball. Returning the rest of his pokemon, he trudged back into Oreburgh, puzzling over what to do next. He needed to befriend Tyrunt. Prove to her he could be trusted. But how?

"Koa!"

A voice distracted Koa from his thoughts and he looked up to see Roark jogging towards him. "I've been looking for you all day, ever since Maria said they released you from the hospital. Are you alright?"

Koa nodded.

"Glad to hear it. I need to speak to you about the museum robbery."

Mentally slapping himself for forgetting, Koa asked, "What about it?"

"Did you see anything?" Roark asked, his tone brisk. "Those thieves are the reason that my revival machine is ruined! Didn't you see anything? Someone suspicious or someone trying to leave the scene?"

Koa bit back a sarcastic response and shook his head. Roark appeared tired and stressed. Clearly, the robbery was getting to him. "No. It was pretty much panic upstairs. And I was just trying to catch Tyrunt."

"Of course." Roark hung his head. "Forgive me, Koa, I shouldn't have been so blunt. It's just, this is my first major incident as gym leader, and I don't think I'm doing a good job. I'm supposed to be the leader of this town too, but I feel like I'm failing everyone. Perhaps my father made a mistake leaving the gym to me."

"No way!" Koa said. "It's only been a few days. People can't expect you to solve this in a few days, that's ridiculous."

"True I suppose," Roark said. "At any rate, how is Tyrunt?"

"Fine. We're still working on training and stuff," he lied. He didn't want to admit how terribly it was going to Roark. Besides, it wasn't as if Roark could do anything. Even if he could, he had plenty enough to worry about.

"Glad to hear it. Maybe when all this is settled, you can bring her by. I would love to see a real live Tyrunt. And I'll let the police know that you didn't see anything."

"What have they found so far?" Koa asked.

"Well..." Roark sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Not much yet. The security tapes were damaged, so the tech teams have been working on restoring them. They're supposed to be reviewing the files today and looking for anything. Speaking of, I'd better go. Chief Lunesse is expecting me."

"I want to come," Koa declared. These thieves were the reason Tyrunt had been scared and gotten hurt, and he wanted revenge for that.

Roark shook his head. "Sorry, but I can't let you. I'm really not supposed to be sharing anything. Even the things I just told you have to be kept confidential."

Koa growled in frustration. "So what if you tell me? Maybe I can help!"

"The answer is still no. And I have to go. Good luck with your quest." He turned and hurriedly strode away.

It took a great deal of self-control not to stamp his foot in anger. No need to look like a foolish child. Koa watched him leave, then frowned in thought. He needed to find out more information. And he needed to prepare for his trip to Hearthome. The first item he wasn't sure how to complete, but the second he did. Legend Avenue was lined with shops that sold everything from traveling gear to pokemon food and human food. He could buy everything he needed to trek across the mountains to Hearthome.

Turning on his heel, he raced around the corner and crashed into someone. Instinctively, he muttered an apology. A young girl stood in front of him, about his age. She wore black leggings and dark boots, with a long trenchcoat that nearly reached her knees. Her green hair was tucked under a navy blue cap. Brushing her clothes off, she looked up, her eyes widening in surprise and recognition.

He muttered an apology and kept walking, but she moved in front of him. "Wait. You're Koamaru, right?" She spoke with a commanding tone, but she didn't sound harsh, just direct. Coupled with her warm smile, it made her seem friendly.

Koa stopped and stared at her, narrowing his eyes. "How do you know my name?"

"We met before, remember? Outside Professor Rowan's lab."

Koa frowned, trying to think. "Oh, you're..." he trailed off, trying to remember her name. He hadn't exactly been paying much attention to her.

"Avis Petra," she said confidently. "I've been looking into this museum robbery. I was nearby when it happened, and I saw you running out of the museum." She frowned and tilted her head as if studying him. "Do you know anything?"

Koa sighed and shook his head. "No." He stepped around her and walked faster. He wasn't really interested in a conversation right now. He had more important things, like Tyrunt, on his mind.

She jogged beside him then cut in front of him and walked backwards, facing him. "Are you sure? Perhaps-"

"I was busy with other things than trying to find criminals. And I didn't even know that the museum had been robbed. Is that good enough for you?" He brushed by her, but he could still hear her following him.

"Very well then. What was Roark talking to you about?"

Whirling around, Koa glared at her. "You were eavesdropping?"

Avis shook her head. "No, obviously. I just saw you two talking. I wasn't even close enough to hear what you said. That's why I'm asking. What was he saying?"

Heat rose to Koa's cheeks and he tried to hide his embarrassment. He was being meaner than necessary, he realized. "Nothing I'm going to tell you."

Her eyebrows arched and she eyed him. "If you tell me, I'll let you in on what I know."

Koa started to refuse, then hesitated. Roark probably wouldn't tell him anything, and he doubted anyone in the police force would either. This could be his best chance. Or a trick. Although it didn't really feel like one. Avis seemed earnest. "Okay." He crossed his arms. "Roark wanted to know if I saw anything. Which I didn't." he emphasized the word didn't. "And he said that security footage was damaged, but they were working on restoring it. He just left to go review it with Chief Lunesse."

"What happened during the robbery?" she asked curiously.

Koa hesitated, unpleasant memories flashing through his mind. The explosion, the panic, chasing Tyrunt all the way to the Rapidash heard... nudging the thoughts outside, he refocused. "The power went out, I think. Then there was some kind of explosion. I think the machine blew up or something. After that, I don't know."

Avis nodded and hummed thoughtfully. "Interesting... From what I've found, it seems like a similar MO to other crimes all over western Sinnoh."

"You mean it's not local?"

She shook her head. "Recently, over the past few months, there've been several small break-ins at local shops around the mainland. There's also been muggings during the night, on several routes. Witnesses all give the same description. Men in all black clothing, wearing black masks and capes. They move quietly and strike hard and fast. Many use electric pokemon as well, and the pokemon are often painted dark colors to blend in. Usually, they knock out the power right before they strike. They steal anything valuable-money, art, jewels and such. A few different police offices have recently begun speculating that it's not copycats, but a single organization. Jubilife Police dubbed them Team Blackout."

"Team Blackout..." he said thoughtfully. He almost hoped one of them would try to mug him some time. He'd give them a run for their money. His conversation her in Sandgem some days ago came back to him. "Do you think they are connected to Team Galactic?"

"Well, sort of. I think they might be just leftovers from them. The Grunts, probably looking to make money. Although recently, I think they've added poaching to their list of crimes. Which is why they hit Rowan's lab."

At the mention of the lab robbery, Koa tensed. "You mean they were the ones who stole from Rowan?"

Avis nodded. "Most likely."

Rage boiled inside Koa. If he ever got his hands on those good for nothing-

"I'd better go," Avis said, looking up from her Poketch. "I have other tasks to accomplish. Oh! I nearly forgot. We should battle sometime."

He gave her a dubious look. "You don't even have any pokeballs."

A mischievous glint twinkled in her eyes "First rule of investigating, never underestimate people." She gave him a friendly smile before turning and striding away. He watched her for a moment, then turned his thoughts to preparations for his journey.

In a few minutes, he had reached Legend Avenue. Many of the shops on this street were named for legendary pokemon, particularly those of Sinnoh mythology. Cresselia Bakery, New Moon Clothing, Shaymart and many other stores made up the entirety of the street.

The next few hours were spent browsing through the stores and stocking up on items. He still had some money, around 10,000 poke, and he spent it on medical supplies, poke repellent, rope, and food. Finally, satisfied that he had enough for the journey, he used his last couple hundred to rent a cheap room at a place called 'Mythic Hotel'.

The establishment was a bit rundown, but he didn't have money for anything nicer. The bed was rather lumpy, but more than good enough for the night. He released his pokemon, save for Tyrunt, and brought out some of the food he bought, giving it to them. As they ate, he turned on the tv but kept the volume down. Then he sent out Tyrunt.

"Look Tyrunt-" he began.

She growled at him, showing her teeth. He edged closer anyway, holding out his hand with food in it. The growl grew into a low snarl.

"Stop being so stupid!" Koa snapped, his voice growing loud. "I saved your life for Arceus' sake!"

Tyrunt roared so loud Koa felt the vibration in his body. Quickly, he returned her to her pokeball. Less than a minute later, there was a knock on his door. Reluctantly, he answered it. He recognized the man standing in the doorway as the hotel manager, who helped check him into his room.

The man gave a sympathetic frown. "We have a very strict noise policy Mr. Averon. If it happens again, I will have to ask you to leave."

Grinding his teeth together in frustration, he nodded and mumbled, "Sorry sir." The manager nodded and walked away. Koa closed the door, just short of slamming it shut. He flopped down on his bed and groaned. After a moment, he released Tyrunt again. She growled at him then walked several feet away, curling up on a chair in the room.

Well, he wouldn't give up on her, not yet. Making sure she was settled, he turned his attention to his other pokemon. Hazard clung to one of the lightbulbs in the bathroom, his fur spiking from the electricity. Koa watched him curiously for a few moments. He seemed to be concentrating, and every few seconds his fur would fluff out before relaxing slightly. It took him a moment, but Koa remembered reading about the technique somewhere. It was called overcharging, and served as another way to help increase their electric storage capacity.

Echo, meanwhile, seemed to be searching for a suitable perch. He hopped from spot to spot, seemingly testing each place. Once, he landed on the back of the chair Tyrunt rested on. She gave him a dirty look but made no move towards him. Echo continued his little exercise, hopping from one surface to the next. Finally, he settled on a perch. Upside down, hanging from the ceiling fan. A moment later, he directed a burst of focused sound at a switch on the wall. The fan turned on, it's blades beginning to spin. Echo gave a happy shree of delight as he whirled around the room. Koa couldn't help but laugh out loud at the sight.

Leaving Golbat to amuse himself, he showered and changed into pajamas. When he got out, both Echo and Hazard were fast asleep. Hazard and picked the bathroom sink as his bed, while Echo lay splayed on one of the two beds in the room. Shaking his head, Koa draped a sheet over his Golbat, before settling into the other bed. He took one last look at Tyrunt. Her sides rose and fell peacefully, and she seemed so innocent now that she was asleep. He watched her as he drifted off to sleep, wondering how he could befriend her.

xXx​

Koa grinned as he stared at the looming cave mouth in front of him. Wayward cave. One of the few areas in Sinnoh where Gible lived. They were preposterously rare, but if he got lucky, he could complete at least one step of his Plan.

After some thought, he'd put his hike through Mt. Coronet on hold, in favor of some extra training. With his new Tyrunt being problematic, he hoped to bond with her better first as well. The solution he'd come to was traveling to Wayward Cave. It involved some backtracking since it was located under the north most section of Cycling Road, but hopefully, it would be worth it.

For the next few hours, he wandered the cave. He didn't see any Gible, though he did encounter several large gray boulders blocking his path. Fortunately, he didn't need anything special to push them out of the way. He simply climbed over them and continued on.

As he wandered the gloomy cave, he swept his flashlight beam ahead of him, scanning for anything interesting. The tunnel he'd been traveling ended abruptly in a dead end. Just as he was about to turn around and try another path, something sparkled. Koa swung his beam over the area again. There it was. Tucked in a nook in the wall, something green. He hurried towards the glimmer and knelt down, carefully prying away the loose stone. A tiny handful of green objects spilled out.

As soon as he saw them, his eyes lit up. Green Shards. They were somewhat rare items that could be found in cave systems and sometimes in the wild. Collectors often traded rare items for them. Carefully, he counted them and tucked them into a small pouch on his backpack. There were five of them, which was a good start.

Brimming with elation, he set off to explore more. He hadn't been walking long when he felt a distant rumble. It grew louder and suddenly an Onix emerged from a tunnel a short way ahead.

It looked straight at him. Koa froze and stared back. For a moment, they engaged in some sort of staring competition. Then the Onix roared a challenge.

Koa sized it up. Judging by its length, it seemed fairly young. Probably it was trying to challenge trainers to grow stronger. Either Hazard or Echo could defeat it easily since they had experience. But he had a better idea.

"Go Tyrunt!" He tossed out Tyrunt's pokeball, and she emerged in a flash of light. At first, she glared at Koa, looking disgruntled. The Onix roared again and Tyrunt whirled to face it. At the sight of Onix, her eyes lit up. Clearly, she liked the idea of a challenge.

"Let's start with Tail Whip," he called. Tyrunt charged forwards and leaped into the air, one of her feet aimed at Onix. Stomp. Definitely not the move he'd asked for. Onix retaliated with a Tackle, hurling itself up at Tyrunt. They clashed for a moment before Tyrunt forced Onix down. It smashed into the ground and Tyrunt leaped away, snarling in triumph.

"Tyrunt, please," Koa called. "Listen-"

She let out a roar and charged Onix, who had just gotten up. Once again, she leaped into the air with a Stomp attack. An orange orb formed in Onix's mouth and it blasted it at Tyrunt, knocking her out of the air. Koa recognized the attack as Smack Down. He winced as Tyrunt hit the ground and slid several feet. She'd be fine, but he suspected her pride had taken a critical hit.

Wearily, Tyrunt got to her feet.

Koa took a tentative step towards the furious Tyrunt. "Tyrunt, you can beat that Onix." She made no reply, her gaze locked on the Onix. Before Koa could give a command, the Onix sneered at her, then reared back, opened its jaws, and spewed a stream of purple flames straight for her.

"Dodge!" Koa shouted frantically. One Dragon Breath attack would do serious damage. Unfortunately, Tyrunt had other ideas. She charged straight into it. The flames slowed her, but she stubbornly tried to press through it. To his surprise, she made it all the way to Onix. With a weak roar, she hurled herself at it with Tackle. Unfortunately, the attack did little damage. Tyrunt staggered back, then collapsed, utterly exhausted. Onix shut its jaws, eyeing the downed form of Tyrunt. With a triumphant roar, it slithered away.

Once it had gone, Koa sighed and pulled out a potion, and set to healing Tyrunt. In a couple of minutes, she woke up. Upon seeing him so close, she growled and stalked several feet away. Koa pulled out her pokeball and returned her. She'd be more comfortable there anyway.

For some time, he continued on, following a random path through the cave. He found a couple of other shards and later, to his delight, a single Rare Candy. They were powerful candies that could help boost a pokemon's strength slightly. They were also notoriously hard to come by. He guessed it had been dropped by a trainer some time ago.

By the time he worked his way back to the exit, he felt fairly accomplished, at least in the exploration department. In the Pokemon department, less so. Tyrunt ignored or did the opposite of every command he gave. She wouldn't let him near her either, making it impossible to train her in new techniques or battle properly with her. Which was a shame, because she seemed to be strong. She'd weathered the Onix's Dragon Breath longer than he expected.

A fog of frustration hung over him the whole trip back to Oreburgh. He'd hoped to catch Gible maybe or start building out the rest of his team. But with Tyrunt being so troublesome, he was beginning to have doubts. He didn't want to catch another pokemon when he couldn't handle the one he just got. By the time he arrived in Oreburgh, late in the afternoon, he was still cross.

"Hey, Koa!"

A shout drew him out of his thoughts. He looked up to see Roark approaching.

"Hey Roark," he mumbled. He was hardly in the mood for a conversation.

"What's got your knickers in a twist, Koa?"

Koa sighed. "It's my Tyrunt. No matter what I try, she won't listen."

Roark tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Come have a battle with me. Let me see."

After a moment, Koa nodded in agreement. It wasn't as if he had another option.

xXx​

Once again, Koa stood across a battlefield, facing Roark. This time, however, the stakes were significantly lower. Only the barest lighting lit the field since the gym was technically closed. There was no referee, either. Just the two of them.

Roark released his Cranidos, who growled amiably, looking much less fierce than he had at the gym battle. Koa reluctantly released his own fossil Pokemon. Tyrunt emerged in a flash of light. At her appearance, the two dinosaurs sized each other up for several seconds. In sync, they both gave matching roars. Roark chuckled. "It seems Cranidos is excited about this fight. Mind if I go first?"

"Be my guest," Koa said.

"Start with Leer!" Roark said, gesturing dramatically. Cranidos leaned forward, its eyes glowing yellow. Tyrunt stared back defiantly, but flinched a second later, a shudder traveling over her body.

"Tail Whip!" Koa called, hopefully. For once, Tyrunt listened, though he wasn't sure if it was due to coincidence. With a snarl, Tyrunt pivoted and swiped her tail at Cranidos. A subtle wave of energy rolled across the stadium, striking Cranidos, who shivered.

"Okay then, Zen Headbutt!" Roark called.

"Dodge and use Tackle," Koa said. Tyrunt charged at the approaching Cranidos, a faint swirl of energy surrounding her. The two met head-on, pressing against each other for a moment. With a sudden explosion, Tyrunt was thrown back. She slid across the ground but remained standing. Koa groaned inwardly. Still, at least she obeyed the 'Tackle' part of his command, even if she ignored the dodge.

"Leer again. Soften her up!" Cranidos nodded in acknowledgment, then faced Tyrunt, eyes glowing.

"Quick, use Stomp!" Tyrunt leaped in the air, breaking eye contact, then came hurtling down at Cranidos. Stomp collided with its skull head-on, but Cranidos remained unfazed. With a toss of its head, it flung her aside, then snarled arrogantly. Tyrunt snarled back then charged, her jaws open wide and glowing. Koa's eyes widened. Tyrunt had learned Bite!

"All right Tyrunt, full force Bite!" Koa shouted.

"Meet it head on with Headbutt!" Roark said.

The two dinosaurs charged across the field towards each other, Cranidos' head glowing and Tyrunt's jaws glowing. The attacks collided, and smoke filled the stadium. When it cleared, Roark's and Koa's jaws both dropped, and their brows furrowed in confusion.

Tyrunt had her jaws wrapped around Cranidos' head. Both seemed confused, with Tyrunt gnawing on Cranidos skull, who pressed on valiantly. The strange struggle continued for another minute. Finally, both pokemon sat down, looking equal parts frustrated and confused.

A loud peal of laughter echoed across the stadium. Tears streamed from Roark's eyes as he continued laughing. "I don't believe it," he gasped.

Koa cocked his head. "What?" he asked, feeling as if he had missed something.

"Cranidos greatest strength is his impenetrable skull. A Tyrunt's greatest strength is its powerful jaws." He chuckled again, wiping a tear from his eye. "Unstoppable force-"

"Meet immovable object," Koa finished, breaking into laughter. On the field, the two dinosaur Pokemon were still locked in the same position. Tyrunt tried to back off, then gave a low whine as she dragged Cranidos with her. Cranidos yanked backwards, merely succeeding in pulling Tyrunt back with him.

"We'd better separate them," Roark said, still chuckling as he crossed the field to his Cranidos. Koa followed him and knelt next to Tyrunt. He reached out to her, but she shot him an angry glare. "Let me help," he pleaded. After a moment, Tyrunt growled and then blinked once. Koa decided to take that as a sign of agreement. With Roark's help, he pried Tyrunt's jaws away from Cranidos. A moment later, both Pokemon were freed.

Tyrunt huffed and stalked off, her head held high. Cranidos watched her go, a strange sparkle in his eyes.

Roark patted his Cranidos on the head. "I think my Cranidos is a little starstruck. No one has ever countered his Headbutt like that."

Koa watched Tyrunt, who sat with her back to him, trying for all the world to act tough. "I pity him," he said flatly.

"So what do you think?" Koa asked once they had both returned their pokemon. "Why is Tyrunt acting like that? I mean, I saved her life from those Rapidash."

Roark eyed him skeptically. "Do you think that guarantees anything?"

Koa paused. "Well... no, not really. I mean I guess I just expected her to understand that I want to be her friend, you know?"

Roark shook his head. "Tyrunt is Rock and Dragon-type. So she is bound to be stubborn. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary when we were batling. For now, patience. These things take time."

Koa nodded sadly. He hadn't expected a magical solution, but he had hoped that another battle would help things along. Apparently, that wasn't the case. Still, it was a small comfort, knowing it would likely simply take time. Perhaps it was time to continue his journey.

"Thanks for the advice," Koa said. He started for the exit.

Roark called after him. "Once she evolves, bring her back. I think Cranidos would love another battle after he evolves."

"Will do!" Koa replied. With that, he returned to his room. He wanted to get plenty of rest. Tomorrow, he would begin the journey to Mt. Coronet.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Tyrunt (Female) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Tackle, Stomp, Tail Whip, Bite

So there we have it. Koa survived, Tyrunt is ok, but she won't listen to him! How will he get through to her?

A couple things to note. The 'Fossil Ball' mentioned is a personal creation of mine. Not something one would find in the games, though it seems like a cool idea.

The battle between Cranidos and Tyrunt is a rather humorous thought I had, being that those two fossil pokemon are so similar. The Bite/Headbutt thing is something I always thought about, and I figure it would end in a stalemate. After all, Tyrunt supposedly has the strongest jaws, and Cranidos the strongest skull.

Also, someone had asked, why doesn't Koa just catch a Magikarp? Yes, that would make more sense. However, Koa isn't exactly the king of great decisions. There are some things he's smart about, and other things... not so much. While it would be possible to raise a Magikarp and evolve it, I feel that in the anime world, this would be exceedingly difficult. Hence, Koa is thinking of just catching a Gyarados. I kind of overlooked alluding to this detail, so I understand the confusion.
 
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chapter 7

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 7: Looking Onward and Inward

Koa's next goal is crossing Mt. Coronet. But Tyrunt is as ornery as ever. Will he find a way to bond with her?

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Tyrunt (Female) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Tail Whip, Tackle, Stomp, Bite


Damp air trickled from the mouth of the cavern before him. A faint breeze ruffled his hair, but otherwise, all seemed still. After a day-and half walk, he'd finally reached the east entrance to Mt. Coronet. Standing in front of the mountain he'd idolized for so long was a strange feeling. He felt equal parts excited, and nervous. Echo, who had taken his usual place on Koa's back, trembled with excitement. He supposed the Golbat was excited to be going into such a large cave system.

"Ready buddy?" he asked. Echo shrieked loudly in reply, making Koa flinch "Easy there, Echo. I still need to hear, you know," he said jokingly. He took one last look around. The area was fairly empty, with only a few hikers resting or preparing for the hike. He knew this might be the last time he saw the outside for a long time, and he wanted to enjoy it.

Echo gave another, quieter shriek. "Okay okay, I'm going," Koa said, patting him. With that, he stepped into the cave.

He walked slowly, trying to take in everything. Mt. Coronet, he reflected, looked very different from Ore Caverns or Wayward Cave. The floors, some of which had been smoothed over slightly to make traveling easier, were a gray color, as were the walls. Boulders and rocks dotted the landscape, and pools of water gathered between stalagmites. Multiple paths, tunnels, and walkways spread around, and he even saw a few bridges spanning chasms or crossing two cliffs.

Unlike Wayward and Ore, Mt Coronet was more traveled. As such, it contained structures such as the bridges and featured faintly worn paths that a trainer could follow to get out the other side. The real appeal for him, however, lay in all the unmarked paths. The Pioneers who'd come long before him made sure to leave as much natural beauty untouched. As such, there were countless treasures and paths that no one had ever seen. Until now, Koa thought.

Echo flew off his shoulder and began to do loops and dives in the cave, weaving between stalactites and shreeing happily. Koa grinned. It made him happy to see his starter pokemon so happy. Just thinking the word felt odd. A Zubat was his starter pokemon? He wondered how many trainers could say that.

Not too far into the cave, he saw a sight that made his heart skip a beat. Off to his left, a staircase wound up to a higher ledge, which led to tunnels that disappeared into the darkness. Barely able to stop himself, he climbed up the staircase. It led to a bridge that crossed a chasm, and on the other side, lay his heart's greatest desire - the tunnel that led to the highest levels of Mt. Coronet. In a daze, he started across the bridge. On the other side, next to the gaping maw of the tunnel entrance, a single guard stood. A behemoth of a Machamp flanked him, watching everything with calm eyes.

The guard eyed Koa calmly, only acknowledging him with a curious quirk of his eyebrow. Koa stopped in front of the guard. Realistically, he knew he would never get in. Not yet, anyway. The upper levels were utterly off-limits to trainers unless they had earned 8 badges. Insanely strong Pokemon lived near the peak, ones almost strong enough to fight a member of the Elite Four.

"Is this the only tunnel leading higher into Mt. Coronet?" he asked, finally.

The guard regarded him silently for several moments. Eventually, he spoke. "This is the main route up."

Well, that confirmed Koa's suspicions. There were other ways.

An odd silence grew. The guard seemed utterly unfazed by Koa's presence. He didn't seem condescending or annoyed either though. In fact, the guard seemed friendly.

"You understand the rules, I think, so I won't tell you them." He said. Koa thought he detected a smile in the man's tone.

Koa nodded numbly. The prospect of climbing the mountain almost seemed to call to him physically. His heart yearned for it.

The guard nodded thoughtfully. "I see the fire in your eyes. You'll get your 8 badges and return soon."

Koa felt a flicker of surprise. He hadn't expected such a statement of confidence from a guard. "I will," he said. And he meant it, absolutely. He realized that beating the gyms had to become his top priority. It would allow him access to the most dangerous and remote of locations. They were the test of strength for any explorer, trainer or leader.

The guard smiled. "Maybe we can have a battle, then. It's been a very long time since I've had a six on six. I know Machamp would enjoy a challenge." Machamp grunted and nodded.

Koa grinned. He held out his hand, and the guard shook it. "Deal." He said. And inside the guard's eyes, he saw an eager fire. With a new excitement burning through his veins, Koa returned the way he had come. Fantina was next, he vowed. Then Veilstone, or Pastoria. And from there, he wouldn't stop until he'd earned every single badge. Then he would return and battle - Rats! He smacked himself in the face in annoyance. He'd completely forgotten to ask for the guard's name!

xXx​

For the next couple of days, he traveled in relative peace. He ran into several pokemon, mostly Zubat or Geodude, who made good training for Hazard and Echo. A few times, he sent out Tyrunt. As usual, she ignored his commands, although she did manage to win some fights on her own. That night, he decided to make camp early. The pace they kept until now proved oddly tiring, and he suspected not seeing sunlight had something to do with that. It threw off his internal clock.

Once he started a fire and set out bowls of food for his pokemon, he released them all. Hazard and Echo both greeted him happily, but Tyrunt merely grunted and started eating. Koa ignored it. By this point, her attitude didn't faze Koa in the least.

Just as he was finishing his own meal, he saw Tyrunt look up suddenly and growl. Echo stiffened as well, gazing into the darkness beyond the firelight. Koa squinted in the direction they were looking and spotted a pair of eyes in the gloom. He shined his flashlight in the direction and saw a Machop.

It growled angrily and then puffed out its chest and flexed its arms. Tyrunt growled, then charged after it.

"Tyrunt wait-!" Machop met Tyrunt head-on, slamming her head into the ground with a well placed Karate Chop.

Koa considered trying to give her commands, then decided against it. Perhaps this time, it would be better to let things play out.

She went down hard, and it took a few seconds for her to stand up again. When she did, she looked furious. Machop smirked at her and flexed again. She roared, then charged forward with a Tackle attack.

Machop jumped back, then struck her again with Karate Chop, sending her skidding to the side. She roared in pain and staggered towards Machop, eyes blazing. Koa rolled his eyes as she charged it again with Tackle. Machop leaped towards her with Karate Chop once again. The two attacks met head-on. A second later, Tyrunt was thrown back and crashed into a stalagmite. She crumpled to the ground and lay unmoving. Machop gave a prideful cry, then disappeared down a tunnel.

Koa took out a potion with a sigh. He restored her quickly, then returned her to her Pokeball for the night. He couldn't help but wonder, would Tyrunt ever learn?

xXx​

The next two days, the Machop returned each 'night' and challenged Tyrunt. Both times, Tyrunt lost, rather humiliatingly. On the third day, he let her out to walk beside him and get some exercise. She plodded along behind him, her eyes downcast and looking for all the world like a sulking child. Koa almost felt sorry for her. Almost.

When he stopped for lunch, he portioned out some food for everyone. Tyrunt, however, neglected to touch hers.

"You gotta eat, Tyrunt. Keep up your strength." She growled and turned her, curling up on the ground. Hesitantly, Koa inched closer. "I know you don't want to listen to me. But will you at least let me help you learn some new moves? If you knew some stronger moves, I bet you could beat that Machop."

Tyrunt's head shot up and she looked at him. After a long, long moment, she nodded. Koa resisted the urge to let out a whoop. Progress! "Okay Tyrunt. Right now you know Bite, Tackle, Stomp, and Tail Whip."

Tyrunt nodded and stood up. Koa continued. "You're a really strong attacker. So we gotta give you some strong attack moves." He pulled out his Pokedex and switched to the page on Tyrunt. She was still young, but two potential moves stood out. Ancient Power, and Dragon Tail. Neither were super strong, but they would give her a serious edge. Each of them matched her current typing, meaning she could get a boost.

"We'll start with Dragon Tail. According to the Pokedex, you'll have to focus a bunch of dragon type energy into your tail. You can forget about Tail Whip and learn this instead."

Tyrunt's eyes gleamed and she nodded.

Koa singled out a boulder a short distance away. "Try it on that boulder."

Tyrunt nodded. Narrowing her eyes, she charged at the boulder. At the last moment, she spun and smashed her tail into it. Unfortunately, the attack lacked any kind of energy.

She roared in pain and staggered back, glaring at the boulder.

"It's ok, Tyrunt. Try it again," he said soothingly. She roared and attempted the move again, with a similar effect. She opened her jaws, ready to snap the boulder in half with her Bite.

"Try focusing your energy before you attack," Koa called encouragingly. She shut her jaws and took a couple paces back. Closing her eyes in concentration, a cone of green energy enshrouded her tail. Opening her eyes, she charged the boulder again and smashed it with her tail. This time, the boulder cracked. A wide smile spread across Koa's face. It was far from perfect-it took her a long time to charge the attack and she had to close her eyes before she did, but it was a strong start.

For the next couple hours, he drilled her until she got the move down. Eventually, she was able to charge the attack in just a couple seconds, without closing her eyes. After that, he spent the rest of the evening helping her practice Ancient Power. By the time dinner came, he felt exhausted but satisfied. She had gotten both attacks down fairly well, and could use them almost as good as Stomp and Bite.

It wasn't long after she finished eating that the Machop arrived. This time, Tyrunt faced it down, her head held high. She growled a challenge, to which Machop replied with a cry of his own. Koa grinned and sat back to watch the show.

Machop sprinted forwards, its hand glowing with energy. Karate Chop. Tyrunt grinned and charged as well, this time with Dragon Tail. She swung her tail, the Machop swung its hand. The two attacks clashed, then Tyrunt prevailed. Machop was thrown back several feet into a wall.

With a roar, Tyrunt summoned a large boulder that swirled with silver energy, in a near-perfect execution of Ancient Power. She hurled the boulder at the downed Machop, smashing it to the ground. After a moment, it got to its feet, clearly dazed. Tyrunt ran to meet it before it could recover. She jumped into the air, bringing her foot down at Machop. It tried to raise its hand to block the attack, but too late. Tyrunt crashed into it, knocking it flat on its back. Weakly, it tried to stand, then slumped to the ground. She stepped back and let out a triumphant roar loud enough to shake the cavern they were in.

Koa leaped to his feet. "Yeah! You did it, Tyrunt!" Tyrunt roared again, hopping from one foot to the other in a strange sort of victory dance. He ran over to her and dropped to his knees, hugging her.

Tyrunt croaked in shock, then squirmed free, glaring at him. Koa wasn't even mad. She'd actually let him train her, she'd won, and he'd gotten to touch her, for the first time since he saved her life from the Rapidash. That night, he went to bed feeling the happiest he had since Tyrunt joined the team.

xXx​

Over the next few days, he was able to utilize Tyrunt more in battle. She ignored his commands, but she'd gotten much stronger since learning Dragon Tail. She was able to win against most of the wild pokemon in the lower levels, to his delight. Hazard and Echo got plenty of battles as well. He met one trainer, a hiker, crossing back to East Sinnoh. Other than that, it was all wild pokemon. He took his time, exploring side paths and caverns, confident Echo could lead him out if necessary.

He had followed a series of winding paths and caverns, but so far it had led nowhere. Just when he reached a seemingly empty cavern and was contemplating sending out Echo and turning around, something caught his attention. A tunnel he nearly missed, thanks to it being half-hidden behind a pile of rocks. It sloped gently downwards, ending in what appeared to be a small cave. He shined his flashlight down the tunnel.

Something at the bottom glimmered red. Koa peered closer, and he could just barely make out a fragment of something red and star-shaped. His eyes widened. A Star Piece! They were incredibly valuable fragments of a rare mineral. Many Pokemarts would buy them for a high price. Koa examined the tunnel. The rocks within seemed loose, but if he moved carefully enough, he was sure he could make it.

Clipping his flashlight to his side, he checked his pokeballs, then began his descent. Inch by inch, he backed down the steep tunnel. He made it halfway down when a rock he was clinging to with his right hand suddenly crumbled under him. A cry of shock escaped him as he slid down the tunnel. He grabbed frantically at the sides, trying to slow his descent. More stones slid after him, pelting his face and bouncing off his jacket. In a panic, he stopped bracing himself, and let himself slide into an awkward freefall. A moment later, he tumbled into the cave, followed by a shower of rocks.

An ominous rumble sent chills down his spine. He scrambled to his feet and backed away from the tunnel. A huge shower of rock and rubble tumbled out of it. After several moments, the mini-rockslide subsided. Koa stared grimly at the tunnel he'd come through. The entrance had been completely blocked with rock and dirt. He doubted he'd be able to return that way. Well, first, he was going to get what he came for.

He stooped down and brushed away the debris until he uncovered the Star Piece. He gazed at it a moment before tucking it into his backpack. Standing up, he took a closer look around the cave he'd ended up in. "Come on out, Echo, Hazard." He released his Golbat and Joltik. "Take a look around, see if you can find a way out." While his two Pokemon explored, he took a closer look at the tunnel cave-in. Perhaps there was a way to clear a path...

The next several minutes, he tried his best to carefully move the rocks. Unfortunately, every time he moved a few, a few more would fall into their place. With a sigh, he turned around.

"Find anything guys?" he called. Echo fluttered up to him and landed, shaking his head sadly. "Hazard?" he called into the darkness. For a moment, he was met with silence. Then he heard the faint scuttling of claws, and Joltik appeared, looking a tad damp. He chittered eagerly, then ran a few feet away and stopped, looking back pointedly. "You found something?" he asked excitedly. He hurried after Joltik, who led him to one end of the cavern. The Joltik stopped in front of a large pool of dark water. He gave an eager cry, pointing towards it with one of his tiny legs.

Koa shuddered. "You want me to... swim? Down there?" He asked, a slight tremor in his voice. The thought terrified him. If there was one rule of Blake's he'd learned, it was to never go diving in cave pools. They were dark, difficult to navigate, and you never knew when you would find air. It was one of the most dangerous things an explorer could do. He stared at the dark water, then back at his pokemon. Echo had landed a few feet away and was eyeing him worriedly. "What do you think, Echo?"

Echo shreed and fluttered over to the water. Clearly he agreed with Hazard.

Fear trickled down his spine. He quickly shook his head. "It's too dangerous, Hazard. I don't know where it leads. You don't even know where it goes." Hazard chittered angrily and stamped his foot. Koa looked away, reluctant to meet his hurt gaze. There had to be another way. Hazard was mistaken. Maybe Echo had missed something- As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he knew that couldn't be the case. Echo's echolocation wouldn't have missed anything. If there was another way out, he would have found it.

Echo landed in front of him, giving a low shree of distress. Hazard scurried onto Echo's head, staring him down. Koa backed away. "I can't... I don't..." he stammered. Hazard's blue eyes sparkled with anger. Koa swallowed. "Are you sure, Hazard?" he asked after several seconds.

Hazard jumped up and down and nodded eagerly.

"Ok," Koa said quietly. With a trembling hand, he returned his pokemon. He took a moment to make sure everything he carried was secure, then stepped up to the pool. Taking a deep breath, he jumped.

The dark waters closed over his head, and a chill seeped to his bones. Fortunately, his flashlight was waterproof. Ahead, he could make out the dark maw of an underwater tunnel. Kicking towards it, he moved with swift, practiced strokes. He'd have to thank Blake for all his swimming lessons at Canalave Beach. He kept his flashlight trained ahead as he entered the tunnel. It continued a short distance, though he noted with alarm it was getting narrower.

Koa figured he could hold his breath maybe a minute, tops. By his estimate, he'd been swimming for maybe thirty seconds. A tiny flicker of panic grew in him, and he swam faster. The tunnel narrowed more. He dragged himself faster, pulling himself along on the rough walls. His chest grew tight. His lungs burned. He blew out a burst of bubbles and kicked off the floor. Darkness edged his vision then- Sweet air flooded his lungs as his head broke the surface. He gasped, sucking in lungfuls as he treaded water.

Looking around, he realized he'd emerged in another cavern half-submerged in water. The tunnel he'd come through was a mere few feet below him. He must have swam the last couple feet to the surface without realizing he'd left the tunnel. His limbs burned with exhaustion as he dragged himself to shore and flopped onto the rocky ground, still gasping. He'd made it. He couldn't believe he actually made it. And it was all thanks to Joltik.

After he'd caught his breath, he released all his pokemon. Hazard and Echo immediately piled on him, crying out happily. "Thanks, guys," he said. "Especially you, Hazard. You guys really saved my life." Echo shrieked, and Hazard discharged a flurry of sparks. Koa glanced over, noting that even Tyrunt looked mildly concerned, though once she saw he was alive, she stalked off on her own.

That night, Koa made camp by the shore. He was too tired to really look for another spot, and the ground was level enough anyway. Long after everyone had eaten and fallen asleep, he lay awake, his thoughts still racing. He'd come so close to not making it... yet he had. Somehow, his Joltik had known there was an exit to the tunnel, and that he would be able to make it. The thought filled him with awe. In that moment, he vowed never to doubt his pokemon again.

xXx​

Koa trekked onwards, each step feeling harder and harder. If it hadn't been for his Poketch, he would have no idea what time it was, or how many days had passed. Apparently, he'd been in Mt. Coronet for nearly two weeks. He was sure he'd gotten at least a few shades paler in that time. But the long hike had been well worth it. His pokemon had grown much tougher. Joltik could hold twice as much as electricity without recharging, making it pretty much unnecessary to worry about. Echo had grown more agile, and his attacks stronger.

Only Tyrunt worried him. Despite all his efforts, she never listened to him in battle. Once or twice, his command would coincidentally line up with her decisions, but it was just that. Coincidence.

At least he was closer to Hearthome. He figured he could get out in the next few days. If he didn't get distracted. Which was hard not to do. He'd racked up plenty of treasures - several more Green Shards, a Nugget, and even a dusty old TM for Rock Slide. It was an older model, one of the kinds the broke after 1 use, but it was still operational. He was considering saving it for Tyrunt, once she got her act together.

He wandered back to the 'main' route, considering taking out Echo and just asking him how to get out. As much as he was enjoying his exploration, he did want to get on to Hearthome. He had gym badges to earn, after all. Koa rounded a corner, then paused. Something was different. He turned off his flashlight and looked around. Everything looked normal, rocks, stalagmites, and more rocks, and- Wait. He could see. Instead of pitch blackness, a faint gray light pervaded the cave. He could just make out the surrounding landscape, without using his flashlight. There had to be an entrance close by! After a moment, he spotted ahead, around another bend. He sprinted toward it, his heart beating faster. Just before he burst out of the cave, he remembered to shut his eyes.

Blinding light assaulted his eyelids, and the sunlight felt like it physically struck staggered forwards a couple steps anyway, keeping his eyes closed. A second later, the initial shock and pain faded as his body readjusted. His jacket protected him from the worst of the sun's rays, and he gratefully soaked in the warmth. He took a deep breath, reveling in the sweet taste of the fresh air. A chilly breeze washed over him, and he thought he'd never felt anything so magnificent.

Then he opened his eyes. It took several seconds for his eyes to readjust, but when they did, he gasped softly. He'd exited some ways up the slope of Mt Coronet, overlooking Route 208, which led to Hearthome. A river wound and splashed down the mountain, forming a beautiful waterfall down below. It curled through a deep canyon spanned by several wooden bridges. Beyond that lay grassy plains and forests, cut through by a long, winding dirt road that led up to the shining city of Hearthome.

Unable to tear his eyes off the view, he reached for his belt and released all his pokemon. Echo came out with his usual shriek, but stopped short, equally enamored by the view. Hazard simply stood quietly, his gaze distant. Even Tyrunt seemed awestruck.

"Whew..." he said, after a long moment. He'd finally made it. He felt equally relieved and a bit sad. While he was in no hurry to venture back in, his urge to climb to the Spear Pillar hadn't lessened at all. After some deliberation, he decided to make camp where he stood. There was a flat spot a little ways away that would be perfect.

That evening, after dinner, Koa decided to try his luck with Tyrunt again. "Do you want to train, Tyrunt?" He reached out his hand. Tyrunt glared at him and gave a low growl. Koa growled back. "Hey! I saved your life, you know!"

Tyrunt roared at him. Then, to his shock, she turned and sprinted up the slope, disappearing behind some bushes.

"Tyrunt!" Koa yelled, then smashed his fist into the ground. He muttered a curse before standing up. Great. Now he had to hunt her down. He really hoped she hadn't gone far. Most Pokemon, even ornery ones, were reluctant to travel too far from their trainers, a fact which he was counting on.

He trekked up the slope, which was dotted with thick brush and a few trees. An angry roar from ahead keyed him into Tyrunt's likely location. Accelerating his pace, he pushed past a small copse of trees and bushes just in time to see a trainer toss a pokeball at Tyrunt. The red light surrounded her form for a split second, before shattering. The pokeball fell uselessly to the ground.

"Hey!" Koa screamed as he sprang forwards, standing in front of his Tyrunt. "That's my Tyrunt!" He knew he was being a little over the top, but he was already angry enough without some wannabe trainer trying to catch his - Wait. He knew this trainer, sort of. It was hard not to remember since the boy wore a fairly distinctive cloak.

The boy stared back at him in surprise. And equally shocked looking Shelgon stood beside him. "My apologies," the boy said. "I did not realize this Tyrunt was yours."

Koa relaxed slightly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to freak out. I remember you, actually. We met at Eterna City."

"Ah yes, the Giratina boy," he said, after a moment. "So you found a Tyrunt?"

Koa shook his head. "I revived her, actually."

"She? Well, she is quite the specimen." The boy knelt down and extended his hand. Tyrunt glared, then without warning, charged at him, jaws open. Without hesitation, the Shelgon launched himself forwards and knocked her out of the way. The boy frowned.

Koa grimaced and quickly returned her. "I'm sorry about her. I can't get her to listen to a word I say."

The boy stood up, dusting off his hands. "Do not apologize for her. She is young and stubborn. But she has potential."

"If she ever listens," Koa muttered under his breath. "What's your name, anyway? I never got it last time we met."

"Cade*," he replied. "I am a fledgling Dragon Tamer. My ultimate dream is to build a team of dragons from around the world. That is why I hoped to catch your Tyrunt. I must admit, I was quite surprised to see a Kalosian fossil pokemon all the way in Sinnoh. Knowing she is yours certainly clears up that mystery."

"Yeah well, it's a mystery to me why she doesn't listen to a word I say."

At this comment, Cade frowned. "She does not listen to any of your commands?"

Koa shook his head.

"Perhaps I can be of some assistance. I am a bit of an expert on Dragon-types."

Koa's eyes lit up. "That would be amazing. I really don't know what to do about her. I feel like I've tried everything."

"Battle me, let me see," Cade replied. The two trainers walked back down the slope until the found a large enough expanse of flat land for their battle.

Reluctantly, Koa nodded and released her. She emerged with a grunt, glaring at the other boy.

With a dramatic flourish, Cade tossed out a pokeball. A small Gible emerged in a burst of light. Koa's eyes widened. A real Gible!

"That's so cool..." Koa murmured, taking it in. Despite its slightly smaller than average size, it appeared bright-eyed and sturdy. It was fairly young as well.

"This is one of my newer team members. I searched for hours until I found one I connected with. Now, you may have the first attack."

"Tyrunt-" He never got to finish his command. Tyrunt launched herself forwards, jaws primed for a Bite attack.

Neither Cade or Gible moved. Tyrunt drew within striking distance and lunged forwards.

"Now Gible, dodge." Gible expertly leaped to the side, then retaliated with Dragon Breath. The purple flames washed over Tyrunt point blank, knocking her to the ground. She roared and spun, recovering faster than Koa expected. She swung her tail, alight with green draconic energy. The Dragon Tail attack smashed into Gible full force, sending it flying. It landed hard, skidded a couple of feet before it caught itself.

"Now Gible, Dig," Cade called. Gible disappeared underground in a flurry of sand and grit. A moment later, it re-emerged under Tyrunt, knocking into the sky. She flailed wildly as she hurtled through the air.

"Bite!"

Koa groaned. Another loss. As Gible opened its jaws, Tyrunt spun midair and smashed the Bite attack with Dragon Tail. The two attacks clashed, generating a wave of energy and throwing both pokemon to the ground. Dust filled the air. As it cleared, both Gible and Tyrunt stood a few feet apart, sides heaving. They were covered in dirt and minute scratches and were obviously almost exhausted. Then, without warning, Tyrunt staggered and collapsed.

Cade nodded thoughtfully as if neither surprised nor excited. He returned Gible, the thoughtful frown still on his face.

"So? What do I do?" Koa asked anxiously. For several moments, Cade didn't reply.

"Let us rest first, and make camp."

Koa frowned. He'd really hoped for a quick fix, but he guessed that wouldn't be the case. Fortunately, with the two of them working, it took only a couple of minutes to set up camp. Koa released all his pokemon, treating Tyrunt's injuries before setting out food for each of them. Cade merely watched and helped occasionally, saying nothing. Koa found his silence both frustrating and relieving. He wasn't really interested in petty small talk.

Once they had a comfortable fire going, Cade released his other pokemon. Altogether, he had a Shelgon, a Dratini, and a Gible, which he'd caught recently. Koa gave up trying to befriend Tyrunt for the night and instead decided to check out Cade's pokemon. His Shelgon reminded him of his Joltik - fierce and only affectionate towards its trainer. Dratini and Gible, however, seemed very playful. They both got along exceedingly well with Echo. Pretty soon the three of them engaged in a makeshift game of tag, swooping and darting about. Hazard joined them briefly, but then retired early to sit in silence with Shelgon.

After both trainer and Pokemon had finished their meals, Cade spoke. "So as you already know, Dragon-type are both very rare, and difficult to train. They tend to be some of the naturally strongest pokemon as well."

Koa nodded quietly.

"Like all pokemon, Dragon types respond to a trainers heart."

"So there's something wrong with my heart?" Koa burst out. Cade gave him a level gaze, and he sighed, sitting back. Cade continued.

"Both your Joltik and Golbat respond excellently to you, and you have the beginnings of a strong bond. When most wild pokemon are caught or even fossils revived, a weak link is created between trainer and Pokemon." Cade paused to stroke his Shelgon. "But you and Tyrunt lack any kind of link."

Koa's eyes widened. He'd always just assumed they had a poor relationship, not a non-existent one.

"Right now, your Tyrunt does not connect with you. There is a rift. She will not heed a word you say unless you find a way to cross that bridge."

Koa edged forward, staring into Cade's face. "Please, tell me how to cross it then. Should I fight her?"

"No," he replied sharply, looking up. His gaze bored into Koa's own, and he flinched at the intensity there. "Although you may have to one day, battling her now will not help."

"Do you know why she is like this?"

Cade remained silent for a moment, his gaze resting on Tyrunt. She lay a few feet away, sleeping peacefully. "I suspect she is intentionally avoiding bonding with you."

"Why?"

"It's hard to say. If she were my Pokemon, I could probably sense why."

"Huh?" Koa asked, tilting his head.

"Any time a trainer specializes in one type, he starts to grow a special connection to that type. It's almost as if he can begin to understand his own pokemon in a new way."

Koa nodded thoughtfully. That made sense. It explained how specialist trainers remained so strong, despite only having one type. Frustration began to grow in him. Roark hadn't known what to do, and even an expert hadn't. Was there any hope? "Is there anything I can do?"

"Let me sleep on it, and I may have a suggestion come morning."

With a sigh, Koa nodded. He guessed he didn't have much choice. They talked for a few more hours, discussing their journeys and battles. Cade told him how he'd spent two weeks at Wayward Cave, just to find Gible. He also told him how he fought his Bagon six times and lost each time, before finally defeating it in battle and catching it. Since then, they had remained close friends. He also explained how he was journeying to each region to catch a Dragon-Type. He'd started in Hoenn with Bagon, then traveled to Kanto for Dratini. Now he was here to continue training Gible. As the night approached midnight, they both turned in. Koa felt particularly exhausted and relieved to be sleeping outdoors again. In just a few minutes, he slipped into a pleasant, dreamless sleep.

xXx

The following morning, he awoke to the smell of delicious food. Judging by the light from outside his tent, he suspected he'd slept in. With a yawn, he sat up and stretched, then poked his head outside the tent. Cade knelt by the fire, sauteing something in a pan. Whatever it was, smelled amazing. Koa's mouth began to water, and hurriedly got dressed, hoping that there would at least be some leftovers. When he emerged from the tent, Cade was already eating, as were his pokemon.

"Good morning, Koa. I prepared breakfast for my pokemon and I. There's some left for you if you like."

Koa grinned and released his pokemon. He controlled himself just long enough to dish some of the meal into their bowls - which looked like some kind of berry and egg scramble - then set upon his own meal like a Munchlax.

Several minutes later, he sat back feeling more full and satisfied than he had since he left Oreburgh. He'd have to start packing more fresh berries next time he trekked through the wilderness. "So, did you come up with anything?" he asked.

Cade nodded. "I believe so. I will be departing today, to continue training my Gible, but I will tell you my advice before I go."

Koa helped him pack his supplies and break camp. Once he was ready to go, Koa stared at him expectantly. Inwardly, he resisted the urge to tap his foot on the ground. Cade had been kind enough to help him, and he didn't want to seem rude.

"So here is what you should do..."

Koa listened to his instructions, his puzzlement growing. They weren't unclear, they just didn't make much sense. Still, he trusted that Cade knew his stuff. When he had gone, Koa broke camp then returned his pokemon, save for Tyrunt, who stood several feet away, staring at him with a bored expression on her face.

"Come," he said, trekking higher up the hill. To his surprise, Tyrunt actually followed, though she remained several steps behind. After a few minutes, he reached the place he was looking for. A small outcropping of flat stone, just big enough for the two of them. With a deep sigh, he sat down. Crossing his legs, he did his best to make himself comfortable. The sun overhead heated the rock below him, keeping him pleasantly warm.

"Alright Tyrunt, listen up."

Tyrunt, who until now had amused herself by scratching lines into the stone, looked up.

"Here's the deal. I'm sitting here, on this rock, until you come to me. No matter how. Long. It. Takes." Even as he said it, the idea sounded kind of ridiculous. Still, Cade's instructions had been clear. He was to sit here, meditate, and not attempt to approach Tyrunt under any circumstances. She had to come to him.

For a long time, Koa sat still, letting his thoughts drift. He thought about his journey and his goals. He thought about climbing Mt. Coronet, defeating gyms, and meeting legendaries. He imagined what it would feel like to fight one, then throw a pokeball at it. The day turned to night. He began to doze off. At some point, he awoke again.

He thought about his pokemon, and how he'd encountered each of them. Zubat at the honey tree, and Joltik, who joined him after saving Galvantula. Tyrunt, whom he'd revived, and saved. Why, even after saving her, did she disobey him?... Pulling himself out of his thoughts to look around, he realized it was early morning again. His whole body ached and a chill had settled over his body. Groaning, he stretched his arms and legs. If only Tyrunt were less stubborn... Or more appreciative. He sighed again. It didn't really matter, he supposed. He hadn't saved Tyrunt or any of his pokemon for that matter, so they would listen to him. He simply wanted to help.

The day wore on, and Koa lay down, tiredness overwhelming him. Before he knew what happened, he was asleep. His last thought was of hoping Tyrunt understood that she didn't owe him, he saved her because he wanted to. With a start, he awoke sometime later. Blearily, he opened his eyes.

How long had it been? He glanced at his Poketch and his jaw dropped. It'd been well over a day. He glanced over at Tyrunt. She lay curled on the stone a few feet away, eyes wide open. They locked gazes for a moment, and Koa found himself wondering what it would be like to be Tyrunt.

Awakening to an explosion, the flood of sound and sight... The panic from the robbery and encountering the wild Ponyta and Rapidash. Feeling angry and scared, fighting them... Then saved by a stranger. A trainer, calling himself Koa and trying to train her and calling her a friend. He considered all his attempts at befriending her - the food, the fights, the bargaining, the battles.

Koa took a moment to gather his thoughts before speaking. "You know, my cousin Blake had a way of always trying to make me do something, just before I was about to do it. I'd be planning on cleaning my room and then BAM! He'd ask me to clean it. I know he meant well, but it was really annoying." Tyrunt lifted her head slightly, staring at him intensely. "I hated it so much, sometimes I would avoid doing whatever he told me to."

Taking a deep breath, Koa removed his fingerless glove from his right hand. Deliberately, he looked away, then closed his eyes and held out his arm, palm open and outstretched. He let his breathing slow, and he focused his thoughts on Tyrunt. He'd spent so long chasing Tyrunt and trying to make her listen and understand... but maybe he never needed to. Maybe she just needed a chance.

For several moments, nothing happened. Suddenly he felt a warm breath flow across his hand. He kept his eyes shut, not daring to risk looking at her now, when - a sudden pressure surrounded his hand and entire upper arm. He whipped around just as her jaws closed across his hand. A flash of pain shot up his arm. Without thinking, Koa seized one of her spindly arms with his left hand, yanked her closer, and bit her arm.

A sound the likes of which he'd never heard came from Tyrunt, and she opened her jaws. Koa let her go and she stumbled backward and fell to the ground. Her eyes were wide and her mouth hung open in a comical expression of shock. Koa glared back at her. "That'll teach you to bite me," growled. Slowly, she closed her mouth. Then, a strange sort of smile started to spread across it. A gleam entered her eyes and she made a rumble of approval.

Koa stared at her, perplexed. Then, to his utter shock, she trotted over to him, wriggled her head under his arm, and curled up in his lap.

Now it was Koa's turn to be surprised. He patted her awkwardly, his arm still slightly sore, though he realized she hadn't even come close to puncturing the skin. A wry grin spread across Koa's face. He had no idea if Cade had intended for things to turn out like this, but he supposed it didn't matter. Somehow, it had worked. It made sense, he reflected - Tyrunt were naturally aggressive pokemon, so he supposed in some strange way, his actions had garnered her respect. His reaction must have shocked her thoroughly though - obviously, she had no intention of injuring him with her bite. He'd seen the kind of strength she was capable of.

Laughter bubbled up inside him, and he started to crack up. "Guess you didn't count on me biting you back, huh?"

Tyrunt snorted at that.

"Well, I'm glad you've finally come around."

Tyrunt gave a pleased rumble and snuggled deeper into his lap.

Shaking his head, he continued to stroke her. "You're a real rascal, you know that?" She thumped her tail gently against his leg in response. Koa shrugged. There was more than one way to befriend a Pokemon, he supposed.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Tyrunt (Female) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Well, there you go. In an unexpected twist, he has managed to befriend and earn the respect of Tyrunt. His bonding moment (the first part at least), is loosely based on a certain movie. I'm wondering if anyone caught the reference?
 
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chapter 8

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 8: Where the Hearthome Lies
Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite


The landscape of Route 208 rushed by as Koa zipped along on his bike. After a satisfying rest the previous day, he left late in the morning. By bike, Route 208 took less than a half a day to cross. Which meant by tonight, he could be in Hearthome, sleeping on a real bed in the Pokemon Center. The thought alone was like music to his aching muscles. And his sticky, dirt-covered body. He tried to shower as best he could on the road, using whatever rivers and lakes he passed, but that only did so much. At a Pokemon Center, he could wash his clothes, buy real food, and have a real bed.

A few hours later, as the sun sank into the horizon, he arrived at the gates of the great city of Hearthome. After showing his ID to the guard, he entered the city. He slowed down, enjoying the city as he cruised through. Hearthome was a fairly large city but had a pleasant atmosphere. It lacked the metropolitan feel of Jubilife and didn't feel as full as Eterna. Plenty of families roamed the streets, walking or running errands with their children, and lots of young kids ran about, followed by their Pokemon. Not long after entering, he spotted the two main attractions - Amity Square, and the Contest Hall. Both brought plenty of trainers from all areas, wishing to just enjoy a stroll or show off their Pokemon.

As he continued towards the Pokemon Center, he was struck by how large the city was. It rivaled even Jubilife in acres, he guessed, though much of it was spread across quaint neighborhoods with moderately sized homes. He really liked Hearthome, he decided. The people seemed friendly as well. Many had waved to him as he pedaled by, and he waved back. A few minutes later, he arrived at the Pokemon Center.

Only a couple of trainers were in line ahead of him, so he didn't have to wait long to get a room key from the resident Nurse Joy. He handed his Pokemon off for a quick checkup, then headed up to his room. As soon as he entered, the comfy bed seemed to call his name, but he resisted the urge to take a running leap into it. First, a shower, then sleep.

Koa emerged from the shower feeling delightfully fresh and clean. As he dried his hair, he sent out his fully recovered Pokemon. The Nurse had given them a clean bill of health, even complimenting him on his Joltik, who she said was a wonderful example of its species, and sported a particularly large electric pouch.

Echo screeched happily and settled on Koa's shoulders, then settled on the headboard of the bed. Hazard ended up scuttling over to Rascal, who lay dozing on the floor.

The thought of Tyrunt's nickname still brought a smile to his face. Rascal. Fitting and amusing, he'd decided. Apparently, she agreed, because she accepted the name eagerly.

Hazard had worked his way into the ruff around her neck and settled in comfortably. Koa sighed happily at the sight, glad to see that she was finally fitting in.

His attention shifted back to the bed in the middle of the room. Tossing aside his towel, he leaped into it, reveling in the feeling of the comfy sheet and plush mattress. Within moments, he fell asleep.

xXx​

The next morning he ended up sleeping in again, much to his chagrin. He made a mental vow to get back to his routine of waking up early and going for a jog.

"Alright guys, listen up." He'd gathered all his pokemon in his room after a hearty breakfast. "Today we challenge Fantina. She uses Ghost types, and she's pretty tough. But I think we can take her." The thought of challenging another gym excited him more than he expected. When he'd first began his journey, he'd simply wanted to explore the world, and the gyms were a mere side thought. Now, however, he found he genuinely enjoyed them. The thrill of the battles, matchings wits against his opponent and proving his Pokemon's strength. Plus, they were an excellent way to help his team become stronger.

Leaving the bike inside his bag, he opted to walk to the gym and enjoy the sights. He ambled down the streets, greeting passerby and stopping to pet the occasional pokemon. Echo was fast asleep in his ball, and he kept Rascal inside as well since he still didn't know how well she would behave around people. Hazard, however, made himself a nest in his hair settled down for the ride.

After a short walk, he arrived at the doors to the gym. Just as he was about to open the door, he saw a sign taped on the front.

Hearthome gym temporarily closed. Koa scowled. "Closed? How could a gym be closed?" he mused out loud.

"Were you looking to challenge the gym?"

Koa turned to see a young woman in an elegant dress standing a few feet away. "Yeah, Do you know why it's closed?"

She nodded. "Every year, Fantina goes on a trip to train and prepare her Pokemon for contests. She only just left, so she won't be back for a couple weeks."

"A couple weeks?" Koa blanched. The woman merely shrugged sympathetically. That was forever! He wanted to challenge Fantina now! He'd been thinking about it ever since he left Mt. Coronet. "Oh well... thanks for the warning." She nodded and continued on her way.

Disappointed, Koa returned to the Pokemon Center. He was sitting in his room, contemplating his next move when his Poketch vibrated. He looked down at the screen

'Incoming Call from Rowan'

Koa hurriedly hit the answer button. "Hey Professor Rowan."

"Hmmm. Hello Koa. What town are you in, by chance?"

"Uh... Hearthome, why?" he replied.

"Perfect. I suspected you might be in the area by now. I suppose you did not hear that Callahan is doing a conference there tomorrow."

"What?!" Koa yelped. He was certain if he'd been holding a phone, he would have dropped it. Callahan was a famous researcher of legendaries, who hailed from the Johto region. He was also Koa's personal hero. He'd watched plenty of his talks and lessons on the internet but never had the chance to see one in person.

"I took the trouble of procuring a ticket for you. Simply give them your name at the entrance," Rowan said.

"Sick! Thanks so much, Professor Rowan!"

"You're welcome. I also suspect that the Hearthome gym is closed by now."

Koa nodded, frowning. "Yeah. I think I just missed her. Crossing Mt. Coronet took longer than I thought."

"In that case, you may consider traveling to Pastoria after the conference. Crasher Wake will be a challenge, but I believe you can handle it. The Great Marsh is also an excellent place to meet rare or powerful pokemon."

"That sounds good, actually," Koa said, after a moment's thought. He'd heard Gyarados could be caught there. Catching one outright would be much easier than trying to raise a Magikarp. It might be harder to train since they were tempermental, but he was sure he would manage.

"If you do go, make sure to call me on the PC videophone. I would like to see your Pokemon. Roark told me he revived your fossil."

Koa nodded eagerly before remembering Rowan couldn't see him, only hear him. "Yeah. It's a female Tyrunt. She's awesome!"

"Yes well, be sure to check-in. And call Blake too, if you have the chance. I'm sure he would love to see your team."

"Ok," Koa mumbled. He didn't want to admit that he and Blake hadn't parted on the best of terms. He realized he'd never shown Blake any of his pokemon. Well, he'd take care of that later. Koa hung up, then jumped for joy, bouncing on the bed. He was finally going to see Callahan in person! A few moments later, he sat down. Right now, he had a free day to spend in Hearthome, and he planned to enjoy it. And first on his list was Amity Square.

Amity Square had been built not long after Hearthome became a city. It had been created during a time when the rules surrounding Pokemon being allowed outside Pokeballs were more strict. Originally, only Pokemon deemed 'cute' were allowed entry. After a few years, the rules regarding 'cute' were expanded, then eventually wiped out altogether. Now the park served as a place where all kinds of trainers and Pokemon could gather. Only two rules remained - no catching any wild pokemon that wandered in, and no battling. The area was the perfect escape.

Koa checked in with the receptionist, then entered the park. The bulk of Amity Square consisted of a massive swath of grass and trees bordering a small lake. Bridges on either side of the park connected to a small island in the center, and in the distance, he could spot sandy hills and small stone huts. Everything was beautifully maintained, and many exotic plants dotted the grounds.

Echo immediately hopped off his back and began to flutter about, investigating everything. Koa could feel Hazard on top of his head, quivering with excitement at all the new sights and sounds. Rascal walked beside him, surprisingly calmly, though the gleam in her eyes told him she was excited to be here as well. For the next several minutes, Koa ambled along slowly, taking in the sights. It was nice to slow down for a bit and properly enjoy his pokemon's company. Eventually, he worked his way to an area near the back of the park. There he discovered that someone had left behind a large inflatable ball.

A few minutes later, he found himself engaged in an impromptu game of Aipom in the Middle, with Rascal and Hazard ending up as the Aipoms. The challenge amped up when Hazard opted to ride on Rascal's head, jumping off to try and net the ball. They had been playing for several minutes when a young boy approached.

"Hey there!" he called.

Koa let his attention drift from the ball, and Rascal leaped up. Hazard fired a swift burst of webbing, nabbing the ball. Koa scowled at Rascal, who looked very smug. "Cheat," He hissed playfully. He turned to face the boy. He wore a dark shirt and green pants and bandana. His light skin shone with a faint sheen of sweat.

"You found my ball!" The boy said, elatedly. "I left it here yesterday when I was playing with my Clefairy."

Koa glanced behind the boy to see a cautious Clefairy peeking from behind its trainers legs.

"Oh sorry, I didn't know it belonged to anyone," Koa said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

"It's fine. I'm glad someone else is enjoying it. My name is Wyatt, by the way." He grinned widely and held out his hand.

"Koamaru. But call me Koa," he replied, shaking Wyatt's hand.

"You have some impressive pokemon. Mind if I see?"

Koa shrugged. "Sure. Hazard is my Joltik, and Echo is my Golbat. Just be careful with Rascal. She can be moody."

Wyatt nodded and walked slowly over to his pokemon, who had stopped playing and were watching curiously.

"My my... what a strong looking Golbat." At that, Echo screeched and hopped over to Wyatt. He patted Golbat, then held out his hand to Joltik. After a moment, Joltik scurried over. Wyatt stroked him gently, then turned to Rascal. He didn't approach her or hold out his hand to her. Instead, he crouched down, watching her carefully. "Don't worry, I won't pet you. I just want to see you. I haven't seen many Kalos pokemon before. You're quite beautiful, aren't you?"

Rascal rumbled approvingly, giving him her best dignified smile. Koa was beginning to understand why they were known as the Royal Heir pokemon. Although she had been more like a Royal pain in the Mudbray. "You seem like you know Pokemon really well," Koa said.

Wyatt stood up and nodded. "I'm a breeder, actually. I specialize in caring for and raising Pokemon. And yours are in excellent shape. Particularly your Golbat. He's the strongest I've seen in a long time."

"Thanks," Koa said, grinning. "We've been through a lot."

"Same with Clefairy and I," Wyatt said, gesturing to his pokemon, who stood a few feet away, watching intently. "I've had her since I was little." Clefairy walked over to Koa, staring up at him. She tapped his foot twice, then returned to Wyatt's side. "That's her way of saying hello. She's quiet, but she likes you. Normally she only says hello if she approves of someone."

"Cool," Koa said, watching her. It was rare to see Clefairy, who were originally native to the Kanto region. For many years, they'd only lived in Mt. Moon, though recently they had cropped up in other regions as well.

"You know, I hate to interrupt your game already. Mind if I join?" Wyatt asked. Clefairy hopped up and down excitedly.

Koa grinned. "Only if you got game."

A dangerous gleam entered Wyatt's eyes. "Oh trust me, I've probably got more than you can handle."

For the next few hours, Koa found himself playing with Wyatt and his Clefairy. Wyatt was more skilled than he expected, and both him and his Pokemon enjoyed the workout. Finally, they both flopped onto the grass, sides heaving and matching smiles on their faces.

"You're not bad," Wyatt said.

"And you don't suck as much as I expected," Koa replied, smirking.

"Ha ha." Wyatt stretched, then stood up. "I have to head back to the Poffin House for a class. You should join me. Any aspiring Pokemon Trainer should make poffins for their Pokemon at least once."

Koa glanced over at his pokemon, who were all happy but worn out. "You guys hungry?" They all gave cries of agreement simultaneously. He turned back to Wyatt. "Well I guess that decides it."

xXx​

An hour later, Koa found himself standing over a pot of simmering water, staring at it nervously.

"Now, select the berries you wish to use for your Poffins. Remember, Pecha berries are sweet, Cheri berries are spicy, Chesto is dry, Rawst is bitter, and Aspear is sour."

Apparently, Wyatt was the one teaching the class. There were only a couple of other trainers present. Several specialized cooking pots had been set up on tables around the rooms, and already had gently simmering water going. Wyatt's Clefairy stood on a table at the front of the class, watching attentively.

Koa listened best as he could, though he couldn't help but feel nervous. Blake usually did the cooking at home, and on the road he ate pre-cooked meals. After some thought, he decided to go with the Pecha berries. He wanted to give Echo an extra treat, and he knew the Golbat liked sweets. He put the specified amount of berries in the pot, then stopped. On whim, he tossed in a few Cheri berries. Hazard would like that.

"Now, stir the berries slowly. You have to be careful not to spill it at this stage." Clefairy began to tap her foot in a steady rhythm, wagging her finger back and forth in time. Wyatt walked around the room, giving instruction to the other two trainers present. "Slow down just a bit," he advised as he passed Koa.

After a few seconds, the mixture began to thicken. "Now," Wyatt said, "the mixture is thicker, so you can begin to mix faster." Clefairy sped up her count slightly. A few moments later, Wyatt spoke again. "The mixture is in its final stages. Mix it very fast-"

A loud pop echoed through the room and everything went dark. One of the trainers cried out in surprise. Koa's hair stood on end and a strange crackle filled the air.

"Everyone, stay calm-"

Clefairy cried out in distress suddenly, then her voice was cut off. Koa whirled towards the noise, but he couldn't see anything. The entire room was pitch black.

"Clefairy?" Wyatt called, fear filling his voice.

"Chimchar, come out!" Someone shouted. A moment later, there was a flash of white light and a Chimchar appeared, lighting the room with the glow of its tail. Koa could just make out the anxious faces of the other trainers, as well as Wyatt's face. Suddenly, the lights flickered back on. Koa looked around. Two of the bulbs looked shattered, and an acrid burning scent began to fill the air. Koa scowled. The Poffins. Black smoke began to drift from the cooking pots as the mixtures burned.

"Clefairy!" Wyatt wailed. "Someone stole Clefairy!"

Koa snapped to attention. Without a second thought, he sprinted out the door. Rage burned inside him. This sounded like the work of Team Blackout. Power outage? The crackle in the air? It was all too familiar. They'd already stolen from Rowan. No way would he let them take Wyatt's Clefairy. He quickly released Echo and Hazard as he glanced up and down the street. They were fairly empty, with only a few passerby, far in the distance.

"Echo, take Hazard. Someone just stole Wyatt's Cleafiry, and I think they used an Electric-type. We have to find them!"

Echo and Hazard nodded, wearing identical angry glares. They'd both enjoyed the Fairy-types company, and were none too happy to hear what happened. Echo fluttered into the air, his eyes closed. Hazard perched on his head, every hair on his body standing on end. Koa knew all electric types could sense other electric-types, to an extent. He could only hope that the two of them could track down the criminal before it was too late. A loud shriek from Echo told him all he needed to know. He'd found his prey.

Koa glanced up just in time to see Echo take off. He followed Echo as he zigzagged through Hearthome at a speed that shocked even Koa. Once, he nearly lost sight of Echo, but quickly caught up. Soon, they entered the neighborhood district. Echo led him past several houses, to one at the end of a block.

From the outside, it appeared abandoned. Shutters covered the windows, and weeds poked from the slightly overgrown lawn. The paint was beginning to peel in a couple of places and vines and started to take over the sides of the house. Echo landed on the porch, his normally cheerful face twisted in rage.

Koa slowly walked up the path. As soon as he approached the house, he felt a faint static tingle spread over his arms. This definitely felt like the place. He edged up to the door, pressing his ear against it. He heard a man grunting, then an angry curse.

"Hold still you stupid Clefairy. If you get damaged I won't get any money for ya."

A deep scowl etched itself on Koa's face and he took a step back. He withdrew Tyrunt's pokeball and pressed the button. She emerged, looking about in confusion. "The man inside this house kidnapped Wyatt's Clefairy." His voice shook with anger, and it took all his strength to keep his tone low, so the thief wouldn't hear. "He tried to steal her, and he stole from another friend of mine. We're going to stop it."

A malicious grin spread across Rascal's face. "Just wait one moment," he ordered. Rascal looked annoyed at having to wait one moment more but obediently sat down. Koa switched on his Poketch and turned to the Phone App. He dialed in a quick anonymous call to the local police, explained that he'd seen a poacher hiding in the neighborhood, then hung up. He had no plans of waiting for them.

"Hazard, Echo, behind me. Tear down the door, Rascal," he snapped. Grinning with delight, she charged the door. In seconds, she had gotten enough grip to wrench the door straight from its hinges. She hurled it aside as if it were no more than a twig, and roared. The sound shook the entire house.

Koa sprinted inside, Echo and Hazard close behind. The thief stood several feet away from the door, his eyes wide and his entire body trembling. A tiny, cramped cage at his feet contained a terrified looking Clefairy. The man himself wore a dark jacket and long black pants. Smudges of dark face paint covered his cheeks and forehead. Looking closely, Koa guessed he couldn't be more than a year or two over twenty.

"Oh, you're just a kid," the man spoke, his voice gravelly but smug. Koa let out a primal yell and charged the man. His eyes widened and he fumbled for a pokeball, releasing a Zebstrika.

Eerily, he was reminded of the man who ran him off the bridge when he first left Canalave. Could it be the same one? Either way, he didn't care. Team Blackout would pay. Pay for stealing from Rowan, and for trying to steal Clefairy. And for ruining his Poffins. Koa stopped short, glaring at the Zebstrika.

Rascal hurtled herself across the room, smashing the shocked Zebstrika out of the way. They began to exchange blows, but Koa paid them no mind. He was fairly confident Rascal could handle herself. "Back her up," he shouted. He trusted his other two pokemon to understand what he meant. Then he leaped at the man, catching him by surprise and tackling him to the ground.

"What in the name of Arceus are you doing, kid? This is a pokemon battle!"

Koa growled, pinning the man as best he could. "I don't care about your stupid Pokemon. They're not the ones who stole Clefairy!" He punched the man in the face. The man was stunned, but only for a moment. With a mighty heave, he hurled Koa across the room. Koa landed hard but quickly got up. The man raised his fists and started to advance on him.

Behind him, Koa could hear his pokemon still fighting. He risked a quick glance back. Rascal had backed Zebstrika into a corner with Ancient Power, and Echo had evidently caught it with his Poison Fang. Hazard clung expertly to its back, sucking its electricity. Koa couldn't help but grin. They were fighting excellently.

He turned back around just in time to see the man throw a punch. Koa wildly threw up his hand to block. The punch hit his arm, sending a jolt of pain through it. He grimaced, then jabbed at the man's gut, making him stagger. The man shoved him hard. Koa stumbled and fell backward, landing on his back, hard. The man was upon him in a second, his fist raised.

A sudden flash of blue fur shot across Koa's vision and an ear-splitting shriek filled the room. The man cried out in pain and scrambled backwards, a furious Golbat chomping on his head. Echo released the man a second later, and Koa pounced on the opportunity. Standing up, he stumbled over to the man, who lay stunned. He kicked him in the side as hard as he could.

"That's for trying to steal Clefairy." He kicked him again, making the man grunt. "That's for running me off the road." He kicked him one last time, throwing all his rage into the blow. The man yelped. "That's for stealing from Professor Rowan! Pass the message on to the rest of your stupid crew. If I ever see one of them, I'll fight them myself." He spat on the man, then turned away. After a split second hesitation, he turned back around again and kicked him, though not quite as hard. "And that's for ruining my poffins."

Koa glared down at him, then stalked away. He told his pokemon to keep an eye on the criminal, then freed Clefairy from the cage. He'd hardly finished opening it before she hopped over to him and nuzzled his leg, then tapped his foot three times. Smiling, he patted her head three times in return. This evidently made her very happy, and she bounced up and down, making happy cries. Picking her up, he brought her outside and sat on the porch steps.

Now that he was outside, his adrenaline drained away. He thought about what he'd done. Sprinting like a mad man after a criminal who he had no idea if they were dangerous, then confronting and fighting said criminal. Blake probably wouldn't approve. But he didn't regret it. Sure, it had been incredibly risky, but he'd saved Clefairy. And the man would be sore for a while, but he knew none of his blows would deal serious damage. He hoped, however, that the idiot would think twice before trying to steal someone else's pokemon.

Koa shuddered at the idea. If someone tried that with Echo... pushing away the thought, he saw the flashing lights of the police bike pull around the corner. He heaved a sigh of relief. This would all be over soon.

xXx​

Soon turned out to be an overstatement. It took more time to explain everything to the police than he expected. They took the criminal away, promising that he would be tried for his crimes. Then he had to go down to the station and give a second statement, then get his pokemon a checkup, just in case. When all was said and done, it was nearing evening.

Koa was anxious to get back to Wyatt. He couldn't only imagine the panic he was going through and confusion. After all, the day had gone from teaching a Poffin class to seeing Koa sprint out the door after his stolen Clefairy.

He found Wyatt at the Pokemon Center. As soon as he stepped through the doors, Clefairy hopped out of his arms and raced over to Wyatt. Wyatt's eyes went wide when he saw her, and he dropped to his knees and embraced her. Koa smiled fondly at the sight. His eyes watered slightly, and he blinked a few times. Clefairy was safe.

After a long moment, Wyatt finally stood up, holding Clefairy close to his chest. He walked over to Koa and stood in front of him. His eyes shimmered with tears of gratitude. "The officer told me what you did... how you saved her. Thank you, Koa. I don't think I could ever repay you."

Koa shook his head. "You don't have to. I'm just happy I got there in time." Wyatt nodded, too choked up to say anything else. "I am curious though. When I found her, she tapped my foot three times. What does that mean?"

Wyatt raised his eyebrows. "That's... really surprising. It's her way of calling someone a good friend."

At that, Koa's eyes really started to water. Dang it. He wouldn't cry, not now. It was hard to believe the cautious little Clefairy from the park considered him a friend.

"Oh... Well..." he coughed awkwardly. "I'm just glad she's back where she belongs."

Wyatt remained silent for a moment, then his eyes lit up. "Wait here I'll be right back!" Then he turned and sprinted out the door. Koa stared after him. He couldn't fathom where the young boy had gone. Or when he'd be back. But he assumed it was clearly important to him, so he supposed he'd just have to wait. With a shrug, he selected a seat in the lobby of the Pokemon Center, and waited.

Around thirty minutes later Wyatt returned, breathless, carrying a strange case in his hands. It was cylindrical shaped, with a metal top and bottom. Grinning proudly, he handed it to Koa. Koa gaped at it. He'd seen similar cases before. They were egg incubators. Inside lay a pale blue egg with white spots. A small pokeball was set into the base.

"I... I can't take this," he protested, backing away.

"Please. This is the only way for me to thank you. As a breeder, an egg is my most sacred possession. Please accept it." Koa stared nervously into Wyatt's eyes. It was hard to refuse a plea like that. But an Egg was not part of the Plan. And also, he hadn't planned for an egg. At all. Sure, with the rise of incubators, they were much easier to raise, but the thought still made him a bit nervous.

"Okay. Thanks. A lot. I really appreciate it." And he did. A pokemon given as a gift, or even an egg, was not something to take lightly. Whatever Pokemon hatched from it, he would treasure forever. "Do you know what- Never mind, actually. I don't want to know."

Wyatt smiled at that. "I know you'll take good care of it. Thank you again. And Clefairy said thank you too."

Koa bid him farewell, then looked down at the incubator and whistled. A real egg... Rowan had been right. Journeys were full of surprises.

xXx​

The next morning, Koa sat inside the Contest Hall, heart beating with excitement. Being the largest venue in the city, it had been chosen for Callahan's conference. And the turnout was huge. On either side of him, all the way to the end of the row, people were packed into the hall. From what he could see, there were people from all over Sinnoh, and beyond. He was a little surprised to see so many other people interested in legendaries. Although Callahan being practically a celebrity in Johto probably had something to do with it as well.

"Now introducing Callahan of the Johto region!" A tall, well-built gentleman strode onto the stage. He wore a long dark blue coat with a collar that reached higher than his chin. His well-styled mahogany hair shone in the stage lighting, and his stance communicated the picture of poise and intelligence. Koa leaped to his feet and began clapping, as did the entire stadium.

He smiled amiably, waving his hands, soaking in the praise. Once the applause died down and everyone sat down, Callahan spoke. "Hellooo Sinnoh region!" He called. "For years, many have pursued the greatest mysteries of the Pokemon world - Legendary pokemon!" The crowd murmured excitedly. "There is so much we still don't know about them. Yet there is much we do know. Today, I have come to tell you about one of the Johto region's greatest legends."

Koa sat forward in his chair. Canalave library contained a great deal of Sinnoh myths, but not as much about other regions. Instead, he'd had to do extensive research through books and articles he'd found on his own. There were essentially two great birds - Ho-Oh and Lugia. Then there were the 'legendary beasts', a trio of canine-like Pokemon. He had plenty of theories of his own, but his real interest lay in Callahan's theories about them, however.

"I will begin with the Tale of the Brass Tower. Many years ago, there stood two great towers. They were known as the Brass Tower and the Bell Tower. During a time of terrible war between people, the Brass Tower caught fire."

The crowd collectively gasped, while Koa simply watched Callahan, enraptured.

Callahan gazed around at the crowd, who were completely invested in his story. After a suitable dramatic pause, he continued. "According to legend, the tower burned for three days. In that time, three pokemon lost their lives in the fire."

Koa swallowed, curiosity and sadness filling him. He felt bad for the three pokemon, but curious as well. What sort of pokemon were they? And how had the fire started?

"A sudden downpour put out the flames, but the damage had been done. The three pokemon were gone. It was then that the great phoenix, Ho-Oh, left his perch at the Bell Tower to appear before the burned remains of Brass Tower." Callahan turned to a screen behind him, gesturing to an image of a burned down tower. Judging by the base of the structure, it had once been an impressive monument.

"Using its power, Ho-Oh revived the three pokemon and granted them new forms. I believe these forms embody the three events that occurred at the tower. The lightning that struck it, the fire that raged, and the rain that put it out."

Incredible! Koa mused over the revelation. Ho-Oh really had the power to revive fallen Pokemon?

"But many of you already know these legends. There are countless books describing this event. I, however, have another theory. Could the origin of the legendary birds of the beasts somehow be connected? And how do the elements fire, ice and lightning relate to one another?" Callahan gave another dramatic pause, letting his words simmer. "There is still so much we don't know. For example, how did the fire truly begin? And is it true that the great guardian of the seas, Lugia, once resided at the Brass Tower? It is my greatest dream to one day meet these legendary 'beasts' and understand the secrets they hold. Now, I would like to discuss a bit more about the potential role legendaries play in our world..."

Callahan continued his speech for another hour, and Koa listened raptly the entire time. The discussion soon turned to Sinnoh's own legendaries, discussing the role of legendaries as guardians, and deities. Finally, to his disappointment, Callahan bid the crowd farewell. He was met with a standing ovation as he left the stage. Koa leaned back in his chair, realizing he'd been sitting on the edge the entire time. Callahan's speech had left him thinking. Could it really be possible to catch a legendary, such as Suicune or Raikou? No doubt, to even have a chance, he'd have to be much, much stronger. There was one thing he knew about legendaries, they were some of the most powerful Pokemon in existence. They could even stand up to a powerhouse like Cynthia. Which meant he needed to keep catching pokemon and building his team. And training.

Deep in thought, he made his way back to the Pokemon Center. He had one more night before he would be asked to leave. Technically, he could stay as long as he needed, but Pokemon Center's tried to limit how many consecutive days a trainer stayed in a room so that they always had a new room for a traveling trainer. Just as he was about to head to his room, Nurse Joy called out to him.

"Koamaru Averon?"

Koa paused, glancing towards the desk. "Yeah?"

"There is a message for you from a Professor Rowan. He says to call him immediately."

"Uh... ok. Thanks." He headed to the video phone room, wondering what Rowan wanted to talk to him about so soon.

A few moments later, Rowan appeared on the screen. His face appeared gruff as ever, though Koa saw a pleased twinkle in his eye. "Hello, Koa. I am calling you about an urgent matter that may interest you."

"What's up?" Koa asked.

"I heard about your little fiasco with Team Blackout."

Just hearing the name made Koa feel annoyed. "Yeah. They tried to steal a Pokemon. I had to try and stop them."

"Hmmm... I understand. Normally I would advise you to be more cautious, but I fear the warning might be lost on you. However, I have excellent news for you. The police spoke to the man you apprehended, and we got back some stolen Pokemon. One of the Pokemon they recovered is the very same one Blake and I were going to give you."

As Rowan continued, Koa's eyes grew wider and wider and his jaw dropped. "You got back the Pokemon they stole from you?!" he exclaimed. "Sick!"

Rowan gave the barest hint of a smile. "I suspected you would be pleased. Would you like me to send it over?"

"Yes!" Koa shouted. His outburst earned him a few surprised or annoyed looks from the other trainers using the phones, but he ignored them. The prospect of a special Pokemon from Rowan and Blake had him too excited. What if it was a Tyrogue? Maybe a Gible! Or a Gyarados... wait those couldn't hatch from an egg. Still, the possibilities had him shaking with excitement.

"Hmm... Very well. I assume you don't already have six Pokemon?" Rowan asked. As he spoke, he stepped briefly away from the screen to retrieve something, before coming back into view holding a pokeball.

Koa shook his head. "Right now, I just have my Golbat, Joltik, and Tyrunt."

"Very good. I will have your pokemon sent over shortly. Take good care of it. Your cousin worked hard to breed it."

Still in shock, Koa nodded. He watched in anticipation as Rowan placed the pokeball in the transporter machine. It glowed with white light, then vanished. A moment later, it appeared in front of Koa, in the transporter slot.

"Thank you, Prof," he shouted. He quickly hung up, then took the pokeball. His imagination ran wild with thoughts of the kind of pokemon inside. With a wide grin, he pressed the released button. The familiar bright light coalesced into a four-legged form, then faded. For a moment, Koa didn't recognize the pokemon that stood before him. Short black fur covered its canine body, and gray bands wrapped around its ankles. Its underbelly and snout were both a dark orange in color. On its head was a distinctive gray skull-like shape.

The pokemon barked happily and wagged its stubby tail. Then it jumped on him, knocking him to the ground and licking him enthusiastically. Koa laughed and stroked its head, scratching it behind the ears. It covered him in licks again then padded around the room, sniffing everything. Koa took the opportunity to pull out his Pokedex and scan it.

Houndour, the Dark Pokemon. 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. This Houndour is male and knows the moves Ember, Howl, Bite, and Thunder Fang. Its ability is Flash Fire.

Right, Houndour. They were native to Johto region, though a few were known to roam Sinnoh and other regions as well. That was why he didn't remember it at first. He was also shocked it knew Thunder Fang. Such a move could not normally be learned by wild Houndour. Rowan hadn't been joking when he said Blake worked hard on it. Koa smiled at Houndour, holding out his hand to him. Houndour sniffed his hand, then barked, his eyes sparkling with excitement. A Houndour hadn't been in his plan, but Koa didn't care.

Besides, there were still two slots left.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Houndour (Male) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Howl, Bite, Thunder Fang

I hope everyone enjoyed 8! Koa has filled out his team. His heroic (or reckless) actions led to saving Clefairy and getting back the pokemon he was promised oh so long ago. He also got an egg! Wonder what it will hatch into...
 
chapter 9

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 9: The Hound of the Hour

So here we are at Chapter 9! Koa nearly has a full team, and he makes his way to Pastoria to challenge Wake.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Houndour (Male) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Thunder Fang, Bite, Howl


Koa stood just outside Hearthome city, on the early stretch of Route 212. A scattering of sparse woods spread on either side of him, a cool breeze blew. The sky overhead had turned a slightly darker shade of blue, and the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon. Normally, he would have waited to leave Hearthome until morning, but after receiving Houndour, he'd simply been too excited to wait. Besides, if he left now, he could get a headstart on getting to Pastoria City.

It was also a perfect day to introduce his new friend to the team. He'd left not long after Professor Rowan sent him over, so he hadn't had a chance to let everyone meet him. Now that he was ready to travel to Pastoria, however, he wanted to properly introduce him. His other Pokemon were already out, standing in a loose semi-circle around him.

"Come on out, Houndour!" he called, tossing his pokeball into the air. Bright light emerged and formed into Houndour's canine form before fading. Houndour gave a happy bark, then looked around, examining his surroundings.

"Everyone, meet our new team member, Houndour." Echo screeched excitedly, fluttering off over to land in front of Houndour. Almost immediately, his demeanor changed. A growl rose in his throat, and his ears lay flat. Echo took a step back before fluttering several feet away, crestfallen.

Koa frowned. "Houndour, relax. These are your new team members. Your friends."

Hazard stepped forward, his fur sparking in annoyance, and glared up at Houndour. Houndour snorted and looked away from the little Joltik, as if dismissing it. Then he turned to face Rascal. The two locked eyes and immediately began growling.

"Hey! Knock it off," Koa shouted. Houndour immediately backed down and sat obediently beside his trainer. His other pokemon glared at Houndour, clearly displeased. Koa frowned. This wasn't good. He hadn't expected such a poor reception. Yesterday, Houndour had been so friendly with him... What had changed? He thought back to everything he'd read up on Houndour last night. They were loyal pack pokemon and usually cared deeply for their pack members. Maybe Houndour simply didn't see the other pokemon as his pack yet?

"Well, Houndour, these are going to be your new packmates, so you'll have to get used to them eventually. But in the meantime, I think I'm gonna nickname you."

At that, Houndour's tail began to wag again. Fortunately, Koa had already deliberated on the perfect nickname. It had taken him a great deal of thought, but he'd finally settled on a name he'd read about ages ago. The Canalave library had had many books on ancient mythology. One such book referred to a being thought to be part pokemon, part human, and whose followers were convinced it served Yveltal and helped ferry lost souls."How about Anubis?" Houndour barked in agreement. "Anubis it is, then," Koa said with a smile. He'd ultimately chosen it for three reasons. First, it was a name from mythology, which he loved. Second, it fit Houndour, somehow. And third... well, his Houndour had been a bit like a lost soul, he supposed. Stolen by Team Blackout but eventually returned. Now he just had to figure out how to get Anubis used to the team.

With that in mind, he set out down Route 212. For the first part, it was a simple road cutting between sparse woods. He opted to keep everyone but Echo and Anubis in their Pokeballs. After a short walk, he brought out his bike to pick up the pace. Route 212 was easily one of the longest routes in Sinnoh, and would take a week or more to cross. By bike, he figured he could make the trip in 5 days. The evening wore on and it began to grow darker out. It would be time to make camp soon.

"Hey, you there! Stop!"

Koa pulled the brakes on his bike and looked to see a man wearing a guard uniform approach him. He shone a flashlight at Koa, making him squint. Houndour began to growl, but Koa quickly shushed him.

"What are you doing here?" the guard demanded.

"Walking," snapped Koa, struggling to keep the irritation out of his voice. The guard lowered the flashlight beam slightly.

"Let me see your trainer's license."

Koa scowled and rummaged through his backpack, careful not to disturb the egg. He handed it to the guard. "I'm a trainer, and I'm just traveling to Pastoria City."

The guard shined his flashlight on the trainer ID. "Hmm..." A moment later, he handed it back. "I'm terribly sorry about that," he said, his tone changing from gruff to amiable. "With all these robberies and pokenappings, us guards have been on high alert. I protect the Pokemon Mansion, you see. My name is Bobby, by the way."

Koa glanced past the guard, realizing for the first time that a large fence ran down part of the route. Just beyond the fence, he could make out the roof of an exceedingly tall and large building. Now that he thought about it, he remembered seeing an article talking about the mansion and its beautiful gardens. "It's alright," Koa conceded. "And I'm Koamaru. Although you probably saw that already," he added.

Bobby smiled. "Hey, that Houndour of yours looks pretty tough. Want to battle?"

Koa's eyes lit up. He hadn't had the chance to use Anubis in a proper battle yet, and he needed the experience. He was by far the weakest member of his team. "Sure!"

"How about a one on one? I have to keep one of my Pokemon healthy, just in case."

"Sure," Koa said. He looked down at Houndour, who had sat patiently by his feet the whole time. "Ready for your first battle?" Anubis barked and leaped to his feet.

Bobby led him to a spot a short way off the road. He took a pokeball from his belt and tossed it out. A rather impressive Hoothoot appeared. It stared at Anubis with its large red eyes, then cocked its head sideways. "I'll take the first move if you don't mind," Bobby said.

Koa shrugged. "Sure."

"Use Peck!" Bobby called. Hoothoot's beak began to glow and it flapped into the air. A moment later, it dived at Anubis.

"Ember," Koa said. Anubis growled, then opened his jaws and unleashed a flurry of red hot embers towards the approaching Hoothoot.

"Dodge, Hoot hoot," Bobby called. Hoothoot whirled out of the way of the embers, only a few grazing it, then struck Anubis head-on.

Anubis dug in, sliding back only a few inches before shaking Hoothoot away. Hoothoot landed at the other end of the battlefield, a fierce gleam in its eyes.

"Quick Ember again!" Anubis launched another flurry of embers at Hoothoot.

"Hold it back with Confusion." Hoothoot's eyes glowed bright blue, easily catching the embers midair. With a twist of its head, it hurled them back at Houndour twice as fast. They struck him, Houndour didn't even flinch. Instead, he seemed to smile as the embers were absorbed into his body.

Bobby grimaced as Koa grinned. Houndour's special ability, Flash Fire, absorbed damage from any fire type moves and increased his power.

"Echoed voice!" Bobby shouted. Hoothoot opened its beak and emitted a loud cry that rivaled even Echo's shrieks. Koa covered his ears and Anubis folded his ears back, cringing. Over the noise, he just barely heard Bobby's command.

"Keep it up, Hoothoot." The sound ceased for a half-second as Hoothoot took a breath. Then it started up again, twice as loud. Koa grimaced. He had to stop it soon. Echoed Voice increased in power the longer its user kept it up.

"Use Howl!" Still cringing, Anubis threw his head back and let loose a loud howl. His entire body flared up with energy for a moment. "Now, charge in with Thunder Fang." Anubis sprinted at Hoothoot, struggling against the force of the Echoed Voice. His jaws opened wide, crackling with electricity. The Hoothoot's eyes widened in shock and it poured more energy into its attack. Houndour pressed forward, eyes narrowed in determination. With a final, mighty leap, Anubis lunged forward and sank his jaws into Hoothoot. Electricity spasmed across its body, cutting off Echoed Voice. A moment later, it fell limp. Anubis dropped it, grinning gleefully.

Bobby held out a pokeball and returned Hoothoot. "Not bad, kid," he said, looking up. "I wasn't expecting a Houndour to know Thunder Fang."

Koa returned Houndour, who was looking exhausted now that the fight had ended. "Thanks. Your Hoothoot was strong too."

Bobby ended up giving him some money as a reward, and he left feeling fairly pleased. Despite his win however, he knew Houndour had gotten lucky. If it hadn't been for his Egg move, Thunder Fang, he would have lost. Which meant he needed to start making plans for training Anubis. Tomorrow, he decided. For now, he would let his Houndour rest. He set off once more, keeping an eye on the sky. It was growing dark out, but he figured a few more minutes wouldn't hurt. Besides, it was a nice night out. The moon hung bright in the sky, and plenty of stars lit the night. He followed the Route straight south for a while until he reached the entrance to the Pokemon Mansion.

Now that he saw it from the front, he realized it was truly spectacular. It stood nearly three stories tall, with a magnificent red roof. Counting windows, he realized with a jolt there had to be at least twenty rooms, possibly more. A long paved path ran up to the front of the mansion, with rows of beautiful flowers dotting either side. The distant sound of flowing water emanated from the fountains along the walkway and near the entrance, he spotted to grandiose statues. Koa let out a low whistle. The place was really something.

He turned away, scanning the area to find a suitable spot to camp. In the distance, he spotted an older couple making their way towards the entrance to the mansion.

As they approached, the lady spoke. "Ah, were you admiring the mansion young man?"

Koa nodded. "It's pretty sick!" He took a closer look at the lady. She wore a simple yet elegant purple dress, complete with a hat and scarf. The gentleman wore a brown suit and formal cap and carried a cane, though it didn't look like he used it for walking. What caught his eyes, however, was the pokeball the woman carried in one gloved hand.

"Are you a trainer, young man?" the gentleman asked.

"Yeah. Are you guys trainers too?"

The lady chuckled softly. "Not exactly, but we do raise pokemon. My name is Reina. What's yours, dear?"

"Koamaru."

"And I'm Jeremy," the gentleman said, offering his hand. Koa shook it.

"I remember being your age and competing in the gym circuit. Of course, that was quite some time ago," Jeremy said. "Tell me, how many badges do you have?"

Koa frowned. "Only two. I was going to get my third at Hearthome, but I guess Fantina isn't there."

Jeremy shook his head. "Hmph. Same thing happened to me during my journey."

"Fantina seems to take her little training trips at the worst times," Reina commented.

"I know right?" Koa burst out. "I mean, I know training is important, but I wish she could have gone another time."

Reina patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. "I know it is not much comfort, but would you like to battle Jeremy and I? I remember a good battle always cheered me up when I was upset."

Koa smiled. "Sure!"

Jeremy spoke up. "Tell you what, young man. Reina and I will make you a deal. If you beat us in a tag battle, you may stay in a guest room at the Mansion."

Koa's eyes went wide. "Really? Wow, that would be awesome!" he grinned. "You better get ready to lose."

Reina and Jeremy grinned, a fire lighting in their eyes. "Don't think we'll be going easy on you, young man," Reina said.

The couple led him to a clearing a short ways away from the gate. They both tossed out pokeballs, Jeremy releasing a Chatot and Reina releasing a Roselia.

Chatot emerged onto the field and fluttered elegantly down, then took a bow. Roselia did a little twirl and flourish. Koa eyed the two pokemon thoughtfully. Neither appeared overly tough, but he didn't want to take a chance. He really wanted a chance to stay in the mansion. Selecting two pokeballs from his belt, he tossed them out.

"Go Hazard, Rascal," his two pokemon emerged onto the field. Rascal snarled and sparks danced across his Joltik's fur.

"My that is an impressive pokemon. What is it?" Reina asked, gesturing to Rascal.

"A Tyrunt," Koa said proudly. " They're from the Kalos region I revived her from a fossil I found myself."

"My my... well, this will be interesting," Jeremy said. "I consider myself a gentleman, so you may have the first move."

Koa took a moment to mentally prepare himself. "Hazard, Bug Bite on Roselia. Rascal, use Ancient Power on Chatot."

Hazard dived forwards, jaws glowing, and Rascal began to charge up a large silver boulder. Hazard darted across the field, drawing closer and closer to Roselia. Still, it wasn't until he was almost upon them before their trainers gave a command.

"Peck," Jeremy called. Almost simultaneously, Reina gave her command. "Roselia, Magical Leaf."

Chatot darted across the field, intercepting Hazard. The Peck attack struck him hard in the side, sending him flying. Simultaneously, Magical Leaf and Ancient Power collided. The boulder shattered easily and Magical Leaf collided with Tyrunt. Rascal staggered back from the force of the attack, then roared angrily. Koa scowled. He found himself both impressed and annoyed. The two pokemon had moved in perfect sync. They weren't strong, but they were an excellent team.

"Chatot, Hyper voice!"

"Roselia, Stun Spore."

Chatot flew into the air and opened its beak. A loud noise filled the air as waves of blue sound-energy erupted from the tiny Chatot. Below, Roselia twirled her flowers, yellow spores drifting from them and filling the battlefield around Roselia.

Chatot's Hyper Voice struck both Hazard and Rascal, knocking them back. Koa found himself amazed once again at his opponents' teamwork. Chatot had needed no prompting from its trainers to know to dodge Stun Spore by flying up. And until the spores dispersed, Rascal wouldn't be able to get close. Clearly, Koa realized he would have to step up his teamwork to win.

"Rascal, Ancient Power, and far as you can shoot it," he said, a plan forming in his mind. He knew Reina and Jeremy's pokemon weren't as strong as his, and were at a type disadvantage. All he needed was a couple good hits. "Hazard, String Shot on the boulder," he said.

Rascal opened her jaws, forming the large silver boulder. A moment later, she blasted it, aiming right between Roselia and Chatot. Just as she fired it, Hazard latched on with his String Shot. He was yanked forwards, putting him directly between Roselia and Chatot.

"Electroweb!" Koa shouted. Hazard leaped off the boulder as it crashed harmlessly into the brush. Electricity gathered between his pincers, then he fired it straight at a shocked Chatot. The web pinned it to a tree, shocking it mercilessly. Hazard landed a few feet away, eyes sparkling triumphantly.

"Cut Chatot free with Magical Leaf," Reina called. Roselia immediately spun towards the pinned Chatot, firing a stream of sharp glowing leaves. The Magical Leaf struck Electroweb, cutting Chatot free, though the bird appeared exhausted. It fluttered in the air, barely able to stay aloft.

Koa grinned. Roselia had left herself wide open, and the paralyzing spores had dispersed. "Rascal, Bite!" Rascal grinned and charged across the battlefield, jaws open wide.

"Roselia watch out! Use Poison Sting," Reina shouted.

"Chatot, Sing," Jeremy said confidently. Chatot opened its beak, the beginning of a song forming.

"String Shot," Koa called. Joltik fired a fine thread of webbing upwards, wrapping it around Chatot's beak and wiring it shut. The Chatot eyes widened in alarm. Meanwhile, Rascal charged straight through the Poison Sting, taking the hit and sinking her jaws into Roselia. She tossed Roselia to the ground, kicking up a cloud of dirt. Her body trembled slightly, and Koa suspected she'd been poisoned.

"Roselia, get up," Reina pleaded.

Koa grinned. Time to end this. "Bug Bite!" Hazard lunged at the weakened Roselia, sinking his pincers in. It gave a single cry of pain before collapsing. At that moment, Chatot seemed to find a new reserve of strength. With a defiant screech, it broke through the webbing on its beak.

"Use Chatter!" Jeremy shouted. Chatot opened its beak and a strange, raucous noise came from within. Both Hazard and Rascal cringed and took a step back. A moment later, Hazard's eyes began to glaze over.

"Oh no," Koa groaned. If memory served, Chatter was a move that had a chance to confuse the opponent. Clearly, Hazard had fallen under its sway.

"Rascal, charge in!"

"Hyper Voice."

Rascal charged forwards, taking the strike from Hyper Voice. "Dragon Tail!" Koa shouted.

"Dodge!" Jeremy called.

With a roar, Rascal leaped into the air, tail glowing. Chatot tried to dart away, but the damage from earlier had taken its toll. She swung her tail in a masterful arc, striking the Chatot in the side and sending it crashing into the ground below. A moment later, the dust cleared, revealing the unconscious form of Chatot.

Jeremy and Reina both smiled and returned their Pokemon.

Koa returned his two pokemon, beaming.

"That was some good strategy, Koamaru," Reina said. Jeremy came up behind her and held out his hand. Koa shook it, still smiling. He was proud of how well Rascal was coming along. She'd tanked two hits excellently. "Thanks. You really had me there in the beginning. Those were some sick combos."

"Why thank you," Jeremy said. "The Stun Spore one was my wife's idea, actually."

Reina smiled proudly at him. "My husband came up with most of our techniques. We've been training Roselia and Chatot for a couple months now."

Koa cocked his head. "Those aren't your regular pokemon?"

Reina and Jeremy both broke into laughter. "Good heavens, no," Jeremy said. "We've raised plenty of pokemon, back in the day. Now my Reina and I just do it for fun."

Koa raised his eyebrows. If those were just their practice pokemon, he wondered what the rest of their team looked like.

"Well, a deal is a deal," Reina said, smiling at him. "Follow us, and we'll show you to the guest room."

Elation flowed through Koa as he followed them. They let him through the front gate, and Koa followed them quietly, taking in his surroundings. The fountains were ornate, and the landscaping was exquisite. The Mansion was even more impressive up close, he reflected.

Jeremy held the doors open for both him and Reina, and Koa stepped inside. Lush, thick carpets covered the floors. Elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling, illuminating the entryway. A grand stairway stretched upwards, leading to the second and third floors. A few maids cleaning some expensive-looking vases and artifacts waved to them.

"Found another trainer, Miss Yoshino?" One of them called.

"Indeed," Reina said, waving back.

"And I daresay this one has some potential," Jeremy added.

Koa grinned again at the praise but said nothing. It felt strange to be around such wealth. Jeremy and Reina led him down a series of hallways and through doors until they reached the guest quarters. They stopped in front of a set of double mahogany doors.

Jeremy gestured to the doors. "Here is your guest room, Koamaru. Feel free to use whatever amenities you like, and let your Pokemon out. There is a call button for one of the maids, should you need anything."

"And I know how hard traveling on the road can be, so just leave your traveling clothes outside the door, and we'll have them washed for you," Reina said with a smile.

Koa nodded, his eyes darting to the door. He was eager to go in and check it out.

"We usually eat breakfast at 9 o'clock, sharp," Reina added. "You're free to join us, but don't be late." They both looked at each other and seemed to reach some kind of silent agreement.

"I think that covers it. You may go in," Reina said.

"Thank you very much," Koa said. He pushed open the doors to the room and stifled a gasp. Luxury didn't even come close. The room alone was nearly the size of his house. A large, plush bed sat at one end, overlooking a window. There was a computer in the room, and several smaller beds stacked in one corner, seemingly for Pokemon. Hesitantly, he poked his head in the bathroom. It was probably the size of his whole bedroom and contained a tub the size of a kiddie pool, and cabinets full of potions and medicines. "Awesome," he murmured. Returning to the main room, he flopped down on the bed, letting out a contented sigh. After enjoying the moment, he took out his pokeballs. One by one, he released each of his Pokemon. Once his pokemon were out, he carefully removed the egg from his backpack and set it on a desk.

Echo let out a shriek and began to flap about the room, perching on everything. Hazard immediately burrowed under one of the pillows, while Anubis barked excitedly and began to dash about the room, sniffing everything. Rascal stared about curiously before trotting over to the Pokemon beds and dragging one off the pile. She turned in a circle, before settling down with a pleased grunt. He helped himself to a few potions and antidotes from the cabinets, and made sure his team was at full health after their battle.

Anubis finished his investigation of the room and sprang onto the bed, lying next to Koa and wagging his tail. Koa scratched behind his ears, making him wag his tail even harder. Hazard emerged from underneath the pillow and scurried onto Koa's head, nestling himself in.

Immediately, Anubis stiffened. He glared at the Joltik, his hackles raising. "Anubis, stop it!" he snapped. He reached up and patted Hazard, whose fur was fluffed in irritation. "Hazard is my friend, see?"

Anubis let out a disbelieving snort and lay down facing away from Hazard. Koa sighed. He'd have to do something about that. But not tonight. Tonight, he would enjoy his one night living a life of luxury.

xXx​

The next morning, he awoke to his Poketch alarm going off. He almost rolled over and turned it off to go back to sleep, then remembered Reina's warning about breakfast. He yawned, then sat up, peering at the time. 8:15. Plenty of time to relax and get dressed. Poking his head outside the door, he realized his clothes had been left on a hanger outside the door. They smelled of a strong, clean scent, even better than the soap he was used to from the Pokemon Center. One of the larger rips on his leather jacket had even been mended. Grinning delightedly, he brought the clothes inside and laid them on the bed.

After a quick shower, he got dressed and returned his pokemon, save for Hazard, who had made himself comfortable in his hair. The Joltik was so tiny, he figured he might as well let him stay out. He exited his room and started to wander the mansion. They'd mentioned he was free to wander the halls, as long as he didn't enter any rooms without permission. The only people he really saw were a few maids, otherwise, the mansion was quiet.

He turned a corner, wondering where the dining hall was when he spotted a young boy in a crisp white suit. He had dark grayish-blue hair and appeared to constantly have his nose turned up. A Monferno bounced beside him, its smug expression mirroring its trainer. The boy appeared to be saying something to a Shroomish that stood at his feet. Koa could only make out a few brief snatches of the conversation.

"-get stronger... won't ... on my team. Got it?"

As Koa approached, the boy returned both Pokemon.

"Excuse me, do you know where the dining hall is?" he asked.

The boy turned to face him and immediately frowned. A moment later, a girl who looked almost identical to him emerged from a room. Judging by their narrow faces and similar hair, he guessed they were brother and sister.

"Excuse you, the name is Liam, thank you very much." 'Liam' sniffed disdainfully. "Are you another one of those strays that Jeremy gives our rooms to?"

Koa's eye twitched and he clenched his fist. A strong temptation to punch the smug look right off Liam's face seized him, but he held himself back. He liked Reina and Jeremy quite a bit and didn't want to do anything to upset them.

"I'm a trainer who Mr. Jeremy and Mrs. Reina invited to stay the night," he said, halfway between a growl and normal speaking voice.

The girl snorted. "Hmph. As long as you don't stick around. You trainers bring down the beauty of the Mansion. Honestly, I don't know why Mr. Backlot allows it," she grumbled, a distasteful frown on her face. "You may call me Lady Celeste, by the way. Do not forget the 'lady' part."

"Honestly, enough about beauty, Celeste." Liam shot his sister a glare before turning back to Koa. "Are you at least a strong trainer?"

"I have two badges," Koa snapped. "And I'm getting my third once I get to Pastoria."

Liam snorted. "Just two? I could easily get all 8 if I felt like it."

"So you have zero then," Koa retorted, unable to keep the anger from his tone.

"I don't need silly badges," Liam said with a shrug. "They're for lesser trainers."

Koa literally bit his tongue. It took every bit of his restraint not to tackle the little snot to the ground. On his head, he could feel the familiar buzz of Hazard's irritation.

"Or maybe you're afraid you're too weak," he muttered under his breath.

Liam's gaze traveled to Koa's head. "A Joltik? Well, I suppose it is impressive that you have such a rare Pokemon. But they're not really much good until they evolve. Even then, they're pretty pathetic."

For a moment, Koa saw red. His mind flashed with thoughts of smacking some sense into the kid. "So what Pokemon do you have then?" he snarled.

At this, Liam grinned. "Sister dear, shall we show him what real Pokemon look like?"

Celeste smiled sickeningly and nodded. They both took out five pokeballs each, releasing their Pokemon one by one. In addition to Monferno, Liam had a Weavile, a Medicham, a Kadabra and a Blissey. Celesta had a Blissey of her own as well as a Cherrim, Roserade, Kirlia and a Leafeon.

Koa's jaw dropped at the sight of the assortment of Pokemon. He quickly recovered and scowled. All of the Pokemon looked like the prime of their species and boasted shining coats and gleaming eyes. Not to mention, Liam's Pokemon looked tough. Liam smiled smugly. "You see? Real trainers have strong Pokemon."

"Hmph," Celesta grumbled. "What good is strength if your Pokemon are ugly? Beauty is what is key."

Koa glared daggers at them. "Real trainers raise their Pokemon themselves."

Looks of utter offense crossed both Liam and Celeste's face, and Koa couldn't resist a smirk. He'd touched a nerve. "If your Pokemon are so great, let's have a battle, one-on-one."

"Oh fine. I suppose my Pokemon could use the workout," Liam said, shrugging.

Ten minutes later, Koa stood across from Liam at the Mansion's battlefield.

"Come, Monferno," Liam said, lazily tossing out a pokeball. The Monferno emerged in a flash of light, then gave a lazy yawn.

"Let's go, Anubis," Koa said calmly. Anubis burst onto the field with a loud bark.

Liam yawned. "Monferno, use Flamethrower." Monferno reared back, then blasted a huge stream of fire at Houndour.

Koa smirked. Idiot. The size and power of Flamethrower was fairly impressive, but it wouldn't do a thing against Anubis and his Flash Fire. "Howl." He said calmly. Anubis threw back his head and howled as the flames washed over him. As the flames faded, a grin spread across Houndour's face. Koa glanced across the battlefield. Liam didn't even seem to have noticed Anubis' lack of damage.

"Thunder Fang."

"Flame Wheel."

Monferno leaped into the air, gathered flames around its form then spun its body into a flaming wheel and rolled straight for Houndour.

Anubis stood still, jaws open wide as electricity arced across them. Monferno collided with him, pressing against him, but once again, the attack did nothing. Monferno bounced back a couple feet, then Anubis struck. He clamped his jaws across Monferno's arm, shocking him mercilessly and shaking him hard. With a snarl, he tossed Monferno across the battlefield. Monferno crashed to the ground and slid several feet.

"Now, Ember."

"Focus Punch," Liam snapped.

Koa raised his eyes at that one. Focus Punch wasn't a move Monferno could normally learn, unless through special breeding. Still, he wasn't particularly worried.

Monferno raised its fist, a bluish-white glow surrounding it as it charged up the attack. Anubis snarled, then opened his jaws. A massive stream of blue embers shot across the field, powered up significantly by Flash Fire.

Monferno's eyes opened wide, but it was too late. The embers smashed into Monferno, interrupting his attack and throwing him backward.

"Bite!" Anubis sprinted across the battlefield, his jaws glowing. Before Monferno or its trainer could react, he sank his jaws in and slammed it into the battlefield, knocking it out. Liam scowled and returned Monferno. "Hmph. You got lucky I suppose."

Koa stared, dumbfound, at Liam. "Seriously? You know what, forget it..." he muttered. Liam would never admit to losing. He returned Anubis, shaking his head. Liam had strong Pokemon, sure, but completely lacked knowledge of how to utilize them. It still felt good beating him, though.

Leaving it at that, he turned and strode away as quickly as he could, before he did something he regretted. He'd just have to find the dining hall himself. Thankfully, it didn't take long to do so, thanks to assistance from one of the maids, who proved much friendlier than the children. Five minutes later, he found himself seated at the largest table he'd ever sat at, enjoying a hearty breakfast with Jeremy and Reina. They made excellent conversationalists, and he found himself telling them tales of his journey and Pokemon. They regaled him with tales of their own, and explained that they were old friends of the Mansion's owner, Mr. Backlot. By the time he finished breakfast, he found himself sorry he would have to depart soon.

Yet he also recognized he'd tarried long enough. The time drew near to noon, and he needed to get back on the road to Pastoria. He bid them a farewell and many thanks, then collected his things and departed. Though leaving the mansion saddened him, he was thankful not to have to see the twins more than once.

Soon the mansion was behind him as he continued his trek south. His stay had put him behind by a good day or so, but he didn't care. It had been a fun break from the usual routine of traveling and training. He took out his bike, thankful once again that it used pokeball technology to make it compact and easy to carry. He set off, his mind on the road ahead and his plans for training.

Jeremy had also given him some advice on Anubis, which he hoped to try out tonight. He'd said that pack Pokemon like Houndour took time to adjust to the dynamic of a pokemon team, which wasn't the same as a pack. An easy way to kick start that adjustment, however, was with a battle. Admittedly, he felt a little stupid for not thinking of it earlier.

He traveled late into the night to make up for lost time. The moon had risen well into the sky before he finally stopped for the night. One by one, he sent out each of his Pokemon. Last of all, he sent out Anubis.

"Okay Anubis, you're gonna have a battle." Anubis ears immediately perked up and he began wagging his tail. "Against one of my current pokemon," Koa added, watching Anubis reaction carefully. His tail stopped wagging and he frowned. His eyes darted first to Rascal, as if wondering if she would be his opponent. Koa shook his head. "You'll be fighting Echo."

Anubis took one look at the Golbat and huffed disapprovingly. Koa smirked knowingly. After explaining what happened to Jeremy, he'd realized that Anubis didn't seem to respect the rest of his teammates. A quick battle would rectify that.

"Ready Echo?" Echo shreed excitedly and fluttered into the air. Anubis took a stance several feet away, facing the Golbat nonchalantly.

"Okay Echo, start with Wing Attack!" Echo's wings glowed with energy and he dived at Anubis.

Anubis snarled, his jaws crackling with electricity, then leaped for Echo with Thunder Fang.

"Dodge," Koa said calmly. Echo easily dodged the attack, then whirled midair and struck Anubis expertly in the back. Anubis crashed to the ground and ate dirt.

"Confuse Ray!" Echo opened his jaws, charging an orb of energy.

Anubis stood, a snarl still in his throat. His jaws glowed white and he ducked under the Confuse Ray, narrowly dodging it. With a mighty leap, he jumped towards Echo.

"Crunch," Koa said, simply.

Anubis' eyes widened as he realized his attack was carrying him straight into Echo's gaping maw. In a panic, his legs whirled midair in a vain effort to stop himself. A moment later, Echo's jaws closed around Anubis, easily enveloping half his body. He shook him hard, then spat him out. Koa watched Anubis, expecting him to be knocked out. To his surprise, the Houndour forced himself to his paws, his body trembling with the effort. Impressive. Anubis had a lot of grit, though he would expect nothing less from a pokemon bred by Rowan and Blake.

With a snarl, he lunged forwards, his jaws crackling as he used Thunder Fang again.

"Dodge and Wing Attack."

Echo whirled out of the way easily again, then spun and smashed Anubis straight down into the dirt. A cloud of dust kicked up, shielding the Houndour from view. Echo hovered calmly above it, waiting. It cleared a moment later, revealing Anubis, battered yet still standing, a defiant glare on his face. He took a step towards Echo. Then his whole body trembled and he collapsed, unconscious.

Koa grinned. "Good job, Echo." Echo shrieked happily and landed on his shoulders, licking his hair. He patted Echo and walked over to Anubis, who had woken up. Pulling out a few potions from his bag, he quickly treated Houndour's minor wounds. He returned to the campfire he'd made, giving Anubis some space to wake up. Echo hopped off his shoulders to stand by the fire. After a few seconds, Anubis got to his paws and shook his head. His tail hung low and his ears drooped. Slowly, he walked over to Echo, his head still hung low. He looked up and whined, something Koa took to be a sort of apology. Echo grinned and shrieked amiably, patting the Houndour with one wing. Anubis barked happily and licked Echo, who licked him back, shocking Anubis thoroughly. Koa laughed. He had a feeling that no one had ever licked the Houndour back.

Letting out a sigh, Koa sat back, pleased. He watched as Hazard approached Anubis first, chittering a hesitant greeting. Anubis barked and wagged his tail, prancing around the Joltik happily. Good. The battle had worked just as he hoped. Thanks to Jeremy, he realized Anubis didn't think of his teammates as teammates at all, but through Echo's superb display of battling, Anubis had learned a valuable lesson. Respect.

xXx​

The next morning, Koa hit the road early. He figured he could reach the southernmost point of Route 212 by tonight, then begin his journey east. In the hours since yesterday, Anubis had acclimated well to the team, even Rascal. As he pedaled south, he began to plot out some moves for Anubis. Flamethrower was a must. Unfortunately, he knew Anubis was nowhere near strong enough to master the move. If he could buy a TM for it, then he could get a jumpstart on the training. Of course, he also wanted to buy a TM for Dark Pulse. Two TM's would be expensive, not to mention getting some for the rest of his team. He'd read about a move known as Acrobatics, which would be perfect for Golbat. After some deliberation, he decided to start with Acrobatics. Anubis needed more time to build up his strength and speed. His battle with Echo made it clear he had a ways to go to catch up with everyone else. A flicker of anger flowed through him as he remembered that Anubis was only so far behind because he'd been stolen by those dirty thieves... Well, at least he'd punished one of the thieves good.

Tucking the memory away, he turned his attention back to training. Giga Drain was an eventual must for Hazard. Absorb worked for now, but Giga Drain was basically Absorbs much more powerful relative. It would give Hazard fantastic coverage as well. Rascal currently had the most potential of his pokemon. First, he was considering replacing Dragon Tail for Dragon Claw. It was a stronger move. Although using her tail in battle was quite convenient. Next up was Crunch instead of Bite. Thanks to her special ability, Crunch would be a supremely powerful and versatile move. After that, he wasn't sure. Rock Slide would be unnecessary since he'd read they could develop the technique on their own upon evolving. Perhaps a power move...

The rest of the day he spent planning and strategizing moves. His Poketch came in quite the handy since he could take notes on what he wanted to work on. A few trainers challenged him, who he managed to beat without too much trouble. Anubis got some solid training in, though he did lose once or twice. By the time he stopped for the evening, he'd reached the south end of the route. Gratefully, he sank into his sleeping bag, slipping into a comfortable sleep.

xXx​

The first stretch of Route 212 led through a dense forest. The ground was littered with leaves and branches, so he opted to leave his bike inside his backpack and do it the old fashioned way. Walking did have one significant benefit, however - all his pokemon could follow him.

Echo remained somewhere in the woods nearby, no doubt trying to find a Honey Tree if he had to guess. Every now and then, he caught a glimpse of the Golbat's furry body through the trees. He made a mental note to buy him a jar when he reached Pastoria.

Rascal trotted several feet ahead, roaring at any wild pokemon that came close. Most ran off, terrified, but few stood their ground. Those that did were treated to a swift battle, usually with Rascal as the victor.

Anubis and Hazard had engaged in an amusing game of tag, with the Houndour trying fruitlessly to pounce on his much smaller teammate. Hazard was just too fast for him, and had become quite good at moving just far enough away to avoid being caught, without expending too much energy. Koa enjoyed watching the two, plus it was great training for Hazard.

As he continued, he saw less forest Pokemon like Starly, Burmy or Roselia and started to see a few Croagunk and some Shellos and Bibarel. The sight made him grimace inwardly - the appearance of amphibious pokemon only meant one thing. He was approaching the edge of the marsh.

The very last section of Route 212 consisted of boggy marshland that stretched all the way to Pastoria. Well, at least he was still a couple days away from it. There were a series of lakes and rivers spanned by boardwalks and bridges that he would have to traverse first. Once he was out of the forest, he'd be able to use his bike as well.

By lunch the next day, he was out of the forest and crossing the boardwalk by bike. The day was pleasant, with only a few clouds in the sky, hiding the worst of the noon heat. A gentle breeze blew, sending ripples through the water below. He saw quite a few wild pokemon basking in the sun or relaxing in the waters. A few fishermen waved to him in acknowledgment as he passed by, but otherwise, the route was quiet. He crossed the rest of the bridge area that day, thanks to his bike. The day was so pleasant, in fact, that when night came he decided to forgo the tent and simply sleep on his sleeping bag. A decision he quickly came to regret.

Sometime after he fell asleep, Anubis curled up next to him and Echo hanging from a tree overhead, a downpour began. He awoke spluttering and confused, half-submerged in a puddle. Rain pounded all around, making it almost impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction. It took him several moments to find his backpack, which to his horror had floated several feet away. He snatched it up, holding it close. Once he was sure the egg was safe, he returned his pokemon, who were all varying states of miserable, and clipped their balls to his belt. The rain continued on, soaking him to the bone. The trees overhead provided little protection, and the best he could settle for was draping his sleeping bag over a branch and huddling under a bush a few feet away.

For the first ten minutes, he debated setting up his tent but soon dismissed the thought. It would get far too wet by the time he finished putting it up. Frustration ate at him as he watched the rain. Of all the things he'd prepared for and read about, he'd never bought an umbrella. He laughed bitterly at the thought, wondering what Blake would say if he saw him. Probably reprimand him for not thinking. Oh well. He'd just have to buy one in Pastoria. Hopefully, the rain would stop by the morning.

As it turned out, he hoped wrong. For the next two days, the rain poured non-stop. He was forced to keep all his pokemon in their pokeballs, and his progress slowed to a near halt. His boots and pants were covered in more mud than he'd seen in his life, and he was starting to forget what the word dry meant. It wasn't until the third day that the rain finally eased into a steady drizzle.

On the evening of the second day, he began to grow particularly tired of the rain. He was grumpy too, since he didn't really want to let out any of his pokemon in the torrential rain. None of them would appreciate it one bit. Instead, he tried to keep his focus on the one thing he was actually looking for - The Shard House. A well-known collector of shards resided somewhere on this route, just outside the marshlands. Apparently, the man had quite the collection of expensive TM's from his training days. He'd made it known that he would trade them to anyone who brought him shards. Koa had his fingers crossed that the man had a Giga Drain TM.

Then, in the distance, he spotted it. A dim square of light, barely visible through the rain. Since he was fairly sure no other houses were out here, that had to be it. Breaking into a jog, he raced the last several yards to the house. He knocked lightly on the door. Now that he thought about it, he had no idea how complete strangers would feel about another stranger knocking on their door late at night.

A moment later, the door swung open. The man who stood in the doorway was practically a small giant. He had tanned skin, laugh lines around his eyes, and stood over six feet tall. And he wasn't just tall either - he was well built, too. Not fat, but broad-shouldered. The man wore cargo shorts, a hikers vest and hat, and thick waterproof boots. Koa stared at him.

"Good grief, kid, you look like a drowned Rattata! Come inside." The man stepped back, opening the door wider.

From somewhere inside, a second voice called. "Is it another trainer, Fred?"

His initial surprise faded and he stepped inside, standing just inside the door, acutely aware of the small puddle of water he was creating on the floor.

Fred shut the door, blocking out the sound of pounding rain. "Sure is, Gail. You trainers are nuts, tramping about in a storm like this." The last remark seemed to be a playful jab at the woman.

Koa breathed a sigh of relief and took a look around. The cabin was small, yet homey. There was a kitchen, a small table in the middle of the room, and a door that he assumed led to a bedroom. A woman, who he assumed was Gail, moved purposefully about the kitchen, seemingly cooking or preparing something.

"Look at you!" Gail chided. "Don't worry about the puddle. Why don't you use our bathroom and get yourself dried off? I know I always loved a hot shower after a rainstorm." She gestured to a door he hadn't noticed.

Still in a daze, Koa nodded. He gently took his backpack off and set it by the door. He took out his one pair of spare clothes, mentally thanking his past self for investing in the waterproof backpack, and walked to the bathroom. After a long, hot shower, he emerged feeling much better. He was given a bag for his wet clothes, which he left in the bathroom.

"Feel better?" Gail asked once he came out.

Koa nodded. "Thank you," he said hoarsely.

"Come sit down, kid," Fred called from his spot at the table.

Hesitantly, Koa crossed to the table and pulled out a chair, sitting down. He was a bit surprised still with the warm reception he was given.

"We should probably introduce ourselves," Fred offered. "My name is Fred, this is my wife Gail. Although some people like to call me the Shard Man. I collect shards, you see."

Koa nodded. "Yeah. That's actually the reason I stopped here."

Fred's eyes went wide and leaned across the table with the eagerness of a young child. "You have some shards to trade? Let me see them-"

"Perhaps you'd like dinner first?" Gail asked. "There will be more than enough time for pleasantries after you eat. And I know you must be hungry," Gail added, looking pointedly at Koa. "You trainers don't get many home-cooked meals when you're traveling."

Koa nodded, realizing for the first time how hungry he felt. The past couple days he'd survived on just nutrition bars. In a few minutes, Gail had dished out a hearty helping of hot stew and rolls for each of them.

After dinner, which Koa found he thoroughly enjoyed, Gail left briefly and returned carrying a large briefcase. Koa recognized it as a TM storage case.

"Now, let's get to business," Fred said. He took the case from Gail and set it on the table. "What kinda shards you got?"

Koa retrieved the shards from his backpack, setting them out on the table. He had about twelve green, and a few red and yellow.

"Tell you what, kid. I'll give you any TM you like for your green shards." Fred opened the case and slid it to Koa.

Koa's eyes lit up and his jaw dropped as he stared at the TM collection. It rivaled that of a small Pokemart, and contained several that couldn't even be found in the largest department store. By his estimate, the case contained well over 30,000 dollars worth of TM's. He browsed them reverently, his mind whirling as he tried to decide which one he wanted. They had Air Slash, which would have been great for Echo, but he was pretty sure a Golbat could learn the technique naturally. Eventually, he settled on Giga Drain. It was the only move that Hazard really needed, plus it would be perfect for the Pastoria gym.

"Thank you," Koa said as he tucked the TM away in his own case. "This will be perfect!"

"I take it you will be challenging Wake?" Gail said.

Koa nodded in reply. "I couldn't challenge the Hearthome gym"- This comment elicited an eye-roll from both Gail and Fred- "So I figured I'd go to Pastoria and visit the Great Marsh. I'd love to fish up a Gyarados maybe."

"Ooo, that'll be a toughie. They're pretty rare," Fred mused. "You know you could just catch a Magikarp, right? Those things are practically everywhere."

"Yeah, but training them is really hard. They can't learn any attack moves."

Fred shrugged. "True, I supposed. Personally, I've always been partial to Wooper.

Koa stared at Fred. "Wooper?"

"Sure!" Fred said. "They're small, but real hardy. And once they evolve, they can be really tough, if you train 'em right. Even Gail has never defeated my Quagsire."

Gail scowled playfully. "I'm pretty sure that Quagsire of yours is descended from a legendary or something."

"I'll think about it," Koa said eventually. He hadn't considered it before, but perhaps his plan would need adjusting now that his team had changed. A Wooper could be a good replacement for a Gyarados. If Fred was right. He found it hard to imagine a Quagsire standing up to the raw strength of a Gyarados. Or maybe instead of a water type, he could try for a grass type to help at the gym... Perhaps he would have to reconsider some of his plans. Setting the thought aside for later, he turned his attention back to Fred. "So you and Gail were both trainers?"

"Nah, I'm an explorer at heart. Gail is the real trainer. She got all eight badges." Fred said, watching his wife proudly.

"Any tips for Wake?" Koa asked.

Gail chuckled and shook her head. "Don't worry about Wake too much. He's tough, but he's not even as hard as Roark was for me. What Pokemon have you caught?"

Koa quickly rattled off his team.

"Hah! Yeah, you can handle Wake, just fine." Gail said. She glanced at a clock on the wall. "Well, I do think it's getting late. It's not much, but you can sleep on the couch if you like."

"That's good with me," Koa replied. Gail proceeded to show him to the laundry room, informing him he was free to wash his muddy clothes, then turned in for the night with Fred. Koa ended up staying awake another hour or so, just long enough to start his clothes drying, then turned in for the night.

Just before he settled in, he released Echo. The Golbat almost let out his trademark shriek, but Koa hushed him. "Hey there buddy," he whispered, rubbing the Golbat's head. Echo gave a low chirp and nuzzled Koa. "I figured you'd like to be out of your ball a bit since it's not raining. Get some rest, I'll see you in the morning." With that, Koa snuggled into the couch, drifting into a pleasant sleep.

The next morning, he left early, staying just long enough to thank his hosts and give the rest of his team a chance to stretch their legs. Then, with wishes of good luck and a warning to be careful crossing the marsh, he set out. Within the hour, he had reached his last obstacle before Pastoria City - the marshland.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl
 
chapter 10

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 10: From Marsh to Shining Marsh

Here's chapter 10! Next stop, Pastoria City. But first, he has to make it across the Marsh.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Trainer Tips


If you get stuck in the bog, you can

count on being there for a while.

There's no need to panic.

Just struggle and squirm for a bit.

Bicycles cannot be ridden on marshy

ground, incidentally.


Koa stared at the sign, wondering which lunatic had tried to ride their bike across the marsh and made them decide to put up a sign about it. He set out across the thick mud, stepping only in the lightest patches. He knew that in the deepest areas, the mud could easily reach up to one's waist or stomach. Fortunately, mud was one thing he didn't really mind. In fact, it was more of an exciting challenge to him.

It didn't take long for him to adopt a pattern - slog through the mud until he reached an area too deep or sank too far, then wriggle out and start all over again. Progress was slow but steady, and he kept his mind focused on the fact that this was the shortest leg of his journey. As he walked, he focused on his plans for the future. Great Marsh was first on his list of course. But he had another problem on his hands - his team. Thanks to everything that happened on his journey, his team had changed rather drastically from his Plan. Which meant that it might - and just thinking the thought made him shudder - be time to reconsider his Plan.

Right now he had four pokemon, plus his egg, which was a mystery. Egg aside, he had decent coverage for most types, but there were some significant gaps - ground and rock pokemon posed a threat, for starters. A fighting type would give him a real edge, although he didn't want to travel all the way back to Eterna to try and find a Tyrogue. Nor did he really want a Machop. For some reason, he'd just never really felt like catching one. Perhaps he could catch something in the Great Marsh? Toxicroak was an option, though he wasn't sure how he felt about them either.

He continued to mull over his team as he trudged onward. As he took his next step, his feet suddenly slid from under him and he pitched forward. Flailing blindly, he caught himself in the mud, sinking up to his chest. One hand was trapped awkwardly in the mud, while he held the other free. A brief flare of panic edged through him. His heart started to race. He'd read about these. 'Mud-holes'. Dangerous pockets of extra deep mud that could trap errant travelers for hours.

Koa took a deep breath as he could, and began wriggling his body and twisting, trying to free himself. The problem was, he couldn't lift his legs high enough to step out of the hole.

"Need some help?" a familiar voice called from above him. He peered upwards to see the last face he expected to. Avis, perched on the back of an unusually large Staraptor, hovering above him. "Grab on," she called. She dropped a rope down to him, and he grabbed it. A moment later, Staraptor flew upwards, yanking him out of the mud. They landed a few feet away, on a patch of drier ground. Which was to say, they only sank an inch or two into the mud.

Koa stood up, peering at Avis. He honestly hadn't been expecting to find anyone out here, least of all the investigator he'd run into in Oreburgh. "What are you doing out here?"

"Saving you?" she asked, wryly. She shook her head and continued, her tone leveler. "Actually, I was just flying to Pastoria. What about you?"

"Same. Or technically, walking to Pastoria," he corrected.

Avis glanced at their surroundings dubiously. "Walking? In this?"

Koa shrugged, dusting off his hands. "I don't mind the mud much."

"Well, if you feel like getting out of it, I could show you a shortcut. Through dry land."

Koa glanced around. He was maybe a quarter of a way through the marsh, and he figured he had another day and a half of travel to make it to Pastoria. Just because he didn't mind the mud didn't mean he liked it. "Sure, I'll take it."

"Just follow me." Avis returned her Starator and began confidently trekking in a northerly direction. After several minutes, they reached a line of thick, dense brush and trees. Mud oozed around the tree roots and around the base of the bushes.

He glanced around. "Where's the shortcut?"

"Look there," Avis gesturing to a small, thorny shrub that nearly blended with everything else.

Koa didn't really see what was so special about a bush. Everything beyond the brush looked like dense, muddy forest anyway. Not a place he felt like walking through.

Avis released a Kriketune and pointed at the bush. "Blade, use Slash!"

Kriketune gave a harmonious cry, one of its blades glowing white. With a flourish, it slashed the bush to pieces. "Thanks, Blade." She returned the pokemon, slipping the pokeball into a pocket on her trench coat. "Follow me." She stepped into the small gap created by the bush's absence. Hesitantly, Koa followed. Once he stepped into the forest, he gasped. Though impossible to see from the outside, a tiny path wound through the trees. It stood just a few inches above the muck, enough to create a dry passage.

"I used to explore all around here when I was younger. I found this path a couple years back, and I've been using it ever since." Avis said as she walked. "This route will get us to Pastoria by the end of the day, most likely."

"Us?" Koa asked as he followed her.

"Sure, if you don't mind the company. I need to stretch my legs anyway. Flying is great, but man is it rough on the legs. Especially without a saddle."

Koa shrugged. "Fine by me," He replied. Now that he wasn't in the middle of heading somewhere, he didn't mind her presence. It could get pretty quiet on the road with only him and his pokemon for conversation. And given that none of his pokemon spoke human language, conversations could get pretty one-sided.

A few minutes of silence fell between them, only broken by the occasional cry of a pokemon or snapping of a twig. "So what's your deal?" he asked finally. As long as they would be walking, he might as well learn a little more about his temporary traveling companion.

"Hm?"

"What's your goal as a trainer I mean?" Koa said, picking his way over a fallen branch. "You don't really strike me as the 'I want to become the strongest and beat the Sinnoh League' type."

Avis glanced back at him with a wry smile. "Straight to the point aren't you? Not gonna discuss the weather first?"

Koa shrugged. "I hate small talk."

"Same!" she exclaimed. "Anyways, you're right. My goal is actually to become a member of the International Police."

Koa raised his eyebrows. That was one he hadn't heard before. Many trainers aspired to be gym leaders, league champions, or master a certain type. The International Police, from what he could recall, were exactly what their name implied. A specialized Police force that operated across all regions. They were apparently behind the takedowns of several budding criminal organizations. "That's actually pretty cool. What made you go for that?"

Immediately her body tensed. She walked slightly faster, her hand drifting to fiddle with a button on her coat. She shrugged. "I just figure, I have a knack for solving puzzles. So if I can make a difference, and help stop people and pokemon from getting hurt, I oughta use it, you know?"

"Huh..." Koa said after a second. It almost seemed like she had something she wasn't saying, but then he couldn't blame her for not sharing. Either way, the International Police sounded like a cool goal. It had to be nice, getting to stop criminals for a living. Especially if it was anything like his encounter with Team Blackout. The memory of the incident still brought a smile to his face. "So what do you have to do to get in?"

Avis relaxed slightly. "Oh, it's a whole process. And there are at least like five different methods. You basically have to be able to showcase your skills, as an investigator and as a trainer. You can do it with badges, or by working in the local police stations... There's a lot of other ways as well. Bottom line, you have to be very good at what you do, and have great character."

"Whoa. Sounds hard..." Koa murmured

"That's part of the reason I'm investigating Team Blackout." She paused, a scowl darkening her features. "That, and once they upgraded to pokemon poaching, I had to do something. I can't stand pokemon thieves." She spat the word. "Regular criminals are bad enough, but people who steal pokemon are a special kind of evil, if you ask me."

He was slightly surprised by the vehemence in her tone, but pleased. He still remembered his rage towards the thieves who'd stolen Clefairy. "I can't stand them either," he snarled. "Oh yeah, I actually ran into one of those scumbags back in Hearthome. I beat him up and got him arrested."

Avis whipped around and faced him. She stood just a couple feet from him, her gaze boring into him. "Tell me everything! Now." Her voice burned with cold anger.

Koa quickly related everything he could remember about what happened. Telling the story again made him realize how crazy he probably seemed. Blake would've had his head if he found out. Just the thought of his cousin made a twinge of guilt fill him. He still hadn't called him...

The icy look faded from her eyes and she relaxed. "Well... I'm a little annoyed you never bothered to, you know, use that card I gave you and call me." She turned around and started walking again. "But I can't blame you, honestly. I don't think I would've thought to call me either. And he did get caught, so that's enough for me." She shot him an amicable smile over her shoulder. "Anyways, what's done is done. Now that I've told you about me, you might as well tell me about you."

"What about me?" Koa said hesitantly. He didn't really want to start divulging all of his dreams. At least, not the part about catching a legendary.

She shrugged. "Well, what kind of pokemon do you have?"

Now that was a question he was all too happy to discuss. "Well, my first Pokemon was a Zubat. He's absolutely amazing. Then I have a Joltik, a Tyrunt, and my Houndour."

"Whoa! A Tyrunt? How'd you come by that? They're basically exclusive to Kalos, aren't they?"

"Well... it's a bit of a story, but basically, I was exploring a cave and found a fossil. Almost got killed by a pack of Golbat, but it was worth it."

Avis nodded, impressed. "Are you planning on challenging the league?"

Koa shook his head. "No. Not really my thing." For another moment, silence fell. "One of my goals is to climb Mt. Coronet. I want to be an explorer." He decided not to mention the bit about Spear Pillar yet.

Avis raised her eyebrows. "Oh wow, that's pretty neat! I don't think I've met anyone who wants to be an explorer. Are you gonna try and find the... what's it called... Sphere Pillar?"

Koa blinked in surprise. He hadn't expected someone else to know about it. "Spear Pillar," he corrected. "And yeah, actually."

"So it's not just a myth then?" she asked curiously. "It is a real place?"

"Yes! I know it is," Koa said. "But I have to get a lot stronger first, plus I gotta beat the gyms. They don't allow anyone through to the higher levels without all eight badges. Not to mention all the pokemon are ridiculously strong."

"Good luck then," Avis said earnestly. "Take a picture, if you make it. It'd be cool to see that."

"Will do."

For the rest of the day, they made occasional conversation, discussing their teams and respective journeys. He enjoyed her company well enough since she seemed to enjoy walking in silence as much as she seemed to enjoy a conversation. Before long, they emerged from the hidden trail. The sun had nearly set, but in the distance, he could see the gate of Pastoria City.

Wearing matching smiles of reliefs, they started towards the gate.

"Ho there!" A voice called. Koa glanced back to see two trainers approaching them, a young man and woman. They both wore orange caps, vests, and boots, signifying their status as Ranger Trainers.

"How about a battle?" The girl called. "Jeffrey and I have been looking everywhere for someone to have a proper Tag battle with."

"And you two fit the bill," Jeffrey said, grinning. He gestured to his companion. "This is my sister, Allison, by the way."

"Pleased to meet you," Avis replied, shaking both their hands. "I'm down for a Tag battle if you are." She added, glancing over at Koa.

Koa sized up his opponents. He'd never had a Tag battle before. Unlike a usual Double battle, Tag battles were done between a group of four people, with two on either side. He supposed it could be a good experience. "Sure."

Jeffrey and Allison glanced at each other and grinned excitedly. "Let's do this then."

A minute later, they stood in a clearing several feet apart, Jeffrey and Allison on one end, Koa and Avis on the other. Jeffrey tossed out his pokeball. With a flash of light, a Monferno emerged. It shouted a loud cry and blew a small burst of flame into the air before grinning dangerously. Allison smiled at its antics, before sending out her own Pokemon, a small round blue thing with a white belly. It took Koa a moment to remember its name - Marill. Koa took one look at the Monferno and tossed out Anubis' pokeball. The Houndour emerged onto the field, then sat down patiently, looking for all the world as calm as ever.

"Well in that case..." Avis said. She took a pokeball out. "Go Noctowl!" A large owl-like pokemon emerged. It glanced about the battlefield, twisting its head and cocking it sideways as if analyzing its competition.

"So who wants to go first?" Jeffrey called. The four trainers looked at each other, an internal debating raging. Koa glanced at Avis.

Avis frowned, then looked across the field at Jeffrey. "Why don't we go first, since you challenged us?"

Jeffrey and Allison glanced at each other. "Sure, that seems fair."

"Anubis, Ember!" Koa called. He figured a Thunder Fang or two could take out Marill, but he also didn't want to give away his best move.

"Counter with Bubblebeam!" Allison called.

"Monferno, Mach Punch on Noctowl!"

"Dodge, Noctowl. Extrasensory!"

The flurry of commands echoed over the battlefield. Monferno sprinted across the field first, displaying the blinding speed typical of Mach Punch. Noctowl leaped into the air, the attack passing harmlessly underneath. Its eyes glowed blue and unleashed a wave of psychic energy at Monferno. The attack struck it, knocking it across the field. Meanwhile, Anubis' Ember and Marill's Bubblebeam collided, creating a small burst of smoke. A few bubbles managed to break through his attack, striking Anubis' chest and making him wince.

"Anubis, Howl!" He called. Anubis threw back his head and howled, waves of energy surrounding him and making him glow. "Think you can give Anubis cover to get to Marill?" he asked Avis in a low tone. She nodded.

"Noctowl, Air Slash!" Noctowl hooted in acknowledgment before flying high into the sky. Its wings glowed whitish-blue and it began to flap them, sending powerful blades of air hurtling through the sky at the opposing Pokemon.

"Dodge!" Both rangers shouted. Marill rolled into a tight ball, then began to spin in place, using Rollout. It launched itself across the field, out of the way of Air Slash. And right into Anubis waiting jaws.

"Thunder Fang!" Koa called. Rollout and Thunder Fang met head on. Electricity crackled across Marill's fur, shocking it. A second later, Anubis was forced back from the force of Rollout. Meanwhile, Monferno had dodged the first wave of Air Slash, only to be struck by Noctowl's Peck. Judging by the Monferno's heavy breathing and scratched body, it was nearing its end.

Both sides glared at each other from across the field.

"Mach Punch, at Houndour!" Jeffrey called. Monferno screeched and lunged across the field. It vanished, reappearing a second later beside Anubis.

"Bi-" Koa didn't have time to finish the command before the attack slammed into Anubis, sending him sliding across the field. He grimaced. Fighting-type moves were particularly effective against a dark-type like Houndour.

Avis smiled. "Noctowl, turn up the noise with Echoed Voice." Noctowl opened its beak, letting out a loud shree. Soundwaves pulsed towards the opposing Pokemon, striking them both. Both Marill and Monferno attempted to counter with Bubblebeam and Ember respectively.

"Ember," Koa called. Anubis blasted a stream of red hot embers across the field at his opponents. With Marill and Monferno distracted, the attack hit its mark, striking them both. Then Echoed Voice struck again, finishing them off.

"Good job, Anubis!" Koa called. Jealousy flickered briefly through him. Noctowl had carried the match. Anubis really was far behind the rest of the team.

Jeffrey and Allison returned their fainted Pokemon. "That was impressive," Jeffrey admitted, crossing the field towards them. "Especially your Noctowl," Allison added, staring adoringly at the large bird.

"Thanks," Avis replied. She let Noctowl bask in the praise for a moment more, before returning it.

"This is our first proper Tag battle," Jeffrey said. "It was pretty fun, but next time, we definitely won't lose!"

Koa nodded in agreement, his mind still on Anubis and the battle. Avis bid the two farewell, then started for Pastoria. He followed her, Anubis trotting obediently at his side.

"What's bothering you?" Avis asked, once they were out of earshot. Her tone was direct, but didn't sound demanding.

Koa shook his head. "Nothing. Your Noctowl is really impressive."

Avis frowned, eyeing him thoughtfully. "Don't get too excited over the win," she said, a note of sarcasm in her voice. In a more serious tone, she continued. "You shouldn't feel bad about the battle. I mean, you told me you haven't had the chance to train much with your Houndour."

Koa nodded again. "True..." He knew she was right, but he wasn't happy about it. Anubis really needed a lot more training. He almost felt he'd let Anubis down. That was among one of several things he planned to rectify in the coming days. Along with calling Blake. But first, a hot shower and a good meal were in store for his Pokemon.

xXx​

Koa stood in the empty communications room at the Pokemon Center. Avis had already gone in for the night, though they'd agreed to meet up tomorrow. He'd had himself a good meal, then taken a very, very long shower. After that, he'd had to wash all his clothes. Twice.

Now the clock on the wall indicated it was almost midnight. Despite his efforts, he'd been unable to sleep. Ever since his battle with Jeffrey and Allison, he'd felt a nagging sense of guilt. The brother-sister duo reminded him a bit of him and Blake. Despite being technically cousins, he'd always felt a close kinship with Blake. But ever since their squabble at Oreburgh, Koa hadn't spoken to him. It occurred to him Blake didn't even know any of his Pokemon.

As hard as it was to admit, he realized he'd overreacted. Blake only came off as naggy because he was probably worried. Koa was well aware that Blake had experienced loss before. He'd hoped to get some sleep, maybe call Blake in the morning. Clearly his brain had other ideas.

Nervously, he dialed the number. After a few moments, the screen flickered to life, showing a surprised yet tentative Blake on the other end. Koa wasn't exactly surprised that his cousin was still awake. Blake had always been more of a night owl.

"Hey," Koa said.

"Hey."

A long silence drew out between them.

"I'm sorry I-" Blake began.

Koa interrupted. "No. I'm sorry I blew up on you back in Oreburgh. I really uh... overreacted, I guess."

"Well, I kinda freaked out on you too," Blake admitted. He ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "When I heard that you'd been hurt, I guess I just assumed the worst. But I never gave you a proper chance to explain how it happened. So for that, I'm sorry."

Koa nodded, not sure what to say. Another long silence dragged out. Finally, Blake broke it.

"So, I never got to meet your team. Show me your starter! Did you ever get that Shinx you wanted? What about your plan?"

Koa chuckled sheepishly. "Well... I'll show you my starter first, then tell you the rest." He reached for his belt, selecting the familiar luxury ball. With a press of a button, Echo emerged in a splash of white light. He promptly plopped himself across Koa's back and head, and screeched at the screen. Koa rubbed him behind the ears before looking at Blake, who looked bewildered.

"You caught a Golbat as your starter?"

"Zubat, actually," Koa corrected. "And trust me it was an accident." Echo made an exaggerated sad squeak. Koa scratched behind his ears comfortingly. "But a good one." With that, Koa launched into the story of how he'd first encountered Echo at the honey tree. Blake didn't look thrilled hearing how he'd entered a dangerous cave with no Pokemon, but said nothing. When Koa finished, he nodded thoughtfully.

"Well, I have to say, I am surprised. I'd never expect you to keep a Zubat of all Pokemon, Little K."

Koa rolled his eyes amiably. "He grew on me, I guess."

"So what's the rest of your team? I assume you probably have a Staraptor by now, or a Luxio."

Koa laughed and released the rest of his Pokemon. With each release, Blake looked more surprised. The Pokemon huddled around Koa, peering curiously at the screen.

"Well well, Little K. A Joltik? And is that... I don't believe it! Roark wasn't kidding. You really did get yourself a fossil Pokemon! Incredible!" Blake peered closely at the screen. "And I see my Houndour is back where he belongs."

Koa stroked Anubis' fur. "Thanks for him, by the way. His Thunder Fang has really helped."

Blake smiled. "You're welcome, Little K. I'm just glad to see he's back where he belongs. Looks like you've got an impressive team so far. Any plans for new Pokemon?"

Koa frowned. After a long moment, he shook his head. "Honestly... I don't know anymore. Everything changed so much from how I planned it..."

"I see that look in your eyes. And I know just what you're thinking. It's good to have some plans, but think of it like this. The more focused you are by a plan, there's a bigger chance to miss out on an awesome Pokemon!"

Koa nodded thoughtfully. He'd never thought of it in that context before. He'd always thought of not planning as being careless, but Blake did have a point. If he'd stuck to his Plan, he'd never have caught Joltik. "So... you're saying I should find a balance?"

"Precisely," Blake said, smiling proudly. "So, tell me about the rest of your journey," he said excitedly. "Where have you gone? And what badges have you gotten?"

Breaking out of his thoughts, Koa began relating the tales of his journey. He ended up talking long into the night with Blake. By the time he hung up, it was almost three o'clock in the morning. Koa felt oddly happy, however. He hadn't realized how much his fight with Blake had weighed on his conscience until now. It also gave him renewed confidence. Tomorrow, he decided he would visit the Great Marsh and catch himself a new Pokemon. And hopefully, by the time he reached the Marsh, he would decide what Pokemon he actually wanted.

xXx​

"So, any ideas what Pokemon you want to catch?" Avis asked. She sat across from him, riding the tram through the Marsh. Unlike regular routes and areas throughout Sinnoh, the Great Marsh served as a preservation, much like the Safari Zone of the Kanto region. Quite a few rare or non-native Pokemon could be found in its muddy depths. Of course, to get them a trainer had to be willing to brave that mud. Fortunately, Koa didn't mind mud much. Not to mention, the tram that ran through the center provided easy transportation to all the areas.

"Well, I've given it some thought. A grass-type might be nice. And a water type could be good too. If I see a Tropius, I might catch one. Or a Tangela," he mused. "I think this time though, I'll keep my options open. My cousin said that if a trainer stays too focused on a plan, he can miss out on catching a great pokemon."

Avis nodded. "I like that! I usually just wing it, and catch whatever I like."

"You don't plan, at all?" Koa asked.

Avis shook her head. "Nope. I just see something I like and BAM. I catch it. That's how I caught Blade. I was flying on Aster, my Staraptor, and saw it in a field. It was so cute, I couldn't resist."

Koa shook his head. "I don't know if I could ever do that. I like to at least have some idea of a plan."

"To each their own, I guess," Avis said, shrugging.

"Now approaching Area 3, and Area 4." A robotic voice called over the speaker system, accompanied by a soft ding.

"Well, that's my stop. See you later," Avis called. She gathered her things and exited the tram. Several minutes later, the same voice rang out over the intercom.

"Now approaching Area 1, and Area 2."

Once the tram stopped, he hurriedly exited. After the tram departed, he paused to take in his surroundings. Only one other trainer had gotten off at his stop, a young white-haired man who looked to be around 16 or 17. A Hitmonchan stood at his side, a serious expression on its face. After a moment's pause, the two headed in the opposite direction, towards Area 1. Koa breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted was someone scaring off a Pokemon he wanted to catch.

Area 2 of the marsh was one of the last stops on the line, and consisted of dense patches of swamp trees and mud. Although that wasn't saying much, considering that the whole marsh consisted of swamp and trees. In the distance, he could just make out a small lake. Koa took a single pokeball off his otherwise empty belt, and released the Pokemon within. "Alright Echo, we're here to catch a new Pokemon."

At this, Echo shrieked excitedly, doing a loop in the sky.

"Remember," he continued, "no battling. I just want your help spotting Pokemon." The Golbat stared at him very seriously, then nodded in understanding.

Koa fingered the case of Safari Balls he'd been given. Unlike the rest of Sinnoh, the Great Marsh expressly forbade battles with the wild pokemon in its territory. Instead, Trainers were given a time limit, and a set of special pokeballs and bait. A Trainer had to pretty much rely on luck and skill of a good throw to catch Pokemon. Koa found it rather annoying, but rules were rules. He just hoped he didn't lose out on a cool catch because a Pokemon tried to he'd really be mad.

"Ready Echo?" The Golbat nodded once more, before flying high into the sky. Satisfied, Koa started into the marsh. He hadn't gone very far before a Croagunk emerged from the trees and crossed his path. It paused and stared at him for a long second, before letting out a long, drawn out crooaakk. Then it continued plodding along, vanishing into the trees. Koa shrugged it off and kept walking. Croagunk weren't exactly his type, anyway. For the next couple hours, he wandered the marsh. He saw several Croagunk, some Psyduck and Marill by the lake, and a Golduck as well. But nothing seemed to catch his eye. He was beginning to get a little nervous - he'd already used up 3 of his 5 hours. If he didn't find something soon, he'd have to call it quits, or buy more time.

Just then, Echo swooped down from above, letting out an excited shriek. He flapped around Koa's head, trilling eagerly and arting about. "What's up, Echo?" he asked. Echo flew a few feet away and turned back, eyeing Koa expectantly. "What did you find?" he asked excitedly. He jogged after the Golbat, trying to dodge the deepest patches of mud as he ran. As he followed, he soon picked up the distinctive sounds of a Pokemon battle. Ahead, a group of trees formed a sort of alcove, tucked away from the rest of the marsh. And within that alcove, a Shroomish stood, facing down a massive Toxicroak.

Koa quietly found a spot hidden within the trees and crouched down to watch. Echo alighted on a branch somewhere above his head, but he kept his gaze fixed on the battle that unfolded before his eyes.

The Shroomish looked like it had taken a few hits. Its body was scratched, and covered in mud. Its opponent, a Croagunk, towered above it. Unlike Shroomish, it appeared mostly unharmed. Koa guessed the Croagunk to be female, based on its markings. The Shroomish he wasn't sure about.

With a defiant cry, Shroomish leaped forward with a valiant Headbutt attack. Croagunk stepped out of the way, but to Koa's surprise, Shroomish landed and turned nimbly, spraying it with a burst of Stun Spores. It made a loud croak of distress, and dropped to one knee. Once again, Shroomish used Headbutt. The attack connected, but just as it did, Croagunk's hands glowed white and it lashed out, connecting point blank with Shroomish. Koa recognized the tactic as Revenge.

He flinched in sympathy as the Shroomish sailed through the air, crashing into the mud. Almost immediately, it hopped back to its feet, its tiny body shuddering with the effort. Koa couldn't help but be impressed. The little guy definitely had some guts. Still, he suspected it was much weaker than its opponent. It likely wouldn't last more than another hit, especially since it was at a disadvantage.

Croagunk seemed to realize this as well. It advanced upon the exhausted Shroomish, one of its hands glowing purple. Poison Jab. Against a grass-type like Shroomish, it would no doubt end the fight. With a triumphant croak, it struck out at Shroomish. And then something happened that took Koa completely by surprise. Shroomish leaped into the air, the Poison Jab passing harmlessly underneath. It sprang off Croagunk's outstretched arm, sailing through the air and landing neatly behind it. Paralysis seized Croakgunk's muscles and it froze. Glowing tendrils of light began to seep from its body, drifting to the exhausted Shroomish. The Mega Drain revitalized it, the scratches disappearing before Koa's eyes. With a loud cry, the Shroomish used Headbutt, sending Croagunk flying into a tree. It crashed to the ground and lay still.

Koa stared, wide-eyed, barely resisting the urge to cheer for Shroomish. Echo made an odd trilling noise that Koa took to mean he was impressed. Whipping out his Pokedex, Koa scanned it.

Shroomish, the Mushroom Pokemon. Shroomish live in damp soil in the dark depths of forests. They are often found keeping still under fallen leaves. This Pokémon feeds on compost that is made up of fallen, rotted leaves.

At that moment, he decided he wanted to catch it. He hadn't planned on it, but it felt right. It had such spirit and strength. He quietly took out a Safari ball and primed it. The Shroomish took barely a moment to stare at its downed opponent before it started to move away. Crossing his fingers, Koa tossed the ball. It arced through the air, striking Shroomish cleanly. The usual red light emerged, surrounding Shroomish. Then the light shattered and the ball fell uselessly into the mud.

The Shroomish whipped around a look of annoyance on its already grumpy face. Koa simply stared, confused. Impossible. For the pokeball not to work meant that Shroomish already had a trainer. But all the Pokemon in the marsh were supposed to be unregistered. Could it have been a glitch? Koa quickly threw another ball, with the same result. Shroomish made an angry trilling noise and glared at him.

Koa emerged from his spot and knelt in front of Shroomish, who backed away a few steps. "Where's your trainer, Shroomish?"

Shroomish made another angry noise then turned and trotted away, leaving tiny footprints in the mud. It disappeared behind some trees. After a moment, Koa decided to follow it. Echo fluttered after him, oddly quiet. Something felt odd about the whole situation. Shroomish didn't seem lost, yet it couldn't be with a trainer, since he hadn't seen anybody else in this area. He briefly recalled the white-haired trainer, but dismissed him. He'd had a Hitmonchan. Trainers were forbidden from having more than one Pokemon.

Thanks to the convenient footprints in the mud, it took less than a minute to catch up with Shroomish. He found it on a patch of slightly drier land, glaring down a small tree. Now what was it up to? As he watched, Shroomish gave a loud cry and charged the tree, striking it with a Headbutt attack. The tree shook, and a few leaves fell to the ground. Shroomish backed up and charged the tree again. It continued its pattern, striking the tree over and over.

Koa watched, intrigued. Shroomish appeared to be training. The exercise wasn't all too different from what he would drill his own Pokemon on. But still, where was its trainer? A loud crack! Shook him out of his thoughts.

The sapling that Shroomish had been attacking split down the middle. Shroomish stared at it triumphantly and let out a loud cry.

"That was amazing!" Koa shouted, unable to contain himself. He raced over to Shroomish, who seemed vaguely annoyed by his reappearance. "You're awesome!"

Shroomish frowned and headbutted him, making him stagger. It shot him a glare before trotting off back into the marsh. Koa followed, keeping a fair distance. Every now and then, it would look back and scowl, but kept walking. For the next several minutes, he followed Shroomish, his curiosity growing. Shroomish seemed to be looking for something. A few pokemon watched curiously from the mud, but didn't approach. Then he saw the Toxicroak.

The frog-like Pokemon was over four feet tall and looked to be the prime of its species. Its red throat sac bulged and it let out a loud croak. Shroomish seemed to see it as well, and its eyes gleamed. With a cry of challenge, it sprinted across the mud at the Toxicroak.

Koa's jaw dropped. That Shroomish was nuts! If it challenged that Toxicroak, it would surely lose. Intrigued, Koa crouched down to watch. Win or lose, battles generally didn't cause serious injuries, so he didn't plan on interfering. Plus, he doubted Shroomish would appreciate it.

Toxicroak stared at its diminutive opponent. Then, without warning, it fired a Sludge Bomb. The poisonous muck sailed through the air towards Shroomish. Shroomish leaped out of the way, only to be struck by a second blast from Toxicroak. It rolled across the muddy ground several feet, before getting to its feet. It charged towards Toxicroak, who raised a purple, glowing claw.

Toxicroak launched a flurry of Poison Jabs, but to Koa's surprise, Shroomish danced around every one of them, coming in close enough to land a Headbutt attack directly on Toxicroak's chest. It slid back, but seemed unfazed. An orange aura surrounded its body. Its claw glowed, then it threw a sharp jab at Shroomish. Shroomish leaped away, but too slowly. The attack clipped it, sending it spiraling through the air. It rolled through the mud, but hopped to its feet, still determined. In a near mirror image to the fight against Croagunk, Toxicroak primed another Poison Jab. It charged, sending up small splashes of mud. It raised its fist. Shroomish stared it down. Toxicroak swung its fist and -

Shroomish leaped upwards, dancing across Toxicroak's arm and landing behind it. Its head glowed faintly and it leaped forward, striking Toxicroak on the back with Headbutt. Unfortunately, Toxicroak was a good deal larger than Croagunk, and the attack only made it stumble forwards. Rage sparked in its eyes. It whirled around with frightful speed, smashing Shroomish in the face with Poison Jab. As it sailed through the air, the enraged Toxicroak opened its jaws and blasted a Sludge Bomb at the airborne Shroomish. Koa flinched in sympathy as the attack struck, sending Shroomish into a tree. It slid to the ground, out cold.

Toxicroak, however, didn't seem satisfied with the victory. Eyes still blazing with anger, it stalked across the mud, the long claws on its hands glowing vivid purple.

Koa leaped to his feet. If it attacked Shroomish now, it would be bad.

"Echo!" he shouted, already racing towards Toxicroak. The word had barely left his mouth before Echo descended upon Toxicroak with shocking fury, battering it with his wings. The startled Toxicroak staggered back, eyes wide. Taking one look at the trainer and angry Golbat, it gave a loud croak, then stalked away.

Koa let out a breath of relief, then hurried over to the fallen Shroomish. It had gotten to its feet by the time he arrived and was glaring sullenly at the ground. "Are you okay?" he asked. Its skin was still covered in poisonous slime, and its body looked a bit battered. Shroomish scowled and stalked away from him. Then, without warning, it collapsed and toppled into the mud.

Echo let out a scree of concern. Koa dropped to his knees and scooped up the unconscious Shroomish. Its body felt oddly warm, yet dry. Its eyes were squeezed shut, and it gave a low moan. Koa swallowed nervously. It had a fever, and now that he was seeing it up close, it looked injured worse than he initially thought. Most likely the combination of pushing itself too hard, coupled with such intense battles, over-exhausted it. Shroomish needed a Pokemon Center, fast. Cradling the injured Pokemon, Koa sprinted through the mud towards the tram stop. When he arrived, the station was empty. Panic filled Koa and he glanced up and down. In the distance, he saw it approaching. It had barely stopped before he leaped onto the tram. This time it was empty, though he wasn't surprised. There was still another hour to go. Most people were still out trying to make the most of their last hour.

The whole time he rode the tram back, he couldn't take his eyes off Shroomish. He felt bad for it, but guilty as well. Maybe if he'd stepped in sooner... Rationally, he knew it couldn't be helped. Pokemon got into battles on their own all the time. It was in their biology, their nature. Shroomish had pushed itself far beyond its natural limits, which was the real reason it was hurt. What really ticked him off, was why it was out there all alone. Its trainer should have been looking out for it, protecting it and helping it get stronger.

The tram jolted to stop and Koa leaped out of his seat. The Great Marsh featured an on-site Pokemon Center for treating any injured Pokemon, so he wouldn't have to go far. He sprinted into the lobby. Before he could say a word, two nurses descended upon him like a couple of motherly Pidgeot. In a flurry of activity, they whisked Shroomish away to their healing centers. He spent a few minutes explaining what happened to the rangers, then found himself a spot in the lobby of the Pokemon Center to wait for news on Shroomish.

Fortunately, he didn't have to wait too long. "Mr. Averon?"

Koa looked up, watching as Nurse Joy approached.

"Good news, Mr. Averon," Nurse Joy said. "The Shroomish you found will be just fine. It was simply suffering from a bit of overexertion. I've given it some medicine, and it'll be fine after some rest. It's a good thing you found it though, otherwise, it would have been hurt much worse."

"Oh..." Koa said softly. That was good, at least. "But what about its trainer?" he demanded. "Shouldn't they have been looking out for it?"

Nurse Joy shook her head. "We contacted all the trainers who entered the Marsh today. None of them own a Shroomish. I've spoken to the local police, and they are in the process of finding out who its OT is."

"Okay..." Koa said. "May I stay for now? Until you find its trainer, that is?"

"If you wish," Nurse Joy said. She nodded to him, then left.

Koa mulled over everything that happened. Why had Shroomish been fighting so hard? Usually wild pokemon would know to rest, even when they fought.

"Koa!"

He looked up to see Avis jogging towards him. She stopped in front him, taking a second to catch her breath, then took a seat across from him.

"What happened?" she asked. "I was looking in the lobby for you, and they told me you went this way. Did something happen to Golbat?"

Koa quickly shook his head. "No. But I found an injured Shroomish. I mean, I tried to catch it at first, but the ball didn't work. Then it was fighting this crazy Toxicroak, but it got hurt, bad."

"What about its trainer?" Avis asked.

"I don't know. The police are looking into it now."

"Hmph..." a contemplative look descended on her face. "I'll be back." She stood up and darted away before Koa could say a word. Well, that was pretty weird. He shrugged it off. Right now, he was more worried about Shroomish.

A short time later, Nurse Joy returned. She looked to the officer next to her, a young woman with dark hair and a harsh gaze. "I understand that this Shroomish does not belong to you, correct?"

Koa nodded.

The officer continued. "We were able to make contact with its OT. If you wish, ownership of the Shroomish may be transferred to you. If not, he will likely be left here, at the Marsh."

Koa blinked, taking in the information. "Yeah, I want it," he said quickly. He narrowed his eyes. "Who's the OT?"

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that."

Koa bit back an angry retort. It didn't matter. He'd wanted to catch a grass-type, he'd liked Shroomish's spirit, and now he could become its trainer. That was all that mattered. "Thanks," he murmured.

The officer nodded and handed him the pokeball. "He's yours now. But if I find out that you didn't take good care of it-"

"I will!" Koa snapped.

The officer grinned, clearly satisfied. "I'm glad that's settled. I'll take care of the transfer on our end. Have a good day." With a sharp nod, she strode away.

"Make sure to let Shroomish rest for today. After that it should make a full recovery," she said brightly. "Have a nice day, Mr. Averon."

Once she'd left, he stood up. All he wanted now was to go back to his room and meet Shroomish.

xXx

He was halfway to the Pokemon Center when Avis appeared from in front of him. "So I can't stick around long, but I found out something about that Shroomish."

"Wait what?" Koa asked. "How'd you find out anything already? And you're leaving?"

She nodded. "Yeah. I have to take care of something for one of my investigations. But forget that. I know the name of Shroomish's OT."

"How? I thought that was classified? And should you even be telling me? I thought the police couldn't reveal information like that or something."

She held her finger. "One. I'm not part of the police so it's not exactly against the law for me. Gray area." She held up a second finger. "Two. Remember something. Law and justice walk different roads. I think you deserve to know his name."

A smile spread over Koa's face. "Ok. Thanks."

She gave a sharp nod. "His name is Liam Akihiko."

Koa felt sure he knew that name, however. Liam... Then it struck him. The rich brat from the Pokemon Mansion. Anger seared through him. Granted, there could be plenty of kids named Liam in the world, but an odd feeling told him that it could be the same Liam. He had seen him at the mansion with a Shroomish after all. Had the brat dumped his Shroomish? The thought alone made him hot with rage. For now, he would do his best to raise Shroomish. But by Arceus, if he ever saw that kid again...

"Thanks for telling me."

She waved him off. "I'll see you around, okay?" With that, she released her Staraptor, hopped on its back, and flew away. Koa was left with a sense of lingering bitterness. Was Shroomish's trainer really the same Liam?

xXx​

An hour later, he sat relaxing in his room at the Pokemon Center. Shroomish's pokeball rested in his hand. He pressed the button and watched as Shroomish appeared before him. It looked around, perplexed, then frowned even deeper when it saw Koa.

Koa took out his Pokedex and did a quick scan. Apparently, Shroomish was male. He didn't bother reading the moveset yet. That would come later. Taking a deep breath, he began to explain as much as he could to Shroomish, though he had an odd feeling Shroomish already knew.

"So what do you say, Shroomish? I want to become a strong trainer, but my real dream is to be an explorer. You know Mt. Coronet?" Still frowning, Shroomish nodded. "I want to get strong enough to climb it and find the Spear Pillar."

For nearly a minute, Shroomish just sat there, frowning. Of course, a Shroomish's face tended to look like a perpetual frown, so it was a little hard to tell what he was actually feeling. Finally, he nodded.

A wide grin broke across Koa's face. "Great! Now... what should I call you?" he mused, tapping his chin.

Shroomish gave an annoyed grunt and shook his head.

Koa frowned at him. "What? Don't you want a nickname?"

Shroomish stared intensely at him and nodded, then nodded his head.

"What does that even mean? Yes and no?"

Shroomish hopped up and down, then mimed an exaggerated motion of some kind that Koa couldn't quite decipher. He stared at the frustrated Shroomish for several seconds, trying to puzzle it out. "Are you saying you do want a name, but not yet?"

Shroomish nodded eagerly.

"Okay," Koa said slowly. Shroomish seemed to have a natural fighting spirit. Maybe... "Does that mean you want a name when you evolve?"

Shroomish nodded again, his whole body moving as he did. He gave an excited cry of confirmation.

"Okay, then it's settled. We'll figure out a good name for you once you evolve."

Shroomish grinned at that and rumbled appreciatively.

Koa smiled back. "Now that that's settled, I'll introduce you to your teammates." One by one, he released all his Pokemon. Echo was the first to greet Shroomish, with a cheerful shriek. Then Hazard and Shroomish locked eyes. Tiny sparks started dancing across Joltik's fur, and a fire blazed in Shroomish's eyes. Koa sensed the start of a rivalry between those two. Rascal approached Shroomish and let out a roar, to which Shroomish seemed unimpressed. Snorting in frustration, she stalked off and threw herself down on the floor, as if pouting. Koa chuckled. By now, the team seemed so used to her antics that her aggressiveness didn't faze them anymore. Finally, Anubis approached. He sniffed Shroomish curiously, then barked a greeting. Shroomish gave a low grunt in reply, which seemed to satisfy the Houndour.

Grinning happily, Koa lay down on his bed, watching his Pokemon. Planning was good, he decided. But, so were surprises.

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Shroomish (Male) {Effect Spore} - Tackle, Headbutt, Stun Spore, Mega Drain

Hope everyone enjoyed! Koa has caught a Shroomish, though under somewhat unusual circumstances. Next up, Koa vs Wake!
 
chapter 11

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 11: Mach Power

Here we are at chapter 11! Koa's next challenge is the Pastoria gym. With Shroomish and Hazard on his side, it probably won't be as hard as Roark, but he'll still have to stay on his toes!

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Tyrunt (Female) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Shroomish (Male) {Effect Spore} - Tackle, Headbutt, Stun Spore, Mega Drain


Something landed on Koa's chest, jolting him awake. Opening his eyes, he glanced around to find himself still in his room at the Pokemon Center. He guessed he'd dozed off after dinner. Outside the window the sky was dark, leaving the room itself dark as well. He could just make out the shapes of his other Pokemon, scattered around the room, sleeping. Frowning, he turned on the desk lamp to see what had woken him up. Shroomish stood at the foot of the bed, scowling determinedly. He hopped up and down, then nodded at the door.

Koa glanced at his Poketch. 5:04am. "Shroomish, it's early," he grumbled. He turned to head back to bed, but Shroomish dived in front of him, then growled at him. He jumped up and down again, then hopped off the bed and butted his head against the door. Koa let out a sigh.

"I guess should train," he muttered to himself. Now that he thought about it, he'd gotten rather complacent in his morning routine. Shroomish gave another, more insistent cry. The noise awoke Echo, who hung from the fan overhead. He let go and hovered to Koa's shoulder, draping himself comfortably across Koa's back. The noise awoke Rascal, who stood up and let out a long yawn. Hazard, who had apparently been snoozing on her head, slid off, chattering in annoyance. That just left Anubis. The Houndour opened his eyes sleepily, but as soon as he saw everyone else awake, he jumped up and began to bark excitedly.

Well, as long as everyone was up, he might as well get back into proper training. "Come on everyone. We've got work to do." Yawning, he got dressed in his usual attire - shirt, cargo pants, boots, and his leather jacket, then pulled on his gloves and started for the door.

As usual, Koa started with a warm-up and a jog. He was rather disappointed to find he'd lost a bit of his stamina and speed, but he figured it wouldn't take long to build back up. He opted for a route through the edge of the city that ducked through small patches of trees and took him across the little river that ran through town. Shroomish set the pace, charging ahead and forcing Koa to keep up. Anubis trotted loyally at Koa's side, while Rascal kept charging off to scare the local Pokemon, mostly any Pidgey or Starly who she could find. Echo, as usual, flew overhead. Hazard, however, surprised him the most. It didn't take the little Joltik long to hop off his shoulder and try to scurry alongside Shroomish.

Shroomish, eager for the challenge, raced ahead. Not one to be left behind, Hazard charged after him, and the two began a contest of attempting to one-up each other. By the time they circled back around to the Pokemon Center, Hazard was thoroughly exhausted and could barely walk. Shroomish, for his part, looked pretty winded as well, but not quite as much as Hazard.

Koa knelt down and patted Hazard. "Your legs aren't really built for long-distance running, buddy." Hazard chittered sadly and stared at the ground. "You can take him in a fight, though, don't worry." At that, Hazard perked up and gave an excited hop. Koa grinned, then stood up and turned to the rest of his Pokemon. They stood in a semi-circle around him, at the Pokemon Center's battlefield. Koa glanced at each of them, his mind already whirling with plans. There was a whole lot he wanted to get done before challenging Crasher Wake, Pastoria's gym leader.

First, he gave out the Rare Candies he'd found to Anubis. Of all his Pokemon, he figured Anubis could use the boost. They wouldn't substitute for proper training, but they would help give him an edge. Next up was the Giga Drain TM. TM's, or Technical Machines, were truly modern marvels. They gave trainers a way to teach new moves to Pokemon quickly, as well as teach them moves that they couldn't normally learn through training.

He took out his TM case, inserting the TM into the slot. He briefly returned Hazard to his Pokeball, placing it in the slot. With a few presses of a button, he switched out Absorb for Giga Drain. Once the task was done, he sent out Hazard once more.

"Ok Hazard. I gave you Giga Drain, which will be really awesome for you. It's like Absorb, but way stronger. Ready to try it out?" Hazard chittered eagerly and hopped up and down.

"Anubis!" Anubis trotted over and sat down a few feet away. "Ready?" Anubis gave a short bark and looked at Hazard expectantly.

"Hazard, Giga Drain!" he shouted.

Hazard's eyes glowed bright green, and a surprisingly large bright beam of green energy shot from his mouth, striking Anubis. Green sparks danced across the Houndour's fur and he staggered from the force of the attack. A moment later, Hazard let up, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. Anubis shook himself and barked approvingly. "Nice work, buddy," Koa called.

With that accomplished, it was time for some proper training. First up would be Shroomish. After starting his other Pokemon on a simple regimen of trading moves back and forth and countering, he turned to Shroomish.

He remembered Shroomish's moves from back at the marsh. Tackle, Headbutt, Stun Spore, and Mega Drain. He decided to check his Pokedex and do some quick research. Right now, Shroomish's moves were fairly limited. Giga Drain was a good start, he figured. He might replace it later, but for now, it would be a sufficiently strong grass-type move.

Taking out his TM case, he repeated the process, swapping Mega Drain for Giga Drain. He didn't bother having Shroomish test it yet. The move was basically identical to Mega Drain anyway. What really concerned him was Tackle. Since Shroomish knew Headbutt, Tackle was essentially useless. After some deliberation, he decided there was only one good option. Seed Bomb. An exceedingly powerful grass-type move, it was a perfect fit for Shroomish.

Koa knelt in front of Shroomish, who stared back at him, his gaze hard. "You won't need Tackle anymore, so we'll practice Seed Bomb instead, got it?" Shroomish nodded, his mouth set in a serious line.

"Now, according to the Pokedex, Seed Bomb requires you to focus a bunch of grass-type energy to create seeds, then you launch them at your opponent. Got it?" Once more, Shroomish nodded. Koa dragged out one of the training dummies kept on hand at the Pokemon Center. It was nothing more than a large, stiff rubber statue resembling a Rhydon.

He set it up at one end of the field, then positioned Shroomish at the other. "Now Shroomish, use Seed Bomb!"

Shroomish gave a loud cry of determination. A green ball of energy began to form in front of its mouth. It grew from the size of a pebble to a softball. Then Shroomish launched it across the field. It made it halfway to the dummy before crashing to the ground with a loud pop. Shroomish scowled. Before Koa could say anything, Shroomish launched another. This one was larger, and a bit more focused. It made it almost to the dummy too, though it didn't explode with much force. Over and over, Shroomish fired Seed Bomb. After almost an hour, he was panting with exhaustion, but the fruits of his labor were showing. Each attack now hit its mark easily. The only part the technique lacked was the explosion.

Shroomish glared furiously at the target, his tiny body heaving from the effort. "Don't give up, Shroomish! One more time. Pretend that Rhydon is your worst enemy."

A glow flashed through Shroomish eyes. With a loud cry, he fired a massive ball of energy across the field. It crashed into the dummy with a resounding bang, followed by an explosion of dirt and rock. Koa grinned and knelt next to the exhausted Shroomish. "You did it! Now, how about we take a quick break?" Shroomish hesitated a moment, then nodded.

As Koa returned to the Pokemon Center, excitement filled his bones. The third gym badge was as good as his.

xXx​

"Hey there, challenger! Ready for your battle?"

Koa faced Crasher Wake, still in awe. He'd read about Crasher Wake, of course, but the man was truly massive in person. Wake wore his trademark blue and black wrestling tights, orange boots, along with a mask that crisscrossed his face. He stood well over six feet, and Koa was pretty sure it would take two of him side by side to equal the man's muscular girth. Koa privately wondered who was bigger - Lt. Surge, the famed gym leader of Vermilion City in the Kanto region, or Wake. "Yeah, I'm ready to get my Fen Badge."

Wake grinned and turned around, motioning for Koa to follow. "I like your spunk. What's your name?"

"Koamaru," he replied as he followed Wake through the gym to the battlefield. Even though he'd seen pictures of the gym's infamous water battlefield, it was still a daunting sight. A massive swimming pool, dotted with small floating platforms throughout, stretched from one end of the room to the other. Koa figured it was at least as long as several Gyarados. Mobility would be an issue, but he was sure his Pokemon could handle it. He took up a position on the challenger's side of the field, waiting as Wake made his way to the opposite side.

A referee stepped up to a spot on the side of the field. "The battle between Crasher Wake and challenger Koamaru will be a three-on-three match. The battle will continue until one side is out of usable Pokemon. Furthermore, only the challenger may substitute Pokemon."

Koa nodded. Unlike Roark or Gardenia, Wake and many other gyms opted for a three Pokemon match. It evened the odds a bit, and according to Wake, made the battles more fun.

Wake pumped his fists in the air, his wide grin visible even from where Koa stood. "Think you're ready for my Pokemon? My Pokémon were toughened up by stormy white waters! They'll take everything you can throw at them and then pull you under! Victory will be ours! Come on, let's get it done!"

Koa found himself smiling at the display. He liked Wake. The man had a boisterous attitude, but unlike Fantina, who was apparently never around, he seemed to take great joy in battles and liked to get straight to them. Still grinning, Wake grabbed a pokeball from a small stand on his side of the field. With a flourish, he released his first Pokemon into the water.

A Gyarados splashed into the pool, sending massive waves rippling throughout. It roared, then gave an odd sort of grin that Koa thought matched its trainer very well. Well, as long as Wake was using his Gyarados, that made his decision easy.

"Come on out, Hazard!" He called, tossing the pokeball onto the field. In a flash of light, Hazard landed on one of the many floating platforms dotted around the gym. At the sight of the minuscule Pokemon, Wake broke into uproarious laughter.

"In all my time, I've never seen anyone use one of those before! I like it," he roared. "I'm looking forward to this."

Yeah, he definitely liked Wake.

"Battle, begin!" The referee called.

"Electroweb!" Koa called. There wasn't much point trying to hide his strategy, not when he sent out an electric-type. All he needed were a few solid hits since Gyarados sported a double-weakness to electricity.

"Dragon Rage!"

Hazard generated a small orb of electricity and fired the web, just as Gyarados cocked back its head and blasted a stream of purplish flames. The two attacks collided, then the Dragon Rage burst through, headed straight for Hazard.

"Dodge!" Hazard scrambled out of the way, landing on another platform just as Dragon Breath struck the one he'd been standing on. "Now, Electroweb again."

Hazard rapidly blasted the attack. The web arced through the air and wrapped around Gyarados' neck, shocking it.

"Gyarados, use Bite!" Shaking off the electricity, Gyarados lunged forwards, jaws wide.

"Dive underneath, Hazard," Koa said. Hazard leaped forward, his tiny size easily allowing him to slip under the attack. Gyarados crashed into the water, sending more waves throughout the stadium. "Electroweb again."

Hazard whirled around, firing off a huge Electroweb. It crashed against Gyarados, shocking it again. It growled angrily, though Koa could tell it was losing steam.

"Underwater, quick," Wake called, issuing the simple command. Snarling, Gyarados dived underwater, vanishing surprisingly quickly. Koa frowned. Thanks to its coloration, he couldn't make out its position underwater. But if Wake was anything like Roark and his Dig... A grin spread across his face.

"Get ready, Hazard. He's coming from underneath." He said confidently. A moment later, Gyarados smashed into the platform Hazard stood on, sending him soaring into the air, almost reaching the roof.

"Dragon Rage, again!" Wake shouted. Gyarados spat the purple fireball at the airborne Joltik. Koa's eyes widened. Joltik was completely vulnerable. An attack now would do a lot of damage.

"Dodge with String Shot," Koa shouted quickly. Hazard spat a fat string of webbing, but instead of aiming it towards the ceiling to pull himself out of the way of the attack, he sprayed it downwards as he fell. Koa stared in confusion. What was he doing? Joltik's momentum carried him into his own attack, cocooning him in a dense layer of webbing. Then Dragon Rage hit. Understanding dawned on him as he watched the events play out. The fireball of draconic energy burned through the webbing fairly easily, but barely touched Hazard. Joltik hurtled down, straight towards the shocked Gyarados.

"Electroweb!"

With a malicious glint in his eyes, Hazard fired the burst of electric webbing. It struck Gyarados dead in the face, covering its entire head. Sparks rippled across its body as it roared in pain, then collapsed. Hazard landed on one of the platforms and chittered triumphantly.

"Gyarados is unable to battle. Joltik is the winner!" The referee called.

"Hey! That there! That was a good move!" Wake said as he returned Gyarados. "I like your Joltik! He's got spunk!"

"Thanks!" Koa called. From across the field, Wake selected his second pokeball. "You ready for my second Pokemon?"

Koa nodded determinedly.

Wake tossed out his second pokeball. A Quagsire emerged into the water, rumbling happily.

In that case.. "Hazard, come back," he said. Hazard leaped across the platforms and to Koa's side. Koa smiled proudly as he stooped down and gently scratched his head. Joltik chittered happily. "That was super cool, how you used a String Shot to shield yourself. You're awesome." He was definitely going to remember that tactic for another battle. Hazard made a happy churring noise, then hurried up his leg and onto his shoulder. "You want to watch the rest of the battle?" He asked. Hazard nodded eagerly.

Koa selected his second pokeball confidently. He'd been planning for this. "Go Shroomish!" He released Shroomish, who landed on one of the floating platforms and let out a battle cry.

The referee raised his arms. "Battle, begin!"

"Seed Bomb," Koa said. As with Gyarados, his strategy was simple. Quagsire featured only one weakness. Grass-type. And it was a double-weakness at that. All Koa needed was a few good hits, and he was sure he could take it down. Shroomish charged up a glowing ball of energy. He shot it, and it arced through the air towards Quagsire.

"Dodge and go underwater." Quagsire dived smoothly underwater as Seed Bomb harmlessly exploded above him. Koa frowned. He'd been worried about this. Quagsire held a significant advantage in this field. Hitting would be a problem. But... it would have to surface at some point. A sudden idea struck him. Though he couldn't predict where it would surface, maybe he could control it.

"Now, jump across the platforms and use Stun Spore!" Shroomish glanced back at him, confused. Then understanding dawned in his gaze and he nodded. His body shuddered, then a cloud of golden spores shot from his head. As Shroomish leaped from platform to platform, he scattered a layer of spores across the water. Within moments, most of the pool was covered in the spores. Wake scowled, and Koa grinned at him. Shroomish had just ruined Wake's best advantage.

"Ice Beam," Wake said.

"There!" Koa called, pointing to Wake's end of the pool. Only a few areas remained untouched by the dangerous spores. Which meant Quagsire didn't have many options. "Seed Bomb."

Quagsire leaped from the water, the icy orb of energy already ready. As it fired the triple beam of icy energy, Shroomish had already launched his Seed Bomb. Unfortunately, charging it had left him wide open. Ice Beam struck him full on, sending him skipping across the water. At nearly the same moment, Seed Bomb came down upon Quagsire's head, exploding and sending it straight into the spore filled pool.

Shivering, Shroomish stood battered but still standing on one of the platforms closest to Koa. At the opposite end of the pool, Quagsire was still conscious, but tiny sparks traveled across its body and it trembled violently. Good. The spores had done their work.

"Get closer and use Giga Drain." Shroomish hopped awkwardly across the platforms, his speed slightly hampered by the chill from Ice Beam.

"Quagsire, quick. Sludge Bomb!" Quagsire opened its jaws, then shut them and grimaced as another spasm wracked its body. Shroomish stopped halfway across the pool, then fired a beam of iridescent green energy. It struck Quagsire, draining the last of its strength and restoring Shroomish slightly. Within moments, Quagsire was unconscious. Wake smiled sadly as he returned it.

"Quagsire is unable to battle. Shroomish is the victor!"

"Nice work, Shroomish," Koa called.

"That was some smart moves, using Stun Spore on the pool. Now, get ready for my toughest Pokemon! Go Floatzel!"

Wake tossed out his final pokeball, revealing an impressive looking Floatzel. It landed on a platform with a cry of challenge, before diving smoothly into the water.

Koa eyed it thoughtfully. By now, the spores had dispersed rather harmlessly into the water. There was a chance he could try the same trick again, but Floatzel was clearly much faster than Quagsire. He was sure it could attack before Shroomish could do much, plus Wake would be ready for it.

After a moment's hesitation, he returned Shroomish. His fingers brushed over his other pokeballs as he contemplated his next move. Hazard was always an option, but it would be hard for him to use size to his advantage properly, plus he didn't think Joltik could match Floatzel in mobility. Tyrunt was powerful, but he wasn't really sure she had enough raw power yet to compensate for her disadvantage. He wanted to catch Wake off guard. And he had the perfect Pokemon for that. Selecting the familiar black and red pokeball, he tossed it out.

"Go Echo." With an excited screech, Golbat emerged onto the battlefield. "Stay airborne. Be ready for it. That Floatzel looks fast," Koa said quietly. Echo nodded and hovered a little higher. Floatzel poked its head out of the water and eyed Golbat, grinning toothily.

"Battle begin."

"This is where it gets exciting. First move is yours, Koa!" Wake shouted. His voice remained jovial, which surprised Koa. He was on his last Pokemon after all.

Time to test his opponent. "Alright Echo, Crunch!"

Echo circled, then dived down, his jaws glowing with dark energy.

"Block it." Floatzel leaped out of the water, landing nimbly on a platform. It swiftly inflated the floating sac around its neck, just as Echo was about to sink his fangs in. Instead, Echo ended up biting the sac. The Floatzel grimaced from the impact, but managed to shake Golbat off. Koa snorted in frustration. Crunch had done some damage, but only a little. There was no way using Crunch or Wing Attack would deal the necessary damage if it kept blocking like that.

"Ice Fang." Floatzel leaped gracefully into the air, its jaws glowing.

"Wing Attack!" Echo shrieked and dived at the approaching Floatzel, both his wings glowing. The attacks collided, with Floatzel sinking its jaws into one of Echo's wings. Just as it bit down, Echo swung his other wing straight into its face, knocking it off. Floatzel landed in the pool below with a splash, but quickly emerged, looking relatively unharmed.

"Up, Golbat," Koa murmured. Echo floated higher, swooping in erratic circles above Floatzel. Koa could tell he was feeling the effects of Ice Fang. Floatzel had better stamina than Echo, he suspected. So perhaps a similar tactic to how he'd beat Roark could work.

"Wing Attack." Echo dived down in an instant, his wings glowing.

Wake let out a loud laugh. "Block it, Floatzel." Floatzel hopped neatly onto a platform and puffed out its floatation sac. Echo smashed it with Wing Attack, only succeeding in knocking Floatzel back a half-inch. Koa smirked. Just as he hoped.

"Now, Poison Fang." Wake's eyes widened as he realized what was about to happen. Fangs dripping with toxic poison, Echo sank his jaws into the flotation sac, eliciting a squeal of pain from Floatzel.

"Get that thing off with Bulk Up and Brine."

A red aura surrounded Floatzel and its entire body expanded slightly, dislodging Echo. Rearing back, Floatzel opened its jaws and blasted Echo in the face with a powerful stream of water. Echo flew halfway across the battlefield before he caught himself and landed on one of the platforms, breathing heavily.

Floatzel staggered and sank briefly to its knees, its eyes closed. Koa could see where Echo had bit it, and the area was turning purple. A smile crept over his face. Echo had bit down long enough for Poison Fang to do its work.

"Brine once again." Floatzel recovered and stood up, blasting another jet of water at Echo.

"Dodge!" Koa called. Echo fluttered upwards, but his exhaustion slowed him. Brine glanced off one of his wings, sending him spiraling.

"Ice Fang!" Floatzel dived into the water, surging forward with shocking speed.

Koa gritted his teeth. There was only one chance to end this. "Don't give up, Echo. Fly up!"

Echo caught himself and, finding a reserve of strength, surged upwards. Floatzel leaped after him, its jaws glowing icy blue.

"Turn, then Confuse Ray!" Already midair, Floatzel was unable to halt its momentum. Echo turned sideways, letting Floatzel pass by just inches away. Golden orbs formed in his jaws, and he hit Floatzel point blank with Confuse Ray. Floatzel cried out and fell back towards the pool and crashed into one of the platforms. Echo slowly hovered above the battlefield, breathing heavily. Koa wasn't sure he could last much longer.

Floatzel staggered to its feet and growled, a vacant glaze in its eyes. "Floatzel, in the water, quick!" Still in a trance, Floatzel opened its jaws wide, fangs glowing ice blue, then sank them into its own arm. It cried out in pain and collapsed onto the platform, barely conscious.

"Floatzel!" Wake shouted again.

"Wing Attack." Koa said, calmly. Echo grinned, weary yet triumphant, then dived towards the exhausted Floatzel. Still dazed, it glanced upwards. Panic filled its confused eyes and it tried to drag itself off the platform, but too late. Echo whirled and smashed it twice with Wing Attack, knocking it out.

"Floatzel is unable to battle! Challenger Koamaru is the winner."

Koa pumped his fist in the air. "Yes!" He shouted. Hazard bounced up and down excitedly on his shoulder. Echo fluttered over to him, and Koa held out his arms. Golbat practically collapsed into them, and he scratched him behind his ears. "Nice work, buddy." He took out Echo's pokeball and returned him.

Crasher Wake jogged around the battlefield towards him. A few moments later, he stood before Koa, still grinning widely. He clapped Koa on the back, nearly making him fall over. "That was impressive! It seems the undertow pulled me under... But I had a great time battling with you! You've earned this!" He held out the Fen badge, a gleaming blue and silver circular badge that vaguely resembled a wave, though Koa thought it looked more like Wake's trademark mask. He also held out a small pouch of money.

Koa took both, grinning proudly. "Thank you!"

"You certainly earned it, kid. I have to say, you have some unusual Pokemon. The Shroomish is expected, but I've never had someone use Joltik before. And I don't think I've ever had a challenger use a Golbat. Did you catch it as a Golbat?"

"Nope," Koa said, shaking his head. "I caught him as a Zubat. Technically, he's my starter Pokemon."

At that, Wake guwaffed loudly. "I don't believe it! A Zubat was the first Pokemon you caught?"

Koa nodded sheepishly. "I didn't mean to at first, but now I wouldn't trade him for anything."

Wake nodded and clapped Koa on his shoulder. Koa staggered from the force of it. "That's good, kid. A good trainer raises strong Pokemon. A great trainer makes his Pokemon strong. You've got the potential to be great."

Heat rose to Koa's cheeks. "Really?" he asked. A hint of embarrassment rushed through him. He'd never actually thought about if he had potential. "Well, I owe it to my Golbat. He was the one who didn't give up on me."

"I like you, Koa. Come back after you get all eight badges. I'd love to battle you with my real team."

"Sure!" Koa said eagerly, grinning. Even if Wake wasn't the hardest gym leader, he liked him a lot. A lot more than Fantina, that was for sure. Although that wasn't exactly saying much, he supposed. Either way, Wake was fun.

"Where are you headed next?" Wake asked.

"Back to Hearthome, I guess," he said after a moment. "I still need to battle Fantina."

Wake frowned. "Hmph. Well, good look with that, kid. Now, I have some preparations to make for the Croagunk Festival. I look forward to seeing you again."

Koa waved farewell, then left the gym, a feeling of pride flowing through him. He took a moment to admire his new badge, then placed it in his badge case. As he walked towards the Pokemon Center, he contemplated his next move again. After some deliberation, he decided his best bet would be to head back to Hearthome. Either that or an equally arduous trek north, to Veilstone. Though with Anubis, the Hearthome gym would be easy. Fantina should be back at her gym, so he could get his fourth badge. Of course, that meant making the long walk back across Route 212.

Still pondering, he stepped into the Pokemon Center and walked up to the counter. He handed off all his Pokemon, then took a quick trip to the Pokemart. He needed to restock on his healing items, plus he wanted to buy a jar of honey for Echo. He'd more than earned it, after his fight with Floatzel. Buying it from the Pokemart cost him a bit more than getting it straight from Floaroma, but it was worth it. Besides, he'd earned a decent sum of money from his recent battles and from defeating Wake.

Once he'd purchased his items, he decided to check the TM counter. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything he wanted. He suspected he wouldn't find much until he got to Veilstone City. Pastoria was exactly known for its TM selection. Oh well.

By the time he returned to the Pokemon Center, the resident nurse Joy had finished healing his team. He'd decided to get a head start on traveling back to Hearthome. Thanks to the shortcut Avis had shown him, he figured if he didn't get slowed down, he could make the trip in a week.

Once he stood outside the city, he released all his Pokemon. They greeted him with varying eager cries, although he noted Hazard seemed a bit subdued. His eyes looked a bit duller than normal, which made Koa frown. "Everything ok, Hazard?" Joltik quickly brightened up and nodded. Koa scratched his head, then turned to Echo. "First things first. I think you deserve a special treat." He gently removed the jar of honey from his backpack, placing it on the ground.

Echo's eyes lit up and he dived at the jar.

"Wait, wait, let me open- it first!" Koa said, laughing. Golbat perched a mere half-inch away, drool trickling from his open jaw. Unscrewing the lid, he nudged it towards Echo.

Echo descended upon it in a flurry, swallowing the jar whole. A few moments later he spat it out, completely empty. Some honey trickled down the corners of his mouth, which he promptly licked off. Then he leaped into Koa's lap, slathering him in sticky licks of gratitude.

"Get off!" Koa cried playfully, pushing Echo away. Grimacing, he did his best to wipe the sticky saliva off. "Thanks a lot," he muttered, still smiling. Echo shrieked happily and then fluttered onto his shoulders. Koa stood up and slung his backpack on, briefly dislodging Echo, who immediately relighted on his shoulders.

"Alright everyone, let's get going to Hearthome." He decided to return his team, save for Shroomish, who he hoped to get some exercise for, and Anubis. Since they were the newest members of his team, they needed the most attention.

He set off walking, angling north so he could get to the shortcut. As he crested a hill and neared the dense trees where the shortcut was hidden, Shroomish let out a loud cry. Koa paused, turning to see what had caught Shroomish's attention.

Farther down the hill, at the edge of the marsh, he spotted a trainer and Pokemon. Shroomish was staring at the trainer, eye alight with the fire of battle. Koa frowned and peered down the hill at the pair. They looked vaguely familiar... The trainer had dark skin and white hair, and his Pokemon appeared to be a Hitmonchan. Shroomish jumped up and down excitedly, looking between Koa and the trainer. Then he started to trot down the hill towards them.

Koa followed, his curiosity peaked. Anubis trotted beside him, tail wagging. He was certain now that he knew the white-haired trainer from somewhere. As he drew closer, he could see the trainer was fairly young, maybe 16- or 17 by Koa's estimate. He stood ankle deep in the mud, doing some kind of strange motion with his arms. It almost looked like some kind of martial arts moves, except incredibly slow. His Hitmonchan stood a few feet in front of him, eyes closed as it copied the motions exactly. Koa wondered how it knew what to do without watching its trainer.

Shroomish darted across the mud and started to jump up and down excitedly, grunting. "Shroomish, stop it," Koa hissed. He didn't want to disturb the trainer from... whatever it was the guy was doing. If the trainer noticed, he gave no indication that he did.

Shroomish watched them, an unusual intensity burning in his gaze. Koa stared thoughtfully at the trainer, trying to remember where he'd seen him. A white-haired young man and a Hitmonchan... He snapped his fingers suddenly. That was it! He'd been at the Great Marsh yesterday.

The trainer seemed to finish what he was doing, then turned around to face Koa.

Anubis trotted over to the trainer sniffing him eagerly, his tail wagging the whole time. Then he barked and started licking the trainers outstretched hand.

"Anubis, stop!" Anubis stopped and sat dutifully beside Koa. The exchange did make Koa curious. He remembered reading somewhere that canine Pokemon like Houndour and Growlithe were excellent judges of character.

"Uh.. hey," Koa said, awkwardly. "I think my Shroomish was excited by your... training." At least, he thought it was training. He honestly had no idea what he was doing. The only thing he did know was that Shroomish was very interested in the man.

Shroomish bounced over to the Hitmonchan and gave a loud cry. Hitmonchan gently extended a fist towards the Shroomish, which Shroomish answered by leaping into the air and headbutting it, though not hard.

"I believe your Shroomish wants to challenge my Hitmonchan," the trainer said.

Koa grinned. Shroomish could definitely use the workout. "I'm down for a battle. If you can handle it."

The trainer inclined his head towards his Hitmonchan. They met eyes, and Hitmonchan grunted and nodded. "Jackie agrees. What is your name?"

"Koa," he replied. "Yours?"

"Kitto."

Koa frowned, puzzled. The name was certainly odd, though he supposed he had no right to judge, considering his own name was equally weird.

"One on one then, Kitto?" he asked.

To his surprise, Kitto shook his head. "Two on one. Let me battle your best. Then I will battle your Shroomish."

Koa balked. Two on one? The odds were unfair, especially if his Hitmonchan wasn't strong. He eyed Hitmonchan, who seemed unfazed. "Hey, it's your loss," he said, shrugging.

"You'll get a chance soon, Shroomish," he said, addressing Shroomish, who was still watching the Hitmonchan determinedly. He gave a small nod, but his gaze didn't leave Hitmonchan.

Kitto headed up the hill, and Koa followed him to the top, where the ground was firm and dry. They took up positions on opposite sides of the hilltop.

"Summon your best," Kitto called.

Well, if Kitto was using a Hitmonchan, there was only one Pokemon he trusted. "Come out, Echo," he said. Echo emerged onto the battlefield, shrieking. Hitmonchan simply watched it, unfazed. Tyrunt held more raw power, but Echo simply had more battle experience and type advantage. Besides, Kitto had asked for his best. Anubis sat on Koa's other size, his gaze intensely focused on the battlefield.

"Hitmonchan, battle stance north," Kitto called. Hitmonchan took up a fighting stance, his eyes narrowed and his gaze serious. Koa blinked, then stared at Hitmonchan. He'd seen plenty of pictures of Hitmonchan, and seen a few videos, especially since he'd wanted a Tyrogue. But he'd never seen a Hitmonchan using the stance that his opponent did. It looked different from the traditional boxer's stance of their breed.

"Be on your guard, Echo," he murmured. Echo nodded in understanding.

Kitto spoke up again. "You may have the first attack."

"Alright Koa, Confuse Ray!" A trio of golden orbs swirled in front of the Golbat's jaws, then he fired them at Hitmonchan.

"Thunder Punch," Kitto called.

The orb struck Hitmonchan as its fist charged with electricity. Without warning, it struck itself in the face and staggered back slightly.

Perfect. He guessed confusion had kicked in just in time. "Wing Attack!"

Echo's wings glowed white and he dived downwards. With a spin, he struck Hitmonchan across the face, knocking it back several yards. Still seemingly in a daze, Hitmonchan staggered over to a tree and began to punch it.

Grinning, Koa gestured wildly. "Wing Attack again! Finish him!" Echo dived at Hitmonchan again, who was still punching the tree. It wasn't until he was barely a yard away that Kitto gave a command.

"Brick Break."

Instantly, Hitmonchan stopped punching the tree. In a blur of motion, it took two steps up the tree, leaping off and somersaulting over Echo. Echo's Wing Attack passed underneath it as Hitmonchan's fist glowed white. Before Koa could open his mouth, Hitmonchan smashed its fist into the airborne Golbat, sending him smashing into the ground.

"Echo!" he shouted.

"Thunder Punch."

Dread filled Koa, but there was little he could do - Echo was still stunned from the Brick Break that had cratered him into the ground. Hitmonchan sailed downwards, its fist cloaked in electricity, and smashed into Echo. Koa flinched. That definitely hurt. Hitmonchan jumped back, landing nimbly a few feet away. The dust cleared, revealing what Koa already knew - Echo had fainted.

Grimacing, he returned Echo. He stared at Hitmonchan, perplexed. He knew confusion could last anywhere from a minute to several minutes. How had it overcome it so easily? Luck?

"Hitmonchan sure shook off that confusion pretty quick," he called.

Kitto threw his head back and chuckled. "Hitmonchan was never confused. That Thunder Punch? He used it on himself on purpose. The jolt of electricity broke the confusion."

Koa blinked. "Wh-" he bit back the question. He didn't want to show any weakness. Still, what? The idea made sense, but it was a tactic that caught him way off guard. What other tricks did Kitto and his Hitmonchan have up their sleeves?

An odd feeling filled him, not unlike when he first lost to Roark. Though Hitmonchan's overall strength seemed equal, if only slightly greater than his own, his technique was impeccable. Still annoyed by his loss, he turned to Shroomish, who had watched the entire battle silently from his side. With a loud cry, Shroomish sprang onto the battlefield, glaring Hitmonchan down.

"Okay Jackie, battle stance south," Kitto said smoothly.

Hitmonchan nodded, switching to another stance Koa didn't recognize.

A frown crossed Koa's face. If his opponent was that good, he needed to start with a bang. "Shroomish, use Seed Bomb!"

Shroomish tilted his face upwards as a glowing ball of energy gathered in front of his mouth. With a roar, he spat it across the field, straight at Hitmonchan.

"Counter with Fire Punch."

At the last moment, Himonchan threw a fist cloaked in flames at Seed Bomb. The collision created an explosion that shoved Hitmonchan back several feet.

"Brick Break."

"Headbutt." Maybe he could get Effect Spore to kick in...

Hitmonchan and Shroomish charged across the field towards each other.

"Be careful!" Kitto shouted.

Hitmonchan tripped midstep, its Brick Break crashing into the ground. The strike generated enough force to crack the earth and send a rock jutting up between Shroomish and Hitmonchan.

Shroomish struck the rock and bounced back, relatively unharmed. The rock crumbled from the force of the blow. Koa frowned. He had no idea if the counter had been accidental or intentional, but he needed to get the upper hand somehow.

"Headbutt!" he called again. Shroomish grunted and charged at Hitmonchan once more.

"Brick break again," Kitto said.

Koa mentally grinned. Perfect.

Hitmonchan sprinted across the field, its fist glowing. It drew its fist back, about to strike.

"Stun Spore!" Koa shouted.

Shroomish's body rippled and then an explosion of yellow spores burst from its head as Brick Break connected. The blow sent Shroomish flying back, but he managed to land on his feet, panting but triumphant. Hitmonchan's eyes widened as the spores coated its body. Sparks danced across its body and it grunted.

Finally. Hopefully, the Hitmonchan would stay paralyzed. "Seed Bomb!"

Shroomish launched the familiar ball of green energy at Hitmonchan. Hitmonchan lurched sideways in an attempt to dodge, but more sparks shot across its body and it sank to its knees. Seed Bomb crashed onto its head and exploded. Hitmonchan grunted and pushed itself to its feet.

"Giga Drain," Koa called. No way was he letting this chance go. Shroomish had a chance to do some real damage.

Shroomish's eyes lit up and a beam of green energy struck Hitmonchan. Energy began to flow to the tired Shroomish, and his strength began to return slowly but surely

"Brick Break," Kitto called. Hitmonchan tried to raise his fist, then shuddered and froze. Koa couldn't believe his luck.

"Keep trying, don't stop," Kitto said confidently.

Once more, Hitmonchan tried to raise its fist, only to be paralyzed. Then, on the third try, it succeeded. With a mighty cry, it smashed its fist into the ground again, creating a barrier of rock and cutting off Giga Drain.

Koa scowled. Shroomish had replenished a fair amount of energy, but he was far from fully recovered either. Plus, the rock barrier blocked his view of Hitmonchan. Whatever. That wouldn't stop him.

"Fire punch! Ice punch!" Kitto shouted.

"Seed Bomb, Shroomish. Arc it over the wall!"

Shroomish nodded and charged up the ball of green energy.

From behind the wall, he heard a cry of pain, followed by a sudden burst of flame. What was that?

With a cry, Shroomish threw his head back, launching Seed Bomb into the air. It arced expertly, hurtling down towards where Hitmonchan likely stood. Suddenly, the rock wall shattered, revealing a singed looking Hitmonchan. It swung an ice-coated fist up at the approaching Seed bomb, striking it dead on. The Seed Bomb froze over and Hitmonchan rolled it nimbly down his arm, across his back, and spun it off his other arm. Then he twisted and punched it straight at Shroomish.

"Dodge!" Koa cried.

Shroomish scrambled desperately backward.

Kitto gave a single command. "Break."

Hitmonchan slammed his fist into the ground.

Several things happened at once. A crack ran across the ground from the spot where Hitmonchan had first tripped and used the rock barrier, to the second spot where he'd repeated the trick. The earth shifted slightly, and a larger crack formed. Shroomish stumbled as the earth tilted suddenly, shoving him upwards a few feet. He gave a shocked cry, his tiny legs flailing midair. The ice coated Seed Bomb smashed into him hard, crushing him back into the ground and creating a small explosion of dust.

Koa gaped at the display. As the dust cleared, he took out Shroomish's pokeball, ready to return him, when Shroomish slowly stood up. Koa's jaw dropped. How was he still able to stand after taking a hit like that? Shroomish gave a defiant grunt, his breaths coming in short gasps. One more hit and he was definitely done. But if Shroomish wasn't giving up, then neither was he.

"Okay Shroomish, use-" He paused. Shroomish started to bounce from one foot to the other, swinging his stubby body in a strange motion. If he'd had arms, Koa would've thought it almost resembled a punch.

A shimmer covered Shroomish and a glow gathered on one side of his body. Then he charged across the battlefield. As he ran, the glow spread across his entire body. His shape began to morph, his legs elongating and his head and body growing. A tail sprouted from his lean frame, and two small arms emerged. In the silhouette, he saw Shroomish raise one of his fists. Then, in a burst of blinding speed, he covered the last few yards to Hitmonchan, his frame still glowing with energy. His fist collided with Hitmonchan's. Light and energy exploded from Shroomish's form.

Koa's jaw dropped. In place of Shroomish now stood a Breloom, his fist pressing defiantly against Hitmonchan's, a triumphant and satisfied gleam in his eye. Sparks flew as the two Pokemon engaged in a contest of strength and will, both pressing against each other. Then, almost too fast for Koa to see, Hitmonchan did a strange twist with his body. Energy exploded in his fist, sending Breloom sliding backward.

As Breloom slid, Hitmonchan charged after him, blindingly fast. He began to throw a volley of rapid-fire punches using only his right arm, which Breloom fiercely began to defend.

"Match up," Kitto said calmly. Even before he finished giving the command, Hitmonchan responded. He began trading blows with Shroomish, each of his punches precisely striking and blocking Breloom's punches. Koa could only watch in awe as the two went at it.

"Your Breloom is a worthy opponent. Jackie and I can't wait until he gets stronger."

Koa could see that Breloom was beginning to tire while Hitmonchan looked worn, but far from spent.

Kitto continued. "However, that being said, Fire Punch."

Koa paled as Kitto spoke. He opened his mouth to warn Breloom, but it was much too late.

Breloom threw a punch that seemed to strike Hitmonchan dead in the jaw. Then in a blur of motion, Hitmonchan had vanished, ducking around the blow, his fist coated in flames. He struck Breloom in the chest, and a burst of flame erupted all around him. A couple seconds later, the flames faded, leaving Breloom still standing. Then, as Koa watched, Breloom crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

Koa raced to Breloom's side and knelt next to him. He stirred weakly and opened his eyes, grunting in pain. His face was twisted into a frown, and his eyes were downcast. Koa thought he looked heartbroken.

"You were awesome, Shroomish!" He murmured. "You evolved just to fight that Hitmonchan. That's sick."

At that, Breloom cracked a small smile. Koa took out a potion from his pocket, quickly restoring him. Looking up, he saw Kitto approaching. With a quick glance to make sure Breloom was alright, he stood up and dusted his hands off.

"Your Breloom pushed himself to evolve, just to fight Jackie," Kitto said, gesturing to Hitmonchan. "That was incredible."

Breloom had gotten to his feet and was glaring fiercely at Hitmonchan.

Koa shook Kitto's hand. "Your Hitmonchan - I mean, Jackie - is amazing. I don't think I've ever seen a Hitmonchan fight like that." A wistful note crept into his voice. His love for his new Breloom hadn't decreased, but he vowed to catch a Tyrogue one day. It would be awesome to have one of the 'Hitmon' line for himself.

A movement to his left caught his attention. Koa turned to see that Breloom had moved several feet away and was experimentally throwing a few jabs at a tree. Jackie watched from afar, a gleam of interest in his eyes. A random thought occurred to Koa, and he whirled back to face Kitto. "Will you help train Breloom? He's already really tough, but I don't know anything about fighting. I mean, fighting like you. That was some kind of martial arts you were practicing earlier, right?"

"Yeah, 'some kind' of martial arts," Kitto replied, air quoting himself. His voice had an obvious note of sarcasm, though it more playful instead of malicious.

Koa pressed on. "Well, I think Breloom needs a good teacher. Come with me as far as Hearthome, and teach him."

Kitto frowned thoughtfully. His gaze traveled from Shroomish to Koa, scrutinizing. Koa shuddered slightly and felt tempted to take a step back, but held his ground. For someone so young, Kitto had an unusually intense gaze. It felt calculating and intense, yet not cold. There was a warmth in his red eyes. Finally, Kitto spoke. "I can teach him, but you will have to leave Breloom with me. We will have to undergo intense training. Do you accept?"

Koa stared at Kitto. His temper flared. "No way!" He burst out. "Give you Breloom? I don't think so!" He snapped.

Kitto cocked an eyebrow. "Don't you want your Breloom to get stronger?"

"Sure, but not like that. You're a complete stranger! I just met you. There's no way I'm giving you my Pokemon just like that." His mind flashed back to Clefairy and the robbery at Rowan's lab. He took a hesitant step back. "For all I know you could be some kind of Pokemon thief," he grumbled. Granted, Koa didn't think Kitto was actually a thief, but it didn't change how he felt. "Look, I would rather get stronger with Breloom. Even if it takes way longer. So thanks, but no thanks. We'll just train on our own."

Kitto regarded him with a serious eye for a moment, then broke into a wide smile. "And that's the right answer. Training is about the bond between a Pokemon and trainer. It's sacred and should be treasured." His voice began to grow in intensity. "A trainer should always strive to grow stronger with their Pokemon, because training isn't just a game! It's not some ping pong match that you send your Pokemon off to on a whim! You work hard and you reap the rewards of your effort! That is the only way to become a truly great trainer!"

By the time he finished, his voice had reached a level of intensity Koa hadn't seen in any other trainer. Kitto wasn't loud but man was his voice intense. There was a fiery passion in every word he spoke that Koa couldn't help but admire.

"Anyway, I'm glad you said no. If you'd agreed, I wouldn't have trained either of you. I could very well be a member of Team Rocket, for all you knew."

Koa squinted at him. "Are you?"

Kitto chuckled, clearly amused by the implication. "Well, in my experience Team Rocket tends to hire fools or ugly people. Anyways, have you ever seen Team Rocket fight like me?"

"Well, I don't know anyone from Team Rocket." His mind trailed back to Kitto's earlier words. "So wait... does this mean you will train Breloom?"

Kitto nodded. "Sure, why not? Your Breloom is pretty impressive."

A wide grin spread across Koa's face. Unable to help himself, he pumped his fist in the air. "Sick!"

"Breloom!" he called. Breloom stopped his practice and trotted over. "Kitto and Jackie are going to travel with us and help you train."

Breloom grunted, a note of frustration in his voice, though it lacked bitterness. Koa suspected Breloom was still annoyed he'd lost, especially after evolving. He leaned close to whisper to him, "Don't worry. We'll beat them soon." He held out his fist, and Breloom grinned and bumped his fist against Koa's.

Kitto glanced at the sky. By now, the sun was approaching the west horizon and the first traces of orange and pink were coloring the horizon. "We should get moving soon," he said. He strode over to his Hitmonchan and pulled out an Oran berry from his pocket. "Here you go, Jackie." He pulled out a second berry and held it out to Breloom. "And one for you, little scrapper."

Breloom's eyes lit up and he trotted over, taking the berry from Kitto.

Koa snapped his fingers suddenly. "Scrapper!" he shouted. Both Kitto and Breloom turned to face him. He rushed over to Breloom, staring at him eagerly. "Now that you evolved, you can have a nickname. What do you think of Scrapper?" He'd spent hours deliberating on one, but until now, he hadn't thought of one that felt right. But thanks to Kitto, he'd been given the perfect idea.

Breloom's eyes lit up and he gave a happy cry, nodding his head fiercely.

"From now on, your name is Scrapper," Koa declared. He held out his fist, and Breloom- no, Scrapper - gave him a fist bump.

"So, are we ready to go?" Koa asked eagerly, turning to Kitto.

Kitto simply nodded in reply.

"Great!" Koa said. "I know a shortcut around the marsh." He set off towards the trees, excitement buzzing through him.

Not only had Scrapper found a rival in the Kitto's Hitmonchan, but a valuable teacher as well. The prospect of the training that lay in wait for them had him ready to burst. The stronger he got, the faster he could earn his badges. And once he had all eight badges... A shiver traveled down his spine and he reflexively glanced towards the distant shadow of Mt. Coronet. "Soon..." he whispered.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain

Egg (Unknown)

AN:

First thing first. The name Kitto is pronounced [Kee-toe].

I hope everyone enjoyed that chapter and the gym battle! This one was definitely a mite easier for Koa, since he had the type advantage, but he still had to be clever. I like to think of Wake as the kind of guy who isn't as hard as some of the other gym leaders (with his gym team at least), but is looking to see if challengers can give him a fun battle.

Something Kitto says in his rant is a subtle reference to something from the diamond and pearl pokemon anime, I'm curious if any caught it.
 
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chapter 12

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 12: You've Got to Be Kitto-ing Me!

Note: Kitto is pronounced [Kee-toe]. Kinda like the word Aikido.

This chapter, Koa has a new training partner as he journeys to his gym battle in Hearthome. How will his training go? And what other encounters will he have on the road there?

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch*, Stun Spore, Giga Drain


"Mach Punch, again!"

Scrapper charged across the field towards Hitmonchan, his fist glowing. Then, when he was a couple of yards away, the energy dissipated. Scrapper lost his focus and looked down at his fist in shock. His foot caught on a stone and he tripped, flailing forwards and passing harmlessly by Hitmonchan, who had effortlessly stepped out of the way of the attack.

Koa winced. It was the morning after his battle with Kitto, and they had both woken up early to train. Or rather, Scrapper woke him up to train. Kitto was already up by the time he arose and requested a training match against Scrapper. So far, Scrapper had failed to replicate yesterday's success with Mach Punch.

As he watched, Scrapper scrambled to his feet and let out a cry of rage. He flew at Hitmonchan, throwing a series of wild jabs. They were fast, but nowhere near Mach Punch fast, and they lacked any kind of precision or power. Hitmonchan dodged every strike easily.

"Scrapper stop!" Koa shouted.

Scrapper whirled around, glaring angrily at him. Then, without warning, he charged.

Koa's eyes widened and he stepped back as the Breloom raced toward him.

"Enough," Kitto spoke. His voice was calm but easily carried from where he stood, several yards away.

Scrapper paused midstep, the fury dying in his eyes. His hands dropped to his side and he made an apologetic rumble. Koa swallowed nervously, giving Scrapper a sympathetic look. He knew Scrapper had been upset by his loss to Hitmonchan yesterday, and that compounded with his failure to harness Mach Punch again, put him on edge. He walked over to his companion, patting him comfortingly. "It's ok, Scrapper. We'll figure it out. Then we'll beat him," he added in a lower voice. Scrapper grinned, a bit of his earlier fire returning.

"We begin training today," Kitto said, walking up. "Your Breloom was able to use Mach Punch yesterday because he was harnessing the residual energy from his evolution."

Koa nodded, listening intently to every word.

"However, now that said energy is gone, he must now rely on his own ability. Which he lacks."

Scrapper grumbled at the comment but otherwise remained attentive.

Kitto continued. "Tell me, how do you think one learns to punch fast?"

Koa shrugged. "I don't know. Punching faster, I guess."

"And how do you 'throw a punch faster'?"

Koa blinked and frowned. He hadn't thought about how one actually punched faster. "I don't know," he admitted. "I guess you just... train? And move fast?" Even as he said the words, he was aware of how ridiculous the idea sounded.

"Punch me."

"What?!" Koa yelped. "I'm not gonna punch you."

"Why? Are you afraid you might hurt me?" A faint smile tugged at the corners of Kitto's mouth, his eyes glimmering.

"Well..." Koa didn't finish the sentence.

"Trust me, you won't," Kitto said. He didn't sound arrogant, but there was still absolute confidence in his tone.

Koa eyed him warily. The kid was only a couple years older than him. How good could he be?

"Go ahead-"

Koa didn't let him finish speaking and threw a wild swing at his face. Kitto moved his head and dodged easily.

"Again."

A scowl grew on Koa's face. He began to throw punches at Kitto, who easily dodged all of them. He found himself distinctly reminded of Scrapper's earlier (futile) struggle against Hitmonchan.

There was a sudden rush of air. Koa saw only a blur as Kitto moved his arm. Then his fist was a mere half-inch away from Koa's nose.

Koa blinked a few times, not sure he could believe his eyes. He hadn't even seen him move.

Slowly, Kitto lowered his fist, his intense gaze burning into Koa. "Now, why was my punch more effective than yours?"

Koa shrugged, still at a loss for words.

"Because speed is a lie. Remember that movie about the Rapidash who was a famous racer, but was getting ready to retire?"

After a few moments, Koa nodded. He recalled Blake taking him to see it for his thirteenth birthday. "There was a rookie Zebstrika named Storm who was crazy fast. Rapidash was worried that he couldn't beat Storm because he was faster."

Kitto nodded in agreement. "And who won?"

"Rapidash, obviously! He was faster because he used his superior technique to pass Zebstrika... Ohhh..." Koa said, understanding dawning on him. "So the only way to get faster is by having a good technique?"

Kitto grinned proudly. "That's the idea. Until your Breloom learns the proper technique, it won't be able to harness Mach Punch. He must hone his technique and control."

Nodding, Koa glanced over to Scrapper, who had been listening with rapt attention to every word that came from Kitto's mouth. "Let's go then! Hurry up and show Scrapper the technique!"

Kitto gave him a deadpan stare, then shook his head. "There will be no 'hurrying'."

"Oh. Right," Koa chuckled awkwardly.

"Scrapper, come stand over here." Kitto gestured to a spot next to him. Scrapper nodded obediently and trotted to Kitto's side. Jackie stood up a stance on his other side. "Now, watch Jackie carefully. Even though he can't use the actual move Mach Punch, he knows the idea behind it."

Koa watched as Jackie very slowly raised its fist and began to throw a punch. At least, Koa was pretty sure it was a punch, but it was the slowest thing he'd ever seen. Hitmonchan's fist only moved a few inches a second. Scrapper, however, was enraptured. He copied every twist and movement of Hitmonchan's punch carefully.

"Koa, get over here." Koa looked over to Kitto, who was beckoning to him. He approached hesitantly. There was an odd gleam in Kitto's eyes that put him slightly on edge. "You didn't think your Pokemon would be the only one training, did you?"

"It's not exactly like I can use Mach Punch," he retorted. As far as he was concerned, his main job was just helping his Pokemon learn. People couldn't use Pokemon moves.

"Your punch sucks," Kitto said flatly. "You may not be able to use Mach Punch, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to defend yourself. I'm going to teach you how to fight."

Koa suppressed a groan. "Are you kidding me? Why? I can handle myself fine, plus I have my Pokemon."

In a blur of motion, Kitto swung out his foot, hooking it around Koa's legs. They were yanked from under him and before he could process what was happening, he was thrown onto his back. In a flash, Kitto was on top of him, pinning him. The hard earth bit into his back and his heart pounded in his chest as he stared helplessly up at Kitto. His gaze bore into Koa and he trembled. A fire burned in Kitto's red eyes, but not a fire of rage. Instead, it was a controlled steady burn, one filled with passion and drive.

"If I was a poacher, I could have taken all your Pokemon."

Koa blinked up at him, still in shock.

After a few moments, Kitto stood up, then offered his hand, pulling Koa to his feet. Koa stared at him, feeling rather subdued. After how he'd managed to rescue Clefairy, he'd felt pretty confident in his own abilities. Now that feeling had vanished.

"Just as your Pokemon will protect you, you must protect them."

Koa nodded solemnly, still shaken. Despite his age, Kitto had demonstrated an impressive degree of strength and control. It was scary, scarier than someone like Wake, who was big and strong. It was also cool though. He realized it was rare to find trainers who were willing to fight the way Kitto did. Rarer still were ones who would train someone they'd just met.

Kitto grinned and slung his arm around Koa's shoulder. "Smile, Koa. By the time I'm done with you, you might be able to land a hit on me."

At that, Koa cracked a smile.

xXx

For the next three days, Kitto trained him mercilessly. Koa hated it. The problem wasn't that the training was hard. The problem was, it bored him senseless. Whenever they stopped, Kitto would drill them on the same thing. He would have them do a slow, controlled punch, over and over. Right hand, left hand. Right hand, left hand. And then keep practicing for nearly an hour at a time. Any time he caught either of them trying to speed up, he stopped them. It nearly drove Koa mad and, judging by the expression on Scrapper's face whenever they practiced, he felt similarly.

On top of that, Koa had been making an effort to get back into his daily exercise routine. The only silver lining was that Kitto decided they were decently fit enough not to add anything else to their training. They did end up running into a couple trainers along the way, giving Koa a chance to exercise Anubis and the rest of the team. He purposely kept Scrapper out of the battles, however. He really wanted him to finish his training and master Mach Punch.

His only real reprieve came during mealtimes when Kitto seemed to lighten up a bit. He was quite the cook and invented a variety of odd dishes using berries they found along the road. Koa found all his Pokemon loved the food, especially Echo. Every time Kitto started cooking, he would start drooling. Koa practically had to drive him away with a stick just so Kitto could have room to finish cooking.

On one such night, as Echo was devouring his share of food, Koa stopped eating to watch him. He still thought about his first battle with Kitto a lot. Echo had fought valiantly, but Koa always felt like he'd let him down. If he hadn't underestimated Kitto and then gotten overconfident with Confuse Ray, he was sure he could have won. His talks with Kitto only confirmed that Hitmonchan was only slightly stronger than his own Pokemon.

"Hey Echo," he said softly. Echo stopped eating for a moment, looking up at him. "I'm sorry about the battle with Kitto. I really failed you. I got overconfident and-"

Echo interrupted him with a happy shree, then fluttered to his side, patting his shoulder. Then he licked Koa, his long tongue dragging across his face. "Yuck," he muttered. He wiped the saliva away and looked at Echo. His eyes were filled with a look of eagerness. He gave another carefree shriek, then returned to wolfing down his food. Koa chuckled and shook his head. "You don't care do you?" Echo made no response, simply licking his bowl clean and flopping on the ground contentedly.

As he watched the Golbat, he got the impression that there was more to it than Echo not caring if he won or lost. It was more like... confidence? "I'll do better next time, Echo," he said quietly. Echo, however, seemed to have fallen asleep, his eyes shut and his body rising and falling steadily. Shaking his head, Koa lay back on his sleeping mat, staring up at the stars. His starter's absolute faith in him was pleasantly comforting.

One morning, during his usual (boring) training, he stopped to watch Scrapper. Instead of the slow punches, he saw Jackie teaching him something else. Jackie would do a flick of his shoulder, tossing his arm forward, and Scrapper would mimic the motion.

"How come Scrapper doesn't have to do these ridiculous punches?" Koa asked.

Kitto, who had been practicing on his own, quirked an eyebrow and regarded Koa. "Scrapper knows how to throw a punch," he said simply.

Koa frowned. "You're saying I can't punch?" He asked.

"Can you?" Kitto asked.

Koa opened his mouth to reply, then recalled his rather pathetic attempt at attacking boy a few days ago. He scowled, though he wasn't truly upset. He trusted Kitto had a plan for all this practice, even if it was boring.

Kitto grinned at him. "Not to mention, Scrapper is a Pokemon. He already possesses great strength. You on the other hand... not so much." He gave Koa a mocking once over.

"Hey!" Koa snapped, pretending to be hurt. He gave a wry grin and shook his head. Kitto's wit was a pleasant reprieve from some of the other trainers he'd met. He liked it. Turning his thoughts back to his training, he resumed his punches. There would be a payoff soon, he was sure of it.

xXx

It wasn't until the dawn of the fifth day that something changed. Koa had done his usual morning routine and a brief jog then had breakfast. Kitto had drilled him on his punches again, much to his annoyance. His patience was wearing thin, but he refused to cave. He was still practicing when Kitto approached.

"That's enough for now. Come here."

With a grateful sigh, Koa let his arms fall to his sides. The practice had made his arms ache terribly the first few days, but by now it had faded. "Are we done?" he asked, trying not to sound too eager.

Kitto stopped a few feet in front of him and held out his hand, his palm first. "Strike my palm."

Koa raised his eyebrows. "You mean like... a real punch? Not a slow... 'thing'?"

Kitto's eye twitched upon hearing him say 'thing'. "Yes, as fast as you can."

A slow grin spread across Koa's face. Finally! Finally, the day had come when he didn't have to do those ridiculous slow punches. Mustering up all his excitement and anger, he zeroed in on Kitto's palm and threw a punch.

His fist connected solidly, forcing Kitto's arm back slightly. But what really shocked Koa was that he barely felt himself throw the punch. His fist had glided through the air so... fluidly. So easily.

A hint of grin traced Kitto's face. "Again."

Grinning madly, Koa threw another punch, this time with his left hand. Compared to his earlier wild strikes at Kitto, this was easy. He knew exactly how to throw the punch, and where it would land. He threw several more, reveling in his newfound speed.

Finally, Kitto put his hands down. "Now you're learning. And you're ready. Call Scrapper over."

Koa's eyes lit up and his heart started to beat faster. "Scrapper! Come here!"

Scrapper, who had been practicing his slow punches with Jackie, looked up. When he saw Koa's expression, his eyes lit up and he bounded over. Kitto took up a spot several feet away, facing Koa, as if it were a battle.

Koa didn't even have to ask - he knew it was time. His heart beat even faster and he could feel his blood pumping. "Ready, Scrapper?"

Scrapper glanced back at him, grinning dangerously.

"Now Scrapper, use Mach Punch!" He shouted, throwing his fist as he spoke.

With a joyous cry, Scrapper charged across the field, a white glow surrounding his fist. A mere few yards away from Jackie, he threw his fist. The attack was so fast, Koa couldn't even see it. It struck Jackie in the chest, sending him sliding backward.

Scrapper threw his head back and let out a loud cry of triumph.

Koa shouted with him, pumping his fist in the air. "Yes! We did it Scrapper!" He rushed over to Scrapper, giving him a fist bump, then grabbing him into a hug. "You learned Mach Punch." He stopped his victory dance long enough to look at Kitto, who watched their display with a smirk of amusement. He patted Scrapper on the head, then walked over to Kitto.

"Thank you," he said earnestly, holding out his hand.

"Someone had to keep you from looking like a fool," Kitto said good-naturedly, shaking Koa's hand.

xXx

With Scrappers Mach Punch training complete, Koa found they were able to pick up the pace. Nearly a week had passed since he'd left Pastoria, but in the last two days, they'd made good progress. The east-west portion of Route 212 lay behind them, and now they only needed to head straight north to reach Hearthome. By Koa's estimate, they would be at the Pokemon Mansion in just a couple days' time. He wondered if he'd run into Reina and Jeremy again. The other upside to finishing the Mach Punch training was that Kitto started to show him some actual combat techniques. Nothing too complicated, mostly some basic blocks and strikes, but they were a welcome change.

That afternoon, they stopped for lunch in the shade of some trees by the road. A small stream provided some fresh water, and Echo found a grove of ripe Pecha berries. Kitto put it together with some sandwiches, creating a surprisingly delicious meal. As they enjoyed it, Koa watched Kitto and Jackie thoughtfully. In all the time he'd traveled with Kitto, he'd never seen him with another Pokemon or other pokeballs. Up until now, he'd been so focused on training, he hadn't thought much of it. Now, however, it made him curious.

"How long have you been on your journey?" he asked.

"Three years," Kitto replied. "I started in Johto, actually, then traveled to Kanto for a time. Then I decided to come here to train. I plan to challenge Maylene at some point."

"Wow... so you've been with Hitmonchan for three years..." That explained how in sync they were, he supposed.

Kitto chuckled and grinned. Jackie threw back his head, laughing as well. "Jackie and I have only been training together for two years."

Koa stared at him. His mind whirled, trying to calculate. "So what other Pokemon do you have then?"

"Just Jackie," he said, shrugging.

"But that's impossible! What did you do for your first year as a trainer?"

Kitto gave him a dubious look. "I trained," he said flatly.

"Trained what?"

"My body, obviously," Kitto said with a grin. He gave Koa a once over. "You should try it."

Koa rolled his eyes, ignoring the comment. He knew by now that Kitto was really only kidding. Mostly. Kitto continued to baffle him, however. What sort of trainer started their journey without any Pokemon? "What did you do the whole time then?"

"I fought a lot, learned a lot. I met Jackie in Johto. We've been working together ever since, focusing on improving our technique and skill." Kitto stood up, brushing his pants off. He started to put away the lunch materials.

Koa watched him for several seconds, still baffled. The guy was an enigma, that was for sure. But then, he was pretty cool. He wasn't sure how long it would have taken Scrapper to learn Mach Punch on his own. With a shrug, he stood up and started helping him pack. Regardless of how odd Kitto was, he was glad to be traveling with him.

xXx

A cool breeze blew, ruffling Koa's hair and providing a pleasant relief from the hot sun. Hearthome city lay only about a day's walk away which meant they could reach it by the time the sunset. Koa was thoroughly looking forward to it since it meant his battle against Fantina would be soon. With the day being as pleasant as it was, he'd let all his Pokemon out of their pokeballs, and they walked alongside him.

Echo swooped overhead, though at one point he'd disappeared for several minutes and come back covered in honey. Leave it to him to find what was likely one of the only honey trees on Route 212. Ahead, Koa could already spot the familiar rooftop of the Pokemon Mansion. He smiled, remembering the night he'd spent there and the kindness of Reina and Jeremy. Maybe he'd run into them again. That'd be nice.

He broke into a run, leaving Kitto behind and jogging down the hill towards the mansion. When he reached the gates, they were shut, but he peered through them, wondering if the pair were walking in the gardens. Unfortunately, everything seemed quiet. He sighed and turned away. As much as he wanted to catch up, he also didn't want to tarry.

"Oh look, it's the stray," a harsh masculine voice said.

Koa scowled and whirled towards the voice.

Liam stood a short distance away, one hand in his pocket and staring disgustedly at Koa. His face was pressed into a condescending scowl and he eyed Koa's team. "Is that your team? It's a miracle you won even a single badge."

Anger burned in Koa and he clenched his fists. His Pokemon let out varying angry growls, screeches and snarls. "Big talk coming from someone who doesn't have any," Koa retorted.

Liam sniffed. "Like I said, I don't need any." His gaze traveled over Koa's team again, settling on Scrapper. Another burst of rage flared in Koa, and he glanced at Scrapper. The Breloom was glaring at Liam, his gaze filled with anger and determination. A low growl rumbled in his throat. The look told him all he needed to. Liam had been Scrapper's previous owner.

"So, you were the trainer who took my Shroomish," Liam said. "Or Breloom, now I suppose."

"You abandoned him!" Koa shouted. Unable to contain himself, he stormed up to Liam, standing inches away from his face.

Liam took a step back, his eyes widening slightly. "Relax, stray. I didn't 'abandon' him. I just had the help take me out to the marsh. Then I left him there and I told him I'd come back for him when he was stronger. That's all," he said, shrugging casually.

"You're his trainer!" Koa snapped, taking another step towards Liam. "You are supposed to help him get stronger! I bet you weren't even planning and going back for him!"

Liam shrugged nonchalantly. "He's stronger now though, isn't he?" He turned to address Scrapper, who was glaring at him, eyes blazing in anger. He gave the Breloom a sickeningly fake smile. "You can rejoin my team now."

Scrapper gave an angry cry and shook his head. Liam's face darkened. "You're still my Pokemon." He looked up at Koa, a strange shine to his eyes. "Give me back my Breloom."

"He's not yours," Koa snapped.

"I'll give you 20,000poke for him."

"No!" Koa said. "He's my Pokemon! I'm not selling him!"

"Fine then. If you're so good, battle me. My best Pokemon against whatever you want to use. If I win, you give me back my Pokemon. If you win, then you can keep him." Liam grinned smugly.

Koa opened his mouth to decline, then stopped. Liam was a terrible trainer. He'd seen Liam's Pokemon, too. They were strong, but he didn't know anything about how to use them. Defeating him would be easy. "Fine. You're on."

Liam grinned. "Perfect. Why don't we battle right here? It shouldn't take me long to defeat you."

Koa snorted. "Right. Because you won so easily last time."

Liam simply smiled, unfazed. "One-on-one again?"

"Sure," Koa snapped.

Liam smiled again, then turned around and started to walk a short distance away.

Koa returned his Pokemon and turned around, ready to get into position for the battle, and almost collided with Kitto, who stood a few feet behind him.

"What are you doing?" Kitto asked.

"That idiot over there-" Koa inclined his head towards Liam, who was watching impatiently a good distance away "- used to be Scrappers trainer. He just abandoned him in the marsh and told him he'd come back! Now he claims he wants -"

Kitto held out his hand to stop Koa's rant. "No, I heard everything. I mean, what are you doing? Do you really plan on giving Scrapper back if you lose?"

"I won't lose! I beat that guy before and I can do it again."

Kitto frowned. Koa pushed past him and took up a spot a good distance away, facing Liam. Scrapper stood behind him, bristling with anger.

"Shall I send out my Pokemon first? Or would you care for the honors?" Liam called, his tone haughty.

Koa bristled. "How about at the same time?" he snapped. After his previous battle with Liam's Monferno, plus his lack of badges, he was beyond certain that he could handle any of Liam's Pokemon.

Liam reached into his pocket and took out a pokeball. Koa selected Rascal's pokeball without hesitation. Of all his Pokemon, she easily possessed the most raw power. Plus, she was tough enough to take anything Liam could throw out, even Blissey. Koa tossed out her pokeball, Liam throwing his at nearly the same time.

In a splash of light, Rascal emerged onto the field with an eager roar. Almost simultaneously, Liam's Pokemon appeared.

A louder roar split the air. A literal chill spread across the area as a hulking, absolute beast of an Abomasnow took the field. It easily stood a foot taller than any Abomasnow Koa had ever seen. Fear washed over him and he instinctively took a step back. Rascal's eyes nearly popped out of her head at the sight of her opponent, and she took a step back as well. No no no... Panic began to consume him. Abomasnow exuded a terrifying amount of power, way beyond Rascal's. When had Liam gotten his hand on one of those? How? Forget that though, he couldn't hope to beat that thing, even if he used all of his Pokemon. Even Anubis, with his fire attacks, would be pulverized. Something cold landed on Koa's face, and he looked up. A dark gray cloud had covered their battlefield, and tiny hailstones were beginning to pelt the field. Shoot. Snow Warning. Abomasnow's ability. It started a hailstorm when it entered the field.

"Well, stray? Aren't you going to call an attack?" Liam called.

Koa mustered up all his strength, pushing his fear aside. He had to at least try. "Rascal, Ancient Power." His voice cracked slightly even as he spoke the command. Rascal's eyes narrowed and she roared. A silver sphere of stone formed in front of her jaws, and she spat the rock at Abomasnow.

"Wood Hammer," Liam said calmly.

Abomasnow, however, didn't seem to care what Liam said. It raised one of its arms, an icy blue glow surrounding it. With a mighty swing, it shattered the Ancient Power with Ice Punch.

A chunk of hail the size of a softball dropped from the sky, hitting Rascal on the head. She grunted in pain, but shook it off.

"Bite!" Koa cried desperately. Her Strong Jaw meant that Bite might very well be his best chance. Tyrunt charged across the field, jaws open wide.

"Blizzard."

Abomasnow's green fists glowed, then two tendrils of grass sprouted from the earth, forming a knot a few feet in front of Tyrunt. Grass Knot.

"Jump, Rascal!" Koa shouted in a panic. Rascal launched herself into the air, narrowly dodging Grass Knot. As soon as she landed, another set of tendrils wrapped around her legs, tripping her up and sending her crashing to the ground. Without any command from Liam, Abomasnow charged across the field, its arm raised. A green glow extended from its arm, forming into a hammer-like shape. With a roar, it smashed its Grass Hammer straight down onto Rascal.

"No!" he screamed. Dust erupted from around Rascal's position, clouding Koa's view. But he didn't need to see Rascal to know what happened. As the dust settled, he saw a small crater around Rascal's unconscious form. Stunned, he took out her pokeball and returned her. He quickly returned Scrapper as well. Sick dread filled him as he looked across the battlefield. Liam returned Abomasnow, and the hail clouds faded. The sunlight returned, but Koa couldn't shake the chill.

In a daze, he watched as Liam strode across the battlefield towards him. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach grew as Liam approached. Unconsciously, his hand gripped Scrapper's pokeball tighter. There was absolutely no way he was giving Scrapper back, he decided. What happened with Liam wasn't even a real battle. Abomasnow had ignored all of Liam's commands.

"Give it to me," Liam snapped, his gaze cold.

Koa drew his hand back. "No."

Liam lunged for Scrapper's pokeball, trying to snatch it from his grasp.

White-hot rage consumed Koa. He punched Liam in the face, sending him reeling backward. His eyes widened and his face contorted with rage. Then he charged. Koa was taken by surprise as Liam tackled him to the ground, wildly scrambling for Scrapper's pokeball. "Give it to me!" he screamed.

Koa kicked him away and scrambled backward, panting. "You cheated! That Abomasnow didn't even listen to your attacks!" He clutched Scrapper's pokeball tighter. "I'm not giving him back. Period." He stared Liam down.

Liam stood up, his fists clenched. Koa got to his feet as well, ready to fight. No way was he letting this bratty snob take his Pokemon-

"What on earth is going on?" A familiar voice to Koa's left called.

Koa glanced towards the Mansion to see Jeremy racing towards them. He stopped several feet away, panting slightly. He glanced between Koa and Liam, then frowned. "What is going on, Liam?" he said, his voice tight.

Koa bit his tongue as he waited for Liam's reply.

Liam shot him a dirty look before speaking. "I was just having a battle. He agreed that if I beat him in a battle, he would trade Shroomish... I mean, Breloom, back to me. I beat him fair and square, but he's refusing to give Breloom back."

Jeremy frowned deeper, staring at Liam for several seconds. "And what about you, Koamaru. Is this true?"

Koa stared at Jeremy. "We did agree that I would trade my Breloom back if he beat me," he said, his voice tense. "He said he would use his best against whatever Pokemon I wanted." His anger grew. "But I've seen Liam's Pokemon before! He used some kind of crazy-"

"I won! That's all that matters," Liam snapped. Jeremy shot him a sharp look and he shut his mouth.

"Please go on, Koa."

"He used a gigantic Abomasnow! He never had one when I saw his Pokemon before, and it didn't even listen to any of his commands. It wasn't a real battle."

"Hmm..." Jeremy said, tapping his chin. "Well, Liam, the agreement was that you would use your best Pokemon against Koa's, correct?"

Liam nodded, still scowling.

"And you agreed to this, right Koa?"

Koa nodded hesitantly.

"Well, Liam, it would seem that you won the bet..."

Koa's jaw dropped and he started to protest, but Jeremy held up his hand. "However, I do believe that Abomasnow belongs to your father. Not you. And seeing as how the agreement was your best vs Koamaru, you violated the bet."

A slow smile began to creep across Koa's face. Liam paled, then frowned. "Hmph! Well fine, maybe I did use father's Pokemon. But I could still take you in a battle," he said, crossing his arms.

"I'll take you up on that," Koa replied. "My Pokemon could use a light workout."

"You just got lucky last time is all."

Jeremy stepped between them. "It seems a rematch is in order. Liam, you will battle Koa again, this time with one of your own Pokemon. However, regardless of the outcome, you will not be taking Breloom back." He nodded his head towards Scrapper. "It is clear to me that Breloom has made his choice of trainer."

This made Liam scowl even more. "Well, whatever. I'll still prove who has better Pokemon. The only way to win a battle is with a strong Pokemon."

"That is enough. A battle will decide who is correct," Jeremy said calmly.

Once more, Koa took a position across from Liam. Jeremy stood to the side, watching with narrowed eyes.

"Try this on for size," Liam said. He lazily tossed a pokeball onto the field, revealing a Kadabra.

Koa glanced back, spotting Kitto and Jackie standing several yards away. Even from where he stood, he could see the wry grin on Kitto's face. After all his time training, he felt more than prepared. Turning back to Liam, he tossed out the familiar black and gold pokeball almost without thinking. Echo emerged onto the field and shrieked.

"Ha!" Liam chuckled. "A Golbat? A weak pokemon for a weak trainer."

Koa ignored the comment. He'd let Echo do the talking for him. "You can go first," he called.

"Psybeam." Kadabra's eyes glowed, and with a wave of its spoon, a thin beam of psychic energy streamed from its hands, straight at Echo.

"Dodge," Koa said, giving the command almost as soon as Liam gave his.

Echo spun his body sideways and the Psybeam passed by him, narrowly missing him. Koa frowned. Regardless of Liam's own skill, Kadabra was clearly no slouch. He'd have to be careful. Kadabra's tended to be special fighters, which meant he needed to wait for a chance to close the distance and strike. He really wanted to get in a good hit with Poison Fang early, whittle Kadabra down quickly.

"Wing Attack. Fly erratically and confuse it." Echo flitted through the air, his wings glowing with energy. As he darted back and forth, Kadabra watched it with narrowed eyes, trying to track its trajectory.

"Psybeam again. Wait til it's close."

Koa tensed. There was little he could do at the moment, except trust Echo's flight skills.

Echo dipped and weaved through the air quickly, approaching Kadabra. When it was barely a yard away, Kadabra's eyes glowed and it fired Psybeam from its spoon. The beam hit one of Echo's wings, but he spun with the hit, slamming his other wing into Kadabra. It smacked into the ground, briefly stunned. "Poison Fang."

In a graceful switch, Echo's wings ceased to glow and he shrieked as his fangs turned a wicked purple. Kadabra opened its eyes just in time to see Golbat's jaws close around its head.

"Shake it off! Flash!" Liam snapped.

Koa couldn't resist a grin at the irritation in the boy's tone.

Kadabra cried out and flailed, shaking itself free of Echo. It flicked its spoon and emitted a blinding blast of light at Echo before he could dodge. Not that Koa had any intention of dodging Flash. A memory of his fight with Kitto resurfaced, and an idea came to him.

"Fake it, Echo," he said softly. He just hoped Echo understood his intentions. He watched as the Golbat fluttered around Kadabra, eyes shut tightly and apparently utterly dazed and blind. Perfect.

"Hah! Thunder Punch," Liam called.

Koa almost laughed at his good fortune. He was sure Echo felt a sense of glee as well. In some small way, this would be retribution for his loss to Jackie.

Kadabra raised one of its small hands as electricity cloaked it. With a cry, it leaped at the seemingly blinded Golbat. Just as the move was about to collide with Echo, Koa gave his command.

"Crunch."

Liam's eyes went wide as Echo neatly dodged Thunder Punch and sank black jaws into Kadabra's side. Black sparks of dark energy crackled over its body. With a muffled screech, Echo dived to the ground, slamming Kadabra into the floor and creating a small crater. A moment later, Echo rose into the air, eyes glinting as he left behind the unconscious body of Kadabra.

"That's not possible!" Liam snapped, returning Kadabra. "I had the advantage!"

Echo flew over and landed in front of Koa, his body puffed up in pride. "Thanks, Echo. You wrecked him." He patted Echo on the head and he let out a happy squeak. Returning him, he glanced up at Liam, who was still fuming. "Well... well whatever... I... Hmph." His face flushed bright red from shame and embarrassment. Without saying another word, he turned his nose up and walked away.

Once he'd gone, Jeremy turned to Koa. "Well Koamaru, that was very impressive. I'd expect nothing less from a trainer like you."

"Thanks. I'm glad you showed up though." He had no idea what he might have done to Liam if he'd kept trying to take Scrapper.

"As am I," Jeremy said, chuckling. "I feel as though I should apologize for Liam. He has grown quite prideful with all his Pokemon. Though it is quite unfounded, considering he hardly trains them. He usually just sends them off to various other trainers, who do all the work for him."

"Well that explains a lot," Koa muttered.

"And who is your friend?" Jeremy asked, motioning to Kitto.

Kitto strode over and held out his hand. "The name's Kitto."

"My name is Jeremy." He glanced at Jackie, who stood by Kitto's side. "This is your partner?"

"I consider him to be more of a brother, actually," Kitto corrected.

Jeremy nodded thoughtfully. "I like that. I've always said that the deeper a bond with one's Pokemon, the stronger they are. That, and good training, of course."

Kitto grinned widely. "Exactly!" He glanced at Koa, shooting him a sideways smirk. "This guy gets it. You should pay attention."

Koa rolled his eyes playfully. "I beat him when we first battled though."

"Oh ho ho," Jeremy said, wagging his finger. "That was just my training Pokemon. Maybe when you get 8 badges, you can come back and fight my real team."

"Jackie and I would be honored to face you as well someday," Kitto said, a fire glowing in his eyes. "I want to face your strongest Pokemon, one on one. An all-out battle!"

Jeremy smiled. "Come back when you feel ready then. Perhaps you and Kitto can fight my wife and I."

Koa's eyes lit up. "Sure!"

"Then I look forward to your return," Jeremy said. "I assume you are on your way to Hearthome?"

Koa nodded. "I'm hoping Fantina is back by now."

Jeremy rolled his eyes. "I hope so, for your sake. I swear she spends more time out of her gym than in it."

A strange scowl spread across Kitto's face, and he shared a glance with Jackie, who grunted, anger burning in his gaze.

"Well, you'd best be on your way. If you hurry, you can still make it to Hearthome before nightfall."

Bidding Jeremy farewell, Koa headed back for the road, Kitto by his side. His thoughts remained at the mansion however, wondering what sort of Pokemon Reina and Jeremy had.

"Do you really want to go back and challenge them?" Koa asked. The thought of having another tag battle against the couple, with Kitto as his partner, excited him terribly.

Kitto nodded firmly. "Of course!" He put his arm around Koa, a gesture that surprised him, though it wasn't unwelcome. "It's been an honor to travel with someone like you, and it would be an even greater honor to fight alongside you."

"Really?" Koa blurted. "I mean.. Thanks, I guess? Why though?"

"You punched that kid in the face! It was incredible."

At that, Koa couldn't resist a laugh. "Because I punched someone in the face?"

Kitto shook his head. His voice grew slightly more serious. "Because you stood up for your Pokemon. I've met a lot of trainers, and not all of them are willing to fight for their Pokemon like that. It shows you care."

Koa nodded thoughtfully, unsure how to reply. He'd never given it any thought. In the moment, all he could think of was keeping Scrapper safe.

They walked in silence for a few minutes, leaving Koa lost in thought. "So what's next after Hearthome?" he asked finally.

"Jackie and I have one goal." A familiar intensity rose in Kitto's voice. "To travel and challenge every trainer's strongest Pokemon and see who is the best. And one day, defeat Cynthia and Garchomp."

Koa's jaw dropped. "Seriously? That thing is crazy strong though! It's never been defeated in combat."

Kitto grinned again. "Then Jackie and I will be the first."

Jackie grunted in approval and punched his fists together as if already imagining the battle.

Koa stared at them with a sense of awe. He'd heard plenty of trainers who longed to win the League conference and eventually beat Cynthia. But after seeing how Kitto and Jackie fought, he supposed that if anyone could do it, it would be him. When that day came, he vowed he would be there to see it.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Absorb

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain
 
chapter 13

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 13: Getting Ghosted

Coming up, Koa seeks to challenge the Hearthome gym. But is Fantina going to actually be there this time?

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Bite

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Ember, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain


"So where will you head now?" Koa asked. He and Kitto stood a short ways outside the gates of Hearthome. Kitto was heading away from the city, whilst Koa would be staying to battle Fantina.

Kitto tapped his chin. "Well, I have some business to settle in Unova."

"Unova?" Koa knew a little bit about the region. It had once been ruled by two legendary dragons, Reshiram and Zekrom. Beyond its legendaries, he didn't really know a whole lot about the region itself, however. Joltik hailed from there. But he hadn't heard much else impressive about the region. He certainly couldn't imagine what Kitto would want there. "Why there?"

Kitto smiled, but it wasn't quite friendly. It almost looked... devious? "I'll tell you about it when I get back. I don't expect to stay there too long. I'm coming back to Sinnoh to train more."

"Have fun then," Koa said, shrugging. "Let's exchange numbers, so we can catch up later. Maybe even have a rematch. Of course, I'll win."

Kitto chuckled. "Keep dreaming." He pulled out a phone of his own. In a few moments, the exchange was done.

"So what about you?" Kitto asked. "What are your plans?"

"After Hearthome, I think I'll keep heading north. It'd be awesome to go to Celestic Town before Veilstone. There's some ruins there dedicated to Dialga and Palkia. I've always wanted to see them in person."

"That's good. But what are your plans? Your goals, long term. Are you planning to challenge the league?"

Koa hesitated. "My plans?" he asked.

"Sure. If we cross paths again, I want to know how much closer you are to achieving your dreams," Kitto replied.

An uneasy feeling formed in the pit of Koa's stomach. He hadn't exactly mentioned his real goals very often to many people. Yet at the same time, he wanted to tell Kitto. "Well... for starters, I want to climb Mt. Coronet and find the Spear Pillar. The whole area around the peak is filled with crazy strong pokemon. So that's why I'm challenging the gyms. To get stronger."

Kitto nodded but didn't say anything.

After a moment's hesitation, Koa continued. "After that... I want to catch a legendary."

Silence fell for a few seconds. Kitto simply nodded, a small frown on his face. Koa found himself filled with anxiety. Maybe he really was crazy for trying to catch a legendary.

"That's..." Kitto began. "One of the coolest things I've ever heard."

"Seriously?" Koa asked, more than a little shocked.

"Seriously," Kitto said earnestly. "I've never really met anyone who wants to do that before. That's pretty cool."

"So you really think it's possible then?" Koa blurted.

Kitto looked at Jackie, then back at Koa. "I doubt that anything is impossible with pokemon."

A wide grin spread across Koa's face. Relief washed over him, which quickly grew into resolve. "Thanks," he said simply. Somehow, getting validation, even just from one person, made him feel that much more determined.

Kitto nodded. "We'll keep each other accountable for our goals." He held out his hand. "Deal?"

"Deal!" Koa shook it. He bid him farewell, then headed for the gates of the city. As he strode through the gates of Hearthome City, his mind was already on tomorrow's match with Fantina. Despite the lateness of the hour, several large groups of people gathered together in clusters, talking loudly amongst each other. As he wove his way through the crowds towards the Pokemon Center, he mostly tuned them out. Whatever it was, he could check out later, or find out about it tomorrow. Then, a single word caught his attention.

Entei.

He whirled in the direction of the person who said, paying attention to the conversation for the first time. Singling out a young woman on the fringe of one of the crowds, he tapped her shoulder urgently. "Excuse me, miss?"

"Hm?" she glanced at him, though her gaze darting back to the crowd made him think she was only barely listening.

"What's going on?" he asked urgently.

"Did you just come into town? Everyone's been worked up because someone said they saw Entei just a couple hours ago!"

"WHAT?!" Koa shouted. He took a step back, his jaw hanging open. Entei was here? "Where? Where did they see it?"

The girl, who had already turned her attention back to the crowd, glanced at him briefly.

"East of the city, in the woods."

The words had barely left her mouth before he sprinted madly for the exit.

xXx

A yawn dragged itself from Koa's mouth as he trudged back towards Hearthome's East gate. Fighting off another yawn, he took out his trainer ID and showed it to the guard. His eyes drooped and his body ached. His mind felt foggy and dull, and he could barely focus. The guard examined his ID, then glanced up at Koa.

"You were out searching for Entei as well?" The guard asked, his tone sympathetic.

Koa managed a nod. It was well past midnight, and he'd spent the last... he wasn't sure how long, scouring the woods for Entei. He wasn't the only one either - he'd met at least thirty other trainers, explorers, researchers and the like also in hunt of the legendary. Unfortunately, it seemed no one had seen it. Aside from its supposed original sighting, it had vanished.

"A shame. Bit odd though," The guard mused.

"Odd how?" he mumbled through a yawn.

"Well, don't those three dogs or whatever usually roam around Kanto and Johto?"

Koa nodded. "Yeah, but they seem to roam everywhere, like the birds. People have seen Moltres in Kalos region, and Zapdos too. I think they go anywhere."

The guard nodded thoughtfully. "Huh. Never knew that. Well, you better get some rest. Perhaps tomorrow you'll have more luck."

Koa waved farewell and trudged into Hearthome. He wasn't surprised, really. Finding a legendary was considered almost impossible for a reason. But the incident made his desire even stronger. Because he didn't just want to meet one. He wanted to battle one, and then do what no one else had succeeded in. Catch one.

xXx

Koa's heart beat a little faster as he strode through the streets of Hearthome, heading for the gym. He still felt a hint of tiredness after staying out so late yesterday, but he pushed it away. He couldn't wait to beat Fantina in particular. The fact that she'd left her gym for that long really rubbed him the wrong way and he had been planning exactly how he would beat her gym. Anubis would be a guarantee, of course. It would be his first proper gym battle, and he was looking forward to seeing the results of his training. Then he would use Tyrunt. Her Bite attack would be invaluable, as well as the raw strength of Dragon Tail and Ancient Power. After that, it was anyone's game.

He'd looked up Fantina in the database, and discovered she had a Gengar, Drifblim, and Mismagius. Depending on how her Pokemon fought, he planned to use Hazard or Echo. Hazard would be helpful against Drifblim. He was already plotting ways to use Joltik's small size to catch Fantina off guard. Of course, Echo's unpredictable flight could be useful as well.

In high spirits, he jogged up to the doors of the gym and pulled the handle. The door didn't move. Pausing, Koa stared at it. No... He tugged the door again, but it didn't budge. Letting out an angry yell, he kicked the door. Then he quickly glanced around, hoping nobody had seen his little display. Fortunately, the street around the gym was fairly empty.

Koa sat down on the curb and sighed. How could Fantina be gone from her gym again? He stared blankly into the distance, trying to figure out what to do. He briefly considered calling Kitto to see what he was up to, but dismissed the thought. He wanted his gym badge. There was always Veilstone, but then he would have to backtrack to Hearthome again.

Muttering vile insults under his breath, he stood up. Maybe he could at least go back to the Pokemon Center and train. It would be better than sitting around.

"Hey!" A young girl ran past him, then stopped to look at him. "Hurry up! Cynthia is by the North gate! I heard this crazy trainer challenged her and her Garchomp!"

Koa perked up immediately. No way would he pass up the chance to see Champion Cynthia. He sprinted after the girl, following her north towards the gates. As he approached, he heard the explosive sounds of a battle. He raced faster, bursting out of the gate. A large crowd had gathered around the outside of the gate and beyond that, he could spot Cynthia's Garchomp in the air.

Shoving his way to the front (and earning himself a few dirty looks), he broke through to the front just in time to see a familiar Hitmonchan collapse, unconscious. A quick glance confirmed his suspicions - Kitto stood at one end of the battlefield. He looked equally determined, yet calm. He returned Jackie then murmured something to the pokeball. Koa glanced to the other side of the battlefield. Champion Cynthia stood there, standing tall and looking absolutely intimidating next to her Garchomp. She wore a black overcoat, black undershirt, and long black pants. Her pale blond hair cascaded down her back, almost reaching her knees. Koa couldn't help but stare in awe of her. He'd only ever seen the Champion in videos. In person, she was a bit terrifying, he thought. Yet her face looked surprisingly... pleasant. She had sharp gray eyes, but they looked kind as well. She wore a pleasant smile as Kitto approached her.

The crowd fell silent as Kitto walked across the battlefield and shook her hand. "Thank you, Cynthia. Next time I challenge you and Garchomp, Jackie and I will win."

"I hope you do," Cynthia replied. Kitto nodded in acknowledgment before turning and walking away.

Koa simply stared at her, intrigued. She exuded a quiet strength that actually kind of reminded him of Kitto. A half an idea formed in his mind and he sprinted over to Cynthia.

"Cynthia, battle me!" he blurted. He cleared his throat, composing himself. "My name is Koamaru Averon. Champion Cynthia, please have a battle with me. All of my Pokemon against one of yours."

She regarded him curiously, tilting her head to the side. "And why do you want to battle me?"

"I want to make a deal. If I can defeat just one of your Pokemon, then I would like a badge from Hearthome gym." He stood as straight as he could, staring into her gray eyes.

She stared at him evenly for several seconds. "I apologize, but I can't accept." Her gaze seemed genuinely regretful.

Koa's face fell. "Why?" he protested.

"I don't mind taking on challengers, but it isn't my task to hand out gym badges."

"I've been to Hearthome twice now and Fantina isn't at her gym. I want to earn her badge but I can't."

Cynthia nodded in understanding. "I understand Fantina has been absent for quite some time. It's actually the reason why I'm here in Hearthome. Come back to the gym tomorrow morning at nine. I should have a solution for you by then."

"Ok," Koa said. He was sure that if the Champion had a solution, it would be a good one. Far better than trying to defeat one of her monstrous Pokemon. "Thank you."

By now, most of the crowd had dispersed, though a few people lingered, basking in the presence of the Champion. Koa decided to head in the direction he saw Kitto leave in. He spotted the white-haired trainer not far in the distance, walking back into the city.

"Hey! I thought you were leaving Hearthome," Koa said, falling in step beside him.

"I was. But I ran into Cynthia. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I challenged her, and she agreed." They walked through the gate back into Hearthome. "Did you finish your gym battle?"

Koa's face darkened. "No," he spat. "She still isn't back." He brightened. "But Cynthia said that she is going to help. I'm supposed to meet her outside the gym tomorrow."

"That's a relief. I can only sympathize with trainers who actually need her badge to get into the league," Kitto said, shaking his head.

"Anyways, how was your battle with Cynthia?"

"Excellent. We actually got a couple of hits on Garchomp. Of course, Jackie isn't strong enough yet to beat her. We still have a long way to go. After I take Jackie to the Pokemon Center, we're going to go train some more."

For the next couple hours, Koa hung out with Kitto, at least until he finished restocking supplies and had Jackie checked out at the Pokemon Center. He bid him farewell once again, then returned to the Pokemon Center. He sat in the lobby by himself for several minutes, pondering his next move. As impatient as he was, he supposed there was little he could do but train.

But before training, research. Every gym leader had a publicly available list of their league-approved team. Moves were the only thing kept secret. The only way to know a gym leader's moveset was through battle or finding someone who knew. However, the only thing Koa was really interested in was Fantina's style. While gym battles weren't televised or recorded, contest matches were. If he could find some of Fantina's old matches, he could get a feel for her battle style.

A quick search on the Pokemon Center's computers found him everything he needed to know. Soon, he was skimming through old contest footage, watching her battle rounds. The only Pokemon she seemed to use often was a Drifblim. For the most part, it was a typical Ghost-type. Strong, unpredictable, and wily. One detail did catch his attention, however. Her use of Hypnosis.

Hypnosis was a tricky tactic, one that was usually used at a distance, not unlike Confuse Ray. Apparently, she had developed her own twist on the technique. Drifblim would slip past a Pokemon's defenses, seize it with its ghostly appendages, then fire Hypnosis. The constant use of a long-range technique at short range threw her opponent's rhythm off. It was clever, he had to admit. Great for contests too, since it showed off Drifblim exceedingly well. But it could be countered.

His mind whirled with ideas as he made his way out to the battlefield, and set his backpack down on a bench. Out of curiosity, he carefully removed his Egg and peered through the glass of the incubator. It still looked the same as ever - pale blue shell with a few white dots and a cream colored patch at the very base. It didn't seem to have changed much, nor was it moving, but he knew eggs could take a long time to hatch. He set the egg on the bench anyway. He remembered reading somewhere that the Pokemon inside the egg could sense the outside world still.

"Hey there little buddy. My Pokemon and I are gonna do some training, so you can watch if you like."

Ever so slightly, the egg twitched. Koa's eyes widened and he leaned closer, wondering if it would move again. To his disappointment, it remained still. It wasn't surprising, though. Eggs took a long time to hatch.

Turning away, he tossed out all his pokeballs. One by one, each of his Pokemon emerged. They greeted him with varying cries, though Hazard's seemed a bit subdued. Perhaps he was just feeling bored? "You okay, Hazard?" Hazard chittered and nodded quickly, giving off a few sparks. Koa eyed for a moment, then shrugged. He seemed to be fine for now, at least.

"Hopefully we can challenge Fantina tomorrow, but for now, we'll do some training." He flipped to the note section on his Poketch and scanned through it. Dark Pulse and Flamethrower were on his list for Anubis. For Rascal, he planned to start working on Crunch, then start on Dragon Claw. Hazard's moves he was quite satisfied with, for the time being, which meant only Echo and Scrapper were left. He'd done a bit of research and discovered that Golbat could actually learn Acrobatics through training as well as a TM. He was considering trying to teach him the technique instead of Wing Attack. And lastly, he had Scrapper. His moveset was solid, but he definitely wanted to switch it up now that he evolved. Sky Uppercut was one that really excited him. From there he had a lot of ideas he was toying with.

For now, though, he wanted to start on Rascal. Teaching her Crunch was his first task. "Okay Echo. Can you show Rascal your Crunch attack?"

Echo nodded and flew a few feet into the air.

"Rascal, watch him carefully."

She narrowed her eyes and nodded. Echo opened his jaws even wider. A dark glow formed around his fangs, then enlarged. He snapped his shadowy jaws together a few times, then let the glow fade. He shrieked something to Rascal, who nodded in understanding. Koa grinned and dragged out a training dummy. "Think you're ready, Rascal?"

She nodded, a dangerous grin spreading across her face. Turning to face the dummy, she snarled at it, then opened her jaws wide. They glowed white for a moment. She closed her eyes and her body tensed. The white aura shifted, becoming darker and edged in black. With a mighty roar, she charged across the battlefield and leaped at the statue, snapping her jaws shut on its head and tearing it off.

Koa's eyes opened wide. Whoa. Now that was power. Rascal grinned maliciously, then repeated the technique twice more, shredding the training dummy to nothing more than a pile of rubber. She roared triumphantly, then kicked dirt over the remnants of the dummy.

"Sick!" Koa murmured. That kind of power would destroy Fantina for sure. She trotted over to him and butted his leg, and he patted her on the head. "Good job, girl."

He looked over at the rest of his Pokemon, contemplating. "Okay everyone. Before we learn any more new moves, let's do some training." Their moves right now would easily get them by. What he really wanted was some power trainer. "By the time we challenge Fantina, I want to be able to destroy her." His Pokemon roared, barked and shrieked their agreement.

"Rascal, Echo I'm pairing you two up. I want Rascal to practice Crunch on a moving target. Echo, use every trick you know to dodge her attacks." The two nodded in agreement. Echo shrieked at Rascal, making her eyes widen. She snarled back, then leaped at him. He swooped out of the way, then waggled one wing tauntingly. With another roar, she charged him again. Good. The training would not only help Rascal learn Crunch better, but hone Echo's evasive tactics. After watching them a moment, he turned to the rest of his Pokemon.

"Okay let's see... Hazard, how do you feel about helping Scrapper improve his accuracy?" Hazard chittered eagerly.

"Scrapper, you and Hazard will work together. I want you to practice using Seed Bomb on him. Try to predict where he will move, and target him. Hazard," he turned to Joltik. "Make it hard for him, ok?" The two moved a short ways off and began to practice. Then Koa turned to Anubis.

"Alright, Anubis. Today you're going to learn Flamethrower." Anubis' eyes lit up and he began to jump up and down eagerly. Koa chuckled and pulled out his Pokedex once again. He brought up a page on the Flamethrower technique and quickly reviewed the explanation. The gist was fairly simple, especially if the Pokemon already knew Ember.

"Looks like Flamethrower involves supercharging and focusing your Ember attack. So instead of Ember, you'll learn this, okay?"

Anubis nodded, eyes still shining with eagerness.

"So instead of just shooting small flames, take a moment to charge it, then focus the fire into one stream. Got it?"

Anubis stared at him for a moment, a rather amusing frown on his face, then nodded slowly. Koa dragged out another training dummy and set it up. "Okay, try it here."

Turning to face the dummy, Anubis opened his jaws, then spat a tiny stream of flame. Or rather, it was closer to be a more focused spray of embers. It lacked any of the cohesiveness and power from an actual Flamethrower attack. Koa sighed inwardly. He definitely didn't blame Anubis - Flamethrower was much more challenging than Ember, after all. But he hated being patient for anything.

Anubis whined pitifully.

"Don't worry, Anubis. Just keep practicing. And remember to charge your fire first for a second. Now try again."

Anubis nodded, then opened his jaws. He paused for a half-second before spitting another weak stream of focused Ember's at the target. They fizzled out before striking it, but Koa noted that the Ember attack at least looked a little stronger.

"Again," he said, suppressing a sigh. It was going to be a long day.

xXx

Koa flopped onto his back, exhausted. Above him, the moon hung high in the sky, surrounded by a sprawling array of stars. He'd spent the entire day training, working out, and developing techniques. His whole body ached, and his Pokemon were flopped on the ground around him, panting. It had been well worth it, though. Anubis had finally mastered Flamethrower. It wasn't terribly strong, but it was definitely a Flamethrower. The power of Rascal's Crunch was insane, though she had only succeeded in actually hitting Echo twice. As for Scrapper, he'd gotten to be an excellent shot - though Hazard had nearly driven him mad with his evasion tactics.

In addition to the move training, he'd worked for a bit on a technique he'd dubbed Sticky Shield. It was the same tactic Hazard had displayed during their battle with Wake, and simply involved Hazard spinning a large sum of webbing and throwing himself into it. He was quite excited about the applications of it. Feeling quite satisfied, he turned in for the night.

And, if by some miracle Fantina was at her gym tomorrow, then Arceus help her - because he was going to destroy her.

xXx

At exactly 8:55, he stood outside the doors of Hearthome gym, mustering as much patience as he could. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long. He heard footsteps behind him and turned around. Cynthia strode up to the doors, alongside a woman he recognized well from pictures - Fantina. She wore her usual outfit, her pinkish hair tied into a strange bun, an elegant ball gown dress, and white gloves that stretched up to her elbows. She was nearly as tall as Cynthia, though lacked any of the presence.

"Ohohoho hello young trainer!" she called as she approached. She spoke with a peculiar accent, one he'd never heard before. "You have come to challenge me, non?"

Koa managed a nod. It was all he could do since there were a host of terribly rude things he wanted to say that definitely wouldn't be appropriate. He glanced at Cynthia, curiously. She wore a faint, pleasant smile, and nothing about her body language belied her emotions. But her eyes were another story. Whereas yesterday they were alight with interest in her battle, respect and generally pleasant demeanor, something had changed. There was a tightness around them, and they looked hard as steel and cold as ice. They made Koa shudder - she definitely looked displeased. He privately wondered if it had something to do with Fantina.

She spoke, her voice betraying nothing of what he saw in her gaze. "If you don't mind, Koamaru, I would like to watch your battle."

Koa's eyes widened. The Champion wanted to watch his battle? "Sure," he said, still in shock.

"Très fantastique! Let us get straight to our battle." Fantina declared. With a dramatic flourish, she led the way inside her gym. Koa followed her, glaring daggers at her back. Within a few minutes, he stood across the battlefield from her, while Cynthia chose a spot in the bleachers.

The referee stepped into place. "The battle between challenger Koamaru and Gym Leader Fantina will be a three-on-three match. The match will continue until all the Pokemon on one side are unable to continue. In addition, only the challenger may substitute Pokemon. Fantina, please send out your first Pokemon."

Fantina flashed a dazzling smile. "You know, ever since I came here, always I try to learn new things. They hold Contests in this city? I say to myself, enfin, I will excel. That is why I dress this way. C'est une performance!" She gestured dramatically, making her dress swish. "That is what I try to bring to my battles! I try to-"

"Can we please just battle!" Koa blurted. He quickly shut his mouth and risked a glance at Cynthia. He hadn't meant to be rude, per se, but he wasn't interested in what she had to say. Cynthia, to his surprise, wore an amused smile.

Fantina, however, looked a bit put off. She silently selected a pokeball. "Mismagius, my dear, come forth!"

In a splash of light, her Mismagius emerged onto the field, giving a haunting cry. It stared at Koa with its odd red gaze, and Koa glared back. He thought he detected a hint of surprise in its gaze, but he wasn't sure. He took a moment to evaluate her Mismagius. From what he knew, it was her strongest Pokemon. If he could take it out, the rest of her team should be fairly easy. He also knew that Fantina had been a Top Contest Coordinator not long ago. She liked to incorporate an elegant flair to her battles.

With a grin, he selected Rascal's pokeball. He tossed it onto the field and she emerged with an eager roar.

Fantina frowned at the sight of the dinosaur. Koa suspected she'd probably never seen one before.

The referee raised his arms. "Battle begin!"

Koa remained silent, hoping she would pick the first move. He wanted to keep Rascal's Crunch attack secret until he could score a direct hit. If he could get her good, he could end the fight in a few strikes. Plus, after yesterday's training, he was certain his Pokemon were stronger than her team. Maybe not her real team, but the league approved gym team she used.

He already had a plan, too, one inspired by Kitto, a way to catch her completely off guard.

"Magical Leaf!" Fantina called. Mismagius eyes began to glow, and a flurry of glowing leaves materialized in front of it. It fired them rapidly, aiming them with deadly precision. "Ancient Power," Koa said calmly.

Rascal quickly shot off the silver boulder of energy, striking the Magical Leaf midair. A small burst of energy and smoke exploded outwards. Rascal's Ancient Power hadn't been very strong, but it had been just enough to dissipate the attack. Mismagius let out a cry of triumph, hovering just a few feet above the ground.

"Stomp!" Koa said. Rascal glanced back at him, confused. He nodded at her. "Just trust me."

Fantina chuckled and smiled. "Such moves will not work against my ghost type beauties! A good trainer would know this, non?"

Koa simply smiled. With a roar, Rascal charged at Mismagius. She leaped high into the air, then twirled, bringing her foot straight down towards Mismagius. As Koa expected, she passed harmlessly through Mismagius' body, the normal type attack doing no damage.

"Quick, Dragon Tail!" A smile spread across Rascal's maw as she landed, right below Mismagius. Green energy wreathed her tail. Barely had her feet touched earth before she spun and smashed Mismagius in the side with the attack, sending the Ghost-type reeling. It crashed hard into the ground and slid.

Koa saw Fantina's jaw actually drop, and she froze up. Time to end this. "Crunch!"

Rascal lunged across the field, jaws rippling with shadowy energy.

"Shadow Ball!" Mismagius eyes opened wide, but the command had come too late. As it started to gather the energy, Rascal's jaws shut around its wispy body. It wailed eerily in pain as Rascal shook it. She tossed it to the ground, sending up an explosion of dust.

The dust quickly settled, revealing Mismagius' unconscious form.

"Mismagius is unable to battle. Tyrunt is the winner!"

Koa grinned gleefully. With any other Pokemon, it would have been harder, he was sure. But Rascal was probably his strongest. That, coupled with her insane jaw strength, made her the perfect one for the job. "Nice work, Rascal!" She growled happily.

Across the field, Fantina looked stunned as she returned her Pokemon. Likely she hadn't expected her strongest to be taken out so easily. Of course, she probably hadn't been expecting a challenger to use a normal type attack on purpose, either.

Recovering her composure, she tossed out her second Pokemon. A Gengar emerged, cackling and darting about the field, before settling in front of Fantina again.

"My next Pokemon is quite impressive, oui?" she called. Koa eyed it. Gengar were pretty tough pokemon, not to mention they were Poison and Ghost-type. Still, he was certain Rascal could handle it. That said, he wanted to give his other Pokemon a chance. He took out Rascal's pokeball.

"Rascal, return."

Then he selected Anubis' pokeball and released him. He emerged in a burst of light, barking a challenge at Gengar. It cackled at its opponent, a wide grin stretched across its face. Its red eyes glinted mischievously.

"Battle, begin."

"Flamethrower." Anubis growled, then blasted a stream of flames from his jaws.

"Dodge!" Gengar easily flitted out of the way, zipping back and forth across the battlefield.

"Keep trying to hit it," Koa commanded.

Anubis sprayed the battlefield in flames, but only succeeded in grazing Gengar once.

"Enough," Koa said, after several seconds. Anubis growled and ceased his attack. Gengar had more agility than he expected. Going after it would be pointless, so perhaps he could play the patience game.

"Howl."

Throwing his head back, Anubis howled. Power flowed through him.

"Poison Jab." Gengar darted across the field, one of its arms glowing a deadly purple.

"Dodge, Thunder Fang," Koa called quickly. As Gengar approached, Anubis sprang to the side, narrowly dodging Poison Jab. His jaws had already begun to crackle with electricity, ready to retaliate.

"Duck!" He yelled the command on instinct, recalling his fight with Kitto. Anubis ducked just as Gengar swung its other fist. The second Poison Jab attack passed over Anubis head. He twisted around, sinking his Thunder Fang attack into Gengar.

Gengar gave a shriek as its body was shocked. Anubis tossed it away. It caught itself easily, glaring furiously at its opponent.

"Flamethrower." Anubis quickly fired a stream of fire at Gengar.

"Dodge!" Gengar tried to dodge left, but was cut off as Anubis quickly blasted a second Flamethrower, catching it in the side. It screeched in anger and floated upwards.

"Night Shade." A dark shadow grew around Gengar's eyes, then a jagged beam of black energy shot across the battlefield.

"Dodge, Howl." Anubis leaped left, then right, narrowly dodging the attack. He howled again, charging up his strength.

"Shadow Claw." Gengar's claws grew larger, doubling in size and turning pitch black.

"Bite through them!" As Gengar flew across the field, Anubis charged him, his jaws glowing with energy. He snapped them shut on Gengar's claw. Koa saw him flinch visibly - taking an attack like that didn't nullify damage completely, only reduced it - but it was successful. The force of Bite, combined with his power up from Howl, enabled him to break through Shadow Claw and deal a grievous blow to Gengar.

Gengar staggered backwards, panting. "Gengar, Poison Jab."

"Bite again!"

Anubis lunged, closing his jaws around one of Gengar's claws, just as Gengar struck Anubis in the side with Poison Jab. The Houndour was knocked backward, but remained standing. The same, however, could not be said for Gengar, who lay unconscious.

"Gengar is unable to battle, Houndour is the victor."

"Yes!" Koa cheered. Anubis barked happily, then staggered. For the first time, Koa noticed the purple sheen and sickly gleam in his eyes. The last Poison Jab had poisoned him. As Fantina returned Gengar, he returned Anubis. She stared at her Gengar's pokeball for several seconds. Finally, she put it away and selected her final pokeball.

"Oh, heavens. What is this? Is this my final Pokémon?" she said, her voice filled with surprise. "No matter, you will have to fight hard to defeat this one!" She dramatically tossed out her final pokeball. A Drifblim emerged, to no surprise of Koa's. He'd been waiting for this Pokemon. With a grin, he selected Hazard's pokeball. He would enjoy this.

"Go Hazard!" He saw Fantina's eyes widen slightly at the nickname. No doubt she was trying to figure out what Pokemon he was sending out. When Joltik emerged in a splash of light, her gaze softened. "What a fantastique little creature, non?"

Koa ignored her comment, focusing on the battle instead.

The referee raised his hands. "Battle, begin."

May as well start with a bang. "Hazard, Electroweb."

Hazard began to charge up the familiar electric attack, firing the web a second later.

"Ominous Wind!" Drifblim's eyes glowed in response to the command, and it waved its strange feeler like appendages. The temperature in the room dropped a few degrees and a purple-tinted breeze stirred up, then shot towards Hazard. It easily dispersed Electroweb and battered Hazard before fading. Koa frowned. Hazard would need to get close to do real damage.

"Now, Will-o-wisp my dear." Drifblim's eyes shined an eerie blue and a circle of blue flames appeared, floating around its body. The flames blazed through the air, approaching Hazard quickly.

"Sticky Shield," Koa called quickly. He'd never used the technique in battle, not since he'd used it against Wake. He had no idea if it would work, but it was surely worth a try. Hazard began to gather the webbing in his jaws, then, using a precision honed from their practice yesterday, launched it only a few inches into the air. He sprang upwards, colliding with his own webbing and surrounding himself in a cocoon. A moment later, Will-o-Wisp struck, burning away the webbing in a few moments.

Hazard flinched in discomfort, but shook himself and chittered confidently. Koa grinned. It had worked! Though he'd still taken a small amount of damage, it had nullified the worst of it. Although he supposed the technique would really only work with fire-based moves. Otherwise, Hazard risked becoming trapped. Pushing away his thoughts, he focused on the battle.

"How will you fare with my signature technique? Hypnosis!" Drifblim darted across the field in a rather impressive display of speed, then grabbed onto Hazard with two of its feelers, easily securing him in place.

A nasty smile shot across his face. Finally. The moment he'd been waiting for. "Electroweb!"

Hazard shot the attack just as Drifblims eyes glowed red. The electric webbing struck Drifblim directly in the face, shocking it soundly. Both Fantina and her Pokemon emitted matching cries of shock. Koa couldn't blame them - resisting the technique on the fly would have proved difficult. Fortunately, yesterday's training had come well in handy.

"String Shot." Hazard fired a thin, precise web at Driflbim. The web latched onto its face.

"Gust, blow it away!" Fantina cried frantically. Drifblim clawed the Electroweb off its face, then summoned a burst of wind. It easily picked up the tiny Joltik, but fortunately, Hazard had already latched on with String Shot. He was lifted into the air, but his String Shot remained strong. For a few seconds, he was tossed about mercilessly, like a kite in the wind. Then the Gust attack let up briefly.

"Secure it," Koa commanded. Using Gust's momentum, Hazard swung through the air, over Drifblim's head, and onto the ground on the other side. In effect, he had succeeded in binding Drifblim in one place. The balloon Pokemon floated upwards, pulling at the web, but to no avail.

"Electroweb," Koa called.

Fantina's frantic voice cut through Drifblim's panicked cries. "Free yourself with Will-o-wisp."

Even as Drifblim generated the ghostly flames, burning through the webbing, Hazard had already launched Electroweb. The webbing struck Drifblim in the side, shocking it again. It let out a ghostly wail and floated backwards several feet, its odd eyes showing signs of wear. Its body was beginning to look a bit battered, and Koa suspected that it was almost done for.

Time to end this battle and get his badge. "Giga Drain."

Hazard's eyes shined green and he fired the beam of energy at the weakened Drifblim. Its entire body started to glow as its energy was leeched away.

"Gust!" Summoning whatever strength it had left, it started to summon a burst of wind. Then it stopped short and collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

"Drifblim is unable to battle. Challenger Koamaru is the winner."

Koa stared silently, surprised for a moment. "Yes!" he cheered. Hazard jumped up and down eagerly as well, sending out a shower of sparks. He stared across the field, grinning wildly as Fantina returned her Pokemon. She murmured something to the pokeball before putting it away. Her bright performer's smile returned to her face and she strode across the battlefield towards him.

"I am dumbfounded! So very, very strong! You, your Pokémon, so strong! Your power is admirable! I shall honor it with this Gym Badge!" As she spoke, she produced a gym badge and handed it to him. Koa took it, managing a nod. He couldn't bring himself to say thank you. He'd not only won fairly easily, but he was still annoyed that it had taken so much trouble to get it. She gave him the usual case of prize money, which he gratefully accepted.

He couldn't help but smile inwardly at the irony of everything, however. If he'd battled Fantina yesterday, he would have had a much harder time. Not that he would have lost, but it would have been a real challenge. But thanks to yesterday's extra training, his Pokemon were quite a bit stronger. Her absence had ensured her demise.

"That was a fine match, Koamaru," Cynthia said.

Koa glanced over to see her descend from the spot on the bleachers. As always, she appeared composed and amiable, but he swore he detected something else in her gaze.

She turned to address Fantina. "Now Fantina, I believe there is something else you intended to tell this young man?"

He glanced back and forth between Cynthia and Fantina. What could Cynthia be referring to?

Fantina sobered ever so slightly. "Ah yes! I must offer you an apology! You see, I was off training and developing my new battle style, so I could not be present at the gym. I am sure from now on I will not have to leave often."

Koa felt his lip curl and he bit his tongue. Her apology sounded much more like an excuse to him. A million thoughts rushed through his head of what he wanted to say. Instead, he just gave a tight nod.

"That is actually what I am here to speak to you about, Fantina." Cynthia's voice interrupted Koa's thoughts. He turned his full attention to her, curiosity burning inside him.

Fantina turned to Cynthia, tilting her head slightly and regarding the Champion with a curious look. "Oui?"

Cynthia took a breath, then began. Her tone was calm, but there was a steely edge to it. The amiable demeanor that she displayed to young fans was entirely gone. "As a gym leader, you serve an instrumental role in a trainer's growth. However, it has come to my attention that you have frequently taken long trips away from the gym, and have been closing it in your absence. Is this true?"

"Oui, but I must, for you see I am constantly developing new strategies and techniques for contests and battles. I must always present a flair for challengers, non?"

Cynthia smiled thinly. "I'm afraid that is not acceptable. As a gym leader, you have a responsibility. Trainers must earn a badge from your gym in order to compete in the League Conference. I have been patient and refrained from exercising judgment because I hoped you would resolve it on your own. However, I cannot continue to allow a gym leader to be constantly absent." Cynthia paused. Fantina's demeanor had subdued notably. "With that said, I am afraid I must exercise my powers as Champion to temporarily remove you as gym leader."

Fantina's face fell, though only slightly. "You are saying I may no longer act as gym leader?"

Cynthia nodded. "Yes. For a period of six months. During that time, an associate of mine, Delilah, will be acting as a temporary gym leader. At the end of that period, you may apply once again for the position, if you wish."

Fantina's face fell slightly, then brightened. "Then in that time, I must rediscover myself through judging contests!" Some of her former enthusiasm returned.

Then Cynthia shook her head. "Sinnoh law states that any Contest Judge who fulfills two roles, may not participate unless they are able to prove they are capable of handling both roles. Just as Nurse Joy keeps the Pokemon Center running in her absence, your responsibility was to keep the gym running. Until you become gym leader again, you cannot judge a contest."

Koa eyes went wide and he resisted the urge to grin. He glanced towards Fantina. Her face had fallen into a frown, and for the first time since the conversation began, looked truly upset. She started to open her mouth, as if to protest, then stopped.

"I understand," she said, simply.

"Good. You have a chance to learn from this. Do not waste it," Cynthia said, allowing the barest hint of sharpness into her voice.

Hearing that, Koa wondered if she was far angrier than her behavior let on. She nodded in farewell to Fantina, then strode for the door. Koa quickly followed. His business at the gym was done, anyway.

As they stepped outside, Koa started to head for the Pokemon Center. It felt too awkward to say anything to Cynthia after what he'd witnessed, though he couldn't deny that it made him quite happy to see Fantina suffer judgment. Clearly her behavior had gone on too long. Cynthia, however, stopped him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. He faced her, staring up into her gray eyes.

"Koamaru, are you wondering why I allowed you to witness that conversation?"

Hesitantly, he nodded.

She began to speak, her voice soft, yet firm. It was rather teacher-like. "Everyone in this world bears a responsibility of some kind. Some seem grand, such as my duty as Champion or Nurse Joy healing injured Pokemon. But in truth, all responsibility is crucial. A trainer bears a responsibility to his Pokemon and his fellow trainers. To be a good sport, to care for and love their Pokemon. When people ignore their responsibility, the world begins to darken. The world we live in today is beautiful because people treasure the responsibility they are given." She paused, her gaze hardening. "In order to preserve our way of life, everyone, from the most inexperienced trainer to the greatest Champion, must uphold their responsibility." Her grip on his shoulder tightened, but only slightly. He stared solemnly at her, absorbing every word she said.

"That includes you, Koamaru. Do not believe that the role trainers play is insignificant. Accept and treasure the responsibility you have." Koa nodded. Even if he could have thought of something to say, he wasn't sure he could have spoken. His mind felt as if it were reeling.

Cynthia flashed an amiable smile and backed up a step. "Of course, it is clear that you are doing excellent. Your bond with your Pokemon is strong, so they are strong. If you keep on your path, you will go far."

"Thank you," Koa said quietly.

"I look forward to meeting you and your friend Kitto again. Perhaps one of you may be able to beat me." With a final smile and wave, Cynthia turned and strode away, her black coat rippling in the wind. Koa watched her go, a sense of awe still filling him. He slowly walked back to the Pokemon Center, lost in his thoughts. The day had gone unexpectedly. He was glad though - it had been a good day, and he still felt pleased seeing justice done to Fantina. Cynthia's words stuck with him, and as he returned to the Pokemon Center, he vowed to remember them.

Once he arrived at the Pokemon Center, he stopped briefly at the battlefield. He released Rascal, Anubis and Hazard. Rascal greeted him with a happy growl, and Anubis barked.

"You guys were amazing today! We totally destroyed Fantina!"

Both Rascal and Anubis grinned happily. Hazard, however, chittered quietly, and Koa noticed a dull sheen over his eyes.

"Hazard, what's going on?" he asked worriedly. Perhaps Hazard was sick. This was the third time recently he'd acted off. Suddenly, his body flashed white briefly. A shower of sparks flew from his tiny body, and he trembled violently. His body shook as it glowed again, then he slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Panic filled Koa. "Hazard!"

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain

Ahh, I can't resist me a cliffhanger ending. Boy, I hope Hazard is ok. What could be wrong with him?

Discussion time! So it always bothered me that Fantina got away with NEVER being around in the DP anime. Several times she was absent from her gym. Challengers need her badge to compete in the league, and she's off galavanting. So I did throw in my personal bit of justice, along with Koa curbstomping her. I never really liked her in the anime especially. Gym leaders need to take their responsibility seriously.
 
chapter 14

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 14: Cal-Amity Square

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndour) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain


Koa's hands shook as he gently scooped up Joltik's limp body. He was breathing, still, but every few seconds he would twitch and shudder, and make squeaks of distress. Bursting through the door of the Pokemon Center, he sprinted up to the counter. "Nurse Joy! You have to help!"

"Oh my," Nurse Joy murmured when she saw the Joltik clutched in his hand.

In seconds, a Chansey emerged from the back, pushing a small cart. Still trembling, Koa set Joltik on the cart. Chansey gave him a reassuring nod before quickly pushing the cart into the back.

"Don't worry," Nurse Joy assured him. "We'll take good care of him." She gave him a reassuring smile before hurrying after Chansey.

In a daze, Koa stumbled over to a chair and sank into it. A flurry of panicked thoughts raced through his mind as he stared at the floor. If he'd simply brought Hazard in for a checkup sooner or noticed something wrong... He'd seemed fine! Even during the battle with Fantina, Hazard had been fine. Koa couldn't fathom what was wrong. His mind raced over everything that had happened in the past week, trying to figure out why his Pokemon was hurt.

"Mr. Averon?"

Koa's head shot up as Nurse Joy called his name. "Yes?" he cried, standing up quickly.

"Your Joltik will be fine. He's recovering now, and we have him hooked up to a generator to recharge him." Her voice hardened slightly. "But he is showing signs of extreme exhaustion. I hope you weren't pushing him too hard."

"No!" Koa said immediately. "We train a lot, but I always let him rest. I even bought a special battery pack so he can recharge. I don't know why this happened."

Nurse Joy held up her hand in a pacifying gesture. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have accused you. Aside from being over exerted, your Joltik is in excellent health."

"But what's wrong with him then?" Koa protested.

"If his exhaustion isn't from training, I will have to do a few more tests. They shouldn't take long, so you can wait here."

Koa nodded numbly, watching as Nurse Joy left. Exhaustion? But how? He tried to think about anything other than Hazard as he sat there. The only comfort he could find was in the knowledge that she'd said Hazard would be fine.

Around an hour later, Nurse Joy emerged from the back again. She wore a cheerful smile, which Koa hesitantly returned. Perhaps she had good news.

"Great news, Mr. Averon." The doors to the back swung open again, revealing the Chansey pushing a cart. On it, a bright-eyed Hazard perched, his blue eyes gleaming. He clung to a small, smooth stone, barely smaller than him.

"Hazard!" he cried out in delight, racing over to the cart. Hazard chittered happily, still clutching the stone in his jaws, and leaped onto his jacket, scurrying up his arm and onto his head. Koa chuckled and scratched him gently.

Still smiling, he turned back to Nurse Joy. "So what was wrong?"

"Well, it appears your Joltik was trying to hold back his evolution. The wear and tear from trying to suppress that completely exhausted him."

Koa eyes widened and he stiffened in shock. He'd read about such things - sometimes, for whatever reason, a Pokemon would want to stay in its pre-evolved form. It was rare, though.

"Oh," he said, simply.

Nurse Joy smiled sympathetically. "I've left him with that Everstone. It will absorb the excess energy from evolution, so he'll be fine until he decides he's ready. If you want, there's a specialty store a few blocks down that can refine it into a more suitable form for him. Otherwise, you're free to go."

Koa nodded again, still distracted by his thoughts of Hazard. "Thank you."

Nurse Joy nodded once more, then walked away, followed by Chansey. Koa quietly retreated to the privacy of his room, still pondering. Once he reached his room, he gently picked Hazard off his head, setting him on the bed. His blue eyes looked healthy now, but they also held a trace of guilt.

"So Hazard... you don't want to evolve?"

Slowly, the little Joltik nodded, still not meeting Koa's gaze. Koa sat down on one of the chairs processing what Hazard had admitted. Ever since he'd caught Hazard, he'd thought about what it would be like to have a Galvantula. But now... He wasn't sure what to feel.

When he looked back at Hazard, he mentally kicked himself - here he was, thinking about himself, when his Pokemon was probably feeling awful. Hazard's blue eyes were downcast and filled with sadness. He nudged his everstone idly and chittered softly. Guilt gnawed at Koa. He knelt in front of the bed to look Hazard in the eyes.

"Hey, Hazard. I'm not mad at you, ok?"

Hazard looked up at him hesitantly.

"I'm surprised, but you're already awesome as a Joltik! You're tiny, and really strong, and you catch your opponents off guard. If you don't want to evolve, you don't have to," he said firmly. "I love you exactly how you are."

Hazard's countenance changed, his eyes beaming with joy. He squeaked excitedly, then scurried up his shoulder, nuzzling into his neck. Koa patted him, then sat down on the bed, sighing in relief. Hazard's revelation had certainly come as a surprise. But more than anything, he was just happy that his friend was ok.

xXx​

The blue sky shone overhead, dotted with fluffy white clouds. A soft breeze blew, and Koa trotted eagerly through town, still basking in the memory of yesterday's triumph against Fantina. His Pokemon deserved a reward, he decided, so he'd set aside today to go to Amity Square, and then head to the Poffin House and take a shot at cooking some more poffins. He quickly checked in with the receptionist in the lobby, then hurried in.

The day was still early, barely 9 o'clock, and the park was mostly empty, save for a couple other trainers. He released all his Pokemon, grinning happily at them. His eyes settled briefly on the barely visible everstone pendant that now hung from Hazard's neck. He'd had it made yesterday, so it would be easier for Hazard to keep with him. The other option was apparently to have Hazard hold the everstone for a short time everyday, but that sounded much too cumbersome, so he'd opted for Nurse Joy's suggestion of having a pendant fashioned.

"We're taking a day off, everyone!"

He was met with a variety of happy cries.

"You guys are free to explore," he added. Since Amity Square was such a safe place, Pokemon were allowed to roam about freely, provided they stayed within the boundaries of the park. Koa figured his team had more than earned it. "Just don't cause any trouble, got it? No fighting." At that, he gave Rascal and Scrapper a stern look. Both mustered up the best innocent smiles they could, making Koa chuckle and shake his head.

"So how about we try and find some berry trees, huh Echo?"

Echo, who had taken his usual spot on Koa's shoulders, shreed excitedly. Koa started off towards the far end of the park, trying his best to ignore the heavy weight of Echo. Anubis had vanished somewhere, no doubt exploring, though he trusted the Houndour. To his relief, Hazard and Rascal both trotted near him, apparently deciding to follow him. At least he wouldn't have to worry about Rascal starting something. Scrapper followed as well, though he stayed a short distance behind. Koa got the impression that the Breloom didn't know what to actually do with a day off.

"Hey Scrapper, you can relax you know," he called back.

Scrapper grunted in protest, throwing a few experimental jabs in the air.

"We'll trainer later, I promise," Koa said. He turned his attention forward again, whistling aimlessly as he walked. He didn't have any destination in mind, really. He was simply looking for a day off.

Quite suddenly, Echo leaped off his shoulder and began to fly towards a copse of trees. Curious, Koa followed him. He rounded a bend in the path to see Echo standing in the middle of a tiny clearing, his mouth wrapped around a gigantic berry. Pink and green stripes zigzagged around the berry, and it was nearly the size of Golbat's head. After a brief struggle, Echo managed to fit it inside his mouth and greedily chewed on it. Koa couldn't help but laugh at the sight as he awkwardly attempted to chew the berry. A moment later, the Golbat spat it out disappointedly.

"You have to cut those first, you know," Koa said, shaking his head and smiling. Nudging the half-chewed berry out of the way, he made his way over to the berry tree. Berry vine was a more accurate term, he reflected. It sprouted up like a small shrub, with three more of the large round berries hanging from it. Koa stared at them thoughtfully. He was sure he'd read about them before, but the name escaped him. Something with a 'w'? Shrugging it off, he carefully picked one.

"Come on, Echo. I'll show you the proper way to eat these."

Echo's eyes lit up and he fluttered after Koa.

Koa made his way to a sunny hilltop with a few trees that offered shade. Rascal, Hazard and Scrapper gathered around him. Setting the berry down, Koa retrieved the knife he usually kept in his backpack. In a few deft movements, he sliced the berry in half, then cut it into neat triangles.

One-by-one, he handed out the slices to his Pokemon, then took one for himself.

"See, Echo? The outside is bitter and flavorless, but the flesh is sweet."

Echo squeaked in gratitude, then devoured the pinkish-red flesh of the berry. Rascal ate hers in a few bites, while Hazard took his time - plus the slice was probably twice the size of him.

Scrapper held his in his stubby hands and stared at it.

"Scrapper, lighten up. You can enjoy a treat." Hesitantly, Scrapper took a bite. His eyes lit up and he rumbled delightedly.

Koa grinned, then took a bite of his slice. A sweet, watery taste filled his mouth. It wasn't as rich as a Pecha berry's sweetness but instead was much lighter and refreshing. He finished his, then flopped back on the grass and yawned. He was still feeling a bit sleepy after staying up so late the other night trying to spot Entei. A nap sounded perfect right now. The air was cool under the shade, and his spot was quiet. His eyelids began to droop shut and he started to doze.

A loud explosion shattered the peace. Koa shot up and glanced around. From the east end of the park, a column of flame erupted. He heard a few screams of fear, and saw the distance shapes of trainers fleeing towards the exit.

What was going on? Koa scanned the area. Only Echo remained with him, wide awake and staring towards the flames with an odd look in his eyes. The rest of his Pokemon were gone. "Hazard?" he shouted. A tiny speck of yellow at the base of the hill caught his attention. Grabbing his backpack, he sprinted towards it, Echo followed him.

Hazard raced toward him, unharmed, though Koa noted the terror in his eyes. Without hesitation, he returned him. Clipping the pokeball back on his belt, he took another look around. The initial burst of fire he saw had dispersed. He couldn't see any trainers around, so he assumed they had all fled. A shudder of fear passed through him as he spotted an orange glow. A fire had started in the east.

"Echo, find the others, quick!"

Echo nodded and flew into the air. He let out a shriek and started to fly towards the flames.

Koa sprinted after him. He ran past the lake in the center of Amity square. At the far end of the lake, he spotted a figure, standing close to the water's edge. Scrapper.

"Scrapper!" he called as he approached. The Breloom glanced towards him, his eyes a mix of fear and determination. Koa returned him - there was absolutely no way he was leaving his grass-type out during a fire. By now, the fire had spread slightly, engulfing the trees, though thanks to the presence of the nearby sand dunes, it hadn't spread any further north.

Then he spotted a dark shape, sprinting towards the fire. Rascal. He sprinted after the shape, which seemed to be heading towards the fire. "Rascal!" he shouted. She stopped, staring at him. Her eyes were alight with fear and worry. Once she saw him, she raced over to him, then faced the flames, growling. Koa returned her as well, then swallowed nervously. That just left Anubis.

Koa glanced around frantically. There was no sign of his Houndour anywhere. He started towards the woods at the far side of the park. Perhaps Anubis had taken shelter there... Returning Echo, he took a few steps into the edge of the forest. The heat intensified. Smoke filled his lungs and he coughed. He pulled his shirt over his nose and mouth and squinted, searching for any sign of Anubis. Something roared, a loud, terrifying cry that made Koa hesitate. It sounded almost like the cry of an Arcanine, but louder and deeper. From within the woods, a column of fire erupted, followed by another roar. Koa flinched then backed out of the woods. "Anubis!" he shouted. He swept his gaze across the forest and field.

In the distance, he heard a bark.

Out of the corner of his eye, Koa spied a black blur hurtling across the field towards him. He reflexively turned towards it, ready to fight, then stopped short. "Anubis!" he cried happily. The Houndour gave a happy bark, then immediately grew serious. The hackles on his back rose and he growled, turning his gaze towards the woods. The flames had begun to spread, licking at the edge of the woods. Fear gripped Koa briefly. Koa quickly retrieved Anubis pokeball and tried to return him. Anubis dodged the red beam of light and gave a sharp bark, shooting Koa a glare before turning his gaze back on the woods.

"Anubis, what's going on-" A shape exploded from the fires and took two bounds across the field towards them, then stopped short. Koa's heart skipped a beat. There, just yards in front of them, stood a pokemon he'd only ever seen in pictures. Entei, Lord of the Volcano, beast of fire, one of the three legendary beasts. Pictures didn't do it justice, Koa decided. It stood over six feet tall at the shoulders, and made a full-grown Arcanine look like a puppy. Shaggy brown fur covered its huge body, and gray smoke-like fur billowed from its back. Gray spines protruded from either side of its back and a red and yellow crest covered its face. It surveyed the park before its red gaze settled on Koa.

Anubis snarled and took a step towards Entei, his eyes blazing. "Anubis no!" Koa cried, panic rising in him. Surely it couldn't be the one responsible for the fires. Entei was supposed to be a gentle pokemon, a protector. The last thing he wanted was to antagonize it. Entei narrowed its eyes and Koa shivered. Chills rippled down his spine. The look in Entei's eyes was... cold? But not just cold. They looked empty, devoid of the warm compassion that he'd read about.

Koa was jolted out of his thoughts by a loud roar from Entei. It raised one of its massive paws and brought it down on the ground. Massive spires of stone erupted from the earth, traveling across the ground at blinding speeds. Before he could call a warning, one exploded underneath Anubis, sending him flying. He crashed to the ground hard and yelped.

"No!" Koa cried. He whipped out Anubis' pokeball to return him. Anubis suddenly scrambled to his paws and lunged, knocking the pokeball from his hands. It flew from his grasp, disappearing into a bush.

Anubis barked at once, then turned and ran, barking urgently over his shoulder at Koa. Koa sprinted after his pokemon, fear giving him new speed. His lungs burned from the smoke and he wheezed. A stream of fire passed by a few feet to his right. His panic grew. Anubis seemed to be leading him somewhere - the lake! Anubis made a beeline towards the water and Koa stayed hot on his heels.

Behind him, Entei let out another terrifying roar. As he drew near to the water's edge, he risked a glance behind him, just in time to see Entei shoot another blast of fire. The ground under Koa erupted. His stomach twisted as he was tossed into the air. His mouth opened in an empty scream as he flew forwards, his arms flailing wildly as he sailed through the air. A second later, he crashed into the shallow water.

The impact jarred every bone in body. He felt his right wrist hit the ground and his head smacked the earth. Pain shot through him. Spluttering and dazed, he forced himself to his knees, cradling his arm against his body. His ears rang and he heard several more muffled explosions and bursts of fire. Something warm dipped down the side of his face. Blood? Exhaustion dragged at his body and he almost collapsed. Mustering up his strength, he turned around, blinking away the blurriness in his vision. Entei stood just a few yards from the waters edge, surveying the destruction it had done. All around, several more small fires had been started. Black smoke filled the air. Koa glanced around frantically. Where was Anubis?

Entei took a step towards him, its eyes devoid of any emotion. Still half-submerged in the water, Koa edged backward, his head pounding. It opened its jaws. Fire gathered in its maw, and it blasted a massive stream of flames directly at him. Time seemed to slow. For some reason, the only thought that ran through his mind was that even if he died here, he'd at least accomplished one goal. He'd met a Legendary. There was a flicker of movement, and suddenly Anubis appeared. In a blur, he threw himself in front of the approaching fire, shielding his trainer.

Someone screamed. Koa realized the sound came from his own throat. He lunged forwards in a futile attempt to stop Anubis. The fire crashed against the Houndour's form, consuming him in flames. He began to glow bright, vivid orange as Flash Fire took effect. The glow intensified tenfold and Anubis let out a bone-chilling howl. His body became awash in power, and his silhouette turned molten orange. Then, orange shifted to bright, iridescent blue. In seconds, all that remained of Houndour's form was a glowing white silhouette. The silhouette shifted, growing taller, leaner. Horns grew on its head and its stubby tail shifted into a long spiked one. The light finally faded, revealing Houndour's evolved form, Houndoom.

Anubis howled, a cry of righteous anger, then turned a wrathful gaze upon Entei. He lunged, trying to sink his jaws into Entei. Entei effortlessly batted him away with one paw. Anubis flew through the air, but caught himself, landing and sliding across the earth.

Entei dispassionately raised its paw once more, then brought it down. A spire of stone erupted under Anubis, punching him in the chest. He yelped as he was tossed into the air, then crashed to the ground and fell still. Koa's heart felt like it stopped as he stared at Anubis' unmoving form. He tried to stand, but his legs gave out and he collapsed into the shallow water. His vision swam and he stared at Entei, confusion, fear and anger boiling inside him.

Once again, Entei opened his jaws. Fire gathered. Then a roar split the air, deeper, angrier, and more primal than any Koa had heard before. The sound seemed to cut straight through Koa, summoning images of a warm, cozy hearth and erupting volcanoes. The sudden rush of thoughts brought a fresh wave of dizziness. Entei shut its mouth and its eyes widened. It glanced to its left, then turned away from the sound. Gathering its legs under it, it leaped away in a single bound. A moment later, a figure landed where Entei once stood and snarled.

Koa stared at the figure through half closed eyes. Confusion filled him. It couldn't be... Another Entei? There were two? But that was impossible... It lowered its head and pressed its snout to Anubis. Blackness began to creep into his vision. He slumped to the ground, exhaustion winning over. The last thing he saw was Entei, staring down at him, its eyes filled with warmth. Then everything went black.

xXx

Awareness slowly returned to Koa, first in the form of cold water, soaking through his clothes. He felt something warm and rough rasp across his face, followed by an anxious whine. Opening his eyes wearily, he saw the blurred image of a long orange snout, sleek face and curved gray horns. Blinking in shock, he sat up slightly, wincing.

"Anubis?" he murmured. His memories flowed back easily, and he marveled at the new form of his friend. He was still in shock at seeing him evolve. He remembered Entei, standing across from him, about to incinerate him. He remembered wondering if this would be the end. And he remembered Anubis, his loyal Houndour, valiantly leaping into the attack, saving his life.

"You saved me," he said quietly, reaching out. Anubis was quite a bit taller now, making the action feel strange. The Houndoom leaned down, and Koa gratefully scratched behind his horns. Somehow, Anubis had weathered the blast, an attack he was sure no average Pokemon should have withstood, even with Flash Fire. And something told him it wasn't just his Flash Fire ability that had allowed him to survive the hit.

Still petting Anubis, he glanced around, taking in his surroundings. He was still at the edge of the small lake in Amity Square. In the distance, he could see several rangers and water type Pokemon putting out the last of the fires. Much of Amity Square itself was burned, huge patches of scorched earth peppering the land. Yet he realized a lot of it remained alive, as well. The damage was bad, but it wasn't irreparable.

He shifted, dragging himself out of the water and wincing. His whole body ached, and his wrist especially hurt. His head throbbed slightly as well, and he assumed he'd cut himself when he hit the ground. He experimentally wiggled his fingers, then sighed in relief. Nothing broken, at least. Probably a bad sprain. The rest of his body hurt, but he didn't feel anything broken, which was a relief. The idea of spending time in the hospital so soon was not one he was looking forward to. All he really wanted now was to go somewhere quiet and sleep.

Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet, leaning on Anubis for support. He glanced down again at his Pokemon, still marveling. He'd need to get him checked out at the Pokemon Center first - taking a hit the way he did might have left him with unseen injuries. As he began to wearily limp towards the exit, his thoughts turned to Entei.

Or rather, the Entei's? Had he hallucinated the second Entei? The last moments of his memories were so foggy. He thought he remembered hearing a roar and that Thing that looked like Entei fleeing. And after that... He remembered hazy flashes. A massive, brown-furred figure. Warm red eyes, like the deepest coals in a fire. Yet he'd always thought there was only one of each beast. Now there were two? Unless one was a fake. His head started to ache and he scowled.

With a grimace, he pushed the thoughts away. Whatever it had been, he couldn't think about it right now. His first concern was Anubis.

xXx

A solid four hours later, things had settled down, barely. He'd gotten Anubis and the rest of his Pokemon checked out at the Pokemon Center. Fortunately, they were all fine, though Anubis was being kept under observation since he was exhausted after his brief skirmish and they wanted to ensure he hadn't suffered any unseen injuries. A ranger had also retrieved Anubis lost pokeball, which was a relief.

After that, he'd had to get himself checked out, though he was released after an hour. The doctors had determined he'd basically been bruised up pretty badly, but it was nothing that wouldn't heal given time a day or two of rest. They'd also given him a brace to wear for the next couple days as well as some simple antibiotics, but other than that, the doctors told him he'd be fine. Currently, he sat in the lobby of the Pokemon Center, waiting for them to release Anubis. All around him, several trainers awaited for their own Pokemon to be healed. While he waited, he listened to the news. The attack and subsequent fires hadn't killed or seriously injured any people or Pokemon, fortunately. The Square itself was pretty damaged, but the caretakers said it would recover in a month or two. In fact, they were surprised it wasn't damaged worse. Reports also indicated that the source of the fire was unknown. Apparently, no one else had gotten a clear look at Entei. What concerned him the most, however, was the atmosphere.

The other trainers in the Pokemon Center were quiet and subdued, waiting for their Pokemon to be healed. There was very little conversation, and he could sense a palpable tension in the room. Rumors had started to fly, from people who'd caught glimpses of a giant beast in the flames. He was worried it wouldn't be long before blame would be placed on Entei. If that Thing even was Entei. And what of the second Entei?

"Koa! Are you alright?"

Koa glanced up to see Wyatt. He brightened a bit, giving the young man a smile. "Oh hey, Wyatt. Yeah, I'm fine. Just a sprain."

Wyatt took a seat next to him, shaking his head. "I saw some of what happened. I was on my way there when the attack started. This is crazy."

Koa nodded in agreement, staring into the distance.

"Were you there? I keep hearing rumors that a Pokemon started the fire. Did you see anything?"

Koa's memories flashed back to the Thing that looked like Entei. It's cold gaze filled his thoughts. But then there had been that second one. If he hadn't hallucinated it. But how could there be two? And why was one so cruel and one so kind? He recalled seeing it bend down to Anubis -

"Koa?" Wyatt's voice broke him from his thoughts.

"Sorry, just thinking. And I don't really know what I saw. It was kinda chaotic." Which was mostly true. He didn't know what he saw. Whatever it was, it only increased his desire to grow stronger. The Thing had displayed overwhelming power, but he was sure that with training, he would be able to fight one. It might take two of his Pokemon to do it, but he was certain he could. Which meant that he needed to get back to training and beating the gyms, quick.

"So how is your egg doing?" Wyatt asked, changing the subject.

"Great!" Koa replied. He opened up his backpack, showing Wyatt the incubator. "It even shook the other day."

"That's good to hear," Wyatt replied. "It could probably hatch in the next couple weeks."

Koa nodded thoughtfully. He was really, really excited to find out what kind of Pokemon would hatch. It was ironic, he supposed, how far he'd deviated from the plan. The egg was significant, though - it was more than just another captured Pokemon. It was a reminder of Wyatt, and his Clefairy. And beating up that thief. That particular memory made him smile.

"So what are your plans after this?"

"Well, Veilstone is the next gym I'm going to challenge," he mused. He realized he hadn't thought much beyond that. "I'll probably head north to Solaceon," he said, after a moment. "I'd like to see Celestic town too. I've read about the ruins there dedicated to Palkia and Dialga. I'll go there first and after that I guess I'll challenge Veilstone gym."

Wyatt stood up. "Well, I wish you luck."

Koa nodded. He doubted he'd need luck though. Between Echo's increasing strength and the rest of his team, he didn't see the Veilstone gym being much of a problem. His fight with Fantina had proved as much.

"Mr. Averon?" A familiar voice called. "Your Houndoom is ready."

Koa stood up as Nurse Joy handed him Anubis' pokeball. "Thank you," he said with a quick nod.

"I am pleased to say he's in excellent health, no internal injuries," she said, cheerful as ever. He couldn't help but admire her positive attitude in the face of all the craziness happening. "It's a bit shocking, though. When he first came in, he was badly injured. But the injuries healed incredibly quickly. Although that could just be the residual energy from his evolution. You said he evolved during the fire, right?"

Koa nodded. He'd chosen not to say anything about Entei yet. No sense stirring up trouble.

Nurse Joy smiled. "Well, whatever the case, I can tell your Houndoom is well cared for." With a friendly wave, she turned and strode away.

Koa put the pokeball away. "Well, I better get going. There's a lot of ground to cover between here and Veilstone."

Wyatt nodded. "Be careful out there."

Koa nodded and waved farewell.

A sudden thought occurred to him and he stopped halfway to the door and turned back to Wyatt. "Hey, I have a favor to ask..."

xXx

Koa ended up spending the next couple hours stocking up on supplies. Normally a stock run wouldn't take that long, but the shops were a bit more crowded than usual, and everyone was on edge. The friendly atmosphere from his first visit was gone, to his dismay. Everyone seemed nervous and on edge, not that he blamed them. Just thinking about Entei or rather, that Thing, made him shiver.

He purchased his usual array of items - potions, antidotes and other healing items, plus a few pokeballs, just in case. Not that he really had many plans of catching more Pokemon. He knew a lot of trainers who sought to capture a lot of Pokemon, but right now he was more focused on strengthening his current team and earning his badges. Besides, his egg would likely be the sixth member of his team. Regardless, it never hurt to be prepared.

That just left the last item on his list. Poffins. The attempted pokenapping of Clefairy interrupted him last time, and Entei's arrival ruined his plans for the rest of the day, but he wasn't passing up the opportunity again, especially since he likely wouldn't be in Hearthome again for a long time. Wyatt had agreed to hold a class for him. With his errands out of the way, he headed for the Poffin House.

A few minutes later, he once again stood in the familiar single room of the Poffin House. The only difference this time was that the room was empty. He eagerly released all his Pokemon.

Wyatt brought out a large basket full of berries, a much wider variety than last time. "I figured I'd break out the good stuff. Have your Pokemon choose what they like."

Once they all had taken a moment to acclimate, Koa set out some of the berries in front of them. "Alright everyone, pick a berry you like."

As he expected, Echo selected the sweetest berries - a Pecha, and another pink one that Wyatt identified as a Magost berry. Hazard selected a spicy Tamato berry, as did Anubis, which he also expected. Fire types were known to love spicy flavors. He watched curiously as Rascal sniffed each berry, then finally settled on a strange looking bluish berry that looked more like a cluster of smaller berries.

"Your Tyrunt has good taste," Wyatt commented. "That's a Cornn berry. They are almost exclusive to Sinnoh, and until recently, were extinct."

Tyrunt smiled proudly, basking in the praise. Koa chuckled, then fixed his attention on the last member of his team who hadn't picked a berry. Scrapper. He kept eyeing the berries, then glancing towards the door. "Relax, Scrapper. Just think of this as a reward. For learning Mach Punch."

The Shroomish seemed to sigh, then investigated the berries again. After some deliberation, Scrapper chose a Rawst berry, which he recalled were renowned for their bitterness. He made a note of that on his Poketch - apparently, Scrapper liked bitter flavors. He also loved training, and seemed to have a disdain for casual activities. Of course, Koa could sympathize - he loved training almost as much as Scrapper. "Don't worry, buddy. I'll work on teaching you a new move tomorrow, ok?" That seemed to cheer him up. He rumbled happily and gave a little bounce.

"So now what?" Koa asked, facing Wyatt.

"Well, you probably still remembered the basics. We'll start with the sweet poffins..."

About an hour later, Koa surveyed his work. He was bursting with pride - 50 or so poffins were arrayed before him on the counter. There were an assortment of flavors - sweet, bitter, spicy and dry. A few were a bit overcooked or undercooked, but he thought they were good for a first try. Of course, there was still the final test - his Pokemon.

He set the poffins in front of his eager Pokemon - Echo in particular was positively drooling. But first... he took out the best looking of the spicy poffins and knelt in front of Anubis. He gazed into Anubis' red eyes. "Hey buddy. Thank you, for today. You saved my life out there."

Anubis barked happily and licked his face. Koa scratched him gently behind the horns, then held out the poffin. Anubis slurped it up and devoured them, his eyes gleaming with delight. Koa patted him again, then set out the rest of the poffins.

His team eagerly devoured their treats, and Koa watched them happily. They'd certainly earned it. "Thanks, Wyatt."

"No problem."

Once his Pokemon finished eating, he bid Wyatt a farewell and returned to the Pokemon Center. It was much quieter than earlier, with only one trainer in the lobby. Koa trekked up to his room. By the time he reached it, his exhaustion had set in hard. He realized what a long couple days it had been, ever since he'd first stayed out looking for Entei. His body hurt, his wrist ached and all he wanted was a long cool shower and a very long sleep.

After he showered, he released his Pokemon and bid them a sleepy goodnight. As he lay in bed, he cast a fond glance over his team, as well as the egg that sat on the desk. His ever eager and loyal Golbat, who had never given up on him. His fierce Joltik, who was determined to be strong his own way. Scrapper and Rascal, both fighters at heart. And Anubis. Stolen from him before they'd had a chance to meet, but reunited in the end. Everyone one of his pokemon were amazing. Koa smiled as he drifted off to sleep. Whatever it took, he would make his team the strongest.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain

Now the real fun has started! The 'plot' has kicked off. What does the appearance of the second Entei mean? And why did one attack?

Writing the Entei attack was quite a bit of fun for me, as well as having Anubis evolve. I'm a sucker for Pokemon evolving in response to defend the trainer. Love that stuff.
 
chapter 15

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 15: Don't Gabite Off More Than You Can Chew

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Wing Attack

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Stun Spore, Giga Drain


The next morning, he awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed. He briefly glanced at his Poketch. 10am. His body still ached slightly, and he had to wear the brace on his wrist for another couple days, but sleeping in had done wonders. He let out a yawn and stretched, pushing away the last traces of drowsiness. There, at the foot of his bed, Scrapper stood, his stubby arms crossed and a fierce frown on his face.

"Good morning to you too." He swung his legs off the bed and stood up. As he started his usual routine, he double-checked his bag, ensuring he had everything packed. He'd spent nearly a week in Hearthome, and he was more than ready to get back on the road again. And judging by how Scrapper was watching him, the Breloom was equally eager to get back to training. Less than a half-hour later, he left the Pokemon Center and was making his way through town. His pokeballs were arrayed on his belt, everyone safely tucked inside, though he was looking forward to releasing them once he got back on the road.

He saw a few families out and about, and a few children as well, although there was still a tension present. At least Hearthome seemed to be recovering, he reflected. As he passed near one of the entrances to Amity Square, he noted the closed sign and yellow caution tape across the entrance. His mind flashed back to Entei again. It had been so strange...

Shaking himself, he turned his eyes on the road ahead. A crowd of people gathered around an electronic store caught his attention. He paused. A news broadcast was playing on one of the display TV's.

"-an attack took place at Amity Square. According to reports, a large fire-type Pokemon is thought to be responsible for the attack. Large portions of the park were damaged in the attack. However, experts believe that the park will be reopened by the end of the month. The greatest question still remains - what really caused the attack? Initial reports suggest a rogue Arcanine may be responsible for the attacks. Investigators are currently looking into the situation, and we will continue to deliver the latest updates. This is Holly Holloway with Sinnoh News -"

Koa continued on, tuning out the reporter's closing remarks. Well, that was a relief. He guessed he'd been the only person to catch a clear glimpse of Entei at the park then. Or rather, the Thing that Looked like Entei. He was still mulling over the appearance of two Entei's. Did the beasts somehow have evil twins? Or was one a fake? And if it was a fake, how was it so powerful? Or there really could be multiple.

Soon, he approached the East Gate of Hearthome. After checking in with the guard, he continued through and onto Route 209. Once past the gates, he took a deep breath, inhaling the familiar scent of wilderness - earthy scents mingling with fresh greenery. The soft sounds of rustling grass tickled his ears and in the distance, Pidgey and Starly chased each other through the skies. The odd Taillow soared overhead, easily identifiable by their unique tails.

Koa sighed happily, then released Echo from his pokeball. The Golbat greeted him with his customary shriek before taking to the skies. He watched him flutter about for a few seconds, then set his attention on the road ahead. The first part of Route 209 angled east through a field, then ended in a few bridges spanning some streams. Given that the first section wasn't very long, he was sure he could make it through by the time night fell. According to his map, there was also a fairly well-known honey tree just as Route 209 shifted north, and he figured it was the perfect spot to make camp.

For the next couple hours, he traveled in amiable silence, alone save for his Pokemon. Eventually, he spied the first of the bridges that spanned the small streams on the southernmost section of Route 209. A few trees hung over the bank of the stream. It would be the perfect spot for lunch, he decided. And after lunch, training.

xXx​

"Alright everyone, time to train."

He was met with varying cries of eagerness, though Scrapper's shout was by far the loudest. He'd already done his usual exercises with his team - a warm-up, then some simple tasks, like trading attacks and honing their dodging. Now he wanted to move on to something else - move training.

He hadn't been able to accomplish everything he wanted during his last training session before he battled Fantina. Rounding out Scrappers moveset was first on his to-do list. Sky Uppercut would be an excellent addition, although anything after that would probably require a TM. He'd checked out the rest of Breloom's moves it could naturally learn, and nothing else really appealed to him. Anubis also couldn't learn much, given that Dark Pulse would require a TM. That just left Echo - he'd given it a great deal of thought, and he decided against teaching him Acrobatics. Instead, he hoped to turn Wing Attack into Air Slash. Between Crunch and Poison Fang, Echo already had good short-range attacks. Air Slash would give him a much needed long-range attack. At least, that was his plan for now. Once he reached Veilstone and bought some TM's, he wanted to switch up Echo's moveset again.

"Scrapper, you're up first." Koa took out his Pokedex and scanned quickly through the information on Sky Uppercut. Unlike other striking moves like Mach Punch, it wasn't just about throwing an uppercut. The user had to let energy suffuse their whole body, while still focusing energy into their fist. Then they had to use that power to leap upwards, even higher than they normally could, and deliver the punch. Of course, that was how the move could be used against flying types. Against a grounded foe, it would be a little simpler - Scrapper had to focus everything into his fist basically punch up through his opponent. Complex, but not terribly hard for a fighting type, especially after his past training with Kitto. The trainer and his Hitmonchan had really done wonders with Scrapper.

"So I think you can throw a punch well enough. We'll start by working on your jumping." He intended to set aside Stun Spore - useful as it had been, he wanted to capitalize on Scrapper's attacking. Besides, his Effect Spore ability would still give him an edge.

Scrapper's face grew serious, and he nodded. Koa glanced towards a tree not far off the path. A low branch jutting from the trunk made for the perfect training tool. With Scrapper at his side, he walked over to the tree. The branch reached a solid three feet above his head. "Let's start by working on your jump, okay buddy?"

With another grim nod, Scrapper squatted down and lunged upwards, Koa doing the same. Scrapper, of course, easily cleared the low branch and soared several feet higher than it. To his chagrin, Koa couldn't even graze his own target.

"Well, I guess you're better at this than me, huh?" Koa grumbled jokingly. After selecting a much higher target for Scrapper to practice on, he resumed the exercise.

For the next several minutes, he continued until he could barely stand. Scrapper continued well after Koa was forced to take a break. Eventually, the Breloom flopped onto the ground beside him, panting. The results were evident, however. Koa had finally succeeded in being able to just graze the lowest branch, while Scrapper could leap high enough to nearly clear the tree - a height of at least twenty feet.

"Alright, buddy, last step," Koa said wearily. "Just channel energy into your fist and swing upwards."

Scrapper turned to stare up at the highest point of the tree. Crying out defiantly he charged forwards then leaped upwards, his fist glowing light blue. He practically flew through the air smashing the highest branch of the tree and shattering it easily. A smirk spread across Koa's face as Scrapper landed and grinned. The move would be a nasty surprise for any airborne foes. With the airborne part of it mastered, using it on a grounded foe would be simple.

Koa glanced down at his Poketch and sighed. Training had taken longer than he expected. Air Slash would have to wait until tonight. He wanted to reach the honey tree soon, and nightfall would be here before long.

Returning his Pokemon, save for Echo, who seemed content to ride on his shoulders, and Hazard, who as usual had made himself a little nest in his hair, he continued onwards.

He hadn't been walking for long when a shadow passed over him and he glanced up. A massive Staraptor soared overhead. Koa's eyes widened and he briefly. Staraptor were somewhat uncommon in the wild. A closer look revealed a rider perched on its back. The Staraptor circled him once, then glided into a smooth landing a few feet away.

"Hello!" The rider called.

Koa instantly recognized the rider and Staraptor. "Hey Avis," he called.

She swung off Staraptors back and returned it before facing him. "Koa! What's up? Did you hear about that crazy attack at Amity Square?"

Koa shuddered at the memory, flashes of fire and shadows of a massive beast filling his mind. "I was there," he muttered.

"Oh," Avis said. "So was it really Entei, like the rumors say?" She asked, matter-of-factly.

Koa shrugged. "I don't think so." He decided against mentioning the two Entei's. He wanted to look into it more first. "And I thought they were blaming it on a rogue Arcanine. Where did you hear about an Entei?"

"I'm an investigator, remember? The Arcanine story is what the news is saying. But Entei was sighted in the area the day before, right? So, giant fire, giant fire type pokemon. It's not a huge stretch."

"You've got a point," Koa admitted. He averted his eyes, reluctant to say any more. But if she had figured that out, no doubt others might soon make the connection. Then again, it couldn't be helped, he supposed.

"Hmm..." Avis tapped her chin, staring at him briefly before shrugging. "Well, there's not much that anyone can do right now. So where are you headed?"

"Solaceon, then Celestic. And after that, Veilstone for my next badge."

"Mind if I tag along a bit? I'm planning on heading over to Veilstone as well."

Koa shrugged. "Sure." Some company would be fine, he supposed, considering Avis was decent company.

"Great!" Avis said. With a grin, she started down the path. Koa followed her, and they walked in amiable silence. Before long, they had crossed the final bridge and onto the northern section of 209. He'd hardly stepped off the bridge before Echo launched off his shoulder with an ecstatic shriek. He flew into the dusk, disappearing in the direction of a grove of trees.

Avis watched him fly off, then cocked her head. "What's up with your Golbat?"

Koa chuckled and shook his head. "He's kinda obsessed with honey. There's a honey tree nearby where I was planning on making camp, so knowing him he's there already. And knowing him, I'm sure it'll be impossible to drag him off of it."

Avis snorted. "You sure have a weird Golbat."

Koa simply rolled his eyes. Despite her directness, he knew by now she didn't mean it with any cruelty. Besides, she was right. His Golbat was weird.

A few minutes later, they had reached the small grove of trees, with the honey tree in the center. As he suspected, Echo was already clinging to the tree, his jaws wrapped around the trunk as he licked up some honey. After a moment, he flopped onto the ground, looking quite sad.

"Not much honey, huh?" he asked. Echo made a noise like a whine, his wings drooping. He was actually pouting. "I'll buy you some in Solaceon, ok?" Or two he thought. No reason not to keep a few extra jars around for his first friend. He patted Echo sympathetically, then began to set up camp.

In a few minutes, he had everything set up - tent, sleeping bag, and the incubator with the egg sitting beside his bag. Avis had a tent of her own, and a rather nice one at that. It was big, almost unnecessarily so. He privately wondered if it was a girl thing. Kitto's tent was quite small in comparison. Perhaps it was just Avis though. He settled for a simple meal of a sandwich he'd bought, while Avis built a small fire and began cooking. She offered him some, but he turned it down. There would be plenty of time on the much longer north-south stretch of 209 to cook a nice meal. Right now, he had only one thing on his mind. Training.

As she continued cooking, he released the rest of his team to eat and stretch their legs. After Echo had (as usual), devoured his in only a few bites, he nodded to the Golbat. "Okay Echo, it's time to work on you."

Echo squeaked curiously and hopped over to stand at Koa's feet. "We're going to learn Air Slash tonight." At the mention of the rather advanced flying-type technique, he shrieked eagerly and hopped up and down. Koa silently wished he possessed Echo's enthusiasm. It wasn't that he wasn't excited to train, but until now, Echo's moves primarily relied on physical prowess. He didn't know much about how to really help him learn a special attack. Confuse Ray hardly counted either, given that it was more of a status move than attack. Well, when in doubt, research.

He flipped open his Pokedex and opened a page on Air Slash. In theory, the attack was simple. It involved gathering up flying type energy in the user's wings. The user would then flap its wings and direct the energy towards its target. What really intrigued him was that apparently, with sufficient mastery of the attack, the user could actually shape the energy into different forms.

"What move are you trying to teach him?"

Koa jumped in surprise at the sound of Avis's voice coming from behind him. Composing himself, he said, "Air Slash. I really want him to have a good distance attack."

"Want help?" she offered.

He looked at her quizzically, then remembered - her Noctowl had used the technique in the tag battle they'd had some weeks ago. "That would be sick!" he said. A Pokemon tutoring another Pokemon was almost always the fastest method for learning an attack. There were a few exceptions, of course, but overall, it could shorten the training period from days or hours to maybe an hour or two.

"Alright Noctowl, come on out!" Avis tossed out a pokeball, releasing Noctowl. It hooted in greeting, and Avis patted it on the head. It cooed appreciatively before turning its sharp gaze on Echo.

"Noctowl, this is Echo. Think you can teach him how to use Air Slash?" Noctowl stared unblinkingly at the Golbat, clearly sizing him up. It hooted and gestured with one wing at Echo, then looked at Avis. Her eyes widened slightly. "Are you sure?" Noctowl hotted again and nodded sagely, before turning its burning gaze back on Echo, who glared back with equal ferocity.

"What's he saying?" He paused, giving Avis a questioning look.

"He says he wants to battle Echo first."

Koa sized up Noctowl thoughtfully. The Noctowl had shown excellent prowess during the tag battle against the rangers. But Koa felt confident. He'd trained a lot since then, and Echo was much, much stronger. "We accept."

Echo shrieked and rose into the air, glaring down at Noctowl, who regarded him coolly. With a flap of its wings, Noctowl rose into the air. Avis grinned excitedly as she got into position. "You ready?" she called.

Koa jogged backward a few feet. "Ready to win!" he retorted. Echo shrieked in agreement. Noctowl remained silent, his red gaze unreadable.

"Your move," Avis taunted.

Koa stared evenly back at her, evaluating her and Noctowl. "Echo, Wing Attack."

At nearly the same time, Avis gave her command. "Peck."

Echo darted through the air, both wings alight with energy. Noctowl's beak took on a white glow, lengthening slightly, then he launched himself through the air towards his opponent.

Echo tried to twist in the air and dodge, but in an impressive aerial display, Noctowl turned midair and pecked Echo hard. He tumbled through the air a few feet but quickly caught himself.

"Confuse Ray," Koa called. Echo blasted out the golden orbs, striking Noctowl easily - at this range, it was virtually impossible to dodge.

Noctowl let out a hoot of distress and hovered in the air, in a daze. Avis grimaced.

"Hang in there, Noctowl. Echoed Voice!"

To Koa's surprise, Noctowl managed to fight through the confusion, open his beak, and let out an agonizingly loud call. The soundwaves blasted over Echo, pushing him backward. Koa winced. Even from here, the noise was almost deafeningly loud. "Wing Attack!" he shouted.

Echo gave the barest nod of acknowledgment, then dipped downwards, just outside the cones of sound, and flew upwards towards Noctowl, wings glowing.

"Air Slash!" Avis called. Noctowl shut his beak and his wings began to glow. Then, without warning, he began striking himself repeatedly with his own wings. Koa grinned. There was something extremely satisfying about seeing confusion do its work. A moment later, Echo was upon Noctowl, battering him with Wing Attack.

"Knock it away with Extrasensory." There was a brief delay as Noctowl struggled to fight away another bout of confusion. Then his eyes glowed bright blue. A wave of energy materialized and slammed Echo backward.

Koa scowled and mentally reprimanded himself. If only he'd used Poison Fang instead. He'd underestimated Noctowl's strength - he was nothing like some of the weaker Pokemon Echo had faced. Those had gone down after a few self-inflicted injuries. He'd have to think smarter than that from now on if he wanted to win against stronger foes. But if he hurried, there was still time to correct his error.

In an instant, he called his attack. "Poison Fang!"

Echo flew forwards, his fangs already glowing a deadly purple.

"Dodge!" Avis called, her voice going up a notch in worry. At the last second, Noctowl managed to dodge. Echo shot past, twisted around, and sank his fangs into Noctowl's wing. Noctowl hooted in pain and flapped about erratically, desperately trying to shake off his opponent.

"Extrasensory!" Regaining his composure, Noctowl blasted Echo off his wing with a wave of psychic energy. Echo was thrown to the ground but managed to land. He glared up at Noctowl, who appeared to have been jolted out of his confused state, but had been badly poisoned. Echo panted slightly, and Koa could tell he was wearing out. Noctowl was a tough foe.

Koa couldn't help but grin anyway. At least now the battle had a timer.

"Air Slash," Avis called. Noctowl rose into the air, his wings glowing light blue, then swept his wings downwards, sending dual blades of wind shooting at Echo.

"Dodge!" Koa shouted quickly. Echo lunged sideways, narrowly dodged the attack. The energy crashed into the ground, kicking up dust.

"Up in the air, Echo!" From his spot still on the ground, Echo was vulnerable and Avis knew it. Echo began to flutter up into the air, only for Noctowl to hurl another Air Slash at him.

Echo twisted sideways, the second attack passing by him an inch away.

Noctowl shreed angrily then flinched, as the poison took its toll.

"Wing Attack." Koa was confident one more strike could end the battle. Echo lunged through the air.

"Echoed Voice, keep it away." Noctowl flinched briefly, struggling to muster up the strength. He was clearly on his last leg. He opened his beak and let out a powerful blast of sound at Echo.

Echo flew into it head-on, wings glowing and eyes narrowed defiantly.

Koa grimaced, a flutter of nervousness growing in him. It was down to a battle of wills and strength.

Echo pressed forward, making steady headway, despite taking a beating.

Then Noctowl's cry was cut short. He went limp in the air and plummeted straight to the ground. He crashed into the soft earth, kicking up dirt and grass. Echo let out a triumphant shriek before falling to the ground, panting with exertion. Koa took a quick look at Noctowl. He was definitely down for the count. The toxic poison had done him in. Grinning, Koa raced across the field, dropping to his knees beside Echo, who gave him a weary but happy shree. "That was incredible! And now you get to learn Air Slash."

He glanced up to see Avis return Noctowl, looking annoyed. "That was impressive," she said finally, crossing the battlefield to him. "I can't say I'm happy about losing, but it was a good fight all the same. Your Golbat is very strong."

Koa nodded. "Thanks. So Noctowl will teach him Air Slash?"

"Yes. Just give me a moment to give him some berries, and then we'll start training."

A few minutes later, after both Noctowl and Golbat had recovered thanks to some handy Super Potions and berries, they stood in a clearing some distance away from their camp. Finally, it was time for training.

Noctowl fluttered into the air and hooted something to Echo, who then took flight. Noctowl raised his wings and they began to glow light blue. He glanced over at Echo, who was keenly observing everything and gave him a nod. Wind began to swirl around Noctowl, coalescing in front of his wings. With a mighty flap, he shot a blade of glowing energy across the clearing and into a boulder, easily cracking it. He landed and hooted encouragingly to Echo.

Echo narrowed his eyes and turned his gaze upon the same boulder. His wings began to glow with the white light of Wing Attack. With a shriek, he flapped his wings. Nothing happened, save for the faintest gust of wind, no more than he usually generated from flapping his wings. Echo scowled. He flapped his wings again, resulting in much the same effect.

Noctowl gave a cry of annoyance, then demonstrated the move again. Once more, Echo attempted to replicate it, with no success. Koa frowned. This was looking like it would be harder than he thought. With a sigh, he sat down to watch.

Thanks to Noctowl's guidance, it didn't take long for Echo to change his Wing Attack into blades of flying-type energy. Unfortunately, he had yet to make it past that - he could form up the blades of wind, but when he attempted to launch them, they would either disperse instantly or fade after just a few feet. After that, Echo's progress slowed significantly. Noctowl eventually took a spot on the sidelines, watching with his unblinking eyes.

"Alright Echo, thats good for now," he called. Echo seemed to only be growing more frustrated from his failures, not learning from them. Echo landed for the first time in the past few hours, and sank to the ground exhausted. He gave a soft shriek, his eyes downcast. Koa knelt next to him, gently scratching his head. "We'll get it soon. Take a rest for a bit, and we'll try tomorrow."

Echo made a grumbling noise but reluctantly nodded.

Koa returned to camp, retrieving a few berries from his bag for Echo. For the first time since he'd know him, Echo didn't devour the Pecha and Oran berries on sight. He simply chewed them glumly.

"Sorry. I wish I knew why your Golbat was having so much trouble. I guess it just takes some Pokemon more time," Avis said, sitting in front of her own tent.

Koa nodded but remained silent, his eyes fixed on Echo.

"Well, I'll be turning in for the night, I suppose. Good luck with training though. I'm sure he'll get it soon."

He watched her disappear into her tent, then turned his gaze back to Echo. The Golbat had fluttered up to a low hanging tree branch on the honey tree, and hung upside down, his wings wrapped around his body. His eyes just barely peeked out from over his wings.

Well, he might as well turn in for now. It was late, and he still had a lot of ground to cover before Solaceon. "Goodnight, Echo," he said quietly. Taking one last look at his friend, he retreated inside his tent.

xXx

At some point in the night, he found himself awake, staring up at the roof of his tent. He yawned, then glanced at his Poketch - 1am. He blinked and frowned. What had woken him? From somewhere outside he heard a faint whooshing noise. The noise faded for a few seconds, then returned. Perplexed, Koa climbed out of his sleeping bag and stepped outside his tent.

Outside, all appeared quiet, save for the usual nighttime noises - Kricketot mostly. The whooshing noise came again, and Koa glanced towards it. A good distance away, Echo hovered in the air, an intense look of concentration on his face. As Koa watched, Echo's wings glowed and he once again began to summon the familiar blades of energy. He flapped his wings, but the energy simply dispersed in a harmless gust of wind. So that was the noise he'd heard.

"Hey Echo," he called out softly. The Golbat fluttered down to land in front of him and made a despairing shree. "Have you been out here all night?" Koa asked worriedly. He gazed down at Echo. After a moment, Echo nodded his head.

Koa frowned. He guessed Echo was more upset than he realized. "You really want to master this move, huh?"

Echo nodded again.

A sudden rush of determination filled Koa. "In that case, we're gonna master the move tonight!" he shouted. He quickly covered his mouth and glanced over at Avis' tent. Fortunately, it seemed she had not woken.

Echo made a quiet shree of delight, hopping from one foot to the other.

Koa grinned at him. "Okay, let me see you do it again."

Echo nodded and sprang into the air. Once more his wings glowed. Air swirled around his body. Then he flapped his wings forward. A powerful gust of wind flew a few feet before fading into nothing.

"Hmm..." Koa stared at the move thoughtfully. There had to be more, some reason why Echo couldn't get the move right. Something Noctowl did unconsciously that he hadn't been able to tell Echo about. "Again," he said firmly. As Echo performed the technique, he watched it, trying to compare it to his hazy recollection of seeing Noctowl use the tactic. For the next almost half an hour, Echo performed the technique and Koa scrutinized it. And then it struck him.

"I've got it!" he whispered, loud as he could get without waking anyone. A wild grin spread across his face. "Echo, don't just flap your wings. Try thinking of it like gathering energy in your wings, then throwing them!" It was so simple, he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it sooner, though he supposed Echo was unused to manifesting the kind of energy a special attack required.

Echo's eyes widened in understanding. For what Koa hoped was the final time, he rose into the air, his wings glowing with the usual energy. This time, however, he paused briefly, winds gathering around him, then threw his wings forwards. This time, blades of energy flew from his wings, arcing erratically through the air several yards before smashing into the branch of a nearby tree, rattling the leaves.

Koa threw his fist in the air and shouted a very soft, "yeah!".

Echo emitted a series of happy squeaks, fluttering and looping through the air in a victory dance, then dropped down on Koa's shoulders, excitedly wrapping his wings around his trainers head and body.

His squeaks sounded right next to Koa's ear, almost deafeningly, but he didn't care. The move had been sloppy, but Echo had done it. He'd performed Air Slash!

xXx

When his Poketch alarm went off the next morning - or rather, later that same morning - he almost smashed it in annoyance. It had been well past 3am by the time he'd turned in for the night. Yet he'd never been happier to stay up so late. Echo had successfully mastered Air Slash. It wasn't quite perfect, and he was far from wielding the kind of control an expert would, but the attack was solid, and he could aim it excellently.

With a groan, he shut off the alarm and sat up. According to his watch, it was 8am. Not bad, he supposed. He awoke to find Avis waking as well, looking enviably well-rested. She waved to him, then set about breaking down her part of the camp. He grinned to himself as he began breaking down his tent and putting his things away. Echo hung upside down from a branch of the honey tree, fast asleep. Koa quietly took out his black and gold ball and returned him. He had more than earned a long rest in the comfort of his pokeball.

Avis strode up to once her camp had been broken down. "So, did you want to practice more before we head out?"

Koa grinned at her. "Echo and I mastered it last night," he declared proudly.

"Whoa! That's great," Avis said. She slung her backpack over her shoulders. "In that case, are you ready to head out?"

Koa nodded, then set out for the main path. Avis followed him. As he walked contemplated using his bike - it would cut the almost week-long trip to Solaceon down by at least a couple days. In fact, he was sure if he used his bike he could be in Solaceon in two days, tops. Of course, that left less time for training and letting his team out for exercise. Or perhaps he could try both. His Pokemon were all strong and fit. They could handle being outside their pokeballs while he biked. If they wanted to, of course.

They hadn't been traveling for long when a familiar voice sounded somewhere to Koa's left. "Gabite, Dragon Rush!"

He stopped and glanced towards the call. A rather familiar caped figure stood in the midst of a field, commanding a Gabite. As he watched, the Gabite began to charge up an aura of blue light around its body. It lunged across the field, though before it had gone far, the blue light shattered and vanished, leaving behind what looked like nothing more than a Tackle attack.

"I'll be right back," Koa said. He turned and ran across the field towards the boy. "Cade!" he called.

Cade paused and turned, then gave a quick wave. He turned back towards Gabite. "Dragon Rush, one more time." Gabite grunted and nodded. The blue aura began to surround its body. It started to charge, but Cade held up his hand. "Wait. Concentrate," he said firmly.

Koa picked a spot a few feet behind Cade, well out of the way, and watched curiously.

Gabite growled, but nodded, remaining still. The blue aura became more distinct, almost appearing like a dragon itself.

"Now!" Cade cried.

In a blur of speed, it shot across the field at a large boulder. This time, the aura remained intact as it charged. A moment later, it crashed into the boulder, shattering it into a hundred tiny pebbles and sending up an explosion of dirt. Koa's eyes widened. "Sick," he murmured. Dragon Rush was a very powerful dragon-type move, and difficult to master. It was a testament to Cade's skill with Dragon-types.

Gabite cheered loudly, then trotted back to Cade. Cade scratched affectionately under its chin. "Excellent work, my friend." He stood up and faced Koa.

"Hello, Koamaru. It is good to see you again. How is your Tyrunt?"

Koa grinned. "She's great! We've really bonded, thanks to your suggestion." He fondly remembered the night he'd spent on the mountaintop with her.

Cade returned the smile. "That is good to hear. And how goes your pursuit of badges?"

Koa took his badge case out of his pocket. "Four so far. I'm on my way to Veilstone for my fifth." He glanced at the Gabite. "Did you evolve Gible?"

Cade nodded. "Indeed. Just a few days ago, actually. I would have evolved her sooner, but I desired her to master the basics of Dragon Rush first."

"Sick! Hey, how about you battle Rascal - my Tyrunt - again? I'm sure she'd love a rematch after last time."

"How about it, Gabite?" Cade asked, glancing at his Pokemon. Gabite growled eagerly, its eyes flashing. Cade chuckled softly. "I believe my Gabite agrees. Let us battle."

The words had hardly left Cade's mouth before Koa tossed out Rascal's pokeball. She emerged with a loud roar, then glared across the field at her opponent. Unlike last time, when she'd been slightly taller than Gible, she now had to look up slightly to meet his gaze. For several seconds, the two glared at each other, locked in a contest of wills. Koa picked a spot a good distance away. Rascal snorted and glared one final time at Gible, then stalked across the field to stand in front of Koa.

"One on one?" Cade called.

"Sounds good. And, just to make things more interesting, how about a little bet?"

Cade cocked his head curiously. Koa continued. "10,000poke to the winner." It was a generous sum, and Koa was sure he would feel it if he lost, but he was also sure he wouldn't lose.

Cade gave a small nod in acceptance. "That is acceptable. Shall I have the first move? Or would you care for the honors?"

"Be my guest," Koa said, gesturing grandly.

"Gabite, Slash." The claws on Gabite's forearms glowed white and lengthened twice their size. With a snarl, it charged across the field towards Rascal.

"Show them your jaw strength! Counter with Crunch!" Rascal grinned, her jaws shimmering with dark energy. A moment later, Gabite slashed towards Rascal's head. She twisted to the side, then sank her jaws into Gabite. Gabite roared angrily, then brought its other claw down on Tyrunt's head.

Koa winced as the blow knocked Rascal off, though not without leaving Gabite looking bruised.

"Dig!" Cade snapped. Faster than Koa could blink, Gabite dove into the ground.

"Jump!" Koa shouted. Tyrunt leaped into the air just as Gabite erupted from beneath her.

Cade didn't hesitate. "Dragon Rush!"

"Dragon Tail!" Koa snapped.

Gabite's body glowed and a blue aura wreathed its body. A shimmering green glow enveloped Tyrunt's tail. As Gabite shot upwards towards Rascal, she spun midair and angled her tail straight at her approaching opponent.

Both dragon-type moves collided, sending waves of energy crackling outwards. For a tense few seconds, both Pokemon hung in the air, locked in a battle of wills. Then gravity reared its head. Energy exploded from the two Pokemon, and Gabite was sent crashing to the ground, while Rascal was launched into the air before arcing to the ground. At the last moment, she caught herself, cratering the ground slightly as she landed on her feet. Koa glanced towards Gabite, who'd managed to stick the landing, though it had briefly dropped to one knee. It stood up and growled, a gesture that Rascal returned.

"Impressive indeed," Cade called. "Now, Dual Chop." A green glow enveloped Gabite's arms. Koa recognized it as a dragon-type technique. Definitely not something he wanted Rascal to get hit by.

"Ancient Power!" A silver sphere materialized in front of Rascal's jaws and she fired it at Gabite.

"Charge in!" Koa called. She raced after the boulder. Gabite raised its claws in an 'x' shape and charged straight through Ancient Power. The boulder shattered, revealing Tyrunt a half foot behind it.

"Dragon Tail!"

Gabite's arm smashed into Rascal's snout, making her stagger. She recovered quickly and stepped forward, then spun and swung her tail around, clipping Gabite and sending him sliding backwards.

"Quick, Crunch!" She lunged across the field and leaped upwards, sinking her teeth into Gabite's head.

"Get it off with Dragon Rush!"

Koa eyes widened. The blue aura expanded from Gabite's form, sending Rascal flying. She hit the ground hard and slid a few feet. "Rascal?" he called. Slowly, she stood up, a defiant gleam in her eyes. Gabite glared back at her, its chest heaving with exhaustion, tired though not defeated. Koa glanced at Rascal. Dirt covered her hide along with a few faint scrapes - she was nearing the end of her strength. One more hit could end the fight. Maybe...

"Ancient Power," he called. A low growl built up in Rascal's throat and she gathered her energy and formed a large silver sphere. With a roar, she shot it across the battlefield.

"Dodge with Dig," Cade said.

Perfect. "Jump up!"

Rascal leaped into the air again. However, instead of emerging from directly underneath Rascal, Gabite emerged from behind. Cade's voice echoed calmly across the battlefield."Slash."

For the first time Koa could recall, he blanked. The split second of hesitation cost him.

Gabite brought down its glowing claw on top of Rascal's head, sending her hurtling to the ground. She smashed into the floor, cratering it and kicking up dust, dirt, and grass. But the debris wasn't enough to block him from the truth - Rascal had lost. She lay, splayed out in the dirt, eyes shut and body limp. Gabite landed neatly next to her and roared in triumph.

A strange, gnawing feeling bubbled in the pit of Koa's stomach as he returned Rascal. Unconsciously, he gripped her pokeball tighter. He'd been so sure he could win this time. He'd come so far with her, since the first time he'd fought Cade. And that battle had hardly been a real fight. It had simply been training. He tucked the fossil ball back onto his belt and sighed. Perhaps if he hadn't assumed how Gabite would use Dig...He pushed the thoughts away. With a heavy heart, he looked up at Cade, who was praising his Gabite, scratching under her chin and murmuring to her.

"Good job," he said, striding over to him. As much as it frustrated him to say, it was true too. Cade had fought excellently, and his Gabite was strong.

"You performed excellently as well," Cade said, smiling genuinely. "I am glad to see the progress you made with Tyrunt."

Koa bit back his brewing anger. Cade had been nothing but helpful and didn't deserve any anger. It would be unfair to him. "Thanks." His gaze hardened slightly. "We'll beat you next time though," he said, his voice bristling with determination.

Cade smiled and nodded. "We shall see. No strength is absolute, I always say. You may beat me, but I may beat you again. So what are your plans from here?"

"After I pass through Solaceon, I want to head over to Celestic Town first, then Veilstone," Koa replied.

"Ah, an excellent choice. I am sure you will find the ruins there fascinating. If you are up for the challenge, you might also consider visiting Grandma Wilma."

"Who?"

Cade chuckled before continuing. "She is not anyone's actual Grandma, however, she is an elder highly experienced in Dragon-type Pokemon. She is also one of the few people in Sinnoh who could teach your Tyrunt Draco Meteor."

Koa's eyes widened. Draco Meteor was often heralded as the strongest of all Dragon-type moves, but as nearly impossible to learn. It required the aid of an experienced tutor since no Pokemon could learn it naturally or even through TM. It had to be taught or passed down through genetics. "Where can I find her?" he asked eagerly.

"All I can say is she lives at the very northernmost point of Route 210. Though you'll only find her if you truly seek her. She will not tutor those who are faint of heart."

Nodding slowly, Koa pondered the thought. He wasn't sure if he really wanted Rascal to learn Draco Meteor. As ridiculously powerful as the move was, it still had its drawbacks - it severely drained the special attack power of the Pokemon who used it. Either way though, he would try to pay her a visit. He was sure she knew more about Dragons than anyone else. If anything, she could help with training. "Thanks! I'll keep an eye out." Koa sighed inwardly as he remembered the terms of their battle. "I owe you some money now, huh?"

Cade nodded. "Indeed." He wore a wry grin and seemed quite excited at the prospect of the sum of money he would receive.

Koa pulled up an app on his Poketch and typed in the Cade's trainer information. With a few taps, the deed was done, and the money transferred to Cade's trainer account. As he checked his new balance - a paltry 7000poke and change, he grimaced inwardly. It would take some time to earn back the money he'd lost. Oh well.

"Much appreciated, Koamaru. I must be on my way now. Perhaps we may cross paths again."

Koa murmured in agreement, though his thoughts were still on the battle and his loss.

Cade returned Gabite and gave him a wave of farewell before striding away. Koa watched him go, then turned his attention to Rascal's pokeball. There was something he had to do before he got back on the road with Avis.

He tapped the button, releasing her in a flash of light. When she emerged, she immediately roared. Her eyes narrowed in anger and she roared again.

"Rascal-" he began. She snarled at him, her eyes brimming with anger, then charged away, tearing up chunks of earth as she ran about. She snatched up a large rock and crunched it between her jaws, shattering it as easy as cracking an egg. She roared again and stomped about some more, pausing only to bite through more rocks.

She was actually throwing a tantrum. Koa would have laughed if not for the fact that he sympathized with her anger. He gave her another minute of stomping about, then called her over.

"Rascal," he said, keeping his voice firm yet kind. She stopped storming around and turned to look at him, her eyes still sparking with frustration.

"Come here," he said, holding out his hand. Some of her anger seemed to deflate and she walked over to him, head hanging low. She made an apologetic rumble but stopped short of touching him. She stared sullenly at the ground, kicking it absentmindedly with one clawed foot. Koa's eyes widened at her demeanor. Was Rascal... ashamed?

Leaning forward, he rubbed her head and she pulled away slightly at his touch. Koa frowned. That confirmed it. "Rascal, I'm not upset with you," he said calmly. She continued to stare at the ground. "I'm proud of you," he continued. "You were sick! That Gabite was really strong, and you got so close to beating it! I don't know if anyone else could have done so as well as you did." Rascal looked up at him. "And we're only going to get stronger from here! We'll train, and I'll help teach you a new move, and next time, we will beat him. Got it?"

Rascal stared at him for a few seconds, then gave a silent nod. A grin returned to her maw and Koa grinned back at her. He rubbed her scaly head and scratched under her jaw as he gazed into her eyes. A silent vowed formed in his thoughts. I won't let you down.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain

Well, chapter 15 is done! I hope everyone enjoyed the battle's against Avis and Cade. It seems Rascal has found a rival in Cade's Gabite. Will she be able to beat him next time?

And there still lingers the question - what was the Entei that Koa saw?
 
chapter 16

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 16: Enter the Unown

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Bite, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain


"Ice Fang," Koa commanded.

Rascal, who stood a short distance ahead of him, roared. Koa snorted in amusement. He was beginning to get the feeling that Rascal really liked the sound of her own voice. Her jaws began to glisten with energy. Unfortunately, the energy almost immediately turned a shadowy color. She snapped her jaws experimentally a few times, then snorted and allowed the energy to disperse.

Koa frowned. He really, really wanted her to learn Ice Fang. An ice-type move would give her a huge edge against dragon-type opponents, and against Cade's Gabite. It was a long shot, he knew. He wasn't even sure the Tyrunt line could naturally learn the move. But he still wanted to try, so for the better part of an hour, he'd been trying to help Tyrunt learn the technique. Unfortunately, she'd only succeeded in using Crunch. She growled and stopped her foot, then snorted in irritation. She wasn't taking her lack of success very well.

"That's enough for now, Rascal," Koa called. "I want to get some more traveling in."

Rascal nodded, though he noted she looked distinctly annoyed. She still wasn't happy about failing at Ice Fang.

"No luck, huh?" Avis asked. She sat a few feet away, resting under the shade of a tree and watching him train.

"Nothing," Koa grumbled, shaking his head.

Avis drummed her fingers on her thigh and frowned. "Maybe you could ask Professor Rowan? If there's a way to do it, he would probably know."

Koa almost smacked himself for not thinking of that. "Good idea. I'll have to give him a call."

In silent agreement, they began packing up their things to leave. They still had a lot of ground to cover. A few minutes passed as they walked in silence.

"So," Avis began. "What's next for you, after Veilstone? You still have to beat the gyms at Canalave, Snowpoint, and Sunnyshore next, right?"

"Yeah. I think I'll head to Snowpoint."

"Really? But that's the farthest away. Sunnyshore is only a week's hike or so, by bike."

"Yeah, but there's something in Snowpoint I've always wanted to see."

"Oh?"

"It's called the Festival of Legends! It's a special festival they hold every year to honor legendary pokemon. And every year they pick a different legendary to focus on. I went a couple years ago with Blake, when they focused on the Lake Trio. This year they're doing it on Entei, Raikou, and Suicune."

"That's pretty cool, I guess," Avis replied.

"You guess?" Koa asked, stupefied. He shook his head. "Legendaries are literally the coolest thing ever. I mean, pokemon that control time and space? How is that not awesome?"

"It is awesome. But I mean, what do they have to do with me? I'm trying to join the police. Unless of course, Arceus is gonna come down and tell them they should let me join," she added.

He grinned "Maybe he would if you could beat him in battle."

"Hah!" Avis waved her hand. "No thanks. I'll leave the 'god-killing' to you."

Koa simply smiled and shook his head. It was hard to imagine not wanting to battle a legendary. It had been all he'd thought about for years. But everyone had their own dreams, he supposed. And he would accomplish them.

xXx

The next couple of days flew by. Traveling with Avis proved to be enjoyable since she seemed equally prone to enjoying the silence as much as having a conversation. He'd been able to use his bike for a good portion of it, and Avis had used her own bike as well. He'd even had the chance to battle a few trainers on the route, though they had been defeated fairly easily. On the way, he'd contacted Rowan and asked him about Ice Fang. The Professor had been interested in his question, and promised to ask some of his fellow researchers and have a proper answer by the time they reached Solaceon Town. Which, by his estimate, they were roughly a day and a half away from.

Up ahead, he caught sight of a large, smooth gray tower that rose at least four stories into the air. He instantly recognized it from one of the books he'd read - Lost Tower. The tower was infamous for the many ghost types that liked to congregate there - Litwick, Duskull, Gastly, and even Misdreavus, as well as a few others Koa couldn't think of off the top of his head. The tower also served as a memorial for Pokemon who had passed on.

"Hey, do you mind if we visit Lost Tower?" Avis asked. "I'd love to catch a ghost-type."

"Sure," Koa replied. Truthfully, he'd been considering visiting it himself. Maybe he could catch a Ghost-type to help at the gym in Veilstone. Although there was still his egg to think about... Perhaps it already contained a ghost type? Either way, checking out the tower might be interesting. He remembered reading that the upper levels contained some fairly strong ones.

"Great! I'll meet you at the bottom in a couple of hours?" she asked, already jogging towards the tower.

"Ok," Koa replied neutrally. His thoughts were already far off, contemplating the different ghost-types and which one would fit on his team. Avis raced ahead of him towards the tower, quickly disappearing into the distance. He followed her at a more sedate pace. Before long, he approached the base of the tower. The tower itself was a simple structure. A tall, smooth building of gray stone, its sides narrowing slightly until they formed a point at the top.

There was no sign of Avis, but that wasn't surprising. She was likely far inside the tower by now. He descended a short flight of stairs to the tower. As he descended the steps, a faint chill spread over him and he shivered. He recalled reading about this phenomenon - when so many ghost types congregated in one space, it caused strange energies to build up, which usually manifested in a small drop in temperature. It was a weird sensation, considering how warm it had been at the top of the steps.

After a brief hesitation, he stepped inside the tower. Immediately, he felt the chill even more. It wasn't at all like being in the cold, but more like he'd drunk something extremely cold. He glanced around, taking in the first floor of the building.

Smooth, short grass covered the entire floor. He wondered how the grass grew indoors, without any sunlight. At the back of the room, he could see the stairs leading to the next floor. The floor seemed fairly empty, save for a few simple gray stones dotted around. No one else was around, though that was hardly surprising. Lost Tower wasn't exactly a popular tourist destination.

He caught sight of a few lone Zubat hanging from the ceiling, huddled in the shadows, squeaking softly every now and then. He smiled fondly at them, remembering his own odd encounter with Echo. Still smiling faintly, he headed for the stairs.

When he emerged onto the second floor, the first thing he noticed was the change in scenery. Smooth gray stones covered the floor, and there were many more memorial markers. The second floor was also more populated - from what he could see, there was a grand total of two people. The first looked to be a young boy off to one side of the room, fighting a Gastly. The Gastly was fruitlessly attempting to attack the boys' Rattata and didn't quite seem to understand why its attacks weren't working. The Rattata, on the other hand, darted about, using a series of quick Bite attacks to wear it down.

Koa watched with fascination as the Rattata dealt the finishing blow. The boy quickly retrieved a pokeball from his pocket and threw it at the Gastly. It was instantly encapsulated. He edged closer, curious to see if he was successful. A moment later, the pokeball dinged. The boy grinned widely and jumped, cheering. His Rattata squeaked happily as the boy picked up the ball and smiled at it.

"Nice job!" Koa called. The boy glanced at him in surprise, then smiled and waved.

Koa waved back, then set his sights on the stairs to the next floor. As he approached them, he took a glance over at the one other person in the room. It was a tall lean man, probably in his twenties, wearing a simple long dark jacket and neatly styled mahogany hair. He looked familiar... Koa almost shouted in shock, then clamped his hand over his mouth. The man in the corner of the room was none other than Callahan, famed researcher of legendaries.

Almost trembling with excitement, Koa strode over to him as quietly as possible. He stood a few feet away, trying to figure out how to approach him. What did one say to their greatest idol?

Fortunately, he didn't have to figure out what to say, because Callahan spoke first. "Well hello there." His voice lacked the dramatic flair he'd displayed on stage, yet still held the confidence and rich tone that made him so captivating.

"Hi," Koa managed to say. He mentally smacked himself. He didn't want to come off as some starstruck idiot. He cleared his throat. "Hello, Mr. Callahan. I don't mean to disturb you. I just saw your discussion at Hearthome a couple weeks ago and it was really interesting!"

Callahan flashed a brilliant smile. "Are you a fellow lover of legendaries then?"

"Yes! I've read everything about them. And I follow all your research." He stopped himself short. He was rambling again.

Callahan either didn't notice or didn't mind. "Superb! It's always fantastic to meet a fan - a fan of legendaries, that is! Tell me, what do you think of the Johto myths?"

Koa grinned. "I love the tale of Ho-Oh and Lugia, and how Ho-Oh revived the Three!" His thoughts flashed briefly to the Thing, but he pushed them away. He paused, contemplating. He had a theory of his own, though he didn't want to sound foolish for suggesting it. "I actually... nevermind."

"No please, I always love hearing the thoughts of others. Tell me, I insist," Callahan spread his arms, flashing his winning smile again.

"Well, I've always thought, if Ho-Oh and Lugia are connected, then I bet Lugia had something to do with the revival of the Three. I mean, the Brass Tower was his roost, right?"

For the first time since the conversation began, Callahan frowned slightly. "That is an interesting theory. However, I believe that the true power resides in the Three themselves, not Ho-Oh or Lugia. After all, it is said the people drove them off in fear. I believe it is they who hold the greatest secret of all."

"Huh," Koa said. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Do you think there can be more than one of the legendary beasts?"

A strange look of thoughtfulness crossed Callahan's face. He frowned, gazing into the distance as if lost in thought. "Yes, yes I suppose there could be multiple."

Koa stared at him in surprise. "But how? The legends speak only of Ho-Oh reviving three pokemon."

"Who knows? Legendaries are full of mysteries. Perhaps one day I may be able to unravel those mysteries." He cast a glance at one of the memorial stones, a trace of sadness in his eyes. "Such as the secret of resurrection. It is one of the great mysteries that remain about those legendaries. That is part of the reason I've come here. You see, I lost a good friend not long ago. I came here to pay my respect to them."

"Oh," Koa said softly. "I'm sorry."

"Thank you, but you have nothing to apologize for," he murmured.

An odd silence fell. He wasn't sure what to tell Callahan. It had to be awful, to lose a pokemon. He couldn't imagine how it would feel...

He quickly pushed the thought away. Instead, he contemplated Callahan's views on the Three beasts. He respected Callahan immensely, but he wasn't sure he agreed this time. He'd always believed Ho-Oh to act as the 'guardian' of the three beasts, just as Lugia was thought to tame the legendary birds. And he couldn't shake the thought that the two birds of the towers were connected, somehow. How could the beasts be the ones who held the power of resurrection? Not only that, he didn't see how there could be multiple beasts. Only three pokemon had perished from the flames. A fact Callahan himself had said at his conference. Before he could ask for clarification, Callahan spoke again.

"Enough of that!" His smile returned. "I like your intuition, young man. You certainly show all the makings of a great explorer. Continue to follow your dreams. I'm sure you'll go far."

A warm sense of pride spread through Koa and he smiled widely. Callahan offered his hand, and Koa shook it, his heart fluttering. He'd actually gotten to talk to his personal hero, and his personal hero complimented him!

Callahan glanced at his watch. "Well, I'm afraid my time here is up. I have to be at another conference soon," Callahan said. "It was a pleasure talking to you...?"

"Koamaru," he said, still in awe.

"Then it was a pleasure talking to you Koamaru." With a wave, he strode for the exit.

Koa watched him go, still a bit starstruck. "So cool," he whispered.

"What is?" a voice behind him said.

Koa yelped and almost jumped out of his skin. He whirled around and scowled when he saw Avis standing in front of him, grinning.

"Sorry, I couldn't resist. Who were you talking to?" she asked.

"You didn't recognize him?" Koa demanded, shocked. "That's Callahan! He's like the most knowledgeable person ever on legendaries. He's sick!"

Avis shrugged. "Legendaries are cool I guess. But I guess I've always been more interested in investigating."

Koa held back a cry of offense. He guessed she was entitled to her own opinion. But it was beyond him how someone couldn't be immediately excited by legendaries. He glanced down to see a Great Ball in her hand. "What did you catch?"

She grinned and held up the Great Ball eagerly. "I caught a Litwick! It's so cute!"

"Cool." He recalled Litwick were usually from Unova, though being a ghost-type they tended to roam far and wide. "Can I see?"

With a nod, she tapped the button. A small pokemon emerged with a whispered greeting. It looked exactly like a little candle, with a perpetually burning purple flame on its head. He waved a stubby, wax-like arm, his yellow eyes gazing into Koa's own.

"Woah..."

"And what about you?" Avis asked. "Catch anything?" SHe returned

Koa shrugged. "No. I didn't see anything, and then I ran into Callahan."

Avis rolled her eyes amiably and returned Litwick. "Well, I'm headed downstairs. Are you going to stay and catch something?"

"Nah. I'm good," Koa said after a brief deliberation. There'd be more opportunities to catch a new pokemon, and he was eager to continue on his journey. He led the way out of the tower, relishing the feel of the warm sun on his back as he stepped outside.

"Bikes?" he asked, once they climbed the stairs and stood a short way away from the Tower.

Avis nodded in agreement. Koa whipped out his bike from his bag, stopping briefly to watch his egg. It wiggled slightly, and he smiled. Recently, he noticed it had started to shake a couple times a day. He was sure it would hatch in a week, maybe two. A few moments later, he and Avis were on their bikes and pedaling swiftly towards Solaceon Town.

Koa wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead as he pedaled into Solaceon Town later the next morning. Despite how early it was, the sun had apparently decided to come out in full force. He'd even been forced to tuck his jacket in his bag and just wear his black t-shirt. All his Pokemon were in their pokeballs, giving them a reprieve from the heat. He made a beeline towards the Pokemon Center, taking in the town as he did.

Solaceon was fairly large for a town, at least compared to the other towns in Sinnoh. He guessed it was roughly the size of Floaroma, maybe a bit bigger. Trees grew all throughout, and there weren't exactly any roads, just packed dirt paths. Most of the residential section lay tucked away to his right, dotted throughout among the trees and rock. Beyond that, he spotted the short rocky foothills of the Solaceon Ruins. The area to his left was dominated by a sprawling fenced-in Pokemon habitat belonging to Solaceon's pride and joy - their Pokemon Daycare. Though there were plenty of smaller daycares throughout the region, the one in Solaceon town was by far the largest. It featured carefully cultivated habitats for almost any kind of Pokemon, plus the couple who ran it were known to be experts on breeding.

There was definitely plenty he wanted to check out before he left Solaceon. But first, he wanted to go to the Pokemon Center cool off, then eat a proper meal. A few minutes later, he stepped into the refreshing coolness of the Pokemon Center. He breathed a sigh of relief, as did Avis.

A short time later, they were seated around a table, enjoying a meal from the cafeteria.

"So, got any plans while you're here?" Avis asked as she finished off her lunch.

Koa nodded. "I wanted to take my Pokemon egg to the daycare and see how it's coming along. And after that, I want to visit the Solaceon Ruins. I've always wanted to see an Unown."

"That sounds nice. I think I'm going to hang around outside the city for a bit though, and train."

A grin spread across Koa's face as an idea struck him. "Hey, how about we have a battle after I finish checking out the ruins?" It occurred to him they'd never had a proper battle, just Echo's match against Noctowl.

Avis smirked. "Think you can win again, huh?"

"Uh, yeah," Koa said confidently. His team was already fantastically strong, not to mention he didn't plan on slacking off while he was exploring the ruins. He'd be training there too.

"Sounds like a plan, then!" Avis said. "How about we meet back here the day after tomorrow, at 6pm? That way you have a whole day at least to explore your ruins."

Koa nodded in agreement, then held out his hand. "Alright, it's a deal. Hope you're ready to lose."

Avis snorted as she shook his hand. "We'll see." She stood up, picking up her tray of food. Her Pokemon, who were all arrayed nearby, glanced up at her. "Okay everyone, let's get training!" Her team cheered eagerly. She returned them and started for the exit. Turning around briefly, she waved, then left the center.

Koa watched her go, then turned his attention back to his food, polishing off the last few bites. He really wanted to get to the ruins today, that way he had lots of time to explore. He stood up, glancing at his Pokemon, who had just finished their own meals. "Ready guys?"

They cheered approvingly. "So who wants to stay outside their pokeballs?"

Echo and Hazard gave cries of approval, which didn't surprise him. Then Anubis gave an excited bark. "So you want to come too?" Anubis nodded calmly.

"That settles it then!" He said, returning the rest of his pokemon. Clipping the balls to his belt, he gently picked up Hazard, placing him on his head. Echo leaped onto his shoulders, causing him to stumble slightly. He caught himself, patting Echo on the side, then packed up his things and headed for the exit.

Once outside, he set out towards the Pokemon Daycare's main building. It wasn't far from the Center - the main building itself was practically across the street. He jogged over to it, Anubis loping easily at his side.

An older woman stood near the fence, watching several Pokemon play.

"Excuse me!" he called.

The woman turned around and waved. "Hello there. My name is Brooke. How may I help you? Are you interested in daycare services?"

Koa shook his head. He swung his backpack off, dislodging Echo, and set it on the ground. "I wanted to ask about an egg actually." He carefully removed the egg from his bag and held it out to her. "I don't need to know what it is. I just want to know how it's doing, and when it might hatch."

"Oh, what a beautiful egg!" Brooke exclaimed. She carefully took the incubator and examined it. "Let's see..." she traced her hand across the glass and peered at it closer. As she watched, the egg shook slightly. "Well, I do believe this Pokemon may hatch very soon!"

"Really?" Koa asked.

"Absolutely," she replied. "You see, a Pokemon egg usually grows exponentially. So once it starts to move, that means it will quickly start to shake more and more, then hatch." She smiled fondly at the egg. "I also believe it may hail from the Hoenn region, although I may be wrong. Are you sure you don't want to know what it is? I can take it to Mr. Daycare. I'm sure either he or his wife will know what is inside."

Koa adamantly shook his head. "It was a gift from a friend. I want to be surprised."

Brooke shrugged. "Alright then," she said cheerfully. "Well, keep taking good care of it."

"Got it," Koa said. "Is there anything I should know when it hatches?"

"Hmm... Well, baby pokemon all mature at different rates. Some are ready to battle as soon as they hatch, some take time to develop. So you'll have to watch the pokemon closely."

Koa nodded. "Will do." Standing up, he slung his backpack over his shoulder and turned his gaze upon the distant sight of the Solaceon Ruins. A grin spread over his face. The real fun was about to begin.

An hour later, Koa stood outside the entrance to Solaceon Ruins. He'd topped off on supplies at the Pokemart, as well as a few jars of honey, which he'd had to hide from Echo to stop him from eating them all whole. As he peered at the ruins, he mentally reviewed his limited knowledge. The ruins had been a very recent excavation and were found to be home to hordes of Unown. Archaeologists had studied and excavated a great deal of the ruins, a painstaking process since they had to take care not to damage the natural structures. Once they had dug far enough, they discovered a series of strange pathways and tunnels that often led to many explorers being lost for hours. From what he could recall, scientists were trying to figure out how the ruins might be connected to other ruins around the globe that also contained Unown.

Echo bounced on his shoulders, clearly excited to be in a cave again.

"I'm going, buddy." He set his thoughts aside and patted Echo, then stepped into the cave.

The first thing he noticed was how cool it was. He took a deep breath and sighed, reveling in the familiar musty smell. He realized he hadn't explored a proper cave since Mt. Coronet, although he supposed these were more like ruins than a cave. He glanced around the room, taking in the sights. Thanks to the light spilling from the entrance, as well as a few seeping from cracks overhead, the room he stood in wasn't very dark.

The room was fairly small. Smooth stone covered the floor, and the walls appeared to be made of carved brown stones. It was quite unlike the rugged feel of Coronet's caves. Clearly, parts of this had been explored before. At the far end of the room was an inscription of some kind, and beside that, a dark tunnel that sloped downwards.

He headed immediately for the inscription, peering at it curiously. The text was ancient Unown text, but given that the modern alphabet was actually based on Unown, it wasn't hard to decipher. Besides that, he'd read plenty of books detailing Unown text.

He peered curiously at the text and began to read.

Top ri-

"Hey, there young lad!"

Koa turned around to see a gentleman in a white lab coat enter the ruins. He looked to be somewhere in his thirties or early forties and had spiky blond hair. He looked fit, and Koa guessed he traveled a lot, if his calloused hands and dirt-smudged coat were anything to go by. Plus, he carried a large messenger-style bag over his shoulder that appeared to bulging.

"Uh... hey?" Koa said.

"My name is Charles Dragonwood, and I'm a researcher!" The man said enthusiastically. He stuck out his hand. Koa shook it hesitantly, surprised by the firmness of his grip. He quickly matched it with a firm handshake of his own.

"Koamaru," he replied.

"I see you are examining the ruins. Are you a fan of the Unown?" Charles asked, his tone filled with an almost child-like excitement.

He shrugged. "Kind of? I'm really a fan of exploring. And legendaries-"

"YOU AS WELL?" Charles boomed. He gripped Koa's shoulders, his eyes lighting up. Koa took a step back and Echo fluttered in surprise at the man's shout. He quickly released Koa. "I apologize... But when it comes to my passions, I simply cannot contain myself. You see, I have two passions! Unown, and Legendaries. And I love Unown because I believe they are the key to legendaries!" He gestured wildly as he spoke, his voice animated. "To me, legendaries represent everything I love. Mystery! Excitement! Danger! The thrill of discovery and wonder. It always excites me to meet a fellow lover of legendaries!" He took a breath.

Koa's apprehension faded and he grinned happily. Charles had put into words the exact way he felt about legendaries. "Yeah! I love legendaries too. I want to meet one, and then battle one!" he blurted.

Charles raised his eyebrows and grinned wildly. "I like your spirit! I haven't yet met anyone with guts like you! And I daresay it takes a lot of guts to want to fight a legendary."

"Thanks!" Koa couldn't help but smile a little wider. In the past, when he mentioned fighting a legendary, much less catching one, he was often met with scorn. Well, save for Kitto, he supposed. But he was sure it was possible. Legends spoke of brave trainers who had either fought alongside the legendaries or challenged them. It was nice that someone else believed it could be done. "So is that why you came here? To find Unown?" he asked.

Charles nodded enthusiastically. "Precisely! You see, I traveled all the way here from Kalos to do my research. My dream is to open up a research facility of my own in Kalos, to further study the mystery of legendaries."

Koa almost screamed in excitement at the idea. An entire facility dedicated to researching legendaries? It sounded like a dream. The prospect excited him so much, he almost missed Charles' next words.

"My first task is to capture several Unown before I have to return."

"How long are you here for then?" Koa asked anxiously. There were lots of Unown, and they could be incredibly elusive. Catching them all was a big project.

Charles sighed, some of his boisterous attitude fading. "Unfortunately, I am only here for one more day. I got a bit sidetracked exploring all the other wonders of Sinnoh. So far I've only caught five Unown. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'll have time to catch more before I return to Kalos."

Koa frowned thoughtfully and glanced back at the inscription. An idea occurred to him. "Maybe I could help. If two of us go through the ruins, I'm sure we can catch all of the Unown!"

"You would do that? That would be incredible!" Charles shouted. "I've got just the thing!" he sprinted out of the ruins, his coat flapping erratically behind him. He returned a minute later with a small briefcase and opened it. Inside was a set of thirty pokeballs with a blue and yellow lightning-like design. Koa recognized them as Quick Balls, pokeballs specially designed to capture weaker Pokemon if they were thrown first, before the battle began.

Charles grinned madly as he held out the case. "If you take half, and I take the other half, we could have it done in a day, I'm sure!"

Koa took a handful of the Quick balls. "Which Unown have you caught so far?" His excitement was starting to boil over already, and he wanted to run off now. He couldn't wait to delve deeper into the ruins.

"A, B, C, D, and G," Charles replied.

"Alright then, I'll try looking for O and everything after that," Koa said.

Charles smiled happily. "Fantastic. Then we shall meet back here tomorrow?"

Koa nodded in agreement.

Charles started to head for the tunnel.

"Wait!" Koa called. "How will the pokeballs work though? I already have five Pokemon."

Charles gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "No problem at all. You see, these balls are automatically registered to me. When you capture an Unown with them, they'll come straight back to this briefcase. I have a special carry license as well, so as long as I'm here catching Unown, I can carry more than six Pokemon."

"Cool," Koa said. Well, that settled his questions. He craned his neck upwards to look at Echo. "Ready?"

Echo shreed excitedly fluttered towards the tunnel. "See you tomorrow," Koa called. He jogged after Echo, following him down the tunnel and further into the ruins.

Koa emerged onto the next floor, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of Unown. As he walked, he considered Charles. He liked him, a lot. Aside from Callahan, Charles was the first person he'd met who was equally passionate about legendaries. He wondered if Charles might even be more passionate. Regardless, he was happy to help.

A movement in the corner of the room caught his attention. He glanced up to see a small black shape dislodge itself from the wall. It floated down. Koa primed a Quick Ball as soon as he recognized the Pokemon - Unown R. He tossed the ball. It arced through the air, struck the Unown, and sucked it inside. The ball shook twice, then dinged. "Yes!" Koa cheered. Echo shrieked happily. One down and... Koa mentally counted off the Pokemon. Eleven left, he was pretty sure.

He glanced around. A veritable maze of passageways spread from the room he currently stood in. On one of the walls, there was an inscription of some kind. He read it briefly.

Lower Left

He made a mental note of it but decided to explore the other rooms first.

For the next several hours, he settled into a monotonous, but not entirely unpleasant pattern. He would wander the side rooms, sometimes for an hour or more at time, as they wound in ever confusing circles, seemingly wrapping in on themselves in a most peculiar manner. He and Echo kept their eyes peeled for Unown, and as soon as they saw one, he'd use the Quick Ball. He'd managed to get O, S, T, U, and W so far. The Quick Balls proved exceedingly useful, and so far hadn't failed him, to his delight.

What perplexed him the most was how the many side rooms and endless tunnels seemed to shift every now and then as if whenever he wasn't looking directly at them, they would change ever so slightly. He was also sure that the number of tunnels he'd walked through couldn't possibly fit in the hills he'd observed from the outside, but then again, maybe he was wrong. Either that or something else was at work. Maybe Charles would know.

At some point, he realized he'd been walking for hours. His legs and feet were starting to hurt, and he was tired. He switched the clock on his Poketch and peered at the time.

12:04 am. Yikes. He forgot how strange time could pass in caves. He glanced around. He was in a dead-end room, surrounded by the same smooth brown walls. It was as good a place as any to settle in for the night, he supposed. Rolling out his sleeping mat, he settled down for the night with a yawn. Echo found a nice perch on the ceiling and hung himself upside down. Koa lay on his mat, watching him for a few moments as he pondered the ruins.

He wondered who had made them - though the first explorers had to uncover and clear the area of debris, the actual structures within the ruins were all already present. But it was unknown - he laughed to himself at that - if the ruins were somehow the work of people, Pokemon, or both. Finally, after some time, he drifted to sleep, his slumber filled with odd dreams and thoughts of Unown.

A loud shriek from Echo woke him up. He sat up blearily and looked up to see two Unown floating erratically around Echo. Their single eyes appeared narrowed, and they kept blasting thin beams of psychic energy at Echo, who easily dodged them. In return, Echo was hurling repeated Air Slash attacks to try and drive them off, but they kept dipping out of the way. Koa snapped fully awake and scrambled to grab two Quick Balls - he recognized the two as Unown P and Q.

"Back them into a corner, Echo!" Echo nodded in acknowledgment and began to angle his attacks in such a way as to force the two into the corner of the ceiling. It was also great practice for Echo's Air Slash technique, he reflected. In a few seconds, Echo had them trapped against the wall.

Koa clicked the button, priming the balls. He only had about five seconds before the balls began to lose their effectiveness. Taking aim, he tossed them, one after the other. The first struck Unown P, swiftly encapsulating it. The second, however, arced wide. Echo dived at the ball, and with a skillful swipe of his wing, knocked it into Q, encapsulating it as well.

Both balls fell to the ground, then shook twice and dinged. "Sick! Thanks Echo," he called. Echo shrieked happily and landed on his shoulders. As usual, he gave the Golbat a quick scratch behind the ears, then stooped to pick up the Quick Balls. As usual, they shrunk to about a quarter of their regular size, and the button mechanism turned red. Then they shook and vanished. Perfect. That just left... Four? He checked the notes section on his Poketch - V, X Y and Z were the last.

"Almost done Echo." Gathering up his equipment, he packed everything away and set out towards the tunnel. He eventually found his way back to the main room the tunnel branched from and took a moment to check the inscription.

Lower Left

So that had to mean, if he was facing the inscription... he turned around and glanced at the tunnel in the back of the room and on the right side. That was the one. He'd taken to exploring side rooms, then following the inscriptions, which seemed to lead him ever deeper into the strange, twisting network of the ruins. He wondered how deep the ruins went.

As he entered the tunnel, he checked his watch again. It was almost noon. He'd have to turn around soon to make it back to the main room in time to meet Charles. Still, he really wanted to see what was at the end of the tunnel first. Ahead, he thought he saw the tunnel widen. Was that another room?

He walked a little faster. Just as he was about to emerge into what seemed to be another room, he thought he felt the world around him shift slightly. He stumbled as the world around him spun and his vision distorted. Then, as soon as it began, the sensation was gone, and he found himself in a large, wide room.

The first thing he noticed was that he didn't need his headlamp to see. A strange faint gray light permeated the area, though it didn't seem to have an origin. The room was nearly identical to the other rooms he'd been in so far, except it was the first dead-end he'd encountered since following the Unown inscriptions. He glanced around the room again and spotted four indents on the stone floor. He strode closer to examine them, noting that a thin layer of dirt covered each. They also glimmered briefly as his lamp passed over them.

A brief rush of excitement fluttered through him as he stooped next to them. His heart skipped a beat as he brushed dirt from one to find a small Nugget. He grinned madly at the tiny fragment of gold, then tucked it in his pocket. He brushed the dirt away from another indent to find... a strange object. It appeared to be a round pink and purple container. The top was round, with several small slots, and a strange, yet pleasant scent wafted from it. He shrugged, then tucked it in his bag. Maybe Charles would know what it was. The third indent revealed a large pink tablet. He gasped softly as he recognized it - a Mind Plate. An incredibly rare object, it was one of eighteen plates in a set, one for each Pokemon type. There were thought to be only a few of each type of plate in existence, making them highly sought after. Museums were known to pay a handsome price for them.

Koa reverently ran his hands over the smooth plate. It was a soft, ethereal pink in color, and almost seemed to hum with energy. He felt something on the back and carefully turned the plate over. There was an inscription, written in faint Unown text. He peered closer at it to read it.

"Two beings of time and space set free from the original one"

Koa cocked his head. The original one? Time and Space? Could that refer to Dialga and Palkia. And the Original One... Who could that be? Arceus? It was one pokemon only mentioned in a few myths. There were no known depictions of it. No one had ever seen it. Many people even doubted if it ever existed. And if it had, did it still exist?

Seeing the plate stirred something inside him. One day, he would meet them. Dialga and Palkia. He would ascend to the very peak of Mt. Coronet and, if Arceus smiled upon him, he would see the dragon gods of Time and Space. He briefly wondered if perhaps it would be possible to see Giratina. That would be something. Deep down, he'd always been more interested in the shadowy dragon from another dimension. There wasn't much on that pokemon though. Only rumors and the occasional reference to something like it. The only reason he even knew of it was from Rowan, who apparently shared Champion Cynthia's views on the topic. He couldn't help but stare at the plate in awe for a few more moments before tucking it into his bag.

Then he knelt in front of the final patch of dirt. He gently brushed it away to reveal... a TM? That was odd. How did a TM get down here? He shrugged and picked it up gently, examining it. The disc was a dark shade of gray in color, almost black. Most likely a dark-type move then. Curious, he retrieved his TM case and set the TM inside, scanning it. A moment later, the reading came back.

Dark Pulse.

He gave a loud whoop and jumped in the air. Echo shrieked in surprise and leaped off his shoulders. He couldn't believe how lucky he was. As he tucked the TM away for later, he wondered if there was a bit more than luck to it. Well, whatever it was, he was happy about it. Anubis would be even happier, he was sure. He stood up, dusting himself off, and walked over to the only other thing of note in the room - the inscription on the wall.

This one was quite a bit longer than than others, and it took him a moment to decipher the text.

"Friendship

All lives

Touch other

Lives to create

Something

Anew and alive"


That
was a new one. No directions, just a statement. He reread it, pondering its meaning. He thought he got the gist of it - whenever two people met, a friendship was made. He guessed the inscription was referring to how different kinds of things could be born from friendships? Though he had a feeling there was more to the statement too. He wrote everything down on his Poketch, then saved it for later. He switched to the clock and frowned. Noon. Time to get going. He didn't have long to find the last four Unown.

By the time he returned to the main room, it was almost five in the evening. He was exhausted, but pleased. After an agonizingly long search, he'd found the last four Unown. Although it had taken him several tries, since he began to run into more and more Unown he'd already caught, between him and Echo, he'd finally caught the last four. To his surprise, Charles wasn't in the main room when he returned.

He decided to take the opportunity to use Dark Pulse on Anubis. It didn't take long for him to slip the TM into the case, and place Anubis' pokeball in the slot. A moment later, the pokeball glowed as the information was uploaded. The TM cracked, since it was only a single-use, so he discarded it. He clipped Anubis' pokeball back to his belt. There'd be plenty of time to test the move later.

Footsteps echoed from the tunnel, and Charles emerged a moment later. He looked a bit dirtier than he had before, but his face held a wildly triumphant grin. "We've done it, lad!" He carried the briefcase with him, cradling it like a precious treasure. "I was certain the task was impossible with the time I had left. But thanks to you, I have fulfilled my goal of catching one of every Unown! Thank you!"

"You're welcome," Koa said with a shrug. "It was fun anyway."

"Now tell me, did you experience any unusual... distortions? As if rooms were shifting?"

Koa nodded. "Yeah! I was wondering about that, actually."

Charles tapped his chin. "Hm... That confirms my suspicions then. I believe the Unown have strange psychic abilities. When many of them are together, as they are in these ruins, they can create small scale spatial distortions."

"Whoa," Koa breathed. "So that explains how so many tunnels and rooms are able to fit in such a seemingly small space."

Charles grinned. "An astute observation indeed."

Koa wondered if the Unown had something to do with the items he discovered in the final chamber. Which reminded him...He retrieved the Mind Plate and the strange container from his backpack. "I found these in the last room. Do you know what this is?" he asked, handing the small container to Charles.

Charles' eyes lit up. "Oh my, what a find! This, Koamaru, is what is called an Odd Incense. The scent is known to temporarily power up Psychic Type Pokemon. It is also invaluable to breeders."

"Why breeders?" He couldn't fathom why a power-up item could have any use for someone who didn't battle.

"Simple!" Charles declared. "You see, Odd Incense has an additional effect. It can be given to a Mr. Mime. When the egg appears, instead of a Mr Mime, it will hatch into a Mime Jr." Charles trailed off and frowned as if in thought. "Although I have no idea how it works."

"You can have it," Koa said, after a moment's thought. He didn't have any Psychic types, nor did he need the incense.

"Really? That would be fantastic! An associate of mine in Johto would be delighted to have one of these. Thank you greatly." Charles smiled. A bright, genuine smile, one that spoke of passion and love.

Koa smiled in return.

Charles glanced at the Mind Plate. "Incredible! I see you found a Mind Plate as well! That is quite the find. May I?"

"Sure." Koa handed him the plate. He realized he trusted Charles implicitly. The man seemed utterly open, and fearless. He had nothing to hide from the world, and no shame about his passions.

Charles took it, examining it reverently. "You know, they say that the eighteen plates are connected to Arceus somehow."

"Really?" That certainly explained the inscription then. "Do you think you could hold onto it for me then? I want to travel to Kalos one day, but I'm afraid if I hold onto it now, it could get damaged."

For a second, Charles didn't reply. "Are you certain?" he asked finally. "Not that I don't appreciate your trust, but I am just a stranger to you. Why do all this?"

Koa shrugged. "I guess it's just nice to meet someone who appreciates legendaries as much as me."

"Koamaru, I can't thank you enough for what you've done for me today."

"You can call me Koa."

Charles smiled. "Thank you, Koa. You've helped me get one step closer to my dreams. And for that, I must repay you."

Koa opened his mouth to deny it, then thought better of it. For starters, it would be rude to refuse a gift, especially if Charles wanted to do it. Two, any gift from someone like Charles was sure to be interesting. Besides, he loved to get gifts. Catching the Unown hadn't exactly been easy, and although he would never ask for a reward, he would not deny Charles the chance to give one.

Charles reached into his bag and retrieved a strange device. It looked a bit like every small egg incubator, though instead of clear, it was silver and featured a small screen and some kind of hatch. A red Pokeball symbol was printed on top.

Koa took it and examined it curiously. "What is it?"

"It is what is known as the Box Link system. It is quite the rage over in the Galar region," Charles said.

Galar was perhaps the one region Koa didn't know much about at all. It was far away from the other regions, and there was precious little information about it, even its Pokemon, since they were almost never found outside their home region.

Charles continued on. "You see, much of Galar is huge stretches of untamed wilderness, farther than the eye can see. So the scientists there developed a system to allow trainers to easily switch between their Pokemon while traveling. Think of it as a mobile PC system."

Koa's eyes widened in shock. "No way!" he exclaimed. As far as he'd been aware, switching Pokemon required a trip to the Pokemon Center, which were usually only found in towns. A trainer would have to contact whatever ranch they were registered with, or if they were registered with a Professor, and swap their Pokemon that way. Otherwise, they would have to access the PC system at the Pokemon Center.

"It will soon be widely available to all regions, but this is a completed prototype that I've been given," Charles grinned. "Since I will be spending most of my time at my lab in Kalos, however, I have little use for it. But I'm sure a trainer such as yourself can put it to proper use."

Koa stared up at him in awe. "Thank you," he stammered.

Charles clapped his hand on Koa's shoulder. "I should thank you, lad. What you helped me achieve is of far greater value. This," he gestured to the Box Link, "is just a small token of my gratitude.

Koa grinned, delighted to have received such an incredible device.

"So tell me, Koa what is your life's dream? Is it just to battle a legendary, as you said?"

Koa hesitated. He'd not shared the extent of his dreams with anyone. Or rather, any human. He'd talked about it with his pokemon, of course. He was hesitant to say too much.

"Yeah. I do want to battle a legendary. I love exploring too. Discovering new areas places no one has seen. I want to climb Mt. Coronet one day, and find the Spear Pillar."

"Astounding!" Charles declared. "You believe it exists then?"

Koa nodded.

"You truly have the spirit of an explorer." He tapped the side of his head and grinned. "I can always tell when I see one."

Koa's eyes widened at that. How could he tell? He shrugged it off. The praise was nice, either way. And Charles seemed like a genuinely good fellow. "Oh! Before you have to go, I was wondering, do you know anything about the legendary beasts?"

"Of course! One of my favorite tales." He paused. "Of course, all things legendary are my favorite."

"Do you think there could be several beasts? Or are there just the three?"

Charles laughed good-naturedly. "What do you think, young lad?"

"There's only the Three. They came because Ho-Oh revived the Three unnamed pokemon."

Charles nodded. "And you are exactly correct! There cannot be multiple! Just as there is one Lugia and one Ho-Oh. In fact, most legendaries are unique entities. Save for mythical pokemon such as Shaymin, as I'm sure you already know."

"I knew it!" Koa said. "I always thought there had to be just one of the beasts."

"Smart lad," Charles said. A faint beeping sound came from his wrist and he glanced briefly at his watch. "Well, I am afraid my time has come," Charles said, a note of sadness in his voice. "But perhaps we may run into each other again. If you ever come to Kalos, be sure to find me. If I am able to open up my lab, then I am sure I will always have room for a fellow researcher and lover of legendaries."

"I will," Koa vowed. If - no, when - he climbed Mt. Coronet and found Spear Pillar, Kalos would be his next stop. He couldn't turn down the prospect of working with Charles. "That means you'll be Professor Dragonwood?"

"That has quite the ring to it!" Charles declared excitedly. "I look forward to seeing you again at my lab, Koa." He held out his hand, and Koa shook it firmly.

"Me too, Professor Dragonwood." Even as he said the name, his heart beat a little faster.

Charles grinned at him and gave him a nod. "Farewell, friend." Clutching his briefcase, he gave one final wave before leaving the ruins. Koa watched him go, contemplating his own dreams. Climbing Mt. Coronet, finding the Spear Pillar, and seeing Dialga and Palkia. Perhaps even Giratina, if it were possible. And then he would fight a legendary. He would love the chance to battle Dialga or Palkia, though he wasn't sure if they would deign to even acknowledge him. And he wasn't even sure if it were possible. After that, he would travel the world, and search out a legendary and catch one. Perhaps Ho-Oh. And if not Ho-Oh, he could travel to Hoenn or perhaps Unova. He'd read a legend once, about how the dragons of Unova had fought alongside humans. He wondered if it were possible to battle them and catch one. After that... well, he wasn't sure. He liked the idea of traveling to Kalos to research with professor Dragonwood. And he wanted to continue fighting legendaries and learning about them.

Meeting Charles, seeing the confidence he had, he realized his drive had been renewed. Tonight, he vowed, he would train. Tomorrow, he would beat Avis. And after that, he would defeat Veilstone's gym, Canalave's gym, Snowpoint and Sunnyshore. Nothing would stand in his way.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain

That concludes chapter 16! Koa has met fellow researcher Charles Dragonwood, and his aspirations has been renewed. He also received the box link system. I do intend to have Koa capture more pokemon, farther down the line.

I was personally never a huge fan of stories where the MC randomly is allowed to carry more than 6 pokemon, so I figured the Box Link system from Sword and Shield is a fair alternative. The 6 pokemon thing is really just a personal thing though, and I have nothing against stories that ignore it, perse.
 
chapter 17

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 17: A Strategy For Success

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain


By the time Koa made his way back to Solaceon Town, everything was quiet. The sun had set, and the moon had begun to rise. A still peacefulness hung in the air, occasionally punctuated by the distant chirp of a Kricketot or far off cry of some unknown pokemon. Echo clung to his shoulders, but was still, perhaps reveling in the unusual peace. He slowed his pace to an amble, taking a moment to enjoy the scenery and the pleasant evening. Solaceon Town was quiet, peaceful. No street lights or lamps, or tall buildings with brightly lit windows.

It occurred to him that almost since he'd begun his journey, he'd simply been going. Always doing something, his mind always focused on the next goal. His one intentional day off had been disturbed by the appearance of Entei - something which he still thought about constantly - but since then, he'd been even more focused. Not that he thought of that as a bad thing he supposed. But for just this moment, he was happy to be at peace. Alone with his thoughts, his only company Echo perched quietly on his shoulders, and Hazard nestled in his hair.

Koa took a long deep breath. He let his thoughts wander, considering a variety of topics. He thought back to his days living in Canalave, preparing to become a trainer and his time researching legendaries. He was sure something didn't add up about the two Entei, but then he also knew there wasn't anything he could do for now, except train and grow stronger. He would train harder until he had the kind of power to fight a legendary. It would take a long time, but he would do it. Perhaps he'd been focusing too much on strategy... If he'd been stronger, maybe he'd be able to stand more of a chance. Perhaps he would need to focus more on power.

His thoughts turned to Blake. He'd have to give his cousin a call when he got back to the Pokemon Center. Blake would be elated to know his Houndour had evolved. Maybe he could call Professor Rowan as well. Perhaps he had an answer about Rascal by now.

The sight of the familiar red-roofed building caused him to hasten his pace slightly. A few minutes later, he found his way to the videophone screens. The room was quiet, and he had the area to himself as he dialed Blake's number.

Blake's familiar face appeared on the screen a couple seconds later. His cousin smiled. "Hey there Little K!"

Koa resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Hey Blake," he replied, smiling.

Blake's face turned grave for a moment. "I heard about what happened in Hearthome. Were you nearby when it happened?"

Koa nodded hesitantly. "I was in Amity Square, actually," he mumbled.

Blake's eyes widened and he opened his mouth as if to make a harsh comment, then paused. "You're ok, right?" He asked finally.

Koa held back a sigh of relief. He'd almost expected his cousin to freak out. "Yeah, I'm good. Better than good, actually," he added, grinning. Selecting Anubis' pokeball, he pressed it, releasing the Houndoom. At the sight of Blake, he gave a happy bark, jumping up on the desk and nosing the screen.

"Anubis evolved?" Blake gasped. "Amazing! I know Houndour species usually evolve fairly quickly but this is quite incredible! You've raised him well."

Koa grinned proudly, basking in the praise. "He knows Flamethrower and Dark Pulse now too," he added. He stroked Anubis short fur as he spoke, making sure to scratch just between his horns, which he seemed to like.

"Good. And how about the rest of your team?"

"They're doing great," Koa said excitedly. If there was one thing he loved as much as legendaries, it was his team, he realized. "Echo and Hazard are really strong. Echo learned Air Slash."

Blake grinned and his hand twitched as if he were about to reach out. Koa was sure that if he'd been physically standing in front of Blake, his cousin would have ruffled his hair. He smiled inwardly in amusement.

"So what else is new?"

For the next couple hours, Koa filled in his cousin on everything that happened. His success in training, investigating the ruins, the people he'd met, and his egg.

"Hey Blake, before you go, can I ask something?"

"Of course."

"Do you know what makes a Golbat evolve?"

"Hmmm... Well, let's see. Usually, pokemon evolve through training and battle, as I'm sure you are aware. But Crobat, I'm not sure about. From what I remember, they can't naturally be found in the wild. Some Golbat have been recorded evolving during battle. And others in times of great need. So I would guess it has something to do with the trainer element."

"But is there some kind of specific trigger? An environment thing, or stone or some kind of move he needs to know?"

Blake frowned, considering, before shaking his head. The specific trigger itself isn't known, at least as far as I'm aware. Just keep training and battling with him."

Koa nodded thoughtfully, mulling over his cousin's words. "Ok, thanks." He grinned, then waved at the camera. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Little K."

Rolling his eyes, Koa hung up, then glanced at the clock. It was getting late, but not too late. Rowan would still be awake, he knew. He dialed the number and waited.

A minute later, Professor Rowan's familiar face appeared on screen. "Ah, Koa. I was wondering when you would call back."

"So do you have an answer then?" he asked eagerly.

A faint smile graced Rowan's face, though it was barely visible under his white mustache. "I do."

Koa leaned closer to the screen. He could feel one of Rowan's mini-lectures coming on, but he was eager for it.

Rowan nodded to himself as he stroked his beard, then began. "Egg moves are a fascinating field of study. You see, there are many techniques a Pokemon can learn 'naturally' as it grows. For example, your Houndour - pardon me, Houndoom now - eventually learned Flamethrower, correct?"

Koa nodded.

"However, there are also special techniques they can't learn on their own, such as Dark Pulse. These can be learned through intense tutoring, or with a simple TM. Egg moves, however, are different. Sometimes, when the Pokemon's parents know a technique, this can be passed down through genetics. Once again, I will refer to your Houndour as an example. His mother was a Luxray, you see. Her knowledge of Thunder Fang was passed down through genetics to Houndoom. With most Pokemon, this is fairly simple. If the parent knows a technique, then the child may be able to." Rowan stroked his beard briefly. "Fossil Pokemon are a bit different, however. During the restoration process, certain latent genes are activated. Hence, a pokemon restored directly from a fossil will have the potential to learn any move, theoretically."

Koa's eyes lit up and he grinned widely. "That's awesome!" he said.

Rowan held up his hand. "That said, it will not be easy for her. It will not come naturally to her, nor is there a TM for that move. Your best bet is to find someone who is an expert in dragon-types."

Koa nodded, barely listening at that point. That was all he needed to know. Tyrunt had a chance of learning a technique like Ice Fang. "Thank you, Professor Rowan!"

"Hm... You're welcome, Koa. I trust you will keep me updated if you are successful. My colleagues will be very interested to know the results of your training."

"I will," Koa said. "I gotta go, Professor!" With a wave, he hung up the phone and pumped his fist in the air. This was beyond perfect. He glanced at the clock again. 10:29pm. Perhaps he could squeeze in a quick training session...

xXx​

Koa tapped his foot impatiently and glanced at his watch again. 5:50pm. He knew he'd technically arrived too early for his battle with Avis, but he was excited. He'd been training last night and much of the morning and he couldn't wait to test his new skills against Avis. Anubis had mastered Dark Pulse, and Echo had only gotten better and better with Air Slash. His only annoyance was that he hadn't been able to make any progress with Ice Fang. Not that he expected to. Rascal had a long way to go before she would be able to utilize the technique. But the knowledge that she could was enough for him. He'd keep trying until she got it.

He focused his mind on his upcoming battle. He planned to win. He was still annoyed by his loss to Cade, but he wouldn't lose again. He'd worked hard on improving his pokemon's power.

"Geez, how long have you been here?" Avis's voice chirped from beside him.

Koa glanced over. She stood a couple feet away, hands on her hips. She wore her usual outfit, leggings with a trenchcoat, and her cap. "Finally!" He started for the training field. "I think I've been waiting for hours."

Avis followed. "That's on you for being here so early," she stated.

"So you came late because you were afraid to lose?" Koa replied, grinning wryly and stopping by the field.

"We'll see," Avis said. "How about a three on three, no substitutions, except for when one pokemon faints?"

"Sounds good to me," Koa said as he took up his place on the opposite side of the battlefield from Avis and grinned at her. "Ready?"

"Oh yeah," Avis declared. As she spoke, she took a pokeball from her own belt.

Koa grinned and selected a pokeball of his own. He knew exactly who he wanted to start the battle with.

"Go Anubis!" he tossed out the pokeball, and Houndoom emerged in a burst of light. He howled, eager for battle.

Almost simultaneously, Noctowl emerged on Avis' side of the field with a loud hoot.

For a brief moment, he stared across the field evaluating his opponent. Avis stared back, her gaze calm and even. "Howl," Koa commanded. As Houndoom howled, he briefly contemplated his next move. His best bet was to get in a couple good hits with Thunder Fang. But he also wanted to test Dark Pulse and Flamethrower -

"Echoed Voice!" Noctowl opened his beak and emitted an earsplitting cry. A burst of sound waves crashed into Houndoom, making him flinch.

He had to focus. "Flamethrower!" he snapped. Anubis let loose a stream of flames from his jaws, striking Noctowl hard. Koa's eyes widened in surprise. Anubis was stronger than he realized since his evolution. His attacks were more focused and accurate, and his response times and speed even better. Might as well keep the pressure up. "Dark Pulse!"

"Dodge," Avis cried.

Anubis opened his jaws and summoned a swirling beam of shadowy energy. Noctowl barely had time to swoop out of the way.

"Echoed Voice again," Avis called.

Koa grimaced. He knew exactly what her strategy was. Echoed voice, when used in succession, steadily increased in power. Its effects could be devastating if the user had enough time. "Dark Pulse, one more time," Koa said.

As Noctowl paused and opened his beak, delivering another focused soundwave, Anubis leaped into the air, allowing the attack to pass underneath him, then fired a blast of dark energy at Noctowl. Noctowl tried to dodge, but the beam caught his wings, sending him spiraling.

There was his opening. "Thunder Fang," Koa said. Anubis darted across the field towards the stunned Noctowl, faster than he ever had as a Houndour. His jaws became cloaked in electricity and he leaped through the air at Noctowl.

Avis eyes went wide. "Echoed Voice!" At the last second, Noctowl righted himself, opened his beak, and let loose an ear-splitting cry. Soundwaves struck Anubis, causing him to falter. He fell, caught himself, then leaped upwards again. This time, he caught Noctowl in his grasp, shocking him. Noctowl screeched as he was thrown aside, tumbling through the air.

"Flamethrower!" Anubis landed and shot a stream of fire from his jaws. Noctowl never had a chance to catch himself and dodge. The flames crashed into him. He screeched and crashed to the ground with a loud thud.

Koa grinned. Noctowl was unconscious.

Avis scowled, clearly disappointed. "Not bad, I'll give you that," she said, returning Noctowl.

"Thanks," he said with a smirk. "Good job, Anubis," he added, gazing proudly at his friend. Until now, he hadn't realized how strong Anubis had gotten since evolving. With the addition of Dark Pulse and Flamethrower, he realized that Anubis possessed a powerful moveset. Anubis snorted a puff of smoke and grinned. "So who's next?" Koa demanded.

Avis grinned, her confidence returning. "Come out, Glameow!" She tossed out a pokeball, released a gray-furred feline with a spring-like tail. Glameow was one pokemon he felt he knew fairly well, since it was Sinnoh native. Aside from TM's, he was pretty sure they couldn't learn anything too dangerous to Anubis. No reason not to keep his Houndoom out. "Think you're ready?" she called.

"Give it your best shot!" Koa snapped back.

"In that case, I'll go first," Avis said. "Glameow, Hone Claws." Glameow smirked and extended its claws, scraping them against one another in a blur.

Well, if that's how she wanted to play it... "Anubis, Howl."

As Glameow sharpened its claws, Anubis howled, energy coursing through him. It wasn't the most exciting beginning to a battle, Koa supposed, but it was crucial. "Flamethrower," Koa said.

"Dodge!"

As Anubis blasted the stream of fire at Glameow, she leaped gracefully to the right, dodging the flames. "Now, Slash!" She darted forwards, right up to Anubis. She reared up, her claws glowing and lengthening to twice their normal size.

"Dodge!" Koa called frantically. Anubis tried to leap back, but wasn't quite fast enough. Glameow slashed him across the face, eliciting a yelp of pain and surprise. Koa scowled. Glameow was faster than he expected. "Thunder Fang!" Anubis lunged forwards, catching Glameow by the scruff and shaking her, electricity crackling across her body.

"Slash," Avis said calmly.

Squirming free of Anubis' grip, she landed nimbly on her feet, then lashed out with her claws, catching him in a flurry of blows.

"Flamethrower," Koa snapped. Anubis reared back and let loose a jet of flame straight into Glameow's face, sending her flying backwards. Unsurprisingly, she managed to land on her feet. She hissed, glaring furiously at Anubis before shaking a layer of soot from her fur.

Koa frowned in thought. Clearly her Glameow excelled at close quarters combat. Keeping her at a distance would put her at a disadvantage. "Dark Pulse."

Anubis opened his jaws and blasted a swirling beam of dark energy at Glameow.

"Deflect with Slash!" Glameow charged forwards, her claws unsheathed. She slashed wildly at the Dark Pulse, managing to deflect most of it as she charged forwards.

"Flamethrower."

As Anubis once again shot a jet of flames at his opponent, Avis made her move.

"Dodge and use Play Rough!" Glameow skirted the Flamethrower, though she got herself grazed in the process. Darting across the field, she lunged at Anubis, and in a flurry, began striking him with glowing pink paws.

Anubis yelped from the attack. "Thunder Fang!" Koa called quickly. Recovering, Anubis sank his electricity cloaked jaws into Glameow. The attack tossed her backward a few feet, but she landed and yowled defiantly, tired but not spent.

"Slash! Finish this!" Avis called. In a blur, Glameow leaped forward, claws extended. She swiped at Anubis in a single, clean motion. Anubis staggered from the blow, then collapsed, unconscious. Koa stared, dumbfounded. Anubis had been weakened, yes, but he hadn't thought that he was hurt that badly. Unless... He scowled as he returned Anubis. Slash was one of a special category of moves that had a very high chance of getting what was known as a 'critical hit'. Striking in just the right manner to deal massive damage in a single blow. "Not bad!" he called.

"My Glameow's pretty tough, right?"

Koa nodded. He had to say, he was surprised by Glameow. Still, she wouldn't last long. She'd already taken a fair amount of damage during the battle. And he knew exactly who could finish her off. He selected his second pokeball and released its inhabitant. Scrapper burst onto the field, immediately throwing a few practice jabs and dancing about the field. Avis shrugged. "Your loss. Glameow, Slash." Glameow charged across the field, claw raised.

"Block it," Koa said confidently. Scrapper threw up his arms in an 'x' shape, deflecting the worst of the blow. Glameow lunged backwards, staying just out of range. She began to prowl around Scrapper, sizing him up. Koa waited patiently.

"Slash!" Avis called again.

Koa remained silent. Scrapper danced backward, the attack just grazing him. Suddenly, tiny sparks shot across Glameow's fur and she flinched, her whole body seizing up. A devious grin spread over Koa's face. Effect Spore had kicked in, just as he hoped. And it appeared that it had paralyzed Glameow.

"Mach Punch." In a blur, Scrapper threw out his fist, too fast for Koa to track. The punch collided with the stunned Glameow, sending her skipping across the ground. In a daze, she pushed herself to her feet, flinching again from the paralysis. Across the field, Avis gritted her teeth and scowled. Koa couldn't help but grin smugly.

"Seed Bomb." Scrapper tilted his head upwards and launched a glowing green orb across the field, directly at Glameow. She tried to leap sideways out of the way, but her movement was slowed. The attack crashed on top of her, kicking up a cloud of dust, which quickly cleared. To Koa's surprise, Glameow was still standing.

"Try Slash!" Avis shouted, an edge of frustration creeping into her voice. Glameow shook her head, then numbly darted across the field. She lashed out with her claws, managing to catch Scrapper in the chest and make him stagger briefly.

"Mach Punch!" Scrapper's fist glowed a bright white and jabbed Glameow. The strike instantly KO'd her, and she slumped to the ground, unconscious. Avis returned her and whispered something to her pokeball before putting it away.

"Well you got me there," she grumbled. "I totally forgot that Breloom can have Effect Spore." She retrieved her final pokeball. "But you might not be able to deal with my last pokemon that easily." With a dramatic flourish, she tossed her final pokeball, revealing her Staraptor. The large avian flared its wings and shrieked before landing on the ground, eyeing its opponent haughtily.

Koa grimaced inwardly. He'd been expecting to see her Staraptor at some point. Scrapper would be at a severe disadvantage against it, of course. Any flying-type move would deal devastating damage. He doubted his pokemon could survive more than one, maybe two hits. Still, he had to try. Not that he had much choice anyway.

"First move is all yours," Avis said.

"Scrapper, use Mach Punch!" Scrapper gave a curt nod. His fist glowed white and he blurred across the field, slamming his fist into Staraptor before it could react. It shrieked and caught itself, taking to the skies. Both Avis and Koa stared, wide-eyed. Scrapper's attack speed was incredible. Koa was sure it was faster than the average Mach Punch. Kitto's training must have paid off.

Avis quickly composed herself. "Alright Staraptor, let's start with Quick Attack!" Staraptor pumped its wings once and rose into the air. Then it shot forwards in a blur, leaving a streak of white light as it charged at Scrapper.

"Block!" Koa called. Scrapper barely had time to throw his hands up. Staraptor crashed into him, causing him to slide backward. "Giga Drain," Koa said. Perhaps he could at least give Scrapper a fighting chance. Scrapper dug his claws into Staraptor, his eyes glowing green. Matching tendrils of green energy drifted from Staraptor to Scrapper, healing some of his smaller cuts and bruises.

"Shake it off and use Fly." Staraptor kicked Scrapper off and shot into the sky, so high Koa instantly lost track. He mentally cursed. Fly was much like Dig. It allowed the user to soar high into the sky, high enough to vanish from sight. They would then dive down at incredible speeds and strike their opponent. It was a tricky technique because an aerial foe could strike unexpectedly. Koa stared up at the sky for a moment, his mind reeling. He couldn't afford Scrapper to get hit by such a powerful super-effective technique, but he didn't know where Staraptor would strike from either. He didn't want to lose again. He had to think of something, fast-

An angry cry from Scrapper jolted him out of his thoughts and he looked down to see the Breloom glaring at him. "Scrapper, what is it?" Scrapper jabbed his fist upward and gave Koa a pointed look.

Koa mentally smacked himself. In all his thinking, he utterly forgot about the most obvious move. Sky Uppercut. "Alright, Scrapper, do it!"

Scrapper did a little bounce, and his fist began to glow. He stared upwards, his eyes darting about. Then his gaze seemed to lock onto something only he could see. The glow traveled through his fist and down to his legs. With a loud cry, he bent his legs and launched himself into the air like a rocket, fist aimed straight up.

Up in the sky, he could just make out a small gray spot. Scrapper shot up to it, and he heard two simultaneous cries of pain. Then something began to fall. Koa watched with apprehension. Was that -

Scrapper hurtled down from the sky, flailing wildly in the air. "Focus Scrapper!" Koa screamed. At the last moment before impact, Scrapper managed to right himself midair and collect his legs underneath him. He smashed into the ground, cratering it and bracing himself with one claw. A gray blur tumbled out of the sky. Staraptor righted itself a fair distance above the ground and shrieked angrily at Scrapper.

Koa peered at him carefully. Scrapper seemed to have at least gotten in a good hit, even if he lost control on his descent. Still, he'd done well considering it was his first time really utilizing Sky Uppercut like that in battle.

"Brave Bird."

Koa balked. No. If that hit, it would be over, his pokemon was too weak to handle a hit like that-

His brief moment of panic cost him. Cloaked in a flaming blue aura, Staraptor shot across the field and slammed into Scrapper, sending him tumbling across the ground. Blue sparks danced across Staraptor's form as the recoil kicked in.

"No, Scrapper!" He started to take out Scrapper's pokeball. Suddenly Scrapper moved. He shifted, pushing himself to his feet, his arms trembling. Koa watched in astonishment as slowly, steadily, Scrapper pushed himself to his feet. Finally, he stood fully upright, panting with exertion but somehow, miraculously, still standing.

Scrapper cast a glance over his shoulder at his trainer, and gave a sharp nod. "You can still fight?" Koa asked hesitantly. Scrapper nodded fiercely before facing Staraptor again. Koa stared at his Breloom for a moment longer, still in shock. Then he quickly shook himself out of his stupor. Now wasn't the time. Right now, he needed to focus for Scrapper's sake. He could still win this.

"Mach Punch!" Scrapper blasted across the field and sprang nimbly into the air. His fist glowed and he socked Staraptor in the side of the face, then landed and danced backwards. Koa grinned. He understood now. Perhaps by utilizing Scrapper's nimble movements, they could stay in the fight long enough to finish it.

"Quick Attack," Avis called.

"Mach Punch," Koa snapped at nearly the same time.

The two pokemon shot across the field towards each other in a blur of motion. Fist collided with beak and an explosion of energy surged outwards, knocking the two combatants apart. Breloom faced Staraptor down, his gaze still determined. His breath came in short gasps and Koa knew that despite his spirit, he really was near the end of his rope. "Don't give in, Scrapper. We got this! Use Seed Bomb."

Breloom reared his head back, then fired a barrage of smaller seeds at Staraptor. Koa was caught off guard by the attack. He'd never seen Scrapper use Seed Bomb like that before. The barrage of seeds slammed into Staraptor and knocked it back.

"Brave Bird!" Avis called. Staraptor shrieked, its body becoming cloaked in blue energy. It shot through the air towards Scrapper.

"Dodge!" Koa called. Scrapper tried to leap out of the way, but his exhaustion slowed him too much. Brave Bird slammed into him, knocking him to the ground with enough force to create a small crater. When the dust cleared, Scrapper lay, splayed on the ground, unconscious. Koa returned him and smiled at the pokeball. "You fought hard, Scrapper. Thanks." He tucked the pokeball away and selected his final pokemon.

"Go, Echo!" There was no one better to finish the fight with, as far as he was concerned. Echo emerged and shrieked at Staraptor, who glared back. Koa glanced across the battlefield at Staraptor. It had taken a fair amount of recoil damage, as well as the hits Scrapper had gotten in. It was at its limit, for sure. Judging by the determined look on Avis's face, she knew it too.

"Crunch," Koa said. Golbat flew at Staraptor, jaws glowing. Staraptor took off, but its movements were slowed by exhaustion. Echo caught up and snapped his jaws down on Staraptor's wing. It shrieked and pulled free. "Crunch, one more time!" Koa called. Echo nodded and flew after Staraptor again. The panicked bird was on the run now, nearly spent. Echo began to gain on Staraptor, who was furiously flapping its wings as it dipped and weaved through the sky.

"Let's try one last attack!" Avis cried. "Close Combat!" Staraptor whirled on Echo, talons extended. Echo practically crashed into it. In a flurry of motion, Staraptor began battering him, slashing him mercilessly with its talons. With a final strike, it launched Echo backward.

"Air Slash!" Echo stopped himself midair and hurled blades of energy at Staraptor. They collided, knocking it out of the sky. It crashed to the ground, then lay still. Koa grinned widely.

"Nice, Echo!" Echo screeched happily and looped through the air.

Avis scowled, then brightened. "That wasn't bad, I guess. I'm impressed."

"Thanks," Koa replied, smirking proudly. Of course, he'd been quite sure he'd win. Echo perched himself on his shoulders, and Koa stroked him.

Avis returned Staraptor, tucking the pokeball away. She eyed him for a long moment before speaking. "You sure you're ready for the Veilstone gym? I hear Maylene is a tough leader."

Koa resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Echo is probably strong enough to take down at least two of her pokemon! Plus I've got Scrapper and Hazard. I doubt she'll be any more of a problem than Fantina."

The look in Avis's eyes was doubtful. "No offense, but are you sure? You seemed... distracted during our battle. You fought differently."

A flicker of irritation burned inside his chest. "You sound like you're bitter because you lost. Would you prefer I beat you even sooner than I did?"

"No. Don't be ridiculous. I don't like losing. But I can tell when something is off. You seem like you changed your approach. Like you weren't strategizing or something."

"What would you know?!" Koa protested. He scowled slightly. "We've only traveled together for like, not even two weeks total."

She regarded him evenly. "It's my job to be good at noticing things."

"Yeah well, maybe try noticing how to stay out of my business," he retorted. He immediately regretted the words. However annoyed he was, he didn't want to be rude. It was like Roark all over again. She'd been kind and friendly to him, and helpful.

"Maybe I am wrong. But you should think about what I said," Avis replied simply. She didn't sound hurt or offended, to his surprise. If anything, she simply sounded... confused. Like she didn't understand why he was so mad. "And I'm sorry if it seemed like I was accusing you. But I can't just say nothing if it feels like somethings not right."

Koa nodded, though he didn't really agree. "Sorry, I wasn't trying to snap at you." He decided to leave it at that. Sure, it hadn't been his most strategic or well thought out battle. But he'd still won the battle, and his pokemon were strong. That was enough.

Avis shot him a curious, evaluating look. "Well, at any rate, I'm gonna get something to eat. Are we gonna set out tomorrow?"

Koa nodded. "Yeah, might as well."

"See you in the morning then," she declared with a grin. She waved, then headed for the pokemon center entrance.

With a sigh, Koa decided to turn in for the night. He was pretty satisfied with his progress training for the time being. Besides, there was always tomorrow.

xXx

That night, Koa lay wide awake in his room at the pokemon center. For the past hour, he'd tried everything he knew to get to sleep. He was beginning to wish he had a psychic type who knew Hypnosis. His mind kept traveling back to his battle with Avis. Ever since his loss to Cade, he'd felt off. He'd felt it again during his battle with Avis. And he had to admit, he hadn't given it as much thought as he had his gym battles. But she was wrong. He had still used some strategies. He'd utilized Scrapper's Effect Spore. And you also froze up in the middle of the battle. He quickly pushed the offending thought away. Perhaps his problem was thinking too hard. Maybe it was simply time to give up on strategy and focus on strength. With pokemon like Rascal on his team, he had the power he needed.

Koa sat up briefly, peering around the dark room and looking at his team. They were arrayed around the room, snoozing peacefully. Echo hung from the ceiling fan - he noticed the Golbat seemed to have quite the penchant for the devices, and always chose to perch on one if possible. Anubis was curled up at the foot of the bed, paws tucked under his chin, looking rather adorable. Scrapper lay splayed on the other bed in the room. Every now and then, his arms would twitch or his leg would kick out. Koa wondered if Breloom loved fighting so much he would do it in his dreams. His gaze settled on Hazard and Rascal. Hazard had recently taken to nestling in the ruff around Rascal's neck. The two had developed a strong friendship.

As he watched, Hazard's eyes flickered open. They glistened in the dark, and he blinked at Koa, then tilted his head, chittering curiously.

"I was just thinking about the battle," Koa whispered. "You know, I think now that we're getting stronger, we don't need to use strategy and stuff so much."

Hazard's eyes narrowed slightly.

"Don't give me that look," Koa protested softly. "I barely had to strategize today to beat Avis. We just gotta keep getting strong. Then, once we're super strong, we can fight legendaries. So I think maybe that's what we should work on."

At that comment, Hazard's eyes narrowed further. A look of doubt crept into his blue eyes.

Koa felt a tickle of doubt in the back of his own mind, and pushed it away. If he'd had more power when he fought Cade, he could have won. Or maybe if you hadn't gotten hit with that last dig attack. He shut the thought out as soon as it crossed his mind. He gave Hazard a reassuring smile "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about."

Hazard eyed him for a few moments more, then retreated back to his spot and went to sleep.

Koa lay back down and stared at the ceiling. "I know what I'm doing," he whispered to himself. "I just need to get stronger."

xXx​

"So how come your Glameow is so strong?" Koa asked Avis as they trudged up one of the many hills dotting the early section of Route 210. The sun had just risen a couple hours ago and they were making their way through the early stretches of the route, across hilly fields. "I mean, she hasn't even evolved yet."

Avis chuckled. "Oh that? You didn't notice, did you?"

"Notice what?" Koa asked, perplexed.

Avis reached inside her jacket, retrieving a pokeball. She released Glameow, who purred and rubbed affectionately against her trainer's leg. Avis gently scooped her up and stepped closer to Koa. "Take a closer look around her neck."

Koa peered closer. A thin cord looped around her neck and a small, round stone hung from it. He'd seen that kind of stone before -

"Oh! That's an Everstone. So Glameow doesn't want to evolve?"

Glameow purred louder and nodded her head.

Avis leaned forward to whisper "-I think she hates the idea of becoming a Purugly. She thinks they're ugly. I told her I'd love her no matter what, but she insists."

Koa laughed at that. It was amusing to think that a pokemon simply didn't like the look of their evolved form.

Avis shifted, allowing Glameow to clamber onto her shoulder and drape herself around Avis' neck. She started down a hill. "Anyways, Glameow was also my first pokemon. She was a gift from my parents when I turned 8, and then when I was old enough to become a proper trainer, I decided to take her with me."

Ah. So that explained it. Glameow was her starter. "That's pretty cool," Koa mused. "So you've had her for... six years?" he asked.

A dangerous look crossed her face. "Hey! Don't you know it's rude to mention a lady's age?" She snickered, then gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "Joking. Never understood why people get offended about that. And yeah, you're right. Six years. I'm fourteen."

They walked in silence for a few more minutes. "So what does an investigator do anyway?" he asked curiously. He'd heard a bit about the International Police since it first started in Sinnoh as the Sinnoh National Police before expanding, plus she had explained a bit about the organization last time they had traveled together. But the title 'Independent Investigator was something he hadn't heard before.

"Oh, well it's simple. As an independent investigator, we basically keep an eye on anything suspicious going on around the region, gather information, and report back to local police, usually."

Koa's eyes widened. "So wait, you still get to investigate crimes for real? And catch criminals?"

"Ha! No." Avis said flatly. "Independent Investigators 'technically' aren't supposed to do the 'catching criminals' part. But between you and me, if I see something, I'm gonna do something. Ya know?"

"Exactly!" Koa agreed emphatically. He recalled his chase after the member of Team Blackout who had stolen Clefairy. The police had reprimanded him about his 'reckless actions', but he would do it all over again. He could respect drive and dedication to actually do something. "Someone's gotta do something!"

"See, you get it," Avis said. "Honestly, sometimes people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them about joining the International Police."

Koa nodded. "I know what you mean," he growled. A particular incident flashed to the forefront of his mind, back during his days working at the local pokemart. He had off-handedly told one of his coworkers that he wanted to find and battle a legendary. His coworker had laughed at him, then asked if it was a joke. After that, he decided it wasn't worth telling people about that, much less his most private dream - catching a legendary. That was one dream he doubted he'd tell anyone about. At least not until he succeeded. And when - not if - that day came, he doubted he'd be able to resist rubbing it in people's faces, just a little. "Is your investigation why you're heading to Veilstone?"

Avis paused and glanced at him, then kept walking. "Yes..." she said slowly. "I'll tell you a little, but you better keep your mouth shut and not say anything. Got it?"

Koa nodded, his curiosity growing.

"Okay, here's the deal. Team Blackout has been operating across Sinnoh. At first, they only did petty thefts, but clearly that wasn't enough money in that, because they started poaching pokemon and stealing wild pokemon. As far as I can tell, every town has been hit. And recently there was a big blackout in Sunnyshore. But so far, Veilstone has been quiet. I think they might be using Veilstone as a base. And..." she frowned, as if contemplating a thought.

"And?"

"More electric type pokemon have been going missing lately too," she said.

"Maybe they need new pokemon?" Koa said.

"Could be," she said. "Either way, I'm going to try and find out."

They reached the top of another hill and Koa paused to take in his surroundings. A short grassy field stretched before them before giving way to Route 210's most well-known feature. Dark, waist-high grass, thick as the fur on a Snorlax. From his place, Koa could see that the grass covered the land for quite a distance. Barely visible paths could just be made out, winding their way through the foliage. The spot had garnered a small amount of local fame, as a popular hiding spot for young trainers to leap out and startle unsuspecting travelers and often, battle them.

"Look," Avis said. "You can see the Cafe Cabin from here." She pointed off in the distance.

Koa followed her gesture, peering beyond the grass. He could just make out the roof of a pink building, situated in a field. He guessed it was about an hour's walk away. "What's the Cafe Cabin?" he asked. He was sure he'd read about it at some point, but he couldn't really remember what it was.

"It's this cabin where they sell MooMoo Milk. In fact, it's the only place in all of Sinnoh where you can get it! It's a Johto dish, so it's rare in regions outside of Kanto and Johto. Its so good! They even have ice cream too."

"Sick!," Koa exclaimed. "I gotta get some for Echo!" He knew without a doubt that Echo would love the ice cream. Perhaps the rest of his pokemon might enjoy the treat as well. Of course, what fun was a reward without a little training first?

"Mind if we stop? I'm gonna work more on Rascal's training. I want to try out Ice Fang again."

"Hmm..." Avis mused. "How about I train with you? Then, when we get close to the cafe, we can have a battle. Winner pays," she added.

Koa smirked. "You're on."

xXx​

A short time later, he exited the Cafe Cabin, holding an armful of food. He scowled as he set his food down on one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the field. Rascal wore a matching scowl. Avis set down her food across from him, a proud smirk plastered across her face. "You know you only won because I wanted to practice Ice Fang, right?"

Rascal snorted in agreement.

"A win is a win," she said. Glameow sprang off her shoulders and onto the table, her nose turned up in the air and a satisfied look on her face. "Besides, that's your fault for trying a move you knew Tyrunt couldn't use."

Koa frowned at her. He wanted desperately to say something, but a part of him knew she had a point. He'd lost their quick battle because he'd asked Rascal to use Ice Fang. He knew full well she hadn't mastered it yet. Though honestly, at the moment, he'd hoped that the battle would have helped bring out some extra strength. Whatever. He'd just have to be stronger next time. Setting the thoughts aside, he released the rest of his pokemon.

In addition to having to pay for Avis' meal, he'd bought each of his pokemon a special dish inspired by the infamous Johto pokemon, Miltank. Until now, he'd had no idea they had so many MooMoo Milk based dishes. For Echo, of course, he'd gotten the ice cream. He decided on a spicy-sweet pastry for Hazard, at the recommendation of one of the workers. After some deliberation, he settled on a large cake for the rest of his pokemon.

One by one, his pokemon emerged. Their eyes lit up at the sight of the delicious treats that lay before them. "Dig in everyone!" Koa said enthusiastically. He watched happily as his pokemon dug into their treats. Echo licked up his entire bowl of ice cream in one bite. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he froze up, a faint squeak of pain escaping his jaws. His body trembled and he frantically pawed at his mouth with his wings. Koa laughed. "Got brain freeze, buddy?" he said, still chuckling.

Scrapper made a churring noise and pointed at Echo, then laughed again. Echo shot him a reproachful glare and fluttered into the air, settling himself on Koa's shoulders. Koa reached up and scratched behind his ears. "You poor thing," he said, mock playfully. As their pokemon returned to their meals, he turned to Avis. "So are you going to head to Veilstone now? Route 215 leads straight there."

Avis nodded. "Yeah. I can't wait any longer." Her gaze hardened slightly and a faint frown pulled at the corners of her mouth. Glameow glanced up from her meal to eye her trainer.

"Why are you so determined to catch Team Blackout?" Koa asked cautiously.

She shot him a scorching glare. "They're pokemon thieves, I told you."

"I know that, but... I was just wondering if there was a specific reason you wanted to go after them."

"Nothing I'm telling you about," Avis replied. "Rule one of being an investigator is keeping secrets! You never know who might be listening or who you can trust. I never reveal anything about my investigations to anyone other than my pokemon."

Koa hid a frown. That wasn't what he meant, but he was pretty sure she knew that. He wondered if it had anything to do with Team Blackout. Maybe she had a particular reason she wanted to go after them. Or they had stolen one of her own pokemon? Of course, he supposed it could be almost anything. For a moment, he contemplated accompanying Avis. After what happened last time, he wouldn't mind having another go at Team Blackout. Then he dismissed the thought. He was much more interested in Celestic Town and learning more about legendaries. It occurred to him he still hadn't decided what legendary he would pursue first, once he was strong enough.

"So you're still headed to Celestic Town, right?" Avis asked, jarring him from his thoughts.

"Well actually, I want to try and find someone called Grandma Wilma first. They say she lives in the canyons at the very north of Route 210. I'm hoping she can help teach Rascal Ice Fang."

Just then, one of the waitresses approached. "Pardon, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but did I hear that you will be traveling north?" she asked.

Koa glanced up at her in surprise. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well you see, it's Psyduck hatching season right now. Whenever that happens, all the Psyduck in the area get very temperamental. Poor dears think people will try and steal their eggs, and tend to attack travelers." She chuckled to herself and shook her head. "So just be careful if you travel that way."

"Thanks," Koa said neutrally. He didn't think a bunch of random Psyduck would be a challenge, but he was thankful for the warning anyway. She left, and Koa turned back to face Avis.

An odd look shone in her eyes. "On second thought, do you mind if I accompany you for just a bit?"

Koa narrowed his eyes. "Why?"

"Truthfully, I'm worried about the Psyduck. Pokemon eggs are a rare commodity and highly valued. I want to check on them before I head to Veilstone."

"Sure, I don't mind," Koa said. He reflexively glanced at his backpack, where his own egg lay safely tucked away. Even now, through the unzipped top compartment, he could see the egg shake slightly. He hated the mere thought of someone stealing something as precious as an egg. He turned his attention to his pokemon. They had all finished their meals and were playing with each other. Hazard seemed to have started up a game of tag, and was driving Scrapper nuts, dodging under his legs every few seconds, causing the Breloom to stumble. As he watched, Hazard ducked under Scrapper once again, then leaped onto the back of Rascal, causing her spin fruitlessly in circles, trying to snap at the tiny pokemon.

He watched them play for several more minutes until they had tired each other out. "Alright everyone, ready to go?" they gave cries of agreement, and Koa stood up. He returned his pokemon, save for Echo, who seemed to prefer staying outside his pokeball. Avis stood as well and returned her own pokemon. They left a generous tip for the waitress, then set out down Route 210.

As they walked, Koa decided to carry his egg in his arms, so he could watch it closer. It shook more often now, about once every couple hours. He was sure it would hatch very soon, perhaps in a day or two. Excitement filled him at the thought of the new addition to his team. "What kind of pokemon do you think is inside?" he asked Echo, who clung to his shoulders. "Maybe a Ralts? Or Taillow?" he mused, listing two pokemon who he recalled being native to Hoenn. "Or even a Bagon!" he exclaimed. Echo chittered. "Hey don't laugh," Koa grumbled. He adjusted the incubator so he could peer at the egg. It trembled slightly, and he smiled at it. "Well, whatever you are, I'll make sure you get super strong," he whispered.

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik){Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain

And that concludes chapter 17. Koa battled Avis, and came out on top. Thanks to his recent success, he's convinced he has a new 'strategy'. But will it turn out the way he hopes?
 
chapter 18

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Chapter 18: Getting Your Psyduck in a Row

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik) {Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain


A sense of monotony settled on Koa as he and Avis trekked north from the Cafe Cabin. The next section of Route 210 featured more tall, dense grass, so bikes were out of the question. Instead, they were forced to wind their way through the thins trails weaving through the grass. It made for a rather boring landscape. On the bright side, it gave Koa a chance to think.

His thoughts settled immediately on the same thing they usually did when he was thinking. The Two Entei. No matter what he did, his mind kept returning to them. Professor Dragonwood had stated with great certainty that the Three beasts were unique. But Callahan seemed to hold a different opinion. Not to mention Callahan's belief that the Three themselves held some kind of power linked to their resurrection.

The two lines of thought were driving him mad. Who was right? Callahan was respected and known well over, but he also really liked the professor. Charles was kind and amiable and had a contagious passion for his work. His theory of beasts being unique also coincided more with Koa's own belief.

He frowned deeply, staring at the ground as he walked. The grass to his left rustled. Echo, who crouched on his shoulders, suddenly perked up. He let out a warning screech and Koa whirled just in time to see a young boy leap from the grass.

"Hiyaahh!" The boy landed and did a dramatic pose.

Koa gave him a quick once over. Unsurprisingly, he wore a ninja costume, complete with a red headscarf. Koa groaned inwardly. So this was one of those kids he'd read about, who loved to play ninja and scare unsuspecting travelers.

"My name is Ninja Bruce!" he declared loudly. "We have initiated the sacred challenge and made eye contact. You must battle me!"

Koa shrugged. "Mind if we stop?" he asked Avis, who was watching with an unimpressed gaze. "I doubt it will take long."

Avis shrugged amiably and moved back a few paces to give them room.

"You're right it won't take long," Bruce said, standing proudly. "For my pokemon and I shall defeat you!"

Koa resisted making any smug comments - this was just a kid after all. "How many pokemon do you have?"

"One," Bruce stated proudly. "And we've been practicing really hard!" He eyed Koa, and his eyes traveled to Koa's pokeball belt. "You have five?" he cried. His gaze hardened. "Then we shall do an honorable battle, one-on one."

"Sounds good to me," Koa said. His hand drifted to his belt as he mused over who to use. Any one of his pokemon could take this kid, he was sure. But there was someone he wanted to battle with again. From his shoulders, Echo fluttered his wings and gave a questioning shree. Koa patted him. "Sorry, buddy, not this time." He selected a Rascal's ball and tossed her out onto the field.

She emerged and roared. Bruce's jaw dropped. "Wow! What kind of pokemon is that? It almost looks like a Cranidos but it's so different!"

Rascal preened proudly under the boy's amazement. Koa chuckled "It's called a Tyrunt. They're from Kalos region."

"Awesome..." Bruce murmured. He pulled out a pokeball of his own, then released the pokemon within. A Stunky emerged and growled when it saw its opponent. "Stunky and I will win this battle!" he declared loudly.

The two pokemon and trainers took up battle stances. It was difficult, given that they were surrounded by grass all around, so there wasn't much space to maneuver, but that was fine. Rascal didn't need space.

"Alright Stunky, use Bite!" Bruce called.

A dangerous grin spread over Koa's face. "Rascal, Crunch." Rascal charged across the small clearing towards Stunky. Her jaws became shrouded in a black aura as she ran. Stunky bravely continued without flinching.

"Dodge!" Bruce said.

Now that was unexpected. At the last moment, Stunky tried to whirl to the side. It nipped Rascal in the side and tried to leap away. Koa was impressed by the tactic. On a weaker pokemon, it would have proved quite effective. But Rascal was simply more experienced. Even as Stunky leaped away, Rascal spun and lunged outwards, catching Stunky in her jaws. Stunky yowled in pain as Rascal tossed her to the ground.

"Poison Gas," Bruce called, still calm.

Koa had to admit, Bruce impressed him. He had to have realized by now how strong Rascal was. Yet he didn't let that make him falter in battle.

Stunky nodded and spun around, shaking its tail and releasing a cloud of purple gas.

"Ancient Power," Koa said. Rascal took several steps back, then opened her jaws, forming a silver sphere of energy, which she swiftly fired. It shot through the cloud of gas toward Stunky.

"Fury Swipes!" Bruce shouted. Koa could just make out the glow of Stunky's claws as it lashed madly at the boulder. Unfortunately, the difference in power levels was too great for the counter to work. The boulder smashed into Stunky, sending it sliding backward.

Bruce eyed Rascal thoughtfully. "Hang in there, Stunky. Try Venoshock." Stunky opened his jaws, then fired a barrage of glowing purple sludge at Rascal.

"Block with Ancient Power again," Koa said calmly. Rascal summoned the sphere quickly and shot it at the approaching attack. The two collided, creating an explosion of white smoke.

The next command came faster than Koa expected. "Fury Swipes!" Bruce shouted.

Stunky shot forwards into the cloud of smoke. Then Koa heard Rascal yelp in pain and surprise. "Dragon Tail!" Koa called quickly.

Even as Koa gave his command, Bruce did as well. "Poison Gas!"

There was a squeak of pain and Stunky shot out of the cloud of smoke, tumbled across the ground, and lay still.

Rascal roared triumphantly and grinned, proud. "Good job," Koa said happily before returning her. He glanced across the field at Bruce, who returned Stunky and nodded thoughtfully.

Bruce crossed the field to him. "Thank you," he said, giving a low bow. "Your Tyrunt was very strong."

"Thanks," Koa said. "Great job, by the way. You really kept your cool in that battle. That's not easy." A memory of his first battle with Roark came back to him. Panicking during the fight, utterly unprepared, and then tossing his poor Zubat into all that... he shook off the thought. "Your Stunky is pretty sick."

Bruce grinned happily and nodded. "I shall train harder. If we cross paths again, you will not win so easily!"

Then, to Koa's utter shock, he did a neat backflip and disappeared into the grass. He blinked a couple of times and stared, then shrugged. That wasn't much weirder than some of the people he encountered.

"Well that was weird," Avis said, coming to stand next to him. "But then, ninja kids are always kinda weird I guess."

xXx​

Narrow canyon walls rose on either side of Koa, hemming him and Avis in. A path of hard, packed earth stretched before him. And standing in the middle of that path was a group of eight Psyduck, all staring at him with blank, glassy eyes. They clutched their heads and quacked what Koa assumed was a warning. He eyed them thoughtfully. Perhaps diplomacy might work?

"Hey there," he murmured, kneeling down and edging closer to them. He held out his hands in a non-threatening motion. "We just want to pass by, ok?"

The Psyduck quacked in the exact same tone as before, their vacant stares fixed on nothing at all.

Koa frowned. Did they even understand him? He knew most pokemon understood human speech, but these Psyduck didn't seem to acknowledge him at all. Of course, untrained Psyduck were not exactly known for their smarts. Perhaps food would tempt them? He carefully took his backpack off and opened it. The Psyduck continued to stare, but Koa shrugged it off. He slowly reached inside and retrieved his berry case. Selecting a few Oran berries, he rolled them across the ground towards the Psyduck. One of them glanced at the berries, then looked up again and quacked.

Suddenly, one of them quacked loudly. Its eyes began to glow blue and it stretched out one of its webbed paws. Now what was it up to? Something moved in the corner of Koa's vision. He looked over just in time to see his egg incubator float out of his bag and towards the Psyduck.

"Hey!" Koa shouted. He lunged, trying to grab at the incubator, but it hovered just out of reach and floated closer to the Psyduck. A rush of panic seized Koa and he scrambled for his pokeballs. He quickly grabbed one and released the pokemon within. Rascal emerged, looking momentarily puzzled. At the sight of the Psyduck and the egg incubator, floating high in the air, she let out an angry roar. She sprinted at the Psyduck.

A blue glow surrounded her as well, a wave of energy threw her backward. The incubator began to move away, under the command of one Psyduck near the back of the group. It started to waddle away, while the other five formed a protective barrier. Rage boiled inside Koa. No way were a group of Psyduck going to steal his egg... He released the rest of his pokemon.

They all emerged in flashes of light and gave angry cries. "We have to get back the egg!" Koa cried. As his pokemon charged the Psyduck, he risked a quick glance backward. Avis had released her pokemon as well.

All the Psyduck gave a loud, angry, cry. Their eyes lit up and a huge wave of psychic energy shot from them. Koa felt it crash into his body. He was thrown backward and slammed into the hard earth. His pokemon were tossed aside as well from the sheer power of the attack and hit the ground hard. Dust flew into the air. With a grimace, Koa scrambled to his feet, coughing.

Suddenly, the earth began to shake. As the dust began to settle, he saw the sides of the canyon walls tremble. His pokemon glanced up and he followed their gazes.

"Get back!" Avis yelled.

Koa lunged backwards. He called for his pokemon, who scrambled away just as the sides of the canyon began to crumble. A shower of rock and dirt slid down, piling up on the narrow path, blocking the way forward. After several moments, the rock slide subsided. He grimaced at the sight. Rubble and rock completely covered the path, stretching several feet high. His heart sank at the sight. The Psyduck were nowhere to be seen. His egg was gone.

Panic and anger filled Koa. He charged forwards and began trying to scramble over the rocks.

"Koa, wait!" Avis shouted.

Koa paused and glanced over his shoulder. "What?" he snapped. The words had hardly left his mouth before the rocks shifted under him and he slid unceremoniously to the ground. He scowled. He'd have to find another way around. "I have to get my egg back!"

Avis nodded urgently. "I know." She gestured to her Staraptor, who stood beside her. "Take my Staraptor."

He relaxed slightly and nodded. "Thanks," he said as he returned his pokemon. Walking up to Staraptor, he scrambled onto her back. It was hard keeping a grip on her glossy feathers, but after a second, he was able to situate himself comfortably. "What about you?" he asked.

Avis waved him off. Staraptor flapped her wings and took off. As the gray bird rose into the sky, she called after him "Don't worry! She'll come back for me."

Staraptor put on a sudden burst of speed, shooting over the rocks. Wind whipped through Koa's hair and he gasped at the feeling of flying. This was awesome! He definitely needed to consider catching a pokemon big enough to fly on... The canyon fell away below them and he caught his first proper glimpse of the lands that surrounded them.

The canyon opened up into a thick forest that stretched far to the north, eventually petering out and giving way to more that lay rivers and waterfalls. To the west, a large lake lay nestled between the canyon wall and the forest. That had to be where the Psyduck were. If he squinted, he thought he could just make out faint yellow dots around the water's edge.

"There!" he called, pointing.

Staraptor gave a loud screech of acknowledgment. Angling her wings, she swooped gracefully down towards the lake. With a simple flare of her wings, she glided to a gentle halt and landed a few yards from the lake's edge. Koa slid off, his heart racing. "Thanks," he breathed, still reveling in the brief exhilaration of flight. Staraptor nodded, then spread her wings and took off again, kicking up a powerful gust of wind.

Koa turned his attention towards the lake. Across the water, he could see several Psyduck sitting near the edge, each clutching a yellow egg with pale spots. One Psyduck in particular, however, clutched a very familiar-looking blue egg with white spots. A grin of relief spread over his face.

Leaves rustled behind him and he looked back to see Avis stalk up to him. She gave him a nod, then peered out from the brush and across the lake. She chuckled softly. "I guess the Psyduck thought your egg belonged to them, huh?"

Koa nodded. "At least it's safe," he whispered. His voice grew hard. "But I still want my egg back." He frowned, thinking.

"What are you planning?" Avis asked.

"Well," Koa began. "I need to get my egg back. But I don't want to risk hurting the Psyduck eggs, or mine. Plus, it's like those Psyduck were super strong or something." Somehow, they had blasted him and all his pokemon back using some kind of psychic energy. Psyduck weren't known for their natural strength, so it had to be something else they used.

Suddenly, Avis snapped her fingers. "That's it! Psyduck congregate in large groups because their psychic powers increase when they are in close proximity! That's why they were so strong."

Koa scowled. That definitely complicated things. There were at least ten to fifteen Psyduck congregated by the lake shore. Only about half had eggs. No doubt his pokemon could take any single one or even two in a fight, but together, they presented a problem. He couldn't risk the eggs beings damaged. Pokemon eggs were tough, sure, but they weren't indestructible either. "We have to distract the Psyduck," he murmured.

He reached for the familiar black and gold pokeball at his waist, and released Echo. Echo greeted Koa with a soft shree and settled on his shoulders, his gaze fixed on the Psyduck. Koa glanced over at Avis. "Can you have your pokemon attack the Psyduck? I'm going to try to sneak around with Echo and get my egg back."

"Sounds good." Avis quietly released all her pokemon. Glameow, Noctowl, Kriketune, emerged, as well as her Litwick. She whispered a few swift words of explanation to them. They nodded determinedly in understanding.

"Ready?" Koa said to Echo, craning his neck to look up at the Golbat. Echo nodded sharply. Koa cast a final glance towards Avis, who gave him a reaffirming nod, then began to creep around the edge of the lake. He stuck to the trees, treading as silently as possible. In a few minutes, he had worked his way around to a spot a few yards behind the Psyduck.

Then Avis began her attack. Noctowl and Staraptor surged out of forest and began to swoop at the Psyduck, then wheel and fly away. The Psyduck flew into a panic. Those with eggs all began to shift into a huddle, while the rest formed their own group. Their eyes glowed an intense blue. Koa shivered. He knew what would come next. A massive wave of blue psychic energy materialized and swept through the air. Noctowl and Staraptor both dodged easily, spiraling out of the way. In a blur of speed, Kriketune shot around the opposite side of the lake from where Koa had gone, and flew at the Psyduck holding eggs. Quacking in alarm, the Psyduck began to shuffle away from Kricketune.

That was his opening. "Echo, go!" he cried. Echo launched off his shoulders and flew at the Psyduck in the back of the huddle, who clutched the pale blue egg. Its little claws flew to its head and it dropped the egg. Koa sprinted forwards. He snatched the egg into his arms as the Psyduck struggled to contend with the perceived threats of Echo and Kricketune. The one he'd snatched his egg from cried out in alarm and tried to waddle after him. Echo dived in front of it, batting it with his wing.

Koa cradled the egg to his chest as he sprinted into the relative security of the forest. He continued for nearly a minute, weaving through the trees and bushes until he could only barely hear the sounds of battle. Finally, he stopped, panting. He glanced down at the egg, which appeared unharmed, and let out a sigh of relief. They'd done it.

He set his bag down and placed the egg inside, wrapping in with a spare t-shirt for padding. He had no idea where the incubator had gone. He'd have to look for it later. Slipping his backpack back on, he started for the other end of the lake, where Avis was. A soft shree sounded above him and he glanced up to see Echo flutter down towards him. Koa grinned and patted him in greeting as he settled onto his shoulders. "Thanks buddy," he murmured. Focusing on the path ahead, he continued to circle the lake, careful to stay out of sight. He hadn't been walking for long when his hair suddenly stood on end.

A crackle filled the air and a tingle shot down his spine. Echo let out a shriek of alarm and fluttered into the air. Koa froze. He knew that feeling. It meant just one thing - Team Blackout had arrived.

"Echo, what can you sense?" Echo flew higher and closed his eyes, his ears twitching slightly. He wheeled suddenly and let out a screech before flying further into the woods, and Koa raced after him. Echo suddenly accelerated and darted behind a bush. Someone screamed in surprise and Koa burst into a clearing to see Echo swooping and diving at a man dressed in all black. Behind the man was a padded crate containing three Psyduck eggs. Rage flared in Koa. How dare they.

"Scram, kid!" the man shouted. He seized a pokeball and quickly released the pokemon within. A Raichu appeared and gave a cry of challenge, bouncing from paw to paw and leering up at Echo.

"Leave those eggs alone," Koa snarled. He clenched his fists, glaring at the man. Echo let out a furious screech to match.

The man chuckled. "Seriously? Am I supposed to be afraid of -" he laughed, "A Golbat?" The man grinned dangerously and selected a second pokeball. He tapped the button and released a second pokemon, a Luxio. It snarled and took a fighting stance. "See how your pathetic little bat likes dealing with two electric types."

Koa scowled. He eyed the two pokemon. On any other day, he felt sure he could have taken the two pokemon. Neither looked particularly strong, and Echo was skilled enough to handle them, even at a disadvantage. But right now, he had more important things to think about. He fingered a second pokeball, then released the pokemon within. Rascal emerged with a roar loud enough to make Raichu and Luxio flinch. Underneath the mask, Koa swore he saw the man pale slightly as well.

He took advantage of the man's surprise. "Rascal, Crunch!" She charged across the field, jaws cloaked in dark energy.

"Raichu, Iron Tail!"

"Echo use Confuse Ray on Raichu." Echo summoned a flurry of golden orbs and fired them at Raichu.

Raichu and Luxio were caught off guard. Confuse Ray crashed into Raichu just as Rascal pounced on Luxio. She sank her jaws into it and flung it into a tree. It yelped and slid to the ground, barely able to stand.

"Thunderbolt, now!" The man screeched, furious. Luxio's fur crackled with electricity. Raichu's cheeks began to spark and less than a second later, twin bolts of lightning arced through the air towards Echo and Rascal.

"Dodge!" Koa called quickly. Echo whirled out of the way just in time, but Rascal wasn't able to move in time. The bolt of electricity crashed into her, shocking her. She shook it off and snarled angrily.

Koa grinned. It would take more than a little Thunderbolt to put Rascal down. "Rascal, Ancient Power on Raichu. Echo, Air Slash." Echo summoned the blades of air and flung them down at his opponents. As they struggled to bear the onslaught, Rascal shot a large silver boulder at Raichu.

The man's scowl deepened. "Raichu, Mega Punch!" Raichu's fist glowed white. Then it punched itself in the face. A second later, Rascal's Ancient Power smacked into Raichu, sending it tumbling backward. The man cursed. "Luxio, Thunder Fang! Get rid of that stupid Golbat."

Luxio yowled and sprang into the air as its jaws crackled with electricity.

"Rascal, Crunch!" Koa called. Rascal launched herself into the air, intercepting Luxio. Luxio yelped as Rascal's jaws closed around it.

"Spark!" the man called. Electricity surged through Luxio's body, shocking Rascal. She released her grip and dropped to the ground, stunned. Luxio landed on its feet and danced backward, hissing reproachfully.

Koa quickly evaluated his opponents. They looked tired. Minute scratches and bruises covered their bodies. Clearly, the man hadn't come expecting much fight. He was sure he could end this quickly.

The man's gaze shifted to Raichu, who was stumbling about in a daze. "Snap out of it! Use Iron Tail on that thing," the man gestured to Rascal. "Luxio, Thunder Fang!"

A sudden idea came to Koa. "Rascal, quick, grab Raichu and swing it!"

Rascal sprinted towards Raichu, jaws open. She seized its head in her mouth and spun. As she did, Luxio charged towards Echo, who hovered high in the air.

"Shock it!" the man screamed desperately. Raichu desperately attempted to shock Rascal, but to little effect. She flung Raichu through the air, straight at Luxio, who was midair, halfway to Echo. The two pokemon collided. "Now, Air Slash!" Echo pumped his wings, sending a volley of blades at the two pokemon. The attack sent them flying into the ground and created a cloud of dust.

The dust cleared, revealing the two pokemon, unconscious. "No!" the man shouted furiously. He quickly returned them. In a flash, the man grabbed something off his belt and tossed it on the ground. Searing, white light exploded from the object.

Koa threw his hands in front of his eyes, but wasn't fast enough. Spots danced across his vision. He heard Rascal roar. He thought he saw the light of another pokemon being released. Suddenly, Echo's furious shrieks filled the air, followed by a human cry of pain. Koa blinked, trying to clear his vision. Several seconds passed before he was able to see properly again, though a few hazy red spots still lingered.

Rascal lay on the ground, pawing at her eyes and growling. Koa quickly returned her. Whatever they'd been hit with seemed temporary. She would be fine with some rest, he was sure. He glanced around. Where was Echo? A moment later, he spotted the Golbat. He was perched on the crate containing the Psyduck eggs. His eyes were shut, but his ears twitched frantically and he periodically emitted a shriek.

"Echo!" he called. Echo turned to face him and gave a happy shriek. Koa grinned as he raced to his friend's side. Echo must have stopped the man from stealing the eggs. He took another look around. No sign of the thief, unfortunately. He turned back to Echo. "You saved the eggs!" he stroked the Golbat, scratching him gently behind his ears. "Here, take a rest," he murmured. Taking out Echo's pokeball, he returned him.

Koa let out a long breath as he gazed at the eggs. They were undamaged, thankfully. As he reached for the crate, he realized his hands were shaking. He swallowed. He'd just had another brush with Team Blackout, though he'd fared fine. It was... exhilarating. Scary, but almost exciting, in a way. And he managed to save the Psyduck eggs. Avis would be-

Uh oh. Avis. He strained his ears, but he couldn't hear any sound of Avis or the Psyduck. What if there had been more members of Team Blackout lying in wait? Avis wouldn't have fared well at all if she was outnumbered. Picking up the crate with the eggs, he hurried back in the direction of the lake.

He emerged from the forest and looked around. The lakeside was quiet. It only took him a second to spot Avis. She was partway around the lake, surrounded by her pokemon. Koa made a beeline for her. As he approached, he could see that she seemed to be tending to her pokemon. They looked tired, but not seriously injured.

"Avis!" he called. She looked up and waved to him. He hurried towards her. "Are you alright?" he asked as he arrived breathlessly.

She nodded. "We're fine." Her eyes darted to the crate he carried. "You got the rest of the eggs back!"

Koa nodded and set the crate down. "I ran into some creep from Team Blackout. Rascal and Echo helped me." His expression soured. "The scumbag got away though."

Avis nodded her head towards a spot a little farther down the lake. The Psyduck sat peacefully as ever, clutching their eggs. "Some more of those guys tried to come along, but between my pokemon and the Pysduck, they were driven off. But by the time they had gone, I realized a few of the eggs were missing. I wanted to pursue, but my pokemon were too tired."

"Your pokemon are ok though?" he asked.

"Yeah. Once the Psyduck realized who the real threat was it got a lot easier," Avis replied.

Koa sighed in relief and then grinned. "In that case, let's get these eggs back to their rightful owners." He gently carried the eggs towards the Psyduck and stopped a few yards away before kneeling down. A few Psyduck approached, curiously emitting a series of quacks. For a brief moment, he marveled how docile they seemed. Just a half-hour ago they'd been unleashing massive psychic powers in a bid to defend their eggs. "Hey there," he said quietly. One Psyduck tilted its head. "I have something that I think belongs to you guys." He carefully removed one egg from the crate and held it out. The Psyduck let out what Koa assumed to be a happy quack and levitated the egg into his grasp. Koa smiled at the sight, then handed the other two eggs to the Psyduck.

He watched in delight as the Psyduck returned to sit by the lake. Despite his annoyance at Team Blackout getting away, he was happy that they'd managed to save all the eggs. Helping the Psyduck felt good. Returning to where Avis was, he flopped down in the grass and let out a long sigh. A dull ache settled over his muscles and sweat stuck the shirt to his back. Now that he was sitting, he realized how tired he felt. "Want to make camp here?" he asked, glancing at Avis.

"I was just about to ask the same thing. My pokemon could use a break."

xXx​

Koa enjoyed a peaceful lunch, though a fairly simple one. It was just some sandwiches he'd bought from the Cafe Cabin, but it tasted delicious as far as he was concerned. For his team, they got their usual pokemon food, though he spiced it up with a few berries he found growing near the water. He was halfway through his meal when a bright light from the direction of the Psyduck caught his attention. He looked over and his eyes widened.

All the Psyduck eggs had begun to glow brightly. As he watched, the glow intensified until it was almost too much to look at, then faded. In place of the eggs sat several baby Psyduck, all wearing the trademark blank looks of a typical Psyduck. Koa couldn't help but laugh at the sight. For some reason, it was even funnier to see the look on the baby Psyduck.

Avis let out a squeal. "Ohhh, they're so adorable!"

Koa rolled his eyes but nodded in agreement. "Do you think they'll be ok? Like, will those Team Blackout creeps come back for them?"

"They should be fine now," Avis said, still smiling. "It's pokemon eggs that are valuable. Psyduck aren't particularly valuable, so they'll be ok now. I'll report what happened to the police, and hopefully, they'll be able to send a ranger unit to keep an eye on them next time the egg season comes around."

"That's good," Koa murmured, relieved. "How come only eggs are valuable and the pokemon arent?"

A dark expression crossed Avis's face, but quickly vanished. "I don't think you want the details. Let's just say they're not interested in keeping them warm and safe."

Koa shuddered and turned back to gaze at the baby Psyduck. Avis was right, he didn't want to know. They'd managed to rescue them today, and that was what was important.

He finished the rest of his meal, contentedly watching the Psyduck play with their young. His gaze traveled over his team, lounging peacefully, having finished their own meals. Rascal seemed to be giving Hazard rides on her back, which was a surprisingly sweet gesture. Scrapper seemed to be play fighting with Echo, throwing jabs at the Golbat, while he attempted to dodge. Scrapper was getting a lot better at his attacks, he realized. Anubis lay curled up next to his backpack. The flap was open, so Koa could keep an eye on the egg, which had started to shake multiple times an hour.

Quite suddenly, all his pokemon froze. As if under a spell, their heads turned in unison towards the egg. Anubis' tail lashed back and forth and he whined, his gaze locked on the egg. He moved forward, curling his body protectively around it. It shook violently, once. Then it began to glow faintly. Koa's heart raced and he edged closer to the egg, carefully lifting it out and laying it on the ground before backing away. The glow began to grow brighter and brighter, though he couldn't bear to take his eyes off it. Spots danced across his vision and then -

With a final pulse of light, the glow faded. Koa's heart pounded madly in his chest and he scrambled forward on all fours to kneel next to the pokemon who had emerged. Anubis still lay curled around it, so the rest of his pokemon crowded in a semi-circle around him as he peered at it.

A small and almost perfectly round ball of fur lay on the grass. Light blue fur speckled with white spots covered the upper half of its body, and pale cream-colored fur covered the other half. Two tiny ears poked from its head, and tiny, barely visible tusks peeked from its lips. It opened its eyes, revealing dark, shining black orbs. Koa gasped softly and slowly reached out, stroking its round body. A surprised squeak slipped from its jaws, then it leaned into the touch. "Hey there..." he whispered softly.

Its dark eyes darted about, taking in the assortment of pokemon surrounding it. Seeing six eager faces peering back, its eyes widened in alarm and shuffled backward. As it pressed closer to Anubis, Koa took note of the tiny flippers (more like nubs, really) that protruded from its front. He smiled at it. "Give it some space, everyone," Koa said, motioning to his pokemon. Everyone, save for Anubis, moved a few feet back. He sat cross-legged next to the pokemon, who seemed to have relaxed a bit, and gently began to stroke it. Its fur was impossibly soft, thick and fluffy.

As he petted it, he marveled at the pokemon. He'd never seen anything like it before. Though that wasn't surprising, considering his knowledge of pokemon from Hoenn was somewhat limited. Which reminded him. "Hey there, buddy. I'm gonna scan you, ok?" It made no move, other than to purr contentedly from the petting. Fishing in his jacket pocket, he retrieved his pokedex and opened it.

Spheal. The Clap pokemon. Spheal always travels by rolling around on its ball-like body. It is completely covered with plushy fur. As a result, it never feels the cold even when it is rolling about on ice floes or diving in the sea. When the season for ice floes arrives, this Pokémon can be seen rolling about on ice and crossing the sea. This Spheal is Female and knows the moves Aqua Ring and Defense Curl. Its ability is Thick Fat.

"Sick..." he whispered. A Spheal. He had a vague recollection of the pokemon now that he heard its name. They were known to be incredibly sturdy once they reached their final evolution, capable of taking hits and dishing them right back. A Walrein's lack of speed was well compensated for by its power and defense. It would definitely be an awesome addition to the team.

"It's so cute!" Avis gushed as she approached. She knelt a safe distance away, but her eyes never left Spheal. "Boy or girl?"

"Girl," Koa replied.

"Are you going to nickname her?" Avis asked.

Koa frowned, then shrugged. "Probably. But I haven't thought about it much." Now that Avis mentioned it though, his mind started running through potential names.

"How about Frosty? No, too basic..." he mused. "Glacia?" It was simple, ice related, and pretty.

Avis frowned. "Isn't Glacia the name of one of Hoenn's Elite Four?"

Koa scowled. "Darn it. You're right. I mean I could still use the name but..."

"But it'd be weird, right?" Avis finished.

"Yeah," Koa said. Now that he remembered that Glacia was the name of someone already, he'd feel odd using it. But he still needed a good name. "How about Snowy?"

As soon as the words left his mouth he grimaced, an expression Avis mimicked. "Yeah, no," Koa said. A moment of silence fell. He stroked Spheal thoughtfully, mulling over other names.

"How about Flurry?" Avis said suddenly.

Spheal made a happy squeak. Koa stopped petting her for a second and cocked his head. "Flurry..." he murmured. Spheal bounced in his arms. Clearly she approved. "I like it," Koa said.

Smiling, he turned to face the rest of his pokemon. "Everyone, meet Flurry. Flurry, this is the team." He gestured to Echo, who hopped forwards and squeaked a greeting. "That's Echo. He's the first pokemon I ever caught. Flurry squealed happily, squirming from his grasp. She rolled forwards head over tail and bumped her nose against Echo's side. He patted her gently with his wing. "That's Hazard," Koa said, pointing to Joltik. Hazard trotted forwards and sent off a few sparks in greeting. Spheal started to roll towards Hazard, but rolled a few inches too far. Hazard chittered in alarm and scuttled backward, narrowly avoided being crushed. Koa couldn't help but laugh.

Rascal stepped forwards next, nosing Flurry a little roughly, though she didn't seem to mind. Finally, Scrapper trotted over. Flurry squeaked a greeting, and Scrapper made a rumbling noise in response. She clapped her fins happily, then rolled back to Anubis. Koa grinned. He was glad his team got along with the new addition.

They ended up staying at the lakeside for another couple hours, so Flurry could have the chance to relax and get used to his team. For most of that time, he researched what he could about Spheal and Walrein, and moves they could learn. She didn't seem ready to start training yet, but when she was, he wanted to be ready. To his surprise, he found that Walrein tended to have a slight natural affinity towards special moves. He'd have to take that into account. Perhaps he could teach her Ice Beam.

Finally, as the afternoon wore on, he decided to move on. There was still plenty of ground to cover before Celestic Town. And he still had to try and find Grandma Wilma. He packed up his supplies and returned his pokemon so they could rest, though he decided to keep Flurry out of her ball. "Ready?" he asked Avis.

Avis stood up as well. The only pokemon she had out was Staraptor. "Yes, but I'm afraid this is where we part ways. I still have to get to Veilstone, and report what happened."

Koa nodded in understanding. He was a bit disappointed, but not much. As much as he'd enjoyed the company, he was also excited to get back to the sense of independence that traveling alone offered. "Well, I guess I'll see you around then?"

She nodded. "Sure! You already have my number. Maybe we can have a rematch some time."

"You mean I can beat you again?" he replied with a smirk.

She glared at him, then shrugged it off. "We'll see about that." She swung expertly onto her Staraptor's back. "Don't get too confident. You never know when you'll meet someone stronger than you."

Koa rolled his eyes. "Sure," he replied. Staraptor took off, and he waved to her as she flew away. Technically, he knew she had a point. But he was also sure he was well on his way to becoming one of the strongest trainers. He'd come so far since his loss to Roark so long ago. He finally had a team of six pokemon, and five of them were well trained. All that remained was to continue training and earn his badges. Then he would finally be ready to face anything - like finding Spear Pillar and catching a Legendary.

Once she had left, he looked at Flurry, who was curled up in his arms. Shifting his hand, he scratched behind her ears. She let out a happy squeak and clapped her fins. Koa chuckled, then leaned down and whispered, "Welcome to the family."

Echo (Male Golbat) {Ability: Inner Focus} - Confuse Ray, Poison Fang, Crunch, Air Slash

Hazard (Male Joltik) {Ability: Compound eyes} - Bug Bite, Electroweb, String Shot, Giga Drain

Rascal (Female Tyrunt) {Ability: Strong Jaw} - Dragon Tail, Ancient Power, Stomp, Crunch

Anubis (Male Houndoom) {Ability: Flash Fire} - Flamethrower, Dark Pulse, Thunder Fang, Howl

Scrapper (Male Breloom) {Ability: Effect Spore} - Seed Bomb, Mach Punch, Sky Uppercut, Giga Drain

Flurry (Female Spheal) {Ability: Thick Fat} - Aqua Ring, Defense Curl