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Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him


Claus Haller and Barry Goodman are excited to start their gym challenge and befriend Pokemon partners. They don't know that Sinnoh is a massive chessboard, where the main players on both sides have started to execute meticulously planned gambits with deadly consequences everywhere.

But even a mere pawn can become a queen.



Hello and welcome to Prisoner's Dance!

This is a Pokemon fanfiction forum, y'all know the drill. I don't own Pokemon. If I did, then Galvantula, Araquanid, and Ariados would have eight legs each. I only own my own ideas and original characters.

A BIG thank you to slamdunkrai for reading and giving me advice on my work. A great person and friend, and this story would definitely be worse without the help. Check out their stuff as well!

(This intro was pretty much raw copy/pasted from Ao3, but this is TR. You guys know Jeff, lol.)

A note before you get into the fic: The setting of Prisoner's Dance is Sinnoh, and it's inspired by the games, of course. However, I've added a ton of worldbuilding, and will gleefully add to and/or disregard canon where it does not fit my purposes, so there's that.

Note that constructive criticism is ALWAYS welcome if you are willing to offer it! (As long as you're not, like, needlessly rude.) Thank you!

Without further ado, here is the prologue.


ROUTE 206, 13:04

Appearances could be deceiving.

So thought a young man as he stood before Wayward Cave. The cave looked outwardly friendly, the shade of the Cycling Road above a welcome respite from the blistering heat. And sure enough, Wayward Cave was a popular destination for the more adventurous residents of Sinnoh. It was common to see spelunkers and their Pokemon inside, nestled into one of the cave’s many winding paths with the flickering light of a flame lantern casting a friendly glow over their campsites.

Despite all this, the man standing at the entrance was nervous. He recalled the vision that he had received about a day ago...

A cave, shrouded in murky gloom. An inhuman shriek, like the tearing of metal, from within the innermost recesses of the cave. A flash of a sickly green light, and then a dull, heavy thud.

It had been short, disjointed, and utterly mystifying. But he’d recognized the setting, and he had figured that it would be worth his time to assuage his fears, even if nothing came of it. On the other hand, if he did find something there that was dangerous, he could alert others to it, and they could take action.

And, hell. This was Wayward Cave. He wasn’t about to turn down an adventure, and he could use the practice before his gym challenge. The man’s face flashed with a youthful, excited grin as he stepped closer to the cave, his misgivings tempered by the promise of excitement.

Before proceeding any further, the young man bent to pick up a rock from the floor, about the size of his fist. His face relaxed as he concentrated, focusing on the feeling of complete and utter tranquility. Something clicked, and he smiled. The rock outwardly appeared the same as before, but now it was charged with an emotion: the same tranquility that he had focused on. The man left the stone on the floor and stepped away from it into the cave, satisfied that he would be able to find his way back if his sense of direction failed him within the cave. It was but a matter of reaching out with his mind, and he’d know the way back to the rock in no time.

He smirked. Psychics thought they were so superior, with their flashy telekinesis and whatnot, but the fey had tricks up their sleeves, too.

He had not taken three steps into the cave before he was halted by a rush of sensation. It wasn’t a sound or a smell or any other of the five basic senses. He closed off his empathy, the location of the rock he had marked now hidden from him, but he could still sense whatever this was. It was a presence, lurking in the cave, and it thrummed with power.

Cautiously, he took a step towards the source of the power, whatever it was. The sensations did not stop, but they didn’t intensify either, so he gritted his teeth and persevered onwards. He wondered if everyone currently in the cave had experienced this same feeling, whatever it was.

His question was answered soon enough when he encountered a trainer past a turn in the cave, setting up camp with her Vanillish floating silently nearby. She seemed completely at ease, which meant that either she was good at hiding her distress or that she didn’t feel whatever this was. The young man passed the trainer with little more than a nod of acknowledgement. He had Pokemon of his own, but they probably weren’t yet strong enough to take on an experienced trainer with an evolved Pokemon, and he didn’t want to battle right now anyways.

The young man continued to wander. It could have been mistaken for purely random exploration, but the source of the power, whatever it was, directed the man’s steps closer to it, bringing him deeper and deeper into the belly of the cave. The mysterious presence grew stronger as the man approached, but the longer he walked in search of it, the less he was bothered by the feeling.

It suddenly occurred to the man that the lack of encounters with wild Pokemon was odd. There was not even the stirring of a Zubat or a Geodude in the cave for the whole time he had walked, let alone a more hostile or dangerous encounter. The adventure that he had come expecting seemed to be completely absent.

The instant he thought this, he turned a corner and was confronted by two pairs of large, unblinking white eyes. Startled, the man backed up, his hand immediately going to his belt where his Pokeballs were stored.

Then the eyes moved, and the tension he felt relaxed somewhat. The light of the man’s lantern revealed the owners of the eyes to be nothing more than a group of four Unown, floating in midair at around chest level. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the Unown were all the same shape. The half-lidded eyes and curved protrusion made them look like a question mark.

The man stepped back slightly. The source of the power must have been extremely close, because the feeling was stronger than ever here. But the only Pokemon he’d seen was the Unown, and Unown weren’t known for being extremely powerful.

But then, the darkness around him twisted, and he stumbled and nearly fell. When he looked up, he saw that he was in a massive chamber that looked eerily similar to the location he was in before, except that it was illuminated by a dim green light that seemed to come from the roof of the cavern.

With a start, the man remembered the vision that had brought him here. The green light had made an appearance there, too, but the other things--

As if someone had read his thoughts, there was a sound like the shriek of tearing metal, and something fell from the ceiling with a dull thud. The young man’s heartbeat picked up. Was this some trainer’s idea of a funny prank, or something? It was certainly doable. A practiced Psychic could have easily created a vision like that one, not to mention many Pokemon. He scanned the cavern as he thought and found no exits.

The thing that had fallen from the ceiling was easier to see now that the dust had settled somewhat. It was big, probably about ten feet high, and roughly spherical. But it seemed to be melting, shrinking down into a different shape…

The young man’s breath caught in his throat as the shape became more recognizable. As he fell to his knees, he couldn’t help but wonder if such an elaborate setup was needed for this, somewhere within the other tumultuous emotions whirling within him.

The shape had separated into six separate parts now, one large one and five smaller ones. The smaller ones took the shape of a canine Pokemon, green and black, about as high as his shoulder. The canines took positions around the larger mass, like some sort of bodyguards, and bared their teeth in perfect sync as the larger shape-- the mass of cells, the young man realized belatedly-- coalesced into a serpentine body, with the same green and black colors as the canines. Five large frills unfurled above its head as its massive body coiled up. The serpent’s geometric eyes seemed to bore a hole right through the young man as it hissed its words at him.

Welcome, Enforcer.

Who could this mysterious young man be? Hmm...

The young man having a fey affinity (fairy) is our first glimpse at affinities. The people in the Pokemon world get access to the power of a certain Pokemon type, which is unlocked at around the age of 16-17 (just before the gym challenge, for most people). This is because I have a very hard time believing that humans were able to make it to where they are currently in a world where there are magical wild animals with psychic powers competing with you. More about these affinities will be revealed later in the story, but for now, you can have this glimpse of it.

Didn't expect Zygarde in a Sinnoh fic did ya? ha ha got ur nose

Note that Zygarde splits into five 10% formes and one 50% forme. That's a total of 100% and it made me feel way more clever than it should've

Finally, we can call the "young man" an Enforcer, instead of "the young man!"
 
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Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
TWINLEAF TOWN, 07:27

Claus groaned as he woke up, blinking the haze of sleep from his eyes. It was some ungodly time of the morning, the sun having only recently cleared the horizon. The discomfort lingered. After all, even the most hardy of morning people had to take a moment to shake off the drowsiness, and Claus was no different.

But Claus was one of those hardy morning people, so it didn’t take him long to get up and march himself to the shower.

After getting ready for the day, Claus pushed open the door to the living room. Other residents were conspicuously absent, which wouldn’t normally be what one would expect for the household of a seventeen-year-old boy. But it was a scene that he was used to seeing, and he knew that there would be a note for him from his parents in the same location as it always was.

Without looking, he flicked his wrist to his right, and the note flew right to his hand. Claus smiled as he pulled the metal clip off the paper. He was getting better at that with practice. He might have been a little disappointed at first about the Steel affinity, hoping for one of the more versatile ones like Psychic, but it was turning out to make his life a lot easier, and he’d really warmed up to it in the month or so that he’d had it so far.

Claus read the note as he slid two slices of bread into a small toaster:

I’ll be back a bit late today, maybe about 20:00. Don’t miss me too much. -Mom

Claus smiled. That was his mother. Short and to the point. There was actually more than there usually was this time; normally, he’d be lucky to get anything more than a “nothing new” or “the usual.”

He moved to put the note back where it was originally, but something unusual caught his eye. The back of the paper was covered with some markings… oh, that was handwriting. Certainly not the precise strokes of his mother’s, but if he squinted and looked just that right way… yeah, those were words. And Claus only knew one person whose handwriting was that terrible and who also regularly accessed his house, whether he signed the note or not.

Bro, sorry for climbing through your window but I got a sick idea, meet me when you wake up as soon as you can. And don’t give me any of that garbage that you slept in or whatever, cause we both know that you wake up at ass o’clock like Tapu Koko himself so I better see you within an hour. I’ll be at the Smeargle tree.

Claus blinked, confused. Since when did Barry, of all people, wake up before him? The rest of it seemed fairly routine, though. This wasn’t even the first time Barry had crawled through the window like some damn Raticate, and he did know Claus’s morning routine well enough. And, of course, he was definitely cavalier enough to use the phrase “ass o’clock” in the same breath as the name of a literal deity.

Oh well. He wasn’t sure what he would’ve done otherwise, and considering that school was out, there was about a ninety percent chance that he would’ve ended up at Barry’s doorstep at some point anyways. He had little else to do until he started his gym challenge about a week from now.

Slapping together the slices of toast with some butter in between, Claus held the sandwich between his teeth as he strapped on his shoes and stepped out of the house.

The walk to the place Barry had named was relatively uneventful, especially since he was up so early on a weekend. Twinleaf was just rousing itself, only a few fellow early risers moving about the small town. Claus nodded to Arabelle as he walked briskly past, the friendly old woman a routine sight for those who had lived in Twinleaf. The lady saw him and smiled, waving cheerfully back.

It was only about five minutes of walking until Claus saw the Smeargle tree. In truth, it looked absolutely no different from any other tree on the Route, but it was permanently ingrained into his memory. There was an unfortunate incident a few years back, where Mr. Butler had lost his Flaaffy, and the whole town was searching for it. Claus and Barry had went off in one direction, and then they’d seen Mr. Butler’s Flaaffy up in a tree, of all things, with a whole crowd of Smeargle just laying flat on their backs on the ground beneath her, staring up at the poor Flaaffy with eerily blank expressions.

Childhood memories aside, the tree had become a landmark to the people of the town who were present at the time, and Claus had no trouble finding it. Barry stood next to it, bouncing up and down in anticipation. Claus finished off the last bite of his toast and swallowed as he stepped next to Barry and smacked him on the head.

Barry winced. “What? You’re the one who’s late. I should be hitting you, not the other way around.”

Claus shook his head. “Look, I started out here the instant my bread had popped out of the toaster. I don’t run everywhere like you do.” He glanced sideways at Barry. “Speaking of which, what’s the deal? I didn’t expect you to be awake before noon.”

Barry’s eyes lit up here, his previous indignance fading away instantly. “Okay, look, I had a great idea yesterday, and I just had to wake up early today, because it was such a good idea that I needed to do it as soon as possible,” he said, waving his hands enthusiastically as he spoke. “So, you know how our gym challenges are starting soon, right?”

Claus squinted. That was more or less the direction he’d imagined the conversation taking so far, but this was where he was no longer sure. “Yeah?”

“Well,” Barry said, “do you really want to have the same old boring Fletchling or Poochyena that everyone else is gonna catch? Or do you want something more unique and flashy and cool?”

Claus was totally lost here. “Barry. Have you seen a Mightyena? Or a Talonflame? If those aren’t badass, then I don’t know what is.”

Barry waved off the statement. “Okay, okay, bad example, you got me. But you get what I’m trying to say. My point is that I know a way that we can get a cooler starter, and it’s practically foolproof!” He grinned conspiratorially, a stark contrast to the nonplussed stare that he was getting in response from Claus. “So, Professor Rowan came back from Kanto yesterday, and I was thinking we could go to his lab and ask him for a Pokemon!” When Claus’s expression shifted from confused to incredulous, he insisted, “Look, it’ll work! How far is Sandgem anyways? It’s practically next door! We literally go there for the Pokemart!”

This much was true, but it wasn’t that simple, unfortunately. “That was when the road was open. It’s closed for repairs right now, and it has been for a few days. You know that. The only way now is through Route 201.”

Barry’s grin grew even wider. “So, we go through Route 201!”

Claus had been waiting for the twist to the plan that would make it completely idiotic, and sure enough, there it was. “Dude, are you stupid? Neither of us have any Pokemon, obviously. And what,” he paused here and waved his hand at Barry, launching the paperclip from the note from earlier at Barry, who flinched. “Do you expect that to drive off a Luxray or something? We’ll get torn apart.”

Barry nodded. “You’re right. We alone are in no shape to take on the wild.” Here, he reached into his backpack, and Claus suppressed a sigh. What, had he swiped a Repel from his dad, or something? As if that would work.

Claus’s eyes widened when Barry’s hand came back out, holding…

“Barry,” Claus muttered frantically. “What the hell? Where did you get that?”

Barry was undeterred by Claus’s alarm. “Relax, man. She’s my dad’s.” He pushed the button on the Ultra Ball, and a flash of light revealed a Meowstic, who blinked up at the two of them with a bored expression. “See? With Lucy protecting us, we’ll make it to Sandgem no problem!”

Claus revised his opinion of Barry’s plan. It wasn’t recklessly self-endangering, sure. But it was illegal, which was pretty bad too. “Man, are you out of your mind? Put her back!” Claus glanced apologetically at the Meowstic, who was staring at them, unimpressed. “What if someone sees? Neither of us have our Trainer cards yet!”

Barry rolled his eyes. “Good grief! You worry like an old lady. Have you ever heard of anyone actually asking to see someone’s Trainer card? We look old enough that nobody’s gonna ask any questions. Plus, everyone’s starting their gym challenge soon. Seriously, nobody will think twice about it.”

Claus had to admit, Barry was making good points. “Well, yeah… I guess you’re right.” He shrugged. His initial resistance to the plan was beginning to fade. “As far as your ideas go, it’s not the worst.”

Barry smiled. “I knew you’d get it! It’s a foolproof plan, I’m telling you!” He gestured at the expanse of Route 201 in front of them. “Well, then? What are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

Claus shook off the rest of his apprehension. Lucy was trained by Barry’s father, who was a powerful trainer in his own right, having served in Sinnoh’s military for several years and now running the region’s biggest Battle Frontier. She would definitely suffice to protect the two of them from any Pokemon that got too curious on the way to Sandgem. Route 201 was definitely untamed wilderness and no walk in the park, but it was no Mount Coronet, either.

“Yeah,” said Claus, nodding. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. It’s really not even that far. We can make it to Sandgem in like, half an hour if we’re lucky.”

Barry nodded, even as he began walking along the path. “Yeah! It shouldn’t be a problem at all.” He grinned as Claus followed after him. “We’ll get our Pokemon and be back before lunchtime!”

The conversation turned to more mundane matters as the two of them walked and Claus’s nerves relaxed slowly. It really was safe. He’d gone with others previously, too, when the road was closed at other times (which was surprisingly often; you’d think the League would have enough Rock and Ground affinities to lay a decent road.) This was hardly any different.

A lull in the conversation came up, and the three of them walked in silence for some time. Claus opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted when Lucy’s head whipped to the side.

Claus held his breath as the grass nearby rustled. After a moment, it parted, and red eyes peered through it.

Next to him, Barry whimpered quietly.

A Jellicent’s usual habitat was the sea. They were good swimmers, and usually hung out in the water, where they had easy access to their natural element.

But it wasn’t uncommon to see them venturing onto land, especially close to seaside settlements such as Sandgem.

Claus backed away as the Jellicent’s massive head emerged from the grass, followed by its tentacles trailing after, floating through the air. Its red eyes surveyed the two of them, and Claus suddenly had a recollection of the tales that he’d heard of ships wandering into Jellicent’s territory, but returning without any crew members on board.

Barry’s voice shook as he commanded, “Lucy, Psychic!”

Lucy was, surprisingly, unruffled as she faced the seven foot sea monster. The Jellicent stared down at the Meowstic, and Lucy, completely disregarding Barry’s advice, held her paws out in front of her. Swirling shadows built up between them, coalescing into a ball. After a second, the attack rocketed forward and struck the Jellicent, exploding into darkness and causing the Jellicent to flinch backwards.

“Yeah,” said Barry. “Shadow Ball works fine too.”

The Jellicent seemed to be utterly outmatched by Lucy. As terrifying as they could be, this one was likely younger than most, and even a strong wild Pokemon would have trouble taking on Lucy with all of her experience. It began to raise its tentacles, and the Jellicent started to light up green with the glow of a grass-type draining move, but Lucy lunged forward with black coating her fur and rammed the Jellicent head-on. The Sucker Punch left the Jellicent severely weakened, and it turned and drifted away, willing to cut its losses before Lucy knocked it out.

Claus let out a breath that he didn’t know he’d been holding. Barry had gone to his knees and was petting Lucy, commending her, while the feline just rolled her eyes. Claus smiled.

“Man, I am so glad we brought Lucy,” he said, and Barry nodded fervently. “We would’ve been toast. Can you believe I actually thought--”

The sound of a clearing throat from behind them interrupted Claus, and the two of them turned around to see a large man who was taller than either of them approaching, with hair bleached with age and an impressive bushy mustache.

Claus thought this man looked familiar, but Barry connected the dots before he could. “Ah, you’re Professor Rowan! We were looking for you, actually! And wow, I really like your mustache!”

Rowan’s lip twitched beneath his mustache. “Well, thank you.” He lifted what looked like a red box with a screen, and Claus felt a sinking feeling. The Professor pointed the Pokedex at Lucy, saying, “Now, forgive my manners, but I have not had the opportunity to scan many Pokemon that are as experienced in battle as your Meowstic here.” His eyebrow rose as he looked at the results of the scan, and Barry seemed to finally realize the problem just as Rowan continued.

“And…” He looked back at the two of them, and his stare was appraising in a way that it wasn’t before. “I must say, Colonel Palmer Goodman did not look so young the last time I saw him.”

Here's our MC Claus! (Cry if you get the reference)

Claus's habit of waking up way too early is inspired by me. ngl, a lot of Claus is inspired by me. For instance, so is the steel affinity. Steel is probably my favorite Pokemon type, except maybe grass. Maybe bug, or rock. (Claus can be indecisive.)

I love Barry so much and he hasn't even shown his lovable stupid face

Claus and Barry smack each other all the time dw about it

The gym challenge is not necessarily as organized as it is in Galar. For one, not everyone does the challenge in the same order, and the matches aren't massive spectacles the same way Galar's are (though there are still spectators). It's taken generally right after people's high school senior year concludes, so most of Sinnoh more or less starts at the same time. People follow the gym challenge, but the amount of people who follow it increases a lot more as it progresses and the challengers get stronger and take on higher level gyms.

BASICALLY my point is that the Enforcer from the prologue is not bad because of not being able to take on a Vanillish, lol. (Or Vanilluxe, if that's what I said.) He's just starting his gym challenge, and his team (sans, you know, ZYGARDE, which isn't really on his team) is nowhere near powerful or numerous enough to fight and win vs an evolved Pokemon.

Mightyena is cool as heck change my mind. Also, yeah, the regional populations of Pokemon are not gonna be as exclusive as they are in the games, especially not for species such as Fletchling, lol. Now, something like a Sigilyph, you might be more hard-pressed to find them outside places that they're found in game, cause they're generally rare.

Barry out here taking Palmer's Pokemon lol

And tbh it's not a terrible plan. The only issues are that it's technically illegal and that Lucy is, y'know, not their Pokemon

Jellicent is huge? Like what the heck? Also water Pokemon can exist outside the water. Why? Because I said so. (Jellicent is one of the more reasonable ones, considering that it's a ghost and they tend to levitate, but when I say water Pokemon I mean ALL water Pokemon.)

Rowan: hi kids, you look about gym challenge age, nice Meowstic you got there who definitely should not be so well trained yet, hope you don't mind if I call you out on your BS
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
ROUTE 201, 08:33

There was an uneasy silence.

Barry cleared his throat. “Um, he’s my father. Palmer Goodman. I’m Barry Goodman, sir. And this is Claus Haller.”

Rowan nodded. “Of course. I can see the family resemblance. And it is a pleasure to make both of your acquaintances,” he continued agreeably, as if he hadn’t just busted the two of them for theft. The hard glint in his eyes was gone, but Claus was still on his guard.

Barry finally recalled Lucy, whispering an apology to the closed ball. It shook slightly, but stayed shut.

Sure enough, Rowan wasn’t one to beat around the bush. “So, why are you two approaching Route 201 with a Pokeball that doesn’t belong to either of you, and presumably no Trainer card or Self-defense license?”

Claus’s brain had been whirling since the Professor had scanned Lucy, and he’d felt confident in the lie he was about to deliver. However, Barry spoke first. When did the guy ever think before he spoke?

“Well, actually, we were looking for you! We heard you were back from Kanto recently, and I had the idea that you’d be able to give us some cool Pokemon to start off our gym challenge! And, well, the road to Sandgem is closed, so…” He shrugged. “Well, yeah. I think you saw the bit with the Jellicent, so you know the rest.”

Professor Rowan’s expression was unreadable. Claus kept silent, not sure if trying to alter or add the story now was smart. On one hand, Barry’s explanation had just completely destroyed any possibility of the professor believing that Lucy wasn’t their Pokemon. However, perhaps he wouldn’t mind too much, and perhaps even reward Barry’s enthusiasm and honesty. It was a rather minor offense, all things considered.

For about twenty seconds, Rowan stood in silence. When he spoke, his voice was low. “Two young men, so enthusiastic to get their hands on a rare Pokemon, that they are willing to disregard the law.” He stared hard, first at Barry, then at Claus. “When they could have waited, for what would have been at most a week, likely sooner, to take the road. When they could have requested the help of a licensed Trainer to travel to Sandgem. When they could have inquired around Twinleaf itself to learn that I was visiting Lake Verity, and searched for me there, where they would have found me. When they could have caught themselves a wild Pokemon and registered as a Trainer themselves before making the journey.”

Rowan’s arms crossed. “Admittedly, it was extremely unlikely that you would have been caught. However, from what I know of you two, my conclusion is that you are reckless young fools who have no respect for the law.” One eyebrow rose. “Do you still expect me to reward you? To trust you with the responsibility of caring for a living, breathing, potentially dangerous Pokemon, knowing what you two have tried to do today?”

Claus felt a sinking feeling. He’d thought that Rowan might not have been angry, but clearly, he had misjudged. Barry spoke up again, breaking the silence as Claus continued to digest what had happened.

“Everything you’ve said… is absolutely true. Our plan wasn’t well-thought out. Well, I should really say it was my plan. I dragged Claus into it.” Claus shot a look at Barry. He seemed sincerely apologetic. “If you have to think badly of someone, then it should be me, not Claus. It was entirely my fault.”

Claus was touched that Barry would be willing to take the blame on his own shoulders. However, he was his friend. He couldn’t let him take the fall when he had the chance to help him out. It was the least he could do to try and keep him out of trouble, as well.

“Sir,” said Claus, his voice calm enough to mask the nerves he felt inside him. “I understand that this looks bad, but we do have an excuse.” He nodded at Barry, who seemed confused. Hopefully he’d be quick enough to play along here. “You did note yourself that Barry and his father are, well, related. He got permission from him.” Claus shrugged modestly. “Mr. Goodman is a busy man, with the Battle Tower that he runs. So I hope you understand that he wasn’t able to escort us to Sandgem personally. I’m sorry, but we were really just extremely eager to see you. The both of us love Pokemon, and were… well, a bit impatient to get a head start on our gym challenges.”

This wasn’t exactly a lie. Claus had no idea if it was true or not, so it didn’t really count as one, but it was still deception, and it left a bad taste in his mouth. But it would be worth it if Rowan didn’t think badly of them as a result.

Claus suddenly remembered that Palmer and Rowan, after all, would likely know each other, and nearly betrayed his lie by flinching. He was not going to enjoy that discussion with Palmer.

Rowan scrutinized Claus, but his face stayed as neutral as it was before. Claus didn’t have much of a problem here, but then Rowan turned to Barry, and Claus felt a sinking feeling. After all, Barry was a far worse liar than he was.

After a moment, though, Professor Rowan nodded, and the tension relaxed a little bit. “Well, then. I see that I may have been just a little hasty with my judgment. There is, of course, no rule against the lending of Pokemon to others.”

Rowan smiled at the two of them. “And, especially you, Barry, have impressed me with your willingness to allow yourself to shoulder the blame to help your friend. I apologize for questioning your integrity and character, especially when you two are as earnest in your love for Pokemon as you are. If you’d like, the two of you may join me on the way to my lab in Sandgem Town, where I will gift you with a Pokemon in return for the scolding that I have put you through today.”

Barry, who Claus would have ordinarily expected to exult in the offer, only reacted with an uncharacteristically weak smile. “Thank you, professor.”

Claus spoke up, too. “The offer is really appreciated, but we were just about to head back to Twinleaf, actually. I had forgotten that my mother had asked me to run an errand for her. I was just about to bring it up, actually, but then the Jellicent attacked.”

Rowan nodded. “Of course. There is no rush.” He stepped away from the two of them. “I am glad to have met the two of you, Claus, Barry.” And without another word, Rowan continued on the path to Sandgem.

VERITY LAKEFRONT, 09:55

“Did you really have to lie to the professor?”

Claus sighed. “Look, I liked it about as much as you did. Do you think I’m looking forward to telling your dad about this?”

Barry’s eyes widened, and he probably jumped four feet into the air. “Oh my god I didn’t even think about that! Ugh. Man…” Barry frowned. “Okay, seriously, though. Was that really necessary?”

Claus shrugged. “I mean, maybe? He was pretty pissed, after all, and maybe he would’ve decided that we were too irresponsible to trust with one of his Pokemon if I hadn’t said that. But maybe he would’ve let us off with just a little reprimand… ugh.” Claus shook his head. “Like I said, I hated every second of it.” He squinted at Barry beside him. “But man, did you really try to take your dad’s Pokemon without asking him if it was okay? I wouldn’t have made that shot in the dark if I hadn’t at least felt pretty confident that it was true.”

Barry seemed to crumple in on himself. “Look, I… I didn’t steal it, okay? You’re technically right, in that he’s given me permission to use his Pokemon. But I’ve never borrowed one for so long before, or for such an important thing. The biggest thing I’ve done before is helping out get Jasmine’s mom’s Glameow out of a tree.” He shrugged desolately. “I suppose I just didn’t think it through. I hope Dad won’t be too mad.”

Claus patted Barry on the back. “Don’t worry too much, man. It was an honest mistake.” Unlike deceiving Rowan, but he didn’t say that. “I’m sure he’ll be willing to forgive us.”

Barry nodded, seeming to cheer up. “And hey, we’re getting a cool lab Pokemon out of the whole deal too! We’ll be fine!”

Claus hid a smile behind his hand. It was basically impossible to get Barry feeling down for any significant period of time, and the conversation turned to other matters as they walked.

Barry and Claus were more or less alone when they arrived at Lake Verity. It had always been a favorite spot for the both of them, considering that the place was quiet and the wild Pokemon were present but not aggressive. The more superstitious people at Twinleaf said that it was because of the shrine of Mesprit that had been built, which Claus actually gave some credence to. He’d been skeptical when he was younger, but after seeing a Mankey kneeling in front of the shrine one day, still as a statue, he could no longer doubt it so strongly.

The presence of the shrine there meant that people who visited the lake were usually respectful and quiet, which made for a wonderfully tranquil atmosphere. As long as they were respectful and quiet as well, nobody minded Barry and Claus spending time there.

“Wait,” Barry blurted, his words jarring in the solemn atmosphere of the Lake. “Who’s that guy? I don’t remember seeing him around town.” Barry pointed at a man who was standing by the shrine to Mesprit.

Claus slapped Barry’s hand. “Don’t point, moron,” he hissed, but looked anyways. The newcomer was a tall, lanky man, probably about the height of Professor Rowan. He had short, spiky hair that was a light blue. Probably natural, Claus guessed. It was a rare color, but it wasn’t impossible, and it didn’t look dyed either. The man was standing with his back turned to them so that they couldn’t see his face. However, now that the two of them were silent, they could barely hear his words, carried to them on the gentle breeze.

“...think that I’m here to lament my loss.

“You’d be wrong, old friend. I’m here to thank you.”

The man’s voice, though quiet, was articulate and unaccented. He spoke in a clinical manner, as if he was reading out a scientific report, but his words were anything but dispassionate.

“You showed me a burden I had been carrying for my whole life. A burden that I didn’t even notice, until you took it from me. But now I am free of it, and I am a better man for it.

“I do not know why I am here, when I know full well that I could talk to you just as easily from anywhere else. You likely would not hear me anyways. Perhaps it is a leftover shred of some long-forgotten emotion.” The man’s narrow shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. “Perhaps I am not so free of those shackles as I have assumed myself, considering that I am saying all of this to you in the first place. But my gratitude to you is one shackle that I will choose to keep.” He bowed to the shrine. “Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose. I will not forget the gift you have given me, even if you would call it a curse.”

The man bowed his head, holding that position for a moment, before standing up and turning away from the shrine. As he turned to face Barry and Claus, they could see that his face was unremarkable, except for the utter lack of expression on it. He would make a killing playing poker.

His expression didn’t even budge as his eyes found the two of them, who had clearly been listening. There was no use trying to hide it at this point, and it was a public place, anyways.

Claus broke the silence first. “Hey, sorry we overheard that. It seemed kind of personal.” He smiled a little. “If it’s any consolation, I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m sure your friend will appreciate your thoughts. You have a beautiful way with words.”

The man’s face stayed in the same impassive mask. After a second, though, his lips curled into a small, thin smile.

“I appreciate it.”

With that, the man turned back around and walked away from the lake, leaving Barry and Claus to watch him depart.

get BUSTED, delinquents

I like Rowan's tirade. The stuff following, however, used to be a LOT more unsatisfactory until Jeff helped me through it. So, again, thanks to Jeff.

Even in-game, Barry taking the blame for you is so sweet of him. I love that bit.

And here you see that Claus is a tricky little shit. A lot of Claus is based off of me, and I have had issues with honesty in the past (less so now, but it's still a thing). It's not a flaw I see in many characters, but I decided it wouldn't be unrealistic to try to include it, even if it causes problems.

"You two. You really love Pokemon, do you?"

Rowan seems a little bit quick to forgive here, but it's true. There's no rule against lending Pokemon, and Rowan saw two young trainers with a slightly disobedient and far too powerful Pokemon and immediately thought the worst. There will be repercussions for this soon enough, though.

Claus does not enjoy lying. He will lie, but he does not enjoy it.

Who is this mysterious, stoic man with light blue hair? What is he talking about here at the lake? Who is he talking to? Hmmmm.

As always, constructive criticism is much appreciated, if you're willing to leave it!
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
TWINLEAF TOWN, 10:30

Claus would be lying if he said that the thought of not telling Palmer about the incident hadn’t crossed his mind. However, he’d practically instantly discounted it. He couldn’t lie to Palmer. The guy was basically his dad, even helping his mother Johanna with taking care of Claus when the widow had to stay after hours at her job.

Arceus, Claus hated thinking of his mother as a widow, even if it was technically true. It made her seem like some crotchety, bitter old lady, and not at all the crazy woman with a fiery spirit she was in reality.

Anyways, Claus had felt bad enough for the lie he’d told Rowan, that wasn’t even a lie at all. He wasn’t about to lie again where it was unnecessary. And he was pretty sure that it was unnecessary, this time. Palmer was a formidable trainer, but once you got to know him, he really wasn’t scary at all.

Barry opened the door to his house, and Claus saw Palmer sitting on a rocking chair, reading a newspaper. He looked up, saw them, and went back to reading. “Hey, boys. Good morning.”

Claus stayed silent, so it was Barry’s job to speak up. “Hey, dad. Um, we’ve got something to tell you.”

As Barry relayed the encounter to his father with Claus chiming in every now and then, Palmer’s eyebrows rose further and further up his face. When the story was finished, the man paused for a second before taking off his reading glasses and sighing as he polished them on his shirt.

“Why am I not surprised,” he began in a voice that was far more fond than accusatory, and Claus couldn’t bite back a rueful smile. “Of course the two of you would make the acquaintance of the Professor in such a spectacular way. Speaking of which, let Lucy out, would you?”

The ball shook in Barry’s pocket, and he pulled it out and pushed the button. The white-furred feline glanced an amused glance at Claus and Barry, who waved sheepishly, before turning to Palmer with a purr, jumping into the chair with him and snuggling up to his side. “Good girl,” murmured Palmer, and the Meowstic purred louder.

Turning back to the two of them, Palmer smiled. “Look, I don’t mind too much, right? It was an honest mistake, and I hope it won’t happen again without my knowledge.” Barry shook his head emphatically, and Palmer nodded. “Okay, good.” He turned to Claus next. “And you, kid… Well, it was a good save, I have to say. But, I don’t appreciate you using me as an excuse like that, right? Nobody appreciates stuff like that, actually, so I hope this will be a one-time thing.”

Palmer’s gaze was understanding and forgiving, but that was almost worse. Claus stared at his sandals. “Sorry, Palmer. It won’t happen again.”

Palmer smiled. “Good. I don’t like having to chew you two out, so it had better not, eh?” He folded the newspaper, placing it aside and getting up to allow Lucy the entire chair, which she took happily. “Hell, you know what? I’ll take you two to Sandgem right now.”

Claus’s eyebrows rose. “Really? I thought today was your off day.”

Palmer laughed. “Kid, just because it’s my off day doesn’t mean that I want to stay cooped up in the house all day. I’ll let Traci know, and then we can be off.”

Traci, Barry’s mom, poked her head in through a door. “I heard everything! I don’t mind at all. You three have fun!”

ROUTE 201, 10:50

The three of them crossed the threshold of Route 201 on their bicycles. Barry and Claus were biking at a rather sedate pace, which was an oddity. However, they had refrained from picking up the speed with unspoken consent. They both knew that if they started a race, Palmer would outstrip them mercilessly, a perk of the Fighting affinity he’d been training since his own youth. Matching his physical prowess would be nearly impossible.

Palmer’s Pokemon had joined them on the trip, as well. Charlie, his Masquerain, buzzed ahead of them, his small wings fluttering hundreds of times a second to support his larger body. He didn’t look like much, but Barry and Claus both knew that he was strong for a Masquerain, and would probably be enough to deter anything that got too curious on the way to Sandgem. The really powerful wild Pokemon tended to keep to themselves, especially here on Route 201. The grassy path was certainly wild, but it was no Mount Coronet, either.

The journey was uneventful, and the three of them pedaled in a comfortable silence. The few attacking Pokemon were mostly territorial birds who thought that a Masquerain would be easy prey. They were quickly chased away by cautionary blades of wind from Charlie.

The tall grass soon faded into a more beaten dirt path, and soon enough, that became a stone road leading into Sandgem Town. The town was larger than Twinleaf, but not by much. The air was suffused with the salty scent of the sea, directly to the south of the town. A few people occupied the small beach, some of them engaged in a three-way Pokemon battle, but most of them were relaxing. The heat of the late morning sun was the same comforting presence that it was in Twinleaf.

Palmer quickly excused herself to go and visit the movie theater, which Claus and Barry didn’t mind. That was the main reason, besides the Pokemart, that any of them would visit Sandgem in the first place. But this time, the two of them had a different destination in mind.

“Excuse me,” Barry asked a woman who was crossing the street. “Do you know which way Professor Rowan’s lab is?”

The woman nodded. “Head down this street and take the fourth left. It really stands out, you can’t miss it,” she added.

Thanking her, the pair waited until she had left their sight. Then, of course, they looked at each other. The straight, nearly empty road and the absence of Palmer seemed to have given them both the exact same idea.

“Race to the lab?”

Barry grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Claus mirrored Barry’s smile. “Three, two, one!”

The two of them pushed off, pedaling hard and fast. This was an extreme change of pace from the measured pedaling that they’d been doing until then. Claus’s legs started to burn, but Barry was still ahead of him. Slowly but surely, Barry’s lead increased. It didn’t help that the turn was going to be a left, and Claus was on the right.

Claus smiled as Barry started to lean to the side and turn the handlebars as the turn approached. Well, he wouldn’t be ready for this.

Even as Claus slowed down, he concentrated, reaching for his affinity, and gave the metal of Barry’s bike a nudge. It wouldn’t have been strong enough to push him over normally, but Barry was also leaning to the side, and by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late.

Claus pedaled past leisurely with his hands off the handlebars and behind his head, whistling as Barry tried to extricate himself from underneath his now fallen bicycle.

“Damn you,” Barry said, but he was laughing. Claus got off his bike, kicking out the side stand and extending a hand to help Barry up. “I was going to win! Next time we’re doing a race, I’ll melt your fucking tires, and see how you like that.”

“You’d pay for that,” Claus said reasonably, pulling Barry to his feet. “Plus, I didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you don’t know how to ride fast without falling off.”

“Smartass,” Barry replied, kicking Claus in the shin and snickering when he swore and hopped away. “Let’s get to the lab.”

The lady who they had gotten directions from was absolutely right. Professor Rowan’s lab stood out like a beautiful Milotic in a school of Feebas. It was a beacon of a building, about twice the height of any other nearby building. Its sleek metal walls shone like a polished mirror, painting the surrounding area with shiny moving reflections.

“Whoa,” breathed Barry, and Claus had to agree. It was an intimidating but beautiful sight.

“Well,” Barry said, already recovered. “Let’s go in!” And without any hesitation, he pushed the door open and marched right through, Claus following close behind.

The interior of the building was just as impressive as the exterior. The floor was pure stone, either polished to an extreme degree or raised by a Rock affinity. It would have to have been an extremely talented Rock affinity, however, as precision of that level was almost impossible to achieve without extreme amounts of time and energy and practice.

The floor, impressive as it was, was only one part of the lab, and everything else was on the same level or greater, and there was too much to take in at once. Sturdy metal tables, with scientists scribbling notes on sheets of paper. Tall shelves packed with books. Screens, as tall as a person, stretching out against the wall with displays projected onto them.

And, of course, the Pokemon could not be missed. An oddly colored golden Charmander stood atop a scanner, blinking curiously as bands of light moved up its body. A Golbat flapped in place, and scientists watched through a glass barrier and jotted observations. A Girafarig stood on the ground, staring down a man and a woman, until the woman flinched and the man, grinning, pumped his fist in the air while adding a tally mark to a whiteboard.

“Ah, Claus and Barry!” boomed a familiar voice. The two of them looked over to Professor Rowan, who had been among those watching the Golbat. He was walking away from those towards the back of the lab, however, and gestured for the two of them to follow.

“I had been wondering when I should expect the two of you,” he said as they caught up and greeted him. “I should have known that it wouldn’t even be lunchtime before the two of you hunted me down, from your enthusiasm.”

The three of them reached a door, and Rowan placed his palm flat on the surface. The door swung open without so much as a push from the professor, though it was made of solid, sturdy metal.

Barry and Claus shared a glance, but Rowan seemed to not notice their surprise, or if he did, didn’t comment on it.

“This is where we keep many of our younger Pokemon,” Rowan explained as the three of them stepped through the doorway into an outdoor area. “Laboratory conditions are not always ideal for younger individuals, so they are given a home here until they are ready for either release or aiding our research in the lab. We also provide a home for Pokemon that are injured or otherwise hampered in their ability to live in the wild.”

The outdoor area was just as impressive as the interior, if not more so. There were less scientists and equipment, however, and many more Pokemon, of all shapes and sizes. Scientists tended to Pokemon, feeding them, grooming them, or doing a variety of other tasks.

Barry and Claus both stared, neither bothering to hide their amazement as they took in the variety of Pokemon. They knew that even if they were limited to Pokemon that were about their level, there would be an obscene variety for them to choose.

“Dawn!” called Professor Rowan, and one of the lab assistants, kneeling down in the grass, turned her head and made to stand up. She was probably around their age and rather pretty, with longish dark blue hair and a white beanie.

“This is Dawn,” said the Professor, introducing them. “She has been one of my finest interns, and she’s been in charge of helping out with the younger Pokemon recently.”

Dawn ducked her head at the Professor’s praise, smiling shyly. “Thank you,” she said quietly. She looked back up at the two of them, curious. “Was there something you needed from me, Professor?”

Rowan nodded. “Dawn, these young men are Barry and Claus.” Dawn nodded at the two of them, and Claus nodded back. Barry, next to him, waved. “I’ve told them that I would allow the two of them to choose a lab Pokemon to start their gym challenge with. Since you are familiar with the Pokemon here, I’ve decided that introducing these young men to their first Pokemon partners will fall to you.”

Dawn looked extremely pleased. If Claus had to guess, he would assume that she was happy to be relied upon for such a task, and that she was proud of Rowan’s trust in her.

“However, before I release the two of you to Dawn, I have some things I must take care of.” Rowan shifted his backpack so that he could access it more easily, and carefully pulled out two shiny devices with a screen the size of Claus’s hand. Claus smiled as he recognized them, and a gasp from next to him told him that Barry did, too.

“If you are willing, I would like to request your assistance with the Pokedex project,” Rowan explained, wholly unnecessarily. “A common misconception is that the project requires trainers to capture as many Pokemon as they can. This is not true. Simply using the team that you befriend on your journey and documenting information about them will suffice. After all, quality trumps quantity.”

He met their eyes, first Claus, then Barry, and a smile stretched beneath his bushy mustache. “Judging by your reactions so far, I assume that you will be accepting.”

“Of course,” said Claus, at the same time as Barry whooped, “Hell yeah!” and startled a poor Kirlia that was picking at pokebeans nearby, causing it to squeak and vanish in a flash of psychic energy.

Dawn, who had been listening to the conversation silently, disguised a laugh as a cough into her elbow. Rowan chuckled. “That is good to hear, especially since I will be entrusting you with the lab’s Pokemon, hmm? It will be good to keep an eye on them as they grow and mature, away from home.” The Professor handed each of them one of the Pokedexes, and with unspoken consent, they traded the instant that they were handed to them. Claus and Barry grinned as they clutched their new white and black models, respectively.

“It’s just a matter of the color, sir,” Claus felt compelled to explain when Rowan raised an eyebrow.

Rowan nodded. “There is no difference between them aside from aesthetics, of course. If you wish to, know that you can purchase related accessories, not all of them purely visual, at most Pokemarts.”

Suddenly, Rowan’s expression became more serious. He wasn’t angry, but he was definitely more solemn than he had been previously. “I feel compelled to remind you that being a trainer is no trifling matter. It is a matter of obligation and love. When one captures Pokemon, they have an obligation to not simply train them, but to be willing to change their lives to help them. Trainers must know what limits they are willing to push themselves to when dealing with their Pokemon, and if they are not willing, then it is their responsibility to realize that and release their Pokemon back to the wild, or to a trainer who is better suited.”

Rowan’s gaze was piercing. “I cannot, in good conscience, hand over Pokemon to those who do not understand that. Do I make myself clear?”

Barry, probably still riding the high of getting a Pokedex, was quick to reply flippantly. “Obviously, Professor! Claus told you in the morning, and I’ll tell you in the afternoon, and we’ll repeat it as many times as we have to. We love Pokemon! What, do you think scaring us is gonna-- ow! Claus, what was that for?”

Claus withdrew his elbow. “Don’t mind his rudeness, Professor. We understand what you’re saying, and appreciate the reminder.”

Rowan’s eyes softened. “That is good to hear. In that case, Dawn, if you would introduce these two to their potential partners?”

Again, Claus hates lying.

Palmer is basically Claus's dad too, and his family helped out Johanna after Claus's dad died because they're KIND PEOPLE

Palmer has a fighting affinity because it's 100% on brand. Just have the image of Claus and Barry, a few years ago, arm-wrestling when Palmer shows up and is like "yo, let me join!" naturally, the two of them run screaming for their lives.

Lol @ Claus cheating in the race, but also Barry will definitely get comeuppance

I had way too much fun describing the lab

Here's Dawn! Hi Dawn.

A somewhat slow chapter, this time. But still a kind of important one! Don't worry, the pace of this story picks up soon.
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
ROWAN’S LAB, 12:23

“Do you two have any preferences in what kind of Pokemon you’re looking for?”

Barry, of course, replied instantly and animatedly. “Oh, well, what kind of Pokemon are there? I think it’d be really cool to start out with a dragon! Though I understand if dragons are rare enough that you’d want to keep them at the lab. Honestly, there are so many cool Pokemon! I have no idea what I want to start with, but basically, as long as it’s cool I’m fine with it! And maybe even if it’s not! Any Pokemon can be a great partner with the right training!” Barry pumped his fist in the air, and Claus had to hide a smile when he recalled what he’d said just earlier that day about Fletchling and Poochyena.

“...Okay,” said Dawn, even though Barry had hardly answered the question at all. “Um…”

Claus didn’t really have any strong preferences either. He figured that whatever Pokemon he started with, the rest of his team could help him balance its strengths and weaknesses in the future. But deciding to have some mercy on poor Dawn, Claus spoke up, making a decision on the spot. “Well, I do have an idea, if you don’t mind? My mother cares for grass type Pokemon, so I think it might be fitting if I started with one myself.”

Dawn nodded, clearly relieved. “Yes, that’s fine! Follow me, please…” She began walking, and the two of them followed.

Dawn pushed open a fence, and the two of them stepped inside after her. The area was predictably covered with grass, with a couple of shrubs and small trees. Of course, there were plenty of Pokemon there, as well. Not just grass types, but many bug and flying types as well. Claus, in a quick inspection, spied a wide variety of Pokemon, some of which were familiar, and others that he’d never seen before in real life. A Ferroseed slept with most of its spikes withdrawn, looking for all the world like an egg made of steel, as a Treecko poked at it curiously. A Lotad drifted through a small pond, only the pad poking above the water. Two Rookidee chased each other in circles, chirping merrily.

“Like I said, we have many of our grass types here, along with some others,” Dawn continued, the timidness in her voice fading slowly as she spoke. “You can see the flying and bug types, of course, and the pond there has some aquatic species as well.”

The Pokemon had noticed the newcomers by now, and several of the more curious ones approached them, some cautiously and some brazenly. A Hoppip landed on Dawn’s head, and she smiled as she reached up to pet it.

“Some of these Pokemon are more friendly than others,” Dawn said. “But since you’ll be choosing a young Pokemon, it’s likely that most of them will warm up to you fairly quickly.”

Barry seemed to have made up his mind, finally. “Well, Claus, if you’re going to choose a grass Pokemon, I’ll go take a look at some fire Pokemon!”

Claus slapped his forehead with his palm, but Barry continued. “Don’t think I’m not going to take this opportunity to one-up my rival! We both know you’re a battling whiz. I’ll need every advantage I can get!”

Dawn giggled at Barry’s excitability. “Well, if you’re looking for fire types, then they’re out this way.” Her eyes went back to Claus. “I assume you’ll be fine by yourself for a moment?”

Claus nodded. “If any of us needs a chaperone, it’s definitely Barry.”

“Hey!”

“All right, then,” Dawn said. “The fire types are generally over here, unless you were looking for…”

Claus turned his gaze back to the Pokemon that were in front of him as the two of them walked away. Many of the Pokemon had gone back to their own business after determining that Claus was of no interest, but some were still watching him curiously. Among them were a Cacnea, a Sewaddle, and…

Claus smiled wistfully when he saw a Turtwig staring at him. He thought of his father’s Torterra, which had also been his grandfather’s. His mother told Claus that he had played with her when he was extremely young, and that she had passed away before Claus was old enough to remember. The oak tree from her back still grew proud and tall next to Claus’s house.

The decision was an easy one. Torterra were powerful in battle, too, mighty and sturdy; he’d seen so for himself when he watched Eterna City’s Gardenia in her later-badge battles.

Claus walked closer to the Turtwig, kneeling down when he was close enough but maintaining a distance of a few feet, just to be safe. You could never know how a Pokemon unfamiliar with you would react to your approach.

But it seemed that he had little to worry about in this case, as the Turtwig ambled straight up to him, sniffing at him as it approached. Claus raised his hand to pet the top of its head, careful to keep his hand away from its jaw. The little turtle made a noise that Claus thought might have sounded happy, sitting down and closing its eyes.

There was a chuckle behind Claus that he recognized. “I see you have been quick to make a friend.”

Claus turned his head and saw Professor Rowan watching him and the Turtwig. “Yes, Turtwig was quick to warm up to me,” he agreed. “Is… um… Turtwig, ah...” Belatedly, he fumbled for his Pokedex.

“He’s very friendly,” Rowan said, correctly guessing the question Claus was going to ask and confirming the Pokemon’s gender. “You couldn’t have picked a better partner to start your adventure with, I think. He’s been rather calm and no trouble at all for as long as he’s been with us. So long as you care for him, he will care for you.”

Claus smiled. “That’s good to hear. My mother has some experience caring for grass Pokemon, so I have a head start in that regard.”

Rowan nodded. “That puts me at ease. The Turtwig family requires more specialized care than most typical starters, and it is heartening that you have prior experience.” His lip twitched. “I am especially fond of this little fellow myself, as his seedling will grow into a rowan tree.”

Claus grinned. “That makes me want to name him after you, sir.”

Rowan laughed heartily, the sound booming through the area and startling a few of the Pokemon nearby.

When he stopped, he looked down at Claus, his eyes sparkling. “That isn’t what I expected to hear. I won’t provide you with my first name, but my middle name, also my father’s, is Pello, if you and Turtwig are amenable.”

The Turtwig, who had been listening to the exchange silently, made its presence known here by gently headbutting Claus’s leg and chirping in approval.

“Pello it is,” Claus agreed.

There was a moment of quiet before Rowan spoke up once more.

“Dawn has expressed a desire to go on her gym challenge as well,” he began, and Claus looked up, interested. “She is of the right age to do it, of course, and I have encouraged her to participate. However, she has only recently moved to Sinnoh, and has few friends here and little knowledge of the region. Could I implore you and Barry to look after her? I do not mean to imply, of course, that she is anything less than capable of looking after herself. I only think that she might be grateful for the companionship.”

Claus shrugged. “She seems nice enough. As long as she’s fine with us, I don’t think that would be a problem, sir. After all, one of the best parts of the gym challenge is meeting new friends, humans and Pokemon alike.”

Rowan seemed like he was about to reply, but a shout from another area in the lab interrupted him. Claus jumped to his feet. He would know that voice anywhere. It was quickly joined by other voices, raising the alarm.

“Fire!”

SANDGEM CENTER, 12:45

“...And then he looked at me like, ‘I don’t like you!’ And she screeched at me, and I really---”

“Young man,” said the Center’s nurse, interrupting Barry with a severe tone, “it is very hard for me to bandage your arms if you keep waving them around like a wet Litten.”

Barry calmed down, relatively, as Dawn giggled at his sheepish expression and the nurse’s comparison. She continued the story from where Barry had left off.

“Well, the Chimchar hadn’t really done anything violent, other than, um. Looking at Barry.”

Claus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that sounds about right. What did he do afterwards, yell at the poor thing?”

“Claus! I’m not that dumb!”

“...That’s about right,” Dawn said carefully, and Claus laughed over Barry’s protests. Dawn continued, “He tried to tell him that he liked his fighting attitude, but he was probably spooked at his, um, volume. So he tried to attack him---”

“Which is where I got these scratches,” Barry interjected.

“Yes,” agreed Dawn. “And Barry shook him off, and she shot an Ember at him. But he’s not used to using fire type moves yet, and he exhausted himself with the attack by putting too much power into it. And, well, you can imagine the rest.”

Claus nodded. When he had arrived at the scene with Rowan, they had greeted by the sight of a lab assistant’s Wingull circling a rather large shrub, dousing it with Water Guns as dying smoke rose slowly from blackened leaves. Rowan had chuckled at the sight of Barry literally jumping with happiness with a shiny red Pokeball in his hand.

“It looks like your friend has chosen a partner to match his disposition,” the Professor had said.

“Where’s the Chimchar now?” asked Claus, curious to see his friend’s starter Pokemon.

As if on cue, one of the Center’s nurses returned with a Pokeball.

“Is that Roy?” Barry asked excitedly, and the nurse frowned.

“Er, I assume you’re asking about your Chimchar,” he said, and Barry nodded. “Here you go. He’s all healed up now. Don’t worry about what happened, it’s normal for young fire types.”

Barry thanked the nurse, pushing the button on the Pokeball. There was a flash of light, and after it was gone, a Chimchar stood on the floor of the Center. Roy stared warily at Dawn and Claus before she caught sight of Barry. He hissed, his tail-like flame flaring brighter.

“Hey, there!” said Barry cheerfully, now fully bandaged, as he stepped forward and kneeled down to pet Roy.

Dawn looked a little nervous.

“I wouldn’t be too worried,” Claus said quietly to her. “Barry has an unnatural way with Pokemon. They all seem to love him. And if the worst happens, he’s hardy as a Shuckle. I’ve never seen any injury faze him for longer than a day.”

Dawn nodded, clearly not really comforted, but Claus had seriously meant what he said. Plus, Barry was a little erratic, but he wasn’t stupid. Rowan had given them advice, before the three of them had left for the Center, about how to approach a Pokemon that was unfamiliar with them. Even as Claus watched, Barry shrugged off his garish orange and white jacket, leaving him in a plain green shirt. He held his hands in front of him, showing Roy his empty palms, not making any sudden or jerky movements. As he talked, he reached into his pocket slowly and retrieved a yellow Pokebean, offering it to Roy.

The Chimchar had been watching cautiously and slightly suspiciously at first, but as soon as the bean came out, his whole demeanor changed.

Dawn relaxed next to Claus as Barry used Roy’s obvious hunger against her. Claus honestly didn’t doubt Barry for a second in matters like this ever since a few years ago, when he’d watched the guy single handedly talk down a wild Zangoose from attacking a classmate. It had been really impressive, and even more so when the idiot confessed afterwards that he had no idea what he was doing. It must have been a natural talent for him to get along with Pokemon so well, as was evidenced by Roy, now sitting quietly as Barry rubbed his forehead.

“Claus!”

“Huh?” Claus shook his head. “Sorry, I zoned out. What happened?”

“I was asking about your own Pokemon,” said Barry, rolling his eyes. “But you were off daydreaming in la-la land. What were you smiling about?”

“Nothing,” said Claus firmly, ignoring Dawn’s growing grin. What the hell was she smiling about?

Barry: "Lol fletchling and poochyena are lame"
Also Barry: "Any Pokemon can be strong with effort!"

I love Torterra ok, and also the Hallers having an oak tree from Claus's dad's Torterra is a great thing and I'm proud of it. I considered other options, such as a lot of the things that make a cameo in the sequence where he sees other Pokemon in the area, but Torterra is inevitable. I hope you guys grow to like Pello! I certainly love him.

Claus: We'll be good influences on Dawn or w/e
Barry: [is burning down the lab]

Barry's placating of the Zangoose is that one story he always tells and nobody ever believes, except it's actually true. lol

s-shipping?
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
ROUTE 201, 08:31

It was the dawn of another day, and Claus was up and ready as he always was. Barry was up and ready, as well, as he rarely ever was.

"Yeah!" whooped Barry, facing down Route 201 with unbridled enthusiasm. "We've traveled to Sandgem so many times, Claus. Heck, we even did it yesterday! But you know, it feels so much better to do it with a Pokemon at our side!"

Claus rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. Barry had rarely ever shown this sort of enthusiasm so early in the day before yesterday. If this was going to become a pattern, and his work ethic matched his excitement, he would be a force to be reckoned with in the gym challenge. "We had Lucy with us yesterday," he pointed out.

"That was dad's Pokemon! Not our Pokemon! This is different," insisted Barry.

Their families had been sad to see them leave, of course, but they weren't really too surprised. The two of them would have gone sometime within the week, regardless. Claus's mother had received the news with her usual indifference, except when she had met Pello. Her smirk had grown suddenly wistful at Claus's explanation, and he had caught her wiping at her eyes more than once when she thought he wasn't looking.

Barry and Claus were accompanied by Roy and Pello. Roy could keep up with their bikes easily, but Pello would have had more difficulty, so they pedaled slowly. Roy didn't take issue with the pace, taking ample time to examine his surroundings.

"How did you name him, anyways?" Claus asked Barry. He had a suspicion, but…

Barry confirmed it. "Roy's a Fire Emblem character," he explained, and Claus sighed. "Hey, don't give me that! I'm telling you, if you tried Fire Emblem, you'd totally love it!"

Claus shook his head. "I already have tried it. I hated it. Isn't Roy the character from the game you made me play, too?"

Barry groaned. "But that's the worst game! Try a different one, you'll love it!"

"Yeah, yeah."

In an extraordinary stroke of luck, the trip back to Sandgem was even more uneventful than the one they had taken with Palmer. Though, perhaps it wasn't entirely luck. After all, the two of them were familiar faces, having recently passed through with a very strong Masquerain, and it was certainly possible that the Pokemon on the path recognized them and gave them a wide berth. Barry even claimed that he recognized one of the Ducklett that had harassed them the previous day, but how he was so sure of that, Claus had no idea.

Of course, this shut out most possibility of them catching a wild Pokemon on this route, unless they were willing to go out into the wild to search for one themselves. It didn't matter very much, though, since neither of them had any Pokeballs on them other than an old orange-and-yellow Apricorn ball, practically a relic by now, that Barry had brought with him from home.

"It's lucky," he insisted. "I'll only use it when the time is right."

When the two of them arrived at Sandgem, they set out to Rowan's lab once again to meet up with Dawn. It was an unwritten rule that trainers should travel in groups during their gym challenges, especially at the beginning when they and their Pokemon were inexperienced, so that strength in numbers could make up for it. For the few trainers who started out in more dangerous locales, even that advantage wasn't enough, and they would have to rely on the aid of volunteers with more experienced Pokemon to traverse areas such as Mount Coronet.

Dawn was ready and waiting in front of Rowan's lab, her own Pokeball in hand.

"The Professor is busy right now, but he asked me to convey his best wishes to the both of you," she said, handing Claus a slip of paper. "And he gave me his contact information, as well, to pass on to the two of you."

Claus started reading it.

Claus and Barry, my Dex ID is SGC-65800, and if you--

Barry snatched the paper from his hand, and started reading it out loud himself. Claus huffed.

"Claus and Barry, my Dex ID is SGC-65800, and if you send me a message, I will provide you with my emergency phone as well, which I hope you will use only for its intended purpose. If you need to use it, however, please have no qualms." Barry wrinkled his nose, lowering the note. "Dang, I get that he's trying to be nice, and I appreciate it. But does he really have to use so many ten-dollar words?"

"Don't be a baby," said Claus. "We both know that you know all of the words he used." He looked across to Dawn. "Anyways, Dawn, when would you be ready to start to Oreburgh? We're going to Jubilife first, since it's on the way, so we have time. We'll get there today as long as we don't start, like, past six."

Dawn shrugged hesitantly. "I mean, I don't want to hang around in Sandgem any more than the two of you do. I'm excited to see Sinnoh, so if you two are ready, then I am as well." She smiled, bouncing on the balls of her feet, and her enthusiasm was contagious. "I'm really so excited! A lot of people say that the joy of the gym challenge is in growing stronger as a person and a trainer, but I'm more excited to see all of Sinnoh! The thought of going on a journey to find yourself and learn… It's rather romantic, isn't it?"

Barry grinned widely. "Well, I'm sorry, but I don't swing that way!"

Dawn stared at him, all her momentum destroyed in a split second. Claus groaned.

"That's not the only meaning of romantic, you moron-"

"I know, I know! It was a joke! Man, you are such a stick in the mud."

Dawn giggled at the withering glare that Claus shot at Barry. "I was rambling anyway. My point is that I'm excited to get started."

"Aren't we all?" Barry pumped his fist in the air. "Let's get going!"

Claus opened his mouth to agree, but Barry was already dashing down the road. "Hurry up! If you're late, I'll fine you a million dollars!"

"Don't even bother," Claus said to Dawn once he was out of earshot. "I'm pretty sure I already owe him more money than the Aether Foundation has. Plus, he's gonna come back once he realizes that he forgot to stop at the Pokemart."

SANDGEM POKEMART, 11:46

Barry, in fact, did not come back once he realized that he had forgotten to prepare for the journey. Claus looked at his Pokedex as it buzzed and made a chiming sound, like a bell.

SGC-94537: hey claus this is barry
SGC-94537: i am talking 2 claus right


Claus opened the message, quickly typing in a contact name for Barry before replying.

Claus H: Yeah, this is Claus
Claus H: Why didn't you just use your phone
Claus H: And did you finally realize that you can't just sprint to Oreburgh


It was a moment before Barry replied, so Claus took the opportunity to ask Dawn for her contact information as well, adding her as "Dawn M," for Mercier. This new information made it clear that Dawn was from Kalos, but a glance showed Claus that she was invested in scanning the shelves of the Pokemart as her Helioptile chirped quietly from her backpack, so he decided to save his inquiries for later.

Barry G: we need 2 get used 2 our dexes
Barry G: the prof is counting on us man :(
Barry G: and yeah lol oops, can you pick up some stuff 4 me
Barry G: ill pay u back ofc
Claus H: Typical
Claus H: What do you need?


With Barry's own shopping requests added to his list, Claus continued looking through the store, picking up medicinal items, Pokeballs, and more. When he got to the area of the mart that sold Pokemon food, he assessed it critically for a moment before releasing Pello to see what his preferences were. The little Turtwig looked at the assorted goods before dragging one bag over to Claus with his beak.

"Thanks," said Claus, leaving Pello out of his ball for the remainder of his shopping. There were no restrictions on having your Pokemon out inside most buildings, unless they were large enough or rowdy enough to endanger people or property. Pello, like Dawn's Helioptile, was neither of those, so he was all right.

After the two of them were finished shopping, they exited the Pokemart, heading to the place where Jubilife met Route 203.

"It makes me kind of sad to leave behind Jubilife without getting to experience all the things that it has for people to enjoy," said Dawn. "We didn't get to see Jubilife TV, or the Poketch factory, or the GTS, or anything."

Claus shrugged. "Yeah, it's a shame, but Jubilife gets a lot of that because of its location," he explained. "It's kind of out of the way for anyone in Sinnoh who doesn't start their gym challenges from Sandgem or Twinleaf, and it doesn't have a gym either. Most people tend to visit after they're finished with their challenges."

Dawn nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense."

Claus looked at her. "Is there something you wanted to see here?"

Dawn blushed. "Ah, well, I was hoping I would get to see Jubilife University," she confessed. "I was hoping I might be able to go there in the future and study ecology."

Claus nodded. Jubilife University was a premier destination for those who wanted to commit themselves to higher studies after high school and the gym challenge. "That's pretty cool. I'm sure you'll get opportunities to visit it." He thought for a moment. "Probably even during the gym challenge, honestly."

"Oh?" asked Dawn, interested.

"Yep. We could theoretically go straight to… Actually, this is probably a conversation that we should have with Barry around too."

Dawn shrugged. "That's fine."

Luckily for Dawn, her curiosity would be satisfied quickly. Barry was waiting for them at the entrance to Route 203, bouncing in excitement.

"Hey, Slowpokes," he said when they caught up. "I was tired of waiting for the two of you to come back, so I went out and caught myself a Pokemon!"

Claus started to roll his eyes, but then he realized that Barry was actually serious. "Wait, really?"

"Congratulations!" added Dawn. "What species?"

Barry grinned. "A Starly! Her name is Lyn." He pulled out-

"What," Claus said, not bothering to hide his disbelief. "You actually caught something with that piece of junk?" The "lucky" Apricorn Ball that he'd brought from home rested in his hand, the button glowing with the telltale white light that distinguished occupied Pokeballs from empty ones.

Barry stuck his tongue out at Claus. "Ha! I told you, it was lucky!" He pushed the button, and the ball clicked open. The flash of white light took a full four seconds to materialize into the Starly, and Claus almost laughed. What an old Pokeball.

"You could have waited fifteen minutes and used a decent Pokeball," said Claus. The Starly blinked up at the three of them, before seeming to decide that they weren't interesting and hopping away to peck at something on the ground.

"I caught her in the city, so she's more or less used to people," explained Barry. "So I hope that means she'll warm up to me quickly!"

Well, then. Barry was certainly taking the initiative with his gym challenge, having already filled out two of his four team slots. Starly were a fairly common Pokemon, and many tended to overlook them because of the common misconception that common Pokemon were weaker, which meant there weren't many trainers that used their evolution line. Claus was eager to see what Lyn would do in Barry's hopefully capable hands.

"Claus said that he would be talking about something," said Dawn, and Claus nodded. Right.

"Okay, so we know that we're heading for Oreburgh first," said Claus. "It's the closest gym, so it would only make sense." The two of them nodded, so Claus continued. "But what are we going to do after that?"

Barry shrugged. "The next closest gym is probably Canalave," he pointed out. "But I think I'd rather save that for later in our gym challenge, so that we're strong enough to train on Iron Island as well."

Claus and Dawn nodded. Iron Island was a famous training spot for late gym challengers, with its aggressive and tough wild Pokemon.

"Other than that," Barry continued, "Hearthome is pretty close to Oreburgh, if we're willing to cross Mount Coronet for a while."

"Hold on, let me pull up a map," Claus said. He turned on his Pokedex, flicking through tabs until he found a map of the Sinnoh region. The map showed mainly habitats where different species of Pokemon lived, but it had cities and towns labeled, so it would work.

"I was thinking we could go to Hearthome, like Barry said," Claus continued, tilting the screen so that Dawn and Barry could see it as well. "After that, we could keep on heading east to Veilstone."

Barry frowned. "Why would we do that? We'll have to come back to Canalave eventually, and the way you're suggesting means we'd have to use way too much Corviknight taxi for a gym challenge."

Claus shook his head. "You're forgetting Snowpoint."

Barry slapped his hand on his forehead. "Right. I always forget that place."

"Understandable," said Claus, snickering. "Half the residents are probably Beartic. But yeah. After Veilstone, we visit Snowpoint, circle back around to Eterna and Canalave, and finally take a taxi or two to get to Sunyshore."

Dawn had been listening with wide eyes. "This is… extremely complicated," she admitted. "I had no idea a gym challenge took this much planning. In Kalos, most people just… get to Lumiose, and then do whatever they want."

Claus grinned. "What can we say? There's a saying among Sinnovans…"

Barry laughed. "The mountains are Groudon's fingers, and Coronet is the middle one!"

I am a Fire Emblem fan, which means I have to make my main character talk shit about it. (I actually didn't like Binding Blade at all but that's a different story.) But yes, Barry's name theme is Fire Emblem cause I love it

lol Barry "I recognize that Ducklett!" He's back on his bullshit

SGC stands for Sandgem City, you might see other dex IDs later that have different area codes

Again, Barry and Claus have SGC because their dexes are from Sandgem, before someone says "HEY why wasn't it TLT?" dw I made that mistake at first too

"Ten seconds before I dash! Nine... Bah! Who's got time to count?!"

And yes, there will only be four team slots for gym challengers here, because I do not want to write six Pokemon per character. That's a LOT. Four is still also kind of a lot, but it's less of a lot, and I think it's a good balance between being able to cover for weaknesses, being able to write them well and develop them at least to an extent, and being badass. I want to give them personality, even if the story is ultimately about the human characters-- they're an important part of the setting too.

Having a gym in Snowpoint City is like if an American gym challenge had a gym in Alaska. No offense to Alaskans, it just... doesn't make much sense lol

Dawn: "what the hell is with y'all's planning"
Claus and Barry: "our region has a great big inconvenient mountain smack in the middle of it"

But yeah this means that the gym order will be the following:
Roark, Fantina, Maylene, Candice, Gardenia, Byron, Wake, Volkner.

Thanks for reading, as always!
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
OREBURGH GATE, 2:07

“Hey there, little guy,” said Claus.

The Pokemon that he was talking to remained entirely unresponsive, staring blankly at him. Pello walked up to the Nosepass, sniffing at it, but he chirped in surprise when it waddled away from him, still staring straight ahead at Claus.

Claus stepped slightly to the side. The Nosepass didn’t respond, still facing exactly the same spot that Claus had been standing in before.

Huh. Claus knew it wasn’t unresponsive, from its reaction to Pello’s invasion of its personal space, but maybe what he assumed was its “face” wasn’t the same thing that it used for sensory input. His Steel affinity could detect the Nosepass, as easily as it could detect the trace amounts of metal in the earth and the Pokedex in his pocket.

Wait, duh. He had a Pokedex. He pulled towards his hands using a quick tug from his affinity and scanned the Nosepass with it, watching as the results popped up on the screen.

Claus’s eyebrows rose at the results. The Nosepass, just under three feet in height, was estimated to be well over 500 pounds. Additionally, its typing was not steel as he’d expected, instead displaying pure rock type, but when he tapped on it with his finger, it showed a more detailed breakdown. The Nosepass was sixty percent rock type, but it was also twenty-three percent steel, fifteen percent electric, and two percent other types. None of those were enough to merit a listed secondary typing, but they were important parts of its genetic makeup nonetheless. He knew better than to assume that this was true for all Nosepass, though. A scan of Pello, earlier that day, revealed that the little Turtwig had a greater percentage of ground typing than most other Turtwig, even considering that his final evolution was a true ground type.

Interested, Claus scrolled a little further down to some of the listed text entries, which usually contained information entered by other volunteer participants in the Pokedex project (though the submissions were no doubt reviewed by Rowan or someone else before being uploaded).

Nosepass has no true olfactory organs, and correspondingly, no sense of smell. The red nose-like feature, however, always faces north, giving the species its name. Despite being neither electric nor steel type, they gain sensory input from the world around them using a combination of electroreception and steelsight.

“Earth to Claus!”

Claus flinched at Barry’s voice, almost right behind him. He hadn’t even noticed the guy approach, which was unbelievable, because Barry was loud.

“Sorry,” said Barry, slightly surprised. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s okay,” said Claus, still a little shaken. He was lucky it was just Barry, and not a malicious wild Pokemon. Granted, he had Pello and his friends as extra pairs of eyes, and he’d be more on his guard in a more dangerous location, but…

“Whatcha looking at?” asked Barry, turning his attention to the rock type. “Oh, a Nosepass! Cool!” He glanced at Claus. “You thinking of catching him?”

“It,” corrected Claus. The Pokedex scan had shown that Nosepass had no gender, which made him wonder how it reproduced. “But… um, maybe? I don’t know.”

Barry grinned. “Probopass is a rock type, right? It’ll help you beat both of my Pokemon so far.”

Claus opened his mouth to make a remark about how he wouldn’t need type advantages to beat Barry, but he stopped as he thought about it.

A Probopass would cover plenty of Pello’s weaknesses, including bug, fire, air, and ice. In return, Pello could deal with water and ground types that would give the Probopass trouble. Claus belatedly remembered that Barry was much smarter than he let people think he was.

“You know what, why not,” conceded Claus. He directed his next words at the Nosepass. “What do you think, buddy? Care to join a gym challenger’s team?”

It was an unspoken rule that well-trained Pokemon were stronger than wild ones, and that common knowledge had trickled down to not all, but many wild Pokemon. Claus wasn’t surprised when the Nosepass waved its arms in challenge.

“Ah, you wanna spar?” Pokemon generally wanted to test the strength of their prospective trainers first. The Nosepass made a low grunting noise that Claus hoped meant assent, and he smiled.

“Pello, are you ready for our first battle?” asked Claus, excited. It wasn’t really, if you counted the few times that Pello and Roy had needed to scare away some overly curious bird Pokemon on Route 203, but it was close enough. Pello hissed at the Nosepass, settling into a battle stance. The Nosepass didn’t turn to face Pello, but it charged at him with a Tackle. The attack was slow, but the Nosepass was close enough that it would be hard to dodge.

Pello wasn’t extremely quick on his feet, but he wasn’t completely immobile, either, so Claus figured he could get away with his order. “Pello, out of the way!”

The Turtwig stepped out of the way of the charging Nosepass, not able to completely avoid the Tackle, but the attack glanced off the back of Pello’s shell. Pello hissed in slight pain.

“Counter with, uh…” Claus scrambled to remember what moves Pello knew. “Absorb!”

His guess was correct. Pello concentrated, his skin glowing a faint green. Other than that, the attack was invisible, and the Nosepass flinched backwards, making a pained gurgling sound.

“Keep it up!” urged Claus. Pello closed his eyes, the green glow growing slightly brighter, and the Nosepass waved its arms frantically.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough,” Claus said, and Pello stopped instantly. The Nosepass seemed weary, but didn’t object when Claus retrieved a Pokeball from his bag. The Pokeball absorbed the Nosepass in less than a second, and Barry, who had been watching the fight curiously, frowned.

“Okay, maybe I should’ve held out for a better Pokeball,” he admitted.

Claus smirked. “Told you,” he said, pushing the button and letting the Nosepass back out. “Now, what do you want me to call you?”

“Baby.”

“What--” Claus blinked. “You-- I was talking about the Nosepass! What…” He felt heat rising to his face, and tried to force it back down.

Barry grinned his stupid shit-eating grin. “What? Baby would be a spectacular name for a Nosepass! Ow! That hurt!”

OREBURGH CENTER, 3:00

“So I named him Franklin,” concluded Claus, ignoring Barry snickering at him. Screw Barry, honestly.

“Franklin is a nice name,” agreed Dawn, obviously trying not to laugh.

“Thank you,” said Claus. “Anyways, what do you two think of Roark?”

“No,” said Barry, immediately. “I would get destroyed. I haven’t done much actual training yet, and both of my team members are weak to rock. First gym or not, I wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“You’re right,” agreed Claus, “But I didn’t mean challenging him. I haven’t trained much either, and I don’t think that just a type advantage can win me the battle. I was thinking maybe we could watch some of his battles, to get an idea of how he fights and what we should be prepared for.”

Dawn nodded. “That sounds like a good idea, but I’m a little tired today,” she admitted. “I think our Pokemon are probably a bit worn out from traveling, too. Maybe tomorrow?”

A glance at Barry showed that he agreed with Dawn, so Claus shrugged. “Yeah, that’s fine. Tomorrow it is. But then what do you want to do today?”

Before any of them could reply, they were interrupted by a robotic beeping sound, startling Roy out of Barry’s lap and onto the floor. Claus turned in his seat to see that the Center’s TV had been interrupted, the news anchor who had been talking previously replaced by a black screen with blocky white text that read “Emergency broadcast.” The Center’s other occupants fell silent.

A man’s voice read the words on the screen out loud. “Emergency broadcast. All of those in the following areas are requested to head indoors and remain there until directed otherwise, unless they have five or more gym badges or equal qualifications, due to unconfirmed reports of an unidentified but powerful Pokemon. Route 206. Route 207. Route 208. Oreburgh City.

“The Pokemon is reported to be sturdily built and about eight feet tall, with reddish skin and features typical of bug Pokemon. If you spot a Pokemon matching this description, call the League’s number, 223, immediately. Exercise caution, for this Pokemon’s species and capabilities are unknown.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

The screen went black before returning to the news channel, but the silence in the Center lingered for a moment before the voices returned, excited and confused.

Barry turned back to the two of them. “What on earth? An unidentified Pokemon species?” He grinned. “That doesn’t happen every day!”

“I can’t say I’m very hopeful,” Claus confessed. “They were unconfirmed reports. It could just be a prank, or something of the sort.” He shrugged. “The description was extremely vague, and it could be exaggerated. For all we know, it was just a loose Scizor.”

Dawn looked uneasy. “A Scizor that’s eight feet tall?”

Claus hesitated. “Okay, well… maybe a Scolipede. I don’t know. Again, it might just be exaggerated.” The excuse sounded feeble even to him. Scolipede were eight feet long. If they were eight feet tall, they would be a truly terrifying Pokemon indeed.

Barry waved him off. “Don’t be a buzzkill, Claus!” Some people who had the appropriate qualifications, mostly older trainers, were beginning to leave the center, their hands on their Pokeballs. “Who knows? There’s always the possibility. Maybe it’ll be something super powerful that we can catch on our own gym challenges!”

“Always the optimist,” scoffed Claus. Pello, nearby, chirped and headbutted Claus’s foot. He seemed worried by the shift in the atmosphere.

“No problem, buddy,” he muttered, reaching down to pet the Turtwig’s head. With any luck, whatever this was would blow over quickly, and they could continue on their gym challenges.

Speaking of which, Barry had already recovered from the strange event, raising his Pokedex. “Well, since that means we’re stuck here for a while, we might as well brainstorm for the gym battle, right?”

The three of them spent some time reviewing strategies for the upcoming gym battle. Claus was fairly confident that with some training, Pello would be able to take on Roark’s team and win. A study of the Pokedex scan revealed that Pello had a greater concentration of ground type than most other Turtwig, which suggested a ground type parent or grandparent. Claus would have to check for any ground type moves when he was training. Franklin would be more of a last resort, if Pello wasn’t able to take down two Pokemon by himself; Rock type Pokemon were sturdy, long-lived opponents, type advantage or not.

Dawn would have a similar strategy to Claus, relying on her Piplup (who neither Claus nor Barry had seen before, causing curiosity from the former and fawning from the latter) and using her Helioptile only as a last-ditch effort. Rock types were evenly matched against electric types in theory, but many of them shared a secondary ground type, or at least a higher percentage of ground type composition, allowing them to use moves like Earthquake and Bulldoze. It was a risk that Dawn was unwilling to take unless she had to.

Barry, on the other hand, had a much more difficult task than either of them. Rock types had a natural advantage against both of his teammates, unless he was willing to wait for Roy to evolve into Monferno before challenging Roark, hardly an appealing prospect for someone so impatient. Lyn would have even more difficulty. Starly were quick and evasive in battle, but they were frail, and even one true strike from a rock type attack could knock them out.

“Maybe I’ll check for TMs in the Poke mart,” Barry mused. “I’m sure Roy can learn a fighting move, or something like that.”

“That’s a good idea,” agreed Claus. TMs were often limited by the amount of badges that a trainer had, to keep under-trained Pokemon from learning techniques that were too advanced, but there would likely be at least a decent selection available to beginning trainers as well. “Maybe Steel Wing--”

The television interrupted their discussion again, beeping loudly. A hush fell over the Center once more as the man’s voice-- no, a different man’s voice-- spoke up once more. Though the format of the broadcast was the same, this man sounded disgruntled, a far cry from the emotionless, robotic voice that had announced the first time.

“Emergency broadcast. The previous communication was a false alarm, caused by miscommunication. Please disregard it and return to business as usual if you are in the following locations. Route 206. Route 207. Route 208. Oreburgh City.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

The television switched back to its regularly scheduled programming. Claus, Barry, and Dawn exchanged glances.

“How does someone just… accidentally report a massive unidentified Pokemon?” asked Barry, his eyebrows furrowing together.

Claus shrugged, forcing a laugh. “I don’t know. People are dumb sometimes.”

But he wasn’t convinced. This didn’t sound like something that someone would just… accidentally do. There were all sorts of weird things about the situation, as well. Why were the announcers two different people? Why didn’t they give a better explanation than “miscommunication?” Why did the league partially shut down all of Oreburgh City, not to mention three nearby routes, when they could have been more specific about the location?

And, of course, how would such a huge Pokemon, assuming it even existed, suddenly vanish?

“Maybe it was a prank call,” suggested Dawn. “There’s too much about this that doesn’t make sense.”

“Probably,” Claus agreed. It was far from a perfect explanation, but it was the best one they had for now…

Claus meets his first non-Pello team member! I love Probopass, and if you don't, I really hope I can change your mind throughout the course of this fic. The mini-noses are such a cool concept, and I just think the iron filings being attracted to the nose and looking like a mustache is so silly and endearing.

Nosepass always faces north, and I made that canon here as well, because Nosepass doesn't really use its eyes to see. As I mentioned, it uses electroreception (the sense that a platypus uses to detect electric currents, but much stronger in a Nosepass than any IRL animals because it needs to function well outside of the water, where electricity can't conduct as well) and steelsight (the thing that Claus can do, with his affinity, where he kind of is a metal detector). This is, of course, because Probopass is both a steel type and learns a lot of electric moves as it levels up, like Discharge (hence the liberties I took with describing Nosepass's type composition.)

Also, Nosepass has no gender here, despite it having a gender in the game. Because unlike things such as Geodude, I feel like Nosepass isn't really organic at all, and would reproduce asexually. It has no "organs" that are really comparable to irl animals, which is how I'd judge something like this. I don't want to rant for too long about Pokemon biology though, so if you have any other questions feel free to ask in the comments! lol

Claus getting into "oooh fun info" mode when he actually starts using the Pokedex is me. I get lost in interesting stuff all the time. [looks up at my rant on Nosepass's use of sensory inputs] yeah

S-shipping???

"Screw Barry, honestly." --you would [shot]

What's the deal with this weird broadcast hmmmm? We shall see

also lmao @ barry going "damn can we catch one???"
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
ROUTE 207, 09:20

Claus, Barry, and Dawn, so far in their journey, had been confronted by wild Pokemon infrequently, and the encounters had been more or less quick and easy.

The wild Pokemon of Route 207, however, were a different matter.

“Oh, Arceus!” yelped Claus, as he jumped out of the way of a tongue of flame that whipped towards him. The Ponyta that had caused it snorted, its ears flattened against the sides of its head.

That would teach him to wander around Route 207 without his Pokemon out. A flash of his Pokeball revealed Franklin, the Nosepass landing on the ground. It rumbled as it shuffled towards the Ponyta, a comical sight due to its dogged insistence to face north.

The Ponyta stared down at the Nosepass, walking awkwardly at a right angle to its opponent, and neighed, once again flinging a short stream of flame from its mane.

Franklin, however, was much more resilient than Claus was, and the Nosepass weathered the attack with only a slight grunt. Claus relaxed slightly. Wild Pokemon tended to target Pokemon rather than humans when attacking, presumably because they were by far the bigger threats. He still kept a wary eye on the Ponyta, though.

“Rock Throw, Franklin!” Claus ordered.

Franklin raised its arms, pebbles and dirt rising from the ground around it and combining with energy to solidify into a rock-like projectile. Franklin flung the rock, which landed with a solid thud, and the Ponyta screamed before turning tail and fleeing.

“Nice, Franklin,” said Claus. “That Rock Throw is pretty strong, huh?”

Franklin gurgled agreeably, and Claus grinned. Another flash of a Pokeball brought Pello as company, who looked around at his surroundings.

Claus stepped back. “Hey, you two,” he began, and Pello looked towards him. Franklin didn’t, but that was to be expected. Claus would just have to hope it was listening.

“We’re going to challenge Roark,” Claus began. “He’s a gym leader, and he’s pretty strong, but he’s only going to be the first.”

Franklin made a questioning noise, and Claus realized that he might not have fully understood the gym challenge the way Pello might have, being more acquainted with human culture.

“There are going to be eight gym leaders,” Claus explained. “We’re only on the first one right now, but they’ll get stronger as we go, just like we will. If we beat all of them, then we can go on to the Elite Four and the Champion, who are even harder than the gym leaders. If we beat the Champion, then we get the title Exemplar, which means that we can do more cool stuff together.”

To be totally honest, he didn’t expect to get the title, and that was okay. Most people didn’t, and there were few occupations that absolutely required an Exemplar, foremost among which was the Champion themselves. However, there were added bonuses, such as being able to participate in brutally competitive international tournaments, being allowed to explore the deepest and most dangerous parts of Sinnoh, and more. And, of course, the fame and exposure, though that was less important to him.

“Roark uses rock Pokemon, like you, Franklin. Which means that Pello will have a pretty good advantage against him.” Pello chirped happily, but Claus wasn’t done. “You’ll both still have to practice, though. Roark isn’t a gym leader for nothing.” A quick tug with his affinity brought the Pokedex out of his pocket and into his hand, a maneuver that he was beginning to get more and more used to recently. A scan of Pello from before was still pulled up, and it showed the type breakdown: sixty-two percent grass, twenty-five percent ground, ten percent rock, and three percent other types.

“So, buddy,” said Claus to Pello, “the dex tells me that Turtwig generally have fifteen to twenty-three percent ground type, but you’re sitting at a solid twenty-five. Do you know any ground type moves? They could help out a lot in this gym battle.”

Pello stared blankly at Claus.

“Umm… earth?” Claus tried. There were some moves that Pokemon knew that matched that description, like Earth Power and Earthquake, but Claus doubted Pello would be able to perform such powerful moves yet.

Pello didn’t even blink.

Claus scratched his head. “Mud… ground… sand…”

At the last suggestion, Pello perked up. Stomping his foot on the ground, he concentrated for a moment, and the soil of the Route began to swirl in circles, breaking down into smaller particles as it rose around Franklin, converging on its rocky body. Franklin rumbled in surprise as the attack enveloped it.

“Hey, hey, knock it off!” said Claus, and the sand fell back to the ground. He frowned. “Don’t attack teammates unless you’re training with them, okay?” Pello chirped, and Claus would simply have to hope that meant agreement.

That move was probably Sand Tomb. He’d have to update that on the part of the dex where he could add his own Pokemon’s specific information, so that Professor Rowan would see it.

Claus grinned. A trapping move was always useful, and the constant damage would hopefully help wear down rock types’ extreme stamina.

“Pello, we’re going to practice that move, okay? I have a feeling it’ll come in really handy in the gym battle.” He turned to Franklin, raising the Pokedex once more. “And as for you…”

OREBURGH CENTER, 12:12

“...eight feet tall, with reddish skin and features typical of bug Pokemon. If you spot a Pokemon matching this description, call the League’s number, 223, immediately. Exercise caution, for this Pokemon’s species and capabilities are unknown.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

Barry, Claus, and Dawn looked at each other again.

“This is so weird,” said Barry. “Again? Seriously? Didn’t they say the last time was a miscommunication, or some shit?”

One of the people in the Center, who had been just about to leave, huffed loudly. “Cooperation, my ass,” she said, loud enough for the whole lobby to hear her. “I’m getting lunch.”

The door swung shut with a creak behind her, leaving the other, more law-abiding citizens to murmur speculatively. However, it wasn’t even a moment until the emergency broadcast signal came on once again.

“Emergency broadcast. The previous communication was a false alarm, caused by miscommunication. Please disregard it and return to business as usual if you are in the following locations. Route 206. Route 207. Route 208. Oreburgh City.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

Dawn was the first to speak up, this time. “I’m pretty sure it is a prank, now,” she said. “The delay between transmissions was a lot shorter this time. If it was a prank, like I said, then it’s likely that they learned from their mistake the last time and corrected it more quickly.”

Claus shook his head. “No,” he said. “You’re right, but if they had learned from the mistake, then they wouldn’t have allowed the transmission to air in the first place.” He shook his head, mystified. “But I still can’t think of a better explanation than a prank. Otherwise, it makes literally no sense, because why else would they discount their warning not even a minute after they issued it?”

“If this is a prank, then the pranksters are idiots,” declared Barry. “Why would they try the exact same thing twice? I wouldn’t have expected it to work. Though, well, it did.” He shrugged. “So either the League is even dumber than the pranksters, or we’re missing an important piece of the puzzle.”

Dawn shook her head. “The only way I can think of that happening is that the pranksters somehow hijacked the league’s emergency broadcast system and delivered the alert themselves, but that seems extremely unlikely.”

Claus laughed. “Not to mention a lot of effort for a joke,” he added. “I’m really not buying that it’s a prank.”

Before either of the other two could reply to that, though, the news anchor on the television had started to offer his own input on the situation.

“The League has now dismissed two of its own emergency broadcasts as miscommunications,” he began. Claus knew this guy, as did most of Sinnoh; Carl Nadon was probably the most caustic and opinionated news anchor on the planet. “Is this the League’s treatment of a so-called ‘emergency measure?’ They’re treating all of Sinnoh like fools! And with such an absurd claim, too! A red, eight-foot bug Pokemon? That doesn’t even exist! Simply more proof that the League has been pulling nonsense-- forgive my language-- out of their asses.” Nadon paused here, likely for dramatic effect, and Claus rolled his eyes. “This clip is taken from an interview with Saturn Hanover, the president of the Sinnovan branch of the Aether Foundation.”

The screen shifted to a man with dark blue hair, styled meticulously into two points above his head, which somehow didn’t look as stupid as it should have. He looked directly at the camera as he spoke.

“The League’s insistence on tossing out false warnings and using paltry excuses for them is insulting to the general public,” he said. Claus raised an eyebrow. This was the first time he had heard the Aether Foundation so openly criticizing the League. “The Aether Foundation is unaware of any Pokemon that would fit the description given by the League, save for the unlikely instance of a feral, abnormally large Mega Scizor.”

The screen shifted back to Carl Nadon, who continued, “There are many questions about the strange broadcasts that the League has been issuing, but for now, Sinnovans would be well-advised to take any further reports of this nature with not only a grain of salt, but perhaps the whole bag.”

ROUTE 207, 13:47

“Okay,” said Claus. “What do you want, Barry?”

Barry grinned. “By now, you’re probably wondering why I brought you here,” he said, completely unnecessarily. Dawn giggled when Claus slapped his forehead, but Barry continued, unfazed. “We should practice for Roark with some Pokemon battles against each other!”

It wasn’t a terrible idea. Battle experience always helped, and Claus hoped that the work he had put into training earlier would help his team hold his own against Barry and Dawn. “I’m fine with that,” he said, glancing at Dawn. “Who’s going first, then?”

“You two,” said Dawn. Claus and Barry looked at her, surprised, and she blushed and looked at her feet. “I mean, you two have been friends for far longer than you’ve known me. I feel like I’d be stealing something if I was either of your first battles. Plus, I left my revives in my locker at the Center, and I don’t want to leave my teammates knocked out.”

“Fair enough! We can always battle you later,” agreed Barry. He looked at Claus and grinned from ear to ear. “What do you say, Claus? Let’s kick off our battling careers together! Lyn, let’s go!”

His enthusiasm was infectious. Claus felt the same stupid grin spreading across his own face.

“Get her, Franklin!” The Nosepass faced directly towards Claus, prompting a startled laugh from Dawn, but that wouldn’t impact its battling powers.

And-- oh, the stupid Apricorn ball. Well, Claus was absolutely going to capitalize on the few extra seconds. “Franklin, ready a Rock Throw!”

By the time Lyn was standing on the ground, Franklin’s Rock Throw was hurtling towards her. Lyn squealed as she hopped out of the way, barely dodging the rock.

“Keep it up, Franklin!” said Claus. “Don’t let her get off the ground!”

Barry, who had been curiously silent so far, grinned. “No need! Persim!”

Claus blinked. Persim? What the hell--

Lyn chirped and actually charged at Franklin on her short, stubby legs. When she neared Franklin, she extended her wing, which glowed with a silvery sheen as she slapped Franklin with it.

Franklin gurgled in surprise, stumbling back and losing its grip on the Rock Throw attack. Franklin was hardy enough that it shrugged off the attack, but its momentum was gone.

“Tackle while she’s close!” said Claus, and Franklin did just that, ramming Lyn with its rocky body. Lyn squawked in pain, flaring her wings as she stumbled back.

“Persim!” repeated Barry, but this time Claus knew what Persim meant.

“Harden!” he shouted, and Franklin glowed with the same silver sheen as Lyn’s wing, taking the strike without flinching this time.

“Take off before it tackles you!” said Barry. Looks like he hadn’t gotten around to a code word for that yet.

Claus smirked. “Perfect! Franklin, Rock Throw!” he commanded, and watched as Barry winced.

“No, no, Persim,” he tried frantically, but it was too late. The Rock Throw struck true, and Lyn crashed down, knocked out.

“All right,” said Barry, resigned. “Roy, finish the job!”

His Chimchar landed on the ground, screeching, and Barry was already prepared with a command. “Persim!”

What on earth? Persim again? Had Roy somehow learned Steel Wing too?

The answer felt obvious after a moment, though. Each command meant something different for each team member. But that moment of hesitation was enough for Roy, who had lunged forward and slammed his closed fist, cloaked in dark red fighting energy, into Franklin.

“Franklin,” began Claus, “counter with--”

A burst of flame knocked out the already weakened Nosepass, and Barry grinned. The flame hadn’t come from Roy.

“Arceus damn it,” groaned Claus. “I forgot trainers are allowed to participate.”

“So did I, until just now,” admitted Barry, pale smoke streaming from his index and middle fingers. “Too bad your steel won’t help here, eh?”

Claus hid a smile.

“It’s a shame,” he said cheerfully as he released Pello. The Turtwig faced down Roy with a nervous hiss.

Claus wasted no time with his orders. “Pello, Sand Tomb!”

Barry’s eyes widened. “Shit! Dodge, Roy!”

The Chimchar blinked, confused at the lack of any visible attack. After all, Pello was standing several feet away from him. He screamed when sand at his feet began kicking up and swirling about, and tried to escape. But it was too late.

Claus grinned. “Again!” Pello hissed once more, and the sand picked up in speed, more swirling up to join it.

Barry extended his arm once more, but Claus was expecting it this time. Just as the fire emerged from Barry’s fingertips, Claus concentrated on the metal of Barry’s Pokedex, still in his jacket pocket, and gave it a hard shove.

The force sent Claus stumbling backwards as well as Barry, but it did its job. The shot went wide, scorching a small patch of grass near Pello. Poor Roy was still screeching from within the vortex of sand, firing repeated Embers that Pello didn’t even have to dodge, and a flurry of Razor Leaves finished him off.

There was silence for a moment, and then Barry laughed. “Damn! That was a good battle!” He grinned at Claus as he reached out for a handshake. “Don’t think I won’t crush you next time, though! I’ll prepare for that nasty Sand Tomb.”

Claus smiled at Barry, feeling warm. It was probably Barry being close. Fire affinity. “Whatever you say, man. Just don’t bring metal to the fight next time.”

A moment passed.

“Well,” said Dawn, a smile in her voice. Claus flinched and dropped Barry’s hand like it had burned him. “You two should revive your teammates, and then we should get back to the Center.”

“Yeah,” said Claus, and he flinched again at how his voice cracked. “Let’s get going.” He glared at Dawn, whose shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter. “I’m looking forward to crushing Dawn.”

The Exemplar title being the reward for beating the champion here exists because it's like, kind of ridiculous that anyone can become champion just by beating the current one in a setting where the title holds so much power. So, instead, that's not the case. It's more of something you get clout for and you can put on your resume (and something that lets you TRY to be the next champion if you want). Even having all eight badges is enough clout for all but the biggest of things, though.

Another broadcast? pog.

Another another broadcast? pog x2.

Carl Nadon may or may not be inspired by an irl news anchor, or more than one irl news anchors...

oh hi, Saturn. nothing to see here

Barry doing code words is so on brand lmao. And yes, he actually went and rented a TM for Steel Wing, on Claus's suggestion.

Trainers are allowed to participate in battles! Now, Pokemon are much more sturdy than humans, so they can't be targeted by Pokemon attacks. However, this isn't broken, because Pokemon are, as a rule, way stronger than humans are, even the most well trained of affinities. And yes Barry used a finger gun to shoot Ember

Claus is definitely going to be using Sand Tomb a lot, be prepared for that.

s-shipping???????
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
This chapter is a great time to remind you all that Jeff is a wonderful beta reader! Especially this chapter, because it is so much better now than it was when it was first written. Three cheers for Jeff!

OREBURGH CENTER, 09:37

“Emergency broadcast.”

“Oh, fuck off!”

Barry’s outburst drew fits of laughter from the crowd. It took the poor staff of the Center a couple of moments to shush everyone, by which point the broadcast had been interrupted by the now-familiar miscommunication disclaimer.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” finished the same disgruntled man who had dealt with the other two instances.

“Well, we can expect an angry rant from that Carl Nadon soon,” said Dawn, making Barry laugh.

Claus put on a forced smile. He wondered why, although everyone else had dismissed the emergency broadcasts as a joke or a fluke, he couldn’t shake off a feeling of unease. They were, after all, supposed to be an emergency measure. Even if the people were treating the League as a joke for this… the government being a joke was not a comforting thought.

“Anyways,” he said, soldiering past his troubled thoughts, “we should get ready for our gym battles, yeah? We’ve got, what…” Claus checked his dex. “A little more than twenty minutes until the first one of us is scheduled.”

They had scheduled three gym battle spots, one after another, each thirty minutes long. Gym battles were known for going wildly off schedule, but not at this early of a level. Thirty minutes was nearly always enough for a two-on-two battle between young Pokemon to conclude.

Barry nodded. “Right! Who wants to go first, though?”

Dawn spoke up. “I’d like to not go first, if that’s okay with you,” she said. “I’m not used to Sinnoh’s style of gym battles yet, and if you don’t mind, then I’d like the advantage of having an idea of what Roark will throw at me.”

Barry nodded. “Yeah, that’s fair enough. Claus, can you go first, then? I want that edge, too. I’ll need all the help I can get, with the type disadvantage.”

Claus nodded. “I can do that, no problem. I think I should be fine with this first battle, more or less.” He hesitated for a moment. “Though, I will warn both of you that Gym leaders often switch up their teams between battles. It’s a common strategy for a challenger to watch a few battles before their own, and leaders have adapted to that.”

OREBURGH GYM, 09:59

“Claus Haller, please report to the challenger’s box,” said a man’s voice from the gym’s PA system.

Thank Arceus. They had been just in time.

“Good luck, man,” said Barry, slapping Claus on the back. “Dawn and I will be cheering you on from the sidelines!”

“Yes, all the best!” added Dawn, and then they were swept away from him as they rushed to the stands.

Claus took a deep breath as he followed a staff member into the challenger’s box, looking down on the gym arena from above. Every Gym’s arena was unique; one important aspect of gym battles was learning to think on your feet. The ground here was covered with gravel.

There was a smattering of applause as Claus approached the field, which reminded him that he actually did have an audience. Claus picked out Barry’s loud, enthusiastic yelling easily from among the small audience. He smiled and waved, not having to fake it this time. He was excited for his first gym battle.

Roark did not look like he’d be showing up yet, so Claus took the opportunity to talk to the two Pokeballs that he had brought. “Franklin, Pello,” he said, “you two have worked hard for this, and I’m excited to see the results of your hard work.” Being a trainer was work, too, but nowhere near the amount that it was for the Pokemon. Claus hoped he would always stay humble enough to always remember that while he may have been involved in the fighting, he wasn’t the one taking the hits.

“We’re gonna kill it,” he whispered, and Pello and Franklin vibrated in agreement. Claus grinned.

The audience began to applaud in earnest this time, much more powerful than the pitiful display he’d gotten. Claus looked up to see Roark, jogging into the Gym leader’s box with a smile on his face as he waved to the crowd.

Claus noted that the applause, this time, was supplemented by the enthusiastic screaming of fans, mostly female ones. He smirked. Roark was objectively attractive, with his muscular forearms and toothy grin. But then again, nearly every gym leader had their own portion of fan followers who were practically in love with them. It seemed that rule did not even spare a brand-new entry on the scene.

Roark spoke up, his microphone amplifying his voice. Claus belatedly remembered that he had gotten one, too, and switched it on.

“Welcome, one and all, to the Oreburgh Gym!” he said, as the cheering from the audience died down. “Today we’re here to watch Claus Haller, our gym challenger, fight for his first badge!”

And that was why the audience was smaller than Claus had expected. People were generally less interested in the Gym challenge when it started, with it gaining popularity as the challengers grew less numerous and more skillful.

“This means we’ll have a two on two singles battle, no healing items allowed. But you’re not here to listen to me read the rules out to you,” he said, and the screaming started again. “You’re here to witness a smashing battle! So, challenger Haller, whenever you’re ready!”

Claus didn’t miss that Roark was giving him the “privilege” of sending out first, and would probably alter his own send-outs to give him more of a challenge. Therefore, he opted to keep Pello out of the battle for the moment, and tossed the other Pokeball into the arena. “Go, Franklin!”

The Nosepass materialized just above the floor of the arena, landing with a thud and a spray of gravel. It faced towards Claus, prompting chuckling from the crowd.

“Don’t be so quick to laugh, folks!” said Roark, grinning at Claus. “I trained a Probopass on my own gym challenge, and he’s still a prized member of my top battling team! Don’t count them out because they look silly, eh?” He smiled at Claus, and Claus smiled back.

Roark picked out his own Pokeball, and threw it into the arena. But his toss, unlike Claus’s, was not forward into the arena, but up instead. “Slate, crush that Nosepass!”

The crowd roared as the Pokeball released a flash of light that grew, and grew, and grew. Claus’s grin dropped off his face as the Onix materialized fully, and directly above Franklin.

Full-grown Onix grew to approximately thirty feet long, with the longest known specimen reaching even greater lengths. This was a young Onix, so it was smaller. However, even fifteen feet was far, far larger than Franklin.

“Body Slam!” yelled Roark. Shit.

There was no way Franklin would be able to dodge the falling Onix in time. It was way too slow, and the Onix was already almost on him…

Claus grabbed the railing of the challenger’s box and yelled, “Franklin, Harden!”

As Franklin started to harden its rocky exterior, Claus concentrated as hard as he could, focusing on the steel that was part of Franklin’s body. He pulled as hard as he could with his affinity, aiming to pull Franklin towards him and away from the Onix.

Franklin was heavy. It weighed about four times as much as Claus himself, and Claus was pressed bodily against the railing by the force required to pull such a huge weight.

Franklin barely managed to escape the Body Slam, the Onix’s head slamming down on the floor and spraying gravel. Claus released the pull, gasping at the toll it had exerted from him. Did he need to start working out?

“Clever!” called Roark from the other end of the arena. “Use of your rock affinity to assist your Pokemon! Splendid!”

Claus didn’t reply, still a little winded. He didn’t bother to correct Roark’s assumption about his affinity, either.

“Block,” he said instead. Franklin raised its arms, still facing away from the Onix, and raised invisible barriers that would disrupt a Pokeball’s beam.

Roark raised an eyebrow. “Setting up for a switch, eh? Two can play at that game. Stealth Rock, Slate!”

The Onix growled and slammed his head against the ground, and around the arena, grey stones rose from under the gravel, poised around Franklin and Claus’s side of the arena.

That would be annoying, but thankfully, neither of his teammates were particularly weak to it. Barry, on the other hand, would suffer if he was planning on switching during battle. Claus raised his Pokeball.

“Interesting,” commented Roark as Franklin returned to its ball. “So you choose to switch, and take damage from the Stealth Rocks? We’ll see if it pays off!”

“It will,” promised Claus, readying his other Pokeball and throwing it. “Go, Pello!”

Pello materialized into the arena, hissing as the Stealth Rocks slammed into him.

“No matter, Pello! Heal up the damage with Absorb!”

Roark had sighed when he saw the Turtwig, and Claus almost felt bad for him. He imagined that a rock-type leader had to deal with grass-types often enough.

“You’re lucky I didn’t bring my Archen for this battle,” he said ruefully. “Slate, Rock Throw!”

The Onix scooped up a mouthful of gravel, shaping it into a rock-solid projectile. He flung it at Pello, and it struck true, but only on his sturdy shell.

Pello glowed a dim green as he drained away the Onix’s health. The scratches on his shell and body were repaired by the attack, and the Onix flinched.

“Keep it up, Pello!” urged Claus, and the Turtwig closed his eyes in concentration as he glowed slightly brighter. The Onix groaned and thrashed as Pello drained his vitality. It was only a few more moments before the beast collapsed, a failed Rock Throw attack dropping uselessly from between his jaws.

Roark nodded, and the crowd yelled and cheered at the knockout. “Well done,” he said. “But how will you handle my second teammate?”

Claus allowed himself a cocky grin. “Just as easily, I hope,” he said, and the crowd laughed and whistled. He wasn’t really that overconfident, but it was hopefully acceptable to put on a show for the crowd.

“Getting cocky, huh,” asked Roark with a grin. “Canyon, destroy this upstart’s confidence!”

The flash of Roark’s Pokeball revealed a Cranidos, who immediately hit the ground running straight at Pello at a frightening speed.

“Headbutt!” commanded Roark. The Cranidos lowered her dome-like skull as she charged straight at Pello.

“Dodge, Pello!” yelled Claus, and Pello trotted out of the path of the charging Cranidos. But it was a near miss, and dodging alone wouldn’t win a battle.

Sure enough, Roark appeared unfazed. “Again, Canyon!”

Well, then, it was time to pull out his trump card. “Sand Tomb!”

Roark frowned. “What?”

The gravel that covered the arena seemed to be an acceptable substitute for sand. It disintegrated into even smaller particles as it whipped around Canyon, stopping her in her tracks.

“Come on, Canyon!” said Roark. “Push through it! Headbutt!”

“Absorb, Pello!”

Pello glowed green once more, siphoning away Canyon’s life force, but gym leaders were not gym leaders for nothing. Canyon bellowed and charged, and this time, Pello wasn’t quick enough to dodge. The impact sent him sprawling across the gravel floor, and flipped him upside down.

Claus winced and fought the urge to swear. Pello couldn’t battle nearly as well upside down, and he wasn’t looking forward to seeing what the Cranidos would do to Pello when he was vulnerable, so he lifted his hand with a Pokeball in hand.

Roark grinned. “Pursuit!”

Ah, shit.

The Cranidos moved quicker than Claus would have believed possible, dark energy coating her body as she struck Pello hard enough that he screamed.

The Pokeball still returned Pello, and the glow from it was still white, which meant that he was still conscious. However, Claus wasn’t looking forward to the thought of sending him back into battle with all the injury that he’d sustained so far. “You did great,” he whispered to Pello’s closed Pokeball. The aww-ing from the crowd reminded him that he had a microphone attached, but he just rolled his eyes.

“Franklin, finish the job!”

Franklin came back to the fray, batting away the Stealth Rocks that crashed against its body. It gurgled in challenge… which still looked stupid, since it wasn’t facing Canyon.

“Let’s go, girl! Another Headbutt!”

Canyon shook off the remnants of Pello’s Sand Tomb, bellowing. Claus noticed that Pello had done a spectacular job weakening the Cranidos, and that she seemed to be on her last legs. Pride swelled up for his Pokemon, and surely, Franklin would finish the job admirably.

“Rock Throw, point blank!”

Franklin mustered up its fastest Rock Throw yet. Shaking off the Headbutt, it fired the Rock Throw straight at the Cranidos, knocking her out.

Claus grinned, even as the referee blew her whistle to signal the end of the battle. The crowd screamed as Roark recalled Canyon, and Claus followed suit, recalling Franklin. He eyed the red Pokeballs in his hand.

“You two are the best,” he said, a proud smile on his face. “I’m so glad I met you.”

Roark was walking down the stairs to the arena, and Claus followed. He climbed the railing of the box and jumped down, slowing his fall by tugging on the railing above. The crowd whooped at his stunt, and Claus grinned and bowed.

Roark laughed. “So, I guess I was wrong about the affinity,” he admitted.

Claus shrugged. “I was too out of breath to correct you.”

“Of course.” Roark nodded decisively. “In any case, you displayed a spectacular talent for battling today. You walked away from the battle with two conscious Pokemon, and you were quick to think on your feet to use your affinity to rescue your Nosepass from harm.” Roark reached into his pocket and pulled out a flat sheet of bronze, in a shape that was similar to a Pokeball with a hexagonal center and bottom.

“Even if you had somehow lost today, I would still feel confident in awarding you the badge. I look forward to seeing the trainer you become throughout the course of your travels.” With a wide smile on his face, Roark grabbed Claus’s hand, pressing the badge into it and raising it to the crowd.

“Claus Haller, it is my honor to present you with the Coal Badge!” The crowd cheered and applauded, but it was Barry’s shouts that he heard the loudest, all the way from the back of the stands.

Claus felt a huge grin threaten to split his face in half.

“The first of many!” he declared.

another another another broadcast??? whew



I've decided to axe the little challenges and the other gym trainers in this fic. That's because for some of them, especially Roark's and stuff, they're literally just... battling other trainers. I'll definitely try to incorporate some of the more unique ones into the arenas, though, especially for cool stuff like the flower clock Gardenia has. For now, though, we just have a gravelly floor. It makes sense, too, because Roark is a new gym leader. He hasn't had the time or inspiration yet for a super unique arena.

The battles themselves are more of a show, sorta like Galar gym battles

Roark fangirls lmao. prepare for pretty much every gym leader having fangirls like this though

Look, I don't care what "level" the Onix you're fighting is, it's still massive and fucking terrifying.

And the stunt Claus pulls when pulling Franklin out of the way is like, the most use he can get out of his affinity at the moment. The weight of whatever Claus is trying to move has an impact on whether he can move it or not, and also on how much it moves him in return, as you'll remember from when he shoved Barry using the dex last chapter and went stumbling back himself. Franklin is also pretty heavy, so Claus is definitely going to have some railing-shaped bruises along his front lmao

All this being said, if it looks like affinities are underwhelming and that they're only going to get lamer as Pokemon get stronger (which is kind of true), don't worry! They have their own role to play! A big part of it is that the format of the League battles is not really conducive to affinities being used a ton... which is arguably good, because it prevents stronger affinities from being too unfair. Another big part of it is that Claus, all things considered, has a relatively boring affinity. Steel powers are cool, but consider that other affinities include stuff such as psychic and flying.

Roark's been a gym leader for five seconds and he's already tired of seeing grass types lmfao

Roark's Cranidos is lowkey slept on, it's really strong and has some busted moves... like Headbutt and Pursuit. see above

And Claus wins, with both Pokemon still conscious and Franklin nearly untouched! woohoo!
 
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Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
Hey, look at that! A chapter with a title.

CONTENT WARNINGS
Descriptions of violence, descriptions of predation, Pokemon death.

OREBURGH GYM, 11:00

Appearances could be deceiving.

So thought a young man, as he watched the newly minted Gym leader Roark hand out his second badge of the day. The first one was to a sort of short gym challenger with a Turtwig and a Nosepass, who had been a good enough battler that the young man was confident that he would thrive in the gym challenge. Roark had put in slightly more effort than he usually did on early badges, trying to put up a good fight despite the type disadvantage, but the guy had escaped with both teammates conscious, and his Nosepass hardly scratched.

The second guy, on the other hand…

When the blond beanpole had marched into the challenger’s box after embracing the first guy, who was presumably his friend, and declared that Roark stood no chance before sending out a Chimchar onto the field, the young man had scoffed. Roark wouldn’t soften his blows, especially considering that he had just gone harder on the previous challenger. It would be obvious if Roark threw the match at this point, and the young man felt bad for this cocky guy.

Roark had raised an eyebrow, sending in his Onix once again, only to watch in amazement as the challenger’s Chimchar ran circles around it, scorching the rock snake with Ember after Ember as it groaned in pain and bewilderment. The Chimchar walked away from the battle victorious, finishing off the Onix with a surprise Brick Break at an order of “Persim” from the challenger.

Seriously? Code words? The young man would expect that from a seven-year-old playing pretend, not a seventeen-year-old battling a Gym leader.

When the challenger had sent in his Starly (two teammates weak to rock?) against Roark’s Archen, it seemed like he wouldn’t win so easily. However, at another shout of “Persim,” his Starly had dashed forward with a Steel Wing, slamming the Archen before it could even take flight.

Roark won that matchup, his Archen knocking the Starly out of the sky with Ancient Power, but the challenger’s Chimchar had returned with a vengeance, with the challenger firing his own Embers to supplement the attack. Roark’s Archen stood no chance, and the challenger had whooped happily and blew the cheering crowd a kiss when he received the Coal badge.

Unbelievable.

The young man had been planning on staying for longer and watching another battle or two, but right when the next challenger had stepped up to the challenger’s box, he felt them.

Enforcer.

The voice in his head was as powerful and alien as it was when he had first heard it. He could see no source of the voice, but he had learned by now that the cells were likely there, watching.

We are needed.

The young man-- no, the Enforcer-- felt a gentle but insistent tugging sensation, to a location outside the Gym. Without a second thought, he stood up and walked out the door, leaving the gym battle that had just started behind, forgotten.

The sensation led him to a secluded alley, where Zygarde was waiting, in the shape of a large canine Pokemon.

Good. You were prompt. Zygarde shook themselves, much as a canine Pokemon would.

We sensed a disturbance. One that we must set right.

The Enforcer had long since learned that Zygarde could hear his thoughts if they were clearly articulated, but he still preferred verbal communication if it was possible. “And what is that disturbance?”

It is an intruder. Zygarde’s voice was calm as ever. We bear it no ill will, for it did not choose to be sent here. But now it is here, and it is a danger.

The Enforcer gritted his teeth. He was still getting used to Zygarde’s roundabout manners of speaking. “Okay, but what is it?” Well, no. He would get the same kind of cop-out answer.

We can hear your annoyance with us, Enforcer.

The Enforcer winced. “Sorry. What do you want me to do about this, besides escorting you there? If this is dangerous enough to involve you, my other Pokemon aren’t likely to be of much help yet.”

You are too quick to discount your own partners, chastised Zygarde. You have done an admirable job of training them. They are extremely powerful compared to others of similar experience, and we have no doubt that they will be your stalwart allies in the days to come. However, in this instance, you are correct. The duty you must perform is to serve as our eyes and ears until we may show ourselves to the intruder. We would… prefer not to take on this threat alone, so you should attempt to gain backup.

The Enforcer nodded. “Gotcha. You want me to find this intruder, call the cops on them, and then let you know when they show up.”

That is an apt summary.

“All right.” The Enforcer shifted his Pokeballs to his pockets. “And you can’t just show up there because…?”

The intruder can sense our power, and the power of others who are similar. The other ones that humans call legendaries. If it were to sense us too early, then it would attack first. If this beast gets the element of surprise, the best-case scenario would end in a victory tainted with the deaths of the innocent.

There was a short pause, and when Zygarde spoke again, their voice was colored with a faint sense of amusement. Believe us, if your presence was not necessary, we would have handled this ourselves. It is important to give you time to grow and develop as a trainer, and as a person. We are not Azelf or the Swords, to run our Favored into the ground with ceaseless commands and duties. We have only called on you because it is of paramount importance that we do not err.

The Enforcer chose not to dwell on this casual slight delivered by a literal deity, to several other literal deities, and instead focused on being grateful. “I appreciate it. Which way should I go?”

We will guide you.

Sure enough, the Enforcer immediately felt a compulsion to go in a direction. He set off at a jog, not wanting to tire himself out, but still eager to reach his destination. The line that Zygarde had dropped about the deaths of the innocent sat heavy in his mind.

It was about ten minutes and a few turns later when Zygarde spoke again, their voice faint from distance.

Stop. This is the place.

He was in an alley, a more or less forgotten corner of Oreburgh near the mines. The miners were all likely in the mine at this point, and wouldn’t come out until an hour or two from now for lunch.

That was good. The less people around, the better, from what the Enforcer knew so far.

He squinted into the shadows-- the alley, despite the time, was still surprisingly dark-- and looked for his target. It wasn’t long until he spotted movement.

Red skin, bulging with unnatural-looking muscle. Four tall legs that tapered to sharp points. Two massive, bulky arms and translucent orange wings. A long, shining grey needle attached to a short, flat face with twitching antennae. The creature’s needle, similar to a proboscis, was stabbed into a Skiddo, and even as the Enforcer watched, the creature began to suck its victim dry, the Skiddo’s body fluids draining out alarmingly quickly as its skin loosened around its bones. He thought the Skiddo was dead, until it let out a weak bleat of pain.

What the fuck.

That is our intruder, whispered Zygarde, their voice still muffled. The Enforcer selfishly wished for their reassuring presence.

Do not worry, said Zygarde, picking up on his thoughts. It has not yet been here long. We are the first on the site, but this will draw the Favored like a lamp draws Mothim. We should have backup soon.

How many people in Oreburgh were Favored by a legendary Pokemon, and hid it so well that nobody else had any idea? Sinnoh’s few publicly known Favored often hinted that they were not as special as people said they were, only the most willing to reveal themselves.

We can name at least two currently in this city, as well as several others who are currently under scrutiny for selection. More than that, we cannot say. And you may speak, added Zygarde. The intruder’s hearing is poor. It relies on scent, and we have masked yours for the time being as a precaution.

The Enforcer released a breath that he didn’t know he was holding. “Then, I think I’ll give the League a call.”

That would be wise.

With shaking hands, the Enforcer pulled out his phone, dialing 223 and hitting call. He lifted it to his ear, not daring to take his eyes off the strange monster.

“League emergency services. How can we help you?” said the kind voice of a man on the other end of the line.

“I’m in Oreburgh, in an alley near the mines.” The Enforcer scanned his surroundings quickly. “Looks like I’m behind a large warehouse.”

“Understood,” said the man. “And the cause of your call?”

The Enforcer willed his voice not to tremble. “There’s… um, I’m not exactly sure what it is. But it’s tall, about eight feet, and it’s got red skin and--”

“This is not funny,” snapped the man, in a cold voice that was the polar opposite of his previous demeanor. The Enforcer flinched away from the phone. “The League makes mistakes. The broadcasts were one. We are investigating the cause of those, and will work to remedy the issue. But when people like you fake emergencies to ridicule us, it does not help.”

The Enforcer blinked. What? “Sir, I--”

“If you must prank call someone, I suggest that you choose a victim who has time to spare on your antics.”

A long beep signaled that he had been hung up on. Utterly mystified, he began to dial 223 again, hoping for a more receptive audience.

Do not bother. Your efforts will be wasted. Zygarde sounded troubled. This is an issue we had not foreseen.

“What does it mean?”

That there are more malicious forces at work. Zygarde hissed faintly. The Enforcer took comfort in the fact that they seemed to be approaching, as their voice was becoming clearer. They are like Ariados, carefully laying their web in the shadows, then chasing their prey into their trap... We must tread with caution, Enforcer.

Footfalls echoed quietly throughout the alley, and the Enforcer flinched before remembering that the “intruder” wouldn’t be able to hear it. He turned around to face the newcomer.

A surprisingly familiar figure joined the Enforcer, with a belt of four Pokeballs and a mask that covered the lower part of his face. He wore a hooded jacket that would have covered his messy red hair, had he bothered to keep the hood up. He nodded in greeting.

“A friend told me that we had some trouble here after I wrapped up that gym battle,” he said to the Enforcer, who stared in disbelief. “So, you know what, if you don’t tell, I won’t either.”

“That’s fair,” said the Enforcer, his voice weak. Gym Leader Roark was Favored by a legendary? How had the public not noticed? Did the League even know about this?

They do not. The leader’s… benefactor is prone to drama and secrecy. And then Zygarde scoffed. We do not like admitting it, but you are likely safe in his hands. He should be more than able to take care of this threat, with the help of us and the leader’s other Pokemon partners.

“My friend says not to use your Pokemon, by the way,” continued Roark. “He says that against this fellow, less targets is better.”

The Enforcer felt small. “Then, what…”

Roark shrugged. “Oh, I don’t think you need your Pokemon to be a help here. Fey, right?”

The Enforcer nodded. How did Roark know that?

“Great! I don’t know if this guy feels the same emotions as we do, but can you try and distract him?”

The Enforcer gawked at Roark. “What?”



Roark shrugged. “You look pretty fit. Fit enough that I think you could outrun the thing. So if you could lure it out to the mines, I could follow and go to town with my rock Pokemon.”

“The mines? Aren’t there people, you know, mining in there?”

“The mines are closed today.” Roark grinned. “Call it a precaution.”

Unbelievable.

“So,” continued Roark, “you up for the job?” His face suddenly lost all of its joviality. “You can say no, you know. I think that I can handle this myself, if it comes down to it. Your help would be appreciated, but I won’t force you. I won’t make a gym challenger risk their life.”

It was a nice sentiment. But Zygarde had Favored him. He wasn’t going to squander that honor on running and hiding from what little duties he was given. Well, maybe not little duties, but the point still stood.

The creature dropped the Skiddo, which was now little more than a heap of bones and desiccated flesh. The Enforcer took a deep breath.

“I’ve got this.”

OREBURGH MINES, 11:45

Roark hadn’t told him that the damn thing could fly.

Granted, Roark probably knew just as much as he did, and the Enforcer had seen and noted the creature’s wings. But when he had nudged its emotions (which were more or less the same as those of any other Pokemon) to feed its anger and irritation before slapping a trash can and yelling to get its attention, he had expected the thing to scuttle after him on its four pointy legs. Instead, it had flexed its arms like some wrestler, leaped into the air, and flew straight at him, wings fluttering madly to keep it airborne.

The Enforcer did not stay there to bemoan his fate, for he did not want to follow in the Skiddo’s footsteps. He immediately turned tail and sprinted towards the mines.

A metallic, reverberating buzz from behind him told him that the creature was following, as did his affinity, which could sense the thing’s overpowering desire. He wished he could feel flattered, but the desire was probably to suck the meat off his bones.

Luckily, the mines were not far. He reached the entrance, where a lone Machoke was lying on its back, its eyes closed as it napped.

The poor Machoke hardly stood a chance. By the time it had even woken up and realized that it was in danger, the creature had swooped down on it and impaled it through the neck. The Enforcer didn’t stick around to watch its grisly fate, throwing open the gates and stepping inside. He hesitated, though, aware that he would have to be present in some capacity to lure the creature towards him.

It was only about fifteen seconds before the cries of the Machoke faded, and only a few more until the creature raised its head and shook blood off its proboscis. It hissed as a transparent but reddish fluid dripped from its arm where the dying Machoke had gotten off a Dual Chop, but it seemed to be otherwise unharmed as it turned back towards the Enforcer, leaping towards him.

The Enforcer had been reading the creature’s emotions, though, and had gotten an idea of when he would be attacked. He jumped out of the way of the attack, avoiding getting speared by the needle and instead getting hit by the creature’s muscled arm.

The Enforcer landed on his stomach, quickly rolling back to his feet. His whole side throbbed where the creature had rammed him, and he had a feeling that would leave a nasty bruise.

Good.

Zygarde spoke up, breaking their silence. They formed as a tall biped with a tail and four wings at the entrance of the mine, fencing the beast in. This form was larger than any other that the Enforcer had seen, towering at over four times his own height. Green and black dust-like particles streamed off of their body, and they seemed to radiate power.

The leader should join us now.

Roark, as if on cue, burst into the mines, his hands on his Pokeballs. His eyes went to Zygarde, and his eyebrows rose.

“Um, hi.” He blinked. “My friend says that… um, you shouldn’t be here, Zygarde.”

When Zygarde spoke again, Roark could hear them as well. We are sure that cave-dwelling dog used coarser language. Tell him that he could benefit from stretching his stubby legs every once in a while, instead of lazing about and ordering his henchmen around like the fat old Honchkrow he is.

Roark blinked, taken entirely aback. The Enforcer felt an intense satisfaction at seeing that expression on someone else’s face for once.

Zygarde did not wait for Roark to regain his wits. They raised a hand, and purple energy began to build at their white fingers.

Leader, we could use the assistance of your partners, said Zygarde softly. We are powerful, but we are only an incarnation. A representative of a greater whole.

The Dragon Pulse blasted away from Zygarde’s hand, the beam roaring through the air and striking the creature straight in the chest. It flinched back, but the attack was not nearly enough to bring it down.

Three flashes of white light heralded Roark’s own Pokemon joining the fray. An Aerodactyl, a Rampardos, and a Golem roared in unison at the intruder.

To its credit, the beast did not flinch in the face of its numerous adversaries. It lunged forward to bring its closed fist down on the Golem’s head, but the Golem sidestepped, narrowly avoiding the Hammer Arm that left thin cracks on the mine’s floor. In return, the Golem opened its mouth and unleashed a Flamethrower, the fiery onslaught scorching the beast’s side.

The beast buzzed angrily, but what could have been a slightly even match quickly turned into a beatdown. Roark’s three rock-types assailed the creature with attack after attack as their trainer shouted commands and encouragement. The Enforcer, from the sidelines, riled up the beast’s anger with his affinity, encouraging it to go for more reckless attacks as the battle’s tides turned against it.

And Zygarde stood at their spot at the entry of the mine, launching Dragon Pulse after Dragon Pulse, striking the beast repeatedly. When the creature lunged at them with a final, desperate Hammer Arm, they simply dissolved into a cloud of tiny cells, only to reform directly behind the beast and wrap their arms around it, lifting it off the ground and squeezing.

The creature thrashed and screeched, but Zygarde’s Bind was inescapable, and soon enough, the beast went limp in their grasp.

Zygarde dropped the motionless creature, which made a thud as it struck the ground.

It is not dead. Zygarde stared down at their foe. And we lack the ability to send it back to its home. Those who can do so are otherwise occupied, we think. Their head turned to Roark.

Your team may deal the killing blow, leader. You are a skilled battler and a talented person. Always remember that you deserve better than your lot.

Roark shook his head, a serious expression on his face. “Thank you, but I am happy with my… friend, and my position.”

We are sorry to hear that, but it is your decision. Zygarde nodded decisively, a surprisingly human gesture from the legendary. Enforcer, we will speak again soon.

Zygarde dissolved into cells, the black and green specks drifting out of the mine.

Roark huffed. “Well then. Crusher?”

Roark’s Golem stepped forward, and opened its mouth once again. A torrent of flame singed the beast’s small head, not stopping for thirty solid seconds until the Golem’s mouth snapped back shut. The smell of fried flesh filled the mine.

Roark met the Enforcer’s eyes, and his face crinkled into what must have been a grin, under the mask. “What do you say to helping me dispose of this lug? Or should we call the authorities on it? Can’t do everything ourselves.”

The Enforcer shook his head, thinking of the League’s response to his call. “I don’t think that would be very helpful. The League was… less than willing to believe me when I first called them about this.”

Roark’s eyebrows furrowed, but then realization crossed his face, followed by hard anger. “Is that so. I think I have an idea, then. Let’s teach the League to take their jobs seriously, eh?”

The Enforcer frowned. “Aren’t you part of the League yourself?”

“Gym leader Roark is part of the League. I’m the Claymore of Justice. I do what I want.” He grinned again. “Surely you understand, Enforcer.”

The Enforcer grinned back. “I’m definitely starting to.”

The Enforcer is back! Recognize that first line? heh

lmfao @ Barry walloping Roark. Look, Barry is really good at battles. Possibly better than Claus and Dawn, at the moment.

I use "they," "them," "us," and "we" for Zygarde, because that's what they ARE, kind of. They're a group of cells, functioning together.

Oh, hi, Buzzwole.

And here's a little more insight on the effects of the prank calls/false broadcasts/misinformation/glitch/whatever. I'll not talk too much about that, and let you draw your own conclusions. :)

Roark's "benefactor" is Terrakion, in case you didn't get it from the "stubby legs" and "claymore of justice"

> We are powerful, but we are only an incarnation. A representative of a greater whole.
que

> Those who can do so are otherwise occupied, we think.
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I love the conclusion, lmao. "GYM LEADER ROARK is League, you're speaking to Terrakion's agent of fuckery, so yeah there you GO"- Roark

I loved writing this chapter. It's easily my favorite part that I've written so far. I hope you readers agree!
 
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Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
OREBURGH CENTER, 13:04

“Wow, Claus!”

Claus had stepped out of the salon to meet back up with Dawn and Barry, only to be greeted by Dawn’s exclamation. Barry looked up from his dex.

Claus shrugged. “Thought it might be fun to shake it up,” he said modestly. His hair, previously in an unremarkable black ponytail down to his shoulder blades, was now dyed a vibrant silver, sparkling in the midday sun.

“It’s definitely very striking,” said Dawn, and that was actually a good compliment. Striking was absolutely what he was going for. Claus grinned, and looked at Barry.

Barry was staring blatantly, his eyebrows furrowed and his mouth slightly open. Claus couldn’t tell if his expression was one of surprise, concern, or something else entirely, which was weird. He usually didn’t have much trouble figuring out what Barry was thinking.

Dawn was grinning broadly at the scene, and Claus, not for the first time, wanted to smack her for looking like she knew something that they didn’t. Ignoring her smugness, he remarked to Barry, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

That seemed to snap him out of his trance, because Barry’s expression transformed into a smile so wide it matched Dawn’s. “Yeah, I think I will.” He lifted his dex, switching to the camera app and snapping a picture of Claus, who stared at the dex, confused.

“Barry… that was a saying, man. Why did you…”

Barry was typing quickly now, and he didn’t even look up as he replied. “To send it to your mother, of course!”

“Oh.” Then Claus realized what Barry had just said. “Wait, what? No! Stop! Don’t you dare--”

“And sent!” cackled Barry. “This is gonna be fun.”

Claus sighed. “Honestly, whatever. What’s she going to do, send me a disapproving text? Call in a Corviknight taxi just to intercept us and attack me about my hair?”

“It’s a possibility,” said Barry knowingly. “Your mom may be short, but she’s five feet of pure, dangerous spite.”

“Barry!” said Dawn, with a reprimanding tone. “That’s not nice to say about someone else’s family.”

“What? It’s true,” spluttered Barry, taken off guard. “Claus knows it, too! He’s said it himself!”

Claus nodded, faking solemnity. “Yeah, good grief. Were you raised by Mightyena?”

“Not you, too,” Barry groaned. “What do you want me to do? Apologize?”

Dawn snickered. “I haven’t known you for long, Barry, but if I ever see you sincerely apologize for something like this, I’ll eat my hat.”

Barry’s eyes snapped wide open, and he stared at Dawn in shock. “What? This is betrayal! I taught you everything I know, took you under my wing for the gym challenge, and this is how I’m being repaid?”

“You haven’t taught her shit,” argued Claus. “Dawn interns with Rowan. She probably knows more about Pokemon than both of us combined. Hell, she beat you in a battle.”

Dawn was blushing and covering her face with her hands. “Please, you’re being too nice. You two are plenty talented yourselves. I only beat Barry because of the type advantage.”

Barry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that’s a load of crap. You saw me battle Roark. You would know how much type advantages really matter in battles. Don’t forget who both Claus and I asked for tips on caring for our Pokemon.”

Dawn pulled her hat over her face, mumbling something that neither of them caught, and Claus decided to have some mercy on her, standing up. “Well, anyways, we should get going now, shouldn’t we? Unless there’s anything you’re really interested in seeing something else here in Oreburgh.”

Barry sniffed. “Like what, the beautiful rocks? I’m ready to leave.”

“I take offense to that on principle.”

The three of them jumped, and turned around to see Roark grinning at them.

“I mean, really,” he continued, “you’d think that a couple of smart trainers like you would know better than to talk trash about a city while you’re still in it.”

“That was all Barry,” said Claus. “Don’t drag us into it.”

“Hey!”

Roark chuckled. “That’s fine. I don’t really mind too much. Oreburgh is a wonderful city, but it’s not for everyone.” He shrugged. “Especially not gym challengers. Y’all probably want to get moving. I guess you’re going to Hearthome next, then?”

“Yes, we are,” confirmed Dawn, having taken her face out of her hat.

“That’s more or less what I expected. Most people who get their first badge in Oreburgh go that way. After that, though, is when it starts going all over the place.” He grinned. “The three of you are promising trainers, honestly. I’m new to the job, so I haven’t really gotten used to the part where I have to lose some matches, and so far I have a bad habit of actually beating some challengers, because I would whoop them bad enough that it would be obvious if I threw the match.” Roark shrugged. “But you three had no such problems. Especially you,” he added, gesturing at Barry. “What the hell, kid?”

Barry put his hands on his hips with a cocky grin. “Natural talent! And there’s no way you’re old enough that you can call me kid.”

Roark laughed. “Point taken. But I’m sure you’ll make it far on your gym challenge. All three of you. So, back to the reason I came here.” He stuck out three little slips of paper, and Dawn tentatively took them from Roark. Claus and Barry peered at them over her shoulder, and she noticed, handing them one each.

The three identical cards were laminated, and they depicted Roark standing against a black background with a fire burning as well. Roark himself was depicted back to back with his ace, Rampardos, wearing his signature mining helmet with his glasses dangling from between his teeth and one hand behind his head as he grinned at the camera.

“Don’t mind the stupid pose, the photographer insisted,” he said modestly. “The back is the important part, anyways. It’s got my Dex ID on it.”

“I know what a League card is,” said Barry, like the tactless idiot he was. Claus really wanted to smack him until, surprisingly, he corrected himself. “Sorry, that sounded ruder than I meant it to.”

“No harm done,” said Roark easily. “My point is, you can use this card to contact me. Try to let me know before you start a gym battle, especially if it’s on TV. I’d like to watch it myself, or at least a recording of it.”

Dawn blanched. “Our gym battles are recorded?”

Roark looked surprised. “Well, yes, they are. They’re generally broadcasted on several TV channels, since it’s common for multiple battles to be happening at once. Does that bother you?” Roark frowned. “If it’s really a problem, then you can specify that you don’t want your battle to be broadcasted when you’re signing up. I didn’t think to specify that, since you seemed to be all right with the audience.”

“Oh, no, no,” Dawn replied hastily. “It’s fine, really. I was just surprised, that’s all.”

Roark’s grin returned. “Well, maybe you should read the forms you’re signing before you check all the boxes, yeah?” Dawn looked at her feet sheepishly, and Roark shook his head. “Don’t worry. You’re hardly the first--”

However, Oreburgh’s Center seemed to want to get one last laugh before the three of them departed from it. The television beeped once more, displaying an emergency broadcast for the umpteenth time. There was a murmur from the crowd, but it was less angry than it was last time. Claus suspected that Roark being present had something to do with it.

“Emergency broadcast.”

There was immediately a difference that Claus noted. The voice reading out the broadcast was neither that of the emotionless man who delivered the false alarms nor the one of the one who had branded those as miscommunications. Instead, a man with a measured, patient, but still forceful voice was speaking.

“All of those who are currently in Oreburgh City may continue to go about their business, but are urged to maintain caution and travel in groups when possible. An unknown specimen, similar to the bug Pokemon previously described in other falsified broadcasts, has been discovered dead in the Oreburgh Mines, along with the corpse of a Machoke and a Skiddo. If your Machoke or Skiddo is missing, please report to the ICU to identify the bodies.”

There was a gasp, and a girl leaped out of her chair and ran for the door, sobbing. Another girl followed, concern written over her face.

The broadcast continued. “If anyone has any other information that they would like to share with the League about this occurrence or the circumstances that lead to the death of the unidentified Pokemon, they are encouraged to contact the League by dialing 223. Thank you for your cooperation.”

For the first time since the broadcast came on, Claus thought to look at Roark to see what he thought about the broadcast. He was disappointed by what he saw, though, as Roark had kept his face carefully blank as he watched the television.

“Hm,” he said, turning back to the three of them. “I should probably go and check that out myself. Sounds like something that they’d need a Gym Leader for, eh?” He grinned at them once again.

“We don’t want to keep you,” agreed Claus, a little suspicious. Dawn and Barry nodded, and Roark raised a hand to them, walking off without another word.

Roark had hardly walked out of earshot when Barry piped up, “So, do you think he knew something about that, or what?”

“Yeah,” Claus replied immediately. “He took that really calmly.” He glanced at Dawn. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed.”

Dawn nodded. “I know that if I was the Gym Leader, I would be a lot more distressed about something like this, especially if I hadn’t already known about it. It could just be a personality thing, but…”

“Oh well,” interrupted Barry. “What are we, fae? We don’t know-- hold on,” said Barry. “We actually don’t know what affinity you have, Dawn.”

Claus, for the second time that day, wanted to slap Barry. “You fucking dumbass, you don’t just ask that,” he hissed. “Dawn, please feel free to ignore the question. It’s none of his business, or anyone’s but yours.”

Barry appeared chastised, and he scratched his head. “Well, sorry about that. I should think before speaking, huh?”

“It’s fine,” replied Dawn, though Claus had mentioned that she had gone pale at Barry’s question. The color was just beginning to return to her face.

It clearly wasn’t fine, but it also wasn’t Claus’s business, as he’d just said, so he tried to push past it. He was just as curious as Barry, and possibly more, honestly. But he knew that this wasn’t the time for that line of conversation. “And hey, what do you know? It wasn’t a prank after all. Or maybe it was a really elaborate prank. But it wasn’t fake.”

Barry nodded. “Weird, huh? Kinda crazy that even now, we’re discovering new Pokemon. Even if the circumstances are a bit odd.”

“A bit odd is certainly one way to describe it.” Dawn absently petted Rose, her Helioptile, who had stuck her head out of her spot in Dawn’s bag, curious. The yellow reptilian chirped happily and nuzzled into her hand. “At least three ‘sightings,’ and then the creature itself is found, but it’s dead?” She shook her head. “As a hopeful future scientist, I’m interested and excited, of course. But as a new citizen of Sinnoh, I’m pretty concerned.”

“Aren’t we all,” muttered Claus, glancing at the time on his dex. “Anyways, we really should get going. Mount Coronet isn’t going to cross itself.”

MOUNT CORONET, 15:30

“So, y’all are the next batch, eh?” asked a huge Ursaring of a man, looking down at them.

“Yep,” replied Barry. “Headed to Hearthome City for the gym challenge.”

“Figures,” he grunted, cracking his neck. “How many Pokemon ya got on ya?”

“We’ve got six total,” said Claus. “We only have one badge each, though.”

“Hm,” said the guy, scratching his beard. “Well, how about this. Y’all can handle anything that decides to attack by yourselves, unless ya think ya need my help. If ya do, I’ll step in. Sounds good?”

There was no way that was officially allowed, but Claus grinned. He knew without looking that Barry was smiling, too. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Great,” said the guide. “As long as we don’t get set on by a pack o’ Lycanroc or something, ya should be good on yer own.” Dawn’s eyebrows shot up, and the guide hastily added, “Not that we will. We’re not climbing to the peak, just goin’ around the foothills.” That seemed to satisfy Dawn, so the four of them set off.

The landscape started out as a continuation of Route 207, with sparse vegetation and dark soil. Multiple Geodude slept peacefully or ambled about on their two arms. Most of them ignored the traveling group, though one of them challenged them with a growl, only to be quickly chased away by Pello’s Razor Leaf.

“You think I should catch one?” asked Barry, as the Geodude hauled itself out of their path and shut its eyes, looking once again like an ordinary stone. Only the slight motion of its breathing distinguished it from its inorganic brethren. “Golem can be pretty strong, and I think a rock type might be nice.”

It was probably Roark that had brought this about, and Claus was of a mind to say so, but Dawn spoke up first, and he held his tongue. It was still rare for her to take the initiative in their conversations, but it was happening more often, and he was glad she was starting to feel more comfortable with them so quickly.

“If you’d like, you can,” she said. “But keep in mind that you would be stacking an ice weakness with your Starly and a water and ground weakness with Roy.”

“Hm,” mused Barry. “Nothing wrong with stacking a weakness, of course, or specialists would all suck. But I think you’re right, and I’ll pass on this one.”

Claus nodded. “I’d pass too. You already have two Pokemon that are different types entirely. Unless you think you’re going to do some sort of half-specialist thing like Flint, then I’d suggest trying to maximize diversity and synergy.”

“Wow,” said Barry. “I’m glad you haven’t forgotten your habit of turning into a language professor whenever you’re talking strategy.”

Dawn smiled, but Claus rolled his eyes. “I’m glad you haven’t forgotten your habit of turning into a crybaby for no reason when I use words with more than three syllables.”

“Whatever, Mister Vocabulary,” replied Barry archly, before stopping and counting on his fingers. “Vo-cab-u... damn it!”

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. or, well, lack of programming. Well, the final programming for the moment, that's different from the previous programming. whatever.

This Coronet tour guide is just like "yeah you kids can go nuts, I'll help you if you really need it" this is irresponsible as hell but lmao
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
ROUTE 208, 11:34

Claus groaned and wondered why he had even bothered showing up to train today. He was still a little sore after yesterday’s trek, because even once they had gotten on their bicycles, going the long way around the south side of Mount Coronet and crossing all of Route 208 to get to Hearthome was a hell of an endeavor. The three of them had thanked the guide, headed straight to the nearest Center, and crashed into their rooms. Claus had slept like a Komala, and he was pretty sure Barry was still out for the count.

Pello and Franklin had been just as tired. Sure, they’d mostly stayed in their Pokéballs, barring stretches where Claus saw fit to let Pello sit in his bike’s basket as he rode. But they’d done their fair share of battling, too. True to his word, the guide had not stepped in to help them even once on the trip, and they had to repel plenty of aggressive wild Pokemon, including one Graveler that had gotten a bit grumpy when their party biked past it. It had taken the combined efforts of all six of their Pokemon to fend it off, especially since many of their moves weren’t particularly effective against the beast.

After the fight, the guide had stepped up to Pello and rubbed his head. It felt rude to do that without asking, but Pello had been happy about it, so Claus couldn’t really complain. The guide had said, “Hm. Maybe let this fella ride in your basket for a bit longer, eh, kid? I reckon it won’t be long until he’s too big for it. Your Piplup, too, lass.”

Claus had understood the unspoken implications. He’d noticed Pello growing a bit faster recently, the dex measurements reaching an approximation of 37 pounds. That was almost one and a half times the weight from the measurement Claus had taken after beating Roark. Evolution was likely imminent, especially considering how energetic Pello was even now after the work he’d put in the previous day.

So Claus had come out to train, in the hopes that it would burn off Pello’s extra energy and perhaps cause him to evolve.

Claus wondered when Franklin would evolve. He’d searched up Nosepass’s evolution on his dex, and he’d seen multiple conflicting theories, including that they only evolved on or near Mount Coronet. There were reports of Nosepass that evolved in places far from the mountain, which were just as common as conflicting ones. However, all of these reports noted that the Nosepass had visited Mount Coronet prior to its evolution, and any Nosepass that had not been to the mountain had yet to evolve. Of course, Franklin had already been close enough to Mount Coronet that Claus wasn’t worried, but he was definitely still curious.

Further research into other regions had shown Claus that the Nosepass in Alola had a similar situation with Blush Mountain. However, the Nosepass that were found in Kanto and Johto were not known to evolve at all unless they were brought to other regions, lending credit to the geography theory, as difficult to prove as it was. Nosepass trainers in these regions were known to purchase a Thunder Stone from Galar, if travel was off the table. This, of course, led to even more theories. Why didn’t other regions’ Thunder Stones work? Was it a special quality in Galarian Thunder Stones that permitted the evolution of Nosepass (and Charjabug and Magneton, as well)? How did that relate to Mount Coronet or Blush Mountain--

“Excuse me?” said a voice, and Claus nearly leapt out of his skin. He really needed to stop getting so absorbed in his own thoughts.

Collecting himself, he turned around to see a fellow gym challenger. The guy was lanky and a solid six inches taller than Claus (not that Claus’s meager height of five-foot-four was particularly impressive). His dark blue hair stuck out in spikes under his striking blue hat. On someone else, it might have looked stupid, but this guy was kind of rocking it.

“Sorry I startled you,” he said, looking a little sheepish. Claus hadn’t realized he’d made it so obvious.

“Not your fault,” Claus said, waving it off. “What’s up?”

The newcomer gestured at Claus’s jacket. Claus looked down, and then remembered that he’d pinned the Coal badge to it, as most trainers did when they won a badge.

Right. A glance showed that this guy had a badge, too: a replica of Claus’s own Coal badge.

“Ah, I get it,” said Claus. “Sorry. I just got the badge, so I’m not used to having it yet. In fact, you’re the first trainer who’s officially challenged me, not including my travel buddies.”

The guy grinned. “And you’re the first trainer who I’m officially challenging, not including travel buddies. It’s an honor.” He stuck out his hand for a handshake. “I’m Riley. And you’re…”

“Claus,” said Claus, returning the handshake. Riley had a firm grip.

What Claus didn’t ask was whether Riley was a girl’s name or not. He wasn’t Barry, for Arceus’s sake, and he’d had enough people calling him Santa Claus to know that jokes about people’s names got old very quickly.

“Assuming you’ve got two Pokemon, what do you say to a two on two match?” asked Riley, releasing Claus’s hand. “No healing items, et cetera.”

“Yeah, sounds good, as long as you have revives and potions on you for afterwards,” said Claus. Riley nodded, so Claus stepped back enough to put hopefully adequate space between the two of them.

“Don’t go easy on me, Claus,” said Riley. “I want my first trainer battle to be a good one!”

Claus had no intentions of holding back. “Of course!”

Riley and Claus both threw their Pokeballs at the same time.

“Go, Franklin!”

“Get him, Neimi!”

Franklin burst out of the Pokeball, facing north as always. It seemed to quickly assess the situation, realizing that it was in a battle, and growled.

Neimi materialized a split second later. Neimi looked to be nothing more than an ordinary lump of wood at first. However, a moment passed, and a black smoke billowed out of the stump, with two red eyes peering out of holes in it.

“A ghost!” exclaimed Claus. This was the first trainer he’d seen who had chosen to train a ghost Pokemon. They were victims of extreme prejudice in the past, often seen as corruptions of life, twisted spirits from beyond the grave. Recent scientific studies had proven that they were nothing more than ordinary Pokemon, with a unique set of powers that they utilized effectively. But stigma was rarely quick to disappear, and ghost Pokemon were still looked upon with fear by most people.

Riley shrugged in response to Claus’s surprised outburst. “I believe in science, not old wives’ tales,” he said, and okay. That was fair enough. “Neimi, Leech Seed!”

Now that Claus had overcome his surprise at the appearance of the ghost Pokemon, it occurred to him that this was likely a terrible matchup for Franklin. It was vulnerable to any grass-type attacks the Phantump probably knew, and like many ghosts, the Phantump could simply levitate out of range of his attacks.

He wouldn’t let that stop him, though. “Block it with Rock Throw!”

Franklin thankfully understood what Claus meant. When Neimi launched a volley of three glowing green seeds in its direction, Franklin had already formed its attack, throwing the projectile so that it intercepted the Leech Seeds, which landed harmlessly on the ground.

Neimi dodged the Rock Throw, floating out of the way and allowing it to crash and dissipate.

“Follow up with Thunder Wave!” called Claus. It was a new move that Franklin had used while they were crossing Mount Coronet, and he was eager to test it out more effectively.

Riley smirked. “You’re not the only one who can use status conditions. Will-o-wisp!”

Neimi fired off a ghostly flame, but also took the Thunder Wave attack, the electricity crackling around her wooden body. Was the wood part of her body? Or was it simply a shell for her actual ghostly self?

Claus caught himself before his mental rambling got too far. He could worry about science after the battle was over.

The Will-o-wisp had found its target. The burn wasn’t as apparent on Franklin’s rocky exterior, like it might have been on some other Pokemon, but there was the occasional flicker of purple flame that gave it away.

Neimi, too, had been affected by the Thunder Wave. Her levitation was slower now, and she drifted closer to the ground.

“Another Rock Throw, Franklin!”

Franklin lifted its arms, forming another rocky projectile. It was getting faster than it was before, and that didn’t escape Claus’s notice. It gurgled as it launched the attack, and Neimi was unable to dodge this time, crying out in pain as the attack connected. She shook it off more easily than Claus expected, though, which was probably a side effect of the burn that hindered Franklin now.

“It’s fine, Neimi,” said Riley. “Hit it with a Hex!”

Claus’s eyes widened. That wasn’t good at all. Neimi gathered her energy for a powerful strike, ghostly fire flickering around her wooden body.

“Try another Rock Throw!”

Franklin was preparing another attack before Claus finished the command, but even slowed by paralysis, Neimi was not to be denied. The two Pokemon released their attacks simultaneously; unfortunately for Franklin, Neimi’s Hex proved far more powerful than the Rock Throw, launching Franklin back a whole foot and nearly toppling it.

“Hex again, Neimi!”

Claus grabbed his Pokeball without hesitation. He thought Franklin might be able to take another one of those, but he didn’t want to risk it. Recalling the Nosepass, he sent out Pello in its place.

The Hex that was aimed at Franklin struck Pello instead, causing him to flinch slightly. But it wasn’t nearly as devastating as what Franklin had suffered, and Pello was still standing comfortably, if looking a little miffed.

“Sorry, buddy,” said Claus. “But I knew you could take that! Hit back with Sand Tomb!”

Riley grinned. “Will-o-wisp again, Neimi!”

When Neimi found herself with a face full of sand, though, the grin slid off his face. Within seconds, there was a miniature dust devil trapping Neimi in place, hindering her movement even further. Pello easily dodged her Will-o-wisp attack, hardly taking two steps away from it.

Arceus, Claus loved Sand Tomb. “Finish the job with Bite!”

Riley watched with a defeated expression as Pello trotted up to Neimi, who was still struggling to move, and clamped his jaws around her bark, glowing with dark energy.

“All right,” said Riley, recalling Neimi, who was now fainted. “That was good. But my other teammate might leave you in the dust.” With a grin, he threw another Pokeball. It snapped open in mid-air, and two feet of blue fur and lean muscle landed with a thud.

Riolu was often depicted by popular culture as a cute Pokemon, similarly to Pikachu and Cleffa. Its large eyes and short stature made it popular among children, and the aspect of ferocity and power was left to other Pokemon, such as its evolution, Lucario.

However, the Riolu that popped out of the Pokeball was fucking terrifying. It snarled at Pello and Claus like a rabid Poochyena, immediately settling into a fighting stance. Though maybe “settling” wasn’t the right word for it, because it looked like it was going to jump on Pello and tear his throat out at the drop of a hat.

Claus gulped. Pello seemed similarly affected, clicking his jaws and stepping back. The Riolu grinned, baring its sharp teeth, and Claus vaguely remembered something he’d heard about the Riolu line being able to sense emotions.

“Quick Attack!”

The Riolu dashed forward, its form blurring with speed as it closed the distance between it and Pello almost instantly, ramming Pello in the side. Thankfully, Pello was no pushover, taking the attack with little more than a yelp of pain.

“Sand Tomb again, Pello!” directed Claus, but Riley only smiled.

Once again, Pello kicked sand at the enemy, but the Riolu was too fast to get caught in the storm. Continuing its Quick Attack, it dashed away from the move before the swirling vortex could gain any purchase on it.

Claus was impressed, as much as he hated to admit it. Maintaining a move for that long after its initial use was a skill that came only with much practice-- more practice than he’d expect from someone who only carried one badge.

“Give it up, Pello,” said Claus. “Try Razor Leaf!”

Riley’s grin didn’t leave his face for a second. The Riolu finally slowed to a stop, and simply mimicked its trainer’s smile even as razor-sharp leaves scored along its skin, drawing blood.

Claus noticed that the Riolu was glowing slightly red, and then he realized what was happening. But it was too late now.

“Counter!” declared Riley triumphantly, and the red glow became a blaze of light, focusing from all over the Riolu’s body to its fist. Lunging forward, the Riolu slugged Pello right in the face, knocking him out instantly.

Claus sighed, defeated. “I forfeit. There’s no way Franklin is going to be able to defeat your Riolu while burned and injured.” He recalled Pello, bringing out the medicinal items he’d brought along with him to revive his teammates.

“Don’t feel too bad about it,” said Riley, grinning ear to ear. He leaned down and high-fived his demon of a Riolu. “Ephraim here is a menace, and we’ve been training pretty hard.”

Ephraim, huh. The name was faintly familiar from a meme Barry had shown him once. “Fire Emblem?”

Riley scratched his head sheepishly. “Well, yeah,” he said. “Are you a fan, too?”

Claus snorted. “No, but my friend is, and he’s insufferable about it.” With the revives and burn heals applied, Claus stepped forward to shake Riley’s hand once more as he waited for them to take effect. “It was a good first battle, though, and I’m glad it was with you, even if Ephraim kind of curbstomped us.”

“Don’t downplay yourself. That Sand Tomb was really good, and it’s just one match. We’ve got plenty of time to get stronger.” Riley’s wide smile returned. “If you give me your Dex ID, though, maybe I can find you for a rematch. Bring your friend, too. The more the merrier, eh?”

Barry, meeting another Fire Emblem fan? Dear Arceus. But Claus still grinned back. “I look forward to it. My team will do better than this time, but I’ll bet real money that Barry’s gonna kick your ass.”

Heeeeere's Riley!

He'll be important but not for a while. He's a surprise tool who can help us later.
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CITY, 19:00

In spite of its location, Hearthome City was home to Sinnoh’s largest immigrant population. People came to the big city from tropical Alola, urban Kalos, and everywhere in between, settling down and calling it home. They were welcomed with such open arms that, in due time, the city had become a cultural melting pot.

This meant that, in regards to the people who lived there, it was almost definitely the most exciting settlement in Sinnoh. In the summer, all of these immigrants, whose customs and traditions weren’t observed by the vast majority of Sinnoh, came together in a magnificent, two-week-long celebration of diversity known as the Hearthome Festival.

A Hoennian man breathed fire in a steady stream from his mouth alongside his Blaziken as a small crowd watched. A group of men and women, unidentifiable because of their masks but with dark skin not native to Sinnoh, danced in perfect sync to no tune at all, performing impressive flips and quick steps that made Claus dizzy as he walked past them. Of course, they were still in Sinnoh, and the natives did not miss the opportunity to join in the fun, with a woman and her Chatot singing in harmony as she strummed on a mandolin.

And, of course, the many vendors, shouting to the crowd that walked past, advertising their goods and services of varying quality to the crowd.

“The most stylish sunglasses! Get them here!”

“Authentic Rose Incense, humanely extracted from live Budew! The scent of heaven itself!”

“Focuses for your affinities! Any and all are welcome!”

“Mega Stones for your Pokemon! Boost their power to unfathomable heights!”

“Claus, did you hear that?” exclaimed Barry. “That one’s selling Mega Stones! Holy shit! Do you know how rare those are?” He immediately dashed off to go and check them out.

Claus rolled his eyes. Barry didn’t even have any Pokemon capable of mega evolving, and Mega Stones were specific to species. Unless he had already planned the rest of his team members, there would be no way he could choose one.

Dawn had already gone off elsewhere, staying behind to watch a street performance, and so Claus had no qualms about going off on his own. He had both of their dex numbers, anyways, so they could decide on a meeting place if necessary.

He wandered up to the place that had been advertising focuses for affinities, intrigued. Focuses for affinities were not rare, really, but they were certainly not easy to find either, and Claus was already finding plenty of use for his affinity even without a focus. With a focus, this would only increase tenfold. The stall was a relatively large one, with plenty of space for the variety of different products.

“Well, hello, young man,” greeted the lady running the stall. Claus returned her contagious, gap-toothed smile. She looked like she’d be in her sixties. “Looking for a focus, to help you strengthen your affinity?”

Claus nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Steel, specifically.”

“Oh ho, respectful,” chuckled the lady. “That will get you far.” She reached under the table, bringing out a tray with an assortment of objects. “Steel, hm? My nephew’s own Steelix provides the Metal Coats used to make these. They are high quality, but I ensure that all of my products are.”

Claus would have thought that the lady was bluffing, but she spoke as if it was an objective fact. The products at the Hearthome Festival were generally known to be of good quality, but still... “Can I try out the product before I purchase it?”

“You try it, you buy it,” said the lady, shaking her head. “Do not worry. They are affordable, and they will not disappoint.”

Checking the labels, Claus nodded. The prices for the objects were all mostly ten to thirty dollars, which he figured was reasonable.

Then his gaze drifted upwards towards the trinkets themselves, and his eye was immediately caught by an odd-shaped… something. It was blue and rectangular, not appearing metallic at all, but Claus’s steelsight still detected it. “What is that?”

“Ah, the harmonica,” said the lady with a smile. “I have one of my own.” She pulled out an identical one, lifting it to her mouth, and she blew.
A haunting melody issued forth. It was only about ten seconds long, and it evoked the calm before a storm, an eerie stillness loaded with anticipation of danger. When she finished, passersby clapped at the impromptu performance.

Claus smiled at the lady. Even if it did nothing for his affinity, that was fine. He had always wanted to learn a musical instrument anyway. “That seems like a nice focus,” he said as he reached into his pocket and gave her the money. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“No problem, young man.” The lady grinned at him knowingly.

Claus pocketed the harmonica. He’d try it out later. He’d seen the no refund policy, so there was not really any point checking to see how well it worked at the moment. Instead, he stepped away from the stall, pulling out his dex once again.

GROUP: Barry G, Claus H, Dawn M

Claus H: Hey, guys, I’m pretty sure we’re all separated
Claus H: So how about we meet up in an hour from now
Dawn M: Where should we meet up??
Dawn M: Perhaps in front of the Cathedral?
Claus H: It’s close to the Center, and big enough that Barry can’t miss it
Claus H: So yeah, sure
Dawn M: LOL! Sounds good! :)
Barry G changed their name to “victim”
victim changed Claus H’s name to “backstabber 1”
victim changed Dawn M’s name to “backstabber 2”
victim changed the chat name to “the tragedy of julius cesar”

victim: i get off my dex 4 5 minutes
victim: because i wanted to c some cool mega stones
victim: and yall are talkin shit abt me
victim: behind my back
victim: smh
backstabber 1 changed the chat name to “Barry can’t spell Caesar”
victim changed backstabber 1’s name to “cesar”

victim: ok nerd lmao


Claus rolled his eyes, pocketing his dex. There was a nearby stall that had caught his attention, anyways...

HEARTHOME CATHEDRAL, 20:10

Claus had previously been amazed by Sandgem’s Pokemon Lab, and would have deemed it the most impressive building that he’d seen in his life, both on the outside and the inside. However, it was only now that he was beginning to realize how small Twinleaf and Sandgem really were.
A massive monolith of granite towered above the rest of the city, raised by a devoted group of rock affinities and their Pokemon. It was topped by a dome of blueish rock and two spires flanking it, and was otherwise undecorated. But even despite the lack of color, the Hearthome Cathedral was eye-catching just for its sheer size, as it was probably the tallest building in the city three times over.

A voice next to him gasped, and he turned around to see Dawn staring up at the Cathedral as well. But then, she turned to Claus, and her gaze fell on his most recent purchase. “Oh, you bought an egg?”

“Yeah,” said Claus, lifting the egg higher so that Dawn could have a closer look at it. “The stall was selling mystery eggs, and I figured it would be a worthwhile experience.”

The egg was pretty large, bigger than Claus’s head, and it was heavy. It was more or less spherical with a thick, pale brown shell.

“Do you have a guess as to what’s in it?” asked Dawn, looking down at the egg.

Claus shrugged, interested in what Dawn had to say. “I have no idea. The shell’s kind of leathery, which makes me think of some sort of reptilian Pokemon. Maybe a Sandile? It seems to match the color.”

“Mammalian Pokemon lay leathery eggs as well,” explained Dawn, reaching out and touching the egg tentatively. “I’m not completely certain, but-- yep, it’s warm. That’s a pretty sure sign that it’s a warm-blooded Pokemon, possibly some sort of normal or fighting type.”

Claus shrugged. “Whatever it ends up hatching into, I’ll be happy with it. I’m just excited to raise a Pokemon from an egg. It sounds like fun.”

“Whoa, man, an egg?”

Barry had arrived on the scene, as well. He peered at the huge egg in Claus’s arms, and laughed incredulously. “It’s so big! What is it, a Bouffalant?”

“Good guess, actually,” admitted Claus. “Dawn says it’s probably some sort of mammalian Pokemon, maybe a normal or fighting type.”

“I’m sure you’ll make it work, whatever it is. I don’t think I’d have the patience to raise a baby Pokemon and train it to catch up to the rest of my team, though, so you do you.”

“That’s why I got it now, as opposed to later. We only have one badge so far, right?” Claus shrugged. “There’ll still be some catching up to do, but not that much. It should be fine.”

Barry nodded, and there was a moment of comfortable silence.

“So I know the two of you are Disciples,” said Dawn suddenly, seeming nervous.

“That’s right,” said Claus cautiously. Discussions about religion were, in his experience, quick to turn ugly, and he liked Dawn enough that he didn’t want to endanger their friendship over something like this.

Barry, of course, was a lot less tactful. “Look, Dawn. We respect what you believe, and you respect what we believe. If you’re worried about us judging you, then you don’t need to be.”

...Oh. That was not what Claus had expected to hear, but thank Arceus. He really needed to start giving Barry more credit.

Dawn smiled hesitantly. “Thank you, Barry, I appreciate it. But that’s not why I brought it up.” She gestured behind her, at the Cathedral. “I was going to ask if you guys wanted to pay a visit to the Cathedral. I’d like to at some point, and I’d like to share the experience with you two, if you’re willing.”

“Oh, huh,” said Barry. “Nobody will be offended if we show up?”

“Manifold is open to all,” said Dawn solemnly, and then immediately blushed. “Oh, goodness, I sound like a preacher. I’m not trying to convert you or anything, I swear.”

Claus smiled. “I, for one, would be interested. I’ve never been to the Cathedral, of course, and I’m curious about Manifold too.” He shrugged. “I am a Disciple, but I’m not one of the crazy xenophobic ones.” That prompted chuckles from both of them, but they died down quickly. The topic, despite how smoothly it had been handled by the three of them, was still a sensitive one.

The three of them walked into the Cathedral, pushing open the tall and surprisingly heavy doors.

The first thing that struck Claus about the interior was how colorful it was in comparison to the outside’s monotone grey. There were no windows, but stained glass mosaics covered the walls, some in geometric patterns but most as clear depictions of Mew’s many Aspects. Manaphy and Phione, Celebi, Zeraora, the Lake Guardians, Shaymin… There were a lot of Aspects, thought Claus, as his eyes climbed higher and higher towards the distant ceiling, trying and failing to take in all the art. He wondered how much effort it must have taken the people who had created all of this art to construct something so monumental and beautiful.

For the first time, Claus felt that he truly understood why the faith was called Manifold.

“Wow,” whispered Barry. Claus didn’t take his eyes off the walls, still trying to take all of it in, but Barry sounded just as awed as he felt.
As he began to recover from the overwhelming sight, the other aspects of the Cathedral began to register to him. There was a low background noise, with people walking about, speaking to each other in hushed voices, and kneeling in front of the mosaics, often with their eyes closed. A faint floral scent filled the air from incense placed at regular intervals along the walls.

He finally managed to tear his eyes away from the walls to glance back at Barry and Dawn, and quickly snapped his head back around when he saw tears in Dawn’s eyes. He would think that he was good friends with Dawn, but the moment still felt a little too personal for him to be intruding on.

“Well,” he said. “What do we do?”

“There’s not really any structure for worship here,” said Dawn. Claus felt that it was safe to look again, and sure enough, her eyes were dry, with only a small smile on her face.

“It’s a personal thing, mostly. As long as you’re respectful, you can worship however is best for you. Each Aspect has what you could call a specialty, but they’re all of Mew, so it doesn’t really matter.”

“You know, I like that,” said Barry. “It’s like religion, but… freestyle.”

“That’s one way to look at it,” said Dawn, laughing, but Barry was already gone, heading off rather predictably towards a mosaic of Victini. Claus began to follow, but then thought of the egg that he’d just adopted, still warm in his arms.

“Dawn,” he asked, “Is there an Aspect that encompasses parenthood?”

Dawn nodded. “Sort of. The closest thing we have is Mew herself, who blesses her children with innocence and youth.”

That was good enough for Claus. Thanking Dawn, he began to walk all the way to the back wall.

When he reached the mosaic, he smiled. Mew, as humans had seen her, was said to be small in stature, with wide eyes and a long, winding tail. This mosaic had depicted her with a childlike innocence, her short snout seeming to hide a smile.

After a moment of brief hesitation, he began to address Mew, feeling a little silly speaking out loud to someone who wasn’t even present.

“Um, I have an egg. It’s a responsibility that I think I can manage, but it’s a big responsibility anyways. Raising a Pokemon from birth, and all. It’s almost like I’ll be a father.” He paused here. Saying it out loud made him realize how strange and foreign the thought was.

“I’m a Disciple, I know, but I know that regardless of religion, life is sacred. And, well, I’m pretty sure that you do exist, so… yeah. I just thought I’d seek your blessing, now that I’m taking on this task.”

He felt really silly now, but nobody was listening, so the feeling faded quickly. The egg rocked back and forth, a muffled sound coming from it before it fell silent once again, and Claus’s embarrassment was replaced with awe.

Religion. eyes emoji

Egg. eyes emoji

new chat names. eyes emoji
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CENTER, 09:02

"Hear the news?" asked Barry, sitting down next to Claus and Dawn on the bench that they'd been eating breakfast at.

"Good morning, Barry," said Dawn in reply. "And no, I have no idea what news you're talking about."

"Yeah, me neither," added Claus, snatching a slice of an apple off of Barry's plate and biting down on it.

Surprisingly, Barry didn't even comment on the theft, instead pulling out his dex and scrolling for a moment. "Look at this. They released more information on Absorption."

Absorption was what they had called the bug that had been the star of the recent emergency broadcast fiasco, after the reports that it had absorbed the strength of its victims. Claus, curious, peered over at the screen.

The screen of the Pokedex showed the beast, with a clear, high-quality photograph, a far cry from the blurry fakes posted so far on the internet. The beast was large, about eight feet tall as the broadcasts had said, and with bulging muscles on its arms, chest, and abdomen. Or was it a thorax? Claus wasn't really sure. Despite the proboscis and antennae, the creature was unmistakably humanoid. Its head, however, was charred and smoking, and cuts and burns riddled its body.

"They've called it Buzzwole," said Barry. He looked absolutely delighted. "Here, look: 'Samples taken from the corpse of Buzzwole and scans have shown that its genetic composition is part bug and mostly fighting.' And they called it Buzzwole." He laughed. "I am so glad that scientists have a sense of humor. It's a breath of fresh air."

"That's not exactly news," said Claus offhandedly, examining the picture. "Most Pokemon names are puns or portmanteaus, this one's just one of the more obvious ones."

"True," conceded Barry, "but it's still hilarious." He squinted at the picture. "It honestly looks like… I don't know, something fake? Like a cartoon character, or something."

"That's right," added Dawn. "I can't think of any Pokemon that look anything like it. If it has any evolutionary links to other bug types, then they're unbelievably distant."

"It's like an Incineroar and a Ninjask had a baby," remarked Barry, prompting startled laughs from both Dawn and Claus. Barry joined in, and the three of them received quite a few looks from the other trainers.

"It's kind of sad that it's dead," said Dawn after they'd all calmed down. "We could have learned so much more if it was alive. I wonder what killed it."

Claus thought of the Machoke and the Skiddo that had been found dead next to it, not eaten but rather sucked dry, and suppressed a shudder. He couldn't agree less. The sooner people learned about the thing, the sooner it would stop feeling so terrifying. Already, giving the creature a name had eased his concerns slightly. It was a lot more difficult to be afraid of a Buzzwole than a mysterious nameless killer.

ROUTE 208, 12:45

"Hear me out, guys," said Barry frantically. "We can make this like a sort of pre-gym tradition, you know? Every time we're ready to take on the gym, we test our strength with a battle. It makes for good training, and it's fun too! Seriously!"

Dawn frowned. "Why does it feel like you're trying to pressure us into the battle? I, at least, never disagreed. And I don't think Claus does either."

"Nope," agreed Claus easily. "No need to get defensive. It's a good idea, and we did agree last time."

"...Huh. I don't… well." He shrugged. "Good point. Well, then, what are we waiting for? Let's get started! Same order as last time. Claus, let's go!"

"Sure," replied Claus, slipping his hand surreptitiously into his jacket pocket.

"Nope! Nuh uh," said Barry instantly, pointing at the offending hand. "No focuses allowed. You're not slick. That's an unfair advantage."

Caught. Claus let his hand drop away from the recently purchased harmonica hidden in his pocket. "Fine. On the count of three?"

"On Dawn's count of three. No funny business."

Damn. Barry was really not letting him get away with anything today.

"All right, then," said Dawn. "Three, two, one- go!"

"Go, Pello!"

"Get him, Lyn!"

Barry had finally switched his Starly's Pokeball to a standard one, so there was no time delay to take advantage of this time. Barry's mouth curved into a wide grin when he saw his opponent.

"Lyn, we've got this! Into the air, out of reach!"

This wouldn't be easy, but Barry had made a mistake right off the bat by getting Lyn off the ground. Claus didn't think Lyn could reach Pello from up there, but there wasn't much that was really out of reach for Pello.

"Razor Leaf, Pello!"

A grass attack on a flying-type wasn't going to do much, but damage was still damage. Lyn swerved to dodge the projectiles, immediately going on the defensive.

Barry's grin slid off his face. He wasn't stupid, and realized the issue immediately. "Leppa! Hit him hard!"

Another code word, but this one was pretty easy to guess. It'd probably be some sort of attack, if Lyn was supposed to hit him hard, so…

"Blind her, Pello!"

It was an indirect order, so it took Pello a moment to understand what it meant. He grunted angrily and, just as Lyn dove down closer to strike Pello with her outstretched wing, Pello sprayed sand from the ground straight into her face.

Lyn screamed, her Wing Attack going wide, and flapped her wings hard. The Sand Tomb wouldn't have much effect on a flying type, either, but the diversion was helpful, since it gave Claus time to withdraw Pello back into his ball and send out Franklin instead.

"Switching, huh?" Barry grinned. "Lyn, Wiki!"

Barry had really been working on those code words recently, huh. Claus watched in surprise as Lyn screeched- damn, she was loud for such a tiny Starly- and zipped across the field, leaving Franklin to gurgle in surprise as it was confronted by what appeared to be three copies of herself.

Clever. "They're not real, Franklin! Only one of them is!" said Claus. They could work around this, right? "Don't worry for now. Stealth Rock!"

Barry frowned as Franklin created a volley of stones, flinging them so that they covered a large area. It would be really hard for Lyn to land now without taking damage from the Stealth Rocks. Claus reminded himself to thank Roark for that TM eventually.

"No problem! Persim!"

Claus grinned. He'd thought of an idea to deal with that Steel Wing, and he really hoped it would work.

Pokemon that used moves that weren't of their own type generally only used the element in question for the duration of the attack. For instance, a Skarmory using Steel Wing would come much more naturally than the same move would to a Starly, since the Skarmory would have much more natural steel-type in its body than the Starly. This meant that the Starly would probably have to focus the limited steel-type energy into its attacking wing.

Lyn's wing glowed with a metallic sheen as she and her illusory clones dove toward Franklin. Claus focused with his steelsight, and sure enough, he could sense the wing that was imbued with steel. And if he could sense it…

"Rock Throw, Franklin!" called Claus, even as he focused and shoved hard on Lyn's wing. She squawked at the unexpected resistance, tumbling straight to the ground. Her clones vanished as the Stealth Rocks Franklin had set up dashed against her body. Now that there was only one target, Franklin's Rock Throw struck true, knocking out Lyn.

Claus grinned. Franklin was still untouched, and Pello was mostly healthy too. If he could keep up this pace, then this battle would be a decisive victory.

Unexpectedly, Barry grinned too. "That was good!" he said. "Didn't think your affinity could get Lyn while she was using Steel Wing." He pulled out his other Pokeball and threw it onto the field. "But we'll still put up a fight! Roy, show them!"

Claus nodded as Roy materialized onto the field, screeching in surprise and slapping his flaming tail onto the ground as the Stealth Rocks from earlier struck him.

Wait, tail?

Claus gawked as Roy, now a Monferno, stood tall and faced down Franklin, settling into a fighting stance. He was taller and lankier now, and Claus was reminded of Riley and his demon of a Riolu by the coiled power apparent in Roy's long limbs. Dawn, still watching the match, let out a gasp of surprise.

"He evolved when we were training yesterday," explained Barry with a proud smile. Roy grinned at Claus, too. Battlers or not, they were still friends.

"Congrats!" said Claus, feeling a temporary glow of pride for his friend's Pokemon. This was an issue, though. A fighting type would be much harder for Franklin to take down, and Barry was sure to have thought of something to deal with Pello's Sand Tomb after the first battle.

But there was no way he would be going down without a fight.

"All right, Franklin, Thunder Wave! Slow him down!"

Barry winced, probably preparing to order a dodge, but it was too late. Franklin might have been slow, but the wave of electricity that it unleashed was anything but, zapping Roy before he could react.

"Fine!" Barry said. "You're not the only one with fancy moves! Power-up Punch!"

There was no code word, so Claus knew what was coming, but he was still powerless to stop Roy. Despite the paralysis, Roy leaped forward with astounding speed and slugged Franklin right on its red nose, the fighting-type energy flowing up his arm and throughout his body.

Oh, shit. This really wasn't good. "Franklin, uh… Rock Throw, point blank!"

"Power-up Punch again! Don't let up!"

And Roy didn't let up at all, using his other arm for another strike. This one sent Franklin stumbling back noticeably, gurgling in pain. Before Roy could land another one, though, the paralysis caused his arm to seize up, allowing Franklin to deliver a Rock Throw to Roy's face.

But the attack was hasty, and Roy wasn't as weak to rock moves anymore. The Monferno geared up for another Power-up Punch, and this one knocked Franklin out entirely. By now, Roy was glowing with the dark, blood-red fire of fighting-type energy, a stark contrast to the bright burn of his tail.

Claus recalled Franklin, nodding. "Well, this doesn't look good. Pello, let's see if we can turn the tides!"

Pello chirped happily at the sight of his friend, now evolved. Roy screeched back eagerly, waving.

"We're gonna have to give them some time to catch up after the battles," said Barry, laughing. "But for now, let's finish this. Roy, Leppa!"

"Pello, Sand Tomb!"

The sand at Roy's feet began to stir, but before it could damage him, he was already dashing forward with a Mach Punch. Pello screamed as Roy slammed him in the side, sending him skidding backwards.

"Wiki, while you're close!"

How did he remember all the damn code words? Nevertheless, it was rather obvious what the new move was when spinning flames cloaked Roy and he dashed straight at Pello.

"Sand Tomb again!" Claus really hoped this would work. There was no way Pello could take a Flame Wheel after Roy had boosted up with Power-up Punch not once or twice, but three times.

Thankfully, this time, Pello struck true. Roy hissed as the sand whipped up right in his face, stumbling backwards.

"Change of plans! Ember, widespread!"

Roy screeched again, launching a rapid-fire volley of Ember attacks. It didn't matter if Roy couldn't see if aim wasn't even a factor, Claus realized.

"Heal up with Absorb!"

Pello would need it, after that Mach Punch. The attack began to drain away Roy's vitality.

But Claus quickly noticed that Pello's body wasn't glowing with the usual faint green of draining attacks, this time. Instead, his eyes were closed, and he was trembling slightly.

Realization hit Claus like a Thunderbolt. "We forfeit!" He said hastily, whipping out his dex and flipping to the recording function. "Pello's evolving!"

Barry's jaw dropped, and Dawn rushed up from her spot on the sidelines.

It was a tense moment of waiting later that Pello began to show visible change. He grunted as his feet sprouted claws, three on each, and his lower jaw developed spiky protrusions. The leaves on his head withered and vanished into his skull even as his shell lightened from brown to a golden-yellow.

And then, Pello really started to grow. His legs and body thickened, going from small to sturdy over a period of about twenty or thirty seconds and only stopping when he was almost four feet tall. His shell grew and stretched over not only his back, but also his neck and tail, hardening into armor-like plates. New plant life grew at startling rates fed by the energy of evolution, growing into dense bushes along two ridges on his back. And, finally, the rowan sapling that was previously on his head sprouted anew from his shell, but taller and thicker than it was before.

Pello's eyes opened again when it was over, and they were yellow no longer, instead peering at Claus in a clear, pure white.

The cheers of the four of them, including Roy, echoed against the cliffs of Route 208.

Buzzwole is such a funny name

And time for some battling again! I chose to focus on the Claus and Barry battle again, but it won't be too long until we get some Dawn battling, too. (Dawn, overall, has been a fairly background character, but don't worry, she will have the spotlight. It just needs some time for the story to get there.)

This battle is fun. Claus's funny little trick of pushing the Steel Wing was cool, but it's a one-time trick. It worked because Lyn is a Starly. Something stronger than that, like a Tropius or something, would simply overpower the influence of Claus's unboosted affinity. Starly has very little mass and is not very strong. (Now, with the focus that hasn't been used yet? That's a different story.)

Roy has evolved! I always thought Chimchar evolved ridiculously soon. But yeah, Barry has been doing some offscreen grinding, with this evolution and some more code words in his arsenal.

PELLO EVOLVES first on screen evolution! I didn't want to just make it a "flash of light moment" like in the games, but I still wanted it to be a fairly quick transformation. The transformation would take longer for a species that undergoes a more drastic change, such as a Dragonair evolving to Dragonite, but for less dramatic transformations, like Dratini evolving to Dragonair, the time required for evolution would be much shorter.

See you in the next chapter! Which will probably have less of a wait than this one did. College really did beat my ass, and the chapter I was writing right now had me suffering from some pretty bad writer's block too.
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CENTER, 07:02

Claus was woken unceremoniously by a nudging sensation on his leg. He muttered something unintelligible and turned over, but his assailant kept poking him in the back.

“Ugh, what do you want?” he said, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He was greeted by Pello’s face, looking up at him from the floor.

It had been two days since Pello’s evolution, and Claus still wasn’t used to seeing his starter Pokemon standing at well over half of his own height. However, that was nothing compared to Pello himself getting used to the form. Evolution was epic and wondrous, but the aftermath of it was anything but. Pello was still trying to fit through too-narrow doorways and trying to crawl under too-short tables or chairs. Claus could only imagine how disorienting it must have been to suddenly triple in size and put on dozens of kilograms. Compared to evolution, puberty was a joke.

He’d sent Professor Rowan the video of Pello evolving, and Rowan had replied surprisingly quickly, thanking Claus for the thought. He told Claus that Pokemon evolution could use as much extra documentation as it could get.

His musings were interrupted when Pello nudged him again, hard.

“Okay, fine, man,” he grumbled, casting aside his blankets and getting out of the bed. “What’s going--”

Claus’s voice died in his throat as he beheld the egg that he’d gotten from the Festival, which had rolled off of the table that he’d put it on and was shaking wildly.

“Okay, then,” he said. “Thanks for waking me up, Pello.”

Pello grunted in his new, deeper voice, settling in besides Claus to watch the egg. It was definitely hatching. This was nothing like the random stirring that the egg would sometimes exhibit. Rather, it seemed like whatever Pokemon was inside was using a limb and repeatedly striking the shell to attempt to break it.

It was only a couple more seconds until it succeeded, a glistening dark fist punching through the shell. It happened again and again, until the hole was enough for the Pokemon inside to be able to simply tear open a wide enough hole for it to step out of.

And it did. A yellow head with two small, floppy ear-like protrusions poked out of the egg, still wet with amniotic fluid. Its eyes were narrowed into nearly-closed slits, and its bulky body followed the pale yellow head out of the egg.

Claus recognized the species, but he still pulled out his Pokedex, scanning the newly hatched baby with a huge smile on his face. Female Makuhita. Eighty-seven percent fighting, five percent ground, four percent steel, two percent rock, and two percent other types.

The rest of the information was still loading, so he set aside the Pokedex as he approached the Makuhita. The baby looked up at him, curious… and still wet.

“Hey,” said Claus. He wanted to shout and cheer, but Barry and his Pokemon were still asleep, and he didn’t want to startle the baby. “Hey, I’m Claus, okay? I’m your friend. Er… kind of also maybe your dad? I guess so.” That was still so weird to think about. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

The baby kept staring up at him, and Claus realized belatedly that she wouldn’t understand him. Still, he kept talking quietly, because it made him feel like he knew what he was doing. Also, maybe it would help her get used to the sound of his voice, or something. He’d heard of mothers talking to their children before they were born. Maybe that principle would apply here too.

“All right, girl, follow me to the bathroom-- ah, you can’t walk yet, can you? Fair enough. I guess I should pick you up-- whoa, yikes. The Pokedex says you’re over thirty pounds, and that you’re gonna grow rapidly in your first week, huh? No wonder that egg was so difficult to lug around.

“Right, let me put on some hand sanitizer. Don’t want to make you sick. I know you don’t know what an immune system is, but yours isn’t fully developed yet, you know?

“I probably shouldn’t put you right under running water. Don’t want any going into your nose on accident, or something. Okay, the internet tells me that a sponge bath is ideal for baby mammalian Pokemon, so that’s what we’re gonna do. Arceus, you’re heavy.

“Shit, don’t cry-- Shh, shh, it’s gonna be okay. It’s just a sponge, I won’t hurt you, see? You’re bigger than it, girl. I’ll let you beat the shit out of it later, okay? Ah, I probably shouldn’t swear in front of a baby, even if you don’t understand me. I doubt that’s why you’re crying, anyways. Are you hungry? I’ll get you some formula, right after this bath, but I don’t want to leave you alone.

“All right, we’re done, girl. Now let’s get out and make some breakfast for you. See, that’s Pello! He’s gonna be your friend, too, hopefully. Pello, say hi. Oh, god, don’t growl at her like that! You big doofus. He’s a sweetheart, don’t worry.

“Hi, Roy. Good morning. That explains why Barry’s been waking up somewhat earlier, huh? Oh no no no no don’t touch her. This is, um. I haven’t named her yet, but she just hatched, so please don’t scare her or something. Thanks.

“We should name you something, huh? All right, um… What about Calypso? One of my teacher’s names was Calypso. She was a pretty good teacher. Still talk to her sometimes, she’s nice. She’d probably be delighted to hear that I named you after her. Let me know what you think when you actually understand what I’m saying, yeah?

“Oh, you’re probably sleepy, aren’t you? Must’ve been a lot, punching your way out of that huge fucking egg. Er, huge freaking egg. You’re strong, huh? I was kind of a wimp when I was a kid. Well, actually, I’m still kind of a wimp. If humans had eggs like that, I probably would’ve been stuck in there forever.”

Claus finally shut up as Calypso’s breathing slowed and a small smile graced her face, indicating that she was asleep. His shoulders dropped. He hadn’t even realized that they were tensed up, but… Man, that was surprisingly stressful. Parenting was a lot of effort, and he’d only been doing it for, what, ten minutes?

He turned around to see Barry, who’d propped himself up on his elbows. His hair was a fucking mess, and he still looked half-asleep, but he was grinning at Claus.

“Good morning, Barry,” muttered Claus, turning away. He could feel his face heating up. How much had he heard?

“You make a cute dad.”

Claus wanted to scream.

HEARTHOME GYM, 13:00

The three of them had decided that they would keep the same gym challenge order as they had before, unless Claus ever objected to it, thinking that he could use the advantage of not going first. After all, most of the other remaining gyms besides Roark’s were well-established, and there would be videos they could watch on the internet to prepare strategies if they really needed to.

After Calypso had fallen asleep, Claus had captured her in a Pokeball to register her as his Pokemon, and then-- armed with the knowledge that Makuhita’s first sleep often lasted ten hours or more to recover the energy expended to break their eggshell-- went off to challenge Fantina for the gym badge.

Fantina’s gym arena wasn’t as well-known as many, but it had been around for long enough that there were some tried and tested strategies already around. He looked down at the arena from the challenger’s box. It was a rather nondescript arena, all things considered, with a well-lit purple floor and walls and no real obstacles or special circumstances around. The unique part would be more apparent after the battle started.

Fantina stepped into the Gym leader’s box, supplemented by enthusiastic cheering. This arena was one of the least popular for early gym badges among spectators, but Fantina still had her own loyal fans, many of whom were newly trainers of the ghost Pokemon that she’d worked so hard to justify to the public, slowly beginning to erase the stigma attached to them.

“Welcome to the Hearthome gym!” began Fantina. She spoke with a thick accent, but her speech was still intelligible. “I am your beloved gym leader, Fantina, of course! And here for his second badge today is Claus Haller of Twinleaf Town!”

There was some polite applause when he was announced, and he waved to the crowd, turning on his microphone as well.

Fantina dramatically threw her arms wide open. “Two Pokemon on each side! No healing items used in battle! And of course…” Here she lowered her voice, probably to invoke a “spooky” effect. “The battle will be fought in total darkness!”

As soon as she said that, the lights stopped shining on the arena. Only Claus and Fantina themselves were illuminated, the battlefield between them obscured by darkness.

“Your move, Challenger Haller!”

Claus had already decided which of his Pokemon would take the stage first. “Franklin, you’re up!”

Even in the darkness, the white flash of the Pokeball lit up the arena long enough for Franklin to be visible. The Nosepass grunted in challenge.

The reason for Claus’s choice of send-out was simple. Franklin didn’t need to see. Nosepass sensed their surroundings through extremely sensitive steelsight and electroreception, which could pinpoint the location of nearly any Pokemon with ease. Of course, the bigger problem would be whether Claus himself would be able to see the battle.

“Amelie, show this Nosepass its place!”

Fantina’s sendout was a Duskull that glowered at Franklin and Claus with a dim red eye.

Well, that was actually very helpful. The eye would give away the Duskull’s location even to Claus.

And then the Duskull’s eye blinked shut and didn’t open again, and Claus winced. He supposed that would have been too easy otherwise.

“Franklin, Stealth Rock!”

“Will-o-wisp, Amelie!”

Claus heard Franklin grumble, and then a moment later, there were several thunks as the hazard was set across the arena. Hopefully that would limit Fantina’s switches, as she was known to switch Pokemon almost as frequently as Elite Four Aaron.

The Duskull’s location was revealed as it loosed a blue flame, familiar to Claus from his battle against Riley’s Phantump. He was under no illusion that Franklin would be able to dodge the flame, but it did at least reveal Amelie, her bleached skull-mask clearly visible in the low light.

“Franklin, Rock Throw!”

Franklin summoned a projectile, but it was smaller than usual. The crippling effects of the burn weakened Franklin’s attacks and left it visible to Fantina as the phantom fire flickered around its body.

“Shadow Sneak, dear!” commanded Fantina.

Claus’s bait, thankfully, had worked. The darkness meant that Shadow Sneak was impossible to track, but Claus had prepared for that.

“Drop the Rock Throw, and use Spark!”

Crackling arcs of yellow light danced around Franklin even as Fantina’s Duskull rammed it. The electricity rendered Amelie helpless for a split second, leaving her unable to do anything but twitch in silent agony.

“Thunder Wave, while she’s close!”

The electricity dissipated in a quick burst. Amelie had no hope of dodging it.

“Power through it, Amelie!” called Fantina, her voice tinged with concern. “Astonish!”

Amelie focused, cloaking her body in the shadows around her before leaping forward and bursting through the veil to attack Franklin once more. But the paralysis slowed her down, and Franklin had already called up another Rock Throw to fire point-blank at Amelie.

Claus grinned. He hadn’t commanded Franklin to do that. “Get her!”

The attacks collided, barely phasing Franklin as it prepared another Rock Throw. It wasn’t doing much damage, but it could still capitalize on having the upper hand.

“Shadow Sneak away!”

Claus deduced that Amelie must have powered through her paralysis to dash through the shadows, as Franklin’s Rock Throw thumped against the floor.

“Now, Confuse Ray!” called Fantina, excitement clear in her voice.

Claus blinked in surprise as the Duskull created a ball of glowing yellow light that sought out Franklin, striking him and then… disappearing. Franklin rumbled and stumbled to the side.

“Now, Night Shade!” Fantina declared triumphantly.

This wasn’t good. Claus couldn’t see what effect the attacks were having on Franklin, but he imagined it being tormented by confusion and ghostly illusions and felt a pang of concern.

Claus picked up Franklin’s Pokeball, ready to give the Nosepass a break.

“Now, Pursuit!”

Claus bit back a swear as Amelie struck Franklin so hard that it flipped onto its side. He’d fallen for the same trick against Roark, too.

Thankfully, Franklin was still fit to be recalled. It wasn’t done for yet, but with its burn and all the damage Amelie had dealt it, Claus wasn’t planning on sending it back into the fray unless he had to, so he selected Pello’s Pokeball and tossed it into the arena.

His Grotle almost instantly vanished behind the thick veil of darkness, but Pello wasn’t deterred. He immediately sent a barrage of Razor Leaves flying at Amelie in the split second she was visible.

Claus smiled, glad Pello had remembered that part of their strategy. He didn’t think it would be enough to take down the Duskull, but it had to be close.

Sure enough, Fantina began to recall the Duskull, picking up her other ball. “Well played, Haller. Alex, get him!”

Fantina’s second Pokemon was hard to see, even with the flash of light from the Pokeball. Rather than white, the light was a murky purple, as if shone through some sort of gas.

It was a Haunter. Claus grinned-- this was all going perfectly according to plan. He hadn’t gotten to set up while Fantina switched, as that was generally considered bad battle etiquette, but now was the perfect opportunity.

“Smog!”

“Pello, Light Screen!”

Pello’s wall of light illuminated the darkness, creating an effect like a lit-up glass window across the whole battlefield. The Haunter’s attack was weakened as it passed through, and Pello simply shrugged it off.

“Hm,” said Fantina. “Fine! Shadow Punch!”

The Haunter, who had been startled by the Light Screen, dashed forward to strike Pello, his fist darkening to black.

Claus grinned. It was his turn to be satisfied. “Bite, Pello!”

Pello, now able to see, met the attack head-on, clamping his hooked beak down on one of the Haunter’s gaseous hands.

“Now throw him off!” yelled Claus, bouncing on his feet with excitement.

With a jerk of his head, Pello flung the Haunter right into a waiting Stealth Rock. The Haunter screamed in pain.

“Keep your distance, Alex! Smog again!” commanded Fantina, her voice still confident.

“Razor Leaf, Pello!”

The Haunter had once again flown out of reach, but it was clear which way the battle was going. The Bite had really taken a lot out of Alex, and each Razor Leaf whittled down at his endurance, even as the Light Screen weakened his own attacks. It wasn’t long until the Haunter was knocked out, dropping back to the floor with its eyes closed.

“Well done,” said Fantina, as the crowd cheered. “Amelie, you’re back up!”

The Duskull was still clearly weary from the fight against Franklin. She was immediately struck by Franklin’s Stealth Rocks, hissing in pain.

“Will-o-wisp again!”

Pello’s Light Screen was beginning to fade, but the Will-o-wisp provided enough illumination for him to fire off another volley of Razor Leaves, knocking the Duskull back to the ground.

“Finish the job with Absorb!”

It wasn’t Absorb any more. Claus had determined that this new attack was probably Mega Drain, as it did far more damage than Absorb with a brighter glow, but Pello still knew what Claus meant. Amelie the Duskull groaned one final time, and then fainted.

The referee blew their whistle, and the lights flicked back on as Fantina and Claus both recalled their Pokemon.

As Barry, Dawn, and the rest of the crowd cheered, Claus climbed down the stairs with a huge grin on his face to collect his Relic Badge.

Claus is now a parent. Calypso is super cute. I am telling you this because it is true. If you disagree that baby Makuhita that punches out of the egg and then falls asleep pretty much instantly is not cute you are entitled to your opinion, but your opinion is wrong.

Badge 2 get! As always huge thanks to slamdunkrai/jeff the absolute legend for betaing, this fic (especially these early battles) are so much better from their help.

Folks I wrote like three chapters in the last two weeks, or something. I'm on a roll. or, well, I was, but now college is back. however my inspiration for this story has returned with full force after being dormant for a while, and college work will not quench it! More than actually writing the real thing is that I planned so much more of this story out, too, and I'm feeling really good about it. It's gonna be sick. I look forward to being able to share it with you guys!

(Added for TR: y'all are definitely the reason for the increase in inspiration. Thank you for reviving this fic and being a wonderful community!)
 
Last edited:

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CITY, 15:28

Claus was playing with his Relic and Coal Badges, admiring the way the light played off of them, when his Pokedex buzzed. Dawn was saying something in the group chat the three of them shared.

GROUP: Barry can’t spell Caesar

backstabber 2: Hey guys
backstabber 2: So it looks like Professor Rowan is here on business to meet someone
victim: yoooo its gramps
backstabber 2: I ran into him on the street, and we were talking for some time
backstabber 2: And then some stranger grabbed his bag out of nowhere, shoved him to the ground, and ran for it!
victim: o shit
cesar: Oh shit
cesar: I’m assuming he got away with the bag, then?
backstabber 2: He got away.
backstabber 2: The professor’s rather annoyed
backstabber 2: He did say that the research was unfinished anyway and he could rewrite it, but…
victim: where r u two
backstabber 2: Behind the Cathedral, I think the Professor was going to pay a visit


Claus got to his feet, typing as he walked.

victim: good, it’s close to the pokecenter
victim: omw
cesar: Do you remember what the thief looked like, Dawn
backstabber 2: He was fairly average-looking with short black hair and pale skin
backstabber 2: Maybe in his forties?
backstabber 2: Wearing a dark green jacket, and he moved really fast
cesar: I wouldn’t look too deep into the jacket, he could’ve just taken it off after robbing Rowan
cesar: What was in the bag, Dawn? Just research notes
backstabber 2: The prof only mentioned the notes
victim: lmao no way yall
victim: sus.jpg


The image was taken with the crisp quality of the Pokedex’s advanced cameras, and afforded quite a bit of detail, even from a distance. Claus focused on the only figure in the picture holding a bag. The thief was a somewhat short, thin man, wearing the same green jacket Dawn mentioned. From the picture, Claus didn’t think the thief looked like a thief at all, just another citizen going on their way through the city.

But appearances could be deceiving, and he trusted what Dawn had seen.

Claus looked up from his Pokedex as he crossed the road, glancing up at the cloudy sky. He hoped it wouldn’t start raining, he thought as he glanced back down at the Pokedex, only to almost trip over nothing as he read Barry’s words.

victim: is this our guy
backstabber 2: Wow, it looks like that’s him.
victim: lmfao nice
victim: so I’m gonna follow him
backstabber 2: Oh
backstabber 2: Are you sure?
victim: relax i can be unsuspicious
victim: is that even a word
victim: look he probably thinks im just some guy on my dex, walkin around
Incoming group voice call from: victim


Claus picked up the call instantly, holding the dex to his ear.

“Barry, be careful,” hissed Claus, sounding a little too agitated for his liking. “We don’t know anything about this guy! What are you doing?”

“Don’t be a wuss,” crackled Barry’s voice through the speakers. “We can at least keep an eye on him so we don’t just lose the professor’s stuff, right? And hey, we have two badges each now. You hear about shit like this on the news all the time. ‘Gym challenger subdues and turns in stalker with a previous criminal record,’ or ‘Gym challengers aid local police in apprehending runaway burglars.’ Not to mention a new Satoshi Red knockoff destroys the mafia every other week. We’re gym challengers now, man! We’re basically adults. We can do this.”

“I agree,”
added Dawn’s voice. “I wouldn’t be happy with standing around doing nothing. We should tread with caution, but we certainly can help.”

Barry was excellent at talking people into things. Claus’s earlier apprehension had dimmed considerably. “Fine, then, but we can’t just charge in there. What now?”

“Well, our guy’s at the intersection between Marble and Lemon right now,”
said Barry. “If you guys could--”

“I’ll be right there,”
Dawn interrupted, and Claus heard shuffling on her end of the line. “And Claus?”

“Already on the way,” he said, heading that way instead of towards the Cathedral. “I should be there any moment now. Barry, when you see me, pretend you didn’t, and stay on the dex.”

“Got that,” he said, and then went quiet. For a moment, Claus could only hear Dawn moving and a muffled voice that must have been Professor Rowan.

Claus spotted Barry exactly where he said he’d find him. “I’m here,” muttered Claus. “Behind you, but don’t turn around.”

“Gotcha,” said Barry. “Do you see him?”

Claus did see him. The man was walking hurriedly, though Barry was keeping up.

Claus swore to himself as he hurried closer, earning some looks from other pedestrians. Arceus-damned tall people with their Girafarig legs. “I see him. The navy blue shirt, right?”

“Yeah, he ditched the jacket. It’s in his bag now--” Barry stopped as the man they were following took a turn directly towards… the Cathedral? Wasn’t that the direction he had just come from?

Sure enough, the man continued walking straight towards the Cathedral as Barry and Claus followed silently. He pushed open the doors and walked in, and the two of them followed, the heavy doors swinging open under a painting of Victini smiling.

“What the fuck is he doing here,” asked Barry candidly, and Claus flinched.

“We’re in a holy place, man,” he chastised. “Watch your language.”

“True, oops,” said Barry, not feeling remorseful at all. If the situation were different, Claus knew he would’ve probably argued that the gods surely knew the word ‘fuck’ anyways, so what harm would it do?

“Anyways, it looks like we’ve lost him,” Barry continued, “unless you see him?”

“Nope,” replied Claus grimly. The Cathedral was just big enough and crowded enough that it would be extremely easy to lose someone. Not to mention that if the culprit had noticed that they were being followed and somehow changed their appearance again, they were as good as lost.

“You! Young man! Have you seen any suspicious figures lately?”

“Alright, gimme a moment,” muttered Claus into the dex, muting himself and pocketing it. He then tuned to meet the source of this new, slightly accented voice, and found himself looking at a tall middle-aged man, looking fairly unassuming with a brown trench coat.

“Sorry?” asked Claus. “I didn’t catch that. Were you talking to me?”

The man huffed. “Yes, I meant you, young man! You appear to me as one who would be quite the upstanding character. So, I ask again. Have you seen any suspicious figures lately? And let it not be limited to sight alone. Anything that you have heard, as well, would be of great interest to me.”

This man was certainly eccentric, thought Claus. Having no idea who he was, though, he was a little reluctant to say what was troubling him right off the bat. “I don’t know about upstanding character or anything. Who are you, sir?”

“Ha! You know to ask before answering! And you have clearly deduced that I am no ordinary individual? Quite admirable, you are!” the man declared, chuckling. Before Claus could back out of the conversation, he continued, “Well, regardless, let me introduce myself. I am a globe-trotting elite of the International Police. My name... Ah, no. I shall inform you only of my code name. My code name, it is Looker. It is what they all call me.” Looker removed an ID card from an inner pocket of his coat, showing it to Claus.

...What? This was ridiculous. There had to be some kind of rule against Interpol agents going around announcing their status to random kids. Well, actually, it wasn’t like every agent would be an undercover agent, but still… why did he just hand out his code name like that? And what did he mean that Claus was “quite admirable?” How did Interpol even hire a nutcase like this guy? Claus had so many questions.

The whole situation felt a little silly, but Claus decided that this man likely meant no harm. It probably wouldn’t hurt to tell Looker what was troubling him, especially considering he might have been chasing the same person as Claus.

“Well, nice to meet you, er… Looker,” replied Claus, shaking the man’s outstretched hand. “I’m actually looking for a suspicious person, like what you mentioned. Someone stole something that belongs to Pokemon professor Rowan, and we’re trying to follow them and get it back.”

“Aha! Professor Rowan! How incidental,” exclaimed the man, loud enough that some heads turned in their direction. Claus already regretted telling Looker anything. “I, too, have been following a certain suspicious figure. There is a distinct possibility that we are looking for the same figure, do you think?”

“Please lower your voice,” begged Claus. “As for the person who we’re after, I do have an image, if that helps,” he added, showing the picture from the group chat. Looker leaned uncomfortably close, muttering to himself as he scanned the picture.

“Hmm. Notably four fingers on the left hand, the glove’s fifth seems empty. Rather short hair, but not recently cut… Interesting. Jacket seems a bit large, and no hood? Barring perhaps a mustache, not even any stubble at all. No pattes d’oie, hmm…”

Claus was a little in shock at this comical guy suddenly displaying ridiculously precise and quick deductive skills, but he didn’t miss the way Looker’s expression changed to one of unfiltered alarm as he analyzed Barry’s picture, which he quickly tried and failed to mask.

“I see, I see,” remarked Looker. “Now that you have passed on your intel, I, ah. I am well suited to handle this task! There is no more for you to do here, other than go back and wait for me to contact you with news of the successful retrieval of your stolen object.”

Claus shook his head. It was painfully obvious that Looker was ad-libbing his heart out. “No, we—”

“Look here, young man,” interrupted Looker, suddenly sounding dead serious. “We both are aware now that my deceptive abilities are, you could say, not up to par. Therefore, I shall drop the pretense.

“This situation is beyond your ability to help. I see two badges on you right now, which means that neither you nor your team have the strength needed to be any more than a hindrance in this matter, no matter what other assets you may offer.

“I thank you for the information that you have already provided. It has been helpful. Helpful in the extreme, yes. You and your friends, who must be those two youngsters searching rather inconspicuously while pretending to worship, should return to the professor as soon as possible. I will contact him when I can.”

Looker turned around and left as abruptly as he’d arrived, his brown coat trailing behind him dramatically.

Claus watched for a second, shocked, as Looker departed.

If Looker was to be believed, there was nothing more for him to do here. Claus from forty minutes ago would have been relieved to be out of the line of fire with a more qualified individual on the job, but now…

He was disappointed.

Barry’s encouragement and Dawn’s determination had gotten him fired up, ready to help and make a difference on his own instead of watching from the sidelines, but he was too weak.

And tomorrow, he would continue on his merry way for the gym challenge, laughing and having a fun time with his friends and Pokemon or whatever as someone better than him did all the heavy lifting. Last time it was Roark with the Buzzwole incident, this time it was Looker, and who knew who it would be next time?

Claus finally registered the buzzing of his Pokedex, jolting him out of his thoughts.

GROUP: Barry can’t spell Caesar

victim: looks like claus is caught up with some loud dude lmao
victim: also i still haven’t found shit
victim: dawn any luck
backstabber 2: No. It’s like he completely vanished
victim: we’ve probably scoured the whole area twice over by now
victim: this place is big but its not that big
backstabber 2: I think it may be time for us to give up and head back.
backstabber 2: We do have a picture and some information. We can quit while we’re ahead.
victim: i hate to say it but yeah
victim: and claus what the fuck was that guy yelling about
victim: claus
victim: claus
victim: claus?
backstabber 2: That man left. Claus, can you call us?


Claus frowned. If they couldn’t help, they could at least follow Looker’s advice.

cesar: Guys we should leave.
cesar: The loud guy was an Interpol agent, and he clearly knew something we don’t
cesar: He told us to find Rowan and that he’d contact us whenever possible.
victim: welp
victim: i mean we were gonna leave anyway
victim: now we just HAVE to leave
backstabber 2: We’ll meet at the entrance of the Cathedral, then?
cesar: Yeah


Claus sighed and walked back out of the building, ignoring Victini’s smiling visage on his way out.

Robbery! fun

Looker! also fun. I tried to preserve how delightfully weird he is in the games. However he's still an Interpol agent, so he's definitely competent. Things are happening here that are, as he said, are way above our main characters' pay grade at the moment. What are these things? Well, maybe we'll find out soon! But Claus won't. and obviously he isn't taking it too well lol. suffer kid

Things are starting to happen now! I'm excited!
 

Negrek

Event Horizon
Staff
Hey, Travant! Glad to see you posting this here. I'm always up for a good journeyfic, and reading this one is a fun complement to Jeff's fic... I see some similarities here, but also some big differences! (I mean, Claus hasn't even had one trippy encounter with a legendary pokémon... clearly the Sinnohs we're looking at here are very different sorts of places! ;) ) I figured I'd start off by looking at the first three chapters.

The introduction of affinities is definitely interesting and feels like it will open up a lot of cool possibilities for your human characters. I look forward to seeing how they end up impacting the plot as the story goes along. A Claus himself recognizes, steel might not be the flashiest of all possible affinities, but it seems like it could be really dang useful. I'm also curious what Barry's affinity will turn out to be. Fire would seem to be a fitting, almost cliche option, but I don't think we've really seen signs of what he might be capable of just yet.

The dynamic between Claus and Barry perhaps reminds me of another Sinnoh journeyfic, in that there's clearly one person here who's the impulsive, headstrong one and the more low-key partner who's more likely to get pulled into a scheme than start one themself. It's a classic pairing and should make for a solid foundation to build the fic around. I'm particularly curious what you'll do with Barry, since I feel as though he doesn't get much attention in the games and is often played for simple comic relief/chaotic dumbassery. What's probably most interesting about the characters to me so far is Claus' apparent penchant for lying. It's not a trait you see in protagonists very often, especially not a habitual one, the way it seems to be for Claus, and I'm definitely curious what sort of impact it'll have on the story. Your typical journeyfic protagonist is a hero, or at least on the "good" end of "normal." Not that someone who often lies is a bad person, but just that it's a more unsavory trait than you often see for a character in Claus' position, and that makes him a lot more interesting to me than a generic "nice" trainer would be. All in all I think these early chapters do a nice job establishing our primary characters and their relationship to each other, and I think that I'll enjoy following them throughout the rest of the story.

From the way Cyrus is talking at Lake Verity, it sure sounds as though Mesprit zapped his emotions at some point. That would be an interesting take on his deadpan demeanor and his desire to remake the world to be without emotion, too. This early encounter makes it look as though you might be digging into Cyrus' character a bit more than the games do, which would be a lot of fun!

I realized at this point that I was forgetting something, which in fact is--the prologue! I admit it made less of an impression on me than the first couple chapters proper in that it has the air of something that's going to be important eventually, but which we probably won't be engaging with for a while. It's definitely odd that Zygarde is hanging around in Sinnoh for some reason (and in what's usually Giratina's turf iirc?), and a capital-E Enforcer definitely sounds portentious, but they don't feel like things I'm going to need to worry about for a bit. I may have forgotten that any of this happened by the time it becomes relevant to Claus and company.

I was really confused by the way the scene with Rowan ended, with Claus making an excuse and then he and Barry heading back to Lake Verity pokémon-less. It's been a long time since I've gone through the beginning of Platinum, so I don't know if this is just following along with the game's plot or whether you made this change here, possibly because you wanted to be able to have Claus and Barry encounter Cyrus sans Rowan and pokémon. It was baffling to me why Claus would do this, though. Why did he and Barry even want to go to the lake? What were they planning to do there before they encountered Cyrus? Wouldn't it have been most convenient for everyone if they spent a little time tagging after Rowan to get their pokémon, then doubling back to the lake if that's where they wanted to go? As far as I can tell the errand was made up (the note from Claus' mom didn't mention one), but it sounded like Barry was mad about lying about how they'd gotten the pokémon, not the need to leave instead of going to get their starters? All in all I was just very ?????? about why they ended up at the lake, especially when there was seemingly much more exciting for them to be doing at that time!

His face relaxed as he concentrated, focusing on the feeling of complete and utter tranquil. Something clicked, and he smiled. The rock outwardly appeared the same as before, but now it was charged with an emotion: the same tranquil that he had focused on.
*tranquility, "tranquil" is an adjective

But the only Pokemon he’d seen was the Unown, and Unown weren’t known for being extremely powerful.
*were the unown

Claus and Barry had went off in one direction, and then they’d seen Mr. Butler’s Flaaffy up in a tree, of all things, with a whole crowd of Smeargle just laying flat on their backs on the ground beneath her, staring up at the poor Flaaffy with eerily blank expressions.
You want "gone off" rather than "went off," and also "lying flat" rather than "laying flat"--you use "laying" only when there's an object being laid down, e.g. "she was laying a strip of dough in each bowl" or similar.

On one hand, Barry’s explanation had just completely destroyed any possibility of the professor believing that Lucy wasn’t their Pokemon.
Lucy *was, I think?

The biggest thing I’ve done before is helping out get Jasmine’s mom’s Glameow out of a tree.
Random extra "out" before "get."

These are a fun first couple chapters! It's a fairly standard journeyfic opening, but you've clearly been working to add some interest as well. The chapters have been zippy, and I think the relatively short length works to your advantage here; they're easy to get through, and at least at this point in the story they feel like they're moving things along at a decent clip. Thanks for sharing this story with us, and I hope your writing's been going well!
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
Hey, Travant! Glad to see you posting this here. I'm always up for a good journeyfic, and reading this one is a fun complement to Jeff's fic... I see some similarities here, but also some big differences! (I mean, Claus hasn't even had one trippy encounter with a legendary pokémon... clearly the Sinnohs we're looking at here are very different sorts of places! ;) ) I figured I'd start off by looking at the first three chapters.

The introduction of affinities is definitely interesting and feels like it will open up a lot of cool possibilities for your human characters. I look forward to seeing how they end up impacting the plot as the story goes along. A Claus himself recognizes, steel might not be the flashiest of all possible affinities, but it seems like it could be really dang useful. I'm also curious what Barry's affinity will turn out to be. Fire would seem to be a fitting, almost cliche option, but I don't think we've really seen signs of what he might be capable of just yet.

The dynamic between Claus and Barry perhaps reminds me of another Sinnoh journeyfic, in that there's clearly one person here who's the impulsive, headstrong one and the more low-key partner who's more likely to get pulled into a scheme than start one themself. It's a classic pairing and should make for a solid foundation to build the fic around. I'm particularly curious what you'll do with Barry, since I feel as though he doesn't get much attention in the games and is often played for simple comic relief/chaotic dumbassery. What's probably most interesting about the characters to me so far is Claus' apparent penchant for lying. It's not a trait you see in protagonists very often, especially not a habitual one, the way it seems to be for Claus, and I'm definitely curious what sort of impact it'll have on the story. Your typical journeyfic protagonist is a hero, or at least on the "good" end of "normal." Not that someone who often lies is a bad person, but just that it's a more unsavory trait than you often see for a character in Claus' position, and that makes him a lot more interesting to me than a generic "nice" trainer would be. All in all I think these early chapters do a nice job establishing our primary characters and their relationship to each other, and I think that I'll enjoy following them throughout the rest of the story.

From the way Cyrus is talking at Lake Verity, it sure sounds as though Mesprit zapped his emotions at some point. That would be an interesting take on his deadpan demeanor and his desire to remake the world to be without emotion, too. This early encounter makes it look as though you might be digging into Cyrus' character a bit more than the games do, which would be a lot of fun!

I realized at this point that I was forgetting something, which in fact is--the prologue! I admit it made less of an impression on me than the first couple chapters proper in that it has the air of something that's going to be important eventually, but which we probably won't be engaging with for a while. It's definitely odd that Zygarde is hanging around in Sinnoh for some reason (and in what's usually Giratina's turf iirc?), and a capital-E Enforcer definitely sounds portentious, but they don't feel like things I'm going to need to worry about for a bit. I may have forgotten that any of this happened by the time it becomes relevant to Claus and company.

I was really confused by the way the scene with Rowan ended, with Claus making an excuse and then he and Barry heading back to Lake Verity pokémon-less. It's been a long time since I've gone through the beginning of Platinum, so I don't know if this is just following along with the game's plot or whether you made this change here, possibly because you wanted to be able to have Claus and Barry encounter Cyrus sans Rowan and pokémon. It was baffling to me why Claus would do this, though. Why did he and Barry even want to go to the lake? What were they planning to do there before they encountered Cyrus? Wouldn't it have been most convenient for everyone if they spent a little time tagging after Rowan to get their pokémon, then doubling back to the lake if that's where they wanted to go? As far as I can tell the errand was made up (the note from Claus' mom didn't mention one), but it sounded like Barry was mad about lying about how they'd gotten the pokémon, not the need to leave instead of going to get their starters? All in all I was just very ?????? about why they ended up at the lake, especially when there was seemingly much more exciting for them to be doing at that time!

*tranquility, "tranquil" is an adjective

But the only Pokemon he’d seen was the Unown, and Unown weren’t known for being extremely powerful.
*were the unown


You want "gone off" rather than "went off," and also "lying flat" rather than "laying flat"--you use "laying" only when there's an object being laid down, e.g. "she was laying a strip of dough in each bowl" or similar.

On one hand, Barry’s explanation had just completely destroyed any possibility of the professor believing that Lucy wasn’t their Pokemon.
Lucy *was, I think?


Random extra "out" before "get."

These are a fun first couple chapters! It's a fairly standard journeyfic opening, but you've clearly been working to add some interest as well. The chapters have been zippy, and I think the relatively short length works to your advantage here; they're easy to get through, and at least at this point in the story they feel like they're moving things along at a decent clip. Thanks for sharing this story with us, and I hope your writing's been going well!

WOOO let's go first TR comment baby! Glad to have you along for the ride :quag:

(I mean, Claus hasn't even had one trippy encounter with a legendary pokémon... clearly the Sinnohs we're looking at here are very different sorts of places! ;) )
Oh yeah not yet-- I mean who said "yet." clearly this is a very ordinary pokemon gym challenge with no legendaries involved at all ever

Steel affinity is so cool. It definitely has its utility in everyday life just for convenience, but it will really shine in the future when Claus is in higher-stakes situations, where people might have metal things that they are using. Like, I dunno, guns. or Pokeballs. just some ideas

I'm glad you're enjoying the characters so far-- after all they're the main hook until the plot starts picking up so I'd hope they were interesting enough. I'm definitely doing more with Barry than just making him comic relief (though he does also fulfill that role very well) and I'm excited to get to it! And Claus... yeah he is a liar liar pants on fire. I don't know if I would say it's habitual, but he definitely does use it as a tool to escape sticky situations. Cyrus is way too interesting for me to not want to explore his character lol. Team Galactic in general will hopefully have a much bigger and more fleshed out role in this story than they did in the games.

As for the prologue-- I admit that it might feel like something that could be relevant far in the future, but I will let you know it's not THAT far. And as for Zygarde: for me, I think of legendaries as tied to their associated concepts and ideals more than their locations for most of them, which is why stuff like the Kalos legendaries are a lot more universal so to speak. (Heatran is still a volcano frog, though, for instance)

I can see why the end of the Rowan scene could be a bit confusing, huh. What I was thinking was that Claus and Barry were both uncomfortable enough that they wanted out of the situation (hence the "errand") and went to the lake to escape the situation (and of course talk about it to each other) because it's their established Place To Chill. It also conveniently introduces Cyrus, which helps, but I think I could've done a better job getting the other stuff across.

Thank you for the line notes you legend

And of course, thank you for reading! The writing is going well enough for happening simultaneously with college, lol. I look forward to continuing to share this story with TR :quag:
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CATHEDRAL, 15:45

Appearances could be deceiving.

So thought the Enforcer as he watched a familiar figure converse with a tall man in a brown trench coat.

Those two? Really? Of all people?

Yeah.

The Enforcer blinked. Did Zygarde just say… “yeah?”

It has been some time since we experienced human society through a Favored, explained Zygarde frankly. We do not yet fully grasp the ways the languages you speak have changed over the years, but we are trying to adapt.

Fair enough, thought the Enforcer back at Zygarde. It was a way he had learned to be able to speak to them more easily. He simply had to think of Zygarde as he thought what he wanted them to hear, and they would receive his thoughts without having to constantly listen to them. It had allowed for Zygarde to tune out the constant drone of the Enforcer’s daily thoughts, which they had admitted was taxing and usually unnecessary.

More importantly, continued Zygarde. The tall one has already been chosen. His sponsor is the truth-seeker. The Enforcer felt a sense of irritation from Zygarde. We do not know what else to call the legendaries in question. Sponsor is a terrible word for the relationship. However, considering that you understand our meaning, it does not matter.

The Enforcer nodded. And the other?

The small one has not yet been chosen. We can sense auras more clearly when the sponsor has already chosen. Here, however, we can only detect the sponsor’s presence.

The Enforcer watched the guy– Claus Haller, he remembered– and felt a sense of nostalgia. He had been like Claus not long ago. Before Wayward Cave, all he saw in his future was taking the gym challenge and getting away from his home life to see the sights. He was glad for the purpose he gained from being the Enforcer, but… there had been something nice about not knowing what his next step would be, and traveling the region to figure it out alongside his Pokemon.

And soon, perhaps Claus would join him, torn away from his mundane life and thrust into the realm of the supernatural.

His life will not be mundane, whether he is chosen or not, noted Zygarde with utter certainty, having heard the Enforcer’s musings. It would be wise to keep an eye on him.

The Enforcer waited for them to elaborate, but they didn’t, and he had never known Zygarde to lie. Do you know something about him that I don’t?

The aura tells us more than we admitted, confessed Zygarde after a pause. We have some good guesses as to the identity of the sponsor who has their eyes on him, and from that, we can surmise some things about his character. However, it would not be wise to tell you more than that. We apologize. Know only that if things start to change, this one is likely to be the catalyst.

I trust you, replied the Enforcer. I’ll see if I can get to know him better– I didn’t learn much more than his name last I saw him. The tall guy is leaving now, though. Should we follow?

Yes, confirmed Zygarde, and the Enforcer began to move. The air outside was humid, and the streets were darkened by clouds scattered across the previously clear sky. The sounds of city life were dampened as people unfurled their umbrellas and began to head home.

He followed the man out of the Cathedral, down a road and into an alley. The instant he turned down the alley, though, he was shoved against the wall, the tall man’s forearm pressed to his throat.

“Hello!” said the man amiably. “I do not know you, and you are following me. Would you be so kind as to explain yourself?”

His tone was such a stark contrast to his actions that the Enforcer opened his fey affinity to the other man’s emotions, curious. There, he saw exactly what the other man displayed outwardly: detached curiosity about him paired with wariness. This was unusual, the Enforcer thought; it was very hard to fake this kind of simplicity.

And then the Enforcer felt the presence of what could only be Reshiram, casting a looming shadow on the man’s thoughts and emotions. He could glean nothing of Reshiram’s emotions, though, only his overwhelming power.

The Enforcer quailed and shut his affinity off immediately.

Reshiram will not listen to us, the stubborn fool, said Zygarde. You will have to help us get this message to him. Repeat what we tell you to this man–

“When your sister cried, her tears were silent,” gasped the Enforcer.

“I have no sister,” replied the man, puzzled. “That does not– ah.” His eyes widened as he realized something, stepping back a few steps.

“Yeah, we weren’t talking to you,” muttered the Enforcer, rubbing at his throat after the man released him.

There was a moment of silence, and then the man extended his hand to the Enforcer, a sheepish expression on his face. “I apologize, Enforcer,” he said. “You may call me Looker. It is my code name among the International Police. I am truly sorry, but Reshiram will not speak to you. For reasons he will not disclose, he speaks only to me, and that too rather infrequently. If he wishes to tell you or your partner anything, I will relay it to you.”

“That works. I’m here because Zygarde hinted to me that you were doing something of importance and that my help might make things easier.”

“This is simply untrue,” said Looker easily. “The thing I am doing is likely to be easier for me to do on my own.”

Arrogant man, grumbled Zygarde in the Enforcer’s mind.

“However, easier does not always mean safer, and here the added insurance of another person may act as a cushion for any mistakes I may make. If not, your role is likely to be that of a spectator.”

“I’m fine with being the insurance,” said the Enforcer, shrugging. “I don’t want to step on your toes. Just let me know what’s going on, and what I should do if things go south.”

“We are heading east, not south,” corrected Looker, barreling on before the Enforcer could explain himself. “Regardless, I am pursuing a thief. This thief stole a bag that contained some rather recent research of the esteemed Professor Rowan, of whom you have surely heard.”

Looker’s speech patterns were strange, noted the Enforcer, but thankfully not so strange that he couldn’t follow along. “What’s the catch, then?”

“The catch is that this thief is an individual who is also suspected of several other widely varying crimes. They may be more dangerous than they appear, and we did not know they were the same person until very recently, as they disguise themselves extremely effectively using what must be the power of their Pokemon. They are a total mystery, though we can assume they are well-off from the equipment they have used in the past. Although, this only raises more questions about the reasons for their petty crimes.”

No matter which way he spun it, the Enforcer had to admit Looker was right. The facts didn’t add up. “So this thief is dangerous because we know so little about them?”

“That is correct. We do not know what Pokemon they use, what their motives are, whether they are working alone, or anything of the sort. That is why I am here– to cut to the truth as quickly as possible, and to retrieve the Professor’s research. I understand that you have a fey affinity, so you can aid me in finding their intentions.”

That was fairly simple. The Enforcer was glad that his beginner assignments as a Favored, so to speak, were so straightforward, even if they were thrusting him into unknown situations. He didn’t think he’d be able to find a way to handle something more abstract.

You have us for guidance, Zygarde reminded him as they continued to walk alongside Looker. You need not downplay yourself, either. We have noticed this– you are worth more than you think. It is wise to be cautious and mindful of your limits, but beware of stagnation as well.

Zygarde had offered him this sentiment before. Casting off self-doubt and hesitance wasn’t just that easy, but he would keep trying. He mentally thanked Zygarde for the reminder.

“That is our culprit,” said Looker, pointing openly at someone who looked like a short, wiry man across the road. “Enforcer, please open your thoughts and let me know what it is they are thinking.”

The Enforcer nodded, taking a peek at their conscience. Immediately it was clear that they had already noticed Looker and himself from the current of nervousness and alarm that he sensed. Beneath the surface, there was also determination and a tinge of regret, and other things he could not yet name. His affinity was still new to him, even if he’d practiced it quite a bit since it had surfaced. Truly understanding someone’s emotions at a glance would take time to perfect.

He conveyed what he’d seen to Looker, and Looker nodded. “I am not the most discreet individual. It is unsurprising that they have noticed me, but we shall simply work around it.”

“She,” corrected the Enforcer. “I’m pretty sure she’s a girl. That’s the vibe I got from her emotions, at least.”

“I am unsure what a vibe is, but I will take your word for it.” Looker began to cross the street, making a beeline directly for the culprit, and the Enforcer hurried along behind him.

“Hello!” said Looker immediately upon catching up to the culprit, who had made no effort to escape despite surely having seen the two of them lumber up to her with absolutely no subtlety.

She looked for all the world like a grouchy middle-aged fellow heading home after a long day of work. The irritation in her face, though the Enforcer still couldn’t detect it with his affinity, felt completely real.

Her hand came up and she pointed a finger upwards, shaking it back and forth. The Enforcer realized quickly that this must have been sign language.

Looker seemed to have no trouble understanding her. “I am Looker, an agent for the International Police,” he said, flashing his ID. The Enforcer watched sheer disbelief and confusion flash across the culprit’s mind with grim amusement. “I wanted to ask you about the contents of the bag you are carrying.”

The culprit snorted. The nervousness had subsided, followed by a total stillness from which the Enforcer could discern very little. Her hands came up and flew through gestures faster than the Enforcer could process, but Zygarde began to translate.

She says, “You can’t do that. It’s my bag, now piss off before I call my lawyer. Flashing your ID isn’t going to get you anywhere, young man. Have a wonderful day.”

With that, she began to leave.

Looker watched with a straight face, waiting a few seconds before speaking. “Well, sir, before you leave. Who are you?”

She turned around, the irritation clear on her face, and began to sign again.

She says, “It’s none of your business, but I’m Mason Smith, and you can look that up in your fancy-ass cop database or whatever. There are probably ten Mason Smiths in Hearthome alone, so good luck.”

You don’t need to tell me when it’s her speaking and when it’s you, Zygarde, the Enforcer pointed out, trying not to laugh. Your speech patterns are very different. Zygarde silently acknowledged his statement.

Looker smiled, and the Enforcer noticed that his eyes had changed color from brown to bright, piercing blue.

“Mars.”

The culprit stopped in her tracks, and the Enforcer felt her emotions shift rapidly to the violent red of panic. She turned around on the spot, the emotion for once clear in the way her eyes grew round. The Enforcer watched, fascinated, as her emotions shifted rapidly, whirling and settling at lightning speed as she began to sign again, hands shaking slightly.

“What do you know about my daughter, cop?”

“An admirable attempt,” acknowledged Looker, “but you have no children, Mars. You cannot lie to me.”

“It’s not every day I see an officer confuse a man for his own child.”

“You cannot lie to me, Mars,” repeated Looker, shaking his head. He swept his coat aside, revealing two Ultra Balls. “If you cooperate and come with us, we will be finished with this matter much sooner. I would prefer not to use force.”

Mars shot a glance at their surroundings. The gloomy weather had turned to a steady drizzle, and the street they were on, already out of the way, was far less crowded than it would normally be. Her emotions quickly returned to the unreadable calm he had felt earlier, and the Enforcer stayed on alert. His affinity was limited to sensing emotions, but those were often tied inseparably to thoughts unless someone had incredible self-control, so anything he could sense could be valuable.

Sure enough, the Enforcer felt Mars’s calm change slightly into… something he couldn’t quite name. It wasn’t quite anticipation, but she seemed to be preparing to do something.

Breathe, said Zygarde suddenly. You have the advantage– she does not know that you expect her next move. You will only throw away the advantage by remaining tense.

The Enforcer released the breath he’d been holding, chastened. Sorry. I just– There are still civilians out and about. I can’t imagine she’s going to attack, but–

The preparedness snapped, and Mars lunged away from Looker, taking off far faster than one would expect from the older man she looked like. Looker seemed to have expected this, though, and sighed as he pushed the button on one of his Ultra Balls, releasing a Beheeyem, the eerie Pokemon hovering a foot or so off the ground and already facing Mars.

“Mur,” said Looker. The Beheeyem made no discernible motion, but Mars suddenly stopped short as if she had run right into a barrier. A couple walking nearby under an umbrella stopped to watch the scene, one of them reaching into their pocket.

“Do not stay here!” commanded Looker. “I am with Interpol. Leave this area immediately if you value your safety.”

The bystanders froze for a moment, and then they turned and fled, their footsteps vanishing quickly with the rain.

“Damn you,” snarled Mars. Her voice was one of a young woman probably around the Enforcer’s own age or a bit older, and it was extremely strange to hear it from someone who looked like an older man. “You can have the bag. I’ll leave without a fuss. Just leave me the hell alone!”

“No,” replied Looker flatly. “As we have established, I know when you are lying. You would not leave without a fuss. Therefore, you are under arrest under suspicion of multiple counts of petty theft, trespassing, carrying illegally modified Pokeballs, and evading arrest.”

As Looker spoke, Mars pounded her fists on the invisible barrier until her blows breached it. She began to dash away again, though not before hurling a couple of Pokeballs at the two of them.

The Pokeballs revealed Pokemon the likes of which the Enforcer had never seen before. They were only about a foot tall and less than an inch thick, their red, white, and yellow bodies tapering to four edges and an alien face. They hovered several feet off the ground, their bodies swaying slightly.

“Hold them off!” demanded Mars, sprinting away from them. She dropped the bag, but didn’t turn around to retrieve it.

“Will you abandon your Pokemon as you flee?” asked Looker, but there was no reply as Mars turned a corner and vanished from sight, leaving only the two strange creatures behind. They wasted no time lunging towards the two of them, their bodies spinning madly. The Enforcer stumbled out of the way right before the Pokemon struck him, causing it to embed almost half of its entire body into the solid brick wall behind him.

“What the fuck?” he shouted, horrified, watching it immediately use its other limbs to cut itself out of the wall. Looker’s Beheeyem had raised its arm, and the other Pokemon was being held in place, halted by the telltale pink glow of psychic powers, but it continued spinning faster and faster until the Pokemon looked like a whirring saw blade. Looker’s Beheeyem shook with the strain of holding it in place.

“Drop it,” said Looker, and the pink glow blinked off. Looker dove out of the way of the Pokemon, which then hurtled forward far faster than before, tearing a hole right through the wall and spraying debris in its wake.

The Enforcer then felt an alien presence in his head and flinched, but quickly realized that it must have been Looker’s Beheeyem. Relaxing, he took in the information it was rapidly sending directly to his brain– an image of a Pansage and a Klink, and then an image of them merging, which resulted in a strange half-machine abomination. That was followed by an image of the strange creature rotating and moving forward, and speeding up when it rotated faster, and then stopping only when the rotation halted. Finally, the Beheeyem showed a Machamp punching the strange Pokemon on the flat side and knocking it back, and then played the image again with it punching the Pokemon on the edge and having its fist and forearm split cleanly in two, complete with bloody detail. The Enforcer winced.

“Thank you,” said Looker to the Beheeyem, and the psychic Pokemon nodded its huge head once. The entire mental exchange had probably taken half of a second, which was faster than even Zygarde could communicate. Plus, gathering that information from only a short moment of psychic scanning while holding back such force must have been extremely difficult.

“Enforcer, if you have any helpful Pokemon with you, now is the time to release them!” demanded Looker. “Something fast, with attacks that cover a large area– these things are quick!”

Think, Enforcer, think. He had three Pokemon, and two of them, while strong, still had yet to evolve. One of them was more focused on tricks and strategy than speed and power, and the other was simply too small to fit the role needed in this battle. This left him only one option.

“Seth!” he cried, releasing an Absol onto the floor. His claws clicked on the stone road as he landed gracefully, though the sight of the nearby violence made him recoil. The Enforcer reached for Seth's mind with his affinity, dampening his confusion and his fear.

“The flying skinny ones are our targets!” yelled the Enforcer. He recalled what Looker’s Beheeyem had relayed to him– grass and steel. Good old dark-type moves would do the trick just fine. “Brutal Swing, and dash away with Quick Attack if they get too close!”

Good, said Zygarde as Seth growled and launched himself at the mysterious enemy. You are quick to find your feet in the situation.

Are you just gonna watch? snapped the Enforcer, a little miffed. We could use your help, if you haven’t noticed.

Our power fluctuates. We cannot be here fully formed at the moment. But you will see us, if you look closely.

Sure enough, the Enforcer noticed green and black glimmers, hardly visible in the dreary atmosphere and the rain. The cells were swirling throughout the battlefield, surrounding the Beheeyem and Seth’s limbs and bolstering their attacks and speed while pulling back on the strange Pokemon, slowing them down when they tried to rotate.

I’m sorry, said the Enforcer, and then dove to the side as one of the enemy Pokemon hurtled towards him once again. Seth was there, though, swinging a black-cloaked paw at the Pokemon as it began to slow down after the missed attack, hitting it directly and knocking it backwards into a wall. Off to the side, the Enforcer saw the Beheeyem firing off Tri Attack after Tri Attack at the other Pokemon, each time nailing it directly on the flat side and gracefully floating out of the way of the enemy’s charging attacks.

The enemy Pokemon were clearly strong, but they couldn’t last forever against opponents who knew their tricks. Zygarde helped them avoid the attacks fairly easily, and the Tri Attacks from the Beheeyem glowed with an unusual blue fire which scorched its targets every time it landed.

Sure enough, they began to retreat, floating away from the scene of the battle. Zygarde’s cells once again tried to hold them back, but it wasn’t enough as they rose into the sky.

“Can we follow them? Will they lead us to Mars?”

“It is not worth the risk of a trap,” Looker pointed out, reaching into his coat’s rather deep pockets. “I have another idea. Be ready.”

The last sentence was directed at the Beheeyem once again, as Looker retrieved two Pokeballs. The Enforcer’s eyebrows shot straight up his forehead as he saw the purple balls with the pink ridges on them.

“Is that–”

“Yes,” interrupted Looker, winding his arm back, and The Enforcer nearly stopped breathing. The target was so small, there was surely no way…

“Now!” yelled Looker as he flung the Master Ball at the retreating figures. His aim was dead-on, and the ball hurtled right towards the mysterious Pokemon that was in the back. They must have noticed, as the one in front moved back, its sharp arm positioned to cut the projectile cleanly in two, but it was suddenly enveloped in a pink glow as Looker’s Beheeyem once again shoved it out of the way, allowing the Master Ball to strike its target and snap shut with a loud click.

The ball didn’t even wobble as it fell from the sky, guided back to Looker’s hands by the Beheeyem’s Psychic once again as the other Pokemon fled the scene.

Seth, who had been on edge since being released, finally released a breath and relaxed. The Enforcer relaxed with him, reaching down to scratch his head as he purred.

“Thank you for your help,” said Looker, pocketing the Master Ball. “I was wrong to say that I would not need you here, but as you know, I could not have anticipated an undiscovered species of Pokemon to be used as a stalling tactic.”

“It’s a shame she escaped, but you and your Beheeyem were incredible,” replied the Enforcer. “And in the end, we did get the bag back, plus some information and a captured Pokemon for you.”

“It was not as much information as I would have liked, and I will have to turn in the strange Pokemon in for study and other containment options as soon as I can,” pointed out Looker. “But you are correct. In the end, we accomplished our goals.” He stuck his hand out, and the Enforcer shook it. “We make a good team, Enforcer, and you still have much time to grow. If you would ever like to reach out to me, my ears are always open. Simply let Zygarde know, and I will find you if I can.”

The Enforcer knew that surely this was mostly a way to keep tabs on a promising Favored, but he couldn’t help the grin that covered his face at Looker’s praise.

The Enforcer is back for some more Ultra Beast fighting action! This time we have Looker, who yes, is blessed by Reshiram. Reshiram is grumpy, though, so we won't be hearing from him for a while. Look forward to more Looker stuff in the future though!

And oooh Zygarde can sense a legendary watching over Claus??? interesting. (if you are not surprised then have a cookie)

Here is our thief, who we now know is Mars! You guys know she's the team galactic commander, but alas the people in story do not. they may know sooner rather than later though.

The Ultra Beasts are Kartana! It pains me to not be able to call them that in the actual text, but alas, it is what it is.

I hope the fight was fun to read. The Kartana are powerful, but the combination of Looker and the Enforcers' Pokemon (Beheeyem is STRONG) along with Zygarde helping them out and slowing down the opponents was too much for them.

And looks like Looker now has a Kartana in a master ball! What will interpol learn from this? will the public know of this??? we will have to see

Thanks for reading! This chapter really beat the shit out of me, so I hope you enjoyed.
 

Travant

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He/him
HEARTHOME CENTER, 17:10

“He called himself Looker.”

Barry and Dawn simultaneously did a double take at the stupid name. This helped lift Claus’s spirits a bit.

“Looker,” repeated Professor Rowan, thoughtfully. “I think I may know him. But what did he say to you?”

Claus recounted Looker’s words to the professor, being sure to mention the picture they had taken and the strange way Looker’s demeanor had shifted after seeing it. Rowan listened silently throughout the explanation.

“I see,” he said when Claus had finished. “Well, if Looker is who I think he is, then he would not have told you that without believing it from the bottom of his heart. Do not take it as an insult, or a rude dismissal. It is likely that he simply saw it as an objective fact. You three have certainly been saved from experiencing something beyond any of our understanding today.”

The professor had seen right through him. Claus could do nothing but nod and try to take his advice to heart. It wasn’t that he didn’t think Looker was justified in sending them back. He only wished that he had been strong enough that they didn’t have to leave. Helplessness, simply put, sucked.

The conversation was disrupted when Dawn violently recoiled from the sight of something behind Claus.

“Dawn? What happened?” asked Barry, clearly having noticed himself. Her hands had flown to her mouth instantly, but there was disbelief in her eyes.

“I… I--”

"Hello, hello! There you are," the familiar voice of Looker exclaimed. He approached the four of them with his unusually long strides and seized Rowan's hand, shaking it vigorously. “Ah, yes, it has been a long time, Finn! To be truthful, it has been so long since we last met, and our acquaintance was so fleeting, that I would not be surprised at all if you had forgotten me entirely!”

Claus exchanged a quick glance with Barry. Professor Rowan’s name was Finn? How did none of them know that yet?

“No,” said Rowan dryly, “you made quite the impression. I do not know if I will forget you for as long as I live.”

“Ha! You flatter me,” replied Looker, smiling. “Well! I have brought you that which you had lost. Here it is!” With a flourish, he presented the stolen bag.

Barry whistled. “That was quick! Well, quicker than I thought it’d go, at any rate.”

“I am not a member of Interpol for nothing, young man!” replied Looker, turning towards him. “And it was simply a matter of finding the culprit; collecting the bag was no big issue, as she simply left it behind.”

“She?” asked Claus. He had distinctly remembered the culprit looking rather masculine.

“Ah, never mind that,” continued Looker hastily. “It is nice to meet you two, however. I trust your friend I spoke to already has told you what transpired at the Cathedral? I must advise you, and you, young lady--” Dawn still looked as if her wits had yet to return to her-- “when trying to avoid notice, at least do what would be expected of an ordinary passerby. When in the Cathedral, say, you would pray to avoid suspicion. However, I do appreciate your willingness to help!”

“Uh, thanks,” said Barry, deducing from her expression that Dawn would be unable to answer for the time being.

“Did you thank me for the compliment, or for the advice, young man?” asked Looker genuinely.

“Uh,” said Barry again, and Claus stifled a laugh seeing Barry so nonplussed. “For both, I suppose?”

“Good!” Looker nodded emphatically. “It is a valuable skill to be able to not only accept compliments with grace, but also to take criticism and use it to better yourself. Now, I must be going. I have other matters to attend to, some of which are related to this very incident! Professor, youngsters, if you will excuse me.”

Looker turned about and vanished as quickly as he had appeared, his brown coat trailing behind him. As he departed, Claus noticed that his coat and the back of his pants were coated in a fine layer of red dust.

As soon as Looker was out of sight, he turned around. “Dawn–”

“Are you okay, Dawn?” asked Barry, and Claus’s mouth snapped shut. Yeah, that was definitely a more appropriate question, no matter how curious he was. She was still pale as a sheet.

“I… I’m fine, thanks,” she replied, “just really surprised to see a familiar face from home all the way out here in Sinnoh. The chances are so small…”

“A familiar face?” questioned Claus. “He didn’t seem to recognize you…”

It was Rowan who replied, not Dawn. “Looker is fairly well-known in his home region of Kalos, and not just for his eccentric nature. I have never asked him what the reason was, and he never volunteered the information either.”

“I think I know,” said Dawn. “It’s not confirmed, just what I’ve heard… mostly from rumors and the tabloids, but they say that he’s Favored by a legendary.”

“A Favored?” Barry exclaimed. Claus was just as shocked. That strange man had been chosen by a legendary? He would’ve thought that those who were Favored would be more… well, imposing, or distinctive. Looker, before Claus learned he was an Interpol member, was just some guy. How many other Favored could be hiding in plain sight?

“I see,” said Rowan, nodding to himself. “I would be wary of jumping to conclusions, but it is a theory that fits many of the facts. I would not put it past the realm of possibility.”

“If he was a Favored, though,” said Claus, “is that related to why he was chasing down the professor’s thief, or do you think that was just him doing his job?”

The group fell quiet as they considered the question. Everyone knew that Favored generally weren’t chosen just because a legendary took a liking to the person in question. Favored were those who were chosen for a mission. Nobody could claim to fully understand the thoughts or intentions of legendary Pokemon, of course, but they had to make decisions with some purpose, and it just felt wrong that a Favored would show up at a minor event like this. What was more, Looker had clearly been alarmed by Claus’s picture. Claus had to wonder what was going on here.

“Professor,” said Dawn, breaking the silence. “What was in your bag? I know you said it was incomplete research, but can you tell us what it was about, or if there’s something else in there? It’s all right if you don’t want to, of course.”

“I can tell you,” Rowan replied, pulling out a folder. “The research was on certain qualities of everstones. I must first ask, do you three know the primary effect of these stones on Pokemon?”

“Exposure to them can delay evolution, and sometimes even stop it during the process,” answered Claus, and Rowan nodded.

“That is correct. One of my former students and I worked together recently on a study that delves deeper into their effects on Pokemon after their observation that everstones were sometimes held by wild Pokemon, and even some which were evolved. This either implies that they found the everstone after their evolution or that they evolved despite the influence of the everstone.

“Well, during the study, we followed a population of wild Roggenrola and Boldore in a deep region of the Oreburgh mines. A good number of them made their homes around deposits of everstone. Sometimes, they would even incorporate the everstone into their own bodies. These things didn’t necessarily mean anything by itself. Everstone is a fairly common and inexpensive mineral that miners generally leave untouched when discovered, so these locations are safe bets for these and other Pokemon to live. However, further observation showed that the Pokemon even took chunks of everstone with them when they left the area, suggesting that it was for the everstone that the Pokemon lived there and not necessarily the safety.

“Finally, we were lucky enough to watch the evolution of one of these Roggenrola. It joined my student’s team soon afterwards, which allowed us to conduct some tests on it, and from those tests, we determined that though it had evolved somewhat later than expected for its species, the boost in strength, vitality, and overall constitution was greater due to the everstone’s presence in its body and influence on its evolution.”

“Huh,” remarked Barry. There was a short silence as the three of them took in the information.

“Well, while that is interesting,” Dawn said, “all we can really guess from that is that whoever took your research may now try to use everstones to increase the strength of their Pokemon, right?”

“There’s little point in trying to make assumptions,” said Rowan. “The bag was found abandoned, which likely means that either the thief didn’t find what they were looking for, or already got what they wanted and no longer needed the bag. Either way, there’s little left for us to do here, other than rely on Looker to try and determine who took it and why.”

The uneasy silence fell once again. Claus wasn’t sure about the other two, but he really did feel like he’d been useless. Sure, he’d shown the picture to Looker, but he hadn’t even been the one to take the picture. Would anything have even changed had he been absent?

After a few seconds, Rowan stood and turned around to leave. Not facing the three of them, he spoke. “Thank you, all of you. It means a lot that you were willing to help me in a matter such as this. You are brave and kind, and smart when it comes to not needlessly endangering yourselves. I am glad to find that my decision to entrust you three with the Pokedex was not misplaced.”

With that, the professor departed.

Yet another silence fell, this one the most awkward yet. Dawn and Barry looked at one another, concerned, and then at Claus. He decided immediately that it was time for him to leave.

“Well,” said Claus breezily, slapping his hands on the table. “I’m gonna–”

“Claus,” interrupted Barry. Claus shut up.

“Are you feeling all right?” Dawn asked, the worry in her eyes making Claus wish Groudon would conveniently open a crevice nearby so that he could hop right in, and not have to deal with… whatever this was. “You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to; I just that I couldn’t help but offer. After all, you two have been so nice to me even in our short time knowing each other.”

“She’s right,” said Barry seriously. “I won’t make you cry on my shoulder or whatever, but you don’t have to pretend you’re fine. Everyone has their off days.”

“I’m fine–”

“And if you tell us you’re fine when you’re clearly not,” continued Barry with a glare, “I’ll roast your eyebrows off. I’m not dumb.”

Claus should have known better than to lie to Barry. He sighed. “Look, I know what you guys are gonna say. I know there’s nothing more we could have done, and I know it turned out well enough in the end. My brain knows that, but the rest of me is still bummed about it, and I think some time training with my team and playing with Calypso will help me get my mind off of it.”

Dawn and Barry both relaxed. “Calypso is cute as hell,” agreed Barry. “You’re probably right.”

“She is truly an angel,” said Dawn solemnly, and the three of them cracked a smile. The young Makuhita had grown on the three of them instantly whenever she wasn’t sleeping. “We’re always here to talk to you if you need it, Claus. And, of course, if there’s ever something you want to just talk to Barry about, I wouldn’t feel bad.”

“That’s not an issue,” assured Claus. “I like you better than Barry anyways.”

“Sure you do,” drawled Barry, his concerned expression giving way to a smirk as he winked. Claus had really set himself up for that one. He flushed and prayed to Arceus that the two of them didn’t notice. Those prayers seemingly went unanswered, however; Dawn tried unsuccessfully to hide her laughter as some sort of terrible coughing fit, while Barry didn’t even try. His smirk had grown until it spread across his face.

“Whatever,” Claus growled, spinning around, but his heart was already feeling lighter. “I’ll see you guys later, when you’re not bullying me.”

Here's a cooldown chapter after the stuff that went on in the last few. Looker and Rowan so fun to write, too. (Sorry for not shutting up about everstones, lol. If you didn't notice I do that sometimes.)

Barry is emotionally intelligent! also CLAUS AND BARRY SITTING IN A TREE K I S S I N G

See you next time for... a new POV character????
 
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