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Pokémon The Long Road

Chapter 1 - Limits

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
The Long Road
Complete, 18 chapters, 132K words
Rating: General, K+
(will be uploaded to TR chapter-by-chapter)
Budding trainer Steven Stone learns the hard way that the road to the top isn't easy. Snippets of the Hoenn Champion's journey from fledgling trainer to League Champion told as a series of one shots.

Hello and welcome! If you like Hoenn and prequels, you've come to the right fic! This was the first long form fic I'd written for the fandom, and of course it had to be a love letter to my favorite region. It's never really explained how the Champion got to their position at the top of the League. I wanted to tackle what amounted to a study of my favorite character through the journey-fic lens, which turned into much, much more than even I had anticipated. It is a complete fic, but any sort of feedback is welcome.

I primarily post to FFN and AO3 and will slowly be importing my fics to TR. That being said, if you are jonesing to read the whole thing now, TLR is posted in its entirety on both platforms. Links for FFN and for AO3.

Or if you'd prefer to listen, the story is available as an audiobook via the incredibly talented Pokemon Fanfiction Novels Youtube channel. Link to TLR's playlist is here (90 parts in total with Foreword and Afterword by the compiler, PFN)

Last bit of housekeeping. This story is told non-chronologically. If this format is not to your liking, there is an official chronological order to the chapters. Check the spoiler tag below.
For anyone who would like to read this story in chronological order, please use the following chapter order to read Steven's journey from the beginning:
2 - Recoil
6 - Lesson
10 - Mend
4 - Record
1 - Limits
5 - Forge
8 - Uphold
12 - Rise
9 - Resolution
11 - Staunch
13 - Objective
14 - Galvanize
3 - Summit
7 - Captivate
15 - Terminus (part 1)
16 - Terminus (part 2)
17 - Precipice
18 - Epilogue

Without further ado, please enjoy chapter 1 of The Long Road.
The weather in Hoenn can be a cruel mistress, and any trainers that underestimate her will pay the price...



The Long Road

Chapter 1 - Limits

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook Tip #19: Overconfidence is the enemy of even the best trainers. Always be mindful of your limits in battle or on the road…



The wind was howling through the trees of Route 120 as Steven Stone shielded his eyes against the unexpected change of weather. He was on his way to Lilycove City to restock supplies after a ferocious Gym battle against Fortree's leader. The victory marked his fourth Gym badge, but the city's tiny Pokemart proved to be insufficient in replenishing his dwindling provisions.

They should have already reached their destination, but Steven couldn't resist exploring the strange rock formation that peeked out from among the nearby treetops. Too preoccupied with finding an entrance into the largest mound, the growing storm clouds were largely ignored until a rumble of thunder sounded in the distance.

As he clambered back down the ledge to the flat ground of the Route, he offered a sheepish apology to his team.

"Sorry everyone. I thought we might find something interesting up there. Aron was just so insistent on sniffing around. Guess our hunch was wrong."

The little Aron at his feet huffed in defeat while Lileep patted its back with a tentacle in consolation.

Another gust of wind forced Steven to duck his head deeper into his jacket with a grimace. The air had turned chilly with the changing of the seasons, and the setting sun meant the evening would only get colder from there. Perhaps he should pick up a warmer coat for himself when they got to Lilycove.

His team didn't mind the cold, though. Rock and steel types were hardier than some of their thinner-skinned counterparts. Rain, however, was another story, and the sky was sure to open up any moment.

A peal of thunder, closer this time, sent his Anorith skittering for cover under the nearest shrub.

"Let's get going. I've already delayed us long enough and I don't want to get caught in this any more than you do," Steven said as he took out his team's pokeballs, returning them one at a time.

As Steven turned to recall his last pokemon, the ever-stoic Metang gave him a pointed look. An added mental nudge from its psychic powers made sure its trainer would not miss its expression in the fading light.

"Yes, I'm sure we can make it there before it gets dark. We're nearly to Route 121, so it's not much further to Lilycove."

Metang's echoing response carried a heavy dose of skepticism.

Steven crossed his arms in annoyance. "Look, even if it gets dark, I've got the map on my PokeNav. It'll be fine."

Sensing that its trainer was not going to budge on this one, Metang sighed and looked wistfully back at Steven.

Softening his tone, Steven offered an apology to his partner. "I'll be careful. Besides, you guys have worked hard this past week. You deserve a nice rest at a PokeCenter. I owe you at least that much after the last Gym battle."

Metang's expression brightened at the praise, and it nodded before returning to its ball.

Checking his pack one last time, Steven drew his jacket's collar up tight to block the wind and set off on the worn path toward Lilycove.



Half an hour in, Steven felt a knot of doubt settling at the pit of his stomach. The wind had whipped into a frenzy in the wide open paths of Route 121 and was now strong enough that he had to brace himself against some of the more powerful gusts. The rain still hadn't started, but the ominous sounds of thunder had closed in from all sides.

Normally a popular Route teeming with trainers looking to battle, the roadway before him stood silent and empty. It was a small blessing given the current situation. Without many supplies, Steven wanted to avoid as many battles as he could. Fortree's Pokemon Center had limited healing capacity during its ongoing renovation, so he opted to use the last of his supplies to heal his team after the Gym battle. Unfortunately, that meant he had to make the trek to Lilycove nearly empty handed. While his team was strong, they were exhausted, and taking on a trainer mid-Route with no healing was a risk he wasn't willing to take.

"Of course," he muttered to no one in particular, "It clearly didn't stop me from coming up with an equally dumb idea."

There was no lamenting his decision now, though. With the ferocity of the storm, setting up camp in the forest was as equally dangerous as in the open meadow. He had no choice but to make it to Lilycove without stopping.

Shoulders hunched against the wind, he trudged on until the first raindrops pattered to the ground. Good thing he didn't bet Metang he'd make it to Lilycove before the rain. With a tug, he pulled his hood up and cinched it tight. The rest of the trip was going to be a wet one.



Twenty minutes later, Steven admitted he had made a mistake. The rain was coming down in sheets now, and the wind driven droplets rendered his hood all but useless. The sun still hadn't fully set according to his watch, but the dark clouds hung so low they blotted out what little daylight was left. With water stinging his face, he tried his best to navigate the rocky cliffs near Mt. Pyre without stumbling. Metang was going to give him an earful for this one…

He was jarred from his thoughts as the ground gave way beneath his feet. Loosened by the heavy rain and battering waves, the soil near the sea wall had crumbled into a slurry of mud and gravel. Lunging, Steven made a last ditch bid to get himself back to solid ground. He hit the muddy ground awkwardly, skidding on his hands and knees. Shakily, he turned back to see his footprints sink down into the murky water. Not bothering to wipe the mud from his hands, he slunk through the darkness toward the grass on the other side of the Route, opting to brave wild pokemon in favor of taking an unwanted swim in the churning sea.

He had barely made it thirty yards before he was greeted by a pair of glowing eyes. Strikingly visible in the blinding rain, Steven's hand reflexively flew to his belt for the only member of his team suitable for battle in such conditions. However, he wouldn't make the first move. Maybe he could sneak past the wild pokemon without a fight. Slowly he stepped through the underbrush, keeping a wide berth between him and the floating eyes that followed him the whole way.

"I'm not here to hurt you… See, I'm leaving right now…"

The eyes blinked slowly at his words, and Steven took the opportunity to back away without breaking his gaze on the mysterious pokemon. Without warning, a brilliant bolt of lightning crashed nearby startling both trainer and pokemon. With a rattling screech the panicked pokemon leaped at Steven.

"Oh no, Metang, I need your help!"

The flash from Metang's pokeball momentarily halted the wild pokemon's charge, but it also gave Steven a glimpse at the attacker, and he cursed his bad luck. The Shuppet floated in place, hissing at Metang's now-solid form. The steel and psychic type spared only a moment to shoot its trainer a look of disdain before turning back towards its opponent.

Steven cringed and shouted over the storm, "I'll make it up to you later. Now knock it back with metal claw!"

Metang obeyed and swiped at the bristling Shuppet, sending it spiraling back into the grass. When it didn't re-emerge, Steven and Metang exchanged a puzzled look.

"It's over already? I thought the wild pokemon here would be more of a challenge."

Metang offered its best shrug in reply, but almost immediately a shrill cry cut through the howling wind. Steven's eyes widened in shock as Shuppet slowly rose above the grass accompanied by four more pairs of glowing eyes.

"Look out!"

Before it could turn back to the patch of grass, Metang was struck to the ground by a mass of ghostly energy.

"This is not good, we have to run!"

Metang unsteadily rose from the mud and echoed a cry back to Steven as it dodged an incoming attack.

"I know they'll just chase us, but we can't beat five of them!"

On its own, Metang unleashed a flurry of bullet punches at the two closest targets before chiming at its trainer again.

"Fine! Get a hit in on the last two and then I'm recalling you."

Nodding as it cocked back a leg for the next attack, Metang suddenly jerked backward.

"Metang – !"

Steven looked on helplessly as his partner struggled to free itself from the grip of a shadow sneak. The body of the attacking Shuppet enveloped the backside of the steel type, rendering the pokeball's recall beam useless from where Steven stood.

Quickly, he tried to maneuver around the entangled pokemon in order to recall Metang, but he lost his balance on the slick ground and fumbled the pokeball in his muddy grasp. Scooping the ball off the ground, Steven looked up in time to watch Metang disappear under a barrage of night shade attacks.

"Metang!"

Without thinking, Steven pivoted on his heel and launched himself at the nearest Shuppet. The ghost pokemon screeched and floated out of the way, cackling as it vanished into thin air, sensing the threat was now neutralized. The trainer's pokemon was rendered unable to battle, and the trainer himself posed no danger. The other Shuppet took that as their cue to leave as well, and faded into the swirling darkness with laughter of their own.

By the time he reached his pokemon's side, Metang was barely conscious. Shaking from cold and exertion, Steven finally managed to recall his partner.

"I really screwed up this time, Metang, I'm sorry. I should have listened to you before… You can yell at me once we get to Lilycove."

Lightning cracked across the sky once again, and Steven shivered as the adrenaline began to fade from his system. The encounter had left him drained and his team depleted and there was no one to blame but himself. Silently, he rose to his feet and pocketed Metang's pokeball before turning and trudging onward.



Steven soon came to the realization that his jacket was not as waterproof as he had hoped; he was soaked to the bone. He could feel the cold seeping to his very core, and no amount of determination could keep his frozen limbs from shaking as he walked.

They were now into the tall grass of the Route and Steven was navigating blind. His last ditch dive at the Shuppet horde had seen his PokeNav take the brunt of the fall, and now the screen refused to turn on. He could always call his dad for a new one once they got to the Pokemon Center, but the catch was he had to make it there in the first place.

He knew they were close; he had studied the map earlier. The trouble was that this section of the Route was riddled with a maze-like series of fences designed to keep wild pokemon from accidentally wandering into the city.

"Apparently it does a pretty good job of keeping out wild trainers too…" Steven muttered as he turned the corner around another fence only to come face to face with another dead end.

With a cry of frustration, he slammed a fist into the metal grate. "Damnit!"

He was nearing his limit, having been caught in the freezing rain for over two hours. This nightmare of a Route seemingly had no end. His team was effectively crippled by the weather, and his only pokemon that could withstand the driving rain was barely clinging to consciousness. His luck in the tall grass had somehow held out this far, but any more wild encounters would surely spell trouble.

Closing his eyes, Steven tried to remain calm as the icy rain ran in rivulets down his back.

"Think, think, think. We've got to be close."

A low growl snapped his attention back to the present.

"You've got to be kidding me…"

A soggy, disheveled Linoone slunk low to the ground, its ears pinned back against its skull and angry eyes fixated on the lone trainer in front of it. Steven backed away from the hostile pokemon until he felt his pack press into the metal fence behind him. There was no more room for retreat, so he held his palms up slowly in a placating gesture.

"Hey Linoone, I'm just as unhappy as you right now, so please, let's not fight. Whatever I did to upset you, I'm sorry."

The Linoone snarled in response, and Steven felt his heart sink as the wild pokemon took another step forward, hackles raised.

For the second time that night, a bright flash split the darkness and Steven yelped as he felt something grab the back of his pack and yank him to the ground. A white and brown blur rushed overhead followed by a loud thunk and a whimper of pain. It was only then that Steven realized the flash of light wasn't from the storm, but from one of the pokeballs at his belt. He looked up in surprise at the face of his Aron as it grabbed his jacket by the collar and began to tug Steven away from the stunned Linoone.

"Aron, what are you –" but Steven's question was cut short with another sharp tug from his pokemon as a howl rose above the rain from behind the pair.

"Right, run now, talk later," he quipped as he scrambled up from the slick grass on his hands and knees.

Back on his feet, Steven rounded the corner they had just turned, Aron hot on his heels. In a snap decision, Steven called back over his shoulder, "Keep to the fence on your left, we didn't try that way yet!" Aron barked an affirmative and churned his stubby legs in an effort to keep pace.

With one hand on the fence as a guide, Steven shoved at the tall grass with the other. The wet strands clung to his clothes as he pushed through with as much urgency as he could manage in the muddy puddles underfoot. In a mighty splash, pokemon and trainer burst from the thicket into a more manicured section of the path. Shakily looking back to where they had barreled out, there was no sign of the enraged Linoone. Steven stood panting as he looked down at his now-shivering companion. He pulled out Aron's pokeball as he spoke.

"Aron, I know you hate the rain. I'm not entirely sure why you burst out like that, but I am grateful that you did. Let's get you back into your ball."

Before he could toggle the recall beam, the tall grass began to shake. Aron spun to face the sudden noise with a growl. Steven froze in place as he watched the grass slither back and forth under the approaching pokemon's charge.

But as soon as it had started, the shaking grass stopped, and nothing could be heard but the sound of the driving rain. Steven strained his eyes against the darkness, ready to command Aron's attack should the Linoone appear again.

Without warning, Aron launched itself headfirst into the tall grass with a piercing war cry.

"Aron – !"

In a vicious blow that sent grass toppling and water scattering, the two pokemon collided in a tangle of double edge and take down. The recoil sent Aron sprawling into a nearby puddle where it struggled to rise. The Linoone tumbled backward into the tall grass from its own attack and did not reappear. Hesitating only a moment, Steven rushed over to his pokemon's side.

"Aron, hang in there!"

Blearily, the little rock type blinked up through the rain at his trainer. Steven placed a shaky hand on Aron's head.

"You didn't have to do that, you know," he said in a soothing voice. "I could have called out Anorith. I know he's a bit of a scaredy-Skitty, but he at least can tolerate the water to a degree."

Aron rumbled in quiet disagreement and nuzzled into Steven's touch, eyes closing in exhaustion.

With a sigh, Steven recalled his pokemon and slowly stood up while trying to ignore the stinging cold creeping through his fingers. Slicking the bangs back from his eyes, he turned trying to regain his bearings. In their mad scramble away from the angry Linoone, he had managed to guide them to an opening in the grass, and in the distance, he could see another clearing that definitely was not the way they had come before.

Fatigue momentarily forgotten, Steven stumbled and slid along the muddy ground in the direction of their supposed salvation. Step by step, the grass began to thin until it eventually gave way to paved brick. They had made it, by the grace of some divine power, they had made it to Lilycove! Back on even footing, Steven broke into a sprint. He didn't need to be able to see through the pouring rain, he had memorized where the PokeCenter was on the town map. Head down, he didn't stop until he reached the front door.

The lobby of the Center was quiet at this time of night, so the soft whir of the doors parting caught Nurse Joy's attention. When she looked up from her station, she was greeted by a young man who dripped several small puddles worth of water on the freshly mopped tile. His silver bangs were plastered to his face and his clothes were streaked with mud. She frowned as he leaned heavily to catch his breath.

"Are you all right, trainer?"

Incredulously, he began to laugh.

"I am now!" After a moment, he regained his composure and bowed before asking, "Please, can you heal my team? And I'd like to book a room if you have any available."

Looking back at the drowned Rattata of a trainer before her, Nurse Joy smiled and returned the gesture. "Of course, place your pokeballs on the counter and I'll look after them right away."

Steven nodded and placed his team on the tray provided. By then, Nurse Joy had returned holding a key.

"And you'll be staying in room six tonight. I'll bring your pokemon up to your room when they are ready. Please enjoy your stay."

Gratefully accepting the key, Steven bowed again with a quick offer of thanks before heading upstairs. He barely had the strength to strip off his soaking clothes before collapsing in bed and falling asleep.



It was late in the morning when Steven awoke to someone knocking on the door.

"Excuse me, your pokemon are healthy and ready to rejoin you."

With more effort than usual, Steven pushed the covers aside and padded to the door. He pulled it open to reveal Nurse Joy holding a tray of four pokeballs, which he accepted gratefully.

Bowing sleepily, he thanked Nurse Joy and headed back to bed. He was just so exhausted. Placing his team on the bedside table, he was nearly asleep by the time his head hit the pillow. He just needed more rest, then he could finally head out to shop for more supplies, oh and that new jacket too…



When Steven awoke for the second time, the air in the room felt thick. The blankets across his chest were hot and suffocating, and yet he could feel himself shivering. With a groan, he rolled over to reach for his PokeNav on the nightstand. Bringing to device to his face, he could only moan in despair; he had forgotten it was busted in the chaos of the previous night. Defeated, he loosened his grip and let it clatter to the floor. The sound of more rattling caught his attention, and he weakly glanced toward the source of the noise. The pokeballs containing his team were shaking in the tray delivered by Nurse Joy earlier. Too tired to sit all the way upright, Steven reached as far as he could, but instead of grabbing them, he only managed to knock one of the pokeballs from the tray. Thankfully it landed on the button, and his pokemon was released into the room.

Metang materialized from the fallen pokeball, its posture rigid and eyes narrowed in an accusatory glare. At least until it caught sight of the sorry state of its trainer. Instead of unleashing a barrage of mental chastising, the steel type instead opted to float closer to where Steven laid, its gaze softening in concern.

"Hey, Metang. I owe you an apology after last night. You were right. That was a dumb idea." Steven couldn't hide the fatigue in his voice.

Shaking its head, Metang reached out with one clawed leg and placed it across its trainer's forehead. Steven grumbled and tried to brush his partner away.

"I'll be fine. I just need to rest a bit longer. You don't need to be concerned about me."

Shooting Steven a side-eyed glare, Metang turned toward the nightstand and toggled the release button on the remaining three pokeballs. One by one, Steven's team appeared in the room with their bedridden trainer. All three pokemon shuffled closer to the bedside as Steven gingerly propped himself upright.

Aron immediately hopped onto the mattress at Steven's hip, the springs creaking beneath his weight. Lileep sidled up close to the edge of the bed and rested her head beside the pillow. Both pokemon stared intently at their trainer, and Steven could only sigh in response. It wasn't until Anorith scurried up the bedpost and nestled into Steven's side that he relinquished under their watchful gazes.

Steven shot a look of his own at his starter, "You've made your point." His eyes softened when he addressed the rest of his team. "I'm sorry to worry you, but it seems I've come down with something after last night's trip. Can you be patient with me until this passes?"

All three pokemon nodded eagerly in reply, and Steven offered a weak smile before easing back down to his pillow. Metang hummed sagely from where it floated nearby and turned to gather Steven's pack from where it was tossed unceremoniously the night before. It only took a moment of rifling for Metang to produce a bottle of water in its claw and offered it to its trainer. Gingerly rising once again, Steven accepted the water gratefully.

"Thanks, Metang."

By the fourth gulp, a wave of dizziness hit, and Steven's grip on the bottle faltered as he wavered where he sat. Metang's quick thinking snagged the bottle in a confusion attack before it hit the ground as Aron quickly skipped behind his trainer and leaned his head against Steven's back to prop him upright.

"Ugh, I think I should lie back down for the time being." Steadying himself with one hand, Steven reached to give Aron a thankful rub with the other. "While I'm asleep, you should head down to the front desk and see if Nurse Joy has some food for you." When his wallet proved to be too far out of his reach Lileep deftly snagged it in a tentacle and handed it to him. He fumbled with the card only briefly before tossing the wallet back onto the nightstand. "Here, take my trainer card. Thanks everyone, I'll see you in the morning."

Metang floated forward and grasped the card in its claw before moving to open the door. The rest of Steven's pokemon followed it into the hall, and Metang glanced back to see Steven rolling over under the blankets. As quietly as it could, Metang pulled the door shut and drifted after its teammates down the hallway.



After a hot meal from the ever smiling Nurse Joy, Metang ushered everyone back upstairs for the evening. As the foursome approached the door to room six, Metang couldn't shake a growing sense of unease. Lileep turned the handle and Anorith skittered in to hit the lights, but even before the lights flickered on, Metang had already pushed into the room.

Steven was still asleep, but he tossed and turned restlessly and his breathing had become ragged and erratic. As it hovered closer, Metang could see his trainer's brow covered in sweat and his cheeks flushed bright red. Metang knew what this was; it had seen these symptoms before when Steven was much younger. Hurriedly, the steel type gestured for its teammates to huddle up, and after a hushed discussion, the four pokemon set to work.



Steven awoke to the sound of Taillow chirping, and for the first time in what felt like forever, his head didn't hurt from the noise. Groggily he raised a hand to swipe at his tired eyes, and as he sat up, a damp washcloth tumbled from his forehead onto his lap. Blinking in confusion, he rubbed the last bit of bleariness from his eyes and took in the sight before him.

Lileep lay sound asleep on the mattress, multiple washcloths grasped in her tentacles. Anorith was curled at the foot of the bed with the blanket firmly grasped in his claws. A rush of cool air soon directed Steven's attention to the room's lone window, where Aron was also fast asleep on the sill with his back underneath the sash to keep it propped open.

His now dry clothes hung neatly around the room, picked up from the floor where they were discarded the first night. His pack also had been dried and propped up next to the singular desk in the room. On top was scattered an assortment of food and drink, and his stomach growled.

A quick glance at his watch confirmed his body's reaction; he hadn't eaten anything in nearly two days. Testing his forehead, he decided the worst of his fever had broken, and he rose gingerly from the bed so as not to wake his sleeping team. Tiredly plopping down at the desk, he grabbed a granola bar before sweeping his gaze back to the far end of the room. Resting neatly on the floor was his starter, its eyes dim and legs folded peacefully.

Looking closer, Steven spotted something clutched in its claws. Curiosity winning out, Steven got up from the chair and padded over to sit down next to his partner. Peering down, he saw what Metang had wrapped up in its grasp. It was a catalog for Lilycove Department Store. Steven couldn't keep the smile from his face as he noticed what page it was opened to.

Resting one hand on the cool steel of his pokemon's head, he gave it an affectionate pat. "Good call, Metang. Let's make sure it's actually waterproof this time."



By working together, both trainer and pokemon will grow stronger. As you travel with your teammates, help each other and you can overcome even the toughest of obstacles.
 
Last edited:

K_S

Yes, my fav 'mon match up with TR's, what of it?
I'm not a hard core Hoenn fan but was intrigued to read a Steven piece that wasn't romance, so that was the premises that drew me in, your attention to detail and realism is what kept me reading as it went.

The whole scenario feels so true to character. "Just one minute/15 min/ hour or so" while exploring and satiating his inner archeological/geological kick (you can feel his happiness/inner child in those scenes) the scene from start to finish feels very true to his established character and makes me wish we could encounter him during or post main campaign game really having fun doing what he loves, even as a side encounter, as fics like this show what a loss it is that stuff like that isn't shown in canon... Wishes aside, I love how this goes from him basically playing in the dirt/exploring to mentally deciding "well that was fun, time to get back to traveling" and then nature chimes in with rain, irate 'mon, and him getting a soaking for it and the natural consequences of being unable to dry off.

I'd say my only plot quibble was the center's reaction to him being sick, the staff seemed rather apathetic and while I get they're mainly a veterinarian office for all intents and purposes leaving Steven more or less on his own in his quarters for so long felt jarring considering enough time had passed for the trainer's 'mon to poke about, get meals, and go in and out of his rooms without him. You think that would have raised a bit of a red flag to the staff.

On the subject of quibbles, (and this one's not a deal breaker by any means, just very common in the fandom,) there's a chronic lack of description of 'mon attacks and the 'mon themselves. Though the whole thing we get that Aron is heavy, and Lileep has tenticles, anoreth has claws, and Metang despite being one or the most prominent characters is... something of a descriptive void. Even a few words here and there would help around the fights scenes, and center scenes. It's a bit of a weakness to have to look up a non-common mon in the middle of the fic and I only didn't have to becasue I've played in this game it was based off of recently and I was able to follow because of that.

On the other hand, where you put your focus on best, the personalities of Steven's 'mon were refreshing, shown in bits and pieces as the story goes on. The affection they show for him through the rain hike and after in caring for their own trainer was heartwarming. I became deeply fond of Aron, and Metang, definitely getting an older sibling/mom vibe from Metang as the story progressed. Aron's climbing on the bed to snuggle despite him being a giant rock made me laugh, and in the ending where he's acting as a door stop for the window... your wordage was vague enough that my mind painted an image of the 'mon half in, half out, legs kicking over the open air as his mid back is holding the lot open. The creature just casually hanging out, in all meanings of the word, thinking to himself, "I'm doing good, bringing all the fresh air in", anyway I thought I'd share that mental image in closing.

Thanks for posting, and welcome aboard.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
K_S, thanks so much for giving this chapter a look, and for leaving such a thoughtful reply. And thank you for the welcome, as well! Apparently the forums here have a very nifty quote/reply function, so if you don't mind I'll try out that feature in my reply.

a Steven piece that wasn't romance
Shocking, I know! This gave me a laugh, because it's the everyday struggle of finding a character interesting that most people find attractive (and therefore want to smush him together with another character. I'm not against romance, but there surely has to be more to life and fanfiction than that.) In any case, glad to be the anomaly that caught your attention!

The whole scenario feels so true to character [...] as fics like this show what a loss it is that stuff like that isn't shown in canon...
Ah, yes, fantastic! I'm so thrilled it gave you this feeling because that's pretty much what went through my head when I wrote this, and other pieces. My hcs are a bit of a slave to canon, but I can't help it since there's so many gaps when it comes to filling out the history, personality, and overall character of named NPCs in the franchise.

I'd say my only plot quibble was the center's reaction to him being sick, [...] You think that would have raised a bit of a red flag to the staff.
Admittedly, it never occurred to me that the Center staff would or should check up on trainers who stay there. I imagined it sort of like a hotel. There's no staff there to check on guests; they show up, stay the night(s), and leave. No questions asked. I realize now you can't check into a hotel as a child/teenager, so that's not the perfect analogy, but on the other hand, if the entire journey quest was just a glorified babysitting racket, it loses some of the magic, imo. It's definitely different than our real-life treatment and subsequent protection of kids. I don't put a specific age on Steven here, but he's definitely not twelve. Probably closer to sixteen or so: an age where teens are legally allowed to drive and therefore have some kind of autonomy. There is a part later in the fic that dives into this a little bit more where Centers can provide aid if it is requested, but in this case, it was never asked for and therefore not provided. Does it make complete sense? Probably not. It's questions and discussions like this that make it interesting, though!

there's a chronic lack of description of 'mon attacks and the 'mon themselves.
I think this is actually a fault in most of my writing. I don't do a lot of character description, overall, and I think it's based on my own biases and perceptions. I personally place so little value in physical appearance and am happy to read about characters as nebulous concepts of their own ideals and behaviors rather than "they looked like [X]". The important descriptions come out in context of a scene, but that can also mean a complete description of something might take several scenes or chapters to come together. With Pokemon, the crutch I lean on is the ability to look up a species and see a picture of it, which I now realize can interrupt reading flow for those who might not be familiar with the 'mons in question.

definitely getting an older sibling/mom vibe from Metang
You are 100% correct and this will only intensify as the fic moves along. Silly me, writing this thinking Steven was the main character, but really it's Metang. This is the story of Metang's pokemon journey to become champion, and how they kept their human alive the entire time.

my mind painted an image of the 'mon half in, half out, legs kicking over the open air as his mid back is holding the lot open. The creature just casually hanging out, in all meanings of the word, thinking to himself, "I'm doing good, bringing all the fresh air in"
This is brilliant and yes that is Aron's exact train of thought. What a good boi. You're... actually not far off, visually! In my mind he was laying on the windowsill like a cat might, but because he has a nice hard shell with a little spike on the top, he can prop the window open and snooze at the same time. I might have to draw your version though, because it does give me a laugh.

Thanks again for the lovely and thoughtful reply!
 

K_S

Yes, my fav 'mon match up with TR's, what of it?
I'm not against romance, but there surely has to be more to life and fanfiction than that.) In any case, glad to be the anomaly that caught your attention!

Agreed. I like tales where the character is just doing their own thing character for happiness' sake, meting life goals, ecetera. My reading leans towards slice of life inter-spaced with those fun epic adventure bits. I'm curious how this one's going to progress as it goes.

Ah, yes, fantastic! I'm so thrilled it gave you this feeling because that's pretty much what went through my head when I wrote this, and other pieces. My hcs are a bit of a slave to canon, but I can't help it since there's so many gaps when it comes to filling out the history, personality, and overall character of named NPCs in the franchise.

canon compliant head canons are easier to jump into straight from coming in from canon reliant works, so no complaints here.

Admittedly, it never occurred to me that the Center staff would or should check up on trainers who stay there. I imagined it sort of like a hotel. There's no staff there to check on guests; they show up, stay the night(s), and leave. No questions asked. I realize now you can't check into a hotel as a child/teenager, so that's not the perfect analogy, but on the other hand, if the entire journey quest was just a glorified babysitting racket, it loses some of the magic, imo. It's definitely different than our real-life treatment and subsequent protection of kids. I don't put a specific age on Steven here, but he's definitely not twelve. Probably closer to sixteen or so: an age where teens are legally allowed to drive and therefore have some kind of autonomy. There is a part later in the fic that dives into this a little bit more where Centers can provide aid if it is requested, but in this case, it was never asked for and therefore not provided. Does it make complete sense? Probably not. It's questions and discussions like this that make it interesting, though!

It makes since and considering how self reliant the 'mon franchise kids are in canon (unrealistically so but that's just my beef) it makes sense that they'd be less hands off. And I guessed Steven was a bit older than the canon standard 10 year old, he sounded older but it was never spelled out so I was a mite unsure. I only wondered about the staff and their competency because he came in such a state and then went silent immediately afterwards with his sickness spiking. It broke my suspension of disbelief a little bit for someone not to poke in on him later on since everything else had gone so logically thus far.

Especially since it's alluded to have been several days later. And even hotels/hostels will poke in on you if you stay too long to make sure they don't have to call paramedics and what not.

You'll have to expand on the whole center experience as the story progresses I look forward to seeing how you incorporate your notes into the tale.

I think this is actually a fault in most of my writing. I don't do a lot of character description, overall, and I think it's based on my own biases and perceptions. I personally place so little value in physical appearance and am happy to read about characters as nebulous concepts of their own ideals and behaviors rather than "they looked like [X]". The important descriptions come out in context of a scene, but that can also mean a complete description of something might take several scenes or chapters to come together. With Pokemon, the crutch I lean on is the ability to look up a species and see a picture of it, which I now realize can interrupt reading flow for those who might not be familiar with the 'mons in question.

Fanfic has the perk of having a short cut as it were that most of our audience are going to be in the know on a lot coming in. It allows a lot of give. And while I can totally understand the whole "physical appearance" it's a bit of a weakness when the reader might have to run pokepedia/tvtropes in a separate window while reading your own story to check up on things. There's nearly 900 'mon now, granted Hoenn fans likely would pick this story up since STEVEN (and his large appeal in fandom) but I had to walk away twice to double check the description of a 'mon . I had no clue what a Lileep or a Linoone was. And while it works ok with 'mon and characters to a certain extent the attacks are so open to interpretation (compare leer from gen one to gen two for just one example) it feels a bit of a weakness.
You don't have to toss in whole paragraphs, or even "he looked like x", and there's opportunities to buildup looks in one and two word sections without re-hauling the text a lot. I know it's "not your thing" but did you want me to comb over a few paragraphs to give examples via PM so I can show you what I'm talking about?

If not, no worries.

You are 100% correct and this will only intensify as the fic moves along. Silly me, writing this thinking Steven was the main character, but really it's Metang. This is the story of Metang's pokemon journey to become champion, and how they kept their human alive the entire time.

I vote a re-titleing, "too long over the top title style"

(AKA) Metang's journey to keep his would-be champion in one piece, the joys of warding, microbes, nature, and foolishness.

You know the journey gets really bad when instead of water proof-coats Metang starts sliding body armor magazines over to his trainer. Perhaps when/if Aqua comes out of the wood work he'll start sliding scuba gear mags towards Steven.

This is brilliant and yes that is Aron's exact train of thought. What a good boi. You're... actually not far off, visually! In my mind he was laying on the windowsill like a cat might, but because he has a nice hard shell with a little spike on the top, he can prop the window open and snooze at the same time. I might have to draw your version though, because it does give me a laugh.

I can so see Steven, trying to gently ease Aron's spike out of the wooden frame, because of course it gets stuck at some point.... If you do do the drawing may I see it?


(looks sheepishly at war and peace post)

I think I'll wait for the next chapter to reply if you reply so I'm not clogging things up, or perhaps stick with PM...

Anyways thanks for your reply.
 
Chapter 2 - Recoil

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Ch. 2 – Even the best trainers had to start somewhere, and unfortunately for Steven, he didn't have the smoothest start...

Chapter 2 - Recoil

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook Tip #1: You will meet many pokemon on your journey, but nothing can compare to the bond you will share with your first partner…



Steven had always been a quiet child, preferring the company of his father's stone and fossil collection to that of other children his age. After only a year in the first grade of private school, the teacher pulled his father aside after the last day of class.

"Your son is a brilliant student, there's no concern about his academic performance."

Joseph Stone nodded slowly as he followed the teacher's words. Steven had never mentioned any troubles at school when he asked, so he was unsure where this conference was going.

"What's this all about then, Miss?"

"Well, you see, he never actually answers the questions aloud. He knows the answers, he'll write them down with no problem, but he won't interact with anyone in the class. Neither me nor the other students."

Joseph glanced down to where Steven was contentedly laying on the floor sorting colored marbles into different groups. Still watching his son, he addressed his question to the instructor at his side.

"What would you suggest we do?"

The teacher smiled softly before replying, "If I were you, Mr. Stone, I would read this and strongly consider following its advice." She produced a small pamphlet and offered it to the Devon President.

Quickly scanning the title of the pamphlet, Joseph's expression softened and he offered a polite bow.

"Thank you very much, Miss. I agree, I think this is the best thing for Steven at this point."

"I'm happy to help, Mr. Stone. Your son has been a pleasure to teach this year."

Smiling in response, Joseph knelt down at his son's side.

"Steven, c'mon, time to go. Let's thank your teacher for everything she's done this year."

Nodding, Steven rose and bowed, mumbling a barely audible, "Thank you," before shying back to his father's side.

Sliding 'Social Skill Training: Companion Pokemon and You' into his pocket, Joseph held Steven's hand as they left the building.

And that is how at the age of eight, Steven got his first pokemon.



From day one, Steven and Beldum were inseparable. Everywhere the boy went the little blue pokemon was sure to be right behind, bobbing along on its internal magnetic field. While they were playing, he would proudly hold up each new rock for Beldum to examine, and it would chatter and hum with excitement matched only by Steven's own.

But play was not the only time they were together. Beldum also attended Steven's lessons now that the boy was being home schooled, per his teacher's suggestion. The pair would put their heads together and solve the assignments in hushed tones before Steven would supply the answer for the both of them.

With Beldum at his side, he had made progress in leaps and bounds over the next three years. When Joseph brought Steven to Devon with him, he no longer would shy away from conversation when someone approached. Instead, Steven now bounded right up to the many researchers and scientists and curiously began to ask questions about the samples on their desks or the fascinating machines they were tending to.

At the end of the day when they came home, Joseph couldn't hide his smile as he stood in the doorway and watched Steven excitedly share his newfound knowledge with Beldum. Too engrossed in his latest tale, Steven missed his father's quiet admission as he thumbed the ring on his left hand.

"You know, Sylvia, I think it's time…"



The next morning Steven awoke with more excitement on his mind. Today was his eleventh birthday, and the housekeeper had agreed to let him help bake his own cake for the celebration that night. Dressed and ready for the day, Steven called to his partner, and both he and Beldum bounded down the stairs and into the kitchen. As he rounded the corner he skidded to a halt, leaving Beldum no option but to crash into him from behind with a loud screech of surprise.

"D-dad? What are you doing here?" Steven untangled himself from his pokemon as he spoke. "Aren't you usually at work by now? Did something happen?"

Joseph couldn't hide a sheepish smile as he tried to ease his son's worries. "No, nothing's wrong. I decided to take the morning off. It's an important day after all."

Cautiously, Steven eased himself into his chair at the table, and his eyes widened at the breakfast treats spread before him. "Whoa. Dad, this looks amazing, did you make this yourself?"

This time Joseph didn't bother trying to hide his laugher. "You know, your old man used to be quite the chef back in the day."

Curious chattering sounded at Steven's side as Beldum poked its head up to see what had Steven so excited. Catching sight of the food, it began to nudge closer until it nearly topped Steven, chair and all.

"Hey! Beldum, this food isn't good for steel types." Steven pushed back against his nosy pokemon. "I'll get you a treat later."

Watching the pair's squabbling with a knowing smile, Joseph reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He waited until Steven was satisfied Beldum wouldn't try to sneak its way back toward the pancakes and then placed it next to Steven's plate. His attention back on the table, Steven saw what now rested in front of him and he looked at his father quizzically.

"Go ahead. Open it."

Beldum's head poked back up at the sound of rustling paper. Steven paused only a moment to read the letter.

"Pokemon Trainer School?"

With a nod, Joseph cleared his throat. "I was going to give this to you tonight, but I couldn't wait. I enrolled you in the Trainer School here in Rustboro for the upcoming semester. It's ultimately up to you if you'd like to attend, but I thought this would be a nice present for you and Beldum now that you're officially old enough to become a trainer."

"Wow, Dad, thank you! Beldum, did you hear that? I'm gonna become your trainer!"

The little blue pokemon met Steven's gaze with is singular red eye and hummed thoughtfully.

"Well, technically you're only my companion pokemon. But if we go to this school, I'll be allowed to train you to battle, and then you can evolve and grow even stronger!"

Catching its partner's excitement, Beldum nuzzled into Steven's chest with a warble.

Still cradling his pokemon, Steven looked back to his father. "I'd love to go Dad. Just wait until you see what Beldum and I can do."

Joseph grinned and ruffled his son's hair. "I had a feeling you'd say yes."



Steven sat in his seat on the first day with his stomach twisting from nervous excitement. He couldn't wait to become Beldum's trainer, but school was going to take some getting used to. Steven hadn't been in a classroom of more than one in quite a while. Beldum nudged into his side with a small chirp, and Steven relaxed his white knuckled grip on the edge of the desk. He reached down and patted its head, mouthing a silent thank you. Mercifully, Trainer's School allowed the presence of pokemon while lessons were in session, provided they would fit in the room without causing a disturbance. They would get through this together.

From day one, Steven was in his element, and over the next few months, Steven and Beldum poured everything they had into their schoolwork. Steven was eager to learn, and with Beldum at his side, he didn't think twice when it was his turn to participate aloud during class. The duo enjoyed great success with their theoretical coursework. Everything from trainer tools to battle strategies to pokemon care seemed to come naturally to Steven, and it wasn't long before he and Beldum were reading ahead on their own into the more advanced lessons.

But book smarts were not the only part of Trainer School. When it came to the actual battle portion of the course, things did not go as smoothly. Steven discovered that Beldum only knew one move; a full-body tackle that unfortunately also dealt damage to Beldum in return. While Beldum was sturdy enough to take on some of the smaller pokemon at the school, larger opponents with more health proved to be difficult. The little steel type could only hold on so long before succumbing to fatigue from its own attacks. Steven knew they needed to make some improvements before their midterm.

When the time came for his exam, it didn't take much effort; Steven passed the midterm test with flying colors. Full marks were awarded on his written test, and Steven was riding a high into the second half of the assessment. The instructor cleared his throat and Steven snapped back to attention.

"And now for the battle portion of the assessment, you will face off in a one-on-one battle against one of your classmates. Everyone head outside to the arena. Watch these matches and learn from your classmates."

Instantly, the high was gone, and Steven felt the blood drain from his face. He had never had to battle in front of the whole class before. The previous in-class battles were usually only held with small groups and plenty of instruction. Even Beldum's presence at his side couldn't stop his nerves from returning in full force.

"Steven and Roxanne, it's your turn. Please take your positions."

Swallowing thickly, Steven walked to the trainer's box and looked across to his opponent. She was short and had her brunette hair tied up in a red ribbon. He could feel an air of confidence in the way she carried herself, and with a light toss, she released a Geodude into the arena where it immediately began to bounce and flex its rocky arms.

"A rock type, huh?" Upon seeing Roxanne's pokemon of choice, he leaned over and whispered quickly to his partner, "They can outspeed us with a rock polish, but if it knows rollout, then they might use defense curl first instead." Beldum hummed as it sized up the Geodude across from it, and Steven continued, "Once you see their set up move, use takedown for a free hit."

"Hey Steven," she called to him, interrupting his strategy session with Beldum. "I watched your earlier battles. I don't mean for this to sound so bad, but you're not going to win."

A murmur ran through the crowd at Roxanne's confident declaration, but Steven did his best to ignore it. Even if Beldum lacked when it came to a move pool, it still could win with a solid strategy; and that's just what he had, so he called across the field with a challenge of his own.

"Beldum's steel body can stand up to whatever rock type attacks your Geodude knows. It'll be a battle of stamina."

Roxanne laughed lightly and shot right back, "That's what you think."

Steven didn't like her tone…

"Trainers ready? Let the match begin!"

Roxanne called out to Steven again, "Mind if I go first? We've been practicing, and Geodude is excited to try out his new move."

Steven stayed silent, and Roxanne took that as an affirmative.

"Great, then Geodude, use magnitude!"

Steven paled. He hadn't planned on the Geodude being a high enough level to know a ground type move, and Roxanne's quick attack left him no time to come up with a counterstrategy. In a panic, Steven shouted to his partner. "Beldum, dodge!"

The ground in the arena began to shake and shift as Beldum zigged and zagged to avoid the fault lines of the attack. He needed to think quickly or this would be over in an instant.

"Launch an attack of your own, use takedown to stop that Geodude!"

Adjusting its magnetic field to compensate for the now-rough terrain, Beldum chimed at Steven's command and made a beeline towards the Geodude.

"Keep up the attack Geodude, try to increase your magnitude!"

The ground began to quake again, but Beldum remained fixed on its course. Suddenly, the ferocity of the attack increased, and the arena floor ruptured into jagged shards of earth.

Unable to adjust to the new terrain fast enough, Beldum was sent spiraling out of control where it crash landed in a heap, only delivering a glancing blow to Geodude for its efforts. The last bit of Beldum's stamina drained away as the attack's recoil took its toll.

"Beldum is unable to battle; Roxanne and Geodude are the winners!"

"Yes, that was the highest magnitude yet!" Roxanne cried in triumph. "I'm proud of you Geodude. All that hard work has paid off." She looked up from praising her partner and spotted Steven, still standing in the trainer's box at the other side of the battlefield. He made no move to recall his pokemon, seemingly lost in furious thought. Roxanne's brow furrowed in confusion. She motioned for Geodude to follow, and she made her way over to Steven's side. As she got close, she could hear him muttering under his breath.

"But, it doesn't make any sense. I studied and strategized for a type match up just like this. How did it all go wrong?"

"Hey. Steven?"

At the sound of her voice, Steven flinched as if he'd been hit. His eyes shot up and he immediately fell silent.

"It was a good match. You were right about the type match up, and Beldum was impressive in dodging that first attack." Roxanne held out her hand, "With a bit more work, I bet you and Beldum will beat us next time."

Steven still stood frozen, ignoring Roxanne's offered handshake. The only thing occupying his mind was the sensation of his classmates' judgmental eyes boring into his body. He could hear the whispers amongst the crowd.

"How did he manage to lose with such a type advantage?"

"How did he not realize that Geodude would know at least one ground type move by now?"

Steven felt his chest tighten and the panic began to rise in his throat. Roxanne leaned closer, eyes alight with concern.

"Hey, Steven? Don't listen to any of that. Type advantage isn't everything when it comes to battle. I've seen your scores in class. I know you're more than capable as a trainer."

Here was his opponent, someone who bested him with one of the types he was supposed to know all about, and it was all he could to try and not let her see his hands shake at his sides. He wanted to disappear.

"Come on, call Beldum back and let's head inside."

It was just as Steven managed to will himself to reach for Beldum's pokeball that someone shouted from the crowd.

"Why didn't you just use a steel type attack? That should have been an easy win!"

And it was as if the world collapsed around him. Steven spun on his heel to face the crowd of students, eyes ablaze.

"You think I don't know that? I've trained and trained and Beldum just won't learn any new moves! Maybe if it wasn't so helpless we could have actually won!"

Roxanne's hands flew to her mouth to stifle a gasp. She never could have imagined that a trainer would say something like that about his partner.

The crowd fell silent at Steven's outburst, and all of a sudden, the silence felt deafening. Shame washed over him as he quickly turned away from the expressions of surprise and pity only to find himself face to face with a singular red eye.

In his rage, he hadn't noticed his pokemon had managed to make its way back to his side. Scratched and covered in dirt from battle, Beldum whined a long low note at its trainer. Steven felt his chest clench again as he reached a trembling hand out to his partner.

"Beldum. I-I didn't really mean that. I was just so upset, and, I don't know what came over me. Beldum, I-I'm so – Wait!"

But he was too slow. Beldum had already turned and bolted for the woods beyond the arena.

"Beldum!"

Silence hung heavy over the group until one voice broke through.

"Oh, great job, now you've gone and chased off your only pokemon."

It was Roxanne's turn to face the crowd in anger, one finger jabbing accusingly toward the offending voice. "Hey, cut it out! This is your fault in the first place. If you hadn't been so mean –"

Roxanne froze at a sound from behind her, and she turned in time to see Steven run off in the direction Beldum had fled.

"Hey, Steven, stop!"



The streetlights were just beginning to flicker to life when Steven emerged from the woods, weary and disheveled. He had searched the whole area but to no avail; Beldum was nowhere to be found. Collapsing onto a nearby bench, Steven retrieved his PokeNav from his pocket and blanched when he looked at the screen. It hadn't occurred to him how late it actually was.

In his fervor to locate his lost pokemon, Steven had missed the shuttle back to his home. He was never late when coming home from school, and if he was staying late for some extra studies, he always called ahead. His father must be worried sick. A shiver ran through his aching body. He couldn't call home though, what would he say? 'Sorry I'm late Dad, I called Beldum useless so it ran away and now I don't have a pokemon anymore.' No, definitely not that. Instead he resigned himself to walk home. He would use the time to come up with some sort of excuse for when he walked in the door alone.



Joseph glanced up from the newspaper he was reading as the front door swung open, "Look who finally decided to come home. How was your day, Steven?"

"Hi, Dad." Steven kept his eyes on the floor.

"You look exhausted. Tough day?"

"Yeah…"

Joseph frowned. "Steven, what's wrong? I haven't seen you this glum since you started trainer school."

Steven froze. He hadn't been doing a good a job of hiding how he was feeling after all. His father used the silence to ask the one question Steven was hoping he wouldn't have to answer.

"Where's Beldum?"

"Oh, uh, it's resting in its ball. We had battle class all day today and we're both really tired."

When his father didn't comment, Steven continued. "Is it okay if I take my dinner up to my room? I'm probably going to fall asleep as soon as I'm done eating."

Joseph's expression softened. "Sure, son. I'll have the kitchen staff heat something up for you."

Steven was already halfway up the stairs before he called back down, "Thanks, Dad. Goodnight."



At the breakfast table the next morning, Steven was thankful his father had already left for work. He wouldn't have to try to explain why Beldum was still absent even after a night of rest. He barely slept himself; his mind couldn't stop replaying the events of the previous day. It was painfully obvious how out of sorts the boy was, and the housekeeper was kind enough to not press any further when she saw how Steven blankly pushed the food around on his plate. Once it was clear Steven had no intention of eating, she swooped in to clear the table. As he moved to leave, he reflexively reached down to his side to pet Beldum.

When his hand found only empty space where his pokemon would normally hover, Steven felt a pang of guilt shoot through his chest. Sullenly, he got up from the table and shuffled toward the door to grab his things for school.

As he brushed past the living room, he spotted the newspaper his father was reading the day before. Barely glancing at the headline, it only took two words for his blood to run cold. Steven was out the door in such a hurry that it slammed shut behind him, much to the dismay of the housekeeper. The sudden disturbance tossed the paper from where it sat on the table.

Pokemon Poachers spotted near Rustboro Outskirts. Trainers encouraged to stay vigilant.



School was the last thing on Steven's mind as he was briskly walking along the road at the edge of Rustboro. On high alert, he doggedly scanned the woods just beyond the city's gates for any sign of his missing partner; a gleam of blue, a flash of red, a metallic chirp, something, anything. As the crunch of grass and dirt replaced the sound of concrete beneath his shoes, Steven slowed to a stop. He hadn't noticed that his hurried pace had taken him all the way out to Route 116. The air was quiet, no longer filled with the hubbub of city life, and Steven strained his hearing to see if he could catch anything out of the ordinary, anything that might tell him where Beldum had run off to.

He slowly turned where he stood to take in sounds from all sides, and then he heard it. Mixed in with the sound of the wind rustling through the trees, to a random passerby it could have been anything, but to him, the chattering call of his partner was unmistakable. He listened for only a moment longer before turning and bolting into the woods. Wild pokemon be damned, he was going to find his lost partner no matter what it took. He tightened his hand around the empty pokeball in his pocket as he pushed through the underbrush.

"I'm coming, Beldum."

It didn't take much time for Steven to hone in on the location of Beldum's cries. As he got closer, the sound of two more voices sent Steven diving for cover. Beldum wasn't alone. He needed to get a read on the situation. Rushing in empty handed to an unknown encounter was asking for trouble. Ducking behind a nearby tree, he peered out into the small clearing before him. He could feel his heart racing as he spotted his pokemon. Beldum was ensnared in a net, no doubt laid out by the two men that stood peering down at their new captive. It tugged and struggled to free itself, but the cords held tight against its blunt edges. Steven swallowed, trying to bury the guilt that was rising in his throat. Now he knew what he was up against. Closing his eyes, Steven took a deep breath, and strode into the clearing.

"Release that pokemon, now." He spoke with an authoritative voice he didn't realize he had.

Beldum's struggles ceased as soon as it caught sight of Steven. Immediately it began to chatter in earnest and tug the net in the direction of its trainer. The two men turned to face the intruder, but grinned when they saw who the voice actually belonged to.

"And if we don't, what are you gonna do about it, kid?"

Unfazed, Steven's tone held steady.

"I won't have to worry about that, since that Beldum belongs to me."

At this, the larger of the two men laughed aloud.

"Oh ho, if it's yours, what's it doing out here all alone?"

The question caught Steven like a punch to the gut. He faltered as the guilt rushed back to him anew.

"I-I don't have to explain anything to poachers like you."

Scoffing, the second man piped up.

"Where'd a kid like you get a rare pokemon like this anyway?"

Steven steeled himself and answered, narrowing his eyes in what he hoped was a threatening glare.

"My father got it for me, it's my companion. Now let it go and be on your way." To emphasize his point, Steven brought Beldum's pokeball out from his pocket.

"Big mistake, kid." In two strides the poacher closed the distance between them and grabbed Steven by the wrist. Steven tried to wrench his hand from the man's grasp, but it was too strong. He could feel himself losing hold of his pokeball, and it clattered to the ground. Steven strained to reach for it with his free hand, but was jerked back sharply as the poacher yanked him away with a sneer.

"Now then, you said your daddy got you this Beldum? Whaddaya think, Alan, I bet this kid's family would pay a pretty penny to see him returned unharmed."

"Uh, I dunno Reeve, we're no kidnappers."

While his captor's head was turned to argue, Steven unleashed a well-placed kick to the man's shins. He was finally able to break free as his target yelled in pain. Hoping the element of surprise was on his side, Steven made a grab for Beldum's pokeball only to be met with a vicious backhand to the face. Stars flew across his vision, and Steven crumpled to the ground. He wasn't left to writhe for long, as a rough hand came down on his head and lifted him up by a fistful of hair.

"Dammit, kid. Why'd you have to go and do that? Now I'm mad, and that's not a good thing for you."

Still reeling from the blow, Steven could only offer a small moan as his vision began to blur from his rapidly swelling eye.

"Alan, grab that Beldum and let's go. We'll take both of 'em with us and figure out what to do later."

Weakly, Steven grabbed at the wrist that held him in place, and he managed to look back towards his pokemon. As Alan approached, Beldum chattered and backed away, pressing its body into the net in an effort to escape. In all his time with Beldum, Steven had never seen the little steel type look so scared. Something welled up inside him, a determination to protect his pokemon, his friend. Drawing in a deep breath, Steven shouted to his partner.

"Beldum, use takedown – foot first!"

The steel type paused only momentarily to comprehend its trainer's command before the realization struck. Beldum rushed forward at the netting, but before making contact, it wheeled around so that its metal claw was leading the charge. Slicing through the rope with ease, Beldum broke free from the poacher's trap.

"What the… You little brat," the poacher glared down at the boy still in his grasp before turning his attention back to his partner. "Alan, get the other net, we're not letting that thing escape."

Steven grit his teeth, "Yes, you are. Beldum! Run, get out of here! Oowf!" His outburst rewarded him with a face full of dirt as the poacher shoved his head down in annoyance.

"Shut up, kid! Alan, go get the net."

Squirming under the poacher's hold, Steven looked up in dismay to discover Beldum had not moved. It seemed to be staring, fixated on its trainer. Steven mustered the last of his strength to desperately shout his command again.

"Beldum, run!"

It was in that moment that Steven felt the hair on the back of his neck being to stand on end. A low hum permeated through the earth and to his amazement, the sensation of weightlessness began to prickle through him. From his low vantage point, he noticed the nearby rocks and pebbles began to quake and lift from the ground. The iron grip forcing his head to the dirt began to weaken, and he opened his one good eye in time to see the feet of their assailants being lifted from the ground by some invisible force.

The hum intensified and Steven felt the urge to press himself as close the ground as he could manage. With a rush of air, something flew overhead and connected with one of the poachers in a sickening thud. From where he lay, Steven could hear the other poacher cry out in dismay before the rush of air passed over him once again to make contact with something solid and fleshy. Steven waited until the air was quiet before he dared to move. Gingerly picking his head up, he was greeted by a field of blue and red.

"Beldum?"

Quiet chattering confirmed his question, and he quickly gathered his beloved pokemon in his arms.

"Beldum, I'm so sorry. What I said yesterday… I was wrong to say something like that. I got frustrated, I lost my temper, and I said hurtful things. Can… can you forgive me?"

A moment of silence hung between trainer and pokemon as Beldum eyed the very person who betrayed it a scant 24 hours ago. Steven's nerves returned in full force as Beldum only blinked in response.

"I looked everywhere for you, and I didn't tell my dad, and I was so worried because I saw in the paper there were these poachers and I thought something bad would happen and it was all my faul – oof!"

Steven found himself on the ground once again, this time with the full weight of a metal pokemon on his chest. Beldum stared down at him and leaned its head in with a low reverberation, and there was no mistaking its meaning.

"You're right; the thought will never cross my mind again. It's a promise."

Satisfied with his answer, Beldum chirped and lifted itself up, letting Steven sit upright. Before he could get up, Beldum hovered close enough to gently nudge his swollen eye. He reached up to lightly test the bruise himself, but drew back quickly with a sharp inhale.

"I guess we match now," he said sheepishly.

Beldum blinked and chattered happily as it bobbed up and down. Steven jabbed a finger at the offending pokemon.

"No way, we are definitely not telling my dad how this happened. Come on, we need to get back to the city to report these guys to the police, and on the way you can help me think up a believable story."

With a warble, Beldum swooped down and grasped a net from the poacher's supplies and dropped it over the two fallen men. Steven dusted himself off as he watched his pokemon work.

"Good idea, but I don't think they're getting up any time soon. Thanks for that by the way."

Beldum chirped with pride and nudged into Steven's side where he patted his pokemon gratefully.

"You have to tell me though, what did you do to pick those poachers up? Was that a psychic attack?"

Beldum hummed and rolled its eye thoughtfully, and Steven put his hand to his chin in contemplation.

"Huh, I figured it was worth a shot. I bet it'll come back to you with enough practice. We've got something to work toward anyway."

As they left the clearing and headed back toward Route 116, a mischievous smile crept across Steven's face.

"Although, it's too bad you don't know any ice type moves, I could use something for the swelling…"

He looked down with a grin at his partner, and Beldum shot back its best glare. Steven failed miserably at stifling his laugh.



...Over time, the bond between a trainer and their pokemon will grow. The trust you forge with your first companion will last a lifetime.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
Here for Catnip! I read Chapter 1!

Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss Steven fic. Delicious, fantastic, phenomenal, wonderful. And it's in non-chronological order, juicy!

This so far is very up my alley, with teenage (?) Steven braving THE WILDS OF HOENN and getting supremely fucked up in the process. But the real meat of this for me is his relationship with his team. It's. So fucking cute. I am a sucker for cute Trainer/Pokemon relationships and it's like a good chunk of what I come to Pokefic for and Steven's relationship with his team is DELIGHTFUL. I actually called Aron "babey" out loud. And that ending my heart, it's mealted into a soggy pile of mush I'm sobbing.

I suppose we SPIN ZE WEHEEL to see what part of Steven's weird ands wild backstory is featured next. When I circle back around to this fic I can't wait! In the meantime...

GIB ARON PETS

OR ELSE


felix_gun.png
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Umbra, thank you so much for the lovely catnip review! How thrilling to have the roll of the dice land you here of all fics.

As I'm sure you're already well aware, this is indeed a prequel love letter to the Hoenn games centered around our favorite Champion (or at least if you played Ruby or Sapphire). I did leave Steven's exact age ambiguous in this, but you're right, he is a teenager here. And it will definitely be Steven vs. the Hoenn wilds. More on that in future chapters... :censored:

I am a sucker for cute Trainer/Pokemon relationships and it's like a good chunk of what I come to Pokefic for and Steven's relationship with his team is DELIGHTFUL
Well, I have good news for you: there's a lot more of this to come. I started this fic with the intention of doing a character study on Steven, and by the end his pokemon were even more fun to write than him. I'm so glad you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

Aron "babey"
I mean, yes, of course, and no there is not some totally obvious bias on my part that I love Steven's aron so much. None whatsoever. Not sure what would even give you that idea.

Many many pets are given, never fear. No good aron will go unpet. Because they are all very very good bois.

Thanks so much for the review!
 
Chapter 3 - Summit

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Ch. 3 – Steven finds himself facing a familiar opponent in the quest to secure his final badge...

Chapter 3 - Summit

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook pg. 9: In order to compete in the Pokemon League, each aspiring trainer must travel and collect eight Gym badges. Only those trainers with all eight will be allowed entry to the Pokemon League…



Steven leaned back in the cushy boardroom chair and tried to make it look like he was paying attention to his father's meeting. Instead, his hand rested in his pocket where he thumbed the edge of his badge case absentmindedly.

He had been charging full steam ahead on his quest to challenge the Pokemon League before he was inevitably reeled back in to the world of Devon, but he hadn't expected his father to reach out so soon. So here he sat, half-listening to old men in suits drone on about stocks and figures and earnings… He barely stifled a yawn. This would be his world all too soon, but for the moment, Steven only had one thing on his mind; his eighth and final badge.

He had been looking forward to this badge the most, not because it was the last one, but because he intended to use the battle as a proving ground of sorts. The remaining badge was none other than the Stone Badge of Rustboro City's Gym. Sure, he could have challenged the Rustboro Gym right off the bat when he left the Trainer's School at the start of his journey, but that meant he'd only get to fight low level pokemon meant for a fledgling trainer. No, Steven purposefully left this Gym as his last. There was nothing he wanted more than a full-on, high level tilt against Hoenn's ace rock type trainer. And as an added bonus, by delaying his Gym challenge, he waited long enough to see his fellow classmate and long-time friend take over the position as Leader.

"Thank you gentlemen, I think that concludes today's quarterly financial meeting. I look forward to more good news the next time as well!"

His father's voice cut through Steven's daydreams, and he respectfully stood from his chair to bid the attendees farewell. As he shook hands with the last board member, he felt his father's hand clap heartily down on his shoulder.

"I know this isn't the most exciting stuff on the planet, but I'm glad you were able to come today, son."

He didn't enjoy lying to his father, so he opted for a half-truth instead.

"It's no problem, Dad. I'm going to have to learn eventually, so it makes sense to start now."

Joseph grinned as he wrapped his arm around Steven's shoulders. "You always know just what to say to make your old man happy. I've got no plans to step away from the company at the moment, so you're safe for now," he said throwing a sly wink.

Steven gave his father a genuine smile. It's not that he didn't want to become the next head of Devon, it's just that after having a taste of the freedom that pokemon training offered, he was in no hurry to be locked down at the head of a multimillion dollar company. Sitting at a desk with stacks of paper and spreadsheets was nowhere near as exhilarating as traveling the continent with his team by his side. Fortunately it seemed as if his father was already privy to that knowledge, somehow.

"Thanks, Dad."

"Now what do you say we head out on the town for dinner? It's been a while since you've come home. You have to tell me all about your travels."

Steven froze and nervously ran a hand through his hair.

"Sorry, but I can't. I don't mean to rush out on you, but I'm meeting up with a friend tonight and I'd rather not be late."

"A friend, eh? In that case I'm happy to play second fiddle!"

"It's not like that, Dad," he huffed and rolled his eyes in annoyance. "We both went to Trainer School together, so I figured I'd stop by and catch up with them after all these years."

"Well then, don't let me keep you. Have fun."

"Thanks, Dad. I'll see you later."

Joseph smiled as he watched Steven leave. He had a feeling he knew who this friend was. As unreliable as Steven had been in staying in touch during his travels, Joseph recognized his son's look of dogged determination. That boy was going places far grander than what Devon's walls could offer.



As the doors of Devon Corp. whirred shut behind him, Steven paused only briefly to transfer his pokeballs from his messenger bag to his belt. It was odd how strangely naked he felt during the meeting without their familiar weight at his hip. He checked his watch as he rounded onto the nearby sidewalk. 5 pm. The Gym wouldn't close for another hour, but he wanted to leave as much time as possible for his match. And considering he had planned on dropping in uninvited in order to surprise his friend, he should probably get there sooner rather than later.

Breaking into a light jog, Steven secretly lamented not having time to go home first to change out of his formal business attire. Oxfords lightly clicking on the pavement as he neared the Gym, he loosened and pocketed his tie. No self-respecting trainer would be caught dead challenging a Gym Leader looking like they just walked out of a board meeting, even though that's exactly what he just did.

Trying and failing to smooth his hair that was tousled on his trip, he slowed to a walk and turned the corner. The Rustboro Trainer School and Gym looked exactly as he remembered them from all those years ago. Both Gym and school shared the same gray brick and vaguely gothic styling. As Steven walked through the plaza between the two buildings, he noticed a figure step out from the school's main entrance and turn to lock the door behind them. A sly smile crept across his expression, and he paused at the school's main gate to wait for the figure at the end of the schoolyard. He waited until they drew within earshot on the path before speaking up.

"How did I guess you'd be staying late to do some extra grading?"

Too engrossed in the book in her hands, Roxanne jumped at the sound of his voice.

"Oh goodness, you scared me! Wait… Steven? Steven Stone, is that you?"

He spread his arms at the big reveal, "Indeed it is. It's been a while, Roxanne. How are you?"

Grinning wide, Roxanne crossed the rest of the schoolyard to greet Steven and slapped him on the arm in exasperation.

"Don't sneak up on me like that!"

Steven flinched away in feigned defeat as he offered a sheepish apology, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you so badly."

Roxanne smiled, apology accepted, and placed a hand on her hip,"So what finally brings you back to Rustboro?" She eyed his outfit. "It's for your father's company, isn't it?"

"It was, sort of. I mean, it's more of a two Pidgey with one stone sort of deal. My father wanted me to sit in on a meeting with him, and I figured it was finally the right time to get my last badge."

Roxanne could only stare at him in disbelief. "Wait, you didn't get the Stone Badge when you left Trainer School?"

Steven ran a hand through his hair. "Selfishly, no, I didn't. You might laugh, but I wanted my battle against the rock type gym to be a bigger challenge. I know Gym Leaders have a team for any level trainer who comes to challenge for the badge, and well, rock is one type I specialize in. I wanted to prove to myself that my team was the best rock type team there was."

Roxanne shook her head with a smile. "I should have known. Steven, there's no question of your strength as a trainer. You know as well as I do that if you wanted to be the next Gym Leader of Rustboro, you could have easily had the position instead of me."

At this, Steven chuckled. "Please, you were a shoo-in for the spot. You were the perfect candidate; your battle prowess was matched only by your passion to teach. Besides, I don't think I could ever handle being tied down in one place for long. I'm much too restless to be a Gym Leader."

"Well, you're in luck then, Steven," Roxanne said with a cheerful smirk. "You dragged your feet on your last badge long enough that you've got a Gym Leader who is willing to oblige your selfish tendencies. I accept your Gym challenge."

Turning towards the Gym, she set off across the plaza. Steven fell into step at her side and cleared his throat before speaking up.

"I'm planning to use an all rock type team against you. Unless you've still got that Geodude with you…"

"If you mean my main Golem, then yes I do."

"Then you'll have to forgive me if I pull the type advantage card just this once. Metagross would never forgive me if I didn't give it its rematch."

A gleam seemed to appear in Roxanne's eye at Steven's admission. "No problem at all, we'd be disappointed if you didn't. Golem has been itching for a good battle for a long time now."

By now the pair had crossed the plaza and stood in front of the Gym's entrance. Pleasantries aside, Roxanne stepped up to the double doors and spun to face Steven, pointing dramatically.

"Welcome, challenger, to the Rustboro City Gym. I look forward to seeing your knowledge on display in our battle. Kindly show me what you and your pokemon have learned in the arena."

She finished with a playful wink, "Sorry, I can't help myself. And I'm sure it'd feel cheap if you didn't get the full Gym experience."

Steven bowed, playing along. "Leader Roxanne, it'd be my honor to share my battle skill with you."

Grinning, Roxanne opened the doors behind her, "Then let's go. I don't play favorites, so win or lose, you're taking me out to dinner afterward."

Steven laughed as they walked inside, "It'd be my pleasure."



"This will be a three on three battle. Both trainers will be allowed substitutions. The first trainer to have all three pokemon faint will be the loser."

Steven nodded from his position in the challenger's box. It was a familiar feeling, staring down Roxanne at the opposite end of the field. The feeling that lingered wasn't the sting of defeat he suffered so long ago. This sensation was different. He was brimming with confidence, not only in his team, but in himself. The culmination of everything he learned on his travels. This was the first step to the finale of his journey.

"Trainers, ready your pokemon."

Reaching down to his belt, Steven brushed his jacket aside to produce three pokeballs before deftly placing them on the registration pedestal at the side of the box. He felt a small rattle from his hip, and he muttered a quiet apology.

"Sorry, Aggron. I promised Roxanne I'd only use one steel-type teammate for this battle. You can argue with Metagross afterward."

"Ready," he called aloud and he heard Roxanne echo the same from her box.

"Prepare your first pokemon, and let the Gym match between challenger Steven and Leader Roxanne begin!"

"Cradily, let's go!"

In a flash, Steven's anemone pokemon materialized on the battlefield with a crooning cry. Across the field, two gleaming scythes flashed under the stadium lights.

"Looks like it will be a battle of the fossils," said Roxanne, as she recollected her Kabutops' pokeball.

Steven grinned as he admired both combatants. "I thought that might be the case." He swept a hand forward formally. "As the Leader, you should have the first move."

"What a gentleman," quipped Roxanne with a smile. "In that case, Kabutops, aqua jet!"

The dome fossil pokemon disappeared in a splash and a blur, but Steven wasn't concerned. He knew its eventual target.

Reappearing mere inches from Cradily's nose, Kabutops landed a direct hit as it flashed by with its scythes. Cradily slid backward only slightly, thanks to its strong grip on the arena ground. Kabutops had already swooped past Cradily in its strike, and Steven seized their chance.

"Now! Grab it and use giga drain!"

With incredible speed, Cradily whipped her neck around to face her attacker and lashed out with a tendril, snagging Kabutops by the leg. It struggled to free itself from her grasp, but Cradily's grip was too strong. Tugging sharply, Cradily pulled Kabutops' feet out from under it and swarmed the grounded pokemon with more tentacles. Kabutops' rattling cry echoed across the arena as its life force drained away. Cradily released the hold on her opponent as Kabutops' thrashing slowed to a stop.

Steven spared only a moment to glance toward the referee, but he made no move to signal an end to the round. Without warning, Kabutops' eyes snapped open and it struggled to stand. Somehow it had not succumbed to Cradily's grass type attack.

Steven raised a hand to his chin thoughtfully. "But, how did it withstand such a super effective attack?"

Roxanne could only smile. "Endure will keep a pokemon from fainting even under the most powerful attack, and my Kabutops is quick enough to pull it off unnoticed. Now, Kabutops, use metal sound!"

An ear piercing screech suddenly burst from the weakened pokemon. Steven slammed his hands over his ears to block out the sound, and as he looked up through a grimace, he saw that Cradily too had to cover her head with her tendrils to stop the pain.

"Cradily!" he shouted as loud as he could, "You have to knock it out to stop this noise! Finish it off with ancient power!"

Miraculously, Cradily heard his command over the noise and summoned the strength to hurl her attack, finally knocking Kabutops out. The screeching stopped, and this time the referee raised his hand to indicate the winner of the first round.

Roxanne shrugged as she recalled her pokemon. "It was a gamble using Kabutops first. I'd either get to take out your rock type pokemon with its water attacks, or I'd get to set up my second pokemon to finish the job. Nice try with using ancient power to try to boost Cradily's stats after it got hit with metal sound, but it looks like it didn't work this time."

Steven frowned. He knew that metal sound weakened Cradily's special defenses. Without the ancient power's secondary effects, she was vulnerable to attack.

However, Roxanne wasted no time in calling out her second pokemon.

"Here we go, Probopass!"

A heavy thud sounded as the pokemon burst from its ball, followed by a soft hum. Steven could recognize that hum at any distance; that was the sound of electromagnetism. What sort of pokemon was this?

Roxanne giggled, "You look surprised again, Steven. I thought you'd have done more research before challenging me. No matter, I'm used to giving instruction. Hopefully you're still a quick study, for Cradily's sake."

Steven cringed inwardly. Roxanne pulled yet another surprise over on him, but he wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing; not like the last time. He held his composure with a determined look and calmly gave his pokemon a command.

"Buy us some time, Cradily. Confuse ray."

Eyes aglow, Cradily locked gazes with the mysterious magnetic pokemon as her tendrils waved to and fro, lulling Probopass into a trance. Its satellite-like appendages began to list weakly from their orbit as the confuse ray took effect.

Steven didn't like the way Roxanne simply smirked.

"Even if Probopass is confused, it's sturdy enough that a little bit of damage won't bother it at all. Now, Probopass, focus and use power gem until it connects!"

"Dodge and counter with giga drain!"

As glowing chunks of energy whizzed by her head, Cradily ducked close enough to snag one of Probopass's dizzy satellites in her tendrils. She had barely finished her draining attack when the energy shards of a direct power gem hit slammed into her body, sending her tumbling backwards.

"Cradily!"

Steven silently cursed. That attack should not have been as effective as it was. Cradily's special defenses were too weak from the previous round. He needed to switch out to allow her defense to recover. Swiftly he grabbed her pokeball from the pedestal and aimed the recall beam.

"Cradily, return."

But as the beam of light neared its target, it suddenly was interrupted. Hovering between him and his pokemon was the satellite that Cradily had drained moments earlier.

"What?"

"I'm not letting you ruin my set up that easily. This is one of my favorite moves, called block. Probopass is no longer confused and is using its Mini-Noses to prevent Cradily from escaping. She's trapped."

"This is not good… Cradily, use recover! We need to outlast this block!"

Glowing energy began to lift from the ground around Cradily's feet and absorb into her body.

Steven nervously watched as his pokemon tried to regain her strength, and his eyes narrowed as he saw Roxanne wave a finger.

"Nice try, but too bad that recover won't matter in the end."

"What do you mean? Cradily has strong regenerative powers; she can take on more attacks than that."

Roxanne grinned as Probopass's two remaining Mini-Noses began to circle around its face, creating a growing glow at their center. "Not this one. Probopass, flash cannon!"

"A steel type move?"

Steven barely had time to shield his eyes as a brilliant beam of energy shot forth and engulfed Cradily in its light. By the time he could squint his eyes open again, the referee already had his arm up to signal the end of the second round.

"I'm sorry, Cradily," said Steven as he recalled his fallen partner. "That is my mistake, you battled well."

Turning his attention back to his opponent, Steven called out, "That's a pretty interesting pokemon you have there. Given my preference for steel types, I'm a little surprised I've never seen one before."

"Oh, it's not from around here, Steven. I have a colleague in Sinnoh that I lent my Nosepass to for her studies on magnetic fields, and when he came back, he had evolved into what you see now."

As this, Steven couldn't hide his awe. "Fascinating. I wonder if there are any other pokemon who share the same sensitivity to magnetism."

"I can send you the paper when she's done with it," Roxanne offered.

"Please do! I'd love to read it."

"Of course. Now, enough talk. Call out your next pokemon." Roxanne's expression turned serious signaling the end of the professional interlude.

Steven's posture shifted as he brushed his jacket free of the dust from Probopass's last attack. He anticipated that a high level match with Roxanne would be tricky, and this new pokemon threw an unexpected wrench into his plans. But if there was one lesson Steven had learned all those years ago, it was that planning wasn't everything. So with a steady hand, Steven selected his second pokeball.

"It's your turn, Armaldo. Let's go!"

"Interesting choice," murmured Roxanne as the armored fossil pokemon materialized on the battlefield.

Steven could only grin in response. "If there's one thing you taught me, it's to never underestimate your opponent. Now, Armaldo, we need the upper hand, use rock polish!"

With a sharp nod, Armaldo coiled into a low stance and began to rub his body and wings with his claws.

Roxanne's eyes narrowed in realization, "Oh no you don't. Probopass, thunder wave! Slow it down!"

Just as his plates were polished to a gleaming mirror finish, the ground around Armaldo's feet began to crackle with electricity.

Steven's hand flashed out with his shouted command. "Armaldo, jump!"

Electricity burst from the ground in a cage-like formation, but Armaldo's speed boost was complete, and he vanished with a loud crack and a cloud of dust.

As the dust cleared and Probopass's thunder wave trap was empty, both trainer and pokemon scanned the arena for any sign of the elusive Armaldo.

"X-scissor!"

Probopass began to frantically rotate in an attempt to detect the oncoming attack. Roxanne's gasp came too late, "Above you!"

Armaldo dropped from the sky with claws crossed and slammed into Probopass at full speed, sending both pokemon to the ground in an explosion of dirt and rubble.

Quickly leaping free from the collision was Armaldo. He landed lightly on his feet back at Steven's end of the arena where he waited patiently for his trainer's next command, fins twitching in anticipation.

"But, Armaldo can't fly, their wings aren't strong enough!" protested Roxanne as her pokemon was still reeling from the impact.

Steven grinned. "Sure, Armaldo can't lift off with its wings, but after a speedy jump it can glide for a bit once it's airborne."

"The power needed to jump that high is impressive. You've trained Armaldo well."

By now, Probopass had sent a pulse of magnetism to regather its scattered Mini-Noses and hovered back into position in front of its trainer with only a slight wobble.

"However, let's see if all that training has improved its defense. Probopass, it's our turn to go on the offensive. Hit it with flash cannon!"

All three Mini-Noses circled Probopass this time, charging up the attack faster than the previous version.

Steven raised an arm to shield his eyes once again, but kept an eye on his pokemon through the blinding light. "Armaldo, dodge!"

As the beam erupted from Probopass, Armaldo's fins twitched in unison and it twisted to plant a claw into the ground and pivoted out of the attack's path with a mighty kick. The flash cannon shot harmlessly overhead and dissipated in an explosion at the far end of the arena.

While his pokemon was still crouched from the evasive maneuver, Steven called out the next attack.

"Use slash, rapid fire!"

With a powerful push, Armaldo lunged for Probopass, throwing speedy slices with its claws. The blows were connecting, but the damage was minimal against Probopass' steel body. It barely flinched as it inched backward from Armaldo's fierce attack.

Steven stared, concentrating on the two combatants. "Keep going, Armaldo. Chip away at its defenses!"

Roxanne couldn't hold back a laugh. "It's going to take more than that to knock out my pokemon. Probopass, finish this with another flash cannon."

Armaldo quickly ceased its attack and leaped back, watching and waiting for the charge up. But it never came. Suddenly, its fins all jerked in alarm only seconds before a thin beam of light sliced through its wing from behind. Staggered, Armaldo sunk to one knee in pain as a Mini-Nose floated into view.

Roxanne smiled. "Surprised? Probopass' main body isn't the only one that can attack. Each Mini-Nose can unleash quicker, scaled-down versions of its attacks. Sure, it won't deal much damage on its own, but with a weakness to steel, and three Mini-Noses, how long can your Armaldo hold out?"

Steven frowned, but he was barely listening to Roxanne's monologue. He was staring intently at his partner as Armaldo shakily rose back to his feet.

"Armaldo, can you do it? It won't be much longer, I can feel it, but you're going to have to stay strong against those mini attackers."

Sparing a glance from the circling Mini-Noses, Armaldo caught Steven's gaze and narrowed its eyes in determination. Steven smirked, satisfied with his pokemon's answer, and pointed at their opponent.

"All right, Armaldo, let's finish this!"

With a chattering screech, Armaldo launched itself toward Probopass's main body, claws raised.

"Hey, that's supposed to be my line!" Roxanne feigned a pout. "Oh well, you know what to do, Probopass."

As Armaldo drew close, the Mini-Noses opened fire, raining beams of flash cannon all around. Dancing out of the way, Armaldo ducked and dodged as it threw slashes with its strong claws. He managed to land several blows before a Mini-Nose clipped his shoulder and a second followed up with a beam to the middle of his back. Armaldo sank to the arena floor once again, new wounds hissing with smoke. Probopass's main body took advantage of Armaldo's immobility and hovered backward, putting distance between the combatants once again.

Jaw set in a toothy grimace, Armaldo rose from the dirt, panting.

"Armaldo! You can do this. One last time!" Steven felt his fist clench with nervous energy at his side.

Lowering himself onto all fours, Armaldo loosed a shrill cry before sprinting forward to renew his attack.

Roxanne sighed as Armaldo neared its target. "It didn't work last time, it won't work this time. Probopass, let's end this. Power gem, point-blank."

The energy projectiles formed around its main body and shot forward, leaving Armaldo no room to dodge.

Steven's eyes widened as he saw it. The power gem wasn't as powerful this time. Sweeping his hand forward, he shouted, "Do it now, Armaldo! Brine!"

Slamming its claws into the ground, Armaldo skidded to a halt and opened its jaws wide to unleash a torrent of murky water on the unsuspecting Probopass. The wave boiled over the energy stones, even as several tore through the water and found their mark. Groaning and sparking as the water made contact, Probopass tumbled back under the wave's force. Both pokemon's cries lingered in the air as the attacks took their toll. The battlefield reverberated into silence as both combatants collapsed.

The referee hesitated only a moment before raising both arms. A double knock out.

Roxanne shook her head as she recalled her fallen Probopass. "To be able to tell when an unfamiliar pokemon finally dropped below half health just by observing, that is impressive, Steven Stone. That brine attack couldn't have been timed any better."

Steven smiled as he tapped the now-occupied pokeball in his hand. "I can't take all the credit. Armaldo had to battle hard to overcome his type disadvantage."

"It's clear that you and your pokemon make a powerful team. Probopass doesn't get knocked out very often."

Glacing up toward the scoreboard, Steven smiled softly as he met Roxanne's gaze. "I guess it's only fitting that our match comes down to this."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," she agreed, hoisting the last pokeball from the pedestal.

The ground shook as two flashes of light solidified into the final pair of combatants. Both unleashed a mighty roar as they caught sight of the opponent.

A wave of psychic energy pulsed from Metagross with such strength that Steven nearly had to take a step back to steady himself. It bristled with prideful hostility.

"That's it, he's the one, Metagross," Steven murmured.

An echoing growl emanated from the steel pokemon as it readied itself for the rematch it had been anticipating since it was a mere Beldum.

Across the battlefield, Golem flexed its claws with a snort and bent its stubby legs in preparation for the first attack, which Roxanne seized with gusto.

"Golem, start this off with an earthquake, full power!"

Steven's expression shifted in a half-smirk. "We're ready this time. Metagross, avoid that attack."

With a hum, Metagross's legs lifted from the quaking arena floor and it deftly skirted above the slabs of jagged earth that jutted sharply from the ground.

"Get in close and hit it with a bullet punch!"

In a strong push of its magnetic powers, Metagross rushed Golem's position with a leg raised to strike. As it drew near, Roxanne punched a fist in the air.

"Counter with fire punch!"

Golem's fist heated to a molten glow, and in a firey clash, both attacks collided in stalemate.

As both pokemon remained locked together, they struggled back and forth in an effort to gain the upper hand. Creaking and groaning, Metagross strained against Golem's punch. Slowly, the rock pokemon was being pushed backward, but the heat from the fire type attack was seeping into Metagross's steel hide, and it had to draw back in obvious discomfort.

Watching as Metagross stumbled backward waggling its overheated leg, Roxanne called out her next move.

"Golem, trip it up with rock tomb! Then go for another fire punch!"

Massive boulders began to form overhead as Golem concentrated its power, and Metagross took a hesitant step backward as it glanced toward the sky. However, Steven's voice was anything but worried as he reassured his partner.

"Don't worry about dodging this one. Weather the attack, and wait for my command."

Metagross's stance shifted at Steven's conviction, and all four legs planted firmly on the ground as it hunkered low beneath the rain of boulders.

As the dust began to settle around the boulders that encircled its opponent, Golem readied its next attack, fist glowing red-hot once more. It only managed one step toward the pile before Steven's voice rang out.

"Break through, Metagross! Meteor Mash!"

In a brilliant explosion of debris, Metagross shot out of the tomb, foreleg poised to smash into the unsuspecting Golem.

Roxanne barely had time to shriek, "Protect!" before Metagross made contact. Golem's blue barrier flew into place just as Metagross's leg found its target.

Roxanne ducked from the impact's shockwave as Golem was driven backwards under the raw power of Metagross's blow. Cracks were beginning to splinter across protect's barrier, and she covered her mouth to stifle a surprised gasp. Eyes wide, she briefly caught sight of Steven standing poised in the challengers box. His eyes were sharp, and his formidable gaze was locked onto the two embattled pokemon.

She had to repress the urge to shiver as he spoke his next command in an even, calm tone.

"Again."

Without hesitation, Metagross's other leg shot forward and smashed straight through Golem's barrier. The follow through of the vicious attack sent Golem's body barreling past the stunned Gym Leader's box before it smashed into the rear wall of the gym, unconscious.

Silence settled across the arena as Metagross slowly lowered its outstretched leg in finality. Roxanne could only feel the rattle of its victorious cry over the sound of her heart pounding in her ears. She and Golem had never been so soundly defeated in all her years of battling. While the first two rounds of the battle were impressive, this was Steven's true display of power.

Taking a deep breath to steady her shaking hand, she recalled Golem to its ball and walked toward the battlefield where Steven had already made his way to Metagross's side. All signs of the fearsome trainer from only a minute ago had vanished, and he was laughing quietly as he gave his partner's brow an affectionate rub. As she drew close, both Steven and Metagross looked up in acknowledgement. Roxanne stood tall and smiled as she delivered her official declaration of defeat.

"I'm impressed, challenger. It's obvious that your team fully trusts your judgement in battle, and it shows in the way you work together with your pokemon. This was a far cry from our first match all those years ago. You and Metagross have really grown."

Roxanne offered an outstretched hand, and this time there was no hesitation as Steven returned the gesture. She smiled as she continued.

"I think the difference in our power is fairly clear. You chose to battle with a team typed similarly to mine as a personal challenge. If you had gone with your preferred type, I doubt I would have even seen your second pokemon."

Metagross huffed an affirmative over his shoulder, and Steven shot his partner a look.

"I think what Metagross was trying to say was thank you for the kind words." He bowed slightly, "Although I feel you may be overestimating our abilities and underestimating your own."

Planting her hands on her hips, Roxanne giggled as she dropped her official tone. "Always the gentleman, Steven. If I didn't think it might actually kill you, I'd say it's okay to be cocky if you're this strong."

Metagross grated out laugher of its own, enjoying the joke at its trainer's expense. Steven sighed and returned the still chuckling pokemon to its ball. He froze as he moved to put the pokeball back on his belt; Roxanne had stopped giggling and was watching him intently.

"Yes?"

Roxanne smirked as she looked him over. "You should battle in a suit more often."

Steven faltered as he felt a bit of heat creep into his cheeks. Roxanne's comment caught him off guard. After the battle had started, he completely forgot his earlier qualms about his current wardrobe.

"Really?"

"I'm serious. It gives you quite the presence in that trainer's box," she pondered for a moment. "It makes you look more intimidating."

"Roxanne, I can't travel around the region in this," he said, incredulously. "This was a one-time thing since I came right from my father's meeting."

Roxanne's smile didn't fade at his excuses. "Steven, you won't have to worry about all that once you become the next Champion."

At her bold statement, whatever Steven had planned to say died on his lips. Pausing to glance at Roxanne with a puzzled look, he asked, "What makes you so sure I'll become Champion?"

She gave him a knowing smile. "I just have a feeling… I meant what I said though, you look good. Give it some thought next time."

Steven sheepishly ran a hand through his hair. "I can't make any promises, but I'll consider it…"

"Good enough for me!" she chimed. "And show your face around here once in a while. It'll be a good reputation boost for our school," she said with a wink.

"Rustboro will be first on my list for the victory tour."

Roxanne smiled as she handed him the shining Stone Badge. "Good luck at the Pokemon League, Steven. Although, if today's battle was any indication, you won't need much."



Earning all eight Gym badges is the goal of any trainer that wants to become Champion. However, collecting all your badges is only the first step to challenging the Pokemon League, so be sure your team is up to the task…
 
Chapter 4 - Record

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Ch. 4 - Only those explorers who are skilled enough to navigate Route 111's ever-changing desert can uncover its hidden treasures. It also doesn't hurt to be lucky too...

Chapter 4 - Record

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook Tip #23: The world of pokemon is full of mystery. Always be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary, you never know what you may find…



"Oh, you're telling me you don't like sand now too?"

Steven's voice was muffled by the bandana he wore across his face, but the little Aron at his feet heard him loud and clear. Unfazed by the amused gleam in his trainer's eyes, Aron huffed and grumbled as it trudged along through the shifting sand of Route 111.

"And you seemed so excited when I mentioned we'd be coming to the desert." Steven stepped around so that his body shielded Aron from the wind-driven sand. "It'll be more comfortable if you travel inside your ball."

But the stubborn Aron only gave his trainer a narrow glance as he tipped his head to the side, dumping out the sand that had accumulated in the openings of his armor. Ever since leaving Dewford, the newest addition to Steven's team refused to remain in his pokeball, opting to be by Steven's side at all times, only making an exception when it rained. Secretly, Steven wondered how he managed to come across the most over-protective Aron in Hoenn, but at the same time he was grateful, otherwise his journey might have come to an untimely end in Dewford…

Shaking his head to banish the thought, Steven smiled and rubbed Aron's head before standing back up and pulling a map from his pocket. As he unfolded the paper, his brow furrowed as he studied its contents.

Aron glanced up at the worn parchment and barked questioningly at Steven's thoughtful expression. Peeking over the top of the map at the little steel type, Steven eyes narrowed as he scowled beneath his bandana.

"No I can't just call and ask my dad about the map. That means admitting I took it out of his files in the first place."

At this, Aron's eyes narrowed as well and it offered an accusing rumble.

"Don't you start with me too. Beldum already gave me an earful when we left Mauville."

Aron resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he settled onto his haunches and waggled a foreleg at the map. But the gesture went unnoticed as Steven had already turned his attention back to the item in question, muttering.

"Look, if it really was that important to him, he wouldn't have left it in a dusty old box at the back of the file room…"

Realizing that his trainer had misinterpreted his interest in the map, Aron sat patiently, waiting for Steven to pause in his ramblings.

"…Besides, he's too busy with the company to even notice I've even borrowed it in the first place."

Growing impatient, Aron barked sharply and waggled his leg at the map once again, finally catching his trainer's attention.

"Oh, did you want to take a look?"

Steven kneeled down next to Aron and smoothed the map down over the sand between them. Aron pinned the corner down with its leg to combat the desert wind, and the two peered at the map together. With his finger, Steven traced over the faded lines as he relayed a working theory to his partner.

"It's not labeled, but I believe this map is from one of my father's fossil excavating expeditions he's told me about before. See these blue shaded areas? I think these indicate where shallow seas may have existed in prehistoric times. And that means this desert could be filled with undiscovered pokemon fossils!"

Aron nodded eagerly, following Steven's finger as he continued.

"There's plenty of ancient shoreline we could search, but these two spots," he tapped two circles of red pen. "These are where we're headed."

Blinking, Aron glanced at the two spots located at opposite ends of the map, and then glanced up at the desert landscape around them. He studied their surroundings for only a moment before nosing the northernmost circle with his snout.

"You guessed it. We're headed toward that mark first. Based on my father's notes, it seems like he thoroughly explored the spot to the south on the original expedition. For whatever reason, it looks like he never made it to this one to the north. So it's up to us to find what he were looking for instead!"

Aron barked an enthusiastic reply as Steven stood back up and pocketed the map. Adjusting his bandana, he turned to continue on their trek, but stopped when he noticed Aron had not followed along.

"Aron?"

But the little steel type didn't respond. Aron sat stock still with his gaze locked onto the landscape behind them. Steven felt a small prickle run down the back of his neck. His pokemon's guarded reaction wasn't wholly unusual, given the number of times it already had taken to fending off wild pokemon that approached the duo. But what set Steven's nerves on edge was how quiet Aron remained, staring silently into the hazy desert landscape at nothing, as far as Steven could see.

"Hey, Aron?" Steven gently prodded. "C'mon, we have to get moving. We've got to cover a bit more ground before we can set up camp for the night."

Aron sat frozen for only a moment longer before it forfeited its staring contest with the dunes and dutifully trotted back to Steven's side.



Mercifully, the wind died down that night, and the tent only rustled slightly in the breeze as Steven settled into his sleeping bag. In the dim light of his headlamp, he caught sight of Aron sitting attentively at the door of the tent. Steven smiled softly as he reached for the overly-protective pokemon's ball.

"Hey Aron, you should get some rest. We've got another long hike tomorrow. Beldum can keep watch tonight."

True to his word, Beldum emerged from its ball and hovered over to Aron's side with a friendly chirp. Aron ignored the cheerful pokemon and instead kept its gaze fixed on the dark desert outside. Beldum swiveled to meet Steven's gaze, and he sighed.

"Fine then, you two can both keep watch. I just don't want to hear any complaints tomorrow about being too tired, Aron."

Aron's dismissive response was enough to satisfy Steven that his pokemon had registered the mild threat, and he switched off the light.



Beldum wasn't sure how much time had passed since it dozed off, but all it knew was that right now it was wide awake. A strong psychic aura had roused it from its slumber, and whatever was emanating that aura was close. Slowly rising from the sand, Beldum didn't dare make a sound as it hovered toward the tent opening to peer into the darkness outside. There was nothing visible at first glance, but a low breath and quiet growl from Beldum's side told it that Aron was awake and had sensed this presence too. Both pokemon scanned the night time desert landscape for any sign of the trespasser.

As the sand swirled overhead, a break in the clouds let the moonlight shine through for only a moment and Beldum swore it saw a silhouette melt into a nearby dune. With a startled chirp, Beldum nudged Aron in alarm. By the time its teammate turned to look, any trace of the silhouette had since disappeared.

Beldum blinked, but it could sense the psychic presence, or lack thereof; as suddenly as the visitor had appeared, it had vanished. Both pokemon shared a nervous glance, and Beldum could only offer an unconvincing hum as it settled back into the sand, leaving Aron perched at the door bristling with watchful energy.



When Steven awoke the next morning, he found his two pokemon exactly where they had been the night before. Aron and Beldum sat side by side at the tent entrance, although Aron definitely looked worse for wear. Steven sighed seeing that his advice from the previous night went unheeded. Deciding to alert his pokemon to the fact that he was now awake, he reached over to his pack and rustled through it to locate the supplies for their breakfast. Both Aron and Beldum turned at the noise and happily joined Steven for the meal.

As his pokemon were munching away, Steven took the opportunity to poke his head out of the tent to discover that blue sky shone down from above, no longer blocked out by billowing clouds of sand. Revitalized by the change in weather, Steven set about tidying up their camp and the trio set off in high spirits.

Unfortunately, the good mood didn't last long. As Aron dragged itself out of yet another Trapinch pit it had accidentally tumbled into, Steven finally decided that the stubborn and overly-tired pokemon was causing more trouble than it was preventing. Waiting for Aron to catch back up, Steven withdrew its pokeball with a shake of his head.

"Sorry, Aron. Get some rest, and you can come back out once we get to the dig site."

Aron protested with a high pitched whine, but Steven was having none of its tantrum. Before he could reprimand the young pokemon, a voice called out from across the dunes.

"Ahoy there, youngster!"

Steven's head snapped up to locate the source of the greeting. Heading towards him was an older gentleman dressed in full khaki expedition attire, complete with a pith safari hat perched on his head. He wore a hearty grin as he looked down at the panting Aron at Steven's feet.

"Looks like your pokemon is running on empty there. You might want to consider letting it rest a while. Desert hiking isn't for the faint of heart, you know."

Steven scowled initially, but quickly banished it for a more friendly expression, and he used the distraction to recall Aron before he spoke.

"Thank you for the suggestion. We were just discussing that very subject when you arrived."

The man puffed out his chest proudly at the thanks, but Steven ignored his posturing as he continued.

"My name is Steven. I apologize for not introducing myself sooner. I wasn't expecting to meet anyone else out here. What brings you out here…?" Steven trailed off, hoping the mysterious explorer would kindly fill in the blank.

"Ah, Dusty's the name! Pleasure to meet you, Steven, did you say?"

He was about to nod an affirmative when Dusty suddenly leaned in, far too close for comfort. Steven could only blink in confusion as the older man eyed him carefully.

"Say now, you remind me of someone I met in this very desert many years ago. You wouldn't happen to know someone named Joseph Stone, would you?"

Waiting until Dusty straightened back up again, Steven spoke cautiously, "I do, actually. Joseph Stone is my father."

"Oh ho ho ho! What an incredible coincidence, if I do say so myself!"

Still thoroughly bewildered by the man in front of him, Steven fiddled with his bandana as he waited for Dusty to finish chuckling to himself. The explorer's cheeks had turned a rosy red beneath his mustache by the time he regained his composure.

"Why that's just brilliant! Who would have thought I'd come across another member of Hoenn's premier fossil finding family! I'll bet you're out here looking for the same thing as your father."

Steven squinted against the bright sun as he weighed Dusty's proclamation. He couldn't recall his dad mentioning anything about meeting another explorer on his trip. But how else could Dusty have recognized him and so quickly have deduced that he actually was searching for fossils as his father had done before.

"And I'm proud to say that, I, Dusty the famous relic hunter, would be honored to continue the tradition of accompanying the Stones on their quest!"

Steven balked. "Um, that's very kind of you to –" but he was cut off almost immediately.

"Then it's settled! We'll set off immediately, I happen to know just the spot we should begin our search!"

And with a level of finality in his grip, Dusty snatched Steven by the arm and marched off into the desert landscape.



Steven spent the better part of the next hour regretting his politeness while trying his best to ignore the ruin maniac that strutted along ahead of him. At first he humored Dusty with small talk, but he quickly grew tired of the exercise. Even lapsing into silence wasn't enough of a hint to convince the chatty man to cease his endless babbling. Steven couldn't fathom how one man could talk for so long about absolutely nothing.

So wrapped up in his efforts, he only just noticed that the sandstorm had begun to intensify, and visibility was dropping quickly. As he pulled his bandana up to shield against the growing storm, Steven also noticed that things seemed to have gotten quieter despite the fierce howling of the wind. His journey hadn't been this peaceful since before he met…

"Dusty! Dusty? Hey, Dusty, where are you?"

Shielding his eyes with his hand, Steven peered through the windblown sand to no avail. Nothing but the wind answered his call. The desert had swallowed all signs of his traveling partner.

Whatever relief he felt at the boisterous explorer's disappearance was quickly erased by the feeling of panic rising in his throat. He had been dragged off by Dusty in such a hurry that he hadn't had the chance to check where they were headed. Fumbling for the map in his pocket, Steven froze as the realization struck. If the sandstorm was so intense that he couldn't locate someone who was supposedly a few feet away, there was no way he would be able to confirm his position relative to the map. Then, an idea struck.

"Beldum, I need you!"

Steven's starter pokemon materialized with a chirp of dismay as it immediately was buffeted about by the swirling wind.

"I'm sorry to call you out in this mess, but I could use your help to navigate out of this storm. Can you sense which way is north?"

Beldum tilted its head to the side in thought before closing its eye and slowly drifting in a circle. After only a moment, its eye shot open again with an excited chatter. Steven squinted in the direction Beldum was facing, and through the sheets of sand, a small silhouette materialized before them.

"Is that… a Baltoy?"

Beldum echoed in the affirmative, and as the shadowy pokemon began to slip back into the sandstorm's grasp, Beldum darted after it, much to Steven's alarm.

"Beldum, wait! I don't want to lose you too!"

Pressing forward, Steven could only catch glimpses of Beldum or the mysterious Baltoy before they were once again swallowed up by the sand. As Steven forged after his partner, a keening cry lifted above the wind. It seemed to come from the direction that Beldum was headed, so Steven pushed onward toward the source of the sound.

Leaning into the driving wind, Steven swore the hollow whine was actually growing louder as he kept his feet moving. The pitch shifted and rolled with each step, and an involuntary shiver ran up his spine. As he peered through the shifting sand, new outlines began to take shape. Short, square walls rose from the desert floor around his feet to trace geometric patterns away through the dunes. Nestled beyond those walls were taller structures of unmistakable origin. They were broken and crumbling from the brutal desert conditions, but Steven knew right away he was looking at the remains of some sort of ancient settlement. The dwellings were all built of fading sandstone that would be easy to miss in even the slightest sandstorm.

If the discovery of the hidden ruins wasn't enough to set Steven's hair on end, it was what was in the ruins that sent a chill through his body. Through the blinding conditions, the ground surrounding the buildings appeared to shift to and fro, but it wasn't composed of sand. Instead, it was a colony of Baltoy, all teetering in unison as they sang. It was no wonder that the cries in the wind changed so much. The sound wasn't coming from just one lost Baltoy, this was the voice of dozens of its kind, all wailing as one.

And almost as abruptly as the sandstorm started, it died. Hesitantly, Steven pulled his bandana down and glanced around the village, not daring to speak in anything more than a whisper.

"What is this place?"

Instantly, silence swept over the horde of Baltoy. With a collective rattle, they all turned to face him in unison. Steven froze.

"Beldum, a little help here please. I didn't upset them, did I?"

Chattering, Beldum gave him a nudge from behind, sending Steven stumbling forward toward the Baltoy.

"Whoa, wait –," but Steven quickly fell quiet as the crowd of pokemon parted to reveal a lone Baltoy at the center of their midst. It tottered up to the front of the group, and a look of recognition swept across Steven's face.

"You're the Baltoy from the sandstorm."

The little ground type seemed to nod in confirmation before it hopped once and gave an enthusiastic twirl. At its antics, a hollow murmur swept through the crowd of Baltoy behind it. Beldum was quick to chatter excitedly at his side, and Steven, although still wary, gave a small smile and bowed.

"Then we owe you our thanks for safely guiding us through that storm," but his smile faltered as he continued. "But I can't shake the thought that our arrival here is no mere coincidence. You've been following us through the desert for a while, haven't you?"

With an upward sweep of its arms, the Baltoy rattled in affirmation.

Bringing a hand to his chin, Steven nodded, "I thought that might be the case… Aron has been on edge these last couple days. And Beldum started acting strangely too."

The little Baltoy tilted to one side with a hollow whistle as it eyed the pokemon at Steven's side.

He smirked. "That sandstorm was no natural phenomenon either, then. You deliberately separated us from Dusty and brought us here alone. Why?"

As if to answer his question, the sea of Baltoy parted before him, creating a path toward the largest structure in the village. The lone Baltoy crooned a single note, and turned to totter along the path. Steven was quick to follow with Beldum in tow.

As he waded through the crowd, Steven couldn't help but glance in awe at the ruins of the village. Crudely carved pictographs marked the walls of several of the structures, and he could make out symbols that looked just like the pokemon that milled about his feet. He reached out a tentative hand to brush one of the carvings and whispered to Beldum as it hovered close.

"The Baltoy must have lived here in this village for centuries."

Sweeping its eye from the glyphs to the pokemon in question, Beldum chattered in agreement.

As trainer and pokemon moved to follow after their impromptu host, a wailing cry issued from the group of Baltoy off to their right. Startled, Steven turned toward the noise and froze as a new sound joined in. Rumbling and hissing, one of the buildings at the edge of the village lilted to the side and began to disappear into the sand.

Wide-eyed, Steven was able to answer his own question from earlier. "The ruins are sinking. These Baltoy are looking for someone to save their home…"

Suddenly, there was a flood of commotion at his feet, and Steven looked down to find the Baltoy pressing in around him, closing the path from which he came and funneling him towards a large temple-like structure where the lone Baltoy waited at the entryway.

Beldum whined a long melancholy note, and Steven looked at his partner in surprise.

"Beldum, what did you tell them? I can't do anything to save these ruins! Even if I could call my father to get an excavation team out here, by the time they arrived it would be too late."

Still, the wave of Baltoy continued to push Steven along.

"Beldum! You have to tell them I can't do anything to help!"

Instead, Beldum ignored its trainer's pleas and floated off to join the Baltoy at the temple doors.

With a frustrated sigh, Steven allowed the Baltoy to fill in behind him as he followed his starter. As he reached the top of the stone steps, both pokemon darted inside the structure, and Steven ducked through the doorway after them.

Pausing as he stepped through, Steven took in his surrounds. The temple's interior was simple in both scale and adornment, but the object that caught his eye was an altar perched at the mouth of a gaping hole in the floor. Baltoy and Beldum hovered around the edge of the hole, worn and crumbling with age. Cautiously, Steven approached the two pokemon, listening to the floor grate and shift beneath his weight.

As he drew close, Baltoy stopped its movement and teetered at the edge of the opening long enough to meet Steven's gaze with its own before it toppled through.

"Baltoy!"

Steven rushed forward to the spot where it fell, only to discover a set of crumbling stairs leading down into the temple's underbelly. He could hear Baltoy rattling about in the darkness below, but he hesitated to join it. It wasn't the dark that unsettled him; he was perfectly comfortable in the deepest of caves. It was the shifting sand that had him worried. From the conditions of the rest of the ruins, there was no telling how stable the foundation would be.

A low hum sounded at his side, and Steven glanced at his partner. Beldum's gaze was fixed on the spot where Baltoy disappeared.

"You want to follow it?"

Beldum hummed once more and without waiting for Steven's approval, it floated down into the darkness.

Hurriedly, Steven swung his pack off his shoulder and dug through the contents before coming away with his headlamp. Donning the light source, he switched it on and followed after the two pokemon.

The sight that greeted him in the subterranean room left him speechless. Slowly sweeping the beam of light across the space revealed a treasure trove the likes of which he had never seen before. Massive slabs of sandstone rose from the earthen floor, each one adorned with countless fossils in nothing short of immaculate condition. From where he stood frozen at the foot of the stairs, Steven could count at least twenty different fossilized remains of various species.

Quiet rattling snapped Steven's attention away from the fossils, and he looked down to see Baltoy teetering about his feet. Beldum hovered nearby, watching silently.

"Is this the real reason you brought us here, Baltoy?"

At Steven's question, Baltoy wobbled to a halt and swept its arms wide, gesturing at the sandstone monoliths. Beldum floated to join Baltoy and chattered at the sentient clay doll. Baltoy's own hollow rattles echoed about the space in reply, and as Beldum's eye drifted from fossil to fossil before turning toward its trainer, Steven felt his own eyes widen in realization for the second time since they had arrived.

"You didn't bring me here to save the ruins. You brought me here to save your friends…"

Beldum bobbed sagely and Baltoy pirouetted with a happy rattle.

"Then we don't have much time! Beldum, grab my tools, we need to get started right away!"



By the time Steven had made his way through the first few slabs, his back ached and his hands were sore and cramped. He had no idea how long he had been working, but as he chipped his way into the last two fossils of the slab before him, he felt sand trickle down onto his head from the ceiling above. As he spared a moment to glance upward, a low rumble pulsed through the room followed by a rising hiss. Steven's head jerked up in alarm just in time to see the sand sink away from the slab at the rear of the chamber. Its balance compromised, the slab toppled backwards into the foundation wall with a thunderous crash. Steven felt his chest clench as he watched the slab's fossil contents shatter into unrecognizable fragments across the chamber floor.

Weakened by the blow, cracks splintered across the ceiling of the chamber causing rivulets of sand to rain down from above, and Steven knew he was out of time. Feeling a tug on his pant leg, he glanced down to see Aron looking expectantly up at him, barking in earnest.

"I know, time to go."

But as he spoke, his eyes drifted up toward the exit where he caught sight of Baltoy. It excitedly orbited about the fossil Beldum had clutched in its claw, reaching out with its arms to gently brush over the surface of the fossil, crooning a haunting melody. Over the rumbling, Steven swore he could hear more voices join in from outside.

With a newfound determination, Steven turned back to the two fossils in front of him. Ignoring Aron's desperate pleas, Steven plunged back into his work. If he could save just one more…

Even as the sand began to swirl at his feet, he remained locked in concentration as he chiseled around the delicate tendrils of the fossilized remains. He didn't notice Aron sprint from his side to fetch its teammate when the little steel type was unable to drag their trainer away on his own. He hardly heard Beldum's chattering cries as he chipped away at the stone holding the armored claw of the pokemon that was fossilized alongside the first. Squinting through sweat and sand, Steven shouted in triumph as the pair of fossils finally came free from their sandstone prison. However, his joy was short lived as the room rolled sharply to the side as the far corner was swallowed up by the desert sand.

Off balance, Steven was tossed to the ground and he watched helplessly as the fossil pair slipped from his grasp and slid away across the sandy surface. He was on his feet scrambling after the fossils before either Aron or Beldum could stop him. With a diving lunge, Steven managed to land on top of the rogue fossils and he cradled the sample protectively in his arms. As he made to rise to rejoin his pokemon, the ground shifted beneath his feet again and he tumbled backwards towards the churning sand at the edge of the sinking pit. Floor became ceiling, ceiling became floor, and for a brief terror-stricken moment, Steven swore he saw the flash of his life passing before his eyes.

But as suddenly as he began to fall, Steven jerked to a halt as something cool and solid tucked around his waist. Blinking through the sand, he craned upward and caught sight of his savior.

"Beldum?"

A pair of red eyes stared down at him, and he quickly realized that the only thing preventing him and his partner from being dragged into the sinkhole was a blue foreleg wrapped around his midsection and a second blue claw anchored into a slab of sandstone that jutted out overhead.

"You… you evolved!"

A loud growl sounded from somewhere out of view, and Metang's metallic cry echoed across the chamber in reply. Slowly the slab they were clinging to began to slide back away from the sinking sand, and the pair was lifted to safety. As they cleared the edge of the sinkhole, Steven saw Aron tugging the slab in its jaws, while Baltoy pulled backwards on Aron's body with its psychic powers.

But the desert would not be thwarted so easily, and by now the chamber had sunk enough that large sections of ceiling began break free and rain down in deadly chunks. Pausing only a moment to allow Aron and Baltoy to hop onto its head, Metang swiftly shot across the chamber toward the exit.

Too busy dodging the falling debris, Metang's gaze only snapped ahead when Baltoy rattled in alarm. The entry stair had begun to collapse on itself, and the opening was rapidly growing too small for them to pass through. Still hurtling forward at top speed, there was no way for Metang to avoid the impending collision. Throwing one claw up to protect its passengers, Metang cried out in warning. Steven felt his pokemon's leg tighten across his midsection and he closed his eyes, knuckles white as he clutched the hapless pair of fossilized pokemon to his chest.

But the painful collision of stone and steel never came. Prying his eyes open, Steven was greeted with the sight of bright desert sunlight tinted blue through the encompassing barrier of Aron's protect. Free from the sinking temple, Metang slowed to a halt and Aron's shield faded out as it collapsed onto its stomach in exhaustion. Finally released from his partner's grasp onto the sand, Steven let out the breath didn't realize he'd been holding and he shakily rose to his feet, resting a hand on Metang's cool hide for support.

The group turned their collective gaze back at the building they had just escaped to find only tallest peak of the roof still poking out above the desert floor. That had been a very close call… Drawing another slow breath, Steven tried to calm his racing heart when a chorus of rattles sounded from behind.

As he turned back around, the crowd of Baltoy had assembled themselves once again, forming a semi-circle around their leader. Many of the pokemon clutched one of the rescued fossil samples above their heads, and Steven finally remembered that he still held one more pair of fossils in his arms. Quickly kneeling down, he relinquished his grip on the slab and presented it to the Baltoy.

"Here, these are the last two," he bowed his head as the breath hitched in his throat. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to save more of them."

When the weight of the stone was not lifted from his hands, Steven looked up in surprise. The lone Baltoy had shuffled in close and was silently staring up at him. Steven found himself only able to stare back until he felt a cool earthen touch across his fingers. The Baltoy was still gazing up at him, but it eagerly pushed back against the proffered fossils.

Steven blinked in confusion. "I can't keep these, Baltoy. It wouldn't be right to separate them from the others."

But the little clay doll was adamant, and it shoved the fossils back into Steven's arms with a final push and quickly tottered backward to its waiting kin, waving its arms happily about.

Remaining on one knee, Steven lowered his gaze to the fossilized pokemon in his hands. The two prehistoric creatures seemed to be locked in some sort of embrace, frozen in a tangled mess of feathery tendrils and armored plates. He slowly brushed a thumb over their delicate features and his heart began to race again, this time with excitement. There was no doubt that a fossil of this quality could be resurrected in his father's lab.

A short huff brought Steven's attention back to the present, and the weary Aron at his side tilted its head toward where the Baltoy had already begun to take their leave.

Jumping to his feet, Steven called enthusiastically at the receding colony.

"Baltoy! Thank you! I'll look after these two, it's a promise!"

A collective rattle swept across the desert in reply.

Still grinning, Steven's arm fell back to his side as the last of the Baltoy began to disappear from view. It was only after Metang hummed a quiet question that Steven's expression faltered.

With a frantic wave, he shouted across the sand. "Hey, wait! How do we get home?"

A haunting chorus of Baltoy cries drifted across the wind, and Steven felt the prickle of their psychic answer form at the back of his mind. Metang rattled a cry of its own in return, and Steven turned his gaze to his partner.

"Are you psychic types always this mysterious?"

Aron barked with laughter, and Metang's eyes narrowed, unamused. Before his now-evolved starter could try out any of its newly learned moves on its partner, Steven intervened with a grateful rub of both pokemon's heads.

"You guys were great today. I couldn't have saved that many of Baltoy's friends without your help. Metang, your new form is incredible, I can't wait to see how much stronger you've become. And after all that, we've got two new teammates too."

Both pokemon murmured happily as Steven rose, patting his pockets thoughtfully before withdrawing his father's map. As the wind began to pick up, Steven slid a small pencil from his pocket and scribbled a few words next to the northernmost red circle. Satisfied, Steven nodded as he donned his bandana and called to his partners.

"Let's head home."

Hefting the fossil slab in his arms, Steven set off toward the western horizon. Neatly folded in his pocket sat the map, ready to be returned to his father's files.

Site has been thoroughly explored. No discoveries to report. Mark site as "Abandoned".



Although wild pokemon can be elusive, it's been theorized that sometimes they may choose to reveal themselves in order to communicate with humans. As a trainer, it is important to be attentive to the pokemon you encounter in the wild; you never know what they could be trying to tell us.
 
Chapter 5 - Forge New

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Ch. 5 – A day of relaxation in Lilycove becomes more interesting as Steven accidentally finds himself getting swept up into the world of pokemon contests...

Chapter 5 - Forge

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook pg. 15: The path of a trainer doesn't always go through the Pokemon League. Breeders, rangers, coordinators, and other related occupations all require the training skills necessary to form strong bonds with pokemon…



There was something about Lilycove City that gave it a sense of calm despite it being the most populated city in Hoenn. Steven had visited Lilycove several times with his father when he was younger, but exploring the city by himself for the first time made it feel fresh and new. The city itself was spread out over a majority of the rolling coastline, so even though it was lively, it never felt cramped or suffocating; there was always a place to duck out of the hustle and bustle to just sit and relax.

And Steven was ready to do just that as he stepped out of the Lilycove Department Store fully restocked and donning a sleek new jacket. He smiled as he took a deep breath of the salty air. Having grown up in Rustboro, he was no stranger to living in a port city, but he always loved how the air in Lilycove just felt so much cleaner and more refreshing. Sensing that their trainer's errands were done for the day, Steven's team rattled in their pokeballs at his hip. Resting a light hand on his belt, he chuckled.

"Soon, you guys. It's too busy to let you out here, so you'll have to wait until we get to the beach."

Steven had promised to treat his team to an afternoon at the shore when they left the PokeCenter that morning. They could all use a day off, and Steven owed them for looking after him during the aftermath of the Route 121 debacle. But after a morning of shopping for supplies, they were getting anxious. At Steven's insistence, they quieted down while he searched for the best path that would take them to the water's edge.

Stepping off the bustling sidewalk, Steven opted for a more meandering tree-lined path as he wound his way down from the upper shopping district. As he strolled along the quiet pathway, he caught glimpses of the main thoroughfare. While it was normally bustling with activity on any given day, today appeared to be more lively than usual. Not normally interested in seeking out a crowd, today Steven's curiosity got the better of him. He was relatively sure his team would forgive him for a slight detour, so he ducked down the next alley and poked his head out into the street where he was greeted with a festive sight.

Colorful banners fluttered from the light poles, and ribbons adorned various storefronts. People and pokemon filled the streets. Some people hung back for some window shopping, but most of the traffic seemed to flow in the direction of the lower port. Steven craned his head in that direction to see what all the commotion was about, but the sea of people was too thick for him to glean anything useful. He had never been terribly comfortable with the idea of large crowds, but his curiosity was outweighing any apprehension he may have felt. So with one hand resting reassuringly on Metang's pokeball, he steeled his nerves and slipped into crowd, milling his way toward the center of the excitement.



As Steven followed the flow of people toward the southern end of the city, a large building came into view. Also adorned in the colorful décor, the structure's sweeping roof seemed to tower over the vibrant crowds. A seemingly endless stream of visitors moved in and out of the glass doors that sat squarely beneath a large sign declaring the building as the Lilycove Contest Hall. His eyes widened at the grandeur of it all.

Now, he had heard of contests before, having seen other contest halls in various cities during his journey. But none of them had ever been this large, or this busy. As he stood taking it all in, an unusual pair of figures brushed by, catching his attention.

Steven discovered he wasn't the only one who had noticed, as a murmur passed through the crowd. There was a very good reason the duo stood out so much. Dressed far too formally to be a mere tourist, the young, teal-haired boy's cape fluttered in the breeze when he wove his way past where Steven had stopped.

Accompanying the boy was an older gentleman, dressed equally as splendid, and Steven found himself frowning as a spark of recognition dawned in the back of his mind. He wracked his brain trying to recall where he'd seen the older man before, and then it hit him. He held a striking resemblance to the photo he'd seen of Juan, the Gym Leader of Sootopolis City. Steven watched as other people in the crowed stopped to stare as the pair made their way toward the contest hall. If that really was Juan, what would a Gym Leader be doing at a pokemon contest?

From everything he had heard, most trainers who were involved in the Pokemon League challenge didn't care for contest spectaculars, and contest performers generally weren't interested in pokemon battling. Steven knew he fell into the former category, but if Juan had taken interest in contests, perhaps the Gym Leader felt they held some merit when translated from stage to battlefield.

As Steven puzzled over the possibilities of the value of contest moves and battle tactics, the quiet murmur of the crowd rose back up to a dull roar, and a voice sounded loud and clear from just over his shoulder.

"There you are! I've been looking all over for you!"

Steven was perfectly content to ignore this voice, since there logically couldn't have been anyone looking for him in this city. But he wasn't able to ignore the hand that grabbed him by the arm and began to drag him in the direction of the hall.

"W-wait a minute-!" He protested as he was tugged along, but the portly woman who had him by the wrist didn't spare a glance.

"No waiting, you're running late as it is! If you don't hurry, the registration will close before you get there!"

"Registration?"

The lady's voice grew more flustered with every step.

"Oh honey, the registration for your contest of course! You can't just waltz right in there and participate without signing up! That blasted contest pass wouldn't allow online registration ahead of time."

By now the woman had dragged him across the plaza, through the front doors, and across the main lobby of the hall. Steven tried as he might but he could not free his hand from the lady's vice-like grip. He was running out of time to clear up the misunderstanding as they were rapidly approaching the front desk.

"I believe you've got the wrong –"

"Here we are. Now Jeffrey, give the nice receptionist your ID card." And he was roughly shoved forward toward the counter.

Steven froze as he was trapped between the desk and his captor. He didn't need to look to know she was standing behind him; he could hear her breath right next to his ear. He offered his best look of panicked confusion to the receptionist, and at his expression, she skeptically turned her eyes up to the woman looming over his shoulder.

"Ma'am, is this your son?"

"Why of course this is my son! Can't you see the resemblance…"

And at that, the woman finally glanced down at the frazzled trainer she snatched off the street and realized her mistake.

"Good heavens, you're not my Jeffrey!" and without even offering an apology, she dashed back out of the contest hall in search of her actual son.

Steven finally dared to move and he glanced up at the face of his savior. She offered him a friendly smile.

"I thought I recognized you, you're President Stone's boy aren't you? He used to stay at the inn where I worked, and I remembered your face from the pictures he showed me. He would talk about you all the time." The receptionist beamed down at him.

"Although, registration already closed for the last contest in the youth division, so there was no way you'd have gotten to participate anyway. I mean, unless you wanted to."

But the vigorous shaking of Steven's head confirmed her assumption, and she laughed.

"Well then, I'm glad to have helped clear that up. Although since you're here, you might as well stick around to watch. The contests are pretty fun, I think you'll enjoy them. Here, take this pass and you'll be able to get into the main contest hall," she smiled again when Steven began to dig for his wallet. "My treat, to make up for that little misunderstanding."

Steven nodded slowly and accepted the pass the receptionist offered.

"The youth division contests start in 20 minutes, through those doors," she smiled as she gestured to the wall behind her. "I hope you enjoy the show!"

Still rattled, Steven managed to find his manners and offered a bow. He hadn't planned on actually watching any of the contests, but with the pass in hand and the threat of the crazy lady looming outside, he uttered a quick thank you and ducked into the hall.



As the doors to the performance hall slid shut behind him, Steven again found himself stopping to stare. The hall itself was one of several within the building, but the sheer size of it was still staggering. A large stage sat at the center with an impressive centerpiece adorned in twinkling lights. Seats ringed the stage on all sides, and the stands were packed with spectators. Steven spied a few empty seats close to the stage, but quickly saw the reason for them still being vacant; they sat immediately adjacent to the gaggle of rabid participants' parents. With an involuntary shiver, he opted for a quieter seat towards the top of the stands.

Politely, an usher offered him a program as he was settling into his seat. A cursory glance at the booklet told him there would be multiple competitions within each category lasting the better part of the afternoon. Steven was definitely not planning to spend the entire day watching contests, as he still had four impatient pokemon waiting on his belt, but he was willing to give it a shot and at least sit through one of the events.

He thumbed through a few more pages that outlined the rules and prizes before the lights of the hall dimmed. Suddenly, a single spotlight snapped on above the stage and the announcer's voice rang over the loudspeaker.

"Ladies and gentlemen, kids of all ages, welcome to Lilycove's 4th Annual Autumn Grand Festival! Today on the main stage we will be featuring the rising stars of the contest scene in their quest for the Junior Grand Cup!"

The audience applauded as an image of the trophy was projected onto the stage, and a particularly obnoxious cheer rose from the parent's section. Steven winced.

"Please join me in welcoming the participants in the first round. These coordinators and their partners have come from far and wide seeking to become the Kings and Queens of Cool!"

Trying hard not to roll his eyes at the announcer's overly dramatic production, Steven eventually found himself interested as the performers took the stage. Out paraded four pokemon, and Steven's heart fell. He had been hoping one of the contestants would have a pokemon he had never encountered before, but all four were common types he'd already seen in his travels.

As the pokemon posed and postured on the stage to the crowd's oohing and aahing, Steven slouched onto one hand with a disinterested sigh. If the appeal round of the contest was anything like this one, he would find himself at the beach sooner than he thought.

Thankfully, the appeals were more interesting, although Steven had to admit he didn't really understand how the scoring worked. If this were a battle, the Electrike would have already ended the match, enjoying a type advantage over all three of its opponents. But instead, the electric type found itself at the bottom of the score chart. Joining it at the bottom was a Taillow, while the race for first place was neck and neck between a lanky Lombre and Hoenn's happiest Swablu.

Steven watched intently as Lombre got its chance to appeal after Swablu's turn. The crowd gasped as it performed a dizzying teeter dance without spilling a drop of water from its lilypad. Electrike and Taillow shared a nervous glance at the Lombre's intimidating performance. With bated breath, the crowd turned its attention to the little Swablu, but its concentration remained unshaken. It had sheathed itself in a protective cotton guard, and the audience burst into applause. With the other two pokemon unable to perform during their turns, the Swablu seized the opportunity and twirled beneath its cottony wings before striking a regal pose. Caught up in the crowd's excitement, Steven found himself leaning forward in his seat as the Swablu's wings began to shimmer with energy.

With one pump of its wings, Swablu took to the skies and flipped backwards in a wide loop before slicing out over the audience. Its wings had shaped themselves into sleek blades that left a bright trail behind them as it soared. Turning in a tight spiral, Swablu plunged back toward the stage and a gasp rose from the crowd. At the last minute it braked hard with a sharp twist, landing perfectly on its feet. Silence hung in the air for only a moment before the hall erupted with cheering.

"There it is ladies and gentlemen, Blu's signature technique, steel wing! What a brilliant performance to secure the victory!"

The announcer was barely audible over the noise, but Steven didn't need to hear him or the crowd to know that Swablu was the definite winner. That was the coolest move he had ever seen.



Just as the trophy was being presented, Steven slipped out of the contest hall and ducked back out into the bustling plaza. He had seen enough to know that, while enjoyable, contests weren't really his cup of tea. Although he did feel a twinge of disappointment that he didn't get to see that strangely dressed boy compete. Anyone dressed like that was sure to put on a good show. But now it was time to put all that contest nonsense behind him and finally kick back and relax at the beach.

Using the lighthouse as his guide, Steven followed the promenade that traced the edge of the city's southernmost sea wall. It didn't take long for the contest crowds to thin out, and soon he found himself standing in the shadow of Lilycove's famous beacon.

Steven spared only a moment to gaze up at the towering lighthouse before he clambered down the rocky cliff towards the shore below. Lilycove's beaches were quite flat, so when the tide went out, it left large areas filled with shallow pools and plenty of sandy coves to offer a more private place for Steven and his pokemon to relax. Turning his back on the more populated areas of the beach, he skirted along the water's edge until the last colorful umbrella disappeared from view.

Once he found a spot that was sufficiently secluded, Steven removed his shoes and slung them on top of the nearest rock along with his pack. The sandy shore here was narrow, but according to the tide chart on the wall of the Pokemon Center, it wouldn't remain that way for very long. The sand felt warm beneath his feet, and he sighed happily in the ocean breeze.

Finally reaching down, he unclipped four pokeballs from his belt and heaved them into the air all at once.

Four flashes of light shone bright as his team materialized on the sand. Four sets of eyes found his own, each in various stages of wonder and excitement, laced with just a touch of accusation.

"We're here! Sorry it took so long, I didn't intend to get caught up at the contest hall like that," Steven apologized, running a hand through his hair.

Aron and Anorith were quick to forgive him, and they dashed off across the sand with excited energy. Lileep chirped her own forgiveness and sidled up next to the nearest tide pool before gleefully hopping in.

However, Metang hung back and gave its trainer a wary look. Steven held his hands up in defense.

"Trust me, the last thing on my mind was participating in one of those contests. Don't worry, you weren't in any danger of having to perform."

Relief flooded Metang's expression, and it shot one last look at Steven to punctuate the conversation.

"I promise. I plan to never set foot in one of those places ever again."

Finally satisfied, Metang echoed a cheerful cry and it floated off to find a warm patch of sand.

Steven smiled as he watched his team. They had all worked so hard since setting out for Fortree, so a day of relaxation at the beach was more than due. But the beach wasn't only a treat for his pokemon. Rolling his pant legs up, Steven waded out into the surf feeling the cool water lapping at his shins. He had no intention of going for a swim; he was more than content to wander along the shallows to search for anything interesting that may be hiding in one of the many tide pools.

After poking through a few pools with little success, Steven opted to relax on a nearby rock to keep an eye on Anorith and Aron as they playfully wrestled along the water's edge. He hadn't been resting long before a pair of soft voices floated over the shore. Steven turned to the source of the sound, a bit surprised since there weren't many visitors to this secluded section of the waterfront. Just beyond the edge of the rocks, he could see a familiar tuft of gray hair and the ruffle of a rich blue cloak. Rising to his feet, Steven saw that it indeed was the Sootopolis Gym Leader and his young companion. But Aron had also spotted the pair, and before Steven could stop him, he dashed toward them with a sharp bark.

"Aron, wait – !"

Thankfully, Aron wasn't the quietest pokemon, and all of his blustering caught Juan's attention, causing him to turn and face Steven's little group.

"Hoho, you've got quite the energetic pokemon here," Juan said with a small smile as he knelt down to pat Aron on the head.

Before he could issue an apology for Aron's rude behavior, the little steel type quickly calmed beneath Juan's gentle touch. Steven felt his jaw fall slack at the normally feisty pokemon's change in attitude.

"Don't look so surprised," said the teal-haired boy standing at Juan's side. "Master Juan's natural grace has that effect on most pokemon."

Turning his attention to the younger boy he had only caught a glimpse of earlier, Steven finally got a good look at Juan's companion. The boy was about his age but slightly taller, and was dressed in the same strikingly elegant manner as his Master. His bright blue eyes were the last bit of evidence Steven needed to piece together that he was a native Sootopolitan.

"Didn't anyone ever teach you that staring is rude? Although, I can understand why, you must have seen me perform during the contest," he said, accompanied by a light flourish of his hand.

Startled by the boy's haughty tone, Steven blinked and quickly averted his gaze back down to where Aron sat contentedly.

"Now, Wallace, that kind of attitude is hardly becoming of the next Top Coordinator of Hoenn," chided Juan, as he rose from the sand. "Our young friend here was simply waiting for you to properly introduce yourself."

A look of embarrassment swept over the boy's face at his Master's admonishment. Juan turned back to Steven as he continued.

"Judging by the pokemon you have with you, I assume you are a trainer, no? Then you may already know who I am, but please allow me to formally introduce myself regardless. I am Juan, the Sootopolis City Gym Leader, and this is my apprentice, Wallace." Both master and student offered sweeping bows.

Steven offered a small bow of his own, "My name is Steven and it is an honor to meet you both. I have to apologize though, Wallace, I'm sorry to say that I didn't see you at the youth division contests."

But instead of looking surprised or offended as Steven thought he might, Wallace instead laughed lightly and Juan smiled knowingly at his student's reaction.

"Hohoho, there's a good reason why you didn't see Wallace in the youth contest."

Wallace piped up to finish Juan's thought.

"That's because I compete in the adult division, mainly in the Super Class. It's a shame you missed today's contest though, it was my first time competing in the Hyper Class."

Steven uttered a quiet, "Whoa." He hadn't been expecting Wallace to be competing against adults, let alone at such a high level. It was impressive. And intimidating.

Wallace heard him and shrugged.

"I didn't win, but I certainly put on an entertaining performance. Although once Victoria evolves, she'll be unstoppable."

"Victoria?"

Grinning, Wallace flicked his head in the direction of the ocean behind him. "My Feebas."

Peeking over Wallace's shoulder, Steven caught sight of the ruddy brown fish Wallace called his partner.

"You win contests with a Feebas?" Steven wracked his brain for the contest categories he learned about that afternoon. "She must be smart, or tough, right? I've heard Feebas are very hardy."

At this, Wallace balked, mouth agape in shock. "Absolutely not! Victoria is beautiful, look at the luster of her scales and the silky texture of her fins!"

Steven blinked in confusion, but Wallace took no notice as he continued the rebuttal of such a great offense to his pokemon.

"…And look at the deep color of her tail fin. That means she's close to evolving."

"A sure sign of the bond you two share from all your hard work at the Gym," Juan beamed down at his apprentice.

At mention of the Gym, Steven snapped back to attention. "So does that mean you're a trainer too?"

Wallace swept a hand to his heart, "Why of course! I'm going to take over the Gym for Master Juan one day. It is my dream to become the next water-type master of beauty and battle."

Steven's expression brightened. "That means when I come to the Sootopolis Gym, we'll get to battle?"

Sensing its trainer's excitement, Metang floated up to Steven's side with an inquisitive hum.

Wallace eyed the pair and broke into a wicked grin, "It would be my pleasure to dispose of your team so that Master Juan won't have to waste his time on you… If you even make it that far."

Finding himself grinning in return, Steven let the jab roll off his back. He knew that Wallace would be a tough opponent, having trained his pokemon in high level contests and in battle under the direct supervision of a Gym Leader, but Steven had confidence in his team. Like it or not, his road to the Pokemon League would take him through Sootopolis, and through Wallace.

He extended a hand to the trainer and coordinator extraordinaire, "Then you've got yourself a challenger."

Eyebrows raised, Wallace looked down his nose to consider the handshake before flicking his gaze back up to Steven's own.

"It certainly appears that way," he said, as their hands met.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is time for us to take our leave," Juan said casually, as he produced a pokeball from beneath his coat. "The trip back to Sootopolis isn't terribly long, but I'd rather not be caught out on the ocean at night."

In a flash, a Lapras materialized in the waves and Juan gracefully slipped onto its back.

Flashing a winning smile, Juan continued, "Steven, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I eagerly await your official Gym challenge."

Wallace fluttered a wave in Steven's direction as he hopped up to join his Master.

"I look forward to the day you come up with a pokemon that can bring you to Sootopolis. Until then, ta-ta!" And with a final wave from Juan, the pair took their leave across the waves.

As Lapras's silhouette faded into the horizon, Steven found himself paused mid-wave from Wallace's parting words.

"…A pokemon that can take me to Sootopolis?"

Still puzzled, he turned to face his team, and as Metang blinked up at him, the realization set in.

"You can't carry me all the way to Sootopolis, can you?"

With a dejected sigh, Metang shook its head, and Steven frowned.

"I haven't caught any water or flying types yet either," he mused as he brought a hand to his chin in thought.

Truthfully, he was never really enamored with either type, preferring to spend his time with two feet planted firmly on solid ground. But as things were shaping up, he'd have to pick one. So which one should he pick?

It was an easy task to find water pokemon in Hoenn; the region was practically drowning in the type considering how many cities and towns were located right at the ocean's edge. But for Steven, he preferred to trek deep into the landlocked areas filled with caves and mountains, neither of which were ideal environments for a water type.

That left him with the option of a flying type pokemon. It would certainly be much more practical when it came to traveling around Hoenn. But of all the flying type pokemon he had seen, none stood out in his mind as one he would prefer to train. His mind drifted to the little Swablu he had seen in the contest that day and he grimaced. Fluffy really wasn't his thing. And then he remembered. The brilliant steel wing attack from the contest reminded him of a pokemon he had seen only once at the Fortree Gym.

"We're going to catch a Skarmory."

Steven grinned at his pokemon's eager expressions. They too were excited to add a new member to the team.



The rest of the day passed peacefully, and Steven and his pokemon remained at the shore until the sand turned to bronze and their shadows grew tall in the setting sun. Aron and Anorith had run themselves ragged and were now sleeping in a heap next to Steven's pack. After her fellow fossil pokemon had tuckered out, Lileep found her way to Steven's side as he waded through the rocky tide pools with Metang in search of interesting stones.

Coming up empty again, Steven stretched as he stood to his full height.

"What do you think, had enough for today?" he asked, eyeing the horizon as the sun dipped behind Lilycove's skyline.

Metang echoed a quiet cry as it mimicked Steven's stretching motion. The day in the sun had taken its toll on the group, but Steven was happy. His pokemon had clearly enjoyed themselves, and it felt good to take a break from their journey to have fun and relax. As studious as he tended to be, Steven still appreciated the value of a day off.

He waded over to Metang's side and plopped down on the quickly cooling sand. As he gently brushed some stray sand from his partner's hide, he felt something underneath the water brush against his legs. Peering down at his feet, he was greeted by Lileep enthusiastically bursting to the surface, chirping and trilling as she showered Steven and Metang with briny seawater.

Rattling with displeasure, Metang gave Lileep a sour look, but the anemone pokemon was too pleased with herself to notice. She waggled her tentacles to get rid of the rest of the water, much to Metang's dismay, and with a happy croon she held up her find for Steven to see.

Still sputtering from Lileep's surprise arrival, Steven reached out to pluck the shimmering object from her tendrils. His eyes grew wide as he realized what his pokemon had found.

"Is this… a water stone?"

Lileep chirped again, eyes winking into gleeful crescents.

Steven slowly turned the evolutionary stone over in his hands, wiping away at the grime that partially obscured its surface. Chagrin momentarily forgotten, Metang hovered close to curiously peer down at the rare treasure.

Satisfied it was clean enough, Steven lifted the stone up into the waning sunlight, and Metang and Lileep both chattered in awe. The light seemed to dance through its facets, illuminating swirls of deep blues and sea greens. Steven couldn't help but notice how the constantly shifting colors reminded him of a certain water-type trainer, and his eyes drifted toward the ocean beyond.

Picking up on its trainer's nervous energy, Metang turned its gaze to Steven in an unspoken question.

Considering the stone in his hands one more time, Steven offered his partner a confident smile. He hadn't felt this competitive spark in a long time.

"We won't lose. When we're done, Wallace won't even know what hit him."



Trainers come from all walks of life. The experiences each trainer carries with him or her will shape the way they grow and compete. Try to meet as many fellow trainers as you can on your journey, and share your own experiences with others.
 
Chapter 6 - Lesson New

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
Ch. 6 – The sleepy town of Dewford gives Steven a painful lesson about the challenges of becoming a pokemon trainer...

AN: This chapter contains a series of flashbacks interspersed with the narrative. Hopefully it's clear from the writing, but please note that flashback sections start and end with a separate line of "..." due to formatting issues in transferring the text site-to-site. Thanks for reading, and any feedback is welcome.

Chapter 6 - Lesson

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook Tip #6: The Pokemon League Challenge is designed to put you and your pokemon to the test. It is important to consider how to support each other's strengths and weaknesses as you build your team of six…



Steven blinked slowly as the world swam back into view. It took a moment for his eyes to focus in the dark, and as they did he was acutely aware of the warm prickle of tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

From where he lay, he had a first class view of the cave's stone floor. The distinctive briny smell of seawater filled his nose while the sounds of trickling water echoed through the chamber. The ground was cool and clammy against his cheek, but the rest of his body felt as if it was on fire. A careful mental triage for the source of his discomfort was interrupted by the persistent burning of his eyes, and he found himself blinking back tears once again.

Stirring in an attempt to wipe the offending seawater from his lashes, a searing pain sliced down his right side, cutting through whatever grogginess still remained and Steven was forced to clamp his mouth shut to keep from crying out. Stinging saltwater was old news. This pain was overpowering, dulled only by the intense throbbing of his head.

Gingerly, he raised the only hand that would obey to cradle the back of his skull. It was no surprise when his fingers found something wet; the wave had thoroughly soaked him after all. But he couldn't keep his hand from trembling as he brought it back into view. The dim light of the cavern was enough for him to tell that the wetness smeared across his fingertips wasn't seawater as he had hoped. That was blood.

With a shaky breath, Steven lowered his bloodied hand down to his side, but a fresh spasm of pain sent it flying back to clutch his opposite shoulder. A short glance in that direction sent his stomach churning as he saw the sickening roll of his shoulder beneath his shirt. Trailing his gaze down the unresponsive arm made his heart sink further, finding it splayed across the ground at an awkward angle. It was likely dislocated, or broken, or both.

Steven screwed his eyes shut in frustration. Of all the excursions his father had taken him on when he was younger, he never found himself in any danger. He had always paid close attention to his father's teachings when it came to exploring caves and caverns. He and Beldum had even taken the proper precautions before they entered this one. And yet he still somehow managed to have his first solo adventure end up in disaster…



...

His journey had started successfully enough. Opting to travel to Petalburg right after graduation, it proved to be a simple task to acquire his first Gym badge. The Gym's grass-type pokemon could barely dent Beldum's defenses and they quickly succumbed to the little steel-type's physical attacks. After securing the proof of his victory in his badge case, Steven took to wandering around Petalburg for some sightseeing to celebrate. Unfortunately, the city proved to be too flat and pastoral for his taste, and there weren't many geologically interesting areas to explore. Petalburg Woods, while beautiful, didn't pique his curiosity enough for a second visit. Even the beachfront along Route 104 featured soft rolling dunes instead of the rocky cliffs that surrounded his hometown.

Steven sighed as he wandered back into Petalburg with Beldum floating along at his side. Lazily stretching with one hand, he idly scrolled through his PokeNav's map with the other.

"Well, I'm all out of ideas, Beldum. Where should we go next?"

Beldum hummed as Steven rattled off a few options as they walked.

"Mauville's probably the closest city with a Gym. We could hike the Rusturf Hills along the way. Or there's Lavaridge's Gym, although I heard the Leader there is really fierce; he used to be part of the Elite Four…"

As the pair continued to brainstorm, their path carried them down to Petalburg's harbor. As they strolled past the docks, a friendly voice came from nearby, causing Beldum to chirp and rousing Steven from his musings.

"If you're lookin' for a Gym battle, I hear one just opened up a few months ago in Dewford."

Glancing over toward the water, Steven saw a bored looking sailor leaning up against a railing. The man stubbed out his cigarette in response to Steven's quizzical expression and continued.

"Heard it moved there from Slateport as a way to drum up some tourism. Rumor has it they tailored it toward rookie trainers, since they're tryin' to attract lots of visitors. Should be an easy match if you managed to hold your own at Petalburg's Gym."

Steven's eyes narrowed. "How did you know I challenged the Petalburg Gym? Were you there for a Gym challenge yourself?"

"Heh, nah," the sailor shrugged. "There's not a lot to do in this town on leave, so I like to sit and people watch. I just remember seeing you leaving the Gym yesterday lookin' pretty pleased about something."

"Oh."

Beldum chattered in amusement, and Steven splayed his hand across its vision to try to quiet the laughing pokemon. Getting the hint, Beldum settled down and ducked out from under Steven's hand so it could nudge against the PokeNav in its trainer's other hand.

"An' since Dewford is trying to draw in more tourists, there's an incentive for boats to take on passengers if they're sailing by. So if you're interested, we can take you there no problem," said the sailor with a jab of his thumb toward the boats bobbing in the harbor behind him.

Steven eyed the ships carefully before he took a step back. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm not really sure..."

The sailor stopped him with a raised hand and a smile. "Take your time. You don't have to give me an answer right now. We don't leave port until tomorrow evening anyway."

As Steven bid the sailor farewell and turned to leave, Beldum began to chirp in earnest from his side.

"Hmm?"

Beldum nudged his hand eagerly and Steven quirked an eyebrow, bringing his PokeNav up so he could see the screen. During his chat with the sailor, Beldum had managed to scroll the map down to Dewford Town and had toggled the town's description. As Steven read through the text, his eyes lit up.

"It says here that there's a pretty sizeable cave along the northern shore of the island. You may be on to something, Beldum. That would definitely be something worth checking out."

The little steel type bobbed happily and Steven smiled.

"You want to go to Dewford, huh? Fine then, we'll go explore that cave and get our second Gym badge too."

The sailor had been watching their hushed conversation with amusement, and he grinned as Steven walked back toward him with a determined look in his eye.

"I think we'll be taking you up on that offer for passage to Dewford."

"You betcha! Be back here tomorrow at 4 'o clock and bring your seafaring legs."

Steven smiled as he thanked the sailor. It looked as if his good fortune was going to continue on the road toward his second badge.

...



Steven groaned as he wiped the salt water away from his eyes. Now that he was finally able to keep his eyes open, he realized hadn't the faintest idea where he currently was.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. He knew he was still somewhere within the walls of Granite Cave… At least, he hoped. The only way to know for sure was to pick himself up off the ground and get a good look at his surroundings. Of course, that was easier said than done, considering the fact that at some point he had also plummeted several feet down into the lower levels of the cave before arriving at his current resting place.

The way he had fallen left him lying on his back with his left side jammed up against the wall of the cavern, leaving him no room to try to prop himself up on his uninjured arm. Any attempts at pushing away from the wall were met with intense pain from his shoulder, and simply trying to sit upright was made difficult by the fact that his right hip screamed in protest from the slightest motion.

With a defeated sigh, he let his head fall back to the ground and immediately regretted the action. His view of the shadowy cave ceiling pulsed with every throb of his aching head, and Steven squeezed his eyes shut to stop the dizzying sensation.

Once the room stopped spinning, his mind started racing. The only other thing he knew for sure was that just a short time ago, he and Beldum were training in the cave's main chamber, and right now he was lying somewhere else with no sign of his partner anywhere. He somehow still had Beldum's ball attached to his belt; he could feel it pressing into his hip. But that was all he had with him at the moment. His pack and all of his caving supplies were nowhere to be seen. The force of the water must have ripped it from his grasp as it sent him hurtling through the cave.

If he only still had his bag… He had packed a medical kit, food, water, a light source, plenty of rope and climbing gear. But all of his supplies were gone; swept away to some location unknown, leaving him alone, injured, and armed with the growing fear that there was a very good chance he might not make it out of here…



...

Given that the Gym in Dewford was so new, there was hardly any information for Steven to do proper research on the way there. What he did know was that the old Slateport Gym showcased poison type pokemon, designed to push trainers to their limits with lengthy and tedious battles. By owning a dual steel and psychic type pokemon, it meant he would have an easy time if Dewford kept its predecessor's typing.

Which is why Steven's heart sunk when stepped through the doors of Dewford's Gym and he saw the rusty red color of the Gym's insignia.

"Welcome, challenger, to Dewford's premiere fighting-type Gym! I hope you and your pokemon are pumped up and ready to rumble!"

The Gym Leader's voice echoed across the expanse of exercise machines and free weights, and Steven nearly managed to backpedal his way to the exit before he was surrounded by the Gym's enthusiastic junior trainers.

"Hey now, no need to be shy. My name's Jude, and there's only one thing I like more than a good pokemon battle, and that's when trainers show their confidence and give it their all; win or lose."

By the looks of it, Jude was a strong trainer who had been around a gym or two in his life. In short, he was an intimidating man, and Steven could feel his heart beating in his chest as he weighed his options. Beldum still hadn't learned any psychic type moves that would give them the advantage. Takedown would be effective, but coupled with the heavy damage of fighting type moves he certainly didn't like their odds of being able to dodge every attack that came their way. Steven kept quiet as he felt everyone's eyes on him while the Gym Leader spoke up again.

"You'll have to face two of my junior trainers before you'll be allowed to take me on. The good news is there's no challengers ahead of you at the moment, so there's no wait at all," Jude gave Steven a small smile as he ran a hand through his spiky hair. "Look, I can tell you're nervous. My advice is: don't be. After all, the most important part of a Gym challenge is being able to show that you and your pokemon are getting stronger, right?"

"Oh oh, Dad, can I battle him?" A boy with similarly spiky hair bounced up through the crowd of junior trainers waving his arm excitedly.

"Nah, Brawly. You should save your strength for tomorrow's challengers," Jude offered a sly wink. "Besides, we want to make sure the challenger here at least has a fair shot of making it through to face me."

Steven winced. If only Jude knew how much of a handicap Beldum would really need to get through just one battle against a fighting-type opponent…

"Julianna, why don't you take the first round. Now, challenger, what did you say your name was?"

Steven barely managed to squeak out his name before a hand patted him on the shoulder. He turned to see the boy named Brawly smiling at him.

"Hey, you got this."

But Steven didn't share Brawly's conviction as he watched the first trainer's Machop materialize on the Gym floor. And just as he predicted, it didn't take long for his earlier worries to come true.

From the first command, Beldum was tossed around like a sentient piece of gym equipment, and Steven watched helplessly as his partner was bunted across the Gym in a flurry of swift striking attacks. He could barely contain his embarrassment as he collected his battered partner and swiftly exited the Gym, unable to meet either Jude or Brawly's concerned eyes on the way out.



After a nervous wait at the Pokemon Center, Steven couldn't bring himself to put Beldum's ball back on his belt. Holding its pokeball a little too tightly, he found himself wandering through Dewford's streets, lost in thought. The little town didn't stretch very far beyond the heart of the Gym and PokeCenter, so as Steven kept walking, civilization quickly faded into rocky beaches and choppy gray waves.

The beaches were nearly empty in the sleepy tourist town, although Steven barely noticed. He was on autopilot, simply going as far as his legs would carry him. Away from Dewford, away from that Gym, and away from where he utterly failed his partner.

He was only snapped from his trance as the pokeball he clutched in his hands began to shake so violently he couldn't hold on any more. Dropping it as if it had burned him, the ball landed on the sand and burst open in a flurry of chatters and chirps.

Steven flinched and immediately flew into an apology. "Beldum, I'm so sorry, I should have prepared better – "

But he was silenced with a gentle touch of cool steel on his forehead.

"Beldum?"

A low whine came from his starter and Steven guessed at its meaning.

"You're not mad at me?"

A red eye blinked as its head waggled in the negative.

"Then, what should we do now? You know as well as I do we can't take that Gym on again. At least, not until we get stronger."

Beldum floated back and hummed before turning its eye down the beach leading even further away from town. Steven squinted against the sunlight to follow Beldum's gaze and he could just make out some rocky outcroppings rising out of the sand.

"Did you want to go there to train?"

With happy chattering, Beldum circled its trainer once before taking off like a rocket down the beach.

And that's how Steven found himself sprinting after his partner towards the yawning entrance of Granite Cave.

...



Steven was startled from his thoughts by the sound of low breathing at close proximity. His skin prickled from the warm air that brushed his neck as the nearby creature shuffled about in the darkness.

He wasn't sure what kind of pokemon lived in the lower levels of Granite Cave, but based on all of the literature he had read on the subject, there was a high probability that whatever it was wouldn't be averse to sinking their teeth into something warm and fleshy. The thought nearly made him shiver, but he held his breath and willed himself to remain still, hoping and praying that this visitor wasn't a Sableye.

But the owner of the inquisitive sniffing didn't leave, and it wasn't long before he felt a sharp nip at the back of his head. With a yelp, Steven curled up as much as he could and wrapped his good arm protectively around the back of his head. He hoped that was enough to show whatever tried to take a bite out of him that he was indeed still alive and very much not pleased with the idea of becoming its snack. Although if that failed, there wasn't much he could do to fend off a hungry pokemon, so he braced himself for the next attack.

But instead of the stab of sharp claws or piercing fangs, Steven only felt a rough, sandpapery scuffing along the back of his fingers. He froze out of sheer confusion at the situation. As the less-than-ferocious prodding continued along his forearm and then moved along to the back of his neck, a realization struck. Was this pokemon licking him like an oversized treat?

Spurred by equal parts curiosity and determination, Steven groaned as he managed to shift himself so he could get a look at the friendly visitor. When he craned his head in the direction of the serial-licker, he came face to face with a pair of blue eyes set deep in two silvery sockets.

He only had enough time to figure out the pokemon species before it uttered a startled squeak and bolted back into the shadows.

Steven sighed, relieved that the little Aron didn't pose a significant mauling threat. But the visit did raise another concern. He needed to somehow get out of this predicament and back to the upper levels of the cave before another less-friendly pokemon took interest in his presence.

Without anything to grab onto to pull himself away from the cavern wall, he gave a resigned sigh; the only way out of this was not going to be pleasant.

Placing his forearm against the wall and bending his left knee so that his heel was firmly planted on the floor beneath him, Steven took a deep breath and pushed with all his might. The force of the push was enough to roll him away from the wall from his back to his stomach, but at a high price. A cry of anguish ripped from his throat as his dislocated shoulder was ground into the stone floor with a sickly popping sound. It took everything he had to fight the urge to vomit as he lay panting from the pain. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he tried to reassure himself that if nothing else, at least Beldum might be able to locate him from his screams…



...

Steven's voice echoed around the cavern as he called out to his partner.

"Beldum, get ready for the next attack!"

The wild Makuhita dusted itself off from Beldum's take down attack and took an offensive stance.

"That's an arm thrust, keep moving until it stops swinging!"

Beldum chattered in reply as Makuhita lunged, hand outstretched. It ducked under the first blow and bobbed around the second, and Steven frowned. While this was valuable training to learn how to dodge fighting type moves, the wild Makuhita were sloppy compared to their Gym trained counterparts. He and Beldum would need to step up their training even further if they were to truly be able to stand a chance at a rematch.

Since setting foot inside Granite Cave, Steven found that it was full of surprises. The dark, cramped interior he had been expecting in a sea cave such as this was nowhere to be found. Instead, the main chamber swelled into an enormous volume with a ceiling that soared high overhead. Whatever sounds Steven expected to hear were drowned out by the murmur of the ocean which seemingly came from the cavern walls themselves. The roof of the cave was punctuated with multiple openings worn smooth from the wind and waves, and sunlight filtered down into the chamber where it danced and sparkled in the many pools of water that dotted the cave floor. With such a bright, open structure, it was no wonder that the cave was practically teeming with pokemon that wouldn't normally call a cave their home.

Eager to take advantage of the unique pokemon population, Steven and Beldum dove head-first into challenging any fighting type pokemon they could find. Soon they found themselves delving deeper and deeper into the cave, always alert to find the next opponent.

This Makuhita would mark their eighth battle, but as he watched the Makuhita's movements, he found himself frowning again. The wild pokemon had begun to prepare another attack, but instead of striking out, it hesitated, cocking its head to one side before casting a short glance over its shoulder. Beldum blinked as it too noticed the strange behavior.

But Steven shook his head and redoubled his focus. They couldn't afford to get distracted, even if it was just a wild pokemon.

"Beldum, finish it with take down!"

His partner hesitated, as if it was considering something. Confusion flashed across Steven's face. Beldum had never shown itself to be disobedient before. But even as the thought crossed his mind, Beldum chirped and launched its attack.

But as Beldum closed in on its opponent, the wild pokemon did something Steven had never seen before. Instead of standing its ground, the Makuhita turned tail and fled from Beldum's attack.

"What the… Beldum, after it!"

Steven had become fixated so single mindedly on their training that he had forgotten to always remain attentive to his surroundings.

He should have remembered the warning in the passage about sea caves that he read on the boat ride to Dewford. He should have paid more attention to the nervous way Beldum had chattered as it glanced toward the large opening in the cavern floor before it attacked. He should have guessed what was about to happen from the way the faint gurgle of the sea amplified into a dull roar in a matter of moments. But he didn't. And because of that, the only thing he could recall when the wave pushed through the nearby blowhole was chaos.

In an instant, Steven's world was swallowed by roaring and crashing and tumbling. Fighting for air and trying not swallow too much seawater at the same time. Clawing for purchase on anything that could hold him back against the rush of water and coming up empty. The sharp sting of raking against the roughly hewn passage walls as the force of the wave pushed him deeper into the heart of the cave. The sensation of falling, the jolting lurch of his stomach as the smooth cavern stone vanished from beneath his haphazard trajectory. How quickly the darkness painted the walls the same color as the floor as he fell, and even if he knew which way was up, he couldn't have seen how quickly the stone rushed up to greet him. Unable to brace for impact, the crunching blow of suddenly meeting the cavern floor below sent starbursts of pain flashing across eyes that were squeezed shut against the terror of it all. Gentle tumbling as the last of the water flooded around his limp form, slowly being nudged along in the tide until coming to rest with finality. And then silence.

...



He wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed since he managed to roll himself onto his stomach. However long it was, it gave the inquisitive Aron enough time to regather its courage and make another appearance at Steven's side. Except it wasn't empty handed. Steven blinked as he propped himself up with one arm.

"Is… is that my pack?"

He was puzzled as to how Aron managed to find it in the first place, or even how it knew that it belonged to him, but he was too thrilled to inquire any further. Aron just delivered his lifeline out of here.

Gritting his teeth, he tried to pick himself up off the ground only to find it a lot more difficult than he imagined. He gasped as his hip made its displeasure known, but then he felt something cool and sturdy press into his chest from below. Aron had wedged itself under him and pressed slowly upward, balancing Steven's unsteady ascent.

With Aron's help, Steven finally found himself upright, and whatever relief he felt was quickly snuffed as his gaze settled on the ladder at the far end of passage. Faint light spilled down from above, bathing his escape route in some sort of heavenly blessing, and he scoffed at the irony of the situation.

"You've got to be kidding me."

But, he wouldn't be deterred so easily. If his father's friend in Sinnoh could continue to work in the Underground after an unfortunate mining accident, he could climb a ladder with one arm. He would just have to get creative.

Diving hungrily into his pack, he quickly attended to whatever injuries he could. A strip of cloth for a sling. A few gauze pads to dab at his bleeding head. And a mental note to examine his hip more thoroughly once he was back at the surface.

Satisfied with his rudimentary first aid, Steven cradled his makeshift sling against his chest and shakily lurched to his feet. The room spun again, and it took every ounce of strength to stay upright, his hip screaming in protest. Aron was quickly at his side, barking in nervous concern.

Swallowing thickly, Steven waved Aron off before slowly limping his way over to the ladder. Leaning heavily on the rungs for support, he glanced back at his pack, hoping Aron would get the message.

"Rope, I need rope."

Following Steven's gaze, Aron quickly trotted over to retrieve the pack and rifled around inside before producing the item in question in its jaws. Steven beamed down at the helpful pokemon as a realization struck. This Aron must have belonged to someone previously. There's no way a wild Aron could be this friendly or this intelligent without prior training.

As he set to work with one hand in fashioning the harness his father had taught him, he could only wonder why a trained Aron would be wandering around Granite Cave alone. What had happened to its trainer? Steven frowned as he fumbled with the knots. It certainly wasn't unheard of for trainers to meet an untimely demise by getting too curious for their own good. He shivered to think how close he had come to being a tick mark in the column of that statistic. But he had his pack, and he had a friend, and he was going to get himself out of here.

He worked quickly to loop the harness around himself and tie it off behind the ladder, getting some help from Aron to make sure his hitches were snug. Taking a deep breath, he tested the ropes as he hoisted himself up onto the first rung. With a silent prayer that his strength could hold out until he reached the top, he looked back toward Aron with a smile that he hoped didn't look too much like a grimace.

"I'll see you at the top."



It felt like an eternity since he had unhitched himself from the makeshift harness, but the way his breath only came in short panting gasps told him the injuries from his fall would not be easily ignored.

It hadn't taken Aron long to join him at the upper level of the cave, easily skirting through the narrow tunnels that its species was known for digging, and the little pokemon was even thoughtful enough to bring Steven's pack along too.

Steven reached for his pack and rummaged through to find his canteen, wincing as the motion jostled his injured shoulder. Curious, Aron trotted up to Steven's side and peered up to watch as he fumbled with unscrewing the cap. Noticing the pokemon's gaze, he frowned as he managed to get the cap off but dropped it to the ground.

"You try doing this with one good arm," he quipped dryly, but smiled as Aron retrieved the cap in its jaws and waited for Steven to take several gulps before dropping it in his palm. "Thanks, Aron."

Taking a moment to simply breathe and try to relax his weary body, Steven didn't notice as the nosy Aron began its own rummaging through his pack. When its steel snout made contact with something solid, the sound alerted Steven to what it was doing, but he was too slow, and suddenly Aron disappeared in a flash of red light.

"Oh no…"

Reaching into his pack, Steven withdrew a single pokeball, blinking red and quaking ever so slightly in his palm. Somehow Aron had managed to bump the toggle on an empty pokeball and got itself captured inside.

Steven sighed and set the pokeball on the ground. It was an accidental capture, and Aron would break free with little trouble. But as he watched the pokeball shake back and forth, the red indicator eventually blinked out and Aron never re-emerged.

Hesitantly, Steven reached for the ball and toggled the release. Flashing bright, Aron reappeared and barked as it stared back at its new trainer.

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Steven couldn't deny how pleased the little Aron looked, so he sighed again. "Well, welcome to the team, I guess."



Thankfully, Steven had to admit that walking was easily the least stressful activity when it came to navigating his way out of Granite Cave. Aron had taken it upon itself to carry Steven's pack on its back, and despite how tired he felt, he couldn't help but crack a smile at the comically overburdened pokemon bobbing along on four stubby legs in front of him.

They had arrived back at the main chamber some time ago, but Steven knew he still had to find his partner before they could exit the cave. Night had long since fallen, and the cavern took on a soft moonlit glow that, while beautiful, made searching the darkness for Beldum a bit tricky.

Confident that the newest addition of his team could protect him from any wild pokemon he might disturb, Steven abandoned caution and cupped a hand to his mouth.

"Beldum! Where are you?"

His voice echoed off the glistening walls and he strained to hear his partner's distinctive call in return.

When he heard nothing but silence, Steven tried again. He had a feeling Beldum would be frantically searching for him as well, and it was only a matter of time before it heard his calls.

This time the sound of faint chattering made it to his ears, and Steven smiled. He quickly caught sight of a blue blur rapidly making its way toward him, the chattering increasing in pitch as it drew near.

But his smile faltered as a protective bark sounded at his feet.

"Aron, wait!" he called out as Aron shed its load and took a flying leap at the incoming Beldum. "It's okay, this is my partner, it's a friend!"

Aron stopped its charge and eyed Beldum warily, while the pokemon in question slowed to a halt and chattered at him angrily. Steven sighed and beckoned Beldum close with a hand before greeting it with a one-armed hug.

"You have no idea how glad I am to see you," he smiled as he looked down to where his other pokemon sat. "Aron, meet your teammate. Beldum, this is Aron, the newest addition to our team." At Steven's gentle introduction Aron seemed to calm down, although it didn't stop Beldum from shooting it a nasty glare, still tucked under Steven's arm.

Steven didn't miss his starter's attitude, and he quickly admonished its behavior. "Be nice. Aron's probably never seen one of your kind before. Besides, I doubt I'd even be standing here right now if it wasn't for his help."

With its trainer's admission, Beldum's gaze softened, and it chirped a quiet apology at Aron, who rumbled his own apology in return.

But Beldum's calm demeanor was short lived as it finally took in Steven's haggard appearance. Wiggling its way out of Steven's grasp, it flitted nervously about and Steven weakly waved a hand to try to calm it down.

"It's not as bad as it looks," he tried to sound as confident as he could. "But I don't think we'll be going back to challenge the Gym any time soon."

Beldum whined a low note that told Steven he wasn't as convincing as he could have been about his condition. Meanwhile, Aron sat silently by, cocking its head to the side in thought. In an effort to appease his starter, Steven shuffled toward the exit and beckoned for his team to follow.

"I've had enough of this cave. Let's head back to town."



The sun was just beginning to slip above the eastern shore as Steven limped into Dewford Town with Aron and Beldum in tow. The town somehow looked even sleepier in the morning light. With little else to do but cater to tourism, none of the locals seemed to be up and about in the center of town at such an early hour.

To Steven, it was both a blessing and a curse that they arrived so early in the morning. He was sure their little group was a sorry sight to behold as they trudged into town, haggard and worn. But on the other hand, he would have been quite grateful if there were any townsfolk around to point him in the direction of the nearest hospital.

But it appeared as if Aron had other ideas, as it happily trotted along until it came to a halt in front of the Gym doors with a short bark.

Steven glanced down at his newest pokemon with a weary expression.

"Aron, what are you doing?"

However, the little steel type proceeded to ignore his trainer. Removing the pack from his back he placed it gently to the side and moved back in front of the doors before settling patiently onto his haunches, waiting for the Gym to open for the day.

Beldum hovered nervously at Steven's side, its eye darting between its two companions.

Relinquishing the white-knuckled grip on his injured arm, Steven reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose in exasperation. His head hadn't stopped pounding since emerging from Granite Cave and he wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to stay upright in this condition.

"Aron, we can't challenge the Gym right now. You're weak to fighting type moves, and Beldum doesn't know any psychic attacks yet. We need to train more before we come back."

But Aron had already made up its mind and no amount of coaxing from Steven or Beldum would get him to budge. So with a tired sigh, Steven waited with his pokemon outside the Dewford Gym until the doors slid open promptly at 7 AM.

"Looks like we've got ourselves an early bird challenger today!" Jude's voice rang out as he removed his key from the lock, but he faltered when he caught sight of the disheveled boy standing before him. "Oh my, what happened, trainer? Are you okay?"

Again, Steven found himself intimidated by the muscular Gym Leader, but he managed a nod.

"I'll be fine. Please, if you've got an opening in your schedule, we're here for a rematch."

Jude blinked as he looked Steven over. Nothing about the boy's appearance made it seem like he was going to be fine, let alone able to take on something as strenuous as a Gym challenge. But, it wasn't his position to squash a trainer's wishes, so he held his tongue and waved Steven inside.

"Sure, come on in. You're the first one here."

By the time Steven slowly trudged to the trainer's box, Aron had already perched itself on the battlefield awaiting the first opponent. Beldum whined a short note at Steven's side, and he looked towards his newest pokemon.

"Aron, are you sure you want to do this?"

But Steven needed no other reassurance, for as soon as the junior trainer's pokemon materialized on the opposite side of the arena, Aron launched its offensive. Without uttering a single command, Steven watched his pokemon systematically dismantle a Machop and then a Meditite all on its own. The formula was the same, honed from its time spent living and battling with the fighting-type pokemon in Granite Cave; blind the opponent with a barrage of mud shots, and then dance around their wildly thrown attacks until finding an opening to deliver a devastating headbutt.

After the Meditite was recalled by its trainer, Aron trotted back up to Steven's side and nosed at the pack at his feet until it produced a potion in its jaws. With a small grunt, it offered the potion up toward Steven, and he gingerly kneeled down to administer it.

"That's an interesting strategy you've got there…" Jude murmured as he took his spot in the trainer's box across from Steven. The jovial tone he normally carried had all but vanished. "I hope you're not seriously considering trying the same thing against me."

Steven winced at the Gym Leader's cutting words. Truthfully, he had no strategy. His only option was to rely completely on Aron's tactics and hope that Jude hadn't already formulated the perfect counter. It was a thin hope.

"I'll end this quick," said Jude as a Hariyama hit the arena floor with a thud.

In the face of its towering opponent, Aron remained unflappable. Lowering its head with a growl, it readied its first attack.

But Jude and Hariyama were prepared. Easily sidestepping Aron's mud shot, Jude directed his partner.

"Hariyama, stomp!"

The ground shook as Hariyama's foot slammed down with thunderous impact. So thunderous that the shockwave neatly picked Aron off the ground and flipped it onto its back leaving its legs waggling helplessly in the air.

"Karate chop!"

Hariyama's hand came down in a crushing blow that sent dust flying and chunks of floor scattering.

"Aron!"

Even before the dust settled, Steven found himself dashing out into the arena.

"Trainer, get back in your box!" shouted Jude, his eyes locked onto where his Hariyama had struck.

Steven skidded to a halt as Hariyama let loose a howl of pain. Eyes wide, he stumbled backward in a panic as its hand came up in a flash to reveal the source of its pain. Somehow Aron had managed to latch onto the side of Hariyama's palm with its jaws, and it clung there for dear life. But no matter how hard Hariyama flailed its hand, Aron would not let go.

Beldum darted forward to shield its fallen trainer from the thrashing Hariyama just as it brought its hand high in an effort to smash Aron into the arena floor once again. But at the peak of its arc, Aron seized the opportunity it had been waiting for. Releasing its hold on Hariyama's hand, it launched straight up in the air from the momentum of the swing. Too sudden for Hariyama to halt its arm, it could only follow Aron's trajectory with its eyes. With a war-cry of its own, Aron plummeted downward and tucked into its own attack, landing the headbutt squarely to the back of Hariyama's head. The monstrous sumo pokemon collapsed to the ground in a heap, knocked out. Aron too hit the ground and tumbled to a stop at Steven's feet.

Shocked into frozen silence, Steven watched as Aron let out a soft grunt and staggered back to its feet, victorious. He was still staring dumbfounded at his pokemon when he heard footsteps approaching.

Nervously glancing up at the Gym Leader, he saw a flash of disappointment flit across Jude's face.

"Looks like we lost," he shrugged as one hand came to rest on his hip. "That's quite the tenacious little Aron you have there. I'm not sure what sort of bond you two share, but it's clear that it cares for you a lot. Make sure you don't let it down."

Steven swallowed as he accepted the potion Beldum brought over and gently applied it to Aron's wounds. As the medicine kicked in, Aron stopped shaking and Steven was relieved to feel it nuzzle happily into his side.

Jude shook his head as he dropped the Knuckle Badge into Steven's lap. "I'm going to let this one slide, since I can't help but be impressed by your Aron's determination. But I hope you realize the other Gym Leaders aren't as forgiving as me. You're going to have your work cut out for you if you don't step up your training from here on out. They won't let you call yourself a trainer if you don't actually train your pokemon… "

Steven nodded stiffly as Jude extended a hand and lifted him off the floor.

"Now you're going to thank me by heading right down to the docks and getting on the first boat you can find that's bound for Slateport. You need to get to a proper hospital, or at least one better than what we can offer here in Dewford."



As Steven settled onto the creaky mattress in the only cabin aboard the small fishing boat, he cradled two pokeballs in his hands.

"I'm so sorry, you two. Aron, I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay you for saving me. Beldum, I want to be able to grow stronger with you. I… I hope you are able to put up with all of my mistakes. I want to be your trainer, I really do. Can you try to put everything that happened back there behind us and start fresh once we get to Slateport? I'm not saying I deserve another chance to be your trainer, but if you're willing to give me one…"

Two flashes of light answered his question, and in an instant both pokemon gathered close to their trainer. Aron barked happily as it nestled against Steven's hip. Even the normally skeptical Beldum had no qualms in showing its affection as it squeezed underneath Steven's good arm in the closest its species could offer for a hug.

Overwhelmed, Steven suddenly felt light-headed and he wavered where he sat. Both Aron and Beldum took notice and voiced their alarm.

"I'm sorry, I just think I need to lay down until we get to Slateport."

Both pokemon understood and they waited patiently as he gingerly lowered himself down onto the mattress. He could barely choke out his next words as they snuggled up against him once again.

"Thank you, both. I really mean it."

Even with his pokemon's comforting presence at his side, Jude's words still echoed in his mind. As exhaustion finally caught up with him, he couldn't stop the tears from flowing as he drifted off to sleep. He would become a good trainer, for the sake of his partners.



Whether it's by type coverage, move diversity, skill specialization, or personality traits, successful pokemon teams will find ways to work together and rise up to the challenges they face.
 
Okay my intended fic I was going to read is temporarily out of service, so I guess I'll read this one and see where it goes.

C1
- Huh. This is one of the few fics I've seen that features (implicit) items use in trainer battles, from the first paragraph
- Ah, the love of adventure. The cause of much trouble.
- He's walking with all his Pokemon at once? That's...esoteric.
- Rock types in the rain, not a fun time. Although it shouldn't bother the fossils, since they were aquatic to begin with.
- Er uh why did Steven not rest them at Fortree's Pokemon Center? Is he in that much of a hurry?
- Ohh, an explanation in the next scene. That...seems sort of like something that was inserted as an excuse after the fact.
- This very much seems like a gameverse, where trainers will jump you without provocation, even during say, the apocalypse.
- What, did that Pokemon think he was friggin Zeus or something?
- This guy, it's just a horde battle. A horde battle that he loses.
- I always wondered what architural purpose the fence maze served in the games.
- You know it occurs to me, this fic takes a nice balance between some fics which portray days or weeks between towns, and the games (and bad fics) that can have it in mere hours. Pretty neat, don't see it often.
- Bleh, replacing animal names with Pokemon names. Always bugs me a little, since they are called by their animal names sometimes, and there's numerous to choose from. scaredy-Meowth, scaredy-Glameow, etc. And they often don't work as well.
- So uh did he strip off his wet clothes, immediately fall asleep, it took all night to heal his Pokemon, walk over still with no clothes on except maybe underwear to get them, then immediately fall back asleep? And no mention is made of him being half-naked? That Joy must've seen some wild stuff to not mention it.
- They can invent a lot of things, but apparently not waterproof devices. Bad news when there's too much water in the region.
- I've heard of humanizing Pokemon before, sometimes literally to almost literally, but giving them the trainer card they just know how to use?!
- I do wonder though, why did the Pokemon have to look after him? And surely the Joy would've noticed someone was staying in their room an unusually long time and come to check on them? Why didn't they get help? Is there like, no human treatment around?
- It must've been hell to have Beldum as a starter, only able to Take Down for several levels. No wonder he's so used to using Potions.

Weird incident. Had a few logic questions with it, but nothing I can't look by. I am wondering how the weird nonstandard ordering is going to go. But I guess I'll figure that out next time.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
big brain time, I will just crosspost to chapters that don't exist yet.

one thing led to another, I lost my quotes for this chapter, and a very long time passed. apologies! I swear I'm missing something very witty but this is the best recreation I can do.

I like how there's a lot of dramatic buildup to the idea of Victory Road (some of which I imagine will come up later/earlier in Steven's story, courtesy of achron), but it's still just another cave—feels very on the nose as far as the games go, where there's a similar buildup for it to just be another cave, but luckily for us ya boi loves caves, so long as their ceilings are sufficiently distanced from his body.

I wasn't quite sure why Skarmory was out for the brief conversation and then got recalled in the cave proper? Seems like, from a practical standpoint, a trainer would definitely want a pokemon out in Victory Road itself, unless the idea is that Skarmory doesn't like walking through caves specifically, and none of the other pokemon wanted to be out either? They seem to be weighing in on his decisions as he traverses the cave, but they stay in their balls for the most part (even though them being out would probably render most of the conflict of this chapter moot) so they felt kind of removed from the actual action/agency here.

The real threat of Victory Road is an interesting one to me! I'm intrigued by the idea of a bunch of people just deciding that their literal best option is living in complete darkness and robbing people for the rest of their lives—it's an incredibly bleak worldview to have, and perhaps I'm reading too much into it but it suggests that there's still a lot in Hoenn that could go wrong, even if in general we've been exposed to the softer/more whimsical elements via Steven. It definitely creates a very striking image, one I've occasionally revisited since I initially read, since I just find the concept really fascinating—how truly shitty does the outside world have to be for me to decide to live in a cave and beat up everyone I see, sorta thing.

"You're not the first person to assume I've had everything in life handed to me, and you certainly won't be the last. Battle me so we can really see how much you know about who I am."
I kind of like how the climax of this ultimately isn't settled by force of might, even though it initially plays out that way. Steven sends out his ultra rare powerful pokemon and boom boom pow. I did feel pretty bad for Sidney/crew here, and I think despite their mustache twirling and pretty oblique fufufufufu evil laughter, I thought they were making a fair point here + I felt really bad that they were so thoroughly outclassed by Steven. They've never seen a metagross before; how could they even begin to strategize around it? And then, in turn, what chance would they really have against the League if this is the best they can do? But Steven as we've seen him so far is both studious and well-traveled; he gets lots of education early on and has plenty of chance to see muk and understand that steel > poison; it's his specialty; the fight was pretty much always his to win. Which again brought me back to thinking about how bleak it must be for these people to get to the point where they literally decide to languish in a really dark cave and just hope that shit works out, to the point that they'll cheer for the first person who's strong enough not to rob but doesn't beat them up in kind ... idk! These images stuck with me a while. It's bleak, and I'm left feeling more like Sheila/Sidney were dealt a losing hand rather than Steven ever really being at a disadvantage in the battle here, even when they're the ones who had a cacturne-knife to his throat and were trying to drown him in poison and shit. That's likely with heavy roots in personal bias, of course, but I did enjoy reading it through that lens and found them to be really sympathetic from that perspective.

(I imagine this Sidney with a cacturne will eventually become Sidney of the e4 variety, so that'll be a fun future chapter w/ this context, I imagine!)
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
I admit I was a little confused about the geography/routing of this chapter, but after staring at a map of Hoenn for a while I'm fairly convinced that's because of my own unfamiliarity with it + why would you just put a desert in the middle of the country that immediately becomes hot springs and lush tree city? Something something microclimes.

This one was really cute after the heels of the previous one. I kept expecting things to go wrong on the actual journey itself—after all, what possible problems could there be if you were deciding to just bushwack off-trail in the pokemon world? But the nature descriptions here are quite beautiful, and everything feels calming and cloudless skies and open possibilities because it is! And Dusty is back! I continue to be completely suspicious of him even after the chapter has made it exceedingly obvious that these guys in red cloaks cough magma are cough magma doing cough magma things; alas, I am quite stupid. I did enjoy Steven's incredibly slow realization that the people who don't know Professor Cosmo's name may in fact not be working for him; boy's got high INT but sometimes he dumps WIS and I feel that deeply. In general I like how the threads from previous chapters continue to weave together here; first with Dusty, and then also with Baltoy/Claydol. It really makes things feel like a single narrative that's been purposefully fragmented, and the sense of continuity is really fun + makes putting all the pieces together exciting.

Also, Dusty as a Stone fanboy, lmao. It did feel a bit tacked on at the end? Like the main emotional through-line of this chapter was more around the meteor/burgeoning threat to it, so this resolution felt a bit out of place (more like we might not see him again + this was where that plotline then needed to be settled), but it was nice to see a little more side character backstory as well, so kind of a mixed bag there.

After claiming victory over several of the trainers that gathered eagerly in the unseasonably clear weather, Steven was able to witness his very first pokemon evolution. Aron wasn't the first pokemon to evolve on his team; Metang's evolution occurred in the nick of time as they were exploring the desert ruins of Route 111. But he was hardly able to watch his starter's evolution since at the time he was tumbling head over heels towards a sinkhole.
This intro left me a little confused and I had to reread it a few times—I think partially because I needed a better grounding in the storyline for when this was happening (i.e. when would they be on Route 120? I know in the games it's moderately late, so it's probably not Beldum evolving, but ...). But in general this would read more clearly if the information were presented more symmetrically, I think, ala: "After claiming victory over several of the trainers that gathered in the unseasonably clear weather, Steven was able to witness his very first pokemon evolution. Metang had technically evolved first, in the nick of time in Route 111's desert ruins, but Steven hadn't even noticed, distracted as he was at the time by tumbling head over heels towards a sinkhole. [Aron, Lairon! wow! shiny new form!]" or something.

As they wove in and out of the campsite setting up various pieces of equipment, Steven raised a hand to his chin in thought.
I swear I'm avoiding line edits on purpose bc you'd mentioned not wanting them but after all of the Pokemon Masters content you've shown me + thinking Lance face, I do not think I can ever see this as a serious expression of thought lol. This is not commentary; just shitpost.
 
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Reactions: Pen

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. crobat
What a lovely start! Myy biggest issue is... not starting this sooner! I really enjoyed the first chapter, and if the rest are anything like it, I really look forward to it. You've established a good slice of life atmosphere and it feels like you're going to be taking snapshots from his journey. I can't wait to see what other misadventures Steven will get up to.

The concept is pretty enjoyable too, it's going to be to read a prequel about the journey to becoming a champion!

Pokemon Trainer's Handbook Tip #19: Overconfidence is the enemy of even the best trainers. Always be mindful of your limits in battle or on the road…
Okay I really vibe with how you've started! Is this going to continue? I hope so!

Steven couldn't resist exploring the strange rock formation that peeked out from among the nearby treetops
Classic Steven

The air had turned chilly with the changing of the seasons, and the setting sun meant the evening would only get colder from there.
You have some pleasant intermediatary descriptors that paint atmosphere very well, and blend different senses.

Without many supplies, Steven wanted to avoid as many battles as he could. Fortree's Pokemon Center had limited healing capacity during its ongoing renovation, so he opted to use the last of his supplies to heal his team after the Gym battle. Unfortunately, that meant he had to make the trek to Lilycove nearly empty handed. While his team was strong, they were exhausted, and taking on a trainer mid-Route with no healing was a risk he wasn't willing to take.
This part made me raise a curious eyebrow. It almost sounds like a callback to the games, where you can't avoid trainer battles? In-universe, it makes me curious! If a trainer challenged him, is he not allowed to decline, or does he just not want to deal with the hassel of it? Personal pride maybe, or is it against 'trainer rules'?

I'll be curious to see if this comes up later!

"It clearly didn't stop me from coming up with an equally dumb idea."

There was no lamenting his decision now, though. With the ferocity of the storm, setting up camp in the forest was as equally dangerous as in the open meadow.
I did get a little caught on the repetition of the word 'equally'. It's mostly personal preference but I always double take when certain words are repeated too close to each other.

But like I said, you don't have to change it. Just thought you should know it tripped me up.

Strikingly visible in the blinding rain, Steven's hand reflexively flew to his belt for the only member of his team suitable for battle in such conditions
This sentence throws me for a loop was Steven's hand or the other pokemons eyes strikingly visible? logic says its the pokemons eyes, but my direct interpretation of this sentence says Steven's hand was visible? Which perplexes me. Unless it was visible because he's very pale?

Either way a slight rewording may be in order?

Shuppet slowly rose above the grass accompanied by four more pairs of glowing eyes.
Hey, Horde battles hadn't been invented yet! You can't do that! ;p

Quickly, he tried to maneuver around the entangled pokemon in order to recall Metang
I was also a little confused and curious here. How exactly does shadow sneak look and work? I wasn't able to picture in what way Metang was entangled and how Steven would be able to 'manuever' around it? I think they were maybe just dogpiling Metang and he couldn't aim the pokeball?

Although usually pokeballs might be able to recall around this. Could just be me though, but this bit was a little unclear!

Scooping the ball off the ground, Steven looked up in time to watch Metang disappear under a barrage of night shade attacks.

"Metang!"

Without thinking, Steven pivoted on his heel and launched himself at the nearest Shuppet.
So the positioning here did confuse me. Here's how I read it:
Steven bends or kneels down to pick up the pokeball. He looks up and sees Metang. So Metang is in front of him. Then he pivots on his heel, meaning he turns despite seemingly already facing Metang? Unless he was to the right/left/behind Metang originally?

Perhaps an additional descriptor could help, or perhaps I misinterpreted. Maybe 'the pokeball fell and Steven turned around, scooping it up. He looked back just in time to see [Attack]. Pivoting on his heel he launched himself at the nearest Shuppet'.

Again, maybe I missed something so feel free to correct!

He could feel
I think this sentence you can take out 'he could feel' descriptor since you show how he feels anyway! It reads stronger to me that way.

"Think, think, think.
Think Steve, Think! ;P
(this meme has been on my brain ok)

A soggy, disheveled Linoone
Baybey!

With more effort than usual, Steven pushed the covers aside and padded to the door
I really liked how in this paragraph leading up to it, you never say 'Steven felt sick' but rather the reader is able to gather these details naturally through actions and narration. Wonderful!

When Steven awoke for the second time, the air in the room felt thick. The blankets across his chest were hot and suffocating, and yet he could feel himself shivering. With a groan, he rolled over to reach for his PokeNav on the nightstand. Bringing to device to his face, he could only moan in despair; he had forgotten it was busted in the chaos of the previous night. Defeated, he loosened his grip and let it clatter to the floor. The sound of more rattling caught his attention, and he weakly glanced toward the source of the noise. The pokeballs containing his team were shaking in the tray delivered by Nurse Joy earlier. Too tired to sit all the way upright, Steven reached as far as he could, but instead of grabbing them, he only managed to knock one of the pokeballs from the tray. Thankfully it landed on the button, and his pokemon was released into the room.

Metang materialized from the fallen pokeball, its posture rigid and eyes narrowed in an accusatory glare. At least until it caught sight of the sorry state of its trainer. Instead of unleashing a barrage of mental chastising, the steel type instead opted to float closer to where Steven laid, its gaze softening in concern.
poor Steven. Very good narrating though, this part in particular felt strong. I was able to really feel what Steven was without being explicitly told anything needless.

The care his pokemon show for him is also lovely and enchanting to read, and really pushes my Tetracore buttons!

By working together, both trainer and pokemon will grow stronger. As you travel with your teammates, help each other and you can overcome even the toughest of obstacles.
AHHHHHHH

Lov.

I really like the beginning and end quotes, and they fit really well with the fic concept and atmosphere. The only parts that really tripped me were a couple of the movements based scenes and trying to picturing positioning (which is HARD). I enjoyed a lot of your narration and how you write your pokemon, as well as getting to see junior Steven! Definitely coming back to this one day.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
"hurr durr does Skarmory not like being in caves", asked and answered. I really do have such a great penchant for asking the dumbest things that get answered almost immediately, wow.

I wasn't quite sure why Steven was chasing the snorunt at the beginning? It bridges the shell exploration into meeting back with Wallace, but I wasn't sure why Steven was so intent on running after the snorunt in that part.

[But after spending nearly the entire winter training with the bird, he was assured by the rest of his pokemon that Skarmory had warmed up to their group enough that its urge to rebel mid-flight had been quashed.]
ooooh, quashed is a word that implies a lot of history here.

[Tall and narrow, there was no realistic way it could slide through the opening, even as it tilted vertically on its side in a test-fit.]
oh my god i want fanart of Metang trying to put round peg in square hole pls

Watching Wallace and Steven's friendship develop is fun, both because I gently assume (perhaps incorrectly) that this is co-canon with your FG universe, and because this one seems to be presented to us in chronological order (except Dusty, I guess?). So in a sea of "I wonder what will happen next" / "I wonder what will happen before", there's a pretty natural evolution of thoughts here that feels very realistic for two kids lol. Wallace is so suitably sassy with his wetsuit but then he's also just hauling this giant fluffy seal around and the seal claps and is adorable so as a result he's like 0% intimidating no matter how hard he tries, lol. But the chest-puffing between him and Steven is so good haha! They're both trying their best to subtly one-up the other, and it does feel like these two are cute rivals in a world where the real rivals were the caves we made along the way. The kids are delightful here, even if they can't stay out of life-threatening situations for more than fifteen minutes at any given time.

The pre-psychic gym still being psychic twins is a neat gimmick—are they related to the other psychic twins (whose names I've forgotten)? Is it kinda just a pre-req that you gotta be psychic twins to run this gym? It's kinda fun seeing what's changed vs what ends up staying here, and as a concept I do quite enjoy sassy psychics who finish your sentences for you.
 
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Reactions: Pen

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
Revisiting this today to re-review the first chapter.

To start things off, I'll repeat something I've said in my last review that I've seen a few stories with Steven in them, but this is the first one that centers on him. The first thing this depiction of him shows us is that he's a bit reckless when it comes to his geology endeavors, endeavors I'm sure he never stopped partaking in if he's anything like the canon Steven we know. There's not too much else to say about this part, but it leads to the next few scenes up ahead.

The following scene proved Steven is also a bit careless because rather than waiting the incoming storm out elsewhere, he boldly decided to reach Lilycove that same day instead and that only put him in a precarious position. It had gotten a little late for him to turn back anyway, so he had to press on. Things almost took a turn for the absolute worst when the horde of shuppets chased him and Metang down. I found it clever how the shuppet pinned Metang down with that shadow sneak attack and basically knocked it down with shadow sneaks. Thankfully the Shuppet retreated since their opponents stopped being a challenge. If they'd intended to go for the kill though, it'd have been a different story.

I found the line alluding to Metang being Steven's only pokemon that could withstand rain a bit odd. Even later on he told Aron he could have called Anorinth against the linoone instead. The thing is… did Steven forget he had Lileep? Wouldn't it have been best equipped for the situation as a Grass/Rock type and potentially Storm Drain as its ability as well? It confused me a bit that the oneshot doesn't acknowledge Lileep as a viable pick for the situation at all. I could see Lileep perhaps not working since they're not the fastest pokemon around and Steven was mostly focusing on escape and not battle so that may be why Lileep didn't get brought up. It's not something that breaks the oneshot, I just found it to be a bit of a head scratcher.

The last few segments of the oneshot sees Steven just barely making it to the pokemon center and immediately booking a room and having his pokemon cared for. Unfortunately for him he came down with a fever due to the storm. I liked seeing Metang's reaction to him when he first emerged from his pokeball, going from mad to concerned the moment Steven's condition became clear to it. Honestly the last segment of this oneshot is the part I enjoyed reading through the most. The earlier scenes already showed the bond Steven shared with his pokemon, but this segment showed it in a more endearing way. None of Steven's pokemon showed disapproval or disdain when he expressed they'd be taking a break from their adventure and they all worked together to take care of him until he recovered from his condition. I mentioned in the last review that I enjoy seeing the pokemon of trainers getting this kind of focus that shows their autonomy, and I wish we got to see more of this in this chapter to allow each of his pokemon's personalities to shine and play on each other.

Overall this was a pretty solid oneshot by all accounts. It didn't drag on too long nor did it overstay its welcome. I didn't find many negatives to point out and they were subjective nitpicks even if I did. I don't know how the rest of the oneshot will go or if we'll be seeing entries from before Steven even got his first pokemon and his early childhood life. That being said, now that I've given this a more careful read now, I may come back to it again in the future to see how Steven's journey progresses overtime and how he became the champion and shiny rocks lover we all know and love.
 
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