Chapter 6: Intertwined

The sun was going down and I found myself at the Pokémon Center once again. The same nurse greeted me with a friendly smile and I handed my Pokémon over to her to be healed.

“Back again so soon?” She smiled wryly.

“Yeah, Shinx had a few battles in the Labyrinth so I wanted to get him feeling better.”

“Oh, you have a Shinx! They’re so cute.”

“Yeah.” I scratched my head. I supposed that Shinx was cute, but I hadn’t really thought about it before.

“Well, did you win?” She asked. The machine behind her whirred and the spaces that held Poké Balls emitted a dazzling light.

I held out my newly acquired Pokédex and flipped it open. “Yeah, this was my prize.”

“That’s just so amazing. You must really be talented.” She removed the Poké Balls from the machine and handed them back to me. “Your Pokémon are fighting fit!”

“Thanks.” My stomach rumbled. “Hey, you wouldn’t know a good place to eat around here, would you? Or someplace to spend the night?”

“Actually, I do.” She looked around me to make sure no one else was standing in line, waiting to be helped. “There’s this really neat place down the street called Odd-ish Eats. All the locals go there. It’s a play off the words Oddish and odd, and well, ish. You see it’s because they serve food there’s that’s sort of unusual, but well, not that unusual that you wouldn’t want to eat it but, you know, it’s still pretty good.

She was rambling. I nodded my head a few times to make sure she understood that I was definitely listening to everything she was telling me.

“And well, so yeah, definitely get the Energy Ball Brew. It’s really good and non-alcoholic.” She smiled, breathing in and out like she was out of breath.

It seemed like she had finished talking. “That definitely sounds good; I’ll have to check it out. After I eat though, I have to figure out where I can stay the night.”

“Oh, you silly.” She looked around again. The place was empty. “Pokémon Centers such as this one often have spare rooms on the second level. We keep these rooms specifically for young, traveling trainers who may not otherwise be able to afford a hotel room. If you’d like, you may use one of those rooms. We already have one trainer who is staying with us for now.”

“Yeah, that sounds good. What do I need to do?”

“I’ll just take your name and any contact information.” She took out a plastic key card and placed it on the counter beside me. “Just use this key to get into the room and return it when you’re done.”

***

            The room was small, but it was definitely better than spending the night wandering the streets or under some bridge with all the Trubbish. I placed my bag down on the bed and plopped down next to it. There were a few paintings mounted to the walls, one of Lugia soaring over a deep blue ocean and another of the majestic Xerneas in one of the forests of Kalos. Both of these were very well known paintings that were probably being displayed in some gallery somewhere, these were just nice replicas.

My stomach gurgled. It was time to get going. I stepped outside and noticed Cassity walking out of the room next to mine.

“Oh, you’re staying here, too?” She seemed surprised.

“Yeah, I just got in. Gonna go grab something to eat now, actually. The nurse at the front actually suggested a place.”

“Odd-ish Eats? I’m actually headed over there right now. Wanna make it a date?”

I cleared my throat a bit. “Yeah, sure.”

I still wasn’t familiar with everything around the city, so I allowed Cassity to take the lead. It turned out that the restaurant was actually right across the street from the Magnes City Gym.

“Have you challenged it yet?” I asked her as we took our seats.

“The gym? No, have you?”

“Not yet. I was planning to tomorrow.”

“Same here.” She turned to the waiter. “I’ll just have a Fresh Odd-ish Water for now.”

“I’ll take the same.” I flipped through the menu. Everything was named after grass Pokémon which was a funny twist. The waiter promptly brought our refreshments and Cassity was already ready to order.

“I’ll take the Serperior-ly Cut Steak, with Weepin Hot Fries for my side. Medium rare.” She closed her menu and handed it to the waiter.

“And for you, sir?”

“Um, I guess I’ll do the Victree Burger. Just regular fries for me.” I handed him my menu.

“Not Odd-ish Fries?” The waiter looked stunned.

“Um, whatever is regular here?”

“Well sir, nothing is regular here, but the Victree Burger generally comes with Odd-ish Fries.”

“Well, I’ll take that, then.”

“Very well, sir.”

Cassity stared into my eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to have a staring contest or if it was something else, so I opted to give her the win just in case and I looked down.

“So, how many Gym badges do you have?” Cassity asked in between sips.

“None, this will be my first.”

Cassity’s eyes widened. “Wow, really? Well, you’re lucky in a way.” She took another sip of her drink. “The Gym Leader will go easy on you since you don’t have any badges yet. Me, on the other hand…”

“How many do you have?”

“I’ve got three already. This will hopefully be my fourth, but I don’t know. I’ve heard that Lacey can be really tough.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes. I pondered over our soon-to-be gym battle. Cassity already had three badges, but she was still worried. I wondered if I was actually prepared enough with just my two Pokémon. It wasn’t long before our food arrived, and we both eagerly dug into our entrees. The lettuce on my burger curled and hooked over the top bun to resemble a Victreebel, and the burger itself was delicious. Cassity’s steak was less novel, but looked great nonetheless.

When the waiter came to check on us, I asked for some Pokémon food to go. Cassity and I paid our separate bills and went on our way.

“It’s getting late.” She looked into the calm night sky and sighed. The stars were twinkling brightly, like a thousand pinpricks of light trickling through a dark blanket. “Let’s go to the Gym together tomorrow, what do you say?”

“Yeah.” I smiled. “I’d like that.”

***

            It was hard to fall asleep that night; the anxiety of my first Gym battle was killing me. Cassity knocked on my door earlier than I expected, and I stumbled out of bed to answer.

“C’mon, we’re going to be late!” Her brunette hair was pinned back with a bow and she had a brown and black scarf draped over her neck.

“Is it cold out?” I mumbled.

“What? No, silly.” She pointed at her scarf. “This is just my lucky scarf. I wear it every time for Gym battles.”

“Oh, right. Well if you want to wait outsi—“

Cassity strode in and plopped down on the bed. “I’ll just wait right here.”

Well, I supposed that I could just as easily get dressed in the restroom. Still… I picked up my things and went to the bathroom. I splashed some cold water on my face and dried it off with a towel. My eyes were red from lack of sleep but my body was ready. I threw on my clothes, black shirt, orange and black jacket and jeans. I dug around in my back and found something I didn’t remember being there—an orange hat, with a white Poké Ball insignia. I put it on and stepped outside.

“You look good. Took you long enough.”

“Thanks.” I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder. “Let’s go.”

***

            “Welcome to the Magnes City Gym, Champions in the making!” A short man with bushy black hair greeted us as we entered the Gym. “Lacey loves battling, so you won’t see many trainers here to stand in your way. In fact, most of them just tend to the plants! And in case you didn’t know already, Lacey will be using grass type Pokémon. How kind of her to let me inform you, right?”

We nodded in unison. Just past the front entrance to the Gym, a long, narrow tunnel of vines stretched as far as the eye could see. Only trickles of sunlight slipped through the cracks in the tendrils. The dirt below our feet was moist, and I could feel clumps of it sticking between the grooves on my shoes as I walked. Up ahead, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, a piercing radiance that would surely blind us if we ran into it headlong.

As we neared the exit, the light slowly intensified, and my eyes adjusted to the increasing brightness. It wasn’t just the light though; it grew warmer and warmer with each step until finally I began to sweat.

The exit grew larger and finally we were upon the exit, after several minutes of walking. Sunlight beamed down upon us through the tall, plated glass ceiling. That explained a lot. This large room at the end of the tunnel was nothing but a gigantic greenhouse, lined with plants and flower bushes that were being tended to by various gardeners. Further in the room there was a slightly elevated, grassy platform.

“Welcome to my Gym, young Trainers.” A woman’s voice echoed through the room. Standing on the platform was a tall, slender woman wearing glasses, with long, blonde hair that she had pulled back. She had on brown shorts and a leaf green shirt, with a white, lab-style overcoat. “As you may know, my name is Lacey, and I take it the two of you are challengers?”

I nodded.

“Step right up here then, if you will.” She gestured for us to come forward. “Now, I’ll only take on one challenger at a time, so if you can decide amongst yourselves who the first one will be, the other can just wait on the sidelines here.

Cassity turned to look at me. “I’ll go first.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a belt of Poké Balls. “Maybe you won’t be so nervous if you see me battle first.”

Who said I was nervous?

A referee wearing a solid green shirt stepped up to the platform and walked to the center of the stage. “This platform will serve as the arena for this Pokémon Gym battle. Leader Lacey, challenger, please step to your respective lines and prepare yourselves.”

Cassity walked over to where a white line had been painted onto the grass. She rotated a Poké Ball slowly in her hand, her fingers bearing the tension of the rest of her body.

“Leader Lacey will be using three Pokémon,” the referee declared, holding up a small, white flag in his right hand. “When a Pokémon is unable to battle, I will raise this flag. When a Trainer’s entire party is unable to battle, the opposing Trainer will be declared the victor. Are there any questions?”

Cassity shook her head and Lacey just smiled.

“If there are no questions, then we will commence the battle. Trainers, begin!”

“Leafeon, I choose you!” A solid white Poké Ball flung from Cassity’s hand and opened up, revealing a cream and green, feline type Pokémon with leafy ears and tail.

“An interesting choice!” Lacey called out from the other side of the field. “Let’s do this, Tropius.” Lacey threw a blue Poké Ball down, releasing an enormous monster of a grass Pokémon.

I opened my Pokédex and studied both of their entries. Tropius looked like a dinosaur, with giant, leaf-like wings and a long, slender neck. It towered above Leafeon, but it didn’t look particularly fast given its size. Leafeon gritted its teeth and growled, waiting for its orders.

“Stand your ground Leafeon. She’s going to go for a long range attack; she can’t close in at this distance.”

“Tropius, Solar Beam!” The brown and green dinosaur Pokémon opened its mouth and a brilliant green beam of light shot out toward Leafeon.

“Protect!” Leafeon stretched its jaws and summoned an ethereal shield. The beam of light collided with Leafeon’s shield, stopping it dead in its tracks and scattering streams of energy in every direction.

“Well played.” Lacey smirked, her eyes focused on Cassity. “But how will you handle this? Tropius, use Earthquake, now.”

The monstrous Pokémon reared up on its hind legs and roared, bringing them down with a thunderous crash. A violent tremor rippled from the point of impact moving the earth like a wave rolling over the ocean.

“Leafeon, run towards the quake and jump over it!” Cassity called out to her Pokémon.

Leafeon dipped its head in affirmation, bolting towards Tropius. Cassity, however, had underestimated the sheer destructive force of the Earthquake, and as it grew nearer, the crest of the wave increased height, and it quickly became an uphill battle with Leafeon on the losing end. The earth folded down on Leafeon, burying it under a heap of dirt and debris.

Leafeon whimpered in pain, struggling to free itself from the rubble.

“Just a little more, Leafeon.”

“Tropius, use Fly.” The green, leafy wings on its back began flapping, hoisting it off of the ground and into the air.

“Let’s take it out of the sky Leafeon, use Aerial Ace!” Cassity shouted.

Leafeon, though clearly weakened, got a running start and leaped into the air, spinning like a wheel. It came out of its spin with its tail lashing downward and a slice of air shot forth, colliding with the airborne beast. The resulting impact hit hard, and Tropius was clearly having trouble maintaining flight. It roared out and began to fall, flapping its wings desperately to avoid crashing.

“Leafeon, look out!” Cassity called to her Pokémon, but it was too late.

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Chapter 5: Learning With Lightning

I woke up early the next morning and bade farewell to Rebecca after eating a quick breakfast. I let Cyndaquil and Shinx out of their Poké Balls on the way back to Magnes City so that they could get some fresh air. The two Pokémon chased after each other playfully, nudging the other one out of the way in order to get ahead.

The twin, vine laced ivory pillars that marked the entrance to Magnes City came into view. I returned my Pokémon and opened up my wallet, checking to see how much money I still had. Yesterday had been relatively inexpensive, with my only expense being the 600 spent at the Poké Mart. I could spend 1000 on the challenge, and still have a few thousand left to get me by for a while. Of course, I’d need to start earning money somehow. I could only rely on other people’s charity for so long.

Like the previous day, the streets in Magnes City were a bustle with shoppers and enormous plant Pokémon. I noticed a Poké Mart on my left after I entered the city, but I hurried past it, eager to be one of the first in line for the Winding Vine Labyrinth. I passed by the town square and saw a gathering of people, cheering and shouting out names.

“Step right up, step right up, plant Pokémon battles right here!” An announcer shouted over a megaphone. The crowd was thin at one spot, and I saw the girl that I met yesterday, Cassity, battling another Trainer. Her Pokémon looked to be some type of small dog, with leaves on its ears and tail. Her opponent was using a pink baby deer Pokémon, and I wondered how they could compete since it didn’t appear to be grass type at all. Cassity was declared the victor and I continued walking, remembering the task at hand.

I ended up being the fourth in line for the Labyrinth, and quickly registered Shinx and paid the receptionist. It was a nicer woman this time, though I was kind of hoping for the same woman just to show her that I had another Pokémon to enter in. I stepped outside and waited for more contestants to come, which didn’t take long at all. Even though I hadn’t traveled far yet, the gentle, aromatic breeze that was blowing made it feel like I was worlds away from my home in Melgem Town. Though even here, I could see the peak of Mount Valouric in the distance, towering over the region with ancient power.

I released Shinx from his Poké Ball, who seemed to be ecstatic that I did. He skipped around my feet, releasing bursts of electricity from the tip of his tail. The old man from yesterday appeared, wearing his same blue windbreaker and carrying a brown leather briefcase. He looked up and down the line of contestants, sizing us up with his beady, black eyes.

“My name is William, and I’ll be your guide and referee in this challenge. It looks like we have our first ten participants,” his voice croaked. “If you’ll follow me this way, we can begin the challenge.” He turned on his heels and stepped to the front of the line, leading us down a narrow path of tall bushes. We came to a row of ten stairways, each with an open doorway carved through the shrubs at the foot of the stairs. “Set your Pokémon down here and walk up your respective set of stairs. When the counter reaches zero, your Pokémon may go through their doorway.” The old man paced up and down the green corridor. “From the top of the stairs, you are able to observe not only your Pokémon, but all Pokémon that are participating. To make things fair, overhead there are ten display monitors. Each monitor will show a picture of each participating Pokémon, along with their name and type.” William opened his briefcase and began taking out black collars and walkie-talkies, handing them to us. “Put these on your Pokémon. The walkie-talkies will transmit your voice to your Pokémon in order to give them instructions during battle.”

A few of the other participants began whispering to each other and snickering under their breath.

“Be warned,” the old man grumbled, “the radio frequencies are being monitored. Any commands outside of battle will get you immediately disqualified.” He snorted and closed the briefcase.

I fastened the collar around Shinx’s neck and pressed the side button on the walkie-talkie to test it out. “Can you hear me?”

Shinx nodded his head vigorously.

“Now that everyone is ready, take your places at the top of the stairs and we will begin.”

I patted Shinx on the head. “Let’s do this.” The ascension up those stairs was nerve racking. On either side of me I could see other Trainers walking up, just as I was. The looks of determination on their faces reminded me that I wasn’t the only Trainer that was here to win. They wanted to win this just as badly as I did. My hands were trembling and my heart beat sped up.

The countdown began. Ten, Nine, Eight… The LED lights blinked in succession. Three, Two, One. A horn sounded, trumpeting the beginning of my first Pokémon competition. Shinx bounded through the entrance, along with the other nine Pokémon through their respective doorways. The Labyrinth was designed with ten starting points, but only one exit. Along the way, those ten paths would intersect with one another; it seemed inevitable that the winner of this challenge would be involved in several battles.

Shinx was coming up on his first intersection, where his path and two others would meet. The correct direction would be for him to go to the left, but would he? Doing that would also put him directly ahead of another Pokémon who was meandering along at a leisurely pace. Shinx came upon the crossing and sniffed the air, turning left immediately and skipping forward merrily.

My eyes flitted to the overhead monitors until I was able to identify the Pokémon that was now closing in on him. Espurr, the psychic type Pokémon, which resembled a small, purple cat, was getting closer and closer to Shinx. The Trainer to my left muttered something into her walkie-talkie, and Espurr began to glow with a violet aura.

“Shinx, step to the left, now,” I spoke into my walkie-talkie.

The blue and black Pokémon’s reaction wasn’t quick enough, and he was hit with a small ball of psychic energy that materialized before him. He looked dazed.

“Spark.”

Shinx turned to face the Espurr and readied himself to pounce. He took off, running at full speed straight past the cat Pokémon and veered into the wall with a thump. Shinx yelped and backed up, shaking a few leaves from his head. The two of them stood a mere few feet apart, staring at each other intensely. Shinx growled, and Espurr’s blank eyes were rigidly affixed to Shinx.

I whispered into my walkie-talkie, “Charge now.”

Shinx’s tail began radiating a bright light, with sparks of electricity popping off. Espurr continued to leer, waiting for its trainer’s orders to make a move.

I looked to my left out of the corner of my eye. The girl’s lips began to move.

“Spark, again!” I ordered into the radio.

Espurr stepped back but was immediately slammed into by the electrified body of Shinx. Although the cat Pokémon maintained it’s footing, it was clearly rattled.

“Use Confusion, Espurr!” The girl to my left shouted. Her Pokémon didn’t move, so I took the time to my advantage.

“Tackle!” Shinx pounced on Espurr, forcing it to the ground and pinning it down underneath his paws. The LED board with Espurr’s picture on it dimmed and an announcement on the loudspeaker confirmed that Espurr was unable to battle. Espurr’s trainer sighed and stepped off of her platform, heading back to the lower level.

Shinx turned tail and began sniffing the ground. His nose led him down the correct path, and he kept it glued to the ground as he made headway through the labyrinth. Every so often, I would see sparks jumping from his paws, and each turn he made was the right one. Little by little, other Pokémon were eliminated from the competition, but Shinx had been fortunate enough to avoid any other encounters. But that was about to change.

My Pokémon was approaching the end of the maze, and I think he knew it. His steps became skips and he shook electricity excitedly from his tail. Shinx was approaching a four way intersection, and the rigid vine walls tightened as he approached it. What he didn’t know, and what I couldn’t tell him, was that on two sides of the junction, other Pokémon were approaching. From the looks of the LED boards, they were a Poochyena and a Caterpie. Poochyena was also sniffing the ground sporadically, but Caterpie slinked along the ground with no evident determination.

Shinx stepped into the intersection, blissfully unaware of the other two Pokémon, and they took that to their advantage. Caterpie shot a long, sticky string at Shinx, immobilizing him in a mere moment.

“Shinx, shake it off,” I called out through the walkie-talkie.

He shook his head, wriggling violently in an effort to free himself. At the same time, the grey dog Pokémon ran at him from the other side, smashing into Shinx with tremendous force. Shinx flew into Caterpie, knocking them both to the ground. Poochyena, on the other hand, took this to his advantage and continued down the path that would lead him to victory.

The caterpillar Pokémon had other things in mind though, and it didn’t intend on giving up so easily. It shot a trail of string at Poochyena, entangling it and tripping Poochyena to the ground.

“Shinx, they’re battling each other, use Charge to fry the webs off of you.”

Shinx’s body emanated with a brilliant, yellow charge, singing the webbing away. Even with the webs gone, he continued to charge, building up more and more electricity. He lowered his head, ready to tackle.

The foe’s Poochyena and Caterpie exchanged bites and tackles, seemingly unaware of their original enemy who stood just a few meters back. They began to look weary, and that’s when I knew it was time to act.

“Shinx, they’re almost finished! Attack with Spark, now!” My hands clutched the walkie-talkie like an iron vice.

The other two Pokémon were too busy fighting with each other to notice Shinx charging after them. Shinx made impact right between Poochyena and Caterpie, sending ribbons of electricity through their bodies. They wobbled and fell, unable to support their own weight any longer.

My eyes flitted upwards. My heart pounded against my ribcage. Would the judge call it? Yes. Poochyena and Caterpie’s screens faded, and there were no other nearby Pokémon left that would stand in our way. Shinx entered into the final chamber of the verdant labyrinth, and a man waited for him standing by a stone pedestal.

“The victor of the Winding Vine Labyrinth has been decided,” an announcer’s voice blared over the speakers. There was a larger, main screen that lit up with Shinx’s picture and my name. “Saren and his Shinx are the winners! Congratulations!” Uproar of applause and cheers sounded over the speakers, and I realized it was being broadcast from an external audio feed.  “As customary with this contest, Saren, please reach up and take hold of the vine that is in front of you.”

Sure enough, there was a thick, sturdy vine that dangled in front of each contestant. Each appeared to be attached to some sort of pulley device overhead. I grabbed the vine, and, no sooner than I had, it began moving me toward the center of the labyrinth. I gripped tightly, wondering if anyone had ever fallen from this thing before. It hardly seemed safe. I zipped along at a steady pace until I finally arrived at the area Shinx and the mystery man stood. The pulley slowed to a stop and lowered me down.

I jumped off, landing in the soft grass.

“Shinx, good job.”

Shinx skipped toward me and rubbed his head on my legs.

“Come on back.” I returned him to his Poké Ball.

The man looked at me and nodded. “Congratulations.” He beamed. He opened up a leather briefcase and handed me a small, green and gold token. “This token proves your mastery of the Winding Vine Labyrinth. Present this token at the Magnes City Gym and you will be allowed to take the Gym challenge.

“Oh, wow.” It looks like this was something I would have had to do anyway, so I was glad to have already completed it.

“And there’s more.” He took out a Poké Ball and a small, black and red rectangular device. “You can choose between these two prizes. In this Poké Ball is a randomly selected Pokémon. Or, you may choose the Pokédex if you are often finding yourself, well, lacking knowledge. Both will be extremely useful in your journey, but you may only choose one.”

I thought for a moment. I had Shinx and Cyndaquil already, and I knew that this city’s Gym Leader uses grass type Pokémon. I could always catch more, but I had no idea where or when I would get another opportunity to get a Pokédex. “I’ll take the Pokédex.”

“Good choice.” He handed me the device and flipped it open. Then, he took a Poké Ball out from his pocket and threw it to the ground.

“Sandslash, the Mouse Pokémon. The evolved form of Sandshrew. It attacks opponents with the quills on its back.” A robotic voice described the Pokémon.

“This Pokédex in particular is already filled, for the most part. More information will be added when you manage to capture a Pokémon, and, unfortunately, there are some entries that are missing entirely.” He handed me the Pokédex.

“Thank you.”

“The Gym is closed for the night though. You may want to take your Shinx to the Pokémon Center and get some rest though.”

I would. And tomorrow I would challenge Lacey to a Gym battle. The only thing left was where I would stay the night, and I was getting hungry.

Chapter 4: The Magnificent Magnes City

After our Pokémon had been healed, we left Rebecca and continued down the straight path which led to the end of the forest. The crimson hued trees slowly became fewer and fewer, until finally, there were no more. Jessica and George said their goodbyes and continued onward to their home, presumably. To be honest, I wasn’t too interested in escorting them all the way back, and they were more familiar with the city than I was.

The buildings in Magnes City were all made of dark stone or brick and had tendrils climbing up the walls, slinking in and out of cracks in the mortar. The cobbled streets were wide, with vendors lining either side to sell fresh fruit and vegetables to eager shoppers. The flier I saw had mentioned something called the “Winding Vine Labyrinth,” so I figured that would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, my map lacked specific information on each city and town, so I would have to figure that part out on my own.

As I strolled through the bustling streets, I noticed that many people were using their grass type Pokémon as a means of transportation. Giant tortoise-like Pokémon, amphibious creatures, and even goat Pokémon were some of the kinds that I saw. Many of the larger Pokémon had bags of fresh produce perched on them alongside their trainer.

To my north, a Pokémon Center stood, much taller than the one in Melgem Town. Its signature orange Poké Ball was braided with the long vines that seemed to be everywhere in this city. I decided that would be my first stop, surely someone there would be able to point me in the direction I needed to be going.

***

            “Welcome! May we heal your Pokémon today?” The young nurse behind the counter politely greeted me.

“No thanks, not now.” I looked around. There was a trainer operating the PC, then another few talking to each other in the corner. An escalator to the left side of the counter led to a second floor. “Say.” I approached the front counter. “Do you have any idea where something called the Winding Vine Labyrinth is?”

“Certainly.” The nurse smiled and pulled out a map of the city. “Just past here, there will be a stone set of stairs. You’ll want to take those up… here.” She drew a line on the map with a pink pen and circled another area. “After that, there should be plenty of signs leading you there, and it will be right here on the map.” She circled another area with her pen.

“Thanks, that doesn’t look to bad.”

“Nope. It’s not.” She grinned, brushing her bangs to the side. “You must be new to Magnes City. Here, you can take this map with you.”

“Oh, no, that’s alright. I think I’ve got it now thanks to you.”

“I insist.” She pressed the map into my chest.

“Well, when you put it that way.” I laughed, taking the map from her. “I guess I’ll just have to.” Something about the look in her eyes made my cheeks burn, it was quite unsettling. Or maybe it was something else. I looked away, because I couldn’t decide which.  “See you next time.” I gave her a short bow and headed straight for the door.

“Make sure you come back to visit me whenever your Pokémon need healing!”

***

            The nurse’s directions were spot on. The Labyrinth was less than a five minute walk from the Pokémon Center, and swathes of people stood outside of the front gates as I approached. The Winding Vine Labyrinth appeared to be an outdoor maze made up of mostly bushes, vines, and other foliage. The maze itself looked to stand about ten feet tall, and an adjacent building displayed the participants’ progress via a series of monitors.

“All contestants must be lined up neatly in the queue,” an older man wearing a blue windbreaker ordered.

A line formed behind an old fashioned wooden and gold sign that read Labyrinth Queue. I approached the man who was giving directions and cleared out my throat with a nervous cough.

“So, what does it take to participate in this?” I asked.

The man, who was much taller than I, spat on the ground and looked off to the side. “There’s registration in that building,” he grunted. “Costs 1000. After you’ve registered your Pokémon and paid, you wait in line over here.”

I thanked him and headed over to the registration building. Despite the number of people outside, there were only a few people in line ahead of me which was surprising.

“Name and Pokémon breed,” the woman at the desk said when I reached the front of the line.

“My name is Saren, and what do you mean by Pokémon breed?”

The woman sighed and pulled out a leaflet which explained the rules of the Labyrinth. “Each participant chooses one Pokémon to run the Labyrinth. The Pokémon who gets to the end first, wins. If two Pokémon meet each other in the maze, they have to battle, so only the winner can advance.”

“I see. Then I’ll enter Cyndaquil.”

The woman sighed again and pointed to a line at the bottom of the leaflet. “No fire type Pokémon are allowed and only Pokémon that are not fully evolved may enter,” she said.

“No fire types allowed?” I bit my lip. “Why not?”

“You tell me, the whole maze is made of plants.”

“Alright then, I’ll just come back later. Thanks for your time.”

“Next in line, please.”

***

            I sat at the top of a hilly plateau in Magnes City, watching the sun set with Cyndaquil at my side. Since I couldn’t enter him into the contest, I had no choice but to wait until I could see Rebecca again to capture that Pokémon she was talking about. There would be no doubt that I would need it to challenge the Gym Leader, as well.

We watched the orb of burning orange slowly creep across the sky until it disappeared in finality beyond the horizon.

“That’s a nice Pokémon you’ve got there,” a girl’s voice said.

I looked around and saw her. A girl, about my age, sat several feet away from me, watching the sunset with a turtle Pokémon. “Thanks, yours too. What is it?”

“This is Blaster, he’s a Wartortle.” She scooted a bit closer to me. “Yours is a Cyndaquil, right?”

“Cool. And yeah, how’d you know?”

“Oh, I know a lot about Pokémon. And I have a Pokédex, so whatever I don’t know I can usually find out, at least.” She flipped open a small, red device to reveal a brightly lit screen. “Don’t you have one?”

“No, I don’t. I’ve heard about them though.” Cyndaquil hopped into my lap with a squeak. “Where did you get yours from?”

“Professor Tarsen. I’m from Coalluse Town, so he’s in charge of starting trainers on their journey over there.

I unfolded my map that I had kept in my pocket. Coalluse Town, huh? If I kept on the route I was going, it would be awhile before I reached that town. “Well, it’s been great chatting with you, but Cyndaquil and I have to be going. There’s somewhere I need to be.”

“Sure, no problem. Don’t let me keep you.” She winked.

I stood up and grabbed my bag, then returned Cyndaquil to his Poké Ball.

“I’m Cassity, by the way.”

“Oh, I’m Saren. It was nice meeting you.”

As much as I wanted to stay and talk with her, I had to meet Rebecca back in Rubired Forest. I’d been waiting for nightfall for most of the day, and now that it was finally here I was getting giddy with anticipation. This morning I had received my first Pokémon, and now, by the end of the day, I would have two. Hopefully all would go as planned.

***

            The darkened woods of Rubired Forest reminded me that perhaps I should have been better prepared. I fished around in my bag for flashlight, but it was tiny and barely adequate enough to cut through the blackness. Lucky for me, the path back to Rebecca’s was a straight shot from this side and it wouldn’t take too long to get over there.

After a few minutes, I could see Rebecca’s house in the distance if I squinted. The light at her back porch turned on, radiating a dull orange luminance like a lighthouse that was far past its prime.  Wind whistled through the trees that swayed to and fro, rustling their leaves with every gust that blew.

Rebecca stood at the back entrance, her white dress glowing gracefully in the breeze. She beckoned for me to come inside.

“I’m here.”

“You’re prompt.” She smiled. “It’s cute.”

I blushed. Cute wasn’t really what I was going for but I would take it. “So, about that Pokémon.”

“Right. As promised.” She opened her hand to reveal a small, greenish stone with a glowing yellow core. “It’s a thunderstone.” She started walking toward the center of the backyard and I followed behind her. Rebecca knelt down and placed the stone on the ground. “Just stand back and watch. It never fails.”

I stood beside Rebecca a few feet away from the thunderstone, my hand gripped tightly on Cyndaquil’s Poké Ball. We waited a few minutes in complete silence. I was beginning to sweat, the anticipation was killing me.

“Don’t act so nervous,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“Shhh.”

The grass quivered and tiny, padded footsteps scampered from the other side of the picket fence. My eyes darted to find the source of the sound. Rebecca was right. A wild Pokémon had appeared.

Right as I had looked, I saw a small, cat-like Pokémon. The front part of its torso was a pale blue, with the back half a charcoal black. The star on the back of its tail glowed yellow, lighting up the rest of its body faintly. It didn’t notice us standing right there, or maybe it just didn’t care. Either way, it sniffed and wagged its tail in delight as it slunk through the grass toward the thunderstone.

Rebecca looked at me and nodded.

I breathed in deeply. “Cyndaquil, go!” I threw the Poké Ball to the ground.

The wild Pokémon shot a look at me but continued to creep toward its prize.

“Cyndaquil, use Tackle!” The mouse Pokémon kicked off of the ground, running full throttle into the wild Pokémon.

The cat Pokémon looked in enough time to see Cyndaquil’s body hurtling toward it, and it let out a burst of electricity on impact. The shock came too late, and the wild Pokémon was knocked several feet backward. Cyndaquil landed and shook his head a few times, appearing mostly unfazed.

“Follow up with another tackle!” I shouted.

Cyndaquil charged at the downed Pokémon, slamming his body once more into it. The wild Pokémon stood back up, its knees wobbling under its own weight.

“You’re mine.” I grinned and tossed an empty Poké Ball near the cat Pokémon. The ball opened up and cast a red beam of light at the weary Pokémon, drawing it into the ball and then shutting itself. The Poké Ball shook one time, then clicked and sat motionless in the grass. Cyndaquil swung his head back and forth, scurrying in circles like it was performing a victory dance. He squeaked and the spots on his back shined orange, and jets of flame flared up from his back.

“Looks like you just caught a Shinx,” Rebecca remarked.

“Is that what it was?”

She giggled and shook her head. “Of course, you’re new; I can’t expect you to know everything just yet.” She reached down to pick up her thunderstone. “Yes, that was Shinx, an electric type Pokémon. I’d have captured him myself long ago, but I already have so many Pokémon here I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

“Cyndaquil?” The fire mouse Pokémon turned to face me. “Can you use Ember now?”

Cyndaquil opened his mouth as if he was about to yawn, but a fire ignited from within and he cast out a small ball of flame that hit the ground and scorched a circle of grass.

“Hey, watch it.” Rebecca nudged me in the side with her elbow.

“Oh, sorry.” I tightened the muscles in my neck in an over exaggeration.

“Just messing with you.”

“Cyndaquil, come on back.” I held out his Poké Ball and he was zapped back inside. “Hey, thanks for all your help.” I offered my hand out to her.

Rebecca grabbed my hand and pulled me into an embrace. “Take good care of Shinx.” She let go of me, her cheeks flushed pink even in the pale moonlight.

“I will.”

“Call me if you ever need anything.” Rebecca jotted her phone number down on my hand.

I don’t know where she got the pen from, but I was sure glad she had it. I was already half way out of Rubired Forest before I realized that I had no place to stay the night, and I hadn’t really eaten anything all day. Poor planning on my part, I guess.

So, I ended up calling in her favor a bit earlier than either of us would have guessed, but it worked out well. She was a good cook, and we ate a quick meal while chatting about life in general. While she was kind enough to let me stay the night, she didn’t have a guest room. I offered to just sleep on her couch, but she wanted the company, so I ended up sleeping on the floor in her room instead. We talked for a while until we both got too sleepy to carry on any more conversation. I’m certain the couch would have been more comfortable, but I couldn’t be picky anyway.

Oh, and she snored. Not much. It really wasn’t that bad, I convinced myself.

Chapter 3: Encounter in Rubired Forest

“I thought that Cyndaquil’s spots were supposed to shoot fire?” The girl pointed out. Leaves crunched beneath our feet as we walked along the winding forest path. The trees were too dense on either side to stray, so I was fairly certain that we would find George if we just continued down this way. At least, that’s what I’d hoped.

“Yeah, I think so too,” I replied. “He might not know any fire attacks yet, I just got him so I’m not really sure.”

“Hmm. I guess.” She seemed satisfied with my answer.

“So, what were you and George doing out here all by yourselves, anyway?”

“Well, don’t tell, but we actually live in Magnes City. Some of the other kids dared me and George to go all the way through the forest to the other side. Well, we didn’t think it would be a big deal, but before I knew it, George was gone.”

This wasn’t good. My confidence from earlier was starting to waver, and I wondered if I should call the Police. They would probably be better equipped to search for a missing person, after all. Though, since we were already there, I decided that calling the Police would be Plan B.  “So he just disappeared, right in front of you?”

“No.” She shook her head, her pigtails waggling. “He was a little behind me. When I made it out to the other side, I noticed that he was gone.”

We were approaching a fork in the road. “Do you remember which way you came from?” I asked her. Cyndaquil stood up on his hind legs and sniffed the air. Once again, his spots glowed brightly on his back and he began to growl a squeaky growl.

“No, I don’t remember. What’s he growling for?” Her Rattata was chasing its own tail.

“I don’t know, why is your Rattata chasing its tail?”

“She does that sometimes.”

I squatted down next to Cyndaquil to try and see what the matter was. “Do you see something Cyndaquil?” The Pokémon squeaked, pointing his nose towards the path on the right. Rattata continued to chase its tail in circles. “Well, I guess Cyndaquil has good Pokémon intuition.” I stood up.

”In-floo-ishun?” The girl tilted her head to the side.

“Intuition. It means he knows what’s up. Let’s go this way.”

“Roger, mister.”

We walked down the path on the right, with Cyndaquil and Rattata tagging along at our feet. The forest seemed to go on for ages, but that was probably due to the fact that we had to stop every few minutes to rest. After about the third stop, I was getting worried that we may never find George. We sat down with our backs leaning against tree trunks for support. I had always imagined my first day with a Pokémon to be filled with excitement, but so far the experience had been stressful and we didn’t seem to be making progress. Still, I was glad have Cyndaquil with me here.

Our two Pokémon rested on the cool earth in front of us. Rattata was looking weary but I supposed that Cyndaquil probably didn’t get hot too easily. The forest was quiet, save for a few Pidgey chirping overhead, flying from branch to branch. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. There was something else. There was another sound from somewhere behind us, into the tightly compacted woods. It was some type of rustling sound that I hadn’t heard since entering the forest. I opened my eyes to see Cyndaquil’s head perked up, staring in the direction behind me.

That was about as much of a clue as I needed. “Cyndaquil, return.” I held his Poké Ball out and a beam of red light shot from it, engulfing Cyndaquil and returning him back to the Poké Ball. “Let’s go. There’s something behind us here in the woods.” We pushed through the springy branches and snapped through the ones that remained firm. The trees were dense, and even though we were pushing them out of the way, we were still getting numerous scratches and scrapes along the way.

“Ow!” The little girl would squeal every few seconds.

The rustling sounds grew louder and a low hissing sound began as we forged through the woods. I forced my way through a sturdy branch that gave way with a resounding crack, scaring several Pidgey that were perched further up the tree. I stepped over the fallen branch and we found ourselves in a large, circular clearing. Near the far edge of the clearing, I saw the source of the rustling sounds we had been hearing. A group of grass type Pokémon had gathered together and appeared to be encircling something.

“Do you know what kind of Pokémon that is?” I asked. The Pokémon had brown, stem-like bodies with large, bulbous yellow heads resembling bells. On either side of their bodies was a single leaf, which brushed against one another as they wiggled creating a rustling sound.

“I think those are Bellsprout. Lacey has one.”

“Lacey?”

“Yeah. The Gym Leader in Magnes City. She has one.”

So Magnes City’s Gym Leader uses grass type, huh? It was valuable information, but I had a sinking feeling that those Bellsprouts were surrounding George. I decided to test my theory. “George!” I yelled as loudly as I could.

The wild Pokémon stopped shifting in place. I could see their wide, white eyes redirect their attention to us.

“Jessica!” A muffled voice called.

“George! Don’t worry, we’re coming!” Jessica tossed her Poké Ball and Rattata appeared from the burst of light.

“Cyndaquil, let’s do this.” My Poké Ball skidded against the ground, releasing Cyndaquil in a white flash. The two Pokémon stood in front of Jessica and I, awaiting our orders as they braced for the horde of oncoming Bellsprout.

Their root-like feet propelled them forward faster than I had expected, leaving their bulbous heads to flop behind them, unable to keep up with the speed. In a matter of seconds they were upon us. From underneath their leaves, thin tendrils came forth, lashing out at us with ferocity.

“Rattata, counter with Quick Attack!”

“Cyndaquil, use Tackle!”

Rattata expertly dodged the vine attack and appeared before one of the Bellsprout, smashing into it with a head-butt. Cyndaquil narrowly avoided another pair of vines that rapped the ground at his feet. The fire Pokémon hurled his body into another Bellsprout, which reeled backward and collapsed after the impact.

“Rattata, Quick Attack again!” Jessica called out to her Pokémon. Her Rattata leapt into the air and crashed into the head of another Bellsprout. “Now, use Scratch!”

Jessica was a surprisingly good trainer for her age. She didn’t hesitate in calling out commands and they were effective.

“Cyndaquil, Tackle!” Cyndaquil charged headlong into another Bellsprout, smacking it clearly in the face. Though its head wobbled a bit, the wild Pokémon stood its ground. I looked down and noticed its feet planted into the ground like tree roots.

Though several Bellsprout had already fainted, there still seemed to be a dozen or so more. I didn’t know how long our Pokémon could keep this up.

“Rattata, watch out!”

It was too late. One of the vines had caught the rat Pokémon’s leg and pulled, sweeping Rattata off of its feet. Another lashed out from the crowd of Bellsprout and whipped Rattata. And another.

“Cyndaquil, help Rattata, use Tackle!” He tackled a Bellsprout, but their relentless attack persisted.

“Doesn’t your Pokémon know any other moves?” Jessica’s voice trembled.

“Try Ember attack, Cyndaquil!” Cyndaquil stood still, panting.

“It’s no good,” Jessica said.

A long vine thwacked Cyndaquil in the face and he fell backward. Things were getting out of hand, and George was still trapped amongst a hostile mob of wild Pokémon. I held out Cyndaquil’s Poké Ball.

“Return.” A beam of red light shot out from the ball and transported Cyndaquil back inside.

“Do you have another Pokémon?”

“No.” I studied the Poké Ball in my hand. Had I let Cyndaquil down?

“Rattata, return.” Jessica followed suit.

“I’m going in. There are too many for our Pokémon to handle, but I should be able to run in there and grab George. We can’t just leave him here.” Jessica looked like she was about to protest, but she didn’t say anything.

Three. Two. One. I kicked off like a track runner, leaving dust in my wake. Vine, dodge. Vine, dodge. Vine, dodge. I was doing it. I leapt over the group of Bellsprout and grabbed George by the wrist.

“Let’s go.” We scrambled to get away, but one of the Bellsprout had a vine wrapped tightly around George’s leg. I pulled, but it pulled back.

“Ungh!” George was in pain. I never thought a Pokémon would behave in this way, but then I guess that’s why they always warn you to stay out of tall grass.

“Rattata, use Bite!” The purple rat sprinted toward us, lunging at the Bellsprout’s vine with its mouth agape. Its teeth clamped down on the plant Pokémon which then recoiled in pain.

***

            The three of us took a seat on the forest floor after making it out of the den of Bellsprout in one piece. We were breathing heavily, but no one looked like they had gotten hurt. I’d say this mission was mildly successful. If only… I took out Cyndaquil’s Poké Ball. I wished that I had been able to be a better trainer back there. I might have been able to lead Cyndaquil to victory, but instead, I just got him hurt.

“So, mister,” Jessica finally spoke after a long moment of silence. “Thanks for saving George.”

“Yeah, thanks,” George chimed in. “We should get going now though, sis. Mom will start to get worried.”

“I’ll accompany you back. It’s not safe for you kids here in the forest, and besides, I’m headed that way myself.” I stood up and stretched out. The afternoon sun was beating down from high in the sky, and the main part of the forest was so peaceful. It was hard to believe we just went through what we did. “Why were you back there anyway, George?”

“Well… it’s kinda embarrassing. I saw a wild Bellsprout and I thought it would be really cool to capture one of my own. I followed it back there, but then, when I started battling it, all of these Bellsprout just appeared, and well, I got trapped there.”

“I see. And your Pokémon then?” I asked.

“I just have a Pidgey.” George reached into his bag and pulled out a Poké Ball. “He was defeated in battle, so I really need to take him to a Pokémon Center.”

“Well, there’s no time like the present, then.” I said.

Jessica tilted her head to the side. “There’s a present? I want one!”

***

            We continued walking for a while before stumbling upon a lone, wooden fashioned house that stood before an empty clearing of the forest. It was a small house, with pink trimmings and a picket fence that stretched across a generous portion of land. On the front porch, a young woman rocked in a chair, shaded by the overhanging awning.

“Three young travelers.” She took a sip of brown liquid from her glass. The ice clinked as she set it back down on the table. “Might your Pokémon need healing?”

“Yes, actually.” I approached the front porch with my hand outstretched. “I’m Saren.”

“Rebecca.” Her hand was warm in mine as we shook. “How many Pokémon are there?”

“Just three.” I took out Cyndaquil’s Poké Ball and the other two withdrew theirs as well. “They were injured by a group of wild Bellsprout a ways back.

“They captured George!” Jessica interjected.

Rebecca raised an eyebrow. “Yes, they say the Bellsprout in this forest are quite aggressive, though I’ve never witnessed it myself. I’ve heard that Lacey’s Victreebel came from this forest. Of course, that’s another thing I haven’t seen either. I just pick things up from wandering travelers like you.” She smiled, her strawberry blonde hair gleaming in the sunlight.

“Why don’t you join me out back?” She gestured to the fence with the wave of her hand. “I have a Chansey who would love to help out you and your Pokémon.”

We followed her into the backyard where her Chansey was sunbathing on a foldable beach-style chair. A few orange dog type Pokémon wrestled each other in the grass near a vibrant garden that grew a variety of flowers and berries.

“Would you care for a drink?” Rebecca asked us. She pulled out a chair from behind the table near Chansey and we all took a seat.

Jessica and George nodded in unison. “Yeah!”

“That sounds great.” I replied.

“Sure, then. Chansey! Would you mind healing a few Pokémon?” Rebecca stood up and walked over to the back door of her house, stepping inside.

Chansey rolled off of her chair lazily and waddled over to where we sat. Her pink body jiggled with each footstep and sweat rolled down her puffy belly, glistening on the egg that sat in her pouch.

Rebecca was stepping back through the door with a pitcher and some glasses in hand. “If you will send out your Pokémon, Chansey will heal them for you. Oh, and I brought some tea.” She poured tea into three glasses that had been filled with ice and sat down next to us.

“Cyndaquil.”

“Pidgey.”

“Rattata.”

We sent our respective Pokémon out. Chansey pulled the egg out of the pouch with her stubby hands and plopped it onto the grass. She placed her hands on the egg and it began to softly glow. Chansey let out a grunt and smacked the egg with a short, fierce chop, breaking it open. She took a piece of the egg in her hand and ate it, then stepped back and gestured for our Pokémon to do the same.

“Judging by your Pokémon.” Rebecca paused, taking a sip of her tea. “You all are fairly new trainers.”

I nodded. “This is my first day.”

“Me and George aren’t old enough to go on a Pokémon journey yet. These are just what Dad got for us.”

“I see. Saren, if you don’t mind me saying, Magnes City is just a little bit further down the path here. If you are going to challenge the Gym Leader, you may want to capture another Pokémon.”

“Yeah, I was hoping to capture one here, but the Bellsprout proved to be a bit too much. I’ve heard she uses grass type though, so Cyndaquil should be at an advantage.”

“If your Cyndaquil had a hard time with the Bellsprout here, he won’t be strong enough to take down Lacey; that much I can guarantee.” She sipped on her tea. “If you’re interested, there is a certain Pokémon that comes around here every so often, provided the conditions are right.”

I gulped down the rest of my drink. “Conditions? Like what?”

“Well, first off, it only comes around here at night. Second, it is attracted to a particular item, of which I only have one left in my possession. If you want to come back here later tonight.” She swirled her cup of ice in slow circles, forcing the cubes to clatter together and slide off of one another. “I might be able to give it to you.” The corners of her lips curled into a faint smile.

Chapter 2: Ignition

The next day couldn’t come any quicker. Though I had been cured, the anticipation of getting my very own first Pokémon was killing me, and I didn’t get much sleep at all. As soon as the clock struck eight am, I was already getting dressed, eager to get over to the Pokémon Center. Although most Pokémon Centers stay open 24 hours, Melgem Town was a small place, and we usually didn’t get many trainers this way since there wasn’t a gym here. I had already packed a small backpack with some clothes and other essentials, so I was ready to start my journey. Explaining all of this to my mom was going to be difficult.

My heart was pounding as I walked down the stairs, unsure of how to break the news.

“Hello, Saren.” My mom was sitting in her armchair in the living room, as if she had been expecting me.

“Hey, Mom.” My words were apprehensive.

“Saren, a Pidgeotto arrived earlier this morning with this letter from the Aelutio Region Pokémon League. She unfolded the brown piece of parchment that was sitting in her lap. “It seems you had quite the encounter last night. You’ve been cleared for your Pokémon journey.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, Mom. About that, it was late; I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“No need.” She folded the paper back up. “The town elders released a statement concerning the legendary Pokémon that saved us from the eruption. So, all of those years listening to my Great Grandfather, he really was telling the truth.”

“Yeah, it was something.” I shuffled in place.

“So you’re better now? You’re feeling fine?”

I nodded. “Whatever medicine he gave me yesterday, it really worked. He seemed to have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.”

My mom smiled and nodded. “Well, I know how much this has meant to you. You’re sixteen now, I think you’ve waited long enough.” She walked to me and embraced me tightly.

“Mom…”

“Take good care of yourself, OK? You know I will always be here for you when you come back. I love you.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I squeezed her and we separated, looking into each other’s eyes. She was on the verge of crying but I could tell she was holding back, for my sake. “I love you too.”

“Do you have everything? Oh, you’ll be fine, I’m so proud of you!” She hugged me again briefly and started shooing me out the front door.

It was hotter than usual outside, probably because heat was still emanating from Mount Valouric. I wondered where the legendary Pokémon had gone to. I had stayed up awhile after Lyre had left, watching to see if anything spectacular would happen, but nothing ever did. The volcano stopped pouring eventually, and when the lava had finally hardened into a solid state, the green vines disappeared and that was that. There was still some ash lingering in the sky, but nothing intolerable.

The Pokémon Center was only about a minute’s walk from home, so naturally I made it there in thirty seconds.

“Welcome,” a nurse outfitted in pink and white greeted me as the automatic doors swished open.

I nodded with a smile. In the corner of the room stood the PC, the computer system that made remote Pokémon storage possible. The one here was a little older, but it would get the job done. I inserted the drive Lyre had given to me into one of the slots on the PC. Immediately, another screen loaded onto the PC that had three large buttons reading: Deposit, Withdraw, and Edit. I pressed the Withdraw button which beeped in affirmation, and I was greeted by another screen that had three different full 3D models of Pokémon. My fingers hovered over each of the three Pokémon one at a time to see some more information about them.

“Chimchar, the Chimp Pokémon. Chimchar easily climbs the sheerest of walls and lives on mountain tops. When it sleeps, its flames go out.” A fire monkey, huh? I looked at the next Pokémon. “Magby, the Live Coal Pokémon. Magby has a magma-like substance in its body, and it emits super-fiery breath.” Another fire type. I was under the assumption that trainers usually got to choose between one of three types: a fire, water, or grass type Pokémon. I guess these weren’t normal circumstances though. I took a look at the last Pokémon. “Cyndaquil, the Fire Mouse Pokémon. Normally mild and even tempered, Cyndaquil will shoot a scorching flame out of its back when upset.” I pondered which Pokémon I would choose. Chimp, Coal, or Mouse Pokémon. And they were all fire type, all male. I took a deep breath, my heart was racing. I pressed down on the touchscreen of the PC, which beeped in affirmation. The screen now read “Logging Out.”

On the left side of the PC, a sound that resembled a whirring motor started. Moments later, a small metal platform lifted up from within the machine to reveal a Poké Ball. This was it—my very first Pokémon. I reached for the Poké Ball and grasped it firmly in my hand. I slid the USB drive back into my pocket and headed out the door beaming from ear to ear.

There was one other stop I had to make before leaving Melgem Town. I didn’t have any Poké Balls, so I would need to pick up a few at the local Poké Mart. Like everything else here, our Mart was quaint, but then, I didn’t need much to get started.

“Welcome to the Pokémon Mart!” an old man welcomed me. “In celebration of the legendary Pokémon, we are offering Poké Balls at buy one, get one free today only!”

“Cool, I’ll take three then.” I pulled out my wallet.

“Right, so three PokéBalls and three more for free then. That will be PokémonDollar600.” The man placed the Poké Balls in a bag and handed it over with a smile.

I gave him the cash and left, but a poster on the window caught my attention. Come to Magnes City, and experience the natural beauty of the Aelutio Region! Explore the Winding Vine Labyrinth and win fabulous prizes! I walked back into the Poké Mart.

“Yes?” He asked.

“Do you have any maps of the Aelutio Region? And do you happen to know what the next closest city to here is?”

The elderly man pointed to a stack of paper on the front counter. “They’re free,” he said. “As for the next city, well, Magnes City is pretty close. Just pass through Rubired Forest a ways to the east and that’ll get you there. Oliviron City isn’t too much farther but that’s to the south. The route to get there from this direction is a bit difficult though… the trainers out that way are none too friendly to beginners like you, either.”

“Thank you, that’s actually really helpful.” I studied the map for a second; tracing the route I would take with my index finger.

***

I remember taking trips to Rubired Forest when I was a child. The memories are vague, but it was definitely Rubired Forest, I could tell by the colors of the trees. Unlike most foliage, the trees there are vivid shades of oranges and reds, as if the forest is always experiencing autumn. I remembered having family picnics there a few times, Mom, Dad, Elsa and I. Everyone was happy back then. That was before I had gotten sick and Elsa had left for her own journey. It’d been at least a year since we’ve heard anything from her.

As I approached the outskirts of town, the signs pointing me to the forest became more prominent. There were even a few signs advertising Magnes City again, which I was excited to get to. First things were first though; I was hoping to find a Pokémon I could capture in Rubired Forest.

Leaves of every hue of red fluttered through the sky as I entered the forest. My nostril’s flared as I inhaled deeply, smelling a sweet scent that was familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. After a few minutes of walking, I still hadn’t found anything.

“Hmm, I didn’t think finding Pokémon would actually be this hard. I thought they would just be everywhere in the wild.” I said aloud. I figured it was as good a time as any to meet my first Pokémon. I reached into my pocket and grabbed the Poké Ball that I received from the PC. I pressed the center button and the ball expanded in my hand. I’d seen this before in many TV shows, but it felt awkward now that I was about to actually do it in real life. I peered back over my shoulders and looked around. No one else was there. I drew in a deep breath. “I choose you!” I exclaimed, throwing the Poké Ball onto the ground.

A flash of light radiated from the ball and a small creature took form. It was shrew-like, and had a long snout and dark bluish fur on top, with a creamy yellow underside. The Pokémon looked at me, then yawned and curled up into a ball. I scratched my head wondering what was wrong. I figured he must have been tired, so I sat down next to him on the ground.

“Alright, Cyndaquil, I guess we’ll get started when you’re ready then.” I patted him on his head. The air in the forest was much cooler than in Melgem Town, so it was a relaxing way to kill some time. Even after an hour, Cyndaquil was still sleeping soundly by my side, his little body rising and falling gently with each breath. Every so often, the movement of the clouds overhead would allow the sun to trickle through the leafy tops of the trees and fall warmly on us. If it wasn’t for that, it would have been easy to forget what time of day it was.

“George! George!” A little girl called out from far behind me. Leaves rustled beneath her feet as she dashed over to where I was sitting, but I didn’t recognize her. By the time she reached me, she was out of breath and panting.

“Uh, hi there.” I didn’t know what else to say.

The girl furrowed her eyebrows and pouted. “You’re not George.” She appeared to be no older than eight, yet I noticed she had a single Poké Ball fastened to her waist.

“No, I’m not.” I hoisted myself up off of the ground and scooped up Cyndaquil, tucking him beneath my arm. “Did you need help finding him?”

“Well…” The girl looked at her feet which were drawing circles on the ground. “It’s not that I need help, I just don’t know where he is.”

“Is he about ye high?” I held my hand horizontal at my hip.

She nodded.

“Brown hair?”

Another nod. “Yeah.”

“And he’s wearing a shirt?”

She nodded again. “Yeah, yeah! You’ve seen him!?”

“No.” I waved my free hand through the air as majestically as possible. “But I can help you find him.”

“Thanks! My Rattata will help too!” She threw her Poké Ball on the ground and a purple and beige rat appeared from the flash of light.

“Cyndaquil, go!” I lifted Cyndaquil up over my head with both hands. The fire mouse Pokémon stirred from his sleep and began kicking his stubby legs in protest. I placed him down on the ground and he began running in circles, kicking up a storm of multicolored leaves.

“That sure is some Pokémon you have there,” the girl said as she admired my Cyndaquil.

“Yeah, he’s something all right. Cyndaquil, let’s go.” The Pokémon stopped in his tracks and the red spots on his back started to glow.

Chapter 1: The Aelutian Legend

The screams from right outside my window woke me from the soundest sleep I’ve had all week. I rubbed at my sleep-crusted eyes and reached for the phone that sat on my nightstand. It wasn’t even midnight yet, but lately I had been sleeping more and more—or at least trying to. I walked over to the window and peeked through the shutters. People were staring up into the sky, pointing. Others screamed in place, as if the shrillness of their voice could keep them safe from whatever horrors they were witnessing. Still others fled, in any direction, without purpose or place.

I threw on my jacket and slipped into a pair of sneakers. I was still in my pajamas but I was determined to see what was going on outside. Downstairs, Mom was already putting on her slippers. She must have just been woken up as well.

“Saren, do you know what’s going on out there?” She flipped on the lights.

I squinted, trying to readjust my eyes. “No, the noise out there just woke me up. I was about to go check it out.” I walked toward the front door and grabbed the bronze handle.

“Be carefu—“

I was blasted by a wave of warm air as I opened the door. The stench of sulphur was strong, and I could hear a deep rumbling in the distance. The night sky glowed with a rusty, burnt-orange hue, and particles of ash littered the atmosphere. There, on the horizon, I could see it. Mount Valouric was erupting.

Lava rolled down the jagged mountainside while still more spewed from the mouth of the volcano. At this rate, it would it would only be a matter of time before a fiery death descended upon us. I felt a sharp pain in my side. This one hurt more than usual and my face contorted in pain. I fell to my knees. The pain wouldn’t stop.

The downside of living in a small town like Melgem Town was that there weren’t any doctors. There was a small Pokémon Center, but they couldn’t help me with my condition. It had been a few years since I started getting these attacks, and my condition had noticeably weakened over time. That’s why I was still stuck here in this town instead of embarking on a journey like the rest of my friends did when they came of age. And now, I was going to die here.

My fingers clawed into the dirt and I took long, bated breath’s to try to regain my composure. I looked back up, fearing my impending doom but still awestruck by the disastrous beauty that was Mount Valouric. Something had changed. The lava that had been cascading relentlessly down the mountainside seemed to have stopped in its tracks. Molten debris stood suspended in midair, thwarted by an unseen force. I stood up to get a better look, the pain had subsided. White light exploded in a sudden burst, followed by a multitude of olive green vines that stretched across the craggy mountain.

A thunderous roar bellowed from above and I was buffeted by a hard gust of wind. A giant, four-legged dragon with red wings and a steely cyan body swooped in, landing on the ground with its feet firmly planted. A man clad in black dismounted from the dragon, his jet-black hair falling neatly to the side of his face even as he jumped off. He was tall, by anyone’s perspective, with brown leather boots and a brown cloak draped over his shoulders and neck.

I stared at him curiously, keeping the volcano in my peripheral vision. He seemed not to notice, or care, about me or anyone else in his surroundings. Instead, he wiped his brow with a gloved hand and looked onward to Mount Valouric. Finally, he turned around, boring into me with piercing green eyes.

“When did it appear?” He asked. His voice wasn’t as fearsome as I had imagined, but it was authoritative, knowing something that I was obviously in the dark on.

“Appear?” I didn’t know what he was asking. “The volcano’s been there as long as I can remember. Err—“ I hesitated. “I woke up shortly after the eruption had already started.”

“No.” The man shook his head. “When did the Pokémon appear?” He pointed his head in the direction of Mount Valouric.

“P-Pokémon?” Was that thing stopping the lava flow a Pokémon? I gulped. “Just now. Right before you got here. I don’t understand.”

“I came as quickly as I found out.” He gestured again toward the volcano. “That thing over there, it’s a legendary Pokémon.”

“And you came to catch it? Who are you anyway?”

“My name is Lyre. And no…” He paused. “That Pokémon, I thought it was just a myth, but it’s not. It’s real. I had to come here to see for myself.” Lyre pulled at his left glove, adjusting it. “While technically I could catch it…” He turned over his right hand to reveal a purple Poké Ball with the letter “M” engraved on the front. “That Pokémon is the only thing keeping this region safe. Have you ever wondered how a region so close to an active volcano has been able to prosper all this time?

I shook my head.

“My theory is, the people that founded the Aelutio Region, they knew about this Pokémon. They knew that it would keep them safe in the event of an eruption.”

The hulking cyan dragon lumbered toward me, shaking its head this way and that, sniffing the air. I took two steps back.

“Don’t mind him; he won’t do anything without my command.”

“And how do I know you’re telling the truth? Your name is liar, after all.” I retorted. I was half-joking, but I still didn’t trust that thing.

“That’s lyre, like the instrument.” He smiled. “You can trust me.” Lyre turned back to the eruption that was still ongoing, a distant struggle that I still couldn’t comprehend even after his explanation. How could a single Pokémon stop that?

The creature’s nostrils flared and it inched closer to me again, stretching its neck so that its head prodded me in the chest.

“Salamence seems to have taken a liking to you.” He chuckled. “Either that, or…” His face hardened into a stern expression. “You don’t happen to be sick, do you?”

I nodded my head with a quizzical look. “Yeah, I have been sick for a while. On and off for the past several years. But what does that have to do with—“A sharp pain flared up within my chest again and I dropped to the ground clutching at my shirt.

Lyre glanced back at the volcano and sucked at his teeth. He unzipped a small, brown satchel and shuffled through its contents, pulling out a thin vial of green liquid. “Drink this.” He walked the vial over to me.

I winced in pain and accepted the vial, drinking down the entire draught within a second. My breathing slowed back down to a normal pace as the pain in my chest numbed. “Thanks,” I sputtered. “What was that?”

“It’s a rare medicine from Cianwood City, in the Johto region. They’re the only ones that carry it, so I try to stock up whenever I’m in the area.” He reached out with his right hand and helped me up off the ground. “The effect is pretty immediate, so you should be feeling better.”

“How did you know what to give me?”

“Well, my Salamence isn’t generally very friendly to most people. He has been trained, however, to sniff out Pokémon with the Pokerus virus. Now, that virus is extremely rare, but it’s actually beneficial to Pokémon, which is why I trained him to recognize it. It’s even rarer for a human to actually be affected by it, but when they are, the results are the complete opposite of when a Pokémon has it. Instead of lasting for a short period and being beneficial, in humans, it can last a long time—several years even, and it slowly whittles down the health. It can result in death if it’s not treated.”

My eyes widened. I never thought that I had been in danger all these years. How much time would I have left? The thought was frightening, but I was relieved that I was going to be better now.

“Well, I guess that I had two purposes in coming here. I’m glad that I was able to help you.” Lyre reached into his satchel again and pulled out a small black case. Inside were a number of small USB drives, each with different labels. “I’m assuming by your age that you never got the chance to go on a journey because of your sickness, am I right?”

I nodded.

“Well, here, take this then.” He handed me one of the USB drives. “Plug that into the PC at the Pokémon Center. You’ll be able to access my PC with that. There are three Pokémon inside that I think you might like.”

“Whoa, really? Thanks, man.”

“Yeah, it’s no problem, really. Just remember, you can only choose one of them. After you’ve withdrawn the Pokémon, you won’t have access to my PC anymore. You can still use the USB though just for, you know, storage or whatever.” Lyre climbed back onto his Salamence and covered his mouth and nose with his cloak. “It was good meeting you, hmm, what was your name?”

“Saren,” I replied.

“Yes, well, Saren, I’m sure that we will meet again someday. For now, I have to go and collect some data on this thing while there’s still time.” Salamence’s wing beats stirred up dust all around me and I shielded my eyes with my forearm. And just like that, Lyre was gone as quickly as he had come. My fingers traced along the edges of the USB drive in my pocket as I watched the dragon’s form disappear into the distance.

Getting Started

First post!

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I will copy/paste what I have already written in the About section since it pretty much sums up everything I want to say in the first post. Other than that, updates will be coming out regularly, though the time frame may vary depending on chapter length and how quickly I am able to come up with the material!

Some updates may take longer than others, in which case there may be a few non-content posts thrown in to keep you updated. All chapters will be available for view via the content bar.

About

This blog is dedicated to the Pokemon Rogue Destiny fanfiction. The goal of this fiction is to explore the Pokemon world in a new way, and to entertain older fans of the franchise that may have outgrown the literature that is generally on offer for the series.

Although this fiction will be taking place in a new, original region, there will be no new Pokemon except for a legendary. Other existing Pokemon characters or places may be seen, however.

I hope you enjoy what you read!

This site is not run by, owned, or endorsed by Nintendo or Gamefreak. I take no credit for Pokemon or any of its established copyrights or trademarks.

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