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Old May 20th, 2018 (8:45 PM). Edited December 21st, 2018 by Venia Silente.
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Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
Pokefan1337
     
    Join Date: May 2018
    Age: 25
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Brave
    Posts: 35
    Preface

    The story you are about to read is a prologue to the following chapters, which are set quite a few years in the past, at the beginning. If you'd rather not go through the wonder of gyms and early Pokémon, there will be a recap eventually, right before the story starts to focus on more important things. Old readers should know that as of May 2018, much of the early parts of the story have been re-written, and in my opinion, improved. New readers should know that, due to time constraints, new chapters usually take a month to write, edit, and publish.

    It is important to note that while I will attempt to make everything as 'canon-friendly' as possible in this story, I will not always succeed. If you notice any errors in my 'lore' that clash with what's established, feel free to PM me and let me know, all feedback is appreciated. Also note that much of this is headcanon, and is subject to change if Nintendo ever gives us information on areas of the world mentioned in the story.

    The world featured in this story is meant to be a fusion of our world, set many, many millionss of years in the future, and the Pokémon world. This will be elaborated on in the future, but for now, go forward understanding that some of the people, regions, and names may be identical or similar to the real world's. For example, Kalos may sometimes be referred to as 'France' as well, but the people living in that region don't quite remember why. It's just the name that's carved into a bunch of ancient ruins. Most people in the era the story takes place in refer to it as Kalos.

    Also important to note, much of the information about the 'ancient world' is only available to these characters because of the 'PokéNet', a similar and futuristic version of the internet. When it was created again, much of the data from the 'ancient world' was lost, but not all, and between books and several websites, the people of this time know a bit about the planet's ancient history. To them, humanity's fall, and then rise with the arrival of Pokémon, is somewhat common knowledge. Again, it will be elaborated upon. Eventually.

    I will try to avoid making 'fakemon' a part of the story, with some exceptions as you'll soon see, but don't assume that this means other regions all have the same Pokémon. They're around, but unless Nintendo adds them in, I probably won't mention them in great detail.

    One final note; the content of this story is probably not safe for a work environment. So, read it openly and obviously at your own risk. Most of the 'mature' content will be relating to 'drugs', termed in the story as 'Leaf'. I shouldn't have to tell you what it's based on. It's kind of obvious. Any overtly sexual scenes will be marked. If I ever write any. As of writing this, there are a few moments and not-so-subtle innuendo that probably is not appropriate for people under 16.

    So be warned, children, this probably is not suited for your virgin eyes.

    Now that it's finally caught up to the present chapter on here, I can share some links.

    Deviant Art: https://globalpokemonfanfics.deviantart.com/

    and FanFiction.net: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12666731/1/Pokemon-The-Redwood-Saga

    DA has a bunch of pictures and things relating to le story, and the other site has a easier to read version of this very story.

    Without further ado, enjoy.
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    Old May 21st, 2018 (6:30 PM). Edited December 1st, 2018 by Sahqoreyth.
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    Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
    Pokefan1337
       
      Join Date: May 2018
      Age: 25
      Gender: Male
      Nature: Brave
      Posts: 35
      Pokémon: The Redwood Saga

      ________________________________________

      Preface

      ________________________________________

      The story you are about to read is a prologue to the following chapters, which are set quite a few years in the past, at the beginning. If you'd rather not go through the wonder of gyms and early Pokémon, there will be a recap, right before the story starts to focus on more important things. Old readers should know that as of May 2018, much of the early parts of the story have been re-written, and in my opinion, improved. New readers should know that, due to time constraints, new chapters usually take a month to write, edit, and publish. Hence why the Prologue took until July 2018 to get its own proper update.

      It is important to note that while I will attempt to make everything as 'canon-friendly' as possible in this story, I will not always succeed. If you notice any errors in my 'lore' that clash with what's established, feel free to PM me and let me know, all feedback is appreciated. Also note that much of this is headcanon, and is subject to change if Nintendo ever gives us information on areas of the world mentioned in the story.

      The world featured in this story is meant to be a fusion of our world, set many, many thousands of years in the future, and the Pokémon world. This will be elaborated on in the future, but for now, go forward understanding that some of the people, regions, and names may be identical or similar to the real world's. For example, Kalos may sometimes be referred to as 'France' as well, but the people living in that region don't quite remember why. It's just the name that's carved into a bunch of ancient ruins. Most people in the era the story takes place in refer to it as Kalos.

      Also important to note, much of the information about the 'ancient world' (specifically the numerous pop culture references) is only available to these characters because of the 'PokéNet', a similar and futuristic version of the internet. When it was created again, much of the data from the 'ancient world' was lost, but not all, and between books and several websites, the people of this time know a bit about the planet's ancient history. Again, it will be elaborated upon. Eventually.

      I will try to avoid making 'fakemon' a part of the story, with some exceptions as you'll soon see, but don't assume that this means other regions all have the same Pokémon. They're around, but unless Nintendo adds them in, I probably won't mention them outside a vague reference. I also have a series of short stories set in this same world that take place at different times, with different characters, so if that's of interest to you, you can probably find it by clicking on my name. They're all going to be canon, unless marked otherwise, and the ones important to the plot will be threaded into the main story.

      Without further ado, enjoy.

      ________________________________________

      Prologue

      ________________________________________

      The Gohara Desert – Plateau in Central Eurafricasia

      ________________________________________

      He'd underestimated the locals when they'd told him how high the plateau was. Even with all his skill, it had taken most of the day to finally reach the top of the massive plateau, known in these parts as the 'Master Plateau'. There was a reason nobody climbed up here. The wind was too strong for most flying types, and though several of his teammates had been eager to test that, he had ultimately decided to test himself against nature instead.

      Nature, for her part, was pushing back. The wind almost reminded him of Norstad, but it lacked the bitter, freezing cold. Looking around, he didn't see or sense anything for miles. He was alone, on the top of the world. He stared at the fiery horizon for a moment, and then turned his deep blue eyes back to the barren emptiness around him. This was, as promised, the ideal place to train his team. At their level, a sparse field in a forest simply wasn't going to work. They were too destructive, if they wanted to train seriously.

      ________________________________________

      The wind gusted suddenly, and the man growled in irritation, one large hand clamping his black and gold hat down against his head before it could fly off. The hat itself was a throwback, to several years earlier. Most Trainers would recognize the style as Unovan. It was an ordinary Trainer hat, really. Black in front, gold in back, with the symbol of his homeland on the middle. The symbol of eternal balance, a Taijitu sphere of black and white.

      His hair, as always in a constant state of 'needing a trim', curled up over the edges of the hat, and he knew he'd need a comb after he was done up here. He hated when the wind messed with his hair, but there were more important things to deal with. Training in this kind of wind was going to be a problem.

      At a height of 6,5, the Trainer usually towered over most people he met. He wasn't fat persay, but if his clothes were baggy enough, he could appear that way thanks to his body type. His current attire was the opposite of baggy however, as it fit his form with a tightness he wasn't used to, and highlighted his musculature far more than what he usually wore, but only when he moved. Human-made fabric simply wasn't as comfortable as what the dragon had given him early in his training, but one simply did not turn down the attire one earned at the World Tournament.

      ________________________________________

      The black and gold robe whipped wildly in the fierce wind. The same symbol on his hat was stitched onto the back of it, and underneath, he wore a plain black shirt with a green Pokéball symbol etched onto it. His pants, he'd kept unchanged, as he saw no reason to change them out, and he still enjoyed wearing the otherworldly material around his more…sensitive regions. They were black going up to his waist and crotch, as well as along his inner thigh, but the outer edge was white all the way down. As his robe was tied usually, nobody really saw his pants.

      His undershirt clashed with his new attire, which he'd been told was called a 'Haori' back in Japan. Given the nature of the World Tournament, the foreign attire hadn't really surprised him. The Japanese Leagues were incredibly popular, and easy to watch. He did genuinely like the robe, which came down to his ankles, or would have, if not for the wind, flaring it out behind him. He would've felt epic if he wasn't struggling to keep his footing.

      While mostly gold, by request, he'd asked for a black flamelike pattern on the bottom of his relatively new attire. An obvious homage, and a subtle reference to his not-so-secret weapon. The wind gusted again, and as he felt even his large form lifting from the ground, he decided enough was enough. He focused his mind, and let the breath build within his lungs, but before he could do anything, the wind suddenly ceased. He exhaled softly, somewhat disappointed. He liked clearing the skies.

      Ceased was the wrong word, for the wind still moved his attire with a light breeze, a credit to its strength, given that Air Lock was supposed to remove all weather effects. He looked up to see the long, snake-like form of his Rayquaza, arcing through the clouds. He was, as far as he knew, the longest on record. It made sense, for he was also the first, and therefor the oldest. Or so the dragon had told him. He gave the Rayquaza a nod of thanks, and he could've sworn the dragon was smirking at him. He had no earthly idea as to why.

      ________________________________________

      After he adjusted his hat, the Trainer once more surveyed the area, and began mentally setting up locations for where his team would train, and with whom. As he reached for the camouflage patterned Pokéball, as always, in point position, a voice interrupted him mid-throw. He turned, and stared the intruder down, slowly raising an eyebrow at what his sight revealed. To all appearances, a perfectly normal looking human.

      Normal, in this case, was a term he applied to the general masses of humanity. Even amongst them however, this man would've stuck out. The shape of his body was round at the bottom, and thin all the way up. His first thought, by pure reflex, was how similar it looked to a bong, a glass instrument used in the smoking of Leaf, a herb this Trainer was particularly fond of, but not reliant on. Trainers the world over, particularly those with grass types, often shared it at Pokémon Centers, and he was, at his core, a grass type Trainer.

      ________________________________________

      "Well well." The strangely shaped man said, "It seems the rumors are true after all. Unova's Rayquaza has a new Tamer." Alexander Redwood raised a brow at the man approaching from about a Pokéfield length behind him. He'd had his Rayquaza for years. Most people knew that. Rayquaza appeared in the clouds again. The dragon coiled his massive body in the air, resting on said coils, and watched him. Alex knew that through that dragon's eyes, his other mentors were likely watching him as well. Bunch of old crotchety bastards. He did like them, even if they drove him nuts.

      "He found me worthy." Alex said as the man across from him stopped, and put his hands on his hips. His attire didn't help his oddly shaped body. His bag stuck out from his overly round hip, not unlike the slide one filled with Leaf before smoking it. Alex resisted chuckling, despite the absurdity. There was something off about this Trainer, but he couldn't quite figure it out.

      ________________________________________

      He wore a robe similar to Alex's, so similar in fact, that it was uncanny. It was white, rather than gold, and a swirl of artfully woven red lines moved to Alex's right around the bottom. When the garment shifted, they appeared to swirl, almost like water, or smoke. His shirt was a plain, smoky gray, and his pants were white cargo shorts, several years out of style. Even his head fit the uncanny similarity to a bong, for his hat was white with an open top, which revealed an entirely bald head underneath.

      The symbol on the hat was green, but rather than the normal leaf symbol, or even the spiky variant found in Grassium crystals, this leaf symbol had five prongs, each looking slightly serrated. He shook his head, and bit his tongue. His eyes were probably red as well, and though it was hard to see at this distance, he knew that look, the look of someone who was enjoying the highs a bowl of the Leaf gave. This had to be a prank. He was about to tell the tourist to kindly piss off, when he noticed a familiar, if a bit outdated, stone on the strap of the man's bag. A legitimate Trainer, apparently, despite his appearance.

      ________________________________________

      "I assume you're here for a battle, then?" Alex smirked. He heard Rayquaza in his head, offering to deal with the intruder via their linked telepathy. He wasn't the only dragon requesting a chance to drive this strange man off, but Alex ignored them, for the moment. The fact that he hadn't sensed this man had piqued his interest, something many Trainers unfortunately failed to do these days. Being in the world's top tier of Trainer could be rather boring, and after the World Tournament, many people recognized him, but only a few actually wanted to battle. He couldn't really blame them.

      The man nodded. "My name is Clarence. Grass type user. The best grass type user, I'd wager. I've beaten all the others that are of note. All except you." Alex nodded, understanding. Of course. He was here for Terra. Everyone wanted a piece of the fabled 'Yggdrasil', and his legendary defense.

      "I'm not strictly a grass type user." Alex said, flaring his robe open as he began reaching for the power, deep within. He kept his eyes from flaring blue though, he had just enough for a battle connection with his first Pokémon. Clarence eyed the collection of balls on his belt with a cursory examination, but his focus was on the camouflage patterned one still in Alex's hand.

      ________________________________________

      "I'm aware…your team is rather impressive, I admit, but I've seen plenty of impressive teams. You heard me, Redwood. I didn't come to this Arceus-forsaken wasteland for your Charizard. I want your Torterra." The man was smirking, but Alex pinched his brow, and sighed.

      "Everyone thinks they can handle my Torterra." He said, looking up again, and then gestured at the field. "But, you're in luck. This is actually a battlefield that could handle him. He might only break half the plateau."

      The smirk disappeared, and what replaced it was hard to make out. Fear, perhaps? Constipation? "Break half of the Master Plateau? You're overselling, Redwood. I'm ready to buy, too much, and I'll lose interest. And then who will be left to challenge you? Who would take the risk?"

      The smirk left Alex's face as well. "You incorrectly assume that the rest of my team is as wild as Shruikan. He's a dragon. Honestly, it's like you people forget what they're best known for. Ferocity in battle." The mood had shifted, at least for Alex and his team, who were connected by a series of mental links, stemming from their Trainer and forming a mental web of sorts. They did not take kindly to people who insulted members of their family. Alex kept their anger in check, however. There would be time to use it.

      ________________________________________

      Before more words were exchanged, Clarence drew, and threw his own Pokéball. "Brute Root! This is the Trainer. Prepare for battle!" The Venusaur let out an impressive roar as the flash of light that accompanied its arrival faded. It was certainly one of the stronger male specimens Alex had seen, and unique in that his ten serrated-edged petals were a deep forest green, rather than pink.

      A quick glance told Alex that this Venusaur, for whatever reason, was a pure grass type. There was no poison typing with it, which only further increased the strangeness of this Trainer. Pure grass type Venusaur weren't unheard of, but they were usually ancient, wild, and responsible for breeding many Bulbasaur. Such offspring would then go into the world, and usually acquire the poison typing from the pollution human cities still produced, despite their best efforts to stymie it.

      "Impressive," Alex said, nodding at the Venusaur. Old memories of another Venusaur, who had, now that he thought about it, also been a pure grass type, rose to the surface of his mind. Sadness accompanied them. "I still don't think he can handle Terra, though…recall him. I don't want to hurt such a unique Venusaur. They're a favorite of mine…"

      ________________________________________

      Clarence's expression shifted to a grin. "I know." Before Alex could ask what that meant, the Trainer opposite him pressed two fingers to his key stone, and Alex sighed. Evidently, this battle was happening, despite his warning. Oh well. He'd tried.

      "Respond to my heart! Beyond Evolution! MEGA EVOLVE!" Clarence shouted, as his Venusaur climbed to the next level of power in a long, drawn out sequence that really wasn't needed.

      "Are you done?" Alex asked, once the Venusaur was finished. It certainly looked impressive, and he had to admit he was curious as to why it radiated a familiar Stunky-esque scent from its newer, larger petals, but he still knew it was no match for Terra. Then again, he'd been wrong before.

      "Saaaauuuur!" The Mega Venusaur roared a challenge that one didn't need psychic powers to interpret. Alex glanced down at his belt, feeling a twitch from Terra's ball. He'd been called out by a fellow grass type, and was more than willing to put this Venusaur in its place.

      ________________________________________

      Alex shrugged. "It seems Terra wants to accept your challenge. Very well." Clarence raised a brow as his opponent snapped his fingers, and in a flash of green, a large Torterra appeared on the barren, rocky field.

      Terra was everything one expected a titanic earth turtle to grow into. Like his Trainer, he had grown larger over the course of their adventures, and had to be pushing, in Clarence's estimate, eight hundred pounds. Minimum. His legs were not dissimilar to the species of tree in his Trainer's surname. Large, thick, and sturdy. His shell was massive, easily large enough to ride, or camp on. The Ash tree on said shell was also large enough for a pair of Decidueye to roost comfortably, and the massive spikes on the right side of the shell were mirrored by three more on the left. That, more than anything, set Terra apart from his species, though such growths weren't unheard of. Moss covered each spike, and gave the massive turtle the appearance of a Pokémon in his prime.

      Despite all of that, Clarence appeared undeterred, as did his Venusaur. As impressive as Terra was, he was still just a Torterra. Terra looked back at his Trainer once he took stock of his opponent, and was seemingly unimpressed. "Torterra?"

      Alex shrugged. "If you want. There's no reason to restrict yourself. This time." "Terra." The earth turtle nodded, and then began to glow green, as a green light surrounded his Trainer, and then himself. With that, the already massive Pokémon began to evolve.

      His form shifted in the light, the tree on his back moved to the center of its shell, expanding into a passable depiction of Yggdrasil itself, additional spikes appeared around the entirety of the shell. The white horns on either side of his head grew longer, sharper, and the green that usually covered his head became white, connecting to his new head spikes, and forming a helmet of sorts. His tail lengthened as well, and a pair of deadly looking spikes on either side of the now clubbed tip shot out, just as long and sharp as the pair on his head. The massive Torterra roared, and slammed the ground with said tail.

      "Last chance." Alex said, grinning as the entire plateau seemed to shake. "I really don't want to injure your Venusaur. Now you know I'm not overselling. Recall him, and we'll enjoy a bowl instead. Something tells me you'd like that." He couldn't help chuckling now, this was too ridiculous.

      ________________________________________

      Clarence's hand moved, by pure instinct at the offer of Leaf, towards his Venusaur's ball, and then it stopped. He grinned. "Fascinating. No Key Stone…no command…it just changed on its own. I didn't believe it. I guess Plate Crystals can cause Mega Evolution."

      Alex raised a brow from under his hat. "This isn't exactly new information…people have been using plates and crystals from said plates for this for…years, now. Have you been living under a rock?"

      Clarence stiffened, and his Venusaur looked back at him. "Something like that… years, eh? Hmmm…let's just say that, where I come from, Mega Evolution in general is…a touchy subject."

      Alex nodded. With the explosion of new Mega Forms had come new problems. That much energy coursing through a Pokémon, the energy of the Alpha Pokémon himself, could have damaging side-effects. Without proper mastery, the Mega Forms could go berserk, and long-term usage could even, in the case of Scizor, cause fatal melting.

      ________________________________________

      As he'd had something of a hand in making Mega Evolution so easily available, Alex had also taken steps to find a solution to that particular issue. It hadn't been easy, but the results spoke for themselves: a world in which a Trainer, once they had a proper bond, could Mega Evolve their beloved partner without worrying about killing them. Normally, the influence of one Trainer wouldn't have much of an effect, but after it was discovered that his method actually worked, many Trainers chose to learn it, rather than risk hurting their Pokémon. Those were the people he gladly taught the technique.

      Those who only cared about using their Pokémon as a weapon, with unlimited access to the most powerful evolution phenomenon yet discovered, and there were many, had not been taught the technique. He had suspicions a few had found ways around that, but for the most part, the scum of the earth was kept from limitless power. Many countries had still opted to forbid Mega Evolution in their Leagues, but he hoped that someday, they'd change their minds. He'd travel to all of them, if he had to. Everyone deserved to battle on the same level, if they could handle such a thing.

      ________________________________________

      "I understand." Alex said, finally, "But where I come from, it's been found to be harmless, now that we understand it." The problem with energy had been a uniquely crystal/plate based phenomenon. Several Kalos Trainers had discovered that using Mega Stones limited the damage their partners sustained, enough to be safely ignored. That had, if he was being honest, been what led Alex to his own discovery of keeping the power of Arceus from melting his creations. Either way, they were still nowhere near as useful.

      "I will admit…" Clarence said, eyeing Terra, "I was seriously tempted to take your offer. That Torterra is…well, look at him!" Terra slammed the ground again, though whether it was for effect or a result of impatience, Alex couldn't tell. Probably a bit of both.

      "Impressive as you both are, it's not important. I don't care how many badges you have, or how many regions worship the ground you walk on, oh future Tamer of Arceus." Clarence said through a smirk, "I will have the battle I came for!" "Saaauuuur!" Brute Root echoed his Trainer.

      Alex sighed again. They really weren't backing down. "Alright. Fine." He said, finally giving in. He turned his hat backwards, the Grassium and Groundium crystals that were a part of the strap that held the hat in place, now obvious. He gave his usual smirk as he spoke. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
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      Old May 23rd, 2018 (8:05 AM). Edited December 1st, 2018 by Sahqoreyth.
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      Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
      Pokefan1337
         
        Join Date: May 2018
        Age: 25
        Gender: Male
        Nature: Brave
        Posts: 35
        Chapter 1: The Final Semester

        ________________________________________

        Derrion Town - Northern Unova Region

        ________________________________________

        The alarm rang, and he growled awake, smashing it with his oversized fist, swearing into his pillow as he heard it break. He always underestimated how hard he could hit those damn alarms. It was a problem in every region. It was either that, or use his Pokégear, which was unreliable at best. At least when it came to alarms.

        His mother was already shouting about breakfast. Not a good sign, since she never cooked. Alexander Redwood rolled out of bed, half awake, and stumbled into the too-small shower in his room. It was a little cube, and he was a large man, both in height and unfortunately, weight. But that changed today.

        Once showered, brushed, and de-odorized, he grabbed his green-brown hat and jacket and pulled them over his black undershirt, then pulled on his dark blue jeans. The hat fit well over his curled hair, even though he was desperately in need of a trim. Today would finally be the day. In this region, on the north-eastern coast of the largest continent in this part of the world, his journey would finally begin. He'd been waiting two decades for this. Though he knew he was starting with almost nothing, he was ready.

        ________________________________________

        Most of the people in Derrion Town spent their lives preparing to one day take over their family business, and contribute to society as a whole. But not Alex Redwood. When he was younger, he'd been brought to Castelia City by his parents, because the local school teacher had suggested they have him 'tested'. He was introduced to a 'Doctor Ein' who, after dazzling his parents with his Fornian University degrees in science, biology, medicine, etc, took the young boy into a separate room.

        Though his memory of that time was foggy, as he'd been heartbroken over realizing his brother would get to become a Trainer, and he would not, he did recall the strange man with the strange hair putting him in front of an equally strange machine. He'd called it a Pokémeter, and claimed that with it, he could tell the potential for Training a person had. This was, according to the doctor, only one of its uses. Being somewhat shy and quiet, which was what had led his teacher to believe he had an 'issue' in the first place, Alex had complied, and grabbed the strange can-shaped rods of metal. Those, he remembered quite well. They had been pure silver, and had buzzed in his hands. He'd kept hold though, as instructed.

        ________________________________________

        He had no earthly idea of what Doctor Ein had read on the other end of the strange machine, but the man had made a phone call, and in hushed tones, discussed his readings with whoever was on the other end. It had been a short call, and he'd heard none of the conversation. Doctor Ein had promised him that the results were good, and that he could probably be a great Trainer, with a little work. Then, they'd gone back to his parents. The doctor reversed his words entirely, showing his parents bar graphs (which had no labels for what was being measured) to illustrate his point that, according to their readings, he was unfit to handle Pokémon as a proper Trainer. Alex had, naturally, called him out on this, but that had only convinced his parents the doctor was indeed correct.

        Thus, his parents had been convinced he'd never become a Trainer. Pokémon were too dangerous for those with 'disabilities'. Though his granduncle had, evidently, tried to convince his father otherwise, or at the very least have a different doctor test him, the decision had already been made. Alex would work on their ranch, and that was the end of it. Eric would take over eventually, and together, the two brothers would build a legacy to last centuries. Alex had other ideas though, and despite not having a Pokémon of his own, he'd managed to convince wild ones to battle alongside him. Sometimes. The Redwood line had produced several Pokémon Rangers over the years, and his family was quite good at bonding with the creatures. Each of them, usually, had a knack for it. Thus, he'd ended up as a twenty-four year old with battle experience, but no team of his own.

        ________________________________________

        Working on the ranch had been hard, filthy, grueling work, and after finally getting tired of shoveling Tauros dung, Alex had had enough. When he'd turned eighteen, he declared he was simply done. He'd strode into his father's office to make said declaration, and the entire Redwood Manor shook as they argued.

        It was a fight that, in the opinion of most of his family members, was decades in the making. Alex and his older cousin by several years, Geralt, had shown the most promise when it came to bonding with Pokémon, according to their granduncle. Geralt had gone on to become a Pokémon Ranger, and had excelled, becoming a Top Ranger on their continent in the space of a few years. Alex knew that if he'd but had the chance to be a Trainer, he could be the best. He'd burned with the desire for a chance to prove himself for years.

        Finally, his father had accepted his intentions. Being an eighteen-year-old, and by their laws, a man, he could no longer legally stop his son from purchasing his own Pokéballs. He already had several, but had resisted using them. They'd agreed then that if he managed to pass University, without a team, he could become a Trainer. Things hadn't been so simple, though.

        ________________________________________

        Currently, he had one more year at the Unova University to finish, and to finish it, he needed a Pokémon. His father had, finally, acquiesced to letting him have one. Only one. He'd said that it was a 'probationary period' and if he proved himself capable, he could get more. They'd argued again a few days earlier when Alex explained what his final semester would require, but he'd finally managed to win the decades long argument they'd had. Victory was sweet, at least for him.

        After years of saving and spending his hard-earned cash, he was armed with hundreds of balls, potions, protein pills, and other gadgets that would help him in Unova, to the south, and beyond. He intended his journey to last his entire life, as was the case for serious Trainers, and he'd stockpiled as much as he could. He'd packed his bigger-on-the-inside bag, a gift from his granduncle, with enough items to last a lifetime. Or so he assumed. His father had no idea about his stash, but it had been impossible to hide the six custom Pokéballs he'd prepared for his main team.

        ________________________________________

        Alex looked in the mirror once he was dressed, and sighed. He was tired of seeing this fat incarnation of himself. University had been relatively easy, as he had all but memorized the Pokédex, and without a team to train, he'd grown fat over the long years there without working on the ranch. With nothing much else to do besides study, enjoy a bowl of Leaf, and play video games day in and day out, his lack of physical activity had caused him to grow. Fun as it had been, he was tired of it.

        He was ready to start his journey. Now all he needed was a Pokémon. That was where his granduncle, and strongest supporter of his decision to be a Trainer, Professor Redwood, came in.

        If Alexander Redwood was to be a Master, he'd need a truly unique starter. The Professor had pulled his strings, and the aging Professor Juniper from Unova granted him their starters: Snivy, Oshawott, and Tepig. All exquisitely rare Pokémon that anyone would love to have.

        ________________________________________

        His granduncle was waiting in the lab when Alex arrived, and he knew as soon as their eyes met, that this was it. The day had come. He was an older gentleman, though to call him that would be kind. Age had caused him to slump a bit as his spine was perpetually curved, the top of his head was bald, but he had wild, gray hair sticking out from the back and sides of his head.

        He looked like a mad scientist, and with the official Professor coat, he basically was one. He got his aide's attention with a snap of his fingers, and everyone watched as the Professor's favored relative walked into the lab, towering over everyone there at a height of 6,2. Most Trainers weren't so large width-wise, but the training he had in mind for University would take care of that.

        ________________________________________

        The Professor gestured to a briefcase on a table by the lab's back wall. "Snivy, Oshawott, Tepig, this is Alex." The three Pokémon appeared as they were named, and eyed the new Trainer, who examined them in turn.

        "Hmm." Alex said after looking them over, "These three are not for me." The three starters, doing their best to look pleasing to the eye, all pouted, sad at his choice.

        "It's okay." He patted each of them, and the three young Pokémon smiled. "I'm not supposed to be your Trainer, but we will meet again, I think. Go back to your home, and you will find the ones you're destined to bond with. Then, one day, challenge me. When you're ready." The three starter Pokémon shared a look, then looked back at Alex, and nodded. The challenge was accepted.

        ________________________________________

        Shrugging, the ancient Professor called them all back, hiding a smirk. "Well lad, I didn't expect that. Unova Trainers are renowned for their starters." His sly gaze shifted to his grandnephew. "Why, even that girl next door has a Snivy." Alex was hard to read, but his older relative knew how to see past his blank face. His eyes always gave him away. They were on fire today, and at the mention of their neighbor, the flames had flared.

        Alex nodded in agreement keeping his face impassive. He had seen her playing with it, and had for years watched with envy. Jessica Gladstone was, in a word, beautiful. He'd been crushing on her since they'd met during his Trainer Exam to get an ID, but then, so had every other boy within their small town. He had a small advantage though, as he lived nearby. She often ran barefoot through the fields of her family's land with her Snivy, and her red hair was always easy to spot. It was the color of a Charmander, as were most of her outfits, but despite that, she and Snivy made a good pair. Their eyes were almost identical.

        Despite being neighbors however, they rarely spoke anymore. There was just under a mile of land between her estate, and his family's ranch. The only way he'd ever even had a chance at talking to let alone befriending a girl so gorgeous, and rich, was because her older brother, Connor, was a good friend who like Alex, had shared a love of Leaf, video games, and Pokémon. They'd agreed to one day be rivals, when Connor learned why Alex had no Pokémon, and had taken to reading through the entirety of the Pokédex in preparation. But he had gone overseas to Kalos a few years back, and now Alex didn't see much of Jess, or her family.

        ________________________________________

        Her brother had always been obsessed with Greninja, and getting a Froakie on this continent was challenging, to say the least. His family was rich, richer than Alex's, but their father had just gotten into the Tauros ranching business after years of owning a ranch estate but not using it. He'd decided to partner with Alex's father, Frederick, and the two business minded men had agreed on splitting the profits of the cheese and milk their Miltank produced on their combined ranching land.

        After generations of breeding, the number of Miltank had slowly increased, as did the quality of their milk, but they were more of a side-effect, as the Tauros who sired them were worth more money. Still the stronger the Tauros, the better milk its daughter made. It was this aspect of society that the Redwoods had grown rich on over the past few years, but Alex knew he would never take up his father's work. It would pass to his brother and his cousins, who also worked on their Pokémon ranch/laboratory.

        ________________________________________

        He'd always envied not being able to leave with Connor and journey with him, but without a team of his own, he'd never be able to leave. Thankfully, he did already have a Trainer ID. At ten, children of the world were usually tested for their aptitude at controlling a 'special research' Pokémon. Alex's had been a Bulbasaur.

        They were a powerful team once 'Saur' had fully evolved during the test, and his record of wins and losses against the other novices had been impressive enough to get him into that year's top percentile. Unfortunately, his record had been scrubbed several years later, after the League got an anonymous tip, suggesting that he'd cheated. Evidently, it claimed he'd been boosting his partner with Rare Candies, and given his tendency to hide in bushes during the test, the tip appeared credible.

        Ultimately, the League had scrubbed his record, but allowed him to keep the ID, as Professor Redwood threatened to make a scene if they forcibly tried to reclaim it. Given his friendship with John Crimson, legendary anchor of the Pokémon News Network, the threat had been enough for a small victory. Alex had remained Pokéless throughout his high school years, always burning for the chance to properly train his own Pokémon, and show that he was the reason they were strong, not Rare Candies. Without his granduncle's intervention though, he knew none of this would've been possible.

        ________________________________________

        Despite the long years of being an odd, pitied outcast, he'd finally made it. He'd known since he was four that he wanted to be a Trainer. Today was the day he began to change his reputation for being too 'slow' to handle a Pokémon. His father had never had an issue telling everyone what the League had done, loudly, and in public. He'd never been close to either of his parents. What good memories he had of them were faded and few.

        "I've made up my mind, Gruncle Red." Alex said, using his nickname for his favorite relative, and looking quite pleased with himself. "I want a Turtwig." A chuckle went through the room. They'd had bets that he'd choose a turtle of some kind.

        The Professor burst out laughing, and a few of the aides smirked behind their glasses in the background. "Turtwig! Hah! Very well lad, if you want a Turtwig, you'll get one. Though, you'll have to go out and catch it yourself."

        Alex smirked. "Like I'd do it any other way." For Alex, the reasoning was simple. His favorite clothes matched Turtwig's color scheme, and, it had a type advantage over a Blastoise, like the one his brother owned. More than that, Torterra was a strong defensive battler, and no slouch on offense. Speed would be the main issue. He was a turtle, after all. He was also a grass and ground type, meaning their main weakness would be ice. They'd figure out a way to deal with that though.

        ________________________________________

        The Professor pressed a button on one of the lab's walls, and a doorway opened on the back-right side of the lab. Once Alex wandered in looking around, the Professor turned to his assistants, "Pay up." He said, smirking.

        He knew his nephew well. Those who'd bet correctly on his choice had won a great deal of currency. Half had been expecting him to choose Squirtle instead, so he could prove who could raise a Blastoise better, and no one had bet that he would take the Unova starters. The Professor had insisted on testing him with them anyways. Returning them was as simple as pressing a button, after all.

        ________________________________________

        He followed his great-nephew into the side lab, and flicked the light on. "From here, I can talk to an old friend. He owes me a Turtwig..." The Professor stepped past his relative, and made the call.

        He spoke softly, "John, it's me. I know I'm interrupting your favorite meal of steak, waffles, french fries, and of course Scotch, but I need a favor. Ask your people to find out where the Turtwigs are today."

        There was a sigh as Gilroy Redwood's contact ordered the PNN's radar people to scan for Turtwigs in their area. They had satellites around the world, over every civilized country, which made tracking Pokémon easy. Once a familiar image appeared on the screen a few seconds later, he hung up the phone.

        ________________________________________

        A map of the local area was on the screen. The old man pointed a gnarled finger at a forested area a few miles north of their small town. "There. Past the ranches, and into the woods by the orchards, is where you'll find your Turtwig."

        Alex was already out the door, and the aides had to stop him. "Hold up lad." Professor Redwood wheezed, hobbling over to his great-nephew on his cane. "A true Trainer needs a Pokédex. And-"
        "And balls. Yes Gruncle, I know. I have the balls. And I was making my own Pokédex…"

        "Nonsense." The Professor interrupted, several seconds too late. "You'll have a Redwood Pokédex, and that's final. I've improved on Juniper's design. Every known Pokémon from every known region is listed here, and it updates as new regions are catalogued. I expect you to catalogue at least one region. Unova hasn't been finished yet you know, though we pretty much know what lives here by now. Go catalogue it. Heh. Do my job for me!"

        The old man cackled and wheezed through another laugh as his relative took the Pokédex with a sigh. He could use his own once it was finished, this would do. For now.

        ________________________________________

        Alex was out the door again, Pokédex in hand, as he power-walked towards the woods. He was a large man, some might even say fat, but that was only because he'd spent so long on the sidelines, learning and eating and lounging. He knew his future would be full of intensity…so he had taken this brief time in his life to relax. Now, he would finally prove himself, and lose weight in the process. The harsh heat of summer certainly helped.

        He had, of course, planned his team for years. He wasn't some rube who was going to catch the first Pidgey or Starly he saw, he had a focus, today.

        In other countries like Japan, ten-year olds might have been cautioned against going into the areas where Pokémon lived, but this was not necessary for one who had been educated at the regional University. The fact that he'd often played in these woods also helped. The Pokémon he passed as he finally made his way into the natural forest glanced at him curiously, but otherwise ignored the human.

        ________________________________________

        Even Beedrill avoided him. The first thing he'd been taught was how to walk through the woods without angering a Pokémon, and even if you did accidentally wander into the territory of a mean one, they usually softened once you offered a berry, and then quickly left. This didn't always work, but none of the wild ones here bothered him today.

        Despite what some might think, wild Pokémon were very clever. As long as you didn't anger them, they would ignore you. Especially if they sensed you had no Pokémon of your own with you. Alex had never had a problem with these woods, and he knew many of the Pokémon in this forest, even some that were considered meaner.

        As a child, he'd often played here when he'd helped out at the Torterra orchards, to the east. The Torterra had always let him climb their shells to pick fruit, even the grumpy old ones who didn't like to be bothered. They were kind, but also powerful. They had once even driven off a gang of thieves, who were obsessed with stealing fruit for some reason, that had all used fire types.

        Their power had awed Alex, who until that point had wanted a fire type as his first Pokémon. He still did, just not as his first. He'd find a Charmander eventually, but he would start with a Turtwig, and train him to be as powerful as the Torterra in the orchard had been. The very earth had shook with their power. That was the kind of Pokémon he needed on his team.

        ________________________________________

        To the Pokémon of this forest, it was obvious that this human had a focus, and no matter how badly he wanted that Nidoran pair, or the healthy green looking Caterpie he saw on a nearby log. He went deeper, ever deeper, until he discovered a place, a round, bare hill, where he found his prize.

        Lying beneath an enormous Ash tree were several sleeping Turtwigs. "Finally…" he said, panting from the hard hike and the summer heat, and as he spoke, he knew what he would awaken. Their mother. While it was true some Pokémon liked to live on Torterra's shell, the females usually kept theirs empty, for their eggs. It was the easiest way to determine an adult's gender.

        The mound rose from the ground, and slowly one massive, unmistakably female eye met his gaze, and looked him over. He bowed low. "Great Mother Torterra. I wish to train one of your young ones. I need a partner."

        ________________________________________

        He stayed perfectly still as the great beast regarded him, and he didn't flinch as hot air was expelled over him, almost knocking his hat loose. Then, finally, she went back to sleep, shaking the very forest around her as she burrowed into the ground. Once more there was only a great tree on a round hill, the rest of her was completely underground, giving her more nutrients than she could ever find by grazing at her size and speed.

        The young Turtwigs ran towards him, all eager and understanding that this was their chance to be trained, and not given out in a lab either, caught in the wild itself. Very rare, for a new Trainer. Alex knew immediately which one would be his.

        ________________________________________

        He was the largest Turtwig, and the only one to have walked over to him patiently, before regarding him, and nodding, agreeing that he was worthy. Alex grinned, even as he consoled the others. They were all a bit young still, but not the larger one. He was ready to be trained.

        The small turtle had watched, and waited to judge whether Alex was a worthy Trainer or not. The others were adorable, and he gave each one a friendly scratch, but he knew the large one would be his. This was his partner.

        Alex knelt from his lofty height of 6,2 and offered the green and brown camouflage patterned Pokéball he'd picked specifically for his Turtwig, at no small expense to his personal cash. He had a ball for each of his future party members, and gathering them all had taken most of his life. Such things were expensive after all, and he'd been given a lecture about finances after buying each one of them. Now he would make his family see why they'd been worth it. Before today, his parents had considered them a waste, since he would 'never own a Pokémon under their roof'. That was fine with him. He was eager to leave.

        ________________________________________

        He'd obtained a Premier ball, a ball with water designs, one with fire, a purple looking one that would hold his psychic type, and a Timer ball that would hold his dragon type. His proverbial Ace in the hole when his future Torterra couldn't cut it.

        The small turtle nodded, pressed the center button with his large nose, and swirled into it in a flash of green light. It shook once, and then the button faded from its blinking red to a plain white. He stared at the ball for a long time, not quite believing what had happened. He finally had his own Pokémon. It was two decades overdue, as he'd literally been asking for one since he was four.

        Finally, the attempts at bullying would end, the strange looks, mixing between pity and disgust. He knew he was still weird, one did not simply change a lifetime of exclusion, and the habits it had formed, in a day. But it was a step in the right direction. One he'd been itching to take.

        ________________________________________

        Alex grinned again, thumbing the button, and freeing his new friend. "Well done. I name thee Terra. Together, you and I will be the best. Like no one ever was." He smirked, recalling the line from one of his favorite shows as a kid. "Are you with me?"

        Terra had, up until this moment, been a lazy Turtwig, unwilling to do much more than sleep and eat and learn from his mother. Watching over his siblings had always been tough enough, especially in the wild, but he'd always felt as if he was destined for something more. He'd had little interaction with humans, as his mother had warned him to stay away from them, but this one, she had liked the scent of. She had never, to his knowledge, given a human more than an uninterested glance before moving on and ignoring them entirely.

        This human was different though. Similar, in some ways, but there was more to this new sensation than a matching color palette. As soon as he'd entered the ball, he knew they were bonded. Now, he felt this human's fire, his drive to climb to the very top. Their bond would last the rest of their lives. They were both big, and a bit overweight, but together they would grow into something truly powerful, as their adventure carved their power from their pudgy starting forms. Terra nodded. He could picture himself as the mightiest of his kin, and this was the Trainer who would take him to that height. Every instinct he had confirmed it.

        "Very well." Alex nodded, smirking. "Someday, you will be regarded as the strongest Torterra on the planet…but for now my friend, we train. It's a long road, a hard road, full of ice, fire, and obstacles you won't be able to handle alone. Are you sure you want to do this?"

        "Twig!" was the reply he got from the large Turtwig. He hadn't hesitated in answering.

        ________________________________________

        With that, they said their goodbyes to his family, and headed for home. As they walked, Alex reassured his stoic friend; "Now you know the way to your mother from your new home. If you can get to our home, you can go find her. Whenever you wish. Just let me know beforehand, hmm?"

        That made the little turtle grin, and nod. He hadn't looked worried, but the reassurance had helped ease his nerves. Anyone would be nervous leaving home, but it turned out that he wasn't really all that far from the home he knew.

        His new home wasn't bad either. He'd have to grow truly massive to feel cramped in a place like this, and he liked the way his Trainer and his family smelled. He could tell what his mother had sensed with one sniff, now. Each of the humans had an inherent kindness to them, though as he met the older ones, he sensed their kindness had, for whatever reason, dulled. He avoided those humans in his usual aloof manner. There were too many faces to remember at the dinner table that first night, but the other Pokémon that were allowed in the house were friendly as well. He didn't notice how quiet the humans were, nor did he think it abnormal, as this was his first real interaction with them.

        ________________________________________

        The only Pokémon that hadn't been friendly towards him was the Blastoise that eyed him the entire time they ate, but beyond that, he did nothing. He could tell when another Pokémon wanted to battle, though. Someday, he guessed, they would both have the chance. He looked forward to it. It was clearly a powerful Pokémon.

        Terra spent all night playing with the others, as all but one of the humans quietly admired his size, and when they were done, he followed his new Trainer to his room, all the way to the top of the house. Stairs were a new experience for him, and he knew immediately that he would come to loathe them. Then again, they would only be an issue for as long as he remained small. When he was grown, he could crush them at his leisure.

        Alex had shown him a place on the floor, no doubt comfortable, but Terra waited until his Trainer was in bed, and then joined him. Alex didn't mind. Grass types preferred warmth, and the soil on his Pokémon's back smelled wonderful. He cuddled his Turtwig close, and even though he woke up with dirt stains on his sheets, he didn't mind. He had a Pokémon. Nothing could ruin his good mood. Indeed, even his cousins were astounded at the shift in personality. He'd avoided most of his family as a rule, preferring to either climb atop their barn and 'cloud gaze' or 'star gaze' as the case sometimes was, but now, his easy smile was almost ever-present.

        ________________________________________

        Weeks passed, and summer soon began to end. The new pair had trained hard in the brutal heat, but sunlight was something grass types loved, and Alex had had his little turtle absorb as much of it as possible. It was going to be a hard winter. Then, finally, his final year at University began. Alex quietly trained his new Turtwig over the winter months. Having obtained him in August of that year, their combined training took place in the coldest months, in the coldest part of that continent. Their training was, in a word, intense. Most Trainers didn't push their partners so hard, but Alex had explained his situation to Terra. They'd both agreed then, they would need to work so hard, they'd feel like they were on the verge of death. It was the only way to advance as far as they needed to, as fast as possible.

        They did everything together, he and Terra. Schoolwork, what little was left to be done, and then graduation of course, where he was likely to be the only Trainer in his year not to have a fully evolved starter. His parents had been furious when he was told he'd have to go another year to finish two classes that required at least one Pokémon, but Alex didn't mind. He wasn't paying, as was the norm for people his age, and they more than owed him.

        As expected, once he had a partner of his own, he excelled. They were mostly focused on battle tactics, like coded commands that made it hard for an opponent to guess their moves. Terra learned them easily, as he and his Trainer could communicate with about 90% accuracy. The training had helped with that, though. The turtle had learned that humans often needed a very obvious nudge in the right direction for comprehension, but once they understood, they could usually grasp whatever he was trying to tell them.

        ________________________________________

        Alex had never talked much at University, never made many friends outside of classes really, or rivals for that matter. He was just the large, dumpy looking kid with the equally large and dumpy looking Turtwig. He didn't battle publicly to show off. He didn't boast. Most of the time, even with his size, he went unnoticed entirely.

        He'd rarely bothered raising his hand in class, unless the teachers demanded an answer of him. He usually answered right, and yet remained quiet all the same. He trained alone in the woods around the campus almost every day, always leaving his spot and moving deeper into the great forest whenever he heard other Trainers his age approaching. The reason he didn't battle was obvious, at least to him.

        Terra had, over the course of endless hard hours of training during the long semester, become a powerhouse. They had started the day he caught him, and hadn't stopped. The road had been long, and cold, and there were plenty of times one of them had wanted to quit, but they had managed to come through it, and now, it was going to pay off.

        He and his Trainer had taken multiple vitamins each day, and over the remainder of his school year, the both of them grew physically strong. Terra did not evolve, though he could have gone straight into a Torterra if he so desired. He even learned Earthquake from a Tyranitar they met in the mountains north of campus, but that was his second best kept secret.

        ________________________________________

        When they did battle those persistent Trainers, who sought them out after hearing the whisper of a rumor about their supposed strength, they always won, or at least ended things with a draw when their opponent had a type advantage. Alex had figured out early on how to counter for fire moves, at least. Ice remained a weakness, and he knew as Terra grew bigger after evolving, and slower, they would be even harder to dodge.

        When they won, instead of taking their opponent's money, pride, or Pokémon, he made them swear not to tell anyone else where he trained. Many blabbed anyways of course, to their girlfriends or boyfriends, as the case sometimes was. It was hard to track him down twice though. He and Terra often moved miles away from the campus. Having only two classes meant several days off in a row, and often, they could go leagues away from anyone, and train as hard as they dared. Having grown up in a place that was little more than fields and forests, he was quite used to camping as well.

        ________________________________________

        Though he very obviously walked into the woods with his Turtwig, and came out hours later, exhausted and sweaty, nobody made the connection between him, and the supposedly 'super strong' Trainer in the woods. Mostly because nobody could believe that a kid that large with just a Turtwig could be that strong.

        The people who oversaw his dorm knew about his training habits, but they respected his wish for privacy and stayed tight lipped, or at most, pointed the more insistent Trainers into the woods. Even as a dorm student he was quiet, content to sit around and play video games, and watch TV with the volume low when he took an occasional day off.

        He never disturbed anyone, never had parties, occasionally invited unregistered guests, but they were always respectful, and were Alumni themselves. What friends he did have it seemed, were older and already had jobs in their chosen fields, their dreams of journeying around the world crushed by the hard reality of financial concerns. Alex had always flown under the radar, but he knew he would eventually be thrust into the spotlight. The graduation exams were always public. His would be no different.

        ________________________________________

        It was when he overheard rumors of a 'strong Trainer in the northern woods' as he devoured hash-browns in the Mess Hall that he knew he needed to stop battling the few people who managed to find him. Someone had talked, despite his asking otherwise. For his plan to work, he needed to stay unknown until graduation. The more people who knew how strong he and Terra had become, the harder their test would be. The faculty pretended to be above the local campus gossip, but he'd been at University long enough to notice the difference in difficulty during Final Exams for Trainers with a reputation. His needed to be as easy as possible, since he only had one Pokémon.

        Though the strength of this 'mystery Trainer' was supposed to be impressive, he was glad when nobody seemed to believe it. Every Trainer claimed to be strong, and those who didn't were often ignored. His teachers had an inkling of course, they could spot talent and strength when they saw it, but he never showed off, even in class. Mostly because he was always exhausted after his days of training, such was its intensity.

        Though his original plan hadn't called for them, Alex had added weight vests for both himself and Terra after they had stopped a rampaging Tyranitar from devastating the campus, and still managed to remain incognito. Their strength had plateaued, and they still needed to be stronger for what lay ahead. The weight vests never came off. Even in class, Terra wore them too without complaint. The added strain would be worth it soon enough. Though the training had a positive effect on Alex's weight, the vests made him seem just as heavy as he'd always been. He didn't care. He needed to reawaken his muscles, and push them to be stronger. Everything he felt, he knew Terra felt just as much, if not more. For him, he could handle the soreness, and the difficulty of breathing with so much weight on.

        ________________________________________

        The final exam of the University, for Trainer majors at least, consisted of an intense test that forced the studying Trainers, and their partners, to go through a rigorous set of exams with their Pokémon team, to demonstrate what they had learned. When Alex had shown up to his advisor's office with only a pudgy Turtwig in his party at the start of his final year of University, his advisor had actually facepalmed.

        His parents had been consulted. The Dean was informed. Alexander Redwood could not fail University. The Redwood Lab would be even more disrespected. He was his family's chance to erase the 'stain' his granduncle's reputation had left on their name in the science community. In his father's opinion, it was the only good that could possibly come from him being allowed to become a Trainer. If he could manage to discover something, anything really, that other Trainers had missed, that would be enough.

        ________________________________________

        Eventually, at a meeting of all interested parties, he told them all to, quite literally, piss off. He stated that he would pass any test given to him with his Turtwig, and just his Turtwig. As his father had demanded when they agreed he would finally be allowed a Pokémon. He felt more satisfaction than he should have when he saw the patriarch of the Redwood clan turn red with anger. None of the University staff had known that little factoid, nor had they realized just how long Alex had gone without a Pokémon. It was embarrassing, to say the least. What kind of parent denied their own flesh and blood a partner?

        His advisors and the Dean were against his decision, but his teachers supported him. They had watched this young man show up to every class for almost six years without a single ball on his belt, or even many friends. He had a knack with Pokémon that was obvious to anyone with eyes, and they were all aware of the role he'd played in calming a rampaging Tyranitar. He'd done that with naught but a Turtwig, and all in his first year of actually having a Pokémon. He could handle the exams with just one.

        His parents had remained quiet, letting the educators bicker. Alex knew his father expected him to fail, he'd said as much, but at long last Alex had a feeling his father's stubborn confidence was finally shaking the preconceived notions he had about his son's competency as a Trainer. The University's educators were some of the best trained mentors in the world. If they were impressed, his firstborn must have been good. For the first time since Alex was a child, his father quietly wondered if he'd made a terrible error.

        It was one such teacher, who had been responsible for dealing with the repercussions of the Tyranitar that had wandered onto the campus several months past, that spoke up for Alex, and managed to sway the Dean's mind.

        ________________________________________

        So be it, he'd thought. He would face the trials with Terra, and the entire University would watch in awe as he beat every single challenge he faced. His only stipulation for the trials was that during and after each one, he could give his Pokémon a potion of unrestricted strength, and an Elixir to restore Pokémon Power to his moves.

        His request was granted, and with it, Terra demonstrated how strong he was. Alex had been stockpiling supplies for years bit by bit, and now his patient use of his allowance was helping him tremendously. Terra seemed to have leveled many times during the early tests, but never evolved. The crowd always waited, but the large Turtwig never began to glow. He never even had to use all his moves. These were no small challenges, and often it required entire teams, the use of moves like Vine Whip, or Water Gun, or Ember, basic moves, but moves that Alex and Terra simply did not have.

        ________________________________________

        Though Alex made good use of his early education from his granduncle, namely by way of utilizing the wild Pokémon present on the courses with neither Ranger Styler nor Pokéballs. They made up for what Terra simply did not have, but Alex knew once his team was assembled, and trained, a test like this would be nothing. He'd studied up on what he'd need to be a Trainer since the time he learned to read. He was prepared.

        He ran the obstacle courses, and Terra was right along with him, as the crowd watched in disbelief. Nobody could fathom how a Turtwig could do so much. He swam, jumped through hoops of fire, endured man-made blizzards, simulations of pouring rain, swamps, grassy plains, etcetera, etcetera until finally, the two of them made it through.

        It was designed to simulate every possible terrain Trainers might encounter in the world, and he had passed through each of them, Terra never wavered either. There was a fire burning in their eyes that not even the coldest ice could blow out.

        ________________________________________

        Finally, the time for battle came. Needless to say, by this point, those who already competed had left. But those who stayed seemed impressed. His trials certainly took longer than most others, but the judges waved the need for a time limit, given that all he had was a Turtwig. Terra's unassuming appearance had done much to get them this far. Nobody expected him to be strong.

        Going in with only one unevolved Pokémon was hard enough, they had decided early on. But now, that was over. No more items. No more elixirs. Terra was given one more chance to heal completely, and an hour's rest before the final battle. That was normal, however. The final battle was, more or less, what Trainer majors were graded on most harshly.

        ________________________________________

        Terra took two hours to recover, but the crowd's enthusiasm for seeing him reappear died off once it became clear he hadn't evolved. They really wanted to see him become a Grotle, at least, but Alex knew forcing him to adapt to a new body mid-challenge was a bad idea. It simply wasn't yet time to evolve him. There was a plan, after all.

        His opponent was selected from the heads of the department that oversaw the student's training in a specific aspect of Pokémon. Breeding, cooking, battling, contests, whatever a person wanted to one day be, their final test was given in the setting that would best test them and their abilities.

        When asked what his 'focus' was going to be, Alex had simply written, on the first day he had come to the University without a team, 'Pokémon Master'. His first counselor had thought that was a joke. So had the second, and third. The fourth took him seriously, but passed him on when he refused to capture a full team.

        ________________________________________

        It had taken him a total of six counselors over the course of his education to finally help him focus on what he would need to be a master. Four out of six of them had simply said, "He needs Pokémon." Before passing him along. Thus, the head of the Trainer Department had become his counselor in his final year, and had sighed in relief when he finally presented his Turtwig.

        At least he had brought one Pokémon. That was improvement. Though the Department Head felt some guilt in judging him once he'd learned of the strange circumstances the boy had grown up with. Not allowing someone so obviously talented to have a Pokémon was sheer stupidity, in his opinion. He'd called Gilroy Redwood the night before to ask about it, and had gotten a proper tirade. He'd tried, evidently, to help the boy, but risked eviction in doing so. Out of curiosity, the older man had looked up the scrubbed record, and that had been the final nail in the coffin. There was potential here. A Trainer like Alex was rare, and only came along once or twice in a generation. He'd been certain after the twins, as well as Nate and Rosa, Unova had produced its last Champions for a time. But this kid, with proper guidance, would likely reach the same heights. If given the chance to excel, and, if that fire in his eyes stayed burning. The fact that it had survived a childhood that must have been an ordeal was a good sign.

        It was the opinion of most of the staff that Alexander Redwood would never graduate, when they saw he'd brought only a Turtwig to the challenge. Yet there he was, clad in the filthy robes of a graduate who'd made it through the first half of the challenges. He handed the customary robes off to the University staff as he entered the final stadium beside his Turtwig. He was in his training clothes now, and to call them worn would have been generous. But, he'd started the year with them, and he would be damned if he wasn't going to finish it in them as well. He smirked, and gave the crowd a small wave, before letting his weight vest fall to the ground. Moments later, Terra's joined his. They shared a look, and nodded. It was time.

        ________________________________________

        As he stepped onto the final battle field, his counselor did the same. He was an older gentleman, a silver fox some would say, and he had also been the man to replace Grimsley. Today, he wore the robes befitting the Head of the Trainer Department. He'd even shaved, and trimmed his gray beard short. He addressed the crowd. "This has been…without a doubt, one of the most nerve-wracking graduation challenges I, personally, have ever witnessed. A year ago, young Mr. Redwood came to me, without any sort of Pokémon, and claimed his major was in being a Pokémon Master."

        The crowd laughed. Alex adjusted his green and brown hat to hide his face, waiting patiently. The advisors always gave a little speech, but he knew his would be long and embarrassing. You didn't fly in the face of tradition without getting gently mocked.

        "But then, Arceus be praised, he told me he had 'a plan'" The Counselor continued, using air quotes, "A 'plan' that consisted of finding the ideal team that could take on and react to any type of Pokémon his opponents would use, and counter them with super effectiveness. Obviously, I was skeptical. I thought he would be another failure, another lost cause, education wasted on a rich child with a famous name. Then he told me his plan, in its' entirety, as he did with none of his other five counselors."

        This had the audience's attention now. Especially the staff's, many of whom were his former counselors. They had always wondered why the head of the Trainer Department had taken on that lost cause personally. He hadn't fought at a graduation challenge in years.

        ________________________________________

        Men his age, with his position, usually stayed retired. And most students avoided them, because they were likely to have powerful teams. "I decided to trust what he told me. You can see the fire in his eyes, and I saw it too. So, I gave him a chance. I trusted in his vision, because in it, I saw the same brilliance that his granduncle possessed when he came through this University as well. And now…he has beaten all of our expectations. One test yet remains."

        Silence filled the entire campus. Anyone who paid attention to school goings on was watching now. Either from the bleachers, or the common rooms, the cafeterias, and even most dorm rooms. This battle would be on all of them. Department Heads rarely, if ever, battled.

        ________________________________________

        They were considered at the Elite Four's level, and often the Elite Four of a League would retire to universities like this one, there were always exceptions of course, like past Champions, but generally the strongest Trainers took to teaching the next generation once they were over a hundred years old. Humans lived much, much longer than they had in the past, and passing on the previous generation's knowledge only became more difficult as their race's lifespan increased.

        The counselor looked across the battlefield, a standard, league official affair, that had no rocks, trees, or other environmental hazards. It was designed for exceptionally powerful Pokémon, so they could fight their hardest and duke it out with their opponent blow for blow without fear of ruining the stadium.

        "Young Alex, are you ready to complete the first part of your 'plan'?" The old man's smirk reminded him so much of his granduncle's. He was quite tired of old men underestimating him. This was the start of his journey, the first step that would prove to all of them that they were wrong…or crush his dreams of being the best to dust. He'd waited twenty years for the chance to own a Pokémon and prove he was more than capable of being a Trainer. He would not lose.

        ________________________________________

        Alex had a mic too, though he hadn't wanted it. He answered the old man with a smirk. "I was born ready. This is my first step…I've waited too long to waste this chance. I want to thank you, sir. When I become the world's strongest Trainer, I'll make sure everyone knows the Fist of the Earth started me on that path."

        The crowd murmured softly. It was one thing to claim to be the best, anyone could do that. Coming from someone who had just soloed a Final Exam with a Turtwig, it was almost believable. Most in the crowd smiled softly, shook their heads, or chuckled. He was a good Trainer, nobody watching could deny that, but World Champions were on an entirely different level. Some did see what the Department Head saw, however.

        This Trainer had the drive, the fire, the iron will needed to climb to that highest of peaks, and at that moment, it is said, he gained his first followers. They didn't yet know it, of course. They thought they were alone in their appreciation of his fighting spirit, but over time they would find each other, and unite, as many did, around the appreciation of a famous Trainer.

        ________________________________________

        His counselor responded, pulling a Heavy ball from his own robes. "An admirable goal, as I told you before. But before you can attain it, you must go through me…with naught but that Turtwig. Come, young Redwood. Show me your strength! Go! Tyran!"

        The crowd stared as the largest Tyrantrum they'd likely ever seen was called onto the field. He was massive…but noble. He had a dignified bearing, worthy of a king. And, he was colored blue and white, which only made him look even more impressive. Unique coloring usually indicated a powerful Pokémon. When owned by a Trainer, anyways.

        Alex swore quietly. As Terra trotted onto the field and took his position, the massive dinosaur looked at his partner as if to say, 'Really?'

        ________________________________________

        His Trainer nodded. "Yes Tyran, you are fighting the Turtwig. Don't worry, it's stronger than it looks. Do not restrain yourself…because he won't." The great beast nodded. A Charizard might have hesitated in unleashing its power on a smaller, and probably weaker, Pokémon but Tyrantrum had no such reservations.

        It had been a king in the ancient world, a force of untamed destruction. A pseudo-legendary. Alex, for his part, knew all about Tyrantrum after having a fascination with them when he was younger, like literally every other child.

        In this era, they were of the rock type, like all revived fossil Pokémon. But back then, they had been full dragons. The additional typing hadn't really weakened Tyrantrum as a species…but it did make their weakness to ice doubled. Just like a Torterra's.

        ________________________________________

        But Turtwig didn't know any ice moves. It didn't have to. Rock types were notoriously weak to grass and water, but not fire, and Terra had plenty of grass moves. The two Trainers shouted simultaneously, "Head Smash!" "Energy Ball!"

        The massive Tyrantrum charged the ridiculously small Turtwig, its head glowing with the power of the old world. But Head Smash was a rock type move, and even with the lack of recoil damage, it was still weaker than grass. Terra's Energy Ball stopped it cold, and as with most move locks, the type advantage won.

        The king of the prehistoric Pokémon went down hard, and got up slowly, unable to use its tiny arms to aid in standing. Still, this was a Pokémon that had seen many battles. He had been the Department Head's first Pokémon. The massive dinosaur eyed the small turtle with new respect. He'd seen Pokémon that were small and powerful before, and that Energy Ball had hit him hard. He would not underestimate this one again.

        ________________________________________

        Alex's final challenge was listed as a 1v1, no substitutions, no items. Just two starter Pokémon, and the Trainers who raised them. Having the type advantage had been sheer luck for Alex, but even if this had been an Aurorus, Terra could've won. They needed to win here. Everything they'd practiced for culminated here. Losing was not an option.

        They had trained almost hourly for the better part of a year, in one of the coldest areas on the continent. Ice bothered him less after enduring it for so long, though it still did quite a bit of damage. The key to this victory would be the powerful moves Terra had learned quicker thanks to putting off evolution.

        "Again!" Another Energy Ball slammed into the rising giant, but it seemed to not affect him at all. The crowd gasped. Tyran's eyes were glowing red. He was a king, a power unmatched. Leader of a team that had been in the Elite Four, and had held that prestige for many years, before retiring to this position. He would not be outdone by this whelp with a simple thing like type advantage.
        Tyran roared, and the entire campus shook with the force of it.

        ________________________________________

        Terra winced. Tyran's roar had actually been Hyper Voice, a powerful attack from any Pokémon, but not nearly as damaging as their opponents hoped it would be. "Now Terra! Razor Leaf barrage!" Terra nodded.

        His job was now to avoid taking damage, and use his considerable Pokémon power to unleash a steady stream of Razor Leaves at his opponent. His moves had all been maxed by the PP Max his Trainer had given him. He had plenty of power for this beast. The first flurry seemed ineffective, but both Alex and Terra saw that they were indeed cutting the large Pokémon deep. His counselor attacked then.

        "If Razor Leaf is the best you have, you'll never be a World Champion. Ice Fang!" Tyran was already attacking, but for the benefit of his student, he called the move anyway. That too was a part of the tradition. Graduates always got to hear what move their superior opponents would be using. In this way, they had a chance to beat them, and thus the next generation would become stronger than the last. As it had always been.

        ________________________________________

        If Alex felt a twinge of dread, he didn't show it. This Tyrantrum had not been revived then, he had been bred. That was the only way he could know a move like Ice Fang. Dragons, especially part rock types, did not do well with ice normally. Tyran's fangs glowed a frosty pale white. He did the math. Accounting for level and type advantage, plus the inherent strength his dragon typing gave him, this move would almost certainly take Terra out with one hit.

        "Scenario Gamma!" He shouted, and Terra nodded. Coding patterns of attack or defense with key phrases wasn't unheard of…but only serious Trainers ever managed it successfully. You had to have a smart Pokémon to do it, and that Pokémon had to remember the plan exactly.

        But Terra had studied each of their patterns for almost a full year now. He knew what he had to do. One hit from this much larger opponent, and he was done. This was the moment all that evasion training paid off. But he needed more than just evasion, he needed an edge.

        ________________________________________

        The plan Alex had called for relied on Terra's judgement as well, so he used a different move from the Razor Leaf barrage. The earth shook, and the entire stadium field was crushed and made unstable as Terra dodged the icy fangs of his opponent and ruined the terrain with an Earthquake.

        Both Trainers, seeing what was happening, were raised into the air on metal platforms. They avoided the Earthquake, but one accidental hit to the supports, and they would go down hard. Now it was a real challenge. Once more, the campus shook, and Terra gave what must have been a smirk to his larger, angrier opponent.

        Tyran's charging speed was now useless, and he had to smash through boulders that crumbled under his weight just to move effectively. The entire top layer of the field had been reduced to unstable boulders that would never hold Tyran's weight, severely limiting his movement.

        ________________________________________

        Terra had no such problems. His smaller form was faster, and he jumped through the debris with the skill of one who had run through the woods many times.

        Tyran was effectively trapped in one area, and he was not happy about it. His fangs tore through rock uselessly in his rage, giving him something stable to stand on, if one could consider gravel stable.

        "Enough!" his Trainer called. Tyran had wasted many valuable Ice Fang uses on the environment. Without that move, he could very well lose. "Crush the area around you with your feet. Let him come to you!"

        ________________________________________

        A novice Trainer with a newly evolved Tyrantrum might've been ignored with a beast that angry, but Tyran and his master were not novices. The great beast began crushing the large upended boulders around him, making the immediate area flat enough to stand on. All the while, Razor Leaves slammed into his rocky hide. He ignored them.

        That was what Alex counted on. The practice of gauging a Pokémon's health with bars on a screen had been discontinued several years back, and now gauging how much damage was being taken was left to the Trainer's Pokédex.

        A far cry from several decades earlier, now every Trainer had an encyclopedia of Pokémon knowledge. Any new information was added from thousands of sources, and the vast number of known Pokémon species was finally more realistic. With so many Trainers cataloging them, many Professors believed they would soon, at the very least, have a visual record of all of the non-Legendary species in their world. The Department Head's eyes weren't on his Pokédex however, and Terra's leaves were easy to miss, small as they were.

        ________________________________________

        Switching to long range once more, another Hyper Voice slammed into the Turtwig, who shook his head and looked a bit wobbly. "Terra!" The Turtwig snapped to attention, the damage ignored now. He'd just been brought to half health, by Alex's Pokédex estimate. "Finish him."

        The Turtwig nodded, stopping his ceaseless dodging through the field of boulders, and charged at Tyran. The great beast let him come. His fangs glowed with frost, and one way or another, both Pokémon knew this would be the deciding moment.

        ________________________________________

        Terra charged, eyes closed, at the great beast as the ball of green energy formed in his maw. Tyran lunged, and roared in frustration as he missed yet again. Terra had leapt under the massive Pokémon now, and Tyran had expected him to jump back, or to the sides, not under him. Terra's Energy Ball swelled as he wove the power into a condensed ball, and fired it, slamming it into the giant dinosaur's throat. Tyran flinched, tiny arms reaching in vain at the painful wound.

        "Frenzy plant!" Both Tyran and his master blinked. There was no way a mere Turtwig would know that kind of move, but Terra had already stomped his little feet into the ground, drawing the power of one of the 'elemental Hyper Beams' into his body. It wouldn't be as strong as, say, a Torterra's, but with all the damage Tyran had taken thus far, this was the end.

        The crowd watched, amazed, as a series of massive vines rose from the ground at the Turtwig's command, and slammed directly up into Tyran's body. The massive dinosaur went flying, falling before his master on the other side of the field. Everyone watched it struggle to rise, twice, only to finally fall. If he'd been able to use his arms, he might've gotten up again. As it was, he was too drained to move, and gave in, fainting. The damage from the Razor Leaves had added up.

        ________________________________________

        The platforms lowered once more, and Alex made his way through rocks, vines, and rubble to his advisor, on the other side of the field. Terra met him halfway. The two opponents shook hands amidst the roars of the crowd, and those roars only grew as he took his diploma, and raised it, victorious. Students who lost, and they usually lost, were judged on their battling technique, and given a pass/fail rating that was lenient for most majors, except anything to do with battling.

        Facing the challenge with only one Pokémon had all but guaranteed a failure in the judge's rating of battle strategy. Students who won, however, not only automatically graduated, but went on to do whatever they had studied for with a battle record that counted one official League-recognized victory. The examiners here were considered some of the best, and many had served in Unova's Elite Four under N at one point or another. Such a victory could get a Trainer a spot in almost any gym in Unova.

        ________________________________________

        Yawning wide, Terra slumped against his Trainer's leg, and Alex smirked down at him, patting his head. "You were amazing. I told you, and now I have proof. Together, we cannot be stopped."

        He recalled Terra for the first time in weeks, letting him rest in his ball for once, and left the stadium. The murmuring crowd of his peers met him with cheers, handshakes, phone numbers, and challenges to battle. He returned what handshakes he could, and refused almost everything else. Several random numbers ended up in his Pokégear, and he didn't rightly know how they got there.

        The heat of the new summer finally faded into the coolness of the night, and after dropping Terra off at the local Pokémon center, he attended what must have been maybe his fifth actual 'Uni party' at the behest of the small circle of friends he'd made. It was the last party of his last year. He figured he might as well go.

        ________________________________________

        It was exactly as it had been the last four times. Music that drowned out the chance of any intellectual conversation. Men and women who were so drunk that, if you paid attention long enough, you could guess their major based on intoxication alone. People who enjoyed grinding on each other, and called it dancing.

        He'd never really seen the appeal of any of it. The obnoxiously loud music did nothing to stir a beat in his oversized feet, and while he could actually dance, he simply didn't. If he had a decent song on, he could easily move with it, but the loud, obnoxious music here, a favorite of his generation for some reason, did nothing for him. The lyrics were garbled, repetitive, and derogatory of Rangers, a profession he had nothing but respect for.

        He didn't quite know how he'd remained anonymous at the party after his apparently awe-inspiring victory, but his natural tendency to avoid eye-contact had helped. That is, until some idiot found a microphone. He knew the voice, and groaned into his cup of what he hoped was alcohol of some kind. It tasted too fruity to be sure. He'd hidden himself rather well by a fake tree planter in the back of the crowded room, and kept to himself. Given the lack of light and plentiful beverages, he'd expected to stay anonymous. At least until the Leaf circles started popping up. But those always came later.

        ________________________________________

        Jon was also a Trainer major, and thus had many of the same advanced classes with Alex. He had a thing for black and yellow Pokémon, and was almost the entire reason that Alex intended to find a golden Shinx, somehow. He wanted a Luxray on his team, and he'd get one someday soon if he was lucky.

        Jon liked Pokémon, and they shared many opinions on them. He was generally pleasant to be around, but alcohol can make an idiot out of even the brightest mind.

        "Heyoooo!" He slurred into the mic. Boos followed as it shrieked, and he waved them away. "I jusht, I jusht wanna shay, Redwood, man…wow. What a match. Give it up. He'sh back there in the…the corner…being all aloof and muk. Give it up!"

        After a few attempts at pointing, he finally singled Alex out, who took one last look at the window, before being mobbed once again by handshakes, phone numbers that were usually missing digits, and requests to battle.

        ________________________________________

        "I can't battle, Terra is resting now." He kept repeating, explaining multiple times to blank, drunken faces that yes, he really did only have the one Pokémon. They either didn't believe him, or found that 'totally lame'. These were his peers. The future.

        The rest of the party was a blur of much of the same, and eventually he left. He found a group of grass Trainers as he wandered away from the center with his rejuvenated Turtwig, and spent the night enjoying the hallucinogenic Leaf smoking that grass Trainers so often enjoyed together.

        The next day he made his way home, after packing his car, alone, as Terra rested in the sun. He was pretty sure the little Turtwig was fine, but he let him rest anyways. They'd had a long year. Now they would go home, and the real journey would begin.

        ________________________________________

        Meanwhile, back on the Ranch…

        ________________________________________

        The Snivy picked her head up, glancing out the enormous ranch-style window of her Trainer's house as a flash of green light caught her gaze. "Ivy." She squeaked, getting her Trainer's attention.

        "What is it Serpi?" The flame haired head of her Trainer appeared next to her, looking out the window. Her Trainer had the same eyes she did, the superior look of a Snivy. It was why they had bonded. She too came from a line of her species that was considered to be one step from royal. There was no doubt that she would one day be a Serperior. Thus, she had been named for that eventuality.

        "Char!" The more annoying and more recent addition to her master's team, a female runt of a Charmander from the Charicific Valley in Johto, jumped up next to them as well. She was the same shade of red-orange that her master's hair was, and they matched perfectly together, as her master often dressed in flamboyantly red colors as well.

        ________________________________________

        Serpi was jealous of their newest team member, but knew deep down that her bond was the stronger. She was the first. She always would be first. Across the field, at the smelly neighbor-boy's farm, there was a commotion. Jessica blinked slowly, staring out the window. Another green flash lit the area, and Serpi's eyes narrowed. Much like how electric types could speak with their element, grass types had similar methods of communicating. The pudgy Turtwig was trying to get their attention, for some reason.

        The flame haired woman was younger than twenty-four, but looked to be graduating early, thanks to her father's influence at the University. Right now, however, was her summer break. She had, of course, been against coming to such a remote part of the region for a whole summer, as their family usually went to places like the Kalos region or Alola. It was as she squinted across the grass that she saw one of her neighbors. Then, she saw the familiar jacket. It was Alex, then. According to his brother Eric, he'd been obsessed with little more than training since he'd gotten his Turtwig.

        He had, in actual fact, just finished University. She'd seen the battle of course, but hadn't quite believed it was the same overweight, quiet, shy kid she'd lived next to for so long. He was a good friend, fun to talk to, but he always smelled of Tauros, and was a bit too overweight for her tastes. Kind as she was, like most women, appearances mattered, and were often deal breakers, or makers.

        ________________________________________

        Or at least, that's what she'd thought. She watched him again, with a Turtwig just as large and a bit pudgy as him, fire another Energy Ball at an old stump that he had moved into his yard years ago, claiming it would be where he trained his first Pokémon, a Turtwig.

        It seemed his 'master plan' was finally becoming reality. Before her Pokémon could blink, she was up and racing across the hills towards him. There was something in his stance, the way he ordered an attack, that had her intrigued, and after watching that battle…well, what girl wouldn't be interested in a Trainer like that if they were right next door?

        She couldn't quite understand it though, and needed a closer look, in person, and not on a screen. As she got her improved view, she gasped lightly. From a distance, he had looked as overweight as ever, but she had failed to notice exactly when he'd gotten his first partner.

        They had trained for months, and now, Turtwig was strong enough to have mastered the Energy Ball, an advanced move by all counts. They had both been training hard it seemed, and after that battle, their strength was obvious. With that strength came muscle, and it was no longer fat that filled out his brown-green shirt, torn and dirty from constant activity and training. He didn't have the body of a rancher anymore, but anything was better than being comparable to a Snorlax.

        ________________________________________

        Alex's Turtwig was similarly changed. And now, as he saw the flash of red running towards him across the stretch of mowed grass that separated their houses, was the other moment he'd spent his life waiting for. The moment where he showed the girl next door that he was actually a decent Trainer. Unlike her brother, Jess had never quite believed that he would make a good one. Thankfully, she knew when she was wrong. Taking down an Elite Four level Tyrantrum with a Turtwig had to require some measure of skill. And luck.

        He and Terra shared a look, and after a moment, he nodded. For this particular moment, they'd put their training vests back on, as neither had been sure the Snivy would see his signaling. They let the vests drop with a satisfying thud into the dusty ground of the ranch. Over the years, science had finally condensed the many weight-training items into one perfected vest that could raise every stat with the potency of a final evolution. The drawback was a loss in speed and movement, as well as power. Attacks were weaker, but could be used more often. It was perfect for training.

        ________________________________________

        Alex glanced towards the flash of red racing over the grass towards them, and after a brief stretch, he nodded at his partner. "Energy Ball! Again!"

        Terra responded instantly. The stump blasted apart, just as Jessica's Charmander and Snivy caught up to her, panting. A life of luxury had left them with little real endurance, as their Trainer would rather dress them up than battle with them, most of the time.

        They stared in awe at the Turtwig before them. He was so strong, so bright, he almost glowed…he was glowing. Light shone forth from within him, and he cried out as the power of evolution took over, finally transforming his child form into that of a Grotle. It was as large as a Torterra, and just as deep voiced.

        But Alex didn't seem to notice. "Well done Terra!" He ran and hugged the enormous beast, who shared his enthusiasm. They had followed his plan then. Train until he learned Energy Ball, and then evolve. Even the name Alex had picked was the same. But recalling the battle, Jess wondered. If this Grotle knew an attack like Frenzy Plant, he must've mastered Energy Ball a long time ago. He'd used it during the battle, hadn't he? So why evolve at this exact moment?

        ________________________________________

        "You really did it…" she whispered, "You're…actually following your plan?" Turning as if just now noticing her, he smirked, and gave a nod. As always, he was covered in dirt, though that was to be expected when one was training an earth turtle. Up close, that intensity in his gaze awoke something inside her that had been sleeping for all the years they'd been neighbors.

        He would've always been perfect if he'd just lost a bit of weight and gained some much-needed social grace, but now…now he was holding her eye contact. This was not the same person she'd grown up next to. Who'd been a friend of her brother's, more than her. While the Leaf-smoking gamer had been amusing to tease, teasing was all she'd done. She'd assumed it was harmless. It wasn't like he was pining for her, or anything.

        Evidently, finally getting a Pokémon partner had changed the former ranch hand more than she'd expected. At the very least, he had her attention, which of course had been the point of their little light show.

        ________________________________________

        She grinned. "Well, if I recall correctly, the next stop is for Leo, the Luxray."

        A smirk cracked Alex's normally impassive expression, and Terra nodded. "Aye. Now we find him. At the mall. My instinct leads me there." He arched a brow to Spockian heights. "Care to join me?"

        She smirked at him, then shrugged. "Why not. Lead the way."

        And lead he did. For once, from behind, he didn't look like a lumbering Snorlax. There was purpose in his long stride, and a straightness to his back. Definitely not the same Alex. Gone was the awkward ranch hand. Now, he was a Pokémon Trainer.
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        Old May 25th, 2018 (2:55 AM). Edited December 1st, 2018 by Sahqoreyth.
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        Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
        Pokefan1337
           
          Join Date: May 2018
          Age: 25
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          Chapter 2: Mall Town Showdown

          ________________________________________

          Mall Town, East of Bostonia - Northern Unova Region

          ________________________________________

          The mall was crowded with hundreds of people, and the two rich kids blended well among them. Or rather, Alex did. Jessica stood out completely thanks to her hair and her looks, drawing the attention of literally everyone who saw her.

          He had forgotten how noticeable she could be among normal people. He saw her confused look as she noticed the various and multicolored Unovans walking past them staring at her, and he leaned in to whisper in her ear, and explain. "They're not used to seeing someone as alluring as yourself. Though it could be the fiery hair." He had a newer shirt on now that was brown, with a green Pokéball on it, under a black jacket that had a useful, but thin green hood. It was proper travel attire for a Trainer. A graduation gift from his Gruncle.

          "I think you're imagining things. People attractive enough to catch an entire mall's attention only exist in dreams." She said, smirking as she scratched her Charmander under her chin.

          "Then may I never wake." He muttered, as he looked around for the store he'd driven down here to find.

          ________________________________________

          His new color scheme more or less matched his future Torterra, and with a few more battles, he'd finally have one. There was no reason to hold off evolving anymore, as he'd caught Jess' eye and successfully asked her out, more or less. Just as he planned. He'd imagined this a thousand times, actually experiencing it was something else entirely. He still couldn't quite believe it had actually worked. The hot day had an almost ethereal quality to it, as if this was yet another of his daydreams. He expected to wake at any moment, and realize he was still a Pokéless outcast.

          They'd come to this town, a fair number of miles south of their home, for the enormous mall that served as a hangout, movie theater, and shopping center for the many sparsely populated towns north of Unova, but too far from Bostonia to make a day trip. Thankfully, in their society, business tended to thrive, and Mall Town was no exception. It was a place to do business, and had enough 'rural charm' to entice city folk into making the trek out. The result was the massive mall they were now strolling through. If you couldn't find what you were looking for here, it was fair to say it probably didn't exist, such was the variety of stores.

          ________________________________________

          His purpose here was multifold. Find the Shinx he'd seen on the Pokéstore's site, train up his Grotle into a Torterra, get his Shinx some experience if possible, and impress the girl next door who, as she looked around at the many shops, holding her Charmander, took his breath away for a moment. It was as she looked back at him, smirking, that he realized he was staring. Her Charmander blinked up at him, and made a soft noise. He scratched her chin, and the small red-orange Pokémon shivered in delight.

          The poor thing had been a runt, rejected by her mother, and given to the Charicific Valley's keeper to hand to the Professor of Kanto. But they hadn't wanted such a small Pokémon for their potential Trainers, and so eventually, Jessica's father had been convinced to buy the small burning lizard while they were on vacation that year in Johto, living in their Goldenrod City Apartment, or so Jess had told him. She'd originally wanted a Torchic or Fennekin, but after seeing the fire lizard on the adoption site, she knew she had to help.

          It had either been that, or releasing her into the wild where the laws of nature would have likely seen her dead before long. Such things were avoided these days, however. The world was connected like never before, for Pokémon at least, and there was always a sympathetic heart in the world that would take in a runt or a stray who needed a home. Transportation only required a Pokéball.

          ________________________________________

          Hearing how she'd saved the little Charmander was what had made him realize that this neighbor of his was the one. Sure, he had eyes for her long before that, any guy would've, but that was the proverbial nail in the coffin.

          "She really likes that when you do it." Jess said, frowning slightly. "Like, more than when I scratch her. Why do you think that is?"

          He winked. "Magic fingers." She rolled her eyes, but the faint blush was there, on the pale cheeks. Before he started awkwardly staring once more at perfection incarnate, at least to his smitten eyes, he forced them elsewhere...and they landed upon exactly what he'd been looking for. For a moment, he put the ever-distracting thoughts that drove human procreation in the back of his mind.

          ________________________________________

          "There." He stopped, and touched her arm, fighting down the instinctual thrill in his pants from feeling her skin. He might've been a bit loopy from the Leaf they'd had before coming in, but he could've swore he felt a slight buzz of...something where his rough fingers met the soft, warm skin. If she had a similar reaction, it didn't show. He pointed across the way at the Pokéstore, where they sold unwanted and highly desired Pokémon alike. There, in the window, was a bored looking Shinx, colored gold and black. Just as the Pokésite had promised.

          A quick PokéGoogle search on the PokéNet for a special Shinx had given him the store's location, and he had been lucky to be close enough to make the trip in a day. It was fitting for today though, as it was quickly become the luckiest day he'd ever lived. When Jess had heard how near his next partner was, she hadn't backed out, and the car ride had certainly been pleasant. He wished he could've let Terra out, but there was no way he would ever fit in a car again, so big was he after putting off evolution for so long.

          ________________________________________

          As far away as the mall was, it wasn't really that unusual for the people of his town to go there, as their town was pretty small and remote. It didn't even have a Pokémart, as it was primarily ranches, which meant a few local stores trying to ignore the technological revolution, and a train station that charged absurd prices for tickets, because they could.

          He hadn't wanted to use the train though, he knew the reaction to his companion would be similar, if not worse on a crowded metal tube. He knew her Charmander wouldn't like it either.

          Jess hadn't seemed to notice, but he could tell the little fire lizard hated cramped spaces. The entire car ride, she had been twitchy, until he'd managed to calm her by scratching her under the chin, a sweet spot that most Charmander shared.

          ________________________________________

          The bored looking Shinx was licking his paw when he looked up suddenly, on instinct, and met his new Trainer's eyes. And from that moment on, they knew they were bonded. The cat gave him what seemed like a smirk. Alex returned it. Yes, this was definitely the one.

          Alex didn't even blink at the exorbitant price tag on his new Shinx, who had been reserved for another, until Alex offered a sum four times larger that he would pay right then and there.

          His deal was graciously accepted. He could tell his father it was a charity donation, which it essentially was. Any Pokémon store could run itself on what he'd paid for years, and open additional branches as well, but they could easily afford the cost. Plus, after years of being denied a Pokémon and used for, essentially, free labor on the ranch, he was more than due a few thousand. His allowance had been pitiful, especially compared to his relative's. But none of that mattered anymore. This Shinx was his. He lifted the electric kitten into the air, and eyed him, before setting him on his shoulder. The cat purred against his Trainer's neck, and his hair flared as electrical current moved through it.

          ________________________________________

          Jessica watched, amazed, at how easily he'd bonded with a new Pokémon. The ones from the store usually had an issue of some kind after being mistreated by their Trainers. The only real problem their world faced was people who abused Pokémon, that hadn't changed. All it took was a mindset that viewed them as tools, or 'lesser' beings because their brains weren't as advanced as humanity's, and people could justify using them for anything.

          But for every Ghetsis, there was an Alex, it seemed. This Shinx did not have a defect however, as he was one of the store's ideal Pokémon, with a price tag only the rich could ever hope to afford. He was proud, and already strong enough to make sparks of his own.

          He was put inside Alex's Premier Ball, and appeared in a flash of blinding light that made him sparkle when he was called from it. The entire mall watched, noticing the display. Just as he'd planned. Someone would surely want to battle a Shinx like his. He knelt down to the gold and black cat, petting its fur, and then checking his hand.

          "I'm going to call you Leo. What do you think? Do you like the name?" The Shinx blinked at him, then tilted his head, and nodded once. It would work. "Good!" Alex said, standing and looking around the crowded mall intersection. They were surrounded by people and stores. There was no way he'd go unchallenged.

          ________________________________________

          "Yo, bro! Jess!" A voice called out, and Alex suppressed a grimace. His brother. Eric. The brothers had always been rivals, and unlike Alex, he'd gotten a Squirtle when he was young, and had grown up alongside it. Alex had no illusions about who the favored son was, and he'd decided that he didn't much care. He'd show his parents his worth as well, eventually, but it wasn't his main goal. Buying a Shinx with their money was more than enough of a snub to them, especially with that many zeroes on the price tag.

          He looked back to his brother, and knew that though he only had primarily water types, he was a skilled Trainer, and had been battling much longer than Alex had. Still, water types were weak against both electric and grass types, and Alex knew that though Leo was young, he'd still be a valuable partner after he'd benefited from a few Technical Machines.

          Eric primarily trained against the other water types their cousins had, while Alex had trained Terra in the harsh northern mountains to grow a resistance to his weakness. Now, the brothers would see which training style paid off more.

          ________________________________________

          "Eric." Alex said, meeting his brother's gaze, "My new Shinx and I, along with my Grotle, would like to battle you."

          "Aha." Eric responded, sarcasm creeping into his voice. "The plan is in motion then?" His eyes darted from his brother, to their gorgeous neighbor, and Alex nodded.

          His brother was his opposite in every way, short where he was tall, deathly thin where he was literally big boned, straight hair where his was wavy and curled at the edges, he'd had Jessica's eye for far longer than the elder brother had. Yet he had never pursued her.

          Kindness was one thing they had in common, along with a love of Pokémon, but Eric was always busy researching on the few occasions the Gladstone siblings had wanted to hang out and enjoy a bowl of Leaf. Alex knew his childhood had been no picnic either. Being the favored son destined for greatness was almost as rough as being the futureless farm-hand.

          Almost.

          ________________________________________

          From the day they'd been old enough to talk, they'd been rivals. In video games. Sports. School. Friendships. They clashed over and over, and often Alex was the one who would lose. Thus, Eric had become the more popular brother with an affinity for water types, and a Squirtle to go with it.

          Eric was studying to become a Professor, and even their granduncle was impressed by his scientific mind. He claimed Alex had a similar mind, but Alex was too focused on his grand plan to bother with contemplating what he might do if he ever achieved his lofty goal of becoming the next World Champion. But his granduncle had always told him to aim high, so he wouldn't end up disappointed.

          Being able to even make it to the World Tournament was an ordeal on its own, or so his granduncle had told him. But it was one he was willing to endure. Nothing could be worse than living in a world of magical creatures, and not being able to bond with one as a proper partner.

          ________________________________________

          Eric was thin, thinner than most because of an eating disorder.. He didn't even have muscle on him, which once more made his brother look fatter by comparison. He was garbed similarly, but in blue, and together, the three of them in green, blue, and shades of orange and red on Jessica's part, represented the three starting type colors quite obviously. People were staring.

          Alex raised his voice, and Leo's new Premier ball towards his brother. Leo watched his Trainer. Eric had always been more popular, considered the 'better' Trainer in the Redwood family. Now the onlookers they'd managed to pique interest in would see otherwise. He had no doubt that several of their peers were here today as well. It was early summer, and the day was perfect. If he managed a win, word would spread like wildfire.

          "I challenge you, Eric Redwood, to a battle. Outside. Bring as many Pokémon as you like, and substitute as many times as you wish. I will do the same, and I will beat you." Eric raised his eyebrow to Spockian heights.

          ________________________________________

          "With two Pokémon, you're going to beat my entire team? Yea right, bro. Fine. I'll meet you outside. Smell ya'." With that, he walked off, and some of the milling crowd watched with interest, following the younger Redwood outside. The majority of the others watched him and Jessica, but mostly Jessica. She was gorgeous, after all. The Charmander only added to her charm.

          Her looks were unmatched, but she had, at least to his knowledge, never really used them. The boys had certainly tried, of course. But trying to tie her down was like trying to tame the wind. There was only one way to attract a free spirit like hers, and that too, was part of his ultimate goal.

          ________________________________________

          "Are you sure about this, Alex?" She asked, frowning. She doubted his chances. Eric had always been better at battling. Alex was good at calming Pokémon, but he was a new Trainer. "You know you'll probably lose, right? This is your first battle out of school. Against a full team. Maybe you shou-" He cut her off.

          "No. This is perfect. I couldn't have scripted it better if I was in a play. The showdown that was always meant to be." He smirked. "I've waited a lifetime for this battle. I worked hard for my power, and my team. Now, I will take them on the first step to victory!" A few people sarcastically applauded his enthusiasm in the background.

          Jessica nodded. "If you're sure…" Now she felt confused. He had certainly impressed her with the battle against the Trainer Department Head, and his Turtwig evolving on schedule, but Eric had been training far longer. His Blastoise was surely much stronger than any Grotle.

          "And I'll lead with Leo." That got everyone's attention.

          "You're leading a rival battle with the Pokémon you just got?" She said, staring in disbelief.

          He nodded. "Leo is my partner now, I trust him completely. I have the proper TMs for him, too. He won't let me down." With that, he strode off, and began loading the disks into the Technical Machine.

          A few bright flashes later, while walking no less, and a dazed little Shinx stumbled into the sunlight of the parking lot. He knew many moves now. How to manipulate electricity in ways he'd never known, but knew were far stronger than his sparks had been.

          "Are you ready Leo?" His new master asked.

          ________________________________________

          The young Shinx came to grips with his newfound knowledge. He had the power. He would use it, even if he ended up fainting. There was something about this human, something that made him want to fight with all he had. If he did that, he knew he would still feel satisfied, even if they ended up losing.

          He nodded at his new Trainer, and growled at the figure in blue, who spoke then, "Really? Are you sure you want to lead with the one you just bought?" Alex nodded.

          "Fine!" Eric called, drawing his own ball, a blue affair covered in water drops. "Don't rattata when dad finds out you spent that much money on a painted Pokémon."

          ________________________________________

          Alex rolled his eyes. He had, of course, checked for paint on the Shinx, but had found none. He seemed to genuinely be golden furred. Fate, it seemed, was with him. He eyed Eric's ball and sighed at its' similarity to one of his own. He didn't have a Mudkip for his yet, however.

          "Go! Draking!" A Kingdra appeared across the small battle field, to the side of the parking lot. Dozens of townies were watching now, and there were a few laughs as they saw the former fat, awkward kid with his tiny Shinx walk up to battle a well-known water-type expert.

          ________________________________________

          "Even with type advantage, he has no chance." Someone whispered. "I know" came a reply. "The dragon typing will make it too tough for a Shinx. But Alex Redwood never listens. He'll learn the hard way. Amateur."

          "I don't know, didn't you hear how he graduated?"

          "Later. You shouldn't buy into rumors."

          Jessica sighed, looking down at her Charmander. "At one point Chari, I would've said the same thing." She said, speaking too softly to be heard. After spending most of the afternoon with her neighbor, she was slowly realizing that this was who he'd been all along. She should've listened to her brother when he'd said he had potential. Connor had an eye for those kind of things.

          "Charmander. Char?" Came the response from the bundle in her arms. Jess grinned. "You're right. Let's do it." She looked up, grinning, and Chari raised her little arms as well, for her master, as she was holding her up with them. "Go Alex! Go Leo! You've got this!"

          ________________________________________

          Alex and his new partner turned at that, and the crowd quieted. He met her gaze from under the hat, where she saw the last hint of his hesitation fade. She was cheering for him. Her. The girl he dreamed about constantly. She believed in him, and that was all he needed. He smirked, and turned the hat backwards. Eric rolled his eyes, but some of the more enthusiastic gawkers whistled.

          Leo felt his master's surge of confidence, and sparks radiated from his fur. He'd battled before, but this…connection he felt now was new, exciting, and most of all, powerful. He was ready to give this battle everything he had. He had to prove he was strong too, if he was going to face down his sire someday. With this Trainer's help, he knew he could do it.

          He growled at the much larger, much stronger Kingdra, the water dragon shivered at the look of ferocity in his eyes. Leo knew he might go down…but these humans would remember how strong he had been against a superior opponent. Alex nodded to his oldest rival, and the battle began. Eric shouted at the same time his brother did.

          "Hydro Pump!"

          "Thunder!"

          ________________________________________

          The crowd gasped. These two certainly weren't using novice gloves.

          The Kingdra sprayed at the Shinx, but to no avail. It dodged the water stream easily, taking only minor damage, and getting a bit wet. Which, of course, only made its attack stronger. Electricity bristled over its fur.

          "Shiiiiinx!" Thunder burst down from the sky, and hit the water and dragon type head on. It winced, taking significant damage, and began panting. Leo grinned, baring his tiny fangs. The crowd, and especially Eric, looked stunned.

          "Again!" Eric shouted, eyebrows narrowing as his attack was dodged and countered with too much ease. His Shinx was moving with speed his species just wasn't supposed to have.

          ________________________________________

          "Dodge!" Came the cry of Alex, and Leo did so, his small, nimble form helping him miss the water completely. "Thunderbolt!" There was another cry from the small lion-like creature as a flash of golden electricity arced towards the Kingdra, hitting it squarely on the chest. It winced again, but powered through the hit.

          "Smoke Screen!" Alex grinned as the area filled with dark clouds, pouring from the Kingdra's snout, and obscuring all vision of the fight in seconds. The crowd mumbled, displeased.

          ________________________________________

          "Wait for it Leo…" Alex said, softly, "Use your ears…and then dodge." The Shinx obeyed. Someday, his eyes would be able to pierce clouds like this with ease, but for now, he relied on pure battle instinct. There was a sharp inhale, followed by the sound of a torrent of water.

          Leo jumped, dodging it once more. "Now, Thunderbolt the direction it came from!" The little Shinx responded immediately, as if he and his Trainer had been partners for weeks instead of minutes. The Kingdra cried out in pain, and as the smoke faded, the mighty water type fell, fainted.

          There was a stunned pause, before Eric shouted, "Draking! Return!" Alex grinned. He had checked the Shinx's recorded level, and discovered that it had been kept from evolving for quite a while. They would need that power boost in this battle, and as Leo glanced at him, he nodded. The time was now, it seemed.

          ________________________________________

          The crowd's eyes were on Leo. He was growling, panting, and electricity sparked across his form. Alex smirked. Now the fun began. "Do it!" He shouted as Leo cried out again, and evolved before their very eyes. "Lux…iooo!" Came the new, deep roar.

          The little Shinx was gone. In its' place now stood a fearsome looking cat that looked ready to keep fighting. And keep fighting it did, taking down two more of Eric's water types, a Gyarados, and a Poliwrath. By the end of that however, Poliwrath's fighting type had drained the newly evolved Luxio with a swift low-kick that nearly knocked him out. The only way he'd even managed to weaken Wrath was with Thunder Wave, and several lucky rounds of paralysis. He was panting hard after using his fourth Thunder to finally bring the martially skilled water type down.

          ________________________________________

          "Take a breather, my friend, and well done. You are going to be one of my strongest." Looking tired and proud, Leo returned to his ball, and rested, satisfied that he had demonstrated his worth to this blue Trainer, and the crowd.

          Pokémon were a lot smarter than many people realized, and when you insulted one by claiming it was overpriced and weak, you had to expect it to try and prove you wrong. Even if the win against Wrath had been mostly luck and timing, taking down a Kingdra and a Gyarados was nothing to sneer at.

          ________________________________________

          Eric called out from across the field, and his voice had a tinge of anger to it. He hated losing, especially to Alex. "Now you have my final three to deal with, Brother! They will beat you, and your novice Pokémon!"

          Alex smirked, and raised the ball holding Terra. "Try it." The calls came out simultaneously. "Terra!" "Aurora!" Grotle appeared, in all his large, earthy glory, and across the way, an Aurorus, a prehistoric and revived ice and rock type, appeared across from him. The crowd made an 'ooo' sound. Ice beat grass. Hard. Eric smirked, some confidence returning to his stance.

          ________________________________________

          Terra didn't flinch, but his Trainer did. He hadn't expected an ice type yet. Oh well. He was part rock, too, just like Tyran had been. Terra would adjust the plan as required. "Terra. Just like last time."

          The Grotle nodded, and waited for the inevitable. He wasn't as agile as he'd been this morning, but his legs were much stronger. He just had to keep moving, and remember his footwork. He'd likely only manage one jump this time, though. He was slower.

          "Ice beam!" The long-necked creature shot forth a powerful beam of frost that was sure to one-hit poor Terra. Or rather it would've, if he hadn't sprung to the side at that moment, and slammed the field with his feet as he landed, causing a massive Earthquake.

          The entire parking lot shook, and the field was in chaos, as was Aurorus, whose Ice Beam had been disrupted by the massive attack. The damage it took wasn't the issue, it could've followed Terra with its attack and ended this quickly, but now it was dazed, struggling to recover its footing. It had never been in a battle like this, and Alex realized this must've been the newest addition to his brother's team.

          ________________________________________

          "Do it!" Alex called, "Energy Ball!" The Grotle's mouth glowed green, and the condensed ball of grass power, at least twice the size it had been when he was a Turtwig, smashed the frilly dinosaur hard. It whimpered once, before fainting.

          Eric had counted on a difference in type giving him the win, but had forgotten his opponents type advantage, as well as his level. He had no excuse either, as he had been around to watch most of their training at the end of last summer. The crowd cheered. Eric however, was red-faced and rapidly losing his patience. When had Alex gotten so good? And how had a turtle Pokémon dodged an Ice Beam?

          ________________________________________

          "Vapor! Come!" Eric shouted angrily after hurriedly recalling his ace in the hole, brought down by a well-timed type disadvantaged move from a turtle Pokémon. Vaporeon was a water type that could learn ice moves. But it was still a water type. Eric wasted no time. "Aurora beam!"

          To which his brother responded, "Energy ball!" The two attacks met in mid-air, and the aurora beam pushed through, but was skewed by the sheer power of the Energy Ball it had collided with, the spin of so much condensed grass type energy altered its trajectory, and it slammed into the ground beside Terra, a credit to the strength of this Vaporeon.

          Terra's attacks had been trained against genuine blizzards of the north, but a type advantage was a type advantage. "Razor leaf!" The follow-up was quick and brutal, as hundreds of razor sharp leaves came through the smoke of the attack collision, and hit Vaporeon hard.

          ________________________________________

          "Acid Armor." Eric said, regaining some measure of composure. Alex hadn't used Frenzy Plant to one-hit his Vaporeon, something he had to do if he wanted Terra to have enough power for Blastoise. Now, he played it careful.

          "That won't work. Razor Leaf barrage!"

          "What!" Eric cried. Hundreds of leaves shot from Grotle's back, twice as many as he had made when he was a Turtwig. Each of them slammed home against Vapor's Acid armor, whittling it down to nothing.

          Terra, meanwhile, never looked healthier. In the water, Acid Armor was very hard to beat…but on land, especially a parking lot battlefield, water types were at a disadvantage. In this much summer sun, grass types were incredibly strong.

          ________________________________________

          Alex finished the Vaporeon with a swift Energy Ball follow-up that smashed through his brother's hastily chosen Hydro Pump. Had he gone with Ice Beam, he might've won right there, but he wasn't on his game anymore. He never lost to Alex, not like this.

          As Eric reached for his trump card, Terra began to glow. The entire crowd, save Jessica, but Eric included, shouted "Oh, come on!" One evolution was rare in a battle. Two was just unfair…but this battle never specified against that in the rules.

          And now a healthy, freshly evolved Torterra would face off against a Blastoise. Eric's predicament did not look favorable…until he realized that ground was also weak to ice. Looking across the field, he knew Alex knew it too. One Ice Beam…and that would be enough to finish this Torterra.

          ________________________________________

          It would be the attacking power of Blastoise against the natural defense of a Torterra, with type advantage. No, things were definitely not set in stone. Torterra could endure fire, but not ice, when freshly evolved. His shell was still new.

          "Ice Beam!" Eric called, confirming his brother's fear that, yes, he had indeed taught his starter that attack. Terra was too big to dodge now, too unused to his bulk. He was massive, even for a member of his species, and while that was a sign of his strength, it would also make him unable to move quick enough to dodge. He was a veritable tank, now, powerful defense against most attacks, even fire, but ice was even more of a threat.

          "Take it!" Alex shouted as the Blastoise powered up the attack in his maw. He got a few glances from the crowd. That was just cruel, forcing his Pokémon to struggle against its major weakness.

          ________________________________________

          "Terra! Scenario Alpha." The giant tortoise Pokémon nodded, and trusted his Trainer. He hunched down to brace himself, watching the Blastoise as it powered up the attack. He'd glared at the grass turtle for months. Finally, they had a chance to battle properly. The Ice Beam launched, arcing across the field, and slammed home. It was too fast to dodge, even if he'd still been small.

          They waited. The entire parking lot was silent. Finally, shivering, Terra stood, and snorted through the smoke of the colliding moves. He was seemingly untouched, and smirking, as was his Trainer. They had planned for this, of course, and as planned, learning Protect had been a smart choice when he'd evolved earlier.

          His attributes were maxed from all the pills and vest training, and he had only just become a Torterra. The heights he would reach with his new strength were limitless. All that hard training up was finally paying off, it seemed. Terra would never be as quick as he had been that morning, but the trade-off was worth it, as his power now exceeded the strength of his brother's Blastoise by quite a margin. His type advantage all but assured a victory now, and the counter-attack was his.

          ________________________________________

          "Now…Frenzy Plant!" The massive earth tortoise stomped on the ground, and the battlefield shook under his feet. He was larger now, dwarfing most Torterra on record, by the Pokédex's calculations, and Eric knew he was done if an attack like that hit.

          "Dodge!" he cried in vain, but his Blastoise was too slow and defense heavy, like Torterra, to dodge. And unlike this Torterra, he had never been trained to take grass attacks, let alone the most powerful grass attack a starter could learn. He had spent his days fighting other water types.

          He tried to grab the giant roots as they slammed into him, but they overwhelmed the cannon turtle, and knocked him back onto his shell, sending him crashing through the chunks of debris upended by the roots to the feet of his Trainer, fainted.

          ________________________________________

          Blastoise didn't actually weigh all that much, but his bulk was deceptive. Terra on the other hand, full grown as he was now, had to be pushing eight hundred pounds. There was a low buzzing murmur through the crowd until Jessica blinked in time with Chari.

          "He…he won…HE WON!" She shouted after whispering. She cheered loudly, and the rest of the crowd followed suit. "He did it!" "I don't believe it!"

          "I guess he did have a solid plan after all." "Seems the rumors from the University were true." All the remarks he knew he'd hear and more filled his ears, and Alex smiled at his partner.

          "Amazing, as always, my friend. Rest now. You've earned it." He put his first Pokémon's ball away, only to find himself face to face with the girl whose eyes made his heart stop for an entire five seconds.
          She was grinning ear to ear, and he couldn't help but blush. He mumbled something, scratching the back of his head, and seeming for a moment like his old self. Jess raised an eyebrow, and he became increasingly more aware of the crowd around them.

          ________________________________________

          "I couldn't have done it without you." He managed. A few catcalls came from the peanut gallery, as well as a few whistles. She blushed as well, and let her hair hide her face. Her Charmander looked up in confusion. Her cheering really had helped…so why was she suddenly so shy?

          Jess looked up again, but Alex was already walking towards the car, whistling to himself. Off to, if she remembered correctly, find a Mudkip. Everything else had gone according to his plan, the plan he had shared when they had spent one lazy summer day smoking hallucinogenic plants together. Why wouldn't he stick to it now?

          The words "Could they BE any more obvious?" came to her ears from the dispersing crowd, but she paid no mind. Eventually only she and Eric were left. It was rapidly becoming obvious to both of them as to which brother she preferred. That, and Alex was her ride out of here.

          ________________________________________

          Her own brother had always said that it was likely she'd end up with one of the Redwoods after their fathers had become so entwined in business and PokéGolf. She blinked down, embarrassed. She'd always said she'd preferred Eric…but now, she was realizing that she had been more focused on his cool demeanor and reputation, rather than who he was as a person. Something she often did when it came to men, it seemed.

          She made a note to change that, with Alex at least. Even if he did become a Champion among Champions, she had to remember the person under all the fame that would no doubt follow him. In the span of two days, he was going from a complete unknown in this area to a respected Trainer. She could only imagine where he'd be in another year, at this pace.

          ________________________________________

          "I…I knew he would do it this time." Eric looked up, sighing first at his fainted Blastoise, who he had mistakenly called 'Squirt' when it was just a Squirtle. He'd gotten Squirt ages ago. He should've been able to beat a Torterra.

          He looked up at Jessica. He'd never really pined for her the way he knew his brother had, but seeing her preference now only disheartened him more. "He had that look…the same look he had the day he came up with that plan of his, and chose his team…I was just a stepping stone on the way to his prize."

          The fire-haired girl blinked at the boy her age, clad in blue. "Prize? What prize?" Eric looked at her, then nodded slowly. He hadn't told her yet. That part had changed.

          ________________________________________

          "The reason he fights so hard." Eric stood, brushing his knees, and retrieving his fallen two hundred pound turtle. "The reason he gets up in the morning. The reason he ran with his Turtwig through rain, heat, and apparently even snow. The reason behind his drive to be a Pokémon Master." Eric smirked, and patted her shoulder as he headed back into the mall, and then the Pokémon Center.

          Jessica stood silently, holding her runt of a Charmander, and watched her neighbor stride away with his camouflage pattern ball holding Terra, surrounded by new admirers peppering him with questions. He was rapidly becoming used to it.

          ________________________________________

          Had she been younger, she might've mistaken Eric's words, or denied them, but this was too obvious. Had he really been in love with her this whole time, Jess wondered. She would need to review everything they'd done or said. He was quiet, so she figured that meant what little he had said must've been important. She had no idea how right she was.

          She put Chari back in her ball for the ride home, choosing instead to pet Leo, who certainly didn't mind it. After a potion and an elixir, he was feeling much better, and Alex decided to let him spend some time free of confinement. He knew that those stores were usually cramped, even though they did their best to accommodate the many strays and abandoned Pokémon they ended up with.

          ________________________________________

          As Leo felt the female's soft hands, he purred loudly, and rolled on his back, in her lap, offering his belly for a rub. Human standards of beauty were foreign to most Pokémon, but even a Magikarp would gladly be touched by a girl like this one. The clever cat eyed his master as he steered the strange machine that ran faster than he could. If this was the mate he was after, Leo certainly didn't mind her. She smelled wonderful.

          And to emphasize that point, he purred against her lap the whole ride back, not noticing that she was fighting down a blush under her crimson locks. Leo wasn't used to his strengthened electrical current yet, and he was tickling her with his purring in all the right places. Despite herself, she kept petting the Luxio. Once they got back to the Redwood's combined ranch and lab, Alex recalled his newest addition, not noticing Jess' flushed face either.

          ________________________________________

          "Seems he likes you." She yelped, and nodded, hurrying out of the car into the cool night air of summer. Alex blinked once, and then shrugged. He'd understood a long time ago that trying to figure out everything women did was, at best, a hopeless battle. There were some things men just simply could not grasp. This was not one of them, but as usual, he was too distracted by her presence to pay attention to the flush in her face, or the discolored damp spot on her skirt.

          "S-so," she stammered, before realizing that he hadn't noticed what she'd been doing the entire car ride. A thick skulled Torterra really was the perfect partner for him. "What's next? A Charmander? Mudkip?"

          He stretched, yawning. "A nap. And then maybe a Mudkip tomorrow. There's a small swamp out to the west that supposedly has some. Which means mud, bugs, and tons of Wooper hitting me with Water Gun, for fun."

          She giggled. "I think I'll skip that adventure then. But you'd better come show me once you catch it!"

          ________________________________________

          He shrugged. "I wasn't planning to come back here for a while. I was going to challenge the Unova League this summer, starting tomorrow."

          She blinked. "The Unova League? As in…facing all eight gyms, and then the Elite Four?" He nodded, as if that was a perfectly normal thing that normal people did.

          Most Trainers challenged a few gyms to prove they could battle well, and then found a position in a gym with a steady pay check, and a team with a specific type. Almost nobody went the whole way, and for good reason.

          The Elite Four of Unova were notoriously strong, with varied teams, and even Legendary Dragons. Or so the rumors said. Jess shook her head, brushing her hair from her face. The flush was gone now, the cool night air had done its job.

          ________________________________________

          She rolled her Serperior-like eyes at him. "Only you would think you could run around the entire Unova region in one summer."

          Alex shrugged, saying, "It's been done before." She nodded at that. The Trainer who'd brought down Team Plasma for good had done it in a similar period of time, and became Champion for good measure. Now he and the Trainer who had beat the legendary tamer known only as 'N' during Team Plasma's first incarnation were in the Unova League, smashing all hopeful challengers down to size with their Legendary dragon types.

          ________________________________________

          Alex yawned again. "Well…I have an early start tomorrow. Thanks for coming with me. I guess I'll see you around. Maybe at the end of summer, I can catch you before your last year at the University."

          "Yea, maybe..." She couldn't tell if he was just tired, or not interested anymore. She had noticed the numbers many of the girls were giving him back in the parking lot. It was the thing to do when you met a Trainer with obvious skill.

          He surreptitiously watched her, the words of both his Gruncle and his friend Nick coming back to him then. Naturally, they had given him womanly advice. Play it aloof, he thought, play it aloof. Not too aloof. Just the right amount of aloofness.

          "Or, you could come with me." He smirked as he decided to trust his instinct, and say what came naturally, as he'd done all day.

          She blinked. What. "What?" she asked, but he was already strolling into his garage, ducking under the door before it fully opened, and then closing it again. She sighed, and began the walk to her house. No way was she going to let him start a journey on a note like that.
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          Old June 2nd, 2018 (9:46 AM). Edited December 1st, 2018 by Sahqoreyth.
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          Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
          Pokefan1337
             
            Join Date: May 2018
            Age: 25
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            Chapter 3: Hydrus and Blaze

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            Nameless Bog - Northern Unova Region

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            Another Mud Slap followed the first, but it might as well have been a raindrop for all the damage it caused Terra. "Gently now…ram it with your head!" Terra rolled his eyes at his Trainer. How did one 'gently' ram something with a head like his?

            He did what could, and held back, but the Mudkip still went flying, skipping across the swampy water, and whimpering. Alex was already swimming to it, ignoring the stink and the grime. He recalled Terra at the last minute.

            "Should've used Leo…" he mumbled, taking the sinking form of the fainted Mudkip into his arms. Its family watched him with muted anger. "I'm going to heal him!" He told them, hoping they understood. "I'm going to fix him up, and then I'll be back to return him. You have my word."

            They let him leave the muddy waters of their swamp, and Alex sprinted towards the nearest Pokémon Center, knowing that hearing the little Mudkip wheeze was not a good sign. He fed it a Max Revive. It seemed to breathe a little easier, but stayed fainted.

            ________________________________________

            "Hang in there, little guy. The nurse will fix you right up." And so, she did. So focused was he on the Mudkip that he didn't see the flame-haired girl waiting for her tray of balls next to him. "Nurse! This Mudkip! He's hurt bad."

            She set the tray down behind the counter, and took the young Pokémon from the man's muck-covered arms. "What did he battle?"

            "My Torterra…" He said, somewhat guiltily. "I told him to go easy, but…I guess he's too strong now. I…I miscalculated. I'm sorry." The nurse sighed, and took the Mudkip into the back part of the center. He saw a hand out of the corner of his eye, reaching in vain for the tray of Pokéballs.

            "I've got it…" he mumbled, grabbing the tray with his long arms, and sliding it to whoever was just out of his vision. He was laser-focused on the doorway. Did it usually take this long?

            ________________________________________

            "You always had a longer reach than me…but given that you're covered in swamp, I could've gotten it myself…"

            Alex blinked, just realizing how nasty he was. Jumping in a swamp wasn't very hygienic. He knew that voice though, could pick it out of a crowd with ease. He turned, and immediately blushed. "J-Jess! I-I... I didn't know you were out here. Today." He forced himself to calm down. He hadn't expected that seeing her would unnerve him this much.

            "Well…" She twirled a lock of hair, and batted her eyes at him obviously. She found the whole situation a little amusing. The Mudkip was essentially a baby, but Alex would still try to catch it. Another influence from her brother, who had the same idea. Pokémon raised from near-infancy ended up stronger. "After yesterday, I had to follow you…" She paused, her own face turning crimson. "In a totally friendly, not stalker-ish kind of way! I mean, who would do that, just follow a random boy from town to town all over the world? Not me, no sir!" She grabbed the tray with her balls, and avoided the large swampy hand print.

            ________________________________________

            There was a third ball with the others now, and she busied herself with putting them back on her belt, her long shoulder-length hair hiding her face.

            "I could think of worse traveling companions…" He blinked, not even realizing what he was saying. She stared at him. He stared back. If he was going to say it, he was going to stand by it. Couldn't backtrack now, even if he wanted to. The doors to the back of the center opened again with a familiar ding.

            "Your Mudkip is resting. The bones are set and healing. He should be ready by tomorrow morning. Will you be staying the night?" Alex nodded, attention once again drawn to Pokémon and not Jess.

            She couldn't really blame him though; the worry was evident on his face still. Was his Torterra seriously that strong? Most Pokémon who were made to faint in the wild were caught, but that Mudkip had been seriously hurt…and hadn't he said it was going easy?

            ________________________________________

            "Very well." The nurse said, pretending to be unaware of the obvious attraction between these two. They seemed shy, despite their age, which made some sense. Most of the novice Trainers around here were big on the knowledge one gained from years of study, but had far less experience in real life situations on the road.

            "Since you two are...friends, I can have you share a room. Is that alright?" she continued. They both nodded absentmindedly, before they realized what they'd just agreed to.

            "I-I mean, uh, that is, if you want to share…" Alex mumbled quickly. Perhaps the old Alex wasn't completely gone yet.

            Jess smirked at him. "It's fine…just like when we were younger, and we stayed in the barn with the Tauros and Eric."

            ________________________________________

            He rolled his eyes. "You were more interested in Eric than myself or the Tauros…" His voice dropped, as he mumbled, "Hopefully that won't be the case this time…" She looked at him suspiciously, not catching the last bit.

            "Good!" The nurse said, cutting off the chance for a potential argument, "We're almost booked up for rooms. Lots of Trainers around here." That piqued both of their interest.

            "Trainers? Any looking to battle?" Alex asked, hiding his eagerness.

            The nurse nodded. "Tons. We have a tournament system here for Trainers. You're all mostly beginners, so it's usually balanced."

            As the last stop between the north-eastern region of the country and Unova, this center was indeed a hot spot for new Trainers who were heading south, to Unova, or coming north from there, usually in search of Pokémon, or the University campus.

            ________________________________________

            Trainers from Unova were usually in their early teens, but the mixing of older and younger people often led to book smarts being exchanged for knowledge of the road. Most Trainers from their home didn't know what kind of Pokémon were around here, but the younger Trainers often did, as their youthful energy gave them the drive to constantly scour the woods, lakes, and grass for every type they could catch. Alex's thoughts were on this tournament however, and on Terra, and his power. Probably better to use Leo.

            "So how about it, Pokémon Master?" He looked up, to see Jess put on a fiery red hat, and turn it around with a smirk. "How about we tag team?" He blinked once, twice, a third time, then nodded.

            "Terra is a bit strong…but Leo could use the exercise." She nodded as well.

            ________________________________________

            "I'll be using all of mine. Including my new Piplup." He raised a brow. "What?" she said innocently. "I like Piplups. They have happy little feet."

            He smirked. "Alright. Luxio and Piplup. What a team. Let's do it." It wasn't long before the tournament was set up. The Trainers gathered were more than willing to have a double-battle system once the two of them made it clear that they intended to battle as a team.

            Seeds of romance, teen angst, and inexperience both in battle and love filled the air. No novice Trainer would give up the chance to gain valuable experience from a unique situation, like a double battle.

            Alex had lost his angst years ago thankfully, and already knew how to battle as well as, he liked to think, an Elite Four member. Given his unbroken win record, he thought that was justified. Then again, he had used his Torterra most of the time, who only kept getting stronger. Poor Leo had been all but neglected for the past day. He pulled out the Premier ball, and called Leo out. The golden cat shook his head and stretched, then looked at his master.

            ________________________________________

            "I'm sorry I ignored you most of the day my friend…but Terra was on a roll." "Luxio!" Was the response. "I think I can make it up to you though. How would you like to battle in a tournament?" The Luxio grinned, and sparks flared over his gold and black fur. "Perfect. We'll train you up, and we can also help Jess here with her team as well, alright?" Leo glanced at her for a long time, examining her with those smart, golden eyes. He finally nodded, and she released her breath.

            "I thought for sure he'd refuse…he's a loner, you can see it in his gaze…you know, his eyes are a lot like yours..." Jess spoke quietly. Ignoring her for once, Alex instead petted his friend's golden fur, ignoring the soft buzz of electricity that went through his hand as he did. He didn't mind it anymore.

            ________________________________________

            "Together, we will be unbeatable." Jess couldn't tell if he was talking to her, or his Luxio. Or both. She sighed. Some things would never change. He cared for Pokémon, all Pokémon, it seemed, almost as much as he supposedly cared for her. Now that she looked, the signs were a bit obvious. Yet somehow also endearing.

            She had recalled all the times he had saved her bacon in the past, from a rampaging Tauros charging at a Miltank it wanted to breed, to saving her from a pair of malicious Poliwags. One of which his brother had captured. "Do you still have that scar on your arm? From Wrath's Peck attack?"

            Alex blinked at the seemingly random change of topic. "Umm. Yes. It's a scar. Those don't heal, you know."

            She shrugged. "Stranger things have happened."

            ________________________________________

            "I never thanked you, did I?" She said, putting a hand on his shoulder. She blinked at it in surprise as she felt a very noticeable buzz.

            It was probably just Luxio's current of low energy running through him to her now, but just touching his shoulder seemed to set her entire body abuzz, much as she had been on their car ride home. Her thoughts turned lewd, and her gaze grew distant. Something about Leo's electricity just felt…really nice. Or maybe it was his Trainer. It was probably both.

            "You did, actually." He said, smirking. "But I appreciate the sentiment all the same." She blinked, trying to clear her head as he spoke. This was not the same boy she'd slept next to as a ten-year-old. He was grown now…and so was she. How would they ever share a room?

            "Our first opponents are coming…" She said, half distracted.

            ________________________________________

            He nodded, glancing up into her eyes, and seeing the same low, golden glowing spark of electricity there as well. In an unexpected show of boldness, he took her hand, and then stopped petting Leo. The low hum of his electricity flowed between them still, back and forth. They were connected. She smiled at him, and didn't pull away. He reconsidered a thought from the previous day. This was rapidly becoming the luckiest day of his life. Though he was more of a rational-minded man, he offered a small prayer to Arceus that his luck didn't end any time soon.

            He let Leo go forward, while her free hand pulled out her Piplup, who appeared next to Leo. Personality wise, they appeared similar. Despite the difference in gender and species. Both proud, both loners, but both respectful of the other's strength. They could even cover for each other's weaknesses.

            ________________________________________

            Hands still clasped together, the two battled together flawlessly against every pair they faced in the hastily configured tournament, which lasted long into the night outside of the Pokémon center, until finally there were only two teams left.

            The fighting had taken hours, but now, after some Trainers had gotten a full eight hours of rest after being knocked out early, the tournament was ending and the sun was just starting to rise. They'd had a few intermissions of course, but the double-battling had quickly become a long, drawn out process as most of the Trainers had teams full of similar Pokémon of the same species, and if their opponents couldn't knock all six out too quickly, the battles could last as long as an hour, two, if both pairs of Trainers all had the same setup to their team.

            ________________________________________

            Teams full of Pidgey and other such common, unevolved Pokémon were what took up most of the early hours of the tournament, and everyone had cheered when the last Unovan novice with such a team had finally been knocked out.

            The night had been cold, but Leo's energy never faded. Nor did his Trainer's. Piplup eventually became exhausted however, so Chari had come out in her stead, and gained some much-needed experience. Here, at the final double battle, they faced a pair that had three Pokémon between them that they could use, just as Alex and Jess did. Terra had been deemed too strong by everyone when he'd tried to use him to give Leo a breather, which left Leo, Chari, and Serpi.

            ________________________________________

            Terra had been denied, but Leo had gained the rest he needed to recharge, and fight with restored Pokémon Power. He'd usually just used Bite, and had Chari finish them off. The little runt had grown, the amount of experience she got from getting the KO was incredible. The fact that her Trainer had put an Experience Share device on her also helped. He didn't wonder where she'd gotten it. Her father was an accomplished Trainer in his own right, and, they were filthy rich.

            Chari was normal sized now, after all the battles, and as the last one ended, she evolved, confirming her status as a runt. Her skin barely changed in tone as she became a Charmeleon, and she still looked smallish, but no less ferocious.

            Charmeleon Trainers were dangerous, literally playing with fire. After a counsel of those who were once more awake and present, Chari was deemed too dangerous to have fight in the final, lest she go berserk on evolution energy and experience, and evolve straight into a rampaging Charizard.

            ________________________________________

            Jess saw the sense in their precaution, and gave her exhausted, and over-stressed Charmeleon runt a break. She needed time with her new body before she could fight safely.

            "Very well." Jessica said, cutting through the crowd's murmur as she recalled one of her strongest Pokémon. "I will use my Serpi." That got their attention. Everyone knew Jess had a Snivy, so the rumors said at least, she had arrived at the center with it by her side and everyone had seen how their eyes looked similar, but had she finally bothered evolving it, and removing that ever-stone it had?

            Appearing in a tornado of leaves came her Serperior, looking every bit as dignified as the last Caesar had. But this one had a female grace and a Trainer with those same knowing eyes.

            ________________________________________

            Alex gaped. "You…you evolved her too? How?" Jessica winked at him.

            "Couple Rare Candies, and no ever-stone. Servine isn't really her style, tiny feet, and only half as long a body. She wanted to go straight into her final form, like Terra did, and now here she is." Alex blinked at the blatant admittance to using Rare Candies. Two probably wouldn't be a big deal, it was only considered 'illegal' when five or more were used prior to an official competition. An occasional boost to a Pokémon's strength was fine.

            Their opponents spoke up, two blue haired Trainers who used dragon types who looked just as tired as everyone else who had battled through the night. Because this center was a pit stop, many additional late entries had been dealt with as well, until finally, everyone decided to close the entry. If only to avoid another bug catcher with a team full of Metapods.

            "Oi! We accept the challenge. And the boy can use his Torterra too, if he likes. I am Lance, the Dragon Master of Kanto, and this is Blair, the Dragon Master of Johto. We are the former Champions of both regions. We accept their challenge, and will allow their team one night to rest and recover. We wouldn't want it any other way. Let them evolve, let them catch what few local Pokémon they can before tomorrow. It will make no difference. Our dragons will crush these two love birds."

            ________________________________________

            With that, the pair walked off in silence. The crowd dispersed as well, going to find a proper rest in a proper bed at the Center's lodge. Or camping in the woods. Eventually, it was just Alex and Jess, their gaze still locked.

            "This is it." He said, smirking. "This is how we become a legendary…pair." He waggled his eyebrows as he called Leo over for a well-earned rest. She tried not to break into laughter, and fought down a giggle.

            "Of course, and the rumors will certainly fly... thin walls and such…" She ran her hand up his arm, to his cheek, and then sauntered off the field, finally breaking the energy loop they'd shared for several hours, leaving both him and his Luxio staring in awe as she left. Only an idiot could miss an invitation that obvious, but as he walked towards the central building of this complex in the middle of nowhere, he was sure she'd been joking. She had to have been joking.

            "She was joking, right?" He asked his Luxio. "Lux." The golden cat shook his head, and Alex shrugged. Leo sounded sure of himself, but she must've been kidding… This line of thought continued on repeat as he checked on the Mudkip he'd injured, still feeling guilty about it. Evidently he had healed fine, as the few fractures he been clean breaks. After seeing how young he was, the nurse had said she was surprised his mother had let him fight in the first place.

            ________________________________________

            The dawn came swiftly, the early sun rise would make sleeping hard, but at least it was still cool out. Alex crawled quietly through the center to his shared room with his partner. Their room had been moved to an outer building, reserved for only the richest guests. Or the loudest.

            No one doubted what those two, who had held hands through the entirety of the tournament, were about to do, and everyone had bet that it would be loud. Personally, he felt too exhausted from battling to do anything more than eat 'dinner' and then sleep. Good thing he didn't snore.

            ________________________________________

            He came upon their private building, with plenty of room, but only one double bed within, to find her sitting outside on the picnic table roasting hot dogs with Chari, newly evolved. It seemed she'd burnt a few of the sausages, and they were still cooking. Judging by the smell, she'd figured out how to control her Ember eventually.

            If she was annoyed at his late return, she didn't show it with the smile that lit her face from under the flame red hair. She finished the hot dog she'd been munching, teasing him with every movement of her mouth, trying not to giggle, and wiping her hands, like a lady. More kidding around. Surely.

            "I didn't think you'd take so long to get back. I took a…shower…and then figured I should make dinner, but Chari is…what, what is it?" He was grinning like a nerd at Pokécon, and nodded at the bushes behind her.

            ________________________________________

            "Thanks for making dinner. Oh, and your Charmeleon is being watched by another Charmander." He tried to keep his excitement in check. Charmander were more common to the north-west of this area, near Draconis Mons. Finding one here was unlikely, and it probably had a Trainer. Still…it was a chance, and he'd been absurdly lucky lately. He'd noticed his unusual streak of luck so far, and hoped that, right now, it wouldn't end. He'd dreamed of finding a Charmander. Literally.

            While it was true that the little Charmander male that now watched them had indeed had a Trainer, he had lost to the power of Alex's Luxio, and its' partner, the female runt of a Charmander who had evolved into a similarly colored, smaller framed Charmeleon.

            His latest Trainer had abandoned him after losing, deciding to give up on training entirely, so now this Charmander once more sought a new Trainer, on his own initiative after breaking his Pokéball with the move he'd inherited from his sire: Dragon Tail.

            ________________________________________

            He sought a Trainer who would light him with the fire he'd seen in that Luxio. The power of the evolutionary spiral. The power that catapulted their species' evolution forward, constantly. He needed a Trainer who would make of him what he truly was. A Charizard.

            This, he felt, was his Trainer. Not the female, but the male, dressed in black, green, and brown clothes with a backwards hat turned over curled hair and a sweat covered brow. This was a Trainer who fought with everything he had. This was his Trainer. He'd had a bad run of luck in choosing a worthy one, but he had a good feeling about this one.

            ________________________________________

            The Charmander wandered over fearlessly, expertly navigating his tail through the brush without starting a blaze. "That is what you are…" Alex said softly, watching, and then looking around for someone who would claim such a rare Pokémon. "A Blaze. And a Blaze you shall be."

            Jess chuckled behind him. "More like you'll use him to 'blaze' up."

            He winked at her, and then offered the crimson, fiery red Pokéball in his bag to the Charmander, who eyed him for a long time. "Charmander, Char?"

            "Yes. I'll make you into one of the strongest Charizard in the world. There are many claimants to that title though, and the road will be long. Are you sure you want to join us?" As he spoke, Terra, and Leo popped free of their balls.

            Blaze glanced at the two large Pokémon, especially at Terra, who was almost as tall as the nearby shack. This Trainer could back up his promise. He was sold. He entered the ball willingly. Alex stared at the ball, still somewhat dazed. Years of misfortune seemed to be paying off now, because he had never been this lucky his entire life. He bit his thumb, hard, and Jess gave him a look.

            ________________________________________

            "Just making sure this is real…" He muttered, thumbing the release on his newly filled ball. Once released again, Blaze and his new Trainer, and his Trainer's allies, all enjoyed a feast of hot dogs, well into the morning. Meat was smoked, hallucinogenic weed was shared, and as the effects kicked in, the two kept eyeing each other.

            Tired as they were, the usual awkwardness that tinged their conversations had evaporated, and they'd begun kissing like a Kalos couple, until they'd fallen asleep. After his offer to truly demonstrate the skill of his tongue, and her acceptance of it, they had eventually collapsed on the rug before the unlit hearth within their cabin, her in orgasmic bliss, him, still with his head between her thighs. It was in that early morning time that Alex roused himself, and carried his 'lover' to bed, then cleaned up their mess.

            ________________________________________

            He recalled the Pokémon, who had long since fallen asleep, and put them to rest in their balls. He grabbed their clothes, and hung those within the cabin as well. Then, he returned to the room he'd put Jess in. She reached for him as he rejoined her, their session earlier had certainly changed their dynamic. Or at least, that's what she thought. Alex blushed, but it was impossible to tell in the darkness of the room. They'd drawn the curtains against the glare of the sun.

            "Did…you, umm, enjoy that earlier?" There was a giggle, and he felt her lips on his again as she pushed him onto his back, and began straddling him in the dim light of the morning.

            "Yes…" She whispered, as she began grinding on him. "I'll pay you back for that, Redwood." She yawned, and then fell on his chest. "But notrightnow…" she mumbled tiredly. They stayed like that until they both woke up.

            ________________________________________

            The match was postponed until dusk the next day, which gave Alex the chance he needed to train his new Charmander a bit. His last Trainer had been incompetent, not even teaching him how to properly use Ember.

            "It's alright Blaze…but this battle is probably going to be too much for you. You'll get another shot at dragon Pokémon, that I can promise you." The Charmander looked disappointed, but obeyed his new Trainer's seemingly experienced counsel.

            Already he'd gotten stronger, and in just a few hours. That was, in large part, thanks to the Mudkip that had recovered, and insisted on battling Alex again. This time he'd used Blaze, and despite the type disadvantage, managed to weaken the little mud fish enough to capture it in the ball he'd prepared for it. A blue one with similar markings to the ones his brother Eric used for his team. Around four in the P.M., he brought the Mudkip back to its swamp, and gave him a choice.

            ________________________________________

            "You can either go home to your family and live your days there, my friend…or you can come with me, and become more powerful than any of them." The little blue Pokémon tilted its head at him. "Mud…kip?"

            Alex chuckled. "Yes, even stronger than Terra, once you learn a few moves." The Mudkip, then named Hydrus, said his goodbyes to his family, and rejoined his Trainer inside his ball. Alex eyed the four balls now, grinning. "Two to go…" He said quietly.

            He met several more novice Trainers on his way back to the center, and by the time he got there, he deemed Blaze strong enough to fight. He was at least as strong as Leo had been, give or take a few levels, but he knew relying on evolution as a boost was not going to be something he could do in every battle. Against dragon tamers however, it was a good strategy. Assuming he could take one of them down.

            ________________________________________

            With only a few hours left before noon, he and Jess went over their strategy, and gradually, the awkwardness had faded from their conversation. She kept staring at his mouth, and he kept staring at her legs. They had managed to focus eventually, and came up with what seemed like a sound strategy.

            Alex had also done a bit of research on their supposed 'Champion' level opponents. The real Dragon Master of Kanto, also called Lance, had red hair, albeit in the same cut as his upcoming opponent. But that Lance was ancient now, residing in Blackthorn City, in Johto.

            He hadn't been a Dragon Master for decades, or, according to the PokéNet, even had an official League battle for almost as long. He was long retired, but as he looked up Blair, he instead found Clair, who must have been her mother. The resemblance was too strong to be mere coincidence.

            ________________________________________

            "So they're siblings…or family, or something." Jess said, once he told her what he'd found. She was training Chari against Blaze, while he busied himself. It gave the Charmeleon a chance to get used to her new body, and it gave Blaze a chance to use the new moves he'd learned. All but one of them, anyways. Alex nodded.

            "They have to be the children of the dragon tamers they name dropped…so formidable certainly, but then, why are they all the way over here, and not in Johto or Kanto? I'll bet anything they're just as new to this as we are. They couldn't be older than thirteen, and you know how the Japanese do things. They probably started training when they were ten."

            Jess raised a brow. "You started training a year ago, and you haven't lost a match, despite being overpowered and disadvantaged twice now."

            ________________________________________

            He shrugged, again wondering at why his fortunes had changed. He couldn't deny that he'd been on a roll lately, and even though he had lost several times at University, he didn't bring it up. "Dragons grow even slower than Turtwigs, and I've had more than two matches. I fought plenty of Trainers at school, they just weren't on my level." Alex said, glancing at Terra, who was lounging nearby.

            He was enormous, a testament to just how rigorous their long months of training had been, but he slept often lately. The nurse had said that his body was still adjusting to his new size. After having so much power in such a small form for so long, his new form needed time to adjust. That meant plenty of time out of his ball, and plenty of sleep. Many younger Trainers on their way through had gaped at Terra, always amazed at how he could be so large.

            ________________________________________

            The few daring, or perhaps stupid, enough to want to battle him were turned away. One of the brats had been particularly persistent, which was when Hydrus had climbed down from napping under Terra's tree, and launched Mud Slaps at him until he'd gone.

            His voice had been high pitched, not yet dropping to the low tones of puberty, and Mudkip were sensitive to such sounds. Especially while they slept. Terra seemed not to notice his master, or anything for that matter, being well and truly asleep.

            "At any rate, I can't imagine them having anything stronger than a first form on their team." Alex said, glancing up at the sky.

            "A first form dragon type," Jess countered, "With years of training under the offspring of two of the strongest Dragon Trainers in the world." The fact that even she had heard of Lance, if not Clair, was a testament to how strong he'd been in his prime. Everyone had heard of how he'd battled Red, and how Red had then gone on to beat Gary Oak, the Professor's grandson.

            Lance had lost again to a Trainer by the name of Hibiki as well, and that same Trainer had, supposedly, gone on to beat Red at Mt. Silver. Or so the rumors said. Nobody actually knew who won that match. Despite his losses, Lance was no slouch. His descendants were unlikely to be either.

            ________________________________________

            Unova was very far away from Kanto, but the Indigo League was a yearly event that was broadcasted on all channels, during the early days of summer. It had, in fact, just ended not too long ago.

            The other Leagues would start soon as well, but none had the same easy-to-watch setup that the Indigo League had. By trading the profits of pay-per-view broadcasting, a League that would otherwise have been unknown to most of the world was now one of the most watched.

            It was that fame that had helped make Lance so famous. Jess pressed her point again however, and Alex finally agreed to go over their strategy one more time, accounting for as many scenarios as his tired brain could come up with. They continued, letting their fire types spar in the background, until the time finally came for the tournament to resume.
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            Old June 2nd, 2018 (10:08 AM). Edited December 1st, 2018 by Sahqoreyth.
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            Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
            Pokefan1337
               
              Join Date: May 2018
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              Chapter 4: The Unlikely Strategy

              ________________________________________

              Pokemon Center North-East of Humilau - Northern Unova

              ________________________________________

              The time for the match finally arrived, and Alex was the first one to the battlefield, looking as eager as ever. Jess appeared soon after, smirking at her neighbor. The awkward post-cunnilingus talk had been awkward, but still amusing. Her entire team was out of their balls.

              "Ready?" She asked, smiling shyly.

              He smirked at her, and turned his hat around. "Everyone! Out of your balls!" On command, his new team appeared all at once.

              They sniffed each other, especially Blaze, but the little fire lizard only had eyes for Chari. Noticing his partner's gaze, Alex smirked. "Is Chari recovered enough to battle?" The Charmeleon stepped up to him, and roared.

              He raised a brow at the yellow-orange creature and kept his face neutral. "I'll take that as a yes." Irritated, the smallish Charmeleon opened her maw again, and he just barely avoided singing his hat as a Flamethrower shot above him. Blaze watched, and knew that this would be the Trainer who would propel him to new heights. He showed no fear in the face of this Charmeleon, a violent middle evolution that new Trainers like him were supposed to have trouble handling.

              ________________________________________

              Blaze knew he'd become like that too, eventually outgrowing it as a Charizard. Many Trainers did not have the patience for all that however, and simply abandoned their partners for a more malleable starter, usually from another town.

              Because of this, these wild Charmeleon had, over time in this region, gathered in one place, and evolved together. They fought together, protected their land from humans, and were powerful enough to rival the inhabitants of the largest Charizard reserve on the planet, the Charicific Valley, in Johto.

              This area full of Charizard who had been abandoned or born there, in the wild, was known as Draconis Mons. You had to be brave to walk that mountain. Those Charizard were ruthless when it came to humans. And, they were not alone. The top of the mountain was home to fierce species like Salamence and Tyranitar as well as Hydreigon, Dragonite, and many other dragon types. None of them had an overtly strong love of humans, as most of the inhabitants were either abandoned themselves, or were the offspring of one who'd experienced that trauma, and passed on their views.

              Little was known about the mountain itself, but nobody had even bothered to set up an anti-poaching hut anywhere near it, so volatile were its older residents, who never got over their abandonment. If you wanted to reach an old age, you stayed away from that mountain.

              ________________________________________

              "Sorry!" Jess said, as she came over to him after scolding her partner. "Ever since she evolved she's gotten a bit of an attitude."

              "It's fine, I've handled much more sass than that. Blaze is close to evolving too." Alex said, looking at his Charmander, after examining Chari. "You'd better not turn all self-important." The Charmander gave him a grin that implied he made no promises. Alex sighed. "It doesn't take much to get them to the second stage, but once they're there, they become truly powerful. I taught him several moves through technical machines. He's ready for the final."

              Jess raised an eyebrow at that. "What moves? And are you going to share your vast hoard of TMs with me?"

              He smirked at her, moving closer. "I swore to myself that I would only share those with someone I liked enough to fall for." Her face turned crimson. When she finally looked up again, he was laughing and offering an orange colored disk.

              "The look on your face..." He chuckled, waving his words off, and plopping the disk in her hand. "Flamethrower." He said, handing it to her. "There's a PP Max under it too."

              ________________________________________

              Her eyes went wide. "Are you insane? Giving a protein like that to a Charmander? With a move like Flamethrower? If you lose control of him, he'll be a fire storm."

              Alex shook his head. "Blaze will be the best behaved Charmeleon on the continent. His goal is mine, and he won't let the rage of battle take over. He doesn't even know Rage anymore."

              She nodded slowly. "Right…the TM. Knowing Rage is usually what sets them off, and makes them too difficult for new Trainers…but I guess if-" She stopped mid-sentence as she felt a small paw on her bare thigh, just above her red socks that went just over her knees.

              "Char." Blaze said, meeting her gaze, and nodding once.

              "I see…" she nodded. "You did in a few hours what it took me all night to do with Chari…you just got him, and he already obeys you…you really are a natural at this, Alex..."

              ________________________________________

              "If you two love-birds are done…" came an antagonizing call, "We'd like to start sometime today. We're Dragon Tamers! We have things to do!" Alex glared across the way at the voice's source.

              "That's another thing…" He spoke loudly to the gathering crowd of beginners as he walked towards his spot on the field of battle, still smirking. "I looked up Lance, the Dragon Master, from Kanto. And the Johto master, named Clair. Not Blair. I think you two are frauds."

              Jess turned her own hat backwards as well. It was a Unova thing. "So who are you really?" she said, shouting across the field.

              "That's none of your business little girl." Came the voice of the female Dragon Tamer who had to be several years younger than Jess, "Once we beat you, our names won't matter either way." Chari stepped forward, snarling. Any Charmeleon could recognize a challenge when they heard one.

              "Call your Pokémon!" Alex shouted, as he drew both Leo and Blaze's balls from his belt. Depending on what they called out, he would scale appropriately. The two bursts of light from across the field faded, revealing a large Dratini, and a Pokémon Alex had been looking for, but never expected to find. Not any time soon, at least. A Bagon.

              ________________________________________

              The cornerstone of his dream team. A powerhouse in its own right, if you could train a Shelgon hard enough, the reward was a near legendary dragon whose power was unmatched, even by a Charizard. He called out Blaze.

              "Nice Bagon." He said, looking at the kid who called himself Lance. "Tell me where you caught it, if I win."

              "Alright," the cocky kid replied, "And if I win, I take your girl there for dinner."

              Alex's nostrils flared, and he glanced at Blaze. His Charmander was just as furious at the insult, grasping the intent behind the words, if not their meaning. "You're on."

              Jess glared at him. "I am not having dinner with that prick…his hair is blue. This isn't an anime."

              "You're right, you aren't having dinner with him." Alex replied calmly. "You're having it with me. Keep Chari back for now, I want the Dratini too. We're going to try that plan."

              ________________________________________

              She nodded slowly, staring at him. Of all the plans they'd made, that one was the least likely to actually work. This definitely wasn't the same kid she'd lived next to before, he'd never gambled so much. But, he was on a streak of luck that seemed to have no end.

              She had been more than surprised the night before, when he'd offered to go down on her, after they had kissed. If one could call that kissing. It had started well enough, and then before either of them knew what was going on, they were kissing like a Kalos couple and rolling around on the floor of the cabin, only stopping to ask her if he could kiss her other pair of lips.

              ________________________________________

              He hadn't seemed sure she'd accept, but when she did, he had certainly been…determined in his efforts to please her. His tongue hadn't been perfect, but he had continued for a solid thirty minutes, and she had been satisfied several times.

              He said that with time he'd be able to finish her much quicker. She had thought it was a brag, but seeing him now, in the light of day, with a confidence to his stance that he'd never had before…she almost believed it. He had always used to slouch, and his weight had made him look almost dumpy. Now, finally, he seemed to have found his calling. It suited him.

              She'd only seen him like this once before, at the Trainer Exam, but after that, he'd been much more withdrawn. Something had lit the fire in him again. She nodded. She had doubted his skill against his brother, and had been wrong. What Trainer could plan out a plan like his, and then follow through on it with two mid-battle evolutions? It was unheard of.

              "Win." She said, and he winked at her.

              ________________________________________

              "You heard her Blaze!" Alex called as the young Charmander, one of his newest Pokémon on the team, stepped forward while Chari stepped back. "Chaaar!" The little roar was laughable, and the crowd that was forming around the field again was filled with chuckles and mocking words. Let them laugh while they could, Alex thought, soon that roar would be one that inspired respect.

              With that, the battle began, and neither Dragon Tamer seemed surprised that the male Charmander was charging both of them. They too could recognize natural talent when they saw it, but this newbie had overestimated his Pokémon. These were dragon types, the strongest of all the natural typings. They would not be harmed much by fire.

              Others called them pseudo-Legendaries, but their rarity and difficulty to raise presented a challenge not even taming Legendary Pokémon had. One new Charmander that looked like he was barely out of the lab could not stand against them and win.

              ________________________________________

              "Dratini! Dragon Rage!"

              "Bagon, Headbutt!"

              Alex grimaced. Melee, and long range. He was hoping they'd be novices, but apparently, they weren't. No matter. He had covered this in his training session with Blaze. Now he would see how well the little Pokémon could remember the battle plan. Just as practiced, albeit with different moves from Leo and Terra, Blaze dodged the game-ending Dragon Rage, with a Dragon Tail assisted leap into the air. He kept the fiery orange glow around his fifth appendage as he gained height on the two.

              ________________________________________

              "Baaaagon!" The Bagon leapt up to him easily matching his height for his Headbutt, but the Charmander was already spinning, smashing his little tail down on the Bagon's glowing head.

              Had it been any other move, Iron Tail perhaps, it would've been pushed through. But this was a dragon type move, and dragons were weak to them. His tail glowed red-orange as the move made contact, and sent the Bagon hurtling towards the ground. Blaze landed, and snorted flames. He too, had been on a winning streak since meeting Alex. He wasn't going to end it here.

              Lance gaped. "But…he said he was going for Dratini, right!?" He was panicking already, and he was distracted from the battle. The game was Alex's.

              ________________________________________

              "Focus!" His female partner snapped, but it was already too late.

              "Flamethrower!" Blaze reared back, and then shot a torrent of true fire at the Bagon. Dragon types were indeed hardy, but this one had just been hit by a dragon type move, its only weakness aside from fairies and ice, and now a Flamethrower, the most powerful and recognizable fire attack that any competent fire type eventually learned, usually once they were fully evolved. Blaze was an exception though, it seemed. His flames burned the Bagon down, and the little blue Pokémon fainted. That left the Dratini.

              "Dragon Tail!" Both Alex and the remaining Dragon Tamer shouted in unison, and the crowd braced itself. The two dragon type moves collided, but Blaze came out victorious. He was, after all, just a fire type, not a dragon type. The female Trainer swore loudly. As Bagon was recalled, the male of their pair shouted again. "Glaedr! Put this lizard in his place!"

              Alex felt a twinge of dread as a Fraxure appeared on the field. Fraxure was powerful, and had a high minimum evolution threshold…and then a short bout of training into its final form, Haxorus.

              This was the wild card. Alex had noted they only had three Pokémon between them, and he assumed they would all be first form dragon types. He hadn't counted on a Fraxure, let alone one that sparkled like Leo did.

              ________________________________________

              He checked his Pokédex quick, and groaned. This one was black, with almost neon blue coloring at its tips. He knew all too well the power uniquely colored Pokémon had. He was rapidly becoming trapped up Muk Creek, with no paddle…or so it appeared. Chari was there as soon as the Fraxure came out with a Flamethrower that hit it hard. Critically, even.

              It was a miracle shot, one not seen by Pokémon or Trainer, as they had assumed she would stay out of this. What she had actually been doing, was waiting for exactly this, just like they'd planned. The Flamethrower had hit hard, and that gave them a chance, if Blaze could finish the Dratini.

              ________________________________________

              His Dragon Tail had done more damage, but he had taken some as well. A dragon type move was still a dragon type move after all. Now, he needed his ace in the hole. The Dratini was slithering once more towards Blaze, no doubt readying Dragon Rage. It certainly looked angry.

              "Just like we practiced. Aim…and FIRE BLAST!" The entire area stared at him in shock. Nobody taught these kinds of moves to beginner Pokémon. It just wasn't done. The risk alone was great…but the Charmander obeyed, inhaling deep and roaring as he exhaled.

              ________________________________________

              The humanoid shaped blast of fire was smaller than perhaps it would one day be when used by a Charizard, but it was large enough for the Dratini who had no chance of dodging it. It went down in a smoldering heap, and Alex noticed that it really wasn't all that far from evolving itself. He looked at Blaze, who was trembling. A Dratini that strong would give a lot of experience…

              "Chaaaaaaar!" The little Charmander shone brightly, and began evolving. His form doubled in size, he gained muscle, power, trading it for the speed his child form had had. "Meeeleon!"

              The new Charmeleon stomped the ground, and snorted flames. He was feeling the high his new master felt, the drive to be the very best, like no one ever was. Alex began humming the classic tune as it played in his head, and he heard Jess giggle at him.

              ________________________________________

              "It's you and me bud! Dragon Tail!" Alex cried, refocusing on the battle.

              "Chari, back him up! Flamethrower!" Jess shouted, and the smaller Charmeleon, who was more orange than red, inhaled deep, preparing to use her first Flamethrower.

              The Fraxure, Glaedr, had not been idle, charging towards the two Charmeleon. These fire type upstarts would learn exactly how strong dragons were, and why they were so feared.

              ________________________________________

              "Dual Chop!" One side of the massive, neon blue tusks hit Blaze's Dragon Tail, canceling it out entirely, and the other hit Chari, right in the stomach as she'd been preparing her flames.

              The Charmeleon gasped, and coughed hard, and the two other contestants paused as they watched in shock. Fire poured from the small Charmeleon's mouth as she struggled to adjust to the new move, and the injury to her stomach.

              So focused on Chari was the entire field, that when the mighty red-orange glowing tail smashed Glaedr across his own stomach in a true sucker-punch move, even Alex was shocked.

              Blaze however, was enraged. His eyes were glowing red. High on the energy of evolution, fueled by the rage he felt at seeing his love interest get hurt, he struck without his Trainer's command, and looked to continue doing so. Glaedr struggled to stand, dealing with a serious injury of his own now. Blaze inhaled for another Fire Blast, when his Trainer shouted, "Hold!" The fire lizard glared at him, but then inhaled and exhaled three times, and nodded. He needed to keep his head if he wanted to win.

              Alex led the injured Charmeleon to her Trainer, as Blaze snorted flames, and pounded his chest, glaring at the Fraxure across the field. Alex hoped his Charmeleon wouldn't attack again, not while he was helping their injured teammate.

              Indeed, he'd stopped attacking, and was instead snarling at the Fraxure. He'd felt justified with taking one attack of opportunity, but this was still a battle. He could wait.

              ________________________________________

              "Go." Alex said loud enough for everyone to hear, once he'd handed her to Jess. "This is now a one on one battle."

              He turned to Lance. "Your partner is out of Pokémon. You can give Glaedr a regular potion for the pain, and we will start this on even footing once more. That blow was not ordered, nor desired, I apologize. As does my Charmeleon."

              Blaze looked anything but apologetic. He shot a Flamethrower into the air, and glared at the Fraxure. Still, he did not attack again. His Trainer had a point, and a fair fight was always preferred by members of his species.

              ________________________________________

              The potion was administered, and while it healed Glaedr, it didn't give him nearly enough strength to be back in the green. He was still seriously hurt from that attack, which should have ended him by all rights, but uniquely colored Pokémon could take critical hits like that, and survive by the skin of their teeth. Leo had done it. Now Glaedr had too.

              But all Alex needed now was a few good, solid hits, and Blaze could win…although as he looked at his newest partner, he wondered if he should push that limit. A pupil appeared amidst the glowing red, narrowed eyes. It looked back at his Trainer. Blaze nodded, once, and raised a thumb pointed upwards. He was enraged, but somewhat in control now. It was far more common among fire types than one might imagine.

              ________________________________________

              "Dragonbreath!" The first move was theirs, but Alex saw his chance. "Flamethrower." The two fire based attacks met, and collided in an explosion of color. Blue flame smashed into red flame, and the field was scorched by the fury of both attacks.

              Glaedr seemed enraged as well, furious that he'd had to be given a sympathy healing. The two remaining Trainers met the other's gaze. They nodded. This was a battle of fire now.

              "Agni Kai." The boy called Lance said, grinning. Alex returned the grin. He knew the meaning behind the words. "A fire duel." The honor of both Pokémon was on the line now. They roared their agreement, and Blaze's was no longer pathetic. His new form had proper pipes on it.

              ________________________________________

              Flamethrowers and Dragonbreaths now crisscrossed the battle field, and the entire area's Trainers were watching now, after hearing the commotion, and seeing the massive gouts of fire shooting into the air. Alex was glad their battlefield was quite literally a grassy field, though now it was upturned and scorched, little more than dirt with vague outlines. This was the finale that their tournament deserved, and had been long awaited by most of the Trainers there.

              Journeys had been put on hold, just to see this final match, and it was rapidly becoming worth it. Two genuinely strong Pokémon, from two relatively new Trainers, duking it out at a level usually reserved for the Pokémon League.

              ________________________________________

              Blaze seemed to have the upper hand, until he noticed Jess and Chari exit the center out of the corner of his eye. He took a Dragonbreath full to the chest, and fell hard to the ground, shuddering.

              He was paralyzed, something Dragonbreath sometimes did to its opponent. The advantage belonged to Glaedr. The two females passed through the massive crowd, and watched expectantly. Blaze struggled to rise, and glanced at Alex, who nodded back.

              They couldn't use a Full Restore right now. Even with that, Blaze was low on power for his Flamethrower, and one more attack from Glaedr, one more direct hit, would end him. It was anyone's battle. Glaedr had the level advantage as well, and as his Trainer ordered their next attack, an orb of white power formed in Glader's maw. Just as Alex had hoped. A smirk spread across the face of the Charmeleon and his Trainer.

              ________________________________________

              Dragon tamers were notorious for one thing: teaching their dragons a move that, while powerful, was ultimately their downfall, if one was skilled enough to prepare for it. The attack was a gamble, at best, but it usually paid off it they could land it. It was hard to dodge true, but not impossible.

              For a Charizard, anyway. A Charizard could fly, but Blaze was land locked, and vulnerable. He was tired. Paralyzed, and one good hit away from a KO. Lance and Glaedr saw victory, and charged blindly into it.

              "HYPER BEAM!" The Fraxure wasted no time. This was it. There was nothing else that could be done. No trick. No last-minute win. This was a one on one fight, with no substitutions now, after it devolved from a double battle. And Blaze was paralyzed before a Hyper Beam from a much, much stronger opponent.

              ________________________________________

              Or so it appeared. Seeing the smirks, 'Lance' quickly went over the moves the Charmeleon had used. Though most Pokémon could remember five or six at a time, this was a proper battle, and by League rules, four was the limit. He was sure the fire lizard had used four. Hadn't he? Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Dragon Tail, and…and what?

              Lance's eyes went wide. What was the final move!? He calmed himself, all in the space of a half second as the Hyper Beam grew larger in Glaedr's maw. He had won. He needed to relax…there was no way this Trainer, this absurdly dressed rookie, had counted on him having a dragon who knew Hyper Beam…right?

              His uncertainty showed, and then he saw it. The Charmeleon had opened his mouth, and his body had begun to swell with the red colored energy that the heralded a fire type move. A powerful one. Lance swore, but his choice word was drowned out as the Hyper Beam was unleashed. A normal Trainer would normally never give his starter two super-strong moves like Fire Blast, and Hyper Beam when it fully evolved. It severely limited the number of total attacks a Pokémon could do, and more attacks meant longer trips without needing a Pokémon Center. But Alex was not a normal Trainer. Nobody from his region was, but even there, this was an unconventional strategy.

              ________________________________________

              Just as Lance started to panic, Blaze's power peaked. The flame at the tip of his tail swirled…and turned bluish-white. That was all his Trainer had waited for. "BLAST BURN!" The blue-white flame swelled, and covered the Charmeleon's entire body, as Blaze roared.

              The Hyper Beam met the Blast Burn, which had expanded out from his body in a wave of fiery death. Luckily, Hyper Beam was not a dragon move. It was normal. And thus, the higher damage was done by the elemental typing. It burned the Hyper Beam away, and hit Glaedr full on.

              ________________________________________

              Smoke filled the air, and there was a slight tremor felt through the ground as the flames erupted around the Fraxure once the wall hit him. Blaze seemed to almost command them, as they encircled his opponent, and hit home. He gave a cry as the inferno overpowered him. Alex had taught his new Charmander that move, sometimes called the 'Elemental Hyper Beam' when he realized that their bond, despite being new, was as strong as mithril.

              He didn't quite know how, or when, but something had started the night he'd caught Blaze, and spent the evening with him, and Jess, and Chari, just relaxing. That had forged their bond, and the next day had strengthened it further. He had loaded the Blast Burn technique his Gruncle had given him, not expecting it to really work on such a new Pokémon. But it had.

              As a Charmander, Blaze had been too small in form to properly handle all that power. It had taken Terra months to learn his own move, Frenzy Plant. As a Charmeleon however…he could do it, if his rage peaked, and his tail shone with the ferocity of blue and white flame.

              ________________________________________

              Alex hadn't even planned on using the Blast Burn, but Glaedr had given Blaze all the requirements necessary for victory. He was a strong opponent, a dragon no less, and he had paralyzed Blaze, and backed him into a corner. All that after, of course, hitting Chari in the middle of a Flamethrower, and disrupting her flames, injuring her.

              Blaze had evolved, and then become enraged…exactly the scenario Alex had hoped for. He hadn't counted on it of course, but it had certainly worked out. His streak of luck was not yet ended, or so it seemed.

              Blaze's mouth was smoldering, as was the form of Glaedr. The Charmeleon roared, and beat his broad chest in superiority. Flamethrowers shot into the air, twice, until suddenly, he found he couldn't fire them anymore. Out of stamina, finally, the exhausted fire lizard slumped to the ground, but his Trainer was there to catch him as he fell back. He was a lot heavier now, but Alex managed to support his weight.

              Alex spoke quietly. "Rest…my heavy friend. You've earned it." There was a slow clapping sound to his right, where he saw Jess standing with her bandaged Charmeleon. The clapping continued, and slowly, the crowd joined in.

              She ran over, grinning at him. "I can't believe that actually worked…there's no way..."

              Alex nodded slowly. "Right…well, it can't last forever. Far be it from me to look a gift-Ponyta in the mouth." The flame haired girl giggled.

              "Now then…" He said, staring at his opponent across the way.

              ________________________________________

              "Oi!" Alex shouted, once the cheering had started to fade. "We had an agreement. Tell me where you found a Bagon." Lance looked at his new rival from where he knelt next to the fainted Fraxure, who still smoldered. He sneered, looking far, far younger than Alex had thought he was.

              "Mount GoPsyduckYourself." He mumbled something in a foreign language then, returning his attention to his partner. That was when Blair appeared, sighing.

              "Forgive my brother…he hates losing. He was tired of losing in Johto, so we came here. We thought a nice, easy tournament with new Trainers in it would be a good confidence boost…"

              ________________________________________

              Alex snorted, and Jess winced. "He hasn't trained enough. Or maybe he's just not meant to be a Trainer. Or maybe he just isn't good enough to beat me. Either way, his Bagon wasn't strong enough."

              Blair held herself in check, but her eye still twitched. "And your Charmander was?"

              Alex nodded. "I trusted him to get the job done if he evolved. Because we trained, and had a plan. I didn't honestly expect him to beat Glaedr until Chari's Flamethrower got a critical hit on him. Even if Blaze had gone down, I still had Leo, and Terra, thanks to his loud mouth. Both of whom are stronger than Blaze. And that's just my team." He nodded at Jess. "Hers was ready to jump in at any time, at first."

              ________________________________________

              Blair looked down, and nodded slowly, seeing the cold truth in his words. Alex continued. "You need a full party, and you need to train them, if you want to win. I was lucky with my Charmander. Extremely lucky. The most I expected from him was Bagon, and maybe if I was lucky, your Dratini. But he kept fighting, because that's who he is."

              Blair tilted her head at that. "You speak about him like he's human…"

              Alex raised a brow. "He doesn't need to be human to have a personality. Do you really think your Dratini is just a dumb animal? Granted, some Pokémon may not be the brightest, but all of them are just as unique as we are. Nobody ever seems to pay attention to that."

              ________________________________________

              Blair crossed her arms then. "You're awfully smart for a novice…what are you, fifteen?" A few people in the crowd who were dropping eaves chuckled.

              "Fifteen?" Jess spoke up now, smirking. "We're in our twenties. Most of us anyway. We study and train before we wander off on a journey…right, right, you said you came from Johto. They still send ten-year-olds out on journeys, do they?"

              Blair shifted uncomfortably. "Yes…but it's worked out so far…"

              ________________________________________

              Alex waved his hand. Everyone knew of how they did things in Japan, and the last thing he wanted was to start an international feud. "Regardless, your brother and I had an agreement. Do you know where I can find a Bagon?"

              Lance glared at his sister, but she sighed. "Draconis Mons, of course. Where else were you expecting to find a dragon type?"

              Jess spoke again, "Isn't that place mostly full of Charizard?"

              Blair nodded. "Charizard do make their home there, but it's just at the top, and on the mountain itself. That's where they patrol. Their Charmander, and many other younger dragon types, often wander the woods surrounding it. If you want a Bagon, catch one there. Just don't get caught by its mother…you won't survive a Salamence's rage."

              ________________________________________

              The rest of their conversation was brief, but they parted on good terms. Lance swore revenge on Alex, who loudly and openly welcomed his challenge. He was also challenged by almost every Trainer there, many of whom he'd beaten in the tournament.

              Finally, he said "Not one of you could beat Lance or Blair. Most of you couldn't beat me the first time. Leo is stronger than everything you guys have, and Terra would seriously injure them."

              "What about the Mudkip?" Someone asked. He swore silently.

              "He's busy. Look, continue on your journey, and stop dawdling here. You need to train to get stronger, and staying here will only get you so far. At any rate, I am leaving." And leave he did, continuing south, towards Unova. Jess kept up with him, smiling the whole way.

              ________________________________________

              "You're going to get challenged everywhere now, you know." She teased, and Alex facepalmed, sighing at how right she was. "Trainers talk. I give it about a week before everyone has your name and face, and demands a chance to battle you."

              He smirked at her as they walked. "How about this; you can battle the ones I'm too strong for. That way you can catch up to me."

              She raised a brow. "Catch up? How do you know I'm not already ahead of you?"

              He chuckled. "Because I know how strong Serpi is, I've seen Chari fight, and your Piplup is fresh out of the lab. Like I said, you need to travel and train. So, train with me."

              She pouted. "I don't want your scraps."

              He gave her a wink, and then ran ahead to the top of the rise on the mountain trail they were traversing, looking ahead. "You won't always get my scraps. Beat enough of these novices, and the rest will gladly seek you out too. And look…there's our first stop."

              He pointed, and she checked her map. "Humilau City? You want to take on Marlon first? That gym is usually the last one people challenge! Marlon would turn you into chum."

              ________________________________________

              Alex smirk as they began walking again. "Not for Terra. It's exactly his level. I'll get the eighth badge first, and then the other Leaders won't treat me like some novice. Besides, our goal is Driftveil City. Humilau is on the way."

              She blinked, and chased after him on the downward sloping path. "Eww, Driftveil? Really? I thought nobody in Unova willingly crossed the river to…that part of the region."

              He chuckled. "You're thinking of the coast further south. The north shore isn't nearly as bad."

              ________________________________________

              The Driftveil Shore was notorious for having obnoxious surfers riding the waves of the river. That in itself wasn't a bad thing, it was the culture of tanning their skin to the point of being orange, and the culture of fighting, with fists not Pokémon, that gave the shore such a bad rep with Castelianites.

              "Move tutors. Move deleters. TM sellers. And of course…the old World Tournament building. Basically, everything we need in order to get our teams the moves they need." He met her gaze evenly, listing the many reasons they needed to visit the city on one hand.

              She pouted again. "But I like my team's moves."

              ________________________________________

              He shrugged. "I have two more Pokémon to catch, and Draconis Mon's base is on the way, too. Just north of Humilau. East of the Victory Plateau. We're technically already in it, but we'll need to go farther to find a Bagon."

              His companion rolled her eyes, the strain of hiking so far and so long was showing on their sweaty brow now, but their conversation had carried them far and distracted them from the time it was taking to get somewhere civilized. "What is it with you and Bagon, anyways? Why not Dratini, or Deino? There are plenty of Deino here."

              ________________________________________

              He nodded. "True, but Hydreigon is a real pain to train, most dragon types are, but especially that one. Besides, plenty of Trainers have a Dragonite already. No, I decided years ago that a Salamence would be the perfect secret weapon if Terra ever failed. And, their flight speed is unmatched. If I want to get around the world quickly, a Salamence will do it the fastest. They love flying, and they're aerodynamically built for it."

              She shrugged. "I just think something more your style would be better. Like a Goomy."

              "Hey!" She was already running ahead, laughing. He rolled his eyes, and kept walking. He didn't chase. Not on long journeys that required stamina, anyways. Let her run, she'd be exhausted later.
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              Old June 2nd, 2018 (10:21 PM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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              Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
              Pokefan1337
                 
                Join Date: May 2018
                Age: 25
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                Chapter 5: Humilau Gym

                ________________________________________

                Draconis Mons Base - Directly North of Humilau City, Unova Region

                ________________________________________

                "Are we theeere yet?" Jess whined in his ear. He liked her better when she was too distracted by his tongue to form coherent words. She had indeed run herself out of energy, first running ahead quite far, getting lost, and then running back.

                She'd been expecting to be chased, and as much as he would've liked to catch her and pull her into the bushes, this was the Unova region. There were quite a few impressionable children on the road, and he was going to do his best not to traumatize them.

                All this had happened whilst in her heels as well, a type of shoe that confounded Alex and defied all logic. If it hurt, why wear it? If you were going on a journey, why wear heels? She'd insisted that they 'made her feel pretty', and had kept complaining of sore feet, which he had been nominated to rub when they stopped to rest.

                ________________________________________

                They'd been traveling for several days now, and she'd run ahead of him several times, only to limp back with sore feet an hour later and ask for a ride on his back. The monotony of walking like a normal person on a road being was evidently too boring for her to deal with. Some might've found that annoying, but he could see she was happy.

                Now however, he was once more carrying her shoes, and she was on his back. They weren't thin heels, but they were apparently just painful enough to cause sore feet. This was yet another thing he would never understand about the fairer sex. His own shoes were perfect. Black and white and made for travel. He'd had to wear his backpack reversed to make room for her, and now he felt more like a camel than a Trainer. He would've ridden his Torterra, but he was still sleeping almost twenty four hours a day, and he figured that it would be best to let him rest before the gym match. Once that was over, he'd have a proper break in the warm summer sun of Undella Bay.

                ________________________________________

                Looking at her shoes, a thought drifted into his head, and he asked, "Are you planning on staying with me this summer? Through the whole journey? You might not be back in time for school. I'm good, but journeys take time. Especially the first one." He could feel her sigh against his neck, and then his vision was obscured as she yanked his hat down.

                "What a question!" she said, dramatically. "Of course I'm coming with you! It'll be a good chance to prepare my team for my final exam."

                ________________________________________

                In truth, she was sick of school. The monotonous memorization of tests, the endless hours spent discussing various type pairings. It bored her to sleep. Her father would be furious if she missed the start of the half a year long semester. She'd always avoided taking the summer one.

                The campus was oppressively hot in the summer months, and taking the final exams in the fall was even harder. Most students only went for the winter months, when being home with family, trapped indoors, was liable to make many of these maturing adults go stir crazy.

                Alex pushed his hat up by blowing hard at the rim, repeatedly. Just enough to see the trail. "Are you ever going to tell me what you specialized in?"

                ________________________________________

                He could feel her giggle against his back. Not an unpleasant sensation, for two C sized reasons. "You'll find out. And you had better be at my graduation, Mr. Redwood."

                He looked up at her, a hard thing to do with his hat so far down. "I wouldn't miss it."

                She giggled again, and stole his hat, then turned hers to the right and put his on, facing the left. "Ahh…now the sun can't burn my face." She sighed, letting her chin rest on his head.

                He smirked, eyes on the road ahead as Humilau came ever closer. He'd thought it was a small town, but that was because they'd been so far away from it. They were close to the Unovan coast now. "You look ridiculous with two hats on."

                ________________________________________

                She swatted at one of his cheeks. "You're supposed to say I look beautiful no matter what. Who taught you how to be a lovesick puppy anyways?"

                He snorted. "Puppy? If anything, I look more like a turtle. Which fits I suppose, Trainers are supposed to match their Pokémon aren't they?"

                She laughed, and dug her chin into his head, trying not to sneeze as it was surrounded by wavy, dark brown hair. "Fine. You're a lovesick turtle."

                That brought another smirk, one that faded slightly as he saw a group of people on the road ahead. "Can't argue with that logic."

                ________________________________________

                The group ahead of them came closer, and as Jess finally noticed, she grinned. "Look! Preschoolers!" She jumped down off his back, sore feet forgotten, and ran towards them, all smiles.

                Most people from Unova were inherently suspicious of strangers, as anyone from such a highly-populated region would be, but out here among the gorgeous waves and scenic mountains, people were more relaxed.

                Free of his giggling burden, Alex stretched his back with a satisfying crack, and adjusted his backpack once more. He threw her shoes in it for good measure, and was zipping everything up when he heard shouting. "Oi! Turtle-boy! Come say hi and stop being shy!"

                ________________________________________

                He was already moving towards her, close enough to hear the teacher say, "Turtle boy?" To which Jess shook her head. The kids loved it though. The girls, anyway. The boys were young, but they were still boys, and as a rule, thought girls were annoying and icky. But this new one was prettier than their teacher, despite the fact that she looked silly wearing two hats that clashed with one another.

                Once Alex made it down the road, he snatched his hat back from her before she could say anything, and put it on again as he turned to the teacher. "Sorry for interrupting your class. I can't take her anywhere."

                ________________________________________

                The teacher had to be around their age, with black hair and an average build. She wasn't necessarily unattractive, but next to Jess, every woman was less attractive. She had a sort of nerdy look about her that, had he not already been smitten, might have piqued his interest.

                "Oh, it's quite alright." She said, smiling. "Jess was just telling us that she was starting her journey as a Pokémon Trainer. I'm guessing that means you two are from up north?" Alex nodded, glancing at his partner, who was playing with the kids, as he had an adult conversation.

                She was enamored with the girls, and even the boys had come up now. They were, of course, talking about Pokémon, each one telling her with childish enthusiasm what they wanted, or had at home, or their older siblings or parents had. It was adorable.

                ________________________________________

                "Yes, our town is pretty far north of the Pokémon Center in the mountains. But it's small, nothing but ranches really. And apples." The teacher looked ready to respond, when a smaller boy with black hair and a red shirt that had a Emboar on the front of it came up to him, and tugged on his jacket.

                "Do you have Pokémon too? Can we see them? Pleeaaase?" The boy's teacher looked embarrassed, but Alex nodded. Nobody could resist that cuteness.

                "I suppose I could let them out." The entire class cheered, but he held up a finger. "You have to be careful around them though. They don't like to be hit, or tugged on, and while they won't attack you if you annoy them, you might get shocked, or burned, or splashed with water. You have to promise to be gentle." He emphasized the word gentle. He might as well have told the sea to stay calm and never turn stormy.

                ________________________________________

                "We promise!" they said in unison. Someday, far in the future, he would be wise enough to figure out how kids behaved, but at that moment, he was not wise, and decided to take them at their word, not yet understanding that children that age kept promises for about five minutes. He shared a look with Jess. The cuteness was blinding both of them, and even their teacher.

                "Alright then." He grabbed Terra's ball. Out of all of his growing team of Pokémon, Terra might've been the strongest but he was also the most like Alex. He wouldn't have to worry about the kids being in any kind of danger with him. Like his Trainer, he was a gentle giant.

                ________________________________________

                "Terra! Come on out!" He threw the ball into the air, and it burst open before zooming back to his hand. Terra appeared in a flash of green swirling light, and yawned, then looked around him, blinking slowly at the children.

                "This," Alex began, "Is my first Pokémon. His name is Terra."

                One of the girls spoke up now. "Does he like warm hugs?" Alex shared a look with his Pokémon, and shrugged, not getting the reference. The mountain turtle answered for him. "Terra!"

                Even the children could tell that was a yes. Despite his size, the children were climbing on him almost immediately. Since just one of his legs was taller than most of them, he lay down, and let them use his large shell as a playground on the grass to the side of the road.

                The trees had lessened now, this close to the ocean, and grassy plains with the occasional house were what surrounded them now. It was a perfect place to relax, or take a field trip.

                ________________________________________

                About five seconds passed before the same boy as before ran back to Alex. The other kids watched him like a pack of Wingull watched another of their kind who had just caught a tasty fish. Perched on Terra as they were, the similarity was quite accurate.

                "Do you have a fire type?"

                He sighed. Most kids loved fire types, as they were, ironically, the coolest in almost every region, from Sinnoh to Unova. Even he had liked fire types when he was younger, only preferring grass types later on, when he understood how a Pokémon's type often affected how they interacted with the world around them.

                Grass types brought peace and clean air, but underneath that calm exterior was a power as strong as the earth itself. Fire types, and their Trainers, often had to go to areas without any vegetation to train. Fire was hard to control, most of the time, and fire type Pokémon were no exception. But Blaze was different, and so was the rest of his species. They had a sense of honor that was admired world-wide, and had helped the popularity of their species soar. He wouldn't intentionally harm weaker opponents, let alone children.

                ________________________________________

                "I do actually. So does Jess. She copied me when I chose mine." She looked at him as he spoke, and made a face, like she was about to protest, when Alex threw the rest of his balls into the air, somehow managing to catch all three when they zoomed back to him. Blaze, Leo, and Hydrus appeared in burst of light matching their color.

                The children stared, eyes wide as Alex pointed at each one. "This is Blaze. A Charmeleon. Do. Not. Yank. His. Tail." Quickly grasping the situation, Blaze nodded, snorting flames for emphasis. He moved on.

                "This is Hydrus. His fins are sensitive, so if you pet them, do it gently, and he will love you for it. Yank on them, and he will get you wet." Hydrus, the youngest of his team by far, was inspecting a bug on the ground, not able to decide if he wanted to eat it or not. At that moment, one of the larger kids in the group burst from behind the others, a Mudkip on his blue shirt.

                ________________________________________

                "Mudkip! I LOVE MUDKIPZ!" Hydrus blinked, recognizing his species' name, and then yelped, running as the large kid began chasing him. Knowing Hydrus could easily outrun the boy, Alex continued, patting Leo as he walked up to him.

                "Last but not least, Leo. You might feel a slight buzz if you pet him. Don't worry, it won't shock you." "Lux." The gold furred cat purred, immediately moving towards the kids. They pet him gently, and babbled excitedly as they felt the current of his electricity under their hands. The cat looked at his Trainer for a moment, and Alex nodded. Suddenly, most of the children had their hair stretched completely straight in random directions. The boys found it hilarious. The girls immediately let go of the cat and pat their hair down frantically. They wandered back over to Jess then, but Alex didn't mind. Serpi had their attention now, as she was, he had to admit, quite a lovely grass type.

                ________________________________________

                Blaze was by far the most popular, and he didn't quite like being the center of attention. "Mak'im do a Fire Blast!" One kid shouted.

                Alex shrugged, and looked at Blaze, who sighed a puff of smoke, and tilted his head to the sky. With a roar, a ball of mighty flames shot above them, bursting into a five-pronged star and flying even higher before finally exploding high above them.

                The kids stared in awe, and despite his reluctance, Alex could tell his partner enjoyed showing off for them. A few kids were still on Terra, the Mudkip boy had finally managed to coax Hydrus to come over, and was stroking his fins gently. Judging by his wet clothes, he'd tried yanking on them first. The boys began shouting eagerly for more moves, many of which Blaze simply didn't know, or couldn't do without hurting someone.

                ________________________________________

                "Meleon." Blaze said to his Trainer, as he was obviously tired of entertaining children, and wished to go back into his ball. Alex couldn't really blame him. As he disappeared, the boys all made an 'awwww' sound, and Terra opened one eye from where he was snoozing. Most of the kids had moved on from playing on him, but he was enjoying the sunlight all the same.

                He lifted his head then, and opened his mouth as if to yawn, but instead, green light swirled towards him, forming a ball of energy in his mouth. Unlike his usual Energy Balls, this one was being drawn from the land, not himself, in small amounts from what the land could give. Once he had it large enough, several kids started to notice.

                The gathered energy was inhaled then, filling Terra with green light. He closed his eyes again, and soon after, the green light appeared again, around the massive tree on his shell. Most of the class was watching now, Alex included, and after about a minute, tiny apples began to form on the branches of his tree.

                "I don't believe it…" Alex whispered, "I didn't know he knew how to grow fruit yet. Who taught him that?"

                ________________________________________

                The teacher walked up then, and pushed the rim of her glasses up with two fingers. "Some things can't be taught. Pokémon know how to do more than just what you teach them, especially grass types. Growing fruit for a Torterra is as easy as say, a Snivy controlling vines, or a Bulbasaur tending flowers. You have a Pokédex, right? Many Pokémon, in the wild, use Torterra's shell as a home. Torterra is often kind enough to share its shell, and if a Pokémon is wounded and needs shelter, it can provide food and safety."

                Alex nodded, recalling several Pokédex entries. Some varied by region, but most gave similar information. "I remember…one of the reasons we have wild Turtwig at home is because we have farmers who grow entire orchard's worth of fruit using Torterra's trees. I used to help out at several of them when I was younger. I always liked how kind they were, and often I found Pokémon that needed treatment at our town's center, hiding on their shells. I guess growing fruit is something they do naturally."

                By now, the apples were bright red, and looked delicious. The children needed no prompting, and ran over to grab them. Not long after, another would grow in to replace what had been taken, such was the amount of energy Terra had gathered. In an environment like this, that got plenty of sunlight, he had been able to draw quite a bit of energy.

                ________________________________________

                They decided to have lunch then, all of them, and even Leo and Hydrus had a few apples. Blaze was called out again, and munched on several himself before returning to his ball. That left Chari as the center of attention, and the only fire type. Unlike the boys, most of the girls had just wanted to hug her, rather than make her breathe fire. Eventually, the time came to return everyone to their balls.

                The teacher approached the two Trainers as the kids got ready to continue again on their field trip. It was just past noon. "We're going to continue on the trail a bit further, so we can see Draconis Mons, from a safe distance of course. Are you two headed into town?"

                Jess answered, nodding. "Alex is going for the gym badge there. As his first badge in the Unova challenge."

                ________________________________________

                The teacher blinked. "You're choosing Marlon as your first opponent? Willingly?"

                Alex nodded as well. "You saw my Torterra. I could use him and him alone and sweep this gym. But I want to train Leo on the other Trainers under Marlon as well."

                The teacher gave a small smirk. "Well, I wish you luck. Marlon knows how to handle electric and grass types, they'll have to be quite strong to face him and win. There's a reason League challengers save him for last."

                Alex smirked. "Good. It's been too long since I faced a decent water type user. Thanks for letting us show off our teams. I think the Pokémon enjoyed it as much as the children did."

                The teacher gave a slight curtsy then. "Any time. Feel free to visit if you ever come through Humilau again." With their goodbyes handled, Alex and Jess began making their way to town again.

                ________________________________________

                Five minutes later, they stopped and called out Terra, as Jess remembered that her feet were killing her. Terra didn't seem to mind, but he looked tired. "Wake up my friend," Alex said, patting his shell. "We have our first gym battle coming up. Once we win, I'll let you rest as long as you like."

                "Terra." Was the grumble he got in response. Jess hid a blush under her hair. The deep rumble of Terra's voice made the shell vibrate in all the right ways.

                "We should ride Terra more often." She said, smirking.

                "He's my friend, not my car." Alex grumbled. Still, he supposed it would be good training, riding cross-region on Terra would make his endurance grow even further, but something didn't seem quite right. Terra still looked tired, and not just because his eyes had changed upon evolving. He yawned often as they traveled, and every few steps he would yawn again.

                ________________________________________

                Over time they became less frequent, especially once they entered town, but he made a note to be sure to have the local nurse check him out once they beat the gym. Finding the gym was easy, and the locals stared at him as he rode past at Torterra speed, lumbering through the town.

                There were smirks on their faces that unnerved him. Anyone with eyes could tell they were heading to the gym, and after an unnecessarily complex series of ramps that led them up and down and up again, they made it.

                "Yo, Marlon!" A man in a too-tight swimsuit called as Alex and Jess entered the building sans Terra, "We got more challengers!"

                ________________________________________

                Alex raised a brow at Jess. "Are you going to try your luck too? Serpi might beat him. She's gotten a lot stronger after all those battles on the road."

                Jess shook her head. "I might have a battle or two with the other Trainers, after you, but beating teams of Caterpie didn't give her enough experience to face the eighth gym of Unova right out the gate."

                Alex shrugged. "Whatever you say. It just means we'll have to come back here again." She elbowed him forward as the man who must've been Marlon walked towards him, his fellow gym Trainers flanking him. They reminded him of the University's swim team. He even recognized a few faces from alumni, though of course, they had no idea who he was.

                "I wanted to see the kids again anyways. Now go pull another victory out of thin air." He winked at her, and then shook his head. Type advantage would do all the work here. Had this been an ice gym, he would've just skipped it and started at Striaton, like most Trainers.

                ________________________________________

                "Yo!" Marlon waved, and Alex took a minute to take in his unique appearance. Most adult men he met didn't wear pants with fins on them. It wasn't wrong, it was just…unusual. Jess seemed more occupied by his upper half as he glanced at her. "I'm Marlon, head of this gym. Which of you fine folks is challengin' me?"

                Alex stepped forward, and turned his hat backwards, grinning. Marlon spoke before he could say a word. "Oh ho ho! I see! Judgin' by that hat you're from the northeast, yea? So, you must just be starting out! That's cool bro, we can take all types here! Everyone's welcome at the Humilau Gym!"

                It was hard not to like Marlon. His appearance was a bit…odd, but once you got past that, he had a chilled-out vibe that seemed like it would be more at home in Alola, not Unova.

                ________________________________________

                "Thank you for accepting my challenge, Marlon. But I'm no beginner, despite coming from the northeast. This is my first gym challenge, but I didn't walk over mountains to face your line up for novices." Marlon raised a blue eyebrow, and Alex met his gaze evenly, allowing a smirk to cross his normally impassive features. "Treat me like you would if this was my last gym, and after, I'd be facing the League."

                "You sure, my man? My team is pretty strong." Deciding that showing, rather than telling, would be the quickest path to a match here, Alex thumbed the release on Terra's ball. He came out with a yawn, and blinked at Marlon, then looked around the gym. Despite the type advantage, grass and water types got along well, for obvious reasons, and he could tell Terra liked this gym's setup.

                "Well now…I see! You must be him! The Trainer who beat ol' Tyran, and his Trainer up at the University." He turned to his protégés. "Grab your strongest, boys and girls. If this Torterra is the end result of that Turtwig, we've got quite a challenge ahead."

                ________________________________________

                As promised, type advantage took care of a need for strategy, most of the time. One by one, he could see the swimmer's respect for his skill as a Trainer grow. He used Leo for this however, finishing strong as his loyal feline friend took down the last swimmer's Pokémon, an Azumarill, with a mighty bolt of Thunder. That had been the last obstacle before Marlon, and as the other Trainer recalled the fainted Pokémon, Leo began to glow with an almost white golden light.

                Alex kept him from evolving during the harsh gym battles for one reason: Thunder Fang, arguably the signature move of Luxray. He'd finished Azumarill with that very move, and now, he evolved.

                ________________________________________

                Leo grinned at his Trainer, looking quite refreshed. His mane was large and impressive, and his eyes had a feline fierceness that suggested nobody should mess with him. In earlier forms, it was often hard to tell if a Shinx was male or female, but Alex had known Leo was male from the start, and now, his mane proved it.

                The female's of his species had manes that were shorter, smoother, while the males were larger, and flared out more. A trait shared by their counterpart, Pyroar, in Kalos. Jess had gone with Marlon to the final battlefield, a series of wooden platforms with circular platforms dotting the water. They didn't look like they'd hold Terra.

                A section of sturdier wood was provided at his request once he mentioned just how heavy his titanic earth turtle was, and several strong platforms were provided for his side of the field coming up from the bottom of the gym. Terra wouldn't be able to dodge, but then, dodging was a thing of the past now.

                Terra was rested and ready to go, despite his yawning, and his defense was second to none. Alex had no doubt that if they could avoid ice attacks, they'd have a pretty easy win. Leo got a Max Elixir and a Hyper Potion for the final battle, and he was ready as well. Electricity bristled over his shiny black fur, and mane. He was itching to try out his new body.

                ________________________________________

                "I should mention..." Marlon said, after hopping across the numerous lily pads and wooden platforms that littered the Gym Leader's field, "There's a new League Challenge rumored to be starting soon. The other Gym Leaders were given special badges, and everything. I'm technically not supposed to tell anyone about it yet...but you seem like the kinda' guy who'd be interested in such a challenge."

                Alex raised a brow from under his backwards-turned hat. "A new challenge? What makes it different?"

                Marlon stretched as he spoke, and as Alex glanced towards Jess again, he saw her watching with undisguised interest. As did many of his female gym Trainers. He quietly lamented his lack of abs, then focused as Marlon spoke again, "Well, for one thing, there's no Conference this time. This challenge is so hard, anyone who manages to beat it will have proven themselves worthy of going straight to the Victory Plateau."

                ________________________________________

                Alex felt a smirk tug at his mouth, "Consider my interest piqued."

                Marlon put his hands on his hips as he explained the rules, "Gym Leaders, as you know, usually have a specific team of Pokémon they use for battles. Their teams are allowed to have one 'ace' on them, but the other Pokémon have to be relatively new, or at least match the skill level of our challengers." Marlon grinned at him. "This challenge lets us use the teams we had when we were traveling Trainers, like you."

                "And that's why it's so difficult..." Alex finished. He looked down, and stroked his bare chin as he pondered whether or not he could really succeed in such conditions. The Gym Leaders of Unova were quite strong, and if they were using their best line up for this, he needed to train even harder. Two seconds later, he looked up. "Right. I'll face your team, and gladly enter this challenge."

                He had no idea what exactly he'd signed up for, or why it was being held in the first place, but at the moment he didn't care. This was a way for the League to see who the standout Trainers among this year's crop were, and he planned to be one of them.

                ________________________________________

                Marlon wasted no time, and soon both he and Alex had their Pokémon out, ready for battle. Terra's weight managed to be held by the wooden platform, and Marlon's Jellicent was at home in the water. With type advantage and field advantage, they were evenly matched. Marlon gave a flourishing bow. "The first move goes to the challenger! Give me your best! You'll need it..."

                The knowing smirks from the townspeople and now Marlon's swimmers bugged him, but if this was a trap, he was going to spring it. "Alright. Terra, Energy Ball!"

                Jellicent replied with a Shadow Ball, and the two moves canceled out in an explosive cloud of smoke. Alex and his partner blinked. Evidently, he was not the only Trainer to have figured out the many advantages in layering spherical energy attacks. Terra followed up with a Razor Leaf that hit Jellicent hard, and then two more Energy Balls, the first being deflected by another Shadow Ball. Jellicent went down, and the ref, one of Marlon's people, called it. Next up was Mantine.

                ________________________________________

                "Wing Attack!" Marlon said, taking the first move now, as he was the one who'd changed Pokémon.

                "Energy Ball, Terra!" Terra tried to attack, but then stopped, shaking its head. Alex blinked, and then swore as the flying type move slammed into Terra. "Razor Leaf!" He shouted quickly, not wanting to lose the advantage.

                "Keep hitting them with Wing Attack! They can't retaliate with Energy Ball thanks to Jellicent's Cursed Body! Get in close!" Mantine bashed the leaves away with its glowing white fins, the flying type move batted them easily out of its path as it charged Terra. Mumbling under his breath about annoying abilities like Cursed Body and Sap Sipper, Alex switched strategies.

                ________________________________________

                "Terra! Catch its fin on the next attack!" Despite the pain he took from the move, Terra did as he was ordered, clamping down on Mantine's glowing fin with his sharp mouth. "Now, hit it repeatedly with Razor Leaf!"

                Unable to block the swarm of sharp leaves that flew from Terra's Ash tree with Wing Attack as it had done before, Mantine took the hit directly, and fell into the water, fainted. Next came Carracosta, a fellow turtle Pokémon. Had it not been part rock type, Alex would've used Leo. Terra stayed in however, looking just as determined as ever, despite the multiple Wing Attacks.

                "Shell Smash!" Marlon called the move, and Terra braced for an attack. Instead, the other turtle dove into the water after stretching, and caused bits of its rocky shell to fall away, freeing up its movement, and increasing its speed.

                ________________________________________

                "Razor Leaf." Terra fired at the blue turtle, but to no avail, the surface of the water made a poor environment for that kind of attack. The crafty water type used his advantage to leap out of the water and slam Terra's head with an Aqua Tail. More Razor Leaves followed, but were similarly useless.

                Finally, when Carracosta jumped to use another Aqua Tail, Terra was ready, and hit him directly, bringing the turtle down with hundreds of large, sharp leaves. After weathering so many attacks, Marlon had hoped to lower Terra's defenses, but the grass tortoise remained looking as strong as ever.

                In reality, he was limited in moves and mobility. Frenzy Plant required earth to be truly effective, Earthquake was useless on water, and Energy Ball was still disabled. As Marlon brought out his next Pokémon, Alex switched Terra out.

                ________________________________________

                It was good he did, because the Walrein that came out next looked strong, and knew primarily ice moves. Leo's Thunder Fang met its Ice Fang numerous times, forcing the agile cat to leap from platform to platform, before paralysis finally took hold, and Leo was able to call down a Thunderbolt from a safe distance.

                As Marlon recalled his Walrein, he pulled out a final ball. "This is it. Roshi, go!" A Samurott appeared on the single platform before Marlon then, and he shivered as he met Leo's eyes.

                Alex felt a shiver go down his spine as he realized that this had to be Marlon's starter, no doubt received from a Professor, and second only to his Jellicent. He imagined that together, they were quite difficult to beat. "Razor Shell!" At Marlon's command, the large Samurott drew a pair of sharp shells from each front forearm, and then dove into the water.

                ________________________________________

                Alex smirked. He'd need to do better than that. "Leo, keep your eyes on him..." The golden furred Luxray watched, his gaze laser-focused on his target. A Luxray's eyes were superior even to targeting computers, and were a large part of his newfound accuracy with ranged attacks. He could be dodged, but it was not often that he missed. Leo snarled, a warning to his Trainer that the Samurott was coming up for his attack. "Thunder!"

                Leo's roar, now one that well suited his lion-like form, echoed through the gym as the electricity shot into the air...and then came down hard on the emerging Samurott. It cut through the attack with one shell, and the other was thrown towards Leo.

                "Catch it with Thunder Fang!" Alex ordered, taking a page from Terra's tactics. Leo caught the shell sword, and then tossed it outside the field, where it landed next to Jess and the onlooking swimmers who trained at the gym. They were certainly getting a show.

                ________________________________________

                Roshi dove back under the water, and Leo watched him once more. With only one shell-sword, he'd be limited to defense, but Alex knew Samurott were renowned for their sword skills, and were almost on par with Gallade in that regard.

                "Hydro Pump!" Alex swore as he heard Marlon call the move, but Leo was able to dodge, as he saw it coming.

                "Luxray!" He growled once he'd found a new platform. He'd lost sight of Roshi, and Alex knew where the Samurott would strike. It was where he would've struck, had he been in Marlon's place. "Razor Shell!" Marlon called again.

                "He's below you, Leo, hiding under the platform!" Leo jumped to another, trusting his Trainer to be his eyes as he dodged the blue slash of energy that tore the platform apart. Alex kept track of his Pokémon's position, as well as the swift blue form of Roshi.

                ________________________________________

                "Keep moving!" he called, swearing as Leo was put on the defensive. Roshi continued slashing through platforms and lily pads, and Alex knew Terra wouldn't be able to pull this off if Leo went down. With only the outer ring to stand on, he'd be a sitting turtle.

                "Wait for it..." Alex said, and Leo nodded, jumping between the last few surfaces on the water field. "Now! Thunder Fang!" Leo landed hard on the last wooden platform, then turned completely around as only a feline could, and leapt over the open water, right as Roshi came up again. The two crossed in the air, and Leo went into the water, snarling in discomfort, as Roshi landed on the platform, sword extended, and still glowing.

                ________________________________________

                Marlon looked triumphant, and crossed his arms, preparing to declare his victory...until he took a second look at his Samurott. With a sigh, Roshi collapsed. Blocking Thunder with a water type move had mitigated some damage, but not enough to take a direct Thunder Fang. Leo crawled out of the water onto the square wooden platform that ringed the field, shaking himself free of as much water as possible.

                Marlon took most of it, but didn't seem to mind. Leo trotted back to his Trainer, and despite his dampness, gave a toothy grin. "Well done, Leo. You've grown more than I could've imagined, and in so short a time." Growling in agreement, Alex recalled his Pokémon, and knew the interior would dry him.

                ________________________________________

                Riding the lily pads they'd been standing on back to the wooden slats surrounding the field, Marlon fished out a badge from his odd pants as he walked over to Alex.

                "Well done my man, this Wave Badge is yours. Enjoy it, because the other gyms won't be nearly so easy." Alex chuckled, thanking him for the badge.

                It hadn't really been an easy fight per say, Terra was worn out and Leo had barely managed to take down that much stronger Samurott, but in the end, it was worth it. He pinned the badge to the inside of his jacket, and he and Jess left the gym to find the sun was already setting, and the sky was almost as red-orange as her hair.

                ________________________________________

                "So." She said, as they headed for the town Pokémon center, "How did you like your first gym experience?"

                Alex shrugged. "Don't get me wrong, it was intense, but it seems like doing that eight times could get a bit…repetitive. It's definitely a great way to train though, assuming you have enough of a type advantage and a high enough skill level."

                She sighed. "Well I hope my first time is as easy as that looked."

                He raised a brow. "You call that easy? I was reduced to one move for most of the battle. If that Mantine had known Ice Beam, Terra would've gone down, and that Samurott...it almost had us."

                She shrugged as they entered the Pokémon center. "I guess after seeing Terra beat a Tyrantrum, a bunch of water types isn't as exciting as I thought it'd be. Though I did like Leo's finishing move. That cat has style."

                Alex smirked. "He has class, too."

                ________________________________________

                He shook his head, chuckling, and then got them a room. As he waited for their key, he replied, "Don't worry, there's more to life than gym battles. But I'll try to make the others more appealing."

                "Oh, it was definitely appealing. Not a shirt to be found in that gym." She said with a knowing smirk.

                "Nope," Alex agreed, smirking as he recalled the female swimmers. "Nothing but swimsuits." He could play the jealousy card too. She pouted as their room key was handed over.

                "I'll meet you there, I'm going to leave my team here." She shrugged, already heading off towards the rooms, and Alex addressed the nurse.

                ________________________________________

                "My Torterra has been acting a bit strange lately. I mean, I know he's supposed to be big and enjoy a good nap, but he sleeps all the time and can barely go five minutes without yawning. Even in battle. Could you take a look at him?" She nodded, taking Terra's Pokeball.

                "I'll see what I can do. One moment, please." One moment turned into five minutes, and then five turned into ten. Finally, the nurse returned.

                ________________________________________

                "Your Torterra is recovering from an imbalance of power in his body. Did you keep him from evolving for a long time without an ever stone?" Alex nodded. "I see. He's not in any danger, but he needs about three weeks of rest, preferably somewhere sunny, where he can sleep in peace."

                Thanking her, he headed towards their room, swearing silently at the fact that his strongest Pokémon would now be out of it for almost a month. There were worse things, though. He could focus on the others while Terra recovered. Arriving in their shared room, he saw his flame haired companion, already asleep and with minimal clothing. Evidently, she'd tossed her clothes, and dropped into the bed.
                He slid in next to her after doing the same, but there was no lewdness. It had been a long day, and he didn't mind playing big spoon.
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                Old June 3rd, 2018 (8:34 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                Pokefan1337
                   
                  Join Date: May 2018
                  Age: 25
                  Gender: Male
                  Nature: Brave
                  Posts: 35
                  Chapter 6: Draconis Mons, Part 1

                  ________________________________________

                  Humilau City - Unova Region

                  ________________________________________

                  The next morning came swiftly, and while Alex let Jess admire his shiny new badge, he went to retrieve his team at the front desk. He then put in a call to the Redwood Lab. Surprisingly, his granduncle answered the phone for once. That was unusual, as he usually made his aides talk to people.

                  "Oho! Alex! You've been gone a while my boy, almost a week! I expect you've beaten the Unova League by now, Mr. Fame and Fortune." Alex suppressed a laugh. He hadn't really let himself miss being at home, but not having his long talks with his granduncle were definitely leaving a hole in his life. Luckily, Jess was filling that fairly well.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Not quite Gruncle Red, but I did just beat Marlon at the Humilau Gym yesterday. I'd show you my badge, but it's being admired because it's shiny." His granduncle gave him a knowing smirk, not missing a trick.

                  "I see, I see. And is that badge the only thing that's been getting polished?" Alex yanked his hat down to hide the flush in his cheeks as his granduncle's loud laughter filled the lobby of the Pokémon center.

                  "Honestly…there are children here." He mumbled, trying not to laugh. The crude sense of humor was something they often shared, but the rest of the family found it childish and lewd. Not them though, they'd spent hours over the years sharing such jokes, and their conversations were saturated with innuendo. But doing so over the phone was another matter entirely. The old man finally ceased laughing, wiping a tear from his eye.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Oh. Ho ho. Next time choose your words more carefully, lad, you set that one up for me. Now then, what do you want?"

                  Alex gave his favorite relative a look. "Want? Can't I just call my family to see how everyone's doing? Make sure you haven't turned to dust while I've been gone? That's what happens when fossils like you get too much sun, you know." He couldn't hide his smirk.

                  "HA!" his granduncle shouted again, and again he drew looks from other people using the phones. "It'll take more than age to kill me, boy. And I know you. Unless you needed my help, you wouldn't have called until you beat the Unova League. Now out with it."

                  ________________________________________

                  Alex explained the situation with Terra, and then outlined an upgrade to his Pokéball that he thought might help the situation. Sitting in one place, lounging in the sun all day wasn't good for a Trainer like him, with a team that needed to get used to battling. If he let them relax too much this early, they'd become lazy.

                  Thus, he asked his granduncle to modify Terra's ball so that the internal habitat was one that would trick his body into thinking it was getting enough sunlight. It would genuinely filter in said light to him through the solar panel slots he outlined for his granduncle, just at a steady rate rather than high amounts of it for a few hours a day.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Hmmm." His granduncle murmured once he'd finished explaining, "Tricky…but I think I could do it. You know, you could just leave him here on the ranch."

                  Alex shook his head. "Unlike your wrinkled ass, I actually worked on that ranch. Not even Terra could get more than a few hours of real rest there. Sun, sure. Peace and quiet? No chance."

                  The old man chuckled again, nodding. "Alright. Send him and his ball over anyway. It'll be done by tomorrow." Alex nodded, placing the ball in the teleporter. He didn't bother calling Terra out to explain all this, since the poor creature had been sound asleep since the day before, and nothing could rouse him. He'd had enough power to battle, but now he slept.

                  Alex had decided to simply let him rest. "Just let him sit outside the lab while you work on it, eh? That way the Tauros and Miltank won't bug him. They hate the smell of your stale Leaf."

                  ________________________________________

                  The old man snorted. "My Leaf is of the finest quality, as you well know, you curly haired mooch." The Professor waved his hand again. "Stop worrying about your bloody turtle and go find that redhead of yours. Savor every second you have with her. Terra will be fine. Go. Shoo. And be here tomorrow."

                  "Oh, and one more thing," Alex said, sensing the call was ending. "I need a similar setup for Leo and Hydrus' balls. Leo's can't handle his new electric power as a Luxray, and Hydrus keeps flooding his somehow."

                  His granduncle sighed. "Fine, fine. I'll fix your whole damn belt. Lazy boy. In my day, we fixed our own balls."

                  "Thank yo-" The line cut out after the balls were transported, and Alex sighed. With Terra and most of his team gone, that left him with Blaze as his strongest and only Pokémon. It felt strange, not having Terra with him. A year might have seemed like a short time, but he'd grown used to always having him within reach. Now, he wasn't. It was an odd feeling.

                  ________________________________________

                  He decided to let Blaze walk with him, and they headed back to the room, where he found his bag and his badge were missing. He sighed, grabbing his jacket and then noticed a note that read:

                  Dearest Turtle, I've gone out to train Empolia (Piplup) against the other water types around Humilau. One of our handsome neighbors told me that Draconis Mons has a lot of Bagon around lately, so you should go there and catch one. Take all day. He sighed, as she'd added a 'wink face' after that.

                  P.S. I took your bag because it has vitamins and stuff. I left you your dragon ball though, so go catch a Bagon! I expect you back by lunch after I've beaten this pretty boy senseless. Hurry up. -Jess

                  ________________________________________

                  He sighed, hoping that whatever fool had hoped to impress her with his 'skill' would survive a battle with her. One of the reasons Serpi had grown so strong was because other men were always trying to show her how strong they were, and she usually beat them. That had only become easier now that Serpi had evolved, and gained backup from a Charmeleon and a Piplup.

                  "Looks like it's you and me, Blaze." He said, folding the paper and sliding it into an inner pocket where it would be safe. He grabbed the customized Timer Ball, and soon they were on the road north to Draconis Mons, on the same road they'd seen the preschoolers on.

                  Reaching the giant mountain that lacked a pointed peak wasn't hard exactly, but there was a good mile of dense forest full of young or even middle evolution Pokémon that kept humans away. Alex and Blaze managed to trek through most of it rather quickly thanks to Blaze's sharp claws and Alex's lack of a heavy backpack. It was nice not having to lug around all that stuff. Maybe he would actually make it back for lunch.

                  ________________________________________

                  His hope of lunch faded as they reached the rocky base of the mountain proper, and still hadn't found any Pokémon at all. Deciding to risk traveling up, figuring that his uncanny lucky streak, and the fact that he had a Charmeleon to vouch for him, would keep him from any real harm, he headed up the mountain itself. It wasn't all that difficult, as there was only one footpath.

                  He noticed a lack of human prints however, but hoped that his own would go unnoticed. Large as his feet were, that was not to be the case. By about two hours past noon, he'd climbed to the top of the mountain, which he discovered was a large crater, with a lake at the bottom. He was quite high up, but the trail had been easy enough for someone who had long since mastered the art of running uphill.

                  ________________________________________

                  Blaze was panting by the time they reached the top, and so was Alex. It was quite a climb. Once they got to that point however, Alex realized why they hadn't seen any Pokémon today. Before him, throughout the valley, hundreds of fully evolved dragon types, and Charizard, lined the walls of the crater, along with just as many middle and pre-evolutions as well. It was one of those rare scenes, a gathering of Pokémon that was supposed to be for them, and only them.

                  None seemed to notice him yet, and he decided stealth would be a good idea here. In the middle of the crater, high above the lake where he could see several Dratini and Dragonair, was a rocky outcropping that looked structurally unsafe, connected as it was to only two sides of the mountain crater by bridges of natural stone that seemed to have been carved out by way of claws. Judging by what was happening on top of the circular rocky bridge, it could handle plenty of weight.

                  ________________________________________

                  Two Charizard were dueling atop the rocky arena, in a test of grappling strength, rather than fighting with fire or in mid-air. Claw to claw. He blinked as he looked closer, and noticed that the larger of the pair was actually as black as obsidian, and had a downright nasty look to him. His wings were ragged, and pale scars covered his body.

                  This was an old Charizard, and likely the top dog around here. Realizing that any Pokémon that could become the strongest among dragon types that even included Salamence, several of which he could make out perched on the cliffs, could kill him without a thought, he decided that leaving quickly was a good idea. He stank of sweat from the climb, and this fight wasn't going to last much longer.

                  The black Charizard bit his opponent's neck then, and the spectators all roared in outrage at the apparently illegal move, but the contest continued, despite the open and bleeding wound of the smaller Charizard who, by his estimate, was still larger than any he'd ever seen.

                  ________________________________________

                  The black one gave a mighty roar then, and pushed his opponent back repeatedly, and seconds later, it was over the edge, plummeting towards the water thousands of feet below. The black Charizard was not done however, as it took flight now, and followed him down, slashing at his opponent the whole way.

                  Once it landed in the water with a giant splash, the black one flew back up above the natural arena, and roared again, establishing its dominance over the others. Every Pokémon in the crater bowed its head, and he seemed to look at each one, making sure there was no defiance.

                  Distracted as he had been by the fight, Alex had failed to notice that Blaze had crept closer for a better look, and was now near other wild Pokémon. He blended in well enough, but there was just one problem…he wasn't bowing his head, and the black Charizard had noticed. Alex swore under his breath as the obsidian scaled lizard snorted blue fire, a sign of its rage at rebellion from a Pokémon that wasn't even fully grown.

                  ________________________________________

                  Suddenly sensing the amount of muk he was in, Blaze scurried back towards his Trainer, and the two bolted for the ledge that led down the mountain…only to have the enormous black Charizard land in front of them. If he'd been mad before by Blaze's defiance, his rage intensified when he discovered that the transgressor had a human with him.

                  Raising both hands, Alex swallowed his pride, and got on both knees before the beast, which seemed to keep it from outright killing him. He wondered why, as by all accounts, humans were K.O.S. to these Pokémon.

                  "Blaze…" he spoke softly, but before he could say anything else, tell his Charmeleon to translate for him, apologize for trespassing, or even ask for mercy, a powerful black tail came out of nowhere, and slammed directly into his chest.

                  ________________________________________

                  The last conscious thought Alex had before fading out was him wondering whether that loud crack he'd heard and felt was his ribs, or the sound of his lucky streak being split in half. With his Trainer sent flying, Blaze snarled at the larger Charizard, only to be bathed in a torrent of blue fire at point blank range. He fell to one knee, glaring at the stronger Pokémon, who snarled.

                  A warning for him to stay kneeling. Knowing he was beaten, and that his friend was likely hurt after a hit like that, Blaze stayed down, but didn't avert his glare. Seemingly satisfied, the large fire lizard took off again, flying towards the largest peak that looked over the crater, and was on the northern part of the bowl-shaped mountaintop.

                  The two land bridges connecting to the rocky platform connected to the eastern and western edges, and the southern edge was the one that held the footpath for those who could not fly. The black Charizard perched on the tallest northern peak then, and curled up on it, keeping one eye on the Pokémon below. They were angrier about his dishonest fight, and his harsh treatment of a Charmeleon, than they were about the human.

                  ________________________________________

                  Blaze however, was plenty worried about his Trainer. Most other Pokémon warmed right up to him, but the ones who lived on this mountain apparently did not care for humans at all. He limped towards where he smelled his master, increasing his pace as he scented blood, and found another human kneeling over his master's body.

                  He snarled, but knew he was in no condition to fight. Still, this human didn't look all that threatening. His skin was bronzed and wrinkled with age, his hair was white, and his back had a permanent stoop to it. His clothes were little more than rags, and he stank of Pokémon droppings.

                  "O-oh…you're his Pokémon, aren't you…brave little thing. Don't worry, he'll be alright…once I set his bones. Help me carry him." Alex had been slammed into a nearby boulder, and how his spine hadn't been shattered by the force of impact was a mystery, at first glance.

                  ________________________________________

                  As Blaze stalked closer, he saw that one of his Trainer's arms looked out of place, at an odd angle. It seemed he'd actually hit the boulder on his side, not his back. Still eyeing the old, smelly human with suspicion, Blaze grabbed his Trainer's feet, and helped him move his injured friend into a nearby cave that smelled like the old man. Judging by the various trappings and odd trinkets, this was where he lived.

                  Blaze's opinion of the old human dropped further. No self-respecting creature would live in filth like this. The old man handed him a berry, and then shooed him away from his Trainer. Deciding it was better than nothing, Blaze chomped down on the tough, bitter piece of fruit, and then sat by the entrance to the hovel, keeping an eye out for the black Charizard, or any one of the hundreds of other powerful Pokémon that lived here. They seemed to tolerate the old man's presence, but Blaze had a feeling that if they discovered his Trainer was not yet dead, they would take steps to correct that.

                  ________________________________________

                  The only Pokémon that did eventually show up was a Chimecho, who drifted past a snoozing Blaze. Once he heard it ring through the cave however, the Charmeleon snapped awake, and leapt to his Trainer's side, growling at it.

                  "Calm yourself, Charmeleon." The old man spoke now with an odd accent the fire lizard didn't recognize. "This little one is going to heal him. Otherwise, he would take months to recover." Still eyeing the two with some degree of suspicion, Blaze stepped back, ready to intervene if they tried to hurt his Trainer. Now that he'd rested a bit, Blaze could tell just how badly Alex had been hurt.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Healing Wish, Chimey." The little Pokémon glowed with a light pink aura, and it soon spread to Alex's form. His arm popped back into place, and the angle it was bent at wasn't so awkward. His abdomen was repaired as well, filling out more under the ragged bandages that had been torn from his shirt and pants. He grunted in his sleep, and Blaze could hear his breathing become a little easier.

                  "There…" the old man said as the Chimecho tolled softly, utterly exhausted, and floated down into his arms. "The bones are set, and he's been healed a bit. It'll take a few weeks, but after that, he should be fine. Thank you, Chimey."

                  ________________________________________

                  Blaze glanced at the two, and then his Trainer. "Char." His own guarded thanks was given as well. He headed for the cave entrance then, and the old man just sighed, knowing what the Charmeleon would face out there.

                  Pokémon that had Trainers were about as unwelcome as humans, but they were shunned, not killed. Blaze headed for the mountain ledge calmly, ignoring the other Pokémon on his way, only to be stopped as a Tyranitar stepped in front of him, and growled. He tried to walk past, but to no avail. It seemed that he wouldn't be allowed down the mountain, given that he was new, and worse, bonded to a human.

                  He received a similar reception from most of the older Pokémon, and eventually returned to the old man's smelly hovel after getting water and finding more tough berries. None of the others seemed to care what he did, as long as he didn't try to leave, and except for the occasional snarl from one of the fully evolved Pokémon, he was ignored.

                  ________________________________________

                  Three days passed, with Alex getting a few more Healing Wishes from Chimey. Eventually, it floated off and did not return, looking quite ragged. It would need to rest at the mountain's base for quite some time after using so much power, but after expending it, the little Chimecho had almost certainly saved Alex's life. His body at least, was healing correctly, but he still had not awoken.

                  Blaze was out of his mind with boredom at first, until he discovered that the cave the smelly human lived in was connected to a series of tunnels that went deep into the mountain itself. The old man, when not tending to his secret patient, spent most of the day cleaning the dung in the larger caves, and being snarled at or attacked by the larger Pokémon with anger in their eyes.

                  ________________________________________

                  Their moves always missed him however, their aim wasn't faulty, they just simply could not kill the human. The black Charizard had ordered him kept alive for some reason, and so the others contented themselves with scaring him. Blaze spent most of his time exploring, and replaying the moment they had been trapped here in his head, over and over.

                  His Trainer had knelt before the black one, something Blaze had never thought he'd do. He could see the sense in it though. That creature was fueled by hate, and lashed out at humans and Pokémon alike. Every day it loosed blasts of fire at anything that got in its way, from rival Charizard to newborn Dratini. It was a menace, but none of the Pokémon that lived on this mountain, strong as they were, could match his power.

                  ________________________________________

                  Five days of being stuck on the mountain had driven Blaze to finally explore the tunnels under the mountain, in the hope of finding a way out below. That way, he could find Jess and get help for his master. The Torterra he used would certainly be welcome here, and along with the Luxray they might just have a chance of freeing their Trainer. Blaze did not find a way out of the mountain, however. He found hundreds of unevolved Pokémon instead, training in a deep cavern that was lit by flowing pools of magma.

                  Full grown Pokémon like Magmar kept an eye on them, and more importantly, kept them from digging through the mountain itself. Long ago it had been an active volcano, but it had been kept from erupting for centuries thanks to the fire types that understood it better than any who lived above on the crater. They knew where to release pressure when necessary, and could even guide the lava flows when they needed to.

                  ________________________________________

                  It was a full-time job, and they allowed the younger Pokémon from the crater to train down here, but otherwise they didn't care who or what ruled above them. Once fully grown, these Pokémon were far too large to ever fit back down here, and when one of the larger ones tried burrowing down, they were swiftly repelled by the likes of Magmar, Magcargo, and other Pokémon who loved the constant heat the mountain provided.

                  The best part was that down here, Blaze was no longer an outcast. Granted, those from the crater were wary of him, especially those who were middle evolutions, but they let him train alongside them, despite the fact he had a Trainer, and none of the adults above could do anything about it. If they tried, he could always vanish into the labyrinth of tunnels for a while, and then find another Pokémon to help him get back to the surface.

                  Those who lived down here weren't necessarily fond of humans, but they didn't mind them, either. Only one or two humans had ever found these secret places in the mountain, and they were forced out soon after finding them, the entrances they made were closed, and melted shut.

                  ________________________________________

                  Blaze found himself spending almost all of his time below, returning above only to drink, check on his Trainer, who had still not awoken, and rest after hard bouts of sparring. He could feel himself growing stronger, and knew that if he so desired he could become a Charizard himself, but that would not have been wise.

                  The black one had no qualms about killing rival Pokémon it saw as a threat, and he had already refused to kneel once. He wouldn't get the chance to refuse again, and he knew evolving would be enough to catch their black scaled overlord's attention, and demand a show of submission. It was something he did often to the other Pokémon, and every so often, one of the prouder ones would refuse. They paid for it, sometimes with their life. So he continued to train underground, knowing that once his Trainer awoke, indeed, if he ever did, they could usurp the black one together.

                  Another week of hard training passed before Alex finally woke. The first thing he saw was the old man, and recognized him as being from Kanto, judging by his features. He knew one did not bring that up in polite conversation however, but he soon found he couldn't remember where he had learned that, or indeed, who he even was.

                  ________________________________________

                  All he had were vague images. Upon noticing his newly conscious state, the old man scurried over, offering a carved rock with a bit of water in it, and a berry that looked weak and dead. He consumed them regardless, finding he was ravenous.

                  "You have been sleeping for two weeks now. After Lizardon attacked you with his tail, I thought you were a goner. You are very lucky." Alex grunted, examining his left arm. It felt strange for some reason, a dull ache. He felt the same in his abdomen as well, but couldn't recall why, exactly.

                  He looked at the old man. "Lizardon?"

                  The old man chuckled, "What you call in this region…Charizard. Wings. Fire at the tip of the tail. You don't remember?"

                  ________________________________________

                  Alex shook his head. "I can't remember anything…except a few vague facts…but I don't know how I know them, nor who I am. Do you have any clue?" The old man reached for a dark green and black jacket, and pulled out a note.

                  Taking it, Alex noticed a familiar aroma. It made a thrill rush through him, insisting on being remembered, but he couldn't, nor could he understand why the scent affected him. "My name is…Turtle?"

                  ________________________________________

                  The old man chuckled again and spoke in a voice that was soft from lack of use. "Mm. Yes. I've been calling you Kame. Good a name as any, since you can't remember your own."

                  Alex was busy trying to remember why the name Jess sounded so familiar…he wouldn't be able to sleep, so insistent was the urge to remember whoever this Jess was. Yet every time he tried, he met with failure.

                  It was like he was on the edge of remembering after the smell on the note and the name, but something was blocking him. At that moment, there was the sound of heavy footsteps by the entrance to the dirty cave. Looking up, Alex saw a red creature, with a flame burning on its tail. It looked tired, and his first instinct was to reach into his bag and heal it. He blinked. He didn't have a bag, nor did he know this creature.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Char!" It ran at him, and he grunted in pain as it tackled him to the floor in what he felt was a hug. "Char! Charmeleon. Char, meleon. Char." Charmeleon…right. The name sounded familiar, and he struggled again to remember why as the old man shooed the creature away.

                  "This is your Pokémon, boy. He came with you up the mountain. Was seen by Lizardon. Clumsy. Didn't bow before him, and then he found you. Then he attacked you. He's been waiting for you to awaken for some time." Alex blinked. Pokémon. Of course. It came flooding back, the years' worth of information that he had spent memorizing. Battle tactics. Strategies. Move types.

                  "Right…" he managed, meeting the fire lizard's gaze. Its intensity was so familiar. "Right." He said, more sure of himself. "My Charmeleon…I…always wanted one." The Charmeleon looked at the old man, confused. "Char?"

                  ________________________________________

                  "He doesn't remember who he is, my friend. Nor how to understand you, I think." The old man answered, sighing. It was a talent every Trainer had to some degree, but if you couldn't remember that you were a Trainer, what chance did you have of understanding a Pokémon?

                  "I can…grasp the gist of his words." Alex grunted, standing now. The cave was barely big enough for him to stand at full height. "We should get back to the nearest town…someone there will probably remember me."

                  The old man nodded. "Humilau. But you can't go back. The path is guarded by Lizardon's minions. They fear him more than any human. If they see you, they'll likely kill you. They think you're dead already."

                  ________________________________________

                  Alex sighed at the old man then. "So what do I do? I need to eat…I need a real doctor…Blaze looks exhausted, he needs rest too."

                  The old man opened his squinted eyes. "Blaze? A nickname?"

                  Alex blinked. "I…just called him that out of reflex…didn't even think about it."

                  "Charmeleon! Char!" Blaze looked at him, hope returning to his gaze. That was the name his Trainer had given him, if he could remember that, he could remember everything else.

                  ________________________________________

                  "Come to think of it…" Alex said, finally examining the old man properly. "What do I call you?" The man was wrinkled, like the berry he'd given Alex, and had a permanent stoop in his back. He shuffled around fairly quick, but it was obviously a struggle. More than that, he had bruises all over him.

                  He waved a wrinkled hand. "Don't worry about me. Not your problem. Worry about Lizardon. These caves carry sound, the more we speak, the more chance he hears us. We both dead if he finds you."

                  Alex stared at him, suddenly guilty for putting him in so much danger. "So…so what do I do? I'm trapped here, dead if I leave and dead if I stay."

                  ________________________________________

                  The old man shook his head. "No, there is a way. You must beat Black Lizardon. Use your Blaze. Battle him, Pokémon and Trainer. Together, he will never beat you. Your Blaze has grown strong in past few weeks. Almost enough for victory, but only if you face Lizardon together. Beat him, and you can leave Draconis Mons."

                  Alex thought for a moment, the name ringing in his head, but with far less information to recall. "Draconis Mons…the dragon mountain…in the Unova region. Forbidden to go there, full of Pokémon that hate humans enough to kill them…home for those abandoned by their Trainers. Home to some of the strongest wild Pokémon… on the continent."

                  He shook his head. "There's no way I can beat the strongest wild Charizard around when I can barely remember how to battle."

                  ________________________________________

                  The old man grinned, showing old, yellow teeth that not even brushing could clean. "So learn! You have your Pokémon. What more do you need? You have your chance for freedom. Go into the mountain tunnels, battle together the Pokémon there, grow strong, evolve, and then face Black Lizardon. Free the mountain from his tyranny."

                  Alex stared at the old man in disbelief. Still, he had mentioned other Pokémon below. If he had… "Old man, let me see my jacket. Did I have any Pokéballs with me?"

                  The old man grinned. "Ahh. Yes, two. Was luckily in right side pocket. Whatever was in the left was crushed." He gestured to a pile of broken machine parts, that upon examining, he found looked familiar.

                  He sighed. "A Pokédex. Looks like I'll need a new one…I'll worry about it later. Give me the balls." The old man shuffled through the cave, and moved some rocks, then shuffled back and handed him a ball with a flame pattern, which he assumed was Blaze's, and a dirty white and red ball with a pointed red arrow on the top of it.

                  "A...Timer Ball…perfect." Random chance wouldn't help him here, he needed certainty, and a strong Pokémon. The longer he battled whatever he decided to catch, the more of a guarantee he'd have that he could catch it. With two Pokémon, he felt he might just be able to beat this…Lizardon. But first, he needed to see his opponent.

                  ________________________________________

                  He knew the old man wouldn't show him, he had seen the fear evident in his entire form when he'd mentioned the black beast. He was terrified of it, for good reason of course, but there was more to this old timer than he was willing to reveal. Humans weren't supposed to be on this mountain. Especially not ones who lived in squalor. "Right…with this, I can catch some aid against Lizardon. Then…we might have a chance."

                  "Meleon!" Blaze snorted fire in agreement. He felt they could've done it alone, but after remembering the fight they'd seen when they arrived, the Charmeleon felt as his Trainer did. Any aid, no matter how small, would be welcome.

                  "Go on then!" The old man said, shoving him towards the back entrance into the tunnels. "Get down there and train. And don't come back until you're ready to face Lizardon!"

                  ________________________________________

                  Before Alex could respond, a large boulder was moved in front of the tunnel entrance. A few seconds later, there was a thunderous stomp from the other side of it. Alex glanced at Blaze, and listened.

                  There was snarling, and the sound of stomping came closer, accompanied by the muffled sound of a powerful nose inhaling hard. Nothing of his had remained in the cave, but his scent no doubt lingered. Alex had an idea of what was on the other side of the rock the old man had put in front of the entrance. Given his frailty, that rock probably wouldn't hold up. "Blaze. Move. Into the tunnels, now."

                  ________________________________________

                  They hurried down as the rock covering the hole glowed red, but by the time it was smashed through, they were long gone, deep in the tunnels that forced Alex to crouch to Blaze's height, and kept the larger Pokémon from entering them. Still smelling the unfamiliar, but unmistakably human scent amidst the slave's cave, the black Charizard roared in frustration, and his fury echoed through the tunnels for the first time.

                  It was the cry of a creature that wanted blood, almost berserk with fury. But he couldn't reach the heart of the mountain, large as he had grown fighting other Pokémon on the mountain. He gave up its search for the moment, and returned to his perch. The human needed to eat and drink, and to do that he would have to scurry from his hole eventually. That was when he would be pounced on, and ended.
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                  Old June 3rd, 2018 (8:59 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                  Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                  Pokefan1337
                     
                    Join Date: May 2018
                    Age: 25
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                    Chapter 7: Draconis Mons, Part 2

                    ________________________________________

                    Humilau City - Unova Region

                    ________________________________________

                    "Has there been any word?" The words of Alex's granduncle, Professor Redwood, came through the other side of the Pokémon Center's Holociever.

                    Jess had only spoken to him a few times, as her father had warned her to stay away from him. He had apparently been brilliant, once, and then for a reason nobody would talk about, fell from grace among the scientific community.

                    The resulting infamy had damaged the Redwood's reputation, hurting sales so much that, eventually, Alex's father had come to hers to ask to share their land. Combined, it was quite large, stretching for miles. The amount of Pokémon they could effectively raise there had nearly quadrupled, and the profit had been great indeed.

                    ________________________________________

                    After agreeing to a fair share of the future profits, the fences had been extended, and the Redwoods had managed to grow enough to avoid bankruptcy. Her own house was still left with a large yard, and that had been divided with trees rather than fences. Curious Tauros and other ranch Pokémon would often roam through the tree line, but thankfully, they all went back at their master's call.

                    Still wondering at what exactly had made the old man so infamous, she shook her head. "No…nothing. Something must've happened, three weeks is too long for him to be gone without calling."

                    ________________________________________

                    The old man sighed, and scratched his head. After a long pause he said, "You don't think he'd be stupid enough to climb that mountain without his team, do you?"

                    Jess began to shake her head, then paused. "Well…he was on a bit of a lucky streak, and he and his Charmeleon are pretty close…given the high spirits he left in, he might've chanced it…but Professor, if he went up there, that means…"

                    The old man sighed. "It means he's dead, and his charred bones are lining the nest of a Charizard. Fool. I told him a thousand times not to chance angering fully grown wild Pokémon, especially those that live on that mountain!"

                    ________________________________________

                    Jess shrugged, thinking aloud, "Well…there was that time at school with that Tyranitar…he told me all about it. Said he and Terra had kept it from rampaging across the campus…he might've thought he could handle it."

                    The Professor shook his head, sighing once more. "The Pokémon on that mountain are some of the most violent in the world. And nobody can understand why, because everyone who's gone there has ended up dead or seriously injured. All kinds gravitate there, usually those abandoned by their Trainers. But they don't attack people at the base…just the top. He must've climbed up, for whatever reason."

                    Jess' eyes widened suddenly, and she looked down. "It was me…I told him to go catch a Bagon…he must not have found one, and thought going higher would help…"

                    ________________________________________

                    The old man looked at her from across the phone's screen as he saw the first signs of tears in her eyes. "Now don't start in blaming yourself, lass. He made the choice to go up there. If that is even where he went. A thousand things could've happened out there. Highwaymen, a sprained ankle, a sudden and unexpected forest fire started by his Charmeleon, we simply don't know…"

                    Jess nodded absently. She hadn't been listening to the old man's words, her mind already convinced that none of those things would keep him this long. Blaze was strong enough to handle anything the wild could throw at them…except fully evolved human-hating Pokémon. She suppressed a groan. Up the mountain was exactly where he would've gone. She knew him.

                    "I'll let you know if there's news, Professor." They gave their courtesies, and then hung up.

                    ________________________________________

                    Jess headed to her room, and surveyed her Pokéballs, lying comfortably on the bed. She had taken Leo and Hydrus back from the Professor after he'd fixed their balls, but Terra was still asleep on the large plot of land outside the lab, put aside for the other Pokémon Alex intended to catch. The Professor and his aides, as well as several of the younger kids in the family, were in charge of keeping those residing in the PC happy and healthy. Even the Pokémon of other Trainers who had started from that lab were kept there. Not many Trainers chose the Redwood Lab to start from these days, not since the Professor's fall to infamy, but her brother Connor had visited the Professor once to attempt to find a Froakie.

                    Unfortunately, the only frog Pokémon around this region were Croagunk, Tympole, and Poliwag. Kalos, and the surrounding countries, were where Froakie tended to live, so that was where he had gone. Yet another Trainer in her life who didn't call much. He did pay attention however, enough to know that she had gone to Humilau with Alex on foot, and that Alex was missing.

                    ________________________________________

                    He'd called as well, during the first week. The media had been abuzz about the grandnephew of the infamous Professor Redwood going missing, but as usual, had since moved on to something else when nobody could figure out where he'd gone. But she had an idea now…she at least had to look. But not without a proper defense.

                    With her Pokémon and Alex's, that left her with five. More than enough, especially since Alex's Luxray was also strong. He and Chari had been the first to notice the absence of Alex and Blaze, but Hydrus had figured it out as well, eventually. Still, young as he was, she had kept him busy by training him against her new Prinplup. She grabbed Leo and Chari's balls, letting them out. They looked at her, eagerly.

                    "I might know where Alex and Blaze went. Alex might be hurt, but Blaze should be fine. We need to get him back, at least. But to find them, we'll need your eyes, Leo." He responded with an agreeing tone. "Luxray."

                    ________________________________________

                    She had tested his sight ability since training with him, a task he wasn't all that fond of given that she wasn't his Trainer, but after a good grooming, he'd listened to her well enough. Now, she could use his ability for something useful.

                    She offered him the badge. "Smell this, both of you, track his scent if you can. We'll start at the base of Draconis Mons. See what we see."

                    They both nodded in agreement, and she recalled them, then headed out of the Pokémon center, only to run straight into the larger form of her brother, literally, as she had been thinking about, and trying to ignore, the potential mortal peril she was about to be in.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Hello sis." Connor said, smirking as she bounced off him. He was built like Alex, big boned, but not nearly as tall, and his glorious full beard was a far cry from Alex's bare face. His reddish scarlet hair was straight, under a blue Trainer's hat that looked more like a beret from Kalos. Only in the day could one see his coloring though, otherwise it looked like a normal brown. "Going somewhere?"

                    Jess looked up at him, still processing the fact that he was even here at all. She had never, not once, in all the time she had lived, been able to lie successfully to her brother. Now was the chance to change that. "Yes. I was going to train with Alex's Pokémon. So they're fit when he comes back." The two siblings stared at each other for a long time, before he shrugged.

                    "Alright. I just came from beating the gym here, now that I have my team together, I figured it was time to try to beat my home league. Kalos was…on another level." His clothes weren't all that different from Eric's, being mostly dark blue and white, the largest distinguishing feature was his long purple scarf, wrapped around his neck. It seemed he was going for the Greninja look.

                    "Well, I still have to train," Jess said, sticking to the lie, "I'll come back once we're done. We'll catch up." She hurried off, heading north out of town. Connor hadn't beaten the gyms in Kalos without picking up a few tricks however, and as usual, could tell when his sister was up to something.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Gren." He said softly. The lithe form of his Greninja appeared beside him, seemingly out of nowhere. He bowed his head, slightly. "Watch her. Make sure she stays out of trouble, find Alex if you can…and stay unseen." The Trainer spoke, and the loyal Pokémon nodded again, grunting an affirmative as he disappeared again.

                    The trip out of town was relatively easy for Jess, who called out Leo and Chari once they were on the road. After so many weeks however, they would be lucky to find anything. Leo did manage to find the path Blaze had carved through the woods however, which led them all the way to the base of the mountain itself.

                    After climbing the trail a bit, they found an imprint of a familiar looking shoe pattern, but it was more the size of the print that gave away what they were looking at. Only one Trainer around here had feet that large. Jess was convinced that Alex had climbed up further now, but as she made an effort to do the same, a Greninja appeared in front of her.

                    ________________________________________

                    She scowled. "You're my brother's Pokémon, aren't you? He sent you to follow me." The Greninja nodded, and Jess sighed. "You're not going to let me up, either." The blue frog nodded again, arms crossed.

                    She sighed again, and pulled her fiery orange hat down as weeks of frustration built up suddenly, and all at once. "Fine…just…just do me a favor and find out if he's alive or not. I need to know. Will you do that?"

                    Connor's Greninja had been able to figure out who this human was, to his master. They had a similar scent, and he had seen pictures of her as a Froakie. He'd also seen her once or twice when his master used the phones at the Pokémon Center, something he rarely did. He could also see the tears dripping slowly from under the hat.

                    His master had explained why they were here after the gym battle, and given his typing, he hadn't been used for that challenge, and thus wasn't tired. Connor had instructed him to search the town for this 'Alex' but he'd found nothing. Now, his master's sister had found a trail, but he could tell this was a place for powerful Pokémon, not humans. There was something about it that attracted the strong.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Gren." He said, replying positively to her request. He made a show of running up the trail, before disappearing again with another high jump. Climbing a mountain wouldn't be too hard for him, but it was still a mountain. It would take time. He paused once he'd gotten high enough to be out of her sight. His master had said to make sure she was safe after all, and if she went up anyway, she wouldn't be. Eventually, she recalled the Luxray and her Charmeleon, then turned back. It was a wise move.

                    Only certain species of Pokémon lived here. A Greninja would be out of place, but he could go unnoticed. A Luxray would be more obvious, however. Gren continued his climb, hoping that these Pokémon wouldn't outright attack a stranger, and fellow Pokémon. There was no way they could know his species wasn't native to this region, after all.

                    ________________________________________

                    Down below, Jess made her way back through Alex's trail alone, ignoring the wild and rare Pokémon around her. They made no move to attack her, as she looked distressed, and these youngsters lacked the hatred their parents had acquired for her kind.

                    She'd been forced to turn back, but still, she had managed to find some trace of her missing friend, and now her brother's starter Pokémon was searching for him.

                    She had no way of knowing how well he'd been trained, but she knew her brother. He would've raised his Greninja well. He'd always wanted one, after all. Eventually, she made it back to town and began training with Leo and Hydrus as she had said she would.

                    ________________________________________

                    Tunnels Within Draconis Mons - Unova Region

                    ________________________________________

                    The first night in the tunnels had been rough for Alex and his Charmeleon. His dreams were plagued by images he couldn't place, names he knew he should remember, but couldn't, and the ever-present hunger of having not eaten more than a rough berry for a number of weeks. He'd lost quite a bit of weight, and his cheeks were looking gaunt and dirty.

                    The heat of the mountain made him sweat constantly, a feeling he despised, and what he really needed was a good bath. But the only water they had found down here had been boiling. Eventually, unable to awkwardly crawl in the tunnels any longer in the ever-increasing heat, Alex had sent Blaze to find food, or help. They would need it if he was going to survive down here.

                    ________________________________________

                    During his training, Blaze had made several allies down here, but when he communicated that he needed help for his Trainer, each one had refused. They hadn't been abandoned, but their parent's hatred of humans had influenced them. Eventually, Blaze found one of the Magmar in charge of maintaining the tunnels and asked for help.

                    Reluctantly agreeing, if only to get Alex's large form out of the tunnels, he helped Blaze drag him to a significantly cooler chamber that was actually pretty high up in the mountain. The crater above had a small leak in it, and over time, water had dripped into the large cavern below. Now, it played host to many water and ice types who kept that area of the mountain cooler. Many Dratini and Dragonair lived down here, along with another rare Pokémon species that was often abandoned.

                    ________________________________________

                    Amaura and Aurorus were relatively new fossil Pokémon, but due to their many weaknesses, inadequate Trainers often released them into the wild, in a world they no longer belonged in. Those that managed to survive were drawn to this mountain, like so many others, and now they had a home.

                    Unlike the dragon and fire types above however, these Pokémon were inherently kind. After having the situation explained to the largest of the Aurorus by Blaze, they allowed the human to drink and rest. The older Pokémon avoided him, but the younger Amaura were rabidly curious.

                    Alex managed to come to consciousness after Blaze splashed him a few times, and after drinking his fill, he found the little ice types adorable. But he had come for a Bagon, and had only brought the one ball. Before he left, he decided to approach one of the older Aurorus, and bowed low.

                    His memory had slowly improved, enough at least to remember why so many rare species lived on this mountain. He didn't know why, but he felt he had to try to apologize for what they had suffered. The older long necked Pokémon eyed him suspiciously, but didn't outright attack. It had watched him with the younger Pokémon, and judged him to be kind. For a human.

                    ________________________________________

                    "I'm sorry that you ended up here…abandoned. I can't imagine what that must've been like for you. You don't belong in this time, your species has only been revived because of human meddling, and it was humans that abandoned you. We're not…we're not all like that. Thank you for not giving away my location…the Pokémon above are…not nearly as kind." The large head of the tundra Pokémon lowered to press against the human's dirty hat.

                    "Aurooor." Looking up, he didn't quite know how he knew, but it seemed that the older Pokémon understood the heart of what he'd said. He continued, daring to press his luck.

                    "I may be down here for a while…and I can't survive in the constant heat. Might I stay here until I'm able to leave?" He had Blaze translate this for him. It was too important for miscommunication.

                    The larger Pokémon met his gaze again for a long moment, and he stared right back. Finally, it nodded, and then spoke to Blaze. The Charmeleon then grabbed his master, and led him to a back part of the cavern, far from the Aurorus and their young, and gestured to a small pile of dried leaves, and several berries.

                    ________________________________________

                    It seemed his Pokémon had already set up a living arrangement for him. He nodded, biting into one of the berries, which must have been picked from the forest below, given the size of them. Blaze ate too, and while it didn't completely satisfy his burning hunger, Alex felt a lot better.

                    When they were done, he stood, and went to the water's edge. There, he spent the next hour or so washing, and then with Blaze's help, drying his clothes. A few of the Dratini watched curiously, but swam away when he went to pet them. When everything was finally ready, and properly washed, he put his hat on, and nodded at Blaze.

                    "Right. Enough stalling. We need to train…and we need to find a strong Bagon. Have you met one down here?" Blaze nodded an affirmative. After several attempts, they'd managed to agree on what species they needed to catch. The Charmeleon was aware of what they'd come here for in the first place, and he'd found the perfect ally, and rival.

                    Training down here, he had fought against many different Pokémon, even a few of those that maintained the tunnels. After weeks of battle, he knew exactly which Bagon they would need on their side if they were to take down the black beast that ruled above them.

                    ________________________________________

                    The tunnels that led from the ice cavern were large, large enough for an Aurorus to fit through, so Alex no longer had to crouch. Indeed, it seemed that many of the other tunnels within the mountain itself were made for larger Pokémon, while the smaller ones were used to keep the more powerful fire and dragon types at bay.

                    Finally, Blaze and his Trainer arrived at the magma-filled cavern, where hundreds of pairs of first and middle evolutions trained daily. Every single one of them stopped as he entered, and a few growled. Most of them were Charmeleon. He coughed, awkwardly.

                    "Translate for me." Blaze nodded. "Pokémon of Draconis Mons…I come in peace. I'm not here to disturb your habitat, or get you in trouble. The black one doesn't know that I'm here. Or if he does, he cannot reach me. I came here to train with my partner…" He paused, and a few of the scowls had lessened slightly. These were Pokémon who had, for the most part, been born here, not abandoned. The human spoke of peace, so they saw no reason to attack him. Yet. They had all come to appreciate his Charmeleon's fighting spirit, and when asked how he'd gotten so good, he gave his human credit where it was due. He'd never have been able to become this strong on his own. Not so quickly, anyways.

                    ________________________________________

                    "If any of you would like to test yourselves against a true Pokémon Trainer…this is your chance. I guarantee you that it won't be like battling by yourselves. I can also guarantee that you'll get stronger."

                    A few of them roared at that. These species lived for such challenges. They could accept the human's, and drive him off when they beat him. More than a few of them were confident that they could.

                    "However." He held up his Timer Ball, and many of them recoiled, snarling. "I'm here to do more than just train. I have a goal. I am going to beat Lizardon, and to do that, I'm going to need the aid of a Bagon. I wouldn't dream of catching one that isn't willing to battle for its freedom, so if you find the idea of becoming the strongest of your kind distasteful, don't bother stepping up. I'm going to free this mountain of its oppressive ruler, and then I'm going to become the strongest Trainer that ever lived. Challenge me! I welcome all of you."

                    ________________________________________

                    As he finished translating, Blaze loosed a Flamethrower into the air, and the gathered Pokémon roared in response. Alex walked to the center of the cavern then, and drew a rough interpretation of a standard battle field with his heel, and Blaze's help.

                    His flame marked the path his heel carved in the hot dirt, and when he was finally done, he took his place on it along with his Pokémon. Many of those gathered had never seen such a stage, and watched, curious. This was an opportunity wild Pokémon rarely got to see. A genuine battle against a Trainer that wasn't chucking capture spheres at them after weakening them.

                    "Let the first challenger come!" He shouted, and Blaze roared. This felt right to him, being here on a proper battle field. He knew he'd done this before…but not with this Pokémon. Not nearly as often as he had with…the memory was there, but he couldn't recall it. The image of the black Charizard's tail coming at him always interfered as soon as he tried to remember something. At least he'd managed to remember how he'd been hurt.

                    ________________________________________

                    Their first opponent was a Shelgon that looked fairly close to evolving, given its size. But he had come for a Bagon. Training a Pokémon from its earliest stage was the oldest method of getting the strongest final evolution. That was basic Trainer knowledge. The battle was over quickly, as Blaze's Dragon Tail took down his opponent with ease.

                    The gathered Pokémon stared, not quite believing what they were seeing. That Shelgon was nearly unbeatable, and even Blaze had trouble against him in the past…but battling with a Trainer was like having eyes in the back of your head.

                    It took five more battles before a Bagon finally stepped up, walking onto the field, and roaring. Blaze looked at his Trainer and nodded. This was the one then, the one that would be his. He examined the small dragon type, and liked what he saw.

                    He was large, of course, and looked close to evolution himself, but he was also young. The fire that burned in his eyes was not unlike Blaze's. He was indeed ideal. The two Pokémon butted heads before taking their positions, and Alex realized they'd battled before. They were rivals, but friends as well.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Flamethrower." The torrent of fire was met with a similarly powerful Dragonbreath, and then the little Pokémon charged. Usually Blaze caught him when he did this, but this was an entirely different battle. The Charmeleon smirked.

                    "Dodge it, then Flamethrower again!" He leapt with the aid of his tail, and the fire came down all around the Bagon, who growled in irritation at his new burn. Using Dragon Tail might've ended the battle quicker, but Alex wanted to test the measure of this Pokémon's strength. So he kept to fire type moves.

                    As soon as Blaze landed, the Bagon leaned backward and jumped into a spinning headbutt that hit the fire lizard square in the stomach. He bounced back after the hit, and unleashed another Dragonbreath that Blaze barely countered in time with a Flamethrower.

                    ________________________________________

                    Seeing that this Bagon was about to press his advantage, Alex decided it was time to use their new move. Learning what moves Blaze knew had taken less time than he'd thought, and it was this newest one that didn't seem familiar.

                    "Heat Wave!" Blaze opened his mouth and the air around them grew even hotter. Usually, this wouldn't affect a dragon type too badly, but it was already hot down here. This move made it nearly unbearable.

                    Alex was sweating hard, and he finally signaled for Blaze to stop after ten seconds of it. The Bagon was panting hard too, and the heat certainly hadn't helped with its burn. It was time to end this.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Flamethrower." The Bagon looked back at him, and then at Blaze, who loosed another torrent of flame at him. Jumping into another Headbutt, he used the move to dodge quickly, and countered with his Dragonbreath, just in time to meet another Flamethrower. The two moves clashed, but Blaze was in better shape, and eventually his fire overwhelmed the Bagon.

                    It collapsed to its rear, panting. The fight was over. Alex approached the small blue Pokémon, who eyed him warily, until he saw that he was being offered a berry. This one just happened to cure burns, and heal. He had figured the Bagon they battled might end up burned, and there was no Pokémon Center here, so he'd saved one of the berries from his stash in the ice cavern. Swallowing his pride, the Bagon ate it, sighing in relief as the burn faded. Alex knelt to his level then, and offered the Timer Ball.

                    ________________________________________

                    "I was originally going to battle the strongest Bagon I could find down here until this would guarantee a catch…but I know the Pokémon here don't like humans. You look like you have a family, a life, here. I'm not going to snatch you away from it against your will. I'm going to offer you the chance to join me. If you do, I promise, you will one day be regarded as the strongest Salamence the world has ever known."

                    The Bagon looked at Blaze, who nodded subtly, and then at the human. It blinked, seeing the same fire in his eyes that was in his partner's. They were linked, and he knew that if he accepted, he would feel that fire as well. This human was unlike anything his mother had told him of. Unlike most, she didn't hate humans, but she had warned most of them were vile creatures that deserved their rage. This human had eyes like a dragon. He knew what he had to do, and his instincts agreed with him.

                    "Bagon." He nodded, and his little arm pushed the strange ball's button. It opened, and he entered it willingly, finding the inside to be not at all unpleasant. Once it stopped blinking, Alex let him out again, and he returned in a flash of black light, ringed with white. Alex blinked. That was unusual, but then, this whole situation was strange.

                    He felt that the light should've been a different color, but decided to ignore it. His memory was still gone after all, though he'd managed to recall his name after seeing it on his jacket, for all he knew that was the right light Timer Balls emitted. "Welcome to the team…I suppose you need a name, hmm?" He thought for a long moment, struggling to remember what he knew of dragon types. Fragments of legends came to his mind, as dragon types were, in their own right, legendary.

                    ________________________________________

                    "How about…Shruikan? I can't quite remember where it's from…but it sounds fierce, and powerful." The Bagon nodded in what seemed like agreement. He liked it.

                    "Alright then…let's rest up. Then tomorrow, we'll return here for more training." He looked at Shruikan. "You're going to need to evolve if we're going to have a chance at beating that black beast." The Bagon nodded again.

                    That was another reason he'd accepted. His mother, a Salamence, was often attacked by Lizardon with no provocation. His father had been felled by it, one of the many victims of the black one's rage. This Trainer seemed like his best chance of avenging his sire's death, and his mother's mistreatment at the Charizard's claws.

                    He felt he could evolve already, but tomorrow he would finally try to. The time seemed right…one more night as a Bagon wouldn't hurt though. He examined his form as they walked through one of the larger tunnel exits. It wasn't weak per say, but not overly strong either. As a Shelgon he would have a much better chance of surviving a fire attack from the black beast that ruled over them, and be one step closer to achieving the ability to soar through the skies. He just had to trust that his new Trainer knew what he was doing.

                    ________________________________________

                    The next two days were intense training for Blaze and Shruikan both, but no matter how hard they trained, Shruikan couldn't evolve. He did however have the unique advantage of being able to sneak down the mountain, and after convincing other Pokémon to help, he managed to smuggle armfuls of berries in for all of them.

                    He even got one of the Magby to open, and then close, a hole in the mountain for them. Alex contemplated leaving of course. He had his Bagon, fulfilling the task the mysterious note had told him to, but he couldn't just leave these Pokémon under the rule of that Charizard.

                    That species tended to outlive their Trainers, and that one had lost none of his youthful vigor. It could be centuries before he was weak enough to be overthrown, or passed naturally. He hadn't gone to visit the old man either. There would be time enough to pry information from him if and when he defeated 'Lizardon'.

                    ________________________________________

                    Just as Shruikan finished his latest battle with his newest move, Zen Headbutt, there was a tutting sound from beside the makeshift field Alex had created. The Pokémon here had kept it, enjoying the challenge of staying in bounds while battling. The tutting sound came from the old Kanto man, who had somehow appeared without even Blaze noticing. He'd been on the sidelines, watching.

                    "You will never evolve him that way. This Bagon needs fire…same fire that burns in his eyes…take him to Morty. Yes, Morty will be enough. You battle him…you evolve them both. They are ready. Two more days to get used to their bodies…then you fight him."

                    Looking at him closer, Alex saw his bruises had only gotten worse. Mottled green now mixed with the purple where new bruises covered the old. It seemed Lizardon had taken his anger out on the old man when Alex had failed to resurface.

                    ________________________________________

                    Before he could say anything about them however, the old man began walking towards the largest tunnel exiting from the large training chamber. It was one Alex had never gone down, and had been kept from entering by a Magmar that had risen from the lava pool by the entrance. The same Magmar reappeared now, and then nodded upon seeing the old man. He sank back into the lava, and Alex and his team followed him.

                    "You better heal them." He said in his foreign accent, strangling the R sounds. "This will not be an easy battle." The other three shared a look.

                    "Can I use Blaze as well as Shruikan?" Alex asked quietly.

                    The old man stopped in place. "Shruikan? The black dragon of destruction? Why would you ever name him that?"

                    ________________________________________

                    Alex blinked twice, the information slowly coming back to him. It had happened quite a few decades back, supposedly a black scaled Rayquaza had gone berserk in the Hoenn region, and the champion of said region, who had tamed a Groudon, had been forced to stop it. He hadn't been strong enough however, so the story went, and the woman who tamed the seas, and Kyogre, had helped him finally end the black Legendary Pokémon's rampage.

                    The media had nicknamed the beast Shruikan, due to its' tendency to form a spiked circle and slam into opponents when it used Dragon Tail. They had meant Shuriken, an ancient weapon that actually resembled the spinning dragon's attacks, but by the time they admitted that, the name had become too popular.

                    Most of the footage of the event had mysteriously vanished, and now many people his age considered it to be nothing more than a fanciful Hoenn myth, but that didn't really help him, as he couldn't remember his age either. He looked at his Bagon, then shrugged.

                    ________________________________________

                    "He'll grow into it. For now, Shruikan is his name. Let all who remember it know his strength." The old man shook his head and continued on further. They walked in that tunnel for what seemed like ages, it connected with many other smaller tunnels that smaller Pokémon, like Aron, had carved out of the mountain, but the few they saw ignored the two humans as they made their way to the chamber at the end of the tunnel.

                    It was large, but not nearly as large as the training cavern was. Large enough to have a battle in, certainly. In the back was a massive statue of a Magmortar that looked to have been carved in great detail from the stone, but by who was a mystery. It was missing key elements of the Pokémon Alex vaguely remembered learning about. The old man shuffled right up to it.

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                    "Hi there Morty, sorry to wake you. There's a Bagon here that needs some help evolving. Think you could help out?" Alex and his two Pokémon shared a look again.

                    The old man continued talking to the statue for a good minute, before Alex spoke up. "Umm…old man, I think that's just a statue of a Magmortar."

                    The old man laughed loudly, hands on his hips. "A statue! You hear that, Morty? He thinks you're a statue! Oh wow. Lizardon must've hit you harder than I thought if you really can't tell a live Pokémon from a statue! Ha! Haha!" He turned back to the statue as he began coughing, ignoring Alex and his raised eyebrow.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Come on Morty, this is serious! This young man intends to battle Lizardon, and his Bagon needs to be a Shelgon to do that. His Charmeleon needs a proper boost as well! Otherwise they'll probably be killed." Alex sighed, turning to leave as the old man began pounding on the solid rock.

                    "Come on you two…we've wasted enough valuable training time…" Alex muttered as he turned to leave with a sigh. Hermits were always crazy. He had no idea why he'd expected this one to be different from the ones in what stories he could remember.

                    ________________________________________

                    He'd taken one step out of the cavern, when he felt a tremor. A slight tremor, but a tremor all the same. He didn't quite know why, but it felt familiar, the shaking of the ground. Like he'd ordered it done before in a battle… but Blaze and Shruikan didn't know Earthquake. Another tremor.

                    He turned, and saw the old man grinning. "See? He's finally waking up. Morty always was lazy…come on now! Get up!"

                    The cavern shook harder, and Shruikan jumped before his Trainer, growling at the statue. Alex swore inwardly. The old man had been right. Rocks slowly broke from the form of the Magmortar, and it gurgled over and over.

                    It took Alex a minute to realize it was coughing. It stared at the old man, and then shifted its' impassive gaze to him. It coughed again, hard, and rocks shot out of its cannon arms, slamming into the ground. He'd thought it a statue because the head and shoulders lacked flames, but as the massive Pokémon rose, they burned to life again.

                    It raised its arms to either side, and two Flamethrowers shot out, clearing any excess debris. The old man dodged the one near him skillfully, like he didn't even try, and had moved on reflex. The sudden burst of graceful movement only mystified him further. Surely he'd been a Trainer, his facial features seemed slightly familiar, but without his memory, Alex couldn't place him.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Easy now, Morty. Lizardon is still alive…but these three can take him down. With your help. Battle the Bagon." The Magmortar looked at the old man, then growled, turning to finally look at Shruikan and then Blaze as well.

                    It raised one arm, pointed at Shruikan. "Mortar!" Shruikan growled in response, and Alex saw the light within its arm begin to build. The battle had started, it seemed.

                    "Dragonbreath!" Shruikan's blue flames cut the larger Pokémon's torrent of orange ones in half, saving both himself and Alex from their fire. Blaze didn't mind them much, but moved to stand by the old man all the same.

                    ________________________________________

                    The old man began whispering to Blaze, but another Flamethrower from 'Morty' drowned out his words. Both Shruikan and Alex had to dodge. "Zen Headbutt!" Before the hit could land, it met with yet another Flamethrower. This Magmortar launched them easily, but this one held its stream continuously.

                    "Look out, lad! Move!" Alex lost sight of Shruikan within the flames as they surrounded his move, but instead of exploding, as most move collisions did, this one began to glow impossibly bright, the white light filling the room. Morty covered his eyes with his free arm, but kept the stream going. Finally, the light faded, and the Flamethrower increased. Shruikan slammed into the back wall of the cavern, but was unharmed.

                    He rose slowly from the rubble on four stubby legs, legs that looked too small to support the shell covering his entire body. He roared, and it was much deeper now. Morty raised his second cannon arm, and now two Flamethrowers shot towards Shruikan.

                    ________________________________________

                    Only to be met by a Dragonbreath that was stronger than anything he'd used as a Bagon. Stronger than anything other Shelgon had used themselves. It overwhelmed the flames, shifting in mid-air into a blue colored pulse that slammed into Morty, and sent him back into the hole he'd left when he'd awakened with a thunderous crash.

                    ________________________________________

                    The large Pokémon grinned at Shruikan. The battle was over. A proper contest would see the cave destroyed. Alex stared at his new Shelgon, and grinned. "Brilliant…Dragon Pulse…we have a chance at beating him now…we hit him with…maybe four of those, and Blaze can grab the win." Blaze and Shruikan met each other's gaze.

                    As rivals, they were obviously eager to test the other's strength. Evolution changed a lot in a battle, but now wasn't the time. They were so intensely focused on each other's gaze that Blaze failed to notice Morty standing over him. He snorted in surprise and backed up when he finally did.

                    ________________________________________

                    "Mag. Mortar." With that, the giant Pokémon left his cave, and Blaze followed, motioning for the others to come with him. As Morty walked down the tunnel, each heavy footfall echoed throughout the many smaller tunnels that connected to his. Smaller Pokémon everywhere got out of the way, but many Magby stared in awe at this example of their final evolution, a stage many Magmar never advanced to. Not without a Trainer.

                    They didn't know that however, so their hope of one day becoming that powerful was kept alive. Finally, they reached the training chamber. Once more, each of the dueling Pokémon stopped as Alex and his band of companions entered. He wondered if they were getting tired of the interruptions yet.

                    They didn't have time to complain, as Morty strode across the field with the confidence of a being that is fully aware it's the strongest one in the room. Alex wondered, briefly, if he shouldn't have saved his Pokéball for this one instead.

                    He banished the thought then. Doubting his team would certainly lead to failure, and he had a feeling this Magmortar wasn't completely done with them yet. At the wall opposite Morty's tunnel, a large pool of lava sat, ignored by all, save the Magmar who stood on the lone pillar of rock in the middle of it.

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                    Morty stared it down. "Mag." He growled.

                    "Mar." The other responded, hopping off the pillar. Alex had only seen him do this once before, when a pair of battling Pokémon had gotten too rough while sparring. It seemed his purpose was to keep order, as well as stand guard over…whatever Morty was reaching into the lava for. There was a loud whooshing sound as the right cannon arm drew in tons of molten lava like it was nothing. Suddenly, he stopped, and three barely visible claws that acted as this Pokémon's hands lifted out of the pool, holding a shining red crystal. He turned to look at Blaze.

                    "Magmortar!" He tossed the stone back into what lava remained in the pool, and then focused both arms on it. The lava he had taken in poured out faster than it should've been able to, given that it was molten rock, not water. Alex attributed it to the power this Pokémon held. They could alter nature in ways man would never truly understand, and they could do it on a whim.

                    ________________________________________

                    Blaze glanced at his Trainer, and then at where the crystal had gone. Alex hadn't felt the power radiating from it, or if he had, he'd been too distracted to notice. But every fire type in that cavern had felt it. It was old.

                    No more than a shard of something that had once been unimaginably powerful, the essence of fire itself, long broken into pieces that had been buried and crushed in the ground, or disintegrated upon colliding with the land…all except that one. It was the heart of Draconis Mons, the source of the power that drew powerful fire Pokémon here, Pokémon that otherwise would've found different mountains to occupy.

                    Every Pokémon on the mountain had felt it surface for that brief moment, but only the fire types could truly crave it. Up above, Gren watched from his place of hiding as the black Charizard that clearly dominated this mountain's crater roared with a fury that he had rarely achieved before. Pokémon scattered at this roar, even the stronger ones like Tyranitar and Salamence. When the black one got this angry, you got out of his way, or you likely ended up dead.

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                    Down below, Morty looked up, as did many others. The roar had gotten their attention, but Blaze kept his gaze on where the crystal had disappeared. Lizardon's roar only spurred him on to do something he imagined was unwise, but in his core, felt right.

                    The only one who saw him start to run full tilt towards the large pool was Morty, and the large Pokémon grinned as the smaller red one leapt using his tail, over the Magmar who noticed him a second too late, over Morty's head, and finally over the ridge that separated the smaller Pokémon from the lava.

                    Not even Magby were allowed in this pool, but Morty made no move to stop him. The lava ceased flowing from his cannons, and he stepped back, avoiding the Flamethrower the Magmar had unleashed seconds too late, as Blaze dove into the lava, parting it in a way that shouldn't have been possible.

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                    Morty turned on the smaller Magmar, and smacked it with one of his cannons. The smaller Pokémon blinked, and then they both turned their attention to the pool. Alex had run up now, just tall enough to have a view of the surface. He'd seen his Charmeleon as he leapt over Morty, but had no chance of stopping him. He looked up at the Magmortar, but the larger Pokémon shook his head, and pointed with a cannon arm.

                    The pool seemed unusually red... because it was unusually red. It was glowing now. As the glow faded, the tips of four familiar looking orange points rose out of the pool. Wings appeared beneath the outer two on either side, the familiar dark blue of the flaps came next, followed by the eyes, which now radiated the same red color as the crystal that rose above the lava, supported by one large, orange claw. Clutching his prize tight, Blaze glared at where the furious roar from above had originated, and now returned one of his own as he flapped free of the burning magma.

                    ________________________________________

                    It echoed through the chamber, shaking it with the force his new throat could produce. Many Pokémon had to cover their ears, as did Alex and the old man. Morty watched, unblinking, the ever-present smirk unchanged. Blaze flapped once, and landed outside the pool's edge, right in front of Morty. Magmortar usually towered over most Charizard, but Blaze had held off on evolving for weeks now, and his size had carried over. For his species, size usually indicated strength, and now, Blaze was a head taller than Morty.

                    Alex struggled to remember how large Lizardon was, then stopped himself. He was being too analytical. He had a Charizard! Morty stepped back as Alex strode up to his fully evolved partner, grinning. Blaze lowered his head, and while his eyes may have stopped glowing with the power of the strange gem, they still held the same fire that bound Pokémon and Trainer together. Alex put a hand against his partner's cheek, noticing that despite having been in lava, it was hot to the touch, but not searing. "Only you could make lava diving look cool." He said, smirking.

                    ________________________________________

                    The old man chortled behind them. "Ha! Lava diving! Cool! Because it's usually so hot! Getit?" Morty gave him a look, then began stomping back towards his cave.

                    "Well someone has to have a sense of humor on this mountain!" The old man turned to Alex and his Charizard. "Don't worry lad, I got the joke."

                    He and Blaze shared a look as well, before looking back to the old man. "Thank you, mister… I still don't know your name."

                    ________________________________________

                    "Don't worry about it! Heh heh. Tell ya what, you beat Lizardon, and I'll tell you my whoooole life story. Deal?" Alex nodded, then shook his head in disbelief. This old man was straight out of a comic book. Though he couldn't remember which one.

                    "Deal…" He turned back to Blaze, who was offering him the crystal. Alex took it and with it in his hand, properly touching his skin, he knew, without knowing exactly how he knew, that he was holding a piece of Creation.

                    The symbol used to represent fire types was visible within it, and he marveled at it, before moving to return it to Blaze. The Charizard shook his head.

                    "You want me to keep it? But you can use it in the battle…" The fully evolved Pokémon growled, shaking his head. He meant Alex to have it. Alex shrugged, deciding not to argue with his Pokémon's instincts. "If you insist… let's go back and rest… soon, we take on Lizardon, and free this mountain."
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                    Old June 4th, 2018 (8:53 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                    Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                    Pokefan1337
                       
                      Join Date: May 2018
                      Age: 25
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                      Chapter 8: Draconis Mons, Part 3

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                      Crater Atop Draconis Mons - Unova Region

                      ________________________________________

                      She opened one lazy eye as another loud smash echoed throughout the crater atop the mountain they all called home. The black beast that ruled over them, a Charizard that looked twice his age, but had the passionate fire of one who had just evolved, had been slamming his tail into the wall of his perch on the northern edge of the crater for two days now, out of sheer frustration.

                      They had all felt the power that surfaced, the power that drew their overlord into a rage that had, by all appearances, cooled. She wasn't convinced however. She could see the smoldering embers of hate in his eyes, always looking below, searching desperately for any sign of the Charizard that had roared back at him in open defiance. He had killed for less. But there was nothing.

                      For two whole days, the tension in the crater had been high. She had been preoccupied, however. She was a Salamence, one of the stronger species that lived on this mountain. She didn't necessarily hate humans, as so many of the other full-grown Pokémon did. Her human had passed a long, long time ago. In a far away region. She couldn't even recall his face now, just the kindness he'd shown her, the battles they'd won.

                      But those days were long gone. She'd flown far away from that place, found a suitable mate, and settled here on this mountain. There had been many good days…until the day a golden Charmeleon emerged from the tunnels that led into the mountain, and evolved.

                      ________________________________________

                      In the course of a day, the Charizard he had become beat and mercilessly killed many of the strongest Pokémon that had lived on the mountain, and refused to submit to him. Her mate had been among them. After that, the Pokémon who maintained the tunnels had shut them all, barring the black one's rage from entering the core. Now, the black one was furious, and to top it all off, one of her offspring was missing.

                      He'd gotten old enough to begin to burn with the desire to train, grow stronger, evolve, and finally achieve flight. That was fine, every mother expected her young to leave the nest at some point. Many of her past clutches had done just that, choosing to roam far away. But it was still too early for this latest son of hers to have been gone for so long.

                      She worried about that Bagon. The skies had been so loud, they'd even annoyed their black scaled ruler the night his egg hatched. The storm raged for hours, only ending when the shell was finally broken. Even Pokémon had legends, and Salamence were no exception. Dragons had long lives, and longer memories. She'd heard, once, what that omen foretold, but she didn't entirely believe it.

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                      Worse, he was missing at a time when she and the others could feel a change was coming to the mountain. Many Charizard and other species had challenged the black one for dominance…but there was something about that roar that had them all on edge. It hadn't been like the others, it had almost reminded her of their ruler's, but his was pure rage.

                      This one had something else fueling it, some other power that had made the very mountain shake with force of it. She shifted again, making sure to turn her gaze from the black Charizard as she did. He noticed everything that moved, thanks to the state he was in, and had been shooting Flamethrowers at any who looked at him and met his gaze. He hadn't slept, either. Something about that defiant roar had him on edge.

                      ________________________________________

                      Down below, under tons of seemingly solid rock, the source of Lizardon's rage had been training relentlessly for two days straight. The point of said training had been to get his team used to their new bodies, but a problem soon presented itself.

                      Blaze didn't quite know how to fly, and though the instinct was there, the confusing air currents and lack of experience in the hot mountain had kept him consistently crashing into the ground. He desperately needed time in the air, under the open sky. Down here, the most he could do was flap aimlessly around the training cavern, like a Noibat trapped in a house.

                      ________________________________________

                      Over the course of two days however, in heat even a fire type finds oppressive, Blaze had slowly, and painfully, learned to move with the curve of the air. At first, he simply stayed aloft on the warm currents of air, and didn't crash into the ground. In the same day, once he'd mastered that balance upon this 'wind', he began doing tricks, flips, all sorts of aerial maneuvers.

                      He slowly learned what he would need to beat Lizardon. That he seemed born to the air, a true flying type, only helped. Even in this hot cavern, large though it was, he managed to learn to soar, and knew that under the open sky, he would be even more impressive.

                      ________________________________________

                      Once the crystal had been given, the old man and Morty had vanished, far, far below the fiery cavern where their chance at freedom from Lizardon trained almost to exhaustion.

                      At the old man's request, Morty had opened a large tunnel in the base of the mountain, and other types, like grass and water, that lived in the forests around the mountain, once more found their own ancient caverns within. There was room for every known type, and several as yet undiscovered by humans, scattered throughout the enormous natural structure.

                      They came from the woods and forests nearby, for the sole purpose of seeing a place of such power freed from the grasp of a tyrant at last. The power that slept under the dragon mountain drew them all. None could imagine it would be a Trainer that freed them though.

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                      Even a clone of Arceus, whose sole duty was to monitor this mountain where another clone of the Alpha Pokémon had once made the ultimate sacrifice, now paid attention, his focus drawn to this mountain. There was about to be a shift in the very fabric of reality. A piece of his power had been awakened.

                      The cavern of ice types rested under the topmost crater, where the dragon types lived. This kept them from attempting to dominate the other types, as their inborn nature commanded them to try to do. While Black Lizardon had certainly been a menace, the fury of the abandoned dragon types had also been kept in check.

                      Had humans not interfered, he could have kept the dragons in line for centuries. He would have eventually died however, but surely in all those long years, he would eventually birth a proper successor, no? There would be peace and fairness. Eventually. Once all these...rebellious attitudes...were excised. This was Lizardon's reasoning, his motive behind his claim to power. The ramblings of a tyrannical mind, justifying its actions.

                      ________________________________________

                      The Shelgon now called Shruikan by the strange Trainer watched this pair train together in awe. A Pokémon that had been raised from its first stage by a Trainer was a new sight to the Shelgon. He watched the Charizard called Blaze, and the fire in his eyes became truly envious.

                      He needed to fly as well. He would be the greatest of his species with this Trainer by his side. Someday, he would ascend to the status of Legend among all of them, for this was the Trainer who could make him into such a dragon. Or so his instinct said.

                      For now, however, he had to deal with his hard shell of a body. He was stronger yes, strong enough for a normal Salamence to evolve after such intense training with Blaze, but he knew he was no normal Shelgon. He needed fire to evolve, as Blaze had required magma.

                      But not just any fire would do. So, he would continue to train, reaching the highest level he could in just two days. As the old man had said, it was enough for them to reach new heights of strength. With the intensity of their battles, they might just be strong enough, together, to have a chance of beating Lizardon.

                      ________________________________________

                      Eventually, Shruikan mastered moving quickly with this new body, forgoing his stubby limbs entirely, and simply rolling towards his opponents. He trained against a Charizard as well, and slowly, painfully, learned their fighting style.

                      Always the wings were an advantage, but one Shruikan eventually overcame. Once he and Blaze could only cause a stalemate between them, the old man had stepped in, and told them to rest.

                      The cavern of the grass types in the base of the mountain welcomed them, and for the first time in just over a month, they slept soundly on soft leaves, though Blaze had to lay his tail on a rock. Alex marveled at the grass types, who wholeheartedly shared food and played with him. Even the larger ones were kind.

                      ________________________________________

                      He wondered briefly why he hadn't picked one of them when he became a Trainer. He was especially fond of the Turtwigs. Several fell asleep in his lap as he dozed off as well. They liked him on instinct, and there was something comforting and familiar in their presence. He slept soundly on the back of their mother, a Torterra, who was just as kind, and had almost seemed to recognize him for some reason.

                      Even then, the names nagged at his brain. Jess. Terra. An image of a different mountain, with a different Trainer who both was and was not him, and a different Pokémon, mastering Energy Ball to a degree only the most skilled reached. He knew these were his memories, but he couldn't place them. Always the image of that black tail slamming into him kept them barred.

                      ________________________________________

                      Finally, the third day dawned. Another echo in the Ice Cave under the crater signaled Lizardon's impatience, the force of which shook the mountain itself, even the fire cavern they had returned to.

                      Alex looked to his two Pokémon, wondering if this was the path his true self would take. He knew the strength of his partners, but he yet doubted he could beat Lizardon. That monstrosity was in his own weight class, one to rival even a Legendary.

                      He shook his head, and met his partner's gazes. They were ready. They knew it. He took strength from their confidence. Morty, a powerful Magmortar whose strength could not be underestimated, had bored a hole to the upper levels large enough for a Charizard.

                      He had been the one who'd trained Lizardon as a Charmeleon, now, he righted his wrong, and released another Charizard to face him, armed with a piece of the Plates that contained the very essence of the Alpha Pokémon in the hand of his Trainer. Only a few areas of the world had such rare crystals that could be used in battle, and giving them away was not taken lightly.

                      ________________________________________

                      He had been charged by an aspect of the Alpha himself to guard this mountain, and the powerful crystals within. Over time, the Pokémon that lived here had forgotten what had drawn their ancestors in the first place. But the shards of the broken plates remained, and Morty was only one of the Pokémon who had stood guard over them. The night before he'd evolved, the golden Charmeleon had slain the other guardians. Now, only Morty remained, and he'd given up one of the crystals he'd been bid to guard.

                      It would finally right this imbalance, with the aid of a human. It was overdue. The mountain had not always housed abandoned Pokémon. Once, humans had been allowed to hike up here, and gaze upon the world, battle on the natural ring suspended over the crater, and share the company of dragon types. There was one glaring difference in the modern era though. The Unovan Dragon was not around to keep them all in balance. Still, he remained split.

                      ________________________________________

                      But that had been ages ago, before dragon types were rare enough to sometimes be called legendary. Morty watched the human and his partners leave before beginning the process of resealing the upper mountain caverns, which was easier than boring through them, for him anyways.

                      There was something about that human, that Morty had sensed was unique. He wasn't like the old man, who had long since given up hope of beating Lizardon, with good reason. He fought on, and had the fire to keep going, all the way to the top. If anyone could remind the Pokémon here that not all humans were so cruel, it was a Trainer like that. He also had no other choice, if he wanted to see this mountain freed. The old man had convinced him to stay, rather than flee through the newly opened tunnel in the mountain's base.

                      Ultimately the choice had been his, but thankfully, the Trainer had decided to stay. Had he left, Morty would've ended him, sealed the mountain once more, and went back to sleep. He much preferred this outcome, where only one had to die. That one had more than earned his fate.

                      ________________________________________

                      Up above, the black Charizard roared with fury when he smelled the challenger approach… beside the human he'd killed weeks past. And a Shelgon. One of their own. A traitor. He spread his wings, when one of the Salamence on the mountain roared at him with a rage that halted even his eternal fury.

                      Normally, she would die for such an act, but she moved from his path immediately, and pointed with her long head. They were climbing to the arena. They sought a proper challenge.

                      Lizardon's red eyes burned with hate as he weighed his choices. He ignored the Salamence, for she had several Bagon to nurture. He disliked killing females, even more so those with young, but if they challenged him for dominance, he treated them as males. Other Salamence and grown dragon types roared, as she had, and he knew if they all attacked at once, he might not survive to retaliate. At the very least, there would be none left alive to lord over, and he did not want that. He'd been alone enough.

                      This one had merely pointed out the situation. The Charizard with the human was impressive, to say the least, more than his last challenger, but he was walking, not flying. Shackled to a mere human.

                      ________________________________________

                      The human held his gaze the longest. In the past, he'd thrown them from the mountainside, which wasn't necessarily a death sentence, if they were strong. Other times, he'd had loyal Tyranitar scare them away. Killing too many humans provoked a response from them, but injuring a few and having them spread tales of the mighty mountain Pokémon had seemed to work as a better deterrent.

                      Then this human had arrived, Charmeleon in tow. Maybe it was the fact that, but for a twist of fate and time, he could've been that Charmeleon. Maybe it was that familiar fire burning in the human's eyes. Maybe it was the hat, so similar to his former Trainer's own, save the color. Something had ignited his rage, and urged him to end this human's life.

                      ________________________________________

                      He'd instructed the servile human to get rid of the body…but it seemed this weak, hairless ape had the strength to survive one of his attacks. He snorted blue flames, his fury ignited once more. A worthy challenger, then. He flapped once, and landed hard on the suspended arena. It had taken far heavier landings, and stayed intact.

                      Some force held it in place, much to the joy of the Pokémon who had once battled for fun atop it. Now, it was the site of many a slain challenger to the might of Lizardon. He spewed blue flames around the arena as the challengers approached.

                      ________________________________________

                      Alex stared in disbelief at what Lizardon wrought with his fire. A true classic arena, from the days when official Pokémon battles were still mostly unorganized. It was shaped like a Pokéball, with two rectangles on either side for the Trainers. Lizardon stood in his, and then stepped forward. He was his own master.

                      Blaze stood beside his Trainer in his own rectangle, which was still smoking from the heat that had renewed the carved shape. Maybe this was what had inspired the first arena fields. It was certainly old enough. All Lizardon had done was renew the ancient borders.

                      ________________________________________

                      "Shruikan." The Shelgon stepped forward, growling at the much larger Charizard before it. The black one scented the Shelgon, and cast an eye towards his mother, the same female Salamence that had stopped him earlier. Now it made more sense. He snorted blue fury again.

                      If her clutch was as rebellious as their fallen father, they would go down as well. The flame on his black tail shifted to blue as his rage swelled. His eyes grew pure red. Such rebellion was commonplace these days. Always they defied him. If he gave an inch, they took a mile. No more. He could stand being alone if it meant not having to deal with constant attempts to usurp his authority. He'd dealt with this kind of irritant for decades now. He was done.

                      ________________________________________

                      He roared his intent, to burn every one of them until he alone ruled the mountain. All the dragon types began to gather now, at the entrances to their caves. Their ruler had just declared his intention to burn them all out of their homes.

                      If this human failed, they would sacrifice everything to finally bring him down. They could not know however, that if this human did indeed fail, Lizardon would gain a power that would ensure his rule lasted well beyond a normal span of years.

                      ________________________________________

                      A Fire Blast shot from the maw of the black Charizard, huge and unrelenting in its fury.

                      "Into your shell!" While Shruikan did know Protect, he could only use it so often. Still, the instinct remained, and it would take more fire than this to end him. The blast met his shell with fury, the blue five-pronged figure slamming into it hard. Shruikan struggled to stay rooted to the ground, even as his Trainer did the same.

                      "Now, let go and use Dragonbreath!" Shruikan had stopped wondering where his Trainer's battle instinct came from, and had learned to, sometimes quite literally, roll with it. As he did now. He let his shell be tossed into the air by the flames, and then, once he spun in the right direction, he shot his Dragonbreath at the ground, spinning him further into the air, and turning him into a cannonball of blue dragon flames.

                      ________________________________________

                      Lizardon's eyes were on his own attack, searching for his opponent in the smoke that had erupted from the impact. He never saw the furious ball of flame coming in just above his field of vision. It hit him square in the head, and his entire form shook, both with anger, and the new paralysis the critical hit had given him. His skull throbbed with pain.

                      "Dragon Pulse!" Another attack, another hit, directly to his stomach, as Lizardon was unable to move. He shrugged off the pulse however, fighting through the paralysis. The red eyes shifted to look towards his perch, lined with berries that could heal such wounds.

                      ________________________________________

                      "Blaze, if he makes a move for his berries, burn them all." The Charizard shot into the air in response, and hovered right above the ledge on the northern side of the crater. Landing on it would've drawn the black one for sure, but his hovering only threatened.

                      "I have no items!" Alex shouted, pointing at Lizardon, "You won't be using them either." The black beast snorted blue flames, and inhaled to roar. "Zen Headbutt!" He'd taken his eyes off the Shelgon, a rookie mistake, as the human had distracted him long enough for the insolent whelp to run in close, and ram his stomach.

                      ________________________________________

                      With a single flap, Lizardon took to the air. Blaze hovered closer to the berry stash. Without the old man's aid, Lizardon might've cured his weakness, as Alex would've never learned where they were.

                      He hoarded the berries of the mountain, staying strong while forcing others to eat weak, unwanted berries to survive, or expend energy hunting. Either way, the others were kept too weak to rebel successfully.

                      The old man had seen the stash however, and had warned them of it. The stash was not the black one's target, though. A claw of purplish-blue energy formed around his black claw, and he swooped down towards the Shelgon. This was it. Dragon Claw, combined with flight.

                      ________________________________________

                      "Protect!" There was a grating shriek as claws of energy wore away, and Lizardon's real claws ran across the shell. He roared in fury, burying the Shelgon's form in a Flamethrower. Blue flames covered Shruikan's vision, but he'd need fire much, much hotter than this for evolution.

                      "Dragon Pulse!" As planned, the fire did little against Shruikan, but it was beginning to wear on him. His shell was smoldering, though it cooled once he rolled his face opening towards his opponent, and expelled the attack at close range.

                      ________________________________________

                      Lizardon slid back, pushed across the arena by the powerful dragon type attack. Another Flamethrower followed, and Shruikan winced. A normal Flamethrower was hard to resist, but this one was powered by pure rage, and burned all the hotter for it. Seeing he was about to be burned badly, Alex reacted, trusting his Trainer instinct.

                      "Shruikan! Alpha maneuver!" The Shelgon nodded, and a Fire Blast of his own pushed back slowly against the Flamethrower's continuous stream. Lizardon had forgotten that Fire Blast was self-propelling however, and so when Shruikan again came down on him, hitting his head once more, he was even more surprised. A quick Dragonbreath-aided jump into the air and another rolling descent scored another critical hit.

                      ________________________________________

                      Lizardon reeled, clutching his skull, and roaring in pain. On the southern cliff face of the mountain, the Greninja known simply as Gren sat motionless. He'd watched for two days, moving only when nature urged him to eat or void his bowels. Now he was witnessing a true battle between a Trainer with natural skill, and the strongest Charizard nature could possibly create. It was a spectacle, for sure, but the mood shifted suddenly.

                      A foul stench filled the air. Every Pokémon knew then, the battle was about to get serious. Lizardon looked up at the Shelgon, blood dripping from the head wound. His vision was already questionable after two days of constant vigilance, and now the blows to his head made his vision swim. He realized he might actually lose this. The human was clever, as humans tended to be.

                      It wasn't fair. He should've been this Trainer's Charmeleon. Or at least had a Trainer worthy of his power, but no. He'd been given a coward, and then had been abandoned. It wasn't fair.

                      ________________________________________

                      It wasn't fair that he'd had to fight to survive in the wild, abandoned, young, and alone. It wasn't fair that he'd had to learn how to battle all by himself, no parents, no guardians. He'd achieved power on this mountain, and in his mind, ruled fairly. What leader would've tolerated the insubordination he'd put up with for so long?

                      Now, his rule looked to be toppled by this upstart Shelgon and his human. They couldn't have been bonded for more than a few weeks, and already, their power was enough to give him challenge. It was unnatural. Dragon types could never grow so strong so quickly.

                      ________________________________________

                      It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It would not stand. The blue flame around his tail burned hotter as his blood fell to the ground, and the Pokémon watching could only look at their mighty ruler with pity.

                      He was roaring his frustration now, screaming to the heavens in his own roaring tongue about how none of it was fair. A fair creator would not subject him to this life. He demanded the power that was his birthright.

                      And the power was given.

                      ________________________________________

                      The clone of Arceus that now watched the mountain had, like its inhabitants, come to loathe humans, at least the ones who treated Pokémon like that black Charizard so badly. So, he intervened, though he knew he shouldn't.

                      The power of Creation shone down from the sky, surrounding the black Charizard, giving him the energy needed to advance along his species' evolutionary path, a power that should have been his, would have been his, had he not been abandoned.

                      ________________________________________

                      His form grew more monstrous, more grotesque, his surroundings changed his very typing to match that of the Pokémon that lived in this crater. He became a true dragon type then. The means to keep his power were now his. This Trainer was also, at the same time, being tested.

                      Arceus knew that his memory was gone. He was battling on instinct alone right now. This would test his mettle. Two birds with one stone. The heavens stopped glowing, and Lizardon stood before Shruikan, fully Mega Evolved.

                      "Zen Headbutt!" Alex had glared at the sky, as if to say 'Really?', but this was still a battle. He had to win it. The headbutt was obeyed by Shruikan, who took strength from his master's confidence. Someday, he too would evolve like this Charizard. But he would do it the right way, through a bond, not pure rage, desperation, and an Act of Arceus.

                      ________________________________________

                      Lizardon caught the headbutt with ease, the skin of his claws sizzled as they grabbed the hot shell of his opponent. He did not care, for fire could not truly harm a dragon like him. He was unnaturally black in this form, retaining his scale color upon evolving. He flew into the air, and Alex lowered his hat. This was it for Shruikan. He ordered a counter anyways, refusing to give in.

                      "Roll in his claws!" Shruikan struggled to obey, and rotate as he had done in Blaze's claws, but these were different. Lizardon's grip was iron, like his desire to win. Higher and higher they flew, and Shruikan knew a fall from this height would end him.

                      Lizardon circled then, and in a true demonstration of aerial grace that only Shruikan saw, and burned into his mind, the newly evolved Charizard threw the weakened Shelgon at the ground. Shruikan fell like a meteor, and Lizardon followed him, fully intending to finish this whelp and crack the already weakened shell. When he fought, it was to the end.

                      ________________________________________

                      Before impacting, Alex raised Shruikan's Pokéball, and the unusual beam of black light hit his falling form, recalling him into the ball. The force of his impact shook the ball in his hand as the inertia was canceled out, but these balls were designed for such stress.

                      Alex held it steady. "Well done, my friend…well done. We hit him harder than we thought we could…now we-" He was interrupted as a furious roar broke the sky.

                      Lizardon shot down from the clouds at speeds only a Mega Evolution could handle. He swung in mid-air, bringing his tail around. It glowed with the purplish-blue energy his claws had, and Alex knew he wouldn't survive this hit.

                      ________________________________________

                      But this was not his first time on this mountain. He had a true Charizard with him now. A glowing orange tail met black, and Blaze roared in pain as he took the furious hit for his partner with Dragon Tail. The sheer force of the impact would've normally broken it, but the typing advantage from the move canceled it out, and more damage was done to Lizardon. He was unused to his new typing, and using his new form on pure instinct.

                      "Dragon Claw! Finish him!" Blaze met Lizardon's own Dragon Claw, and the two battled on the ground, the younger Charizard slowly pushing the older one back with pure force, or so it appeared.

                      ________________________________________

                      At the last second, Lizardon's heightened perception let him lock his Dragon Claw with Blaze's. He spun, slamming his heavy tail into the younger Charizard, and followed that up with a Fire Blast, as blue and intense as the first had been.

                      Blaze was shoved back. He'd caught the tail's impact again, more than ready after training so long with Magmar, and catching its tail. The Fire Blast however, was too much to block. His claws pushed against it, and he roared for help from his Trainer. Alex, for his part, was momentarily awed by the power of the Fire Blast, as it towered over him by many feet, but Blaze's cry for help jolted him back to reality.

                      "Let it hit you! Absorb the heat!" He knew the max temperature of a Charizard's flames. Even Mega Evolved, they could only burn so hot without igniting the atmosphere itself. Blaze had withstood lava, he could take this. He hoped.

                      ________________________________________

                      Wings flared, Blaze did as instructed, and the flames surrounded him. Lizardon snarled through a dark grin, but faltered. The fire burned around his opponent now, in a manner that was unnatural. Alex looked at his hand. The red stone was glowing with power…he needed to do something, but what? He looked at his Charizard. He was waiting…for something. For him.

                      Alex raised the stone, and a red light shot from his clenched fist, hitting his Charizard. "Do it! Do it now!" He wasn't entirely sure exactly what Blaze would do…but this felt right. He trusted his instinct, and his trust was rewarded.

                      The flames around Blaze shifted to red-orange, and then soared as he roared, the sheer power of his voice filled the air. Even Lizardon winced. Finally, the fire faded away, leaving nothing but a scorch mark on the stone. Blaze stood in the center of it, fully Mega Evolved as well. But he was different.

                      ________________________________________

                      Where Lizardon had become fierce, horned, and fueled by intense rage, Blaze had become what one might expect a Charizard to evolve into. He had three horns now, a wider wingspan, wing-like fins on his arms, and spikes along his tail. He was slimmer than Lizardon, but no less imposing. He almost looked like a crowned king, strongest among his brethren. Blaze looked back at his Trainer, and grinned, giving a thumbs up.

                      Alex blinked. "You…you want to handle this by yourself?" Blaze roared an affirmative, and his Trainer smirked. "Alright…you know what to do. Win!" Blaze snorted blue flames of his own, and the color of the one on his tail shifted to blue as well, out of sheer intensity. Both parties were at their peak strength now. This would be a show of power this mountain hadn't seen in an age.

                      ________________________________________

                      The two titans clashed loudly, slamming into each other with Dragon Claws on each paw. Their aerial battling was fierce, and Alex let a dazed Shruikan out to watch. The envy of the Shelgon only grew as he watched the aerial display, and munched on one of the Sitrus Berries they'd saved for the battle.

                      He could've won, if he'd been able to fly. Of that he was sure. The two Charizard soared ever higher into the sky, trading Flamethrowers as well, now. They became a faint speck with an occasional streak of blue, high above the already tall mountain.

                      Alex would not see the rest of this battle for a while, but Blaze would remember every moment of it. The satellite responsible for monitoring and recording this area of Unova caught sight of the fight, and streamed it live, and many would count themselves lucky for having been able to watch it in real time. That wouldn't diminish those who would watch the scene later, however. This fight was about to go down in legend.

                      ________________________________________

                      Blaze knew it on an instinctual level, and so, he demonstrated his skills, almost able to feel the eyes of the world watching with envy. He was the one responsible for dragging Lizardon this high.

                      He'd hurled insults with every roar, taunts with every Flamethrower, and always met his enemy's Dragon Claw. They'd scored multiple hits on each other, but after taking so much damage, Lizardon was feeling the strain.

                      And now, far above their planet, the rage of his flames was burning out what little oxygen there was to fuel them. Alex had explained to Blaze, after their first day of training with his flight, that flying too high outside would cause his tail to go out.

                      If it did, he'd have to fall and re-ignite it, or he would certainly die. Now, the clever fire lizard had lured his tired opponent to this height. He just needed to stay on top of him, and his plan would work. A final Flamethrower hit Blaze square in the chest, but sputtered almost immediately. The air had run out. Breathing was impossible, and as their flames went out, both Charizard began to plummet.

                      ________________________________________

                      Blaze forced himself to stay conscious however, his link to his Trainer pushing him to win. Without it, he would've passed out like Lizardon. But this was one fainting from which this tyrant would never awaken. He inhaled through his nose, and let the frigid air warm in the center of his body, where his flames dwelt. As his exhaled, his tail re-ignited.

                      Blaze stabilized himself with his larger wings and arm fins, but their speed was only increasing. Exhausted, but still willing to fight, he came into view of Alex as he cartwheeled in the air, and hit the unconscious Lizardon with the full force of his Dragon Tail. The attack was pure instinct, but it hit the black one directly in the stomach.

                      ________________________________________

                      The new spikes upon his tail pierced the black beast, and blood flowed freely as his massive form shot towards the platform with a loud boom that cracked the air, such was the force of the hit.

                      Blaze hadn't aimed for the platform however. He'd let his eyes guide his tail, and Lizardon clipped the stone structure with a wing, breaking it and sealing his death, as he plummeted to the crater lake below.

                      There was another loud crash as the impact of his large body hitting the water, which was hard as concrete at that speed, echoed throughout the mountain. Blaze landed on the rock platform soon after, as blood filled the water for the last time. He roared, letting the entire surrounding region know; it was now free. The mountain was safe again.

                      ________________________________________

                      The female Salamence immediately flew over. She'd waited until the two titans had stopped battling, before moving to nuzzle her offspring. She kept a wary eye on the human, but ignored him. What harm could a human pose a dragon?

                      Shruikan explained everything to his mother in a series of growls, and Alex let him as he stood beside Blaze at the platform's edge, looking down into the dark scarlet water.

                      The power faded from Blaze's form, returning him to normal. He growled softly, lamenting the fall of a worthy rival, and Alex nodded. "That he was."

                      ________________________________________

                      He raised his head then, noticing the dragon Pokémon watching him expectantly. Once more, he let instinct guide his actions, not with battle, but words. He knew they could understand him. They had known the human tongue once.

                      His voice cracked from disuse at first, but he cleared his throat, and forced himself to orate loud enough for every Pokémon in the crater to hear. Luckily, the acoustics of the arena helped him with this.

                      "Lizardon…was a menace. That much is true. But he was a menace that humanity created. His Trainer abandoned him, probably after assuming he was weak, despite his unique coloring. Every Pokémon starts out weak. You need to train to be strong. Humans understood that, once. These days though…we'd rather abandon them than train them to their full potential. Store them away in favor of something stronger. It isn't right." Many of the gathered dragons nodded, once, in agreement.

                      ________________________________________

                      There was something about this human…they felt a connection, like he could understand their pain, and gladly shouldered it. He almost seemed like one of them. Shruikan's mother glanced toward Lizardon's cave, and blinked, confirming that it was indeed glowing a deep bluish purple. Not for her offspring, or either Charizard…it had started when the human had spoken. She eyed him again as he continued, genuinely curious now as to where exactly he'd come from.

                      "I'm sorry many of you were released. Abandoned, or left without a partner for whatever reason. But you need to let us help you remember how to be kind again. Let humans come to this mountain top. You will see that we are not all bad, and maybe, you'll find a Trainer that IS worthy of having you." There were mixed grumbles throughout the crater. Prejudice and old hatred was not so easily erased, but suddenly, Alex sensed a large presence behind him.

                      ________________________________________

                      He looked up at the neck of a female Salamence looming several feet above him, and she roared at every one of them, as if telling them to come to their senses. The Tyranitar by the path down the mountain roared back, and stepped out of the way, deciding he'd had enough of playing guard dog. The way was clear, and would stay that way. Alex looked up at the large dragon type in awe. She looked down at him, winked one large eye, and backed up, lowering to his level. He pet her snout.

                      "Thank you for raising such a fine Bagon. I'll make sure he becomes a truly legendary Pokémon. Keep an eye on the TVs around Castelia City. If you can make a suitable nest there, you will see him. Eventually." The female Salamence eyed the Trainer, understanding his words, and nodded. She lifted off again, revealing Shruikan behind her. They nodded to each other.

                      ________________________________________

                      "Alright Blaze, fly us home!" Alex said, patting his Charizard. Blaze responded by yawning, and tapping the Pokéball button for Shruikan's ball, then his own, each disappearing in their own black and red-orange lights respectively. The message was clear. They'd be walking, after such a hard fight.

                      Alex sighed, and began heading towards the mountain path down, giving respectful nods towards each dragon type he passed. They nodded in return, seemingly impressed. But dragon types were hard to read. At least they weren't trying to burn him and eat his flesh.

                      ________________________________________

                      Seeing all he'd needed to, Gren leapt from his hiding spot, catching Alex's gaze for only a moment, before vanishing.

                      Alex was still trying to figure out why what looked like a Greninja would be here of all places, when he noticed the old man by the path down the mountain. "Old man. Are you going home too?"

                      The Kanto man shook his head. "I'll stay here. Make sure tourists don't flood the place. Only Trainers will come up this mountain. I'll have a hut. Make it a true wildlife preserve."

                      Alex nodded. "I'll see about getting Humilau to send some people out to help you." The old man nodded, gave Alex's waist a pat, which at 6,2 was all the old man could reach with his stoop, and then shuffled back towards his cave.

                      "Hey! Wait!" Alex called, "You promised to tell me your story. Why are you here?"

                      ________________________________________

                      The old man looked back at him, and gave a sad smile. "I had a Charizard once, like you, and like you, I thought to climb the mountain. I thought the Pokémon up there could give us the strength we needed to battle my rival. I'd heard they hated humans. I wanted to change their minds. When I got to the top, Lizardon was waiting for us. He killed my friend…and I refused to leave until I got his bones. They're in his cliff nest."

                      Alex stared at the man, heart wrenching for his loss. "I'm sorry, I can hel-" The old man cut him off.

                      ________________________________________

                      "No. His bones will stay there, in a place of honor, no longer a prison. He is free now. And has you to thank for that." He bowed low, and formal.

                      Alex scratched his head. "It's no problem…any Trainer would've done it. All I did was follow my instincts…I still can't remember anything."

                      The old man gave him a long look, then grinned for the first time, revealing far too few teeth. "You will. Go. Back to civilization. Oh, and one last thing." He turned, shuffling back, and offered a hand with a green stone in it. "The Torterra from below gave this to me, for you, as thanks for saving our mountain home. You earned it."

                      ________________________________________

                      Alex took the stone, eyed it, and saw a leaf symbol etched within its center. "Don't lose that lad. Those stones are more precious than anything." Alex nodded, and made his way down the mountain, still wondering at what exactly these stones were. They looked familiar, but his damned memory was still befuddled.

                      He knew they weren't Mega Stones, but they could make Pokémon Mega Evolve, so they had to be unique. He placed the grass crystal next to the fire crystal in his inner pocket within his tattered, dirty jacket, and made the climb down the mountain.

                      ________________________________________

                      The old man watched him go, then looked out at the horizon, to the south west. The sun turned the entire sky a familiar orange as it began to set.

                      "Rest in peace now, Zippo." The old man whispered, then turned, and shuffled back to his hovel. He would bathe, and return to civilization to make sure the fools running this region didn't abuse the mountain now that Lizardon had fallen.

                      ________________________________________

                      As Alex wandered down the mountain, pondering the mysterious stones still, he forced his mind to other matters. Like who he was, where he was from, the mystery behind the names on the edge of his consciousness.

                      He once more let instinct guide him, and headed in the direction of the town he'd seen from the trail, what could only be Humilau City, to the south.

                      As he walked however, his nagging memories became more insistent. With the threat of losing his life gone, and the stress that came with it, he was struggling to remember. He pulled the note again from his pocket, wrinkled and torn now after so many times reading it.

                      ________________________________________

                      All of a sudden, for no explainable reason, he looked up from the note, and stopped dead. Before him, standing on the path, was a Ralts. The note was pulled from his hand via telekinesis, and the Ralts examined it for a moment as it hovered before the tiny Pokémon's covered eyes. Then the Ralts tossed it aside, and walked up to him.

                      "Ralts!" it said, reaching its stubby arms towards him. Alex didn't quite know why, but he felt the sudden urge to kneel down to this Pokémon's level. He raised an eyebrow.

                      "Why?" The Ralts tapped its strange horned head with one stubby hand, then lifted the other hand towards his own head. Despite his wariness, Alex knelt.

                      ________________________________________

                      The Ralts came closer, rising higher on its legs until the large red horn on its' head touched the human's. Alex's eyes rolled, and his memories came flooding back, the image of Lizardon's tail was finally moved, now nothing more than a memory, half remembered.

                      He knew who he was now, more certain of it than ever after his actions while he'd had amnesia. Blaze and Shruikan appeared in a flash of red and black light, and they both glared at the Pokémon interfering with their friend's mind. They'd sensed something from him, and had responded. After their hardship together, the bond between them was quite strong.

                      The growls increased in volume, until their Trainer raised a hand. It would take a while to sort everything into its proper place, but he managed to stand, at least.

                      "Calm…calm down you two. My memory is back, and this Ralts is responsible." The little Pokémon chirped again, smiling. He could tell it was happy to have helped. The Ralts grabbed the note then, and read it, staring for a long time at the name the note gave this human. Alex tilted his head. Before, it had looked at the paper in confusion. Now, it seemed like it could actually read it. But that was impossible, surely.

                      The young Ralts had been told that his path would cross with a turtle of some sort. He examined the human with his senses. He seemed different somehow, and the Ralts realized that his kind act had accidentally awakened something. There was power in this human. Familiar power.

                      ________________________________________

                      Alex looked for a long time at the small Pokémon, still not quite believing it. He'd felt his lucky streak was over, that had been the source of his constant dread and stress while in the mountain, he was subconsciously convinced that his being attacked would kill him, slowly, if not outright.

                      But now, with the finding of the last member of his ideal team, the team he'd dreamed about once, long ago, he knew there was more to his path than luck. Things like this simply did not happen by coincidence. These events were too coincidental. He found his ideal psychic type, who restored his memories, just after he happened to free a mountain full of Pokémon from a tyrant? No, there was more to this path he was on. For now, he decided to trust where it led.

                      The little Ralts' demeanor changed then, suddenly, as it looked up at Blaze and Shruikan, as if properly seeing them for the first time. They weren't unfriendly, but they did have a lean fierceness to them after their ordeal. Their Trainer wasn't the only one that was malnourished after so long without decent food, and such intense training in sweltering heat.

                      ________________________________________

                      The Ralts started to back up slowly, away from the larger Pokémon, when it bumped into Alex, who had moved behind it. The little psychic type jumped, startled, but Alex gently patted its horn, which could allegedly sense emotions. "It's okay…they won't hurt you. Nor will I. You're actually a Pokémon I've been looking for. I don't have your Pokéball on me, however. If you come with us, I can go get it, and we can complete our team."

                      The Ralts' horn quivered at his touch, and it smiled. It turned towards Blaze and Shruikan each, and while it still seemed hesitant about Shruikan, it found Blaze as friendly as his Trainer.

                      "Ralts!" It said happily, pushing the return button on both of their balls with a small, controlled burst of psychic energy. Somewhat surprised, the two Pokémon were recalled, and then, the little Pokémon put its stubby limbs on its new Trainer's hand, and in an instant, they were back in the room he'd stayed with Jess in. Her stuff was still here, as was his backpack, on top of which, was his badge.

                      ________________________________________

                      He sighed with relief, and then searched his bag for the purple ball he'd chosen for his psychic type. He tossed it at the Ralts, and the ball flipped, capturing the Pokémon within it immediately, before it had even hit the ground.

                      He picked it up then, and smirked, before putting it on his belt beside the other two. Leo and Hydrus' balls weren't here either, nor was his spare hat, that he alternated to keep both from getting too dirty.

                      He still had spare clothes though, so he began to scrub over a month's worth of hard living off in the shower unit. Once that was done, he saw his reflection, and did a double take. Gone was the lingering fat from his face, replaced now with a thick, dark brown, unruly beard. It wasn't as majestic as his friend Connor's, and there were still a few patches, but with some trimming and growing, they would fill in. His hair was in desperate need of a cut, and his eyes were sunken, from so many restless nights without remembering who he was.

                      ________________________________________

                      He did what he could with a comb, and then breezed out of the shower, bumping into the unmistakable bust of Jessica, who'd just entered the room, and had moved to investigate who was showering in it. They stared at each other for a good fifteen seconds.

                      She was sweaty, unusual for her as she preferred to lounge around all day without lifting a nail, and she was wearing his hat, which was filthy, damp, and covered in sand. Just like her clothes.

                      For his part, his muscles stood out clearer now, though he looked a bit ragged. He was nude, save for a towel, but he hadn't yet quite realized it. She was stuttering, he realized, and he moved in to hug her, sighing contently.

                      It certainly felt right, though at that moment, he became fully aware that the cloth separating his nudity from her could fall easily. He pulled away slightly, bringing the towel up, but she stopped him.

                      ________________________________________

                      He adjusted it as she met his gaze, smirking. "Wow. I really do like the beard." Seven words had never hit him so hard, and he made a note to throw out his razor. For the first time, he dropped his guard around her and gazed at her the way he'd always done from afar.

                      Jess felt her face heat up as she returned his gaze. His eyes were as intense as Leo's and had a similar fierceness to them. They were still much the same, however, changed only slightly by…whatever he'd gone through. Still just as kind, still just as blue.

                      His instincts had been…alive, since regaining his memory, and right then, they were insisting that he kiss her. He couldn't have ignored them if he'd tried.
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                      Old June 5th, 2018 (10:03 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                      Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                      Pokefan1337
                         
                        Join Date: May 2018
                        Age: 25
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                        Nature: Brave
                        Posts: 35
                        Chapter 9: Aftermath

                        ________________________________________

                        Domain of the Alpha - Arceus' Dimension

                        ________________________________________

                        A reality away, in another dimension entirely, the Alpha Pokémon slept soundly, waiting with eternal patience for the One to rise again. He had awareness through the many eyes of his pale white copies, who monitored his favored worlds, and all who lived on them, for instances where his power would be needed by Sentient and Pokémon alike.

                        He waited for the One that his last Holder had prophesized would one day appear. The Trainer who could control his power, and was worthy of doing so. The Trainer who would, so he'd claimed, propel both their species to heights neither could properly imagine. Being all but omniscient, Arceus could imagine quite a bit. The human had laughed when he'd said as much, and promised that the next one to tame him would, at the very least, pique his interest. It wasn't as impressive as the rest of the prophecy, as it was self-fulfilling. Of course Arceus would be interested in another human that could handle his power. Sentients like them, creatures born of the universe's natural processes, usually couldn't even properly fathom his existence, let alone tame it.

                        With a sudden jolt, the red eye of the true Arceus opened for the first time in millennia. His near-omnipotent senses confused him, for an instant, as he felt the potential of many Trainers who could end up taming him upon the world he watched most closely. The world he himself had saved from catastrophic imbalances in the natural cycle that had allowed life to appear and flourish. Though the humans had, at first, repulsed him, the Alpha had come to see that they were indeed worthy of being saved. The one he'd granted his power to had showed him that, and their accord was not yet fulfilled. For now, the Earth was worthy of his gaze, and attention.

                        ________________________________________

                        After a moment, he understood. One of the potential Trainers who could handle his power had just been awakened in a rapid manner, at the behest of a psychic type. Aside from dragons, they were some of the strongest Pokémon around. For a brief moment, that Trainer's mind had almost unlocked its latent psychic abilities. Almost. Now, at best, he was aware of them, but unable to use them. For now.

                        Still, it was more promising than the thousands of others Arceus had sensed over the long millennia, and his latent power had been strong enough for Arceus to feel. He took a longer look at the planet through his third eye, and then realized just how long he'd slept. Humanity had evolved, since last he was awake. There were thousands with that same psychic potential, and more besides without it that could, in the right circumstances, also prove worthy. It was a far cry from the war-loving brutes they'd become once his Holder had fallen prey to his mortality, despite the Alpha's best efforts.

                        The challenge, the true hidden purpose of the Pokémon Leagues, established by himself and his human, had never been tougher. He could sense it. The time for his next Holder to appear was fast approaching. He stayed awake, watching the world even as his clones did.

                        They were one, and yet weren't, and many wondered at what his awakening signified. More than a few had developed skewed personalities, but now that the original was conscious once more, they were slowly erased, and molded back into the single entity that was Arceus.

                        His patience was infinite. He could wait a little longer for the next Holder to rise. He'd stayed awake, and waited two whole Earth centuries last time, which in his realm, was much, much longer. He could do so again, if needed. He'd made a promise, after all.

                        ________________________________________

                        Sensing the potential within this latest batch of Trainers, the Alpha Pokémon sent a psychic message to the ones who would test the potential Pokémon Master's latent power. There were many such Pokémon who lived on the world, that could test the candidates. Of all of the differing species, very few were alive when he last was tamed. Though the Sages all had psychic potential, some were simply shorter lived.

                        Now, they all received the message, the call. The time was approaching. His awakening signified a change in their world, one that would only appear evident as his handiwork over time. Soon, the trials would begin again. He could feel the Sage's inherent excitement at training the One. They would all be disappointed before the end though, all but one. Only one of their protégés could tame him, after all.

                        All across the world, the Psychic Sages shivered as they felt Arceus, the real Arceus, call them to action. They needed to stop being picky, and uncover the potential of as many Trainers as possible. This time, one would be chosen.

                        ________________________________________

                        Sage's Isle - The Great Swamp, Floria Region

                        ________________________________________

                        On the Unovan Continent, there was one psychic type who received the message, and sighed. He lived south, far south, in a massive swamp that extended from what was once called Floria thousands of years past.

                        Castelia City now bordered an ocean, but that ocean became swamp land further south. The continent had once, long ago, been home to many humans, but now, it was overrun by ocean, and had become a salty swamp filled with Pokémon and rumors of deadly misfortune that befell any who dared to enter.

                        The Pokémon in charge of testing the candidates was, on this continent, The Foggy Swamp Sage. Oranguru. He was old, not quite old enough to have sensed the last time the Alpha Pokémon awakened, but old enough to know that it was his own father who had done so for the last generation. He was younger than his father had been however, but in his wise opinion, far stronger.

                        His father's chosen protégé had not succeeded in the last test, however. The candidate from central Eurafricasia had, but that had been a long time ago. Now, the process would begin again. Now, there was a chance to prove that he could train a worthy human to capture Arceus, and succeed where his forebear had failed.

                        ________________________________________

                        Over ten millennia had passed since the true Arceus had been conscious, and influenced the world in wonderful ways. Humans had forgotten, and while some of them knew Arceus existed, many had simply categorized him into their 'National Pokédex', another number on a list that grew every year.

                        While he never interacted much with the planet, save for when humanity and Pokémon alike were doomed before a natural catastrophe, like a meteor. He had appeared all over the world at one time or another. Or rather, his pale white clones had.

                        Only one region painted his myth with him as he truly was, golden as the sun, and only one story contained the tale of this golden Arceus. But it had been twisted and misused by lesser men in the long millennia since his last appearance.

                        Now, in the modern world, it was seen as a fantasy, a tale believed true only by a fanatical few who many disliked for their disdainful outlook on their modern societies, and the technology that ran them. Oranguru sighed again.

                        ________________________________________

                        Such things would need to be dispelled and prevented against, if the One truly did appear again. Once, Arceus' name had spread the world over, spoken in reverent tones of peace and gratitude. He had healed thousands, his power bolstered by the bond to the human who had tamed him. For a while, humanity had truly advanced…only to fall when the Holder did, spiraling into an era of darkness, war, and ignorance.

                        He had not lived through the Dark Times, as they were known now to the few who still recalled them, his father had experienced them though, and had shared psychic visions of the atrocities humans and Pokémon alike had committed in the absence of Arceus' Holder.

                        It had taken far too long to climb out of that downward spiral, and the only thing the Pokémon in charge of training his candidates agreed on was that it had to be avoided again. Humanity had grown so far on its own, even now, and that progress could not be lost. It was their job to choose one who would be strong enough, wise enough, to keep that from happening again.

                        ________________________________________

                        Slowly, word began to spread to Gym Leaders, and the Pokémon Leagues all around the world from Alola in the west to Sinnoh in the east. The challenge was on again. The Leagues had, originally, been formed to be a test to find remarkable Trainers, and send those Trainers to the Sages. In the modern era, many Trainers had held Champion status in multiple regions, and many regions had more than one Champion, if they were large. Very few ever went to the Sages, even if they were asked to.

                        Many of the older League members were skeptical. To become worthy of being trained by one of the Psychic Sages, a Trainer had to beat at least five of the leagues around the world. A feat not unheard of, but one that was rare enough. Trainers capable of such things often spent their days enjoying their celebrity status, before retiring to a University to teach, and live off a fat League paycheck until they passed. The more they taught, the more they earned.

                        Nobody alive knew what happened after Champions went to the Sages, because the last challenge hadn't gotten past that point. None of the candidates had been deemed worthy, and the Alpha Pokémon had remained untamed. That had been ages ago however, and the few old timers who still knew about the challenge assumed it couldn't be beaten. The Sages had a habit of rejecting anyone they felt was even slightly unworthy.

                        ________________________________________

                        Trainers had changed over thousands of years though, mainly thanks to Pokéballs. While the civilizations in the time of the Holder had possessed similar methods of carrying their partners about, it had taken a long time for them to be rediscovered. It was still relatively new technology, barely two centuries old, but it had revolutionized modern training of Pokémon.

                        In this era of scientific achievement, Trainers could measure a Pokémon's strength with statistical data, some Trainers even picked through hundreds of the same species just to find one worthy of training. Others bred them for their strength over and over until they were satisfied. With all this effort, needless to say, being a professional Trainer was harder than ever.

                        Most of the Leagues were excited, despite the skepticism of the older generation. Many still believed that there was a Trainer out there who would remind the world of what was actually important when it came to training Pokémon, of what really mattered. This challenge, from what little they knew of it, would separate the unworthy from the pack, and hopefully one of the chosen Trainers, should they be judged worthy, would prove to modern Trainers the world over that there was more to it all than statistics.

                        The Foggy Swamp Sage looked out over his peaceful island, and sighed for a third time. He was putting it off, and he knew his rivals were already summoning those with potential in their own regions. He knew he had to do the same. With a thought, he summoned the human in charge of gathering the worthy. Once she'd arrived and hopped from her Dragonite, he explained the situation, and she was off again just as quickly, unreadable as always.

                        ________________________________________

                        Humilau City - Unova Region

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex's abrupt return had stirred the local media into a frenzy. The first thing he'd done was tell his family he was alright, and recover his Torterra. The Professor had said that Terra had slept almost the entire time Alex had been gone, awakening abruptly about a day ago.

                        He told his granduncle then about what had happened on the mountain, and afterwards, with his new Ralts, who was at that very moment examining the local book collection in the Pokémon Center. He hadn't decided on a nickname earlier, so Alex left it up to him to choose. Oddly enough, he was smart enough to read on his own, and therefor was capable of picking his own name.

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex had just finished telling his uncle the whole story when, after several long moments, he said "We already know about the battle, lad. And by 'we' I of course mean most of the world. Two Mega Evolved Charizard going at it that high in the atmosphere catches attention. Nobody knows, yet, who the victorious Charizard's Trainer is though. Your hat was blocking your face. I suppose the local media might recognize it. It was pretty dirty though."

                        Alex took a moment to ponder that information. "So…I should tell them? But there's no way they'll believe me. I bet half a hundred Trainers have already stepped forward to claim that they were the ones who battled."

                        His granduncle nodded. Unfortunately, there were many Trainers looking to leech fame off the exploits of their betters. They rarely succeeded, but like any leech, they were hard to pry off once they attached.

                        "There is one way, of course…" the Professor said, a gleam in his eye, "You have your Charizard Mega Evolve again. I wouldn't mention how the black one did it though. That'll only make the Arceans crawl out of the woodwork. The last thing we need is to give them an excuse to grab power."

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex shrugged. The Arceans were the leftovers of the cultish group that had formed around the last man to tame the Alpha Pokémon. Whatever they had been when they'd started, time and human greed had corrupted them in the absence of their leader.

                        Now they were mostly in the Fornia region, but a few had migrated to Unova in recent years. They were notorious for latching on to any excuse to claim doom was coming, and unfortunately, they could convince many people what they said was true…if the proof behind their words was good enough. Fear could drive people to believe almost anything.

                        A similar incident had happened in Sinnoh a few decades back, and to this day, many in that region were convinced that Arceus had a fierce and vengeful temperament, which made them perfect recruits for the Arcean Church. Now, their latest claim to superiority was having 'bases' on two continents, something no other organized cult could claim.

                        That was due to the strong scientific following prevalent the world over, though. Many technologically superior regions had traded fairytales and myths for laboratories and research centers. They weren't always moral, but many agreed they were better than the thousands of cults that had warred during the Dark Times. Those wars had brought down almost every civilization on the planet. Many would do anything to avoid having that scenario occur a second time.

                        ________________________________________

                        Thinking about it, Alex could see how whatever power made Lizardon mega evolve could be tied to Arceus. For all he knew, it was Arceus who had given the tyrant Pokémon that power, for whatever reason.

                        "Fine." He said finally, "I'll play it vague. Just like you taught me. Now send Terra back."

                        The old man held up his Pokéball, and put it in the transporter. "He'll be happy to see you. He was very disoriented when he woke up. I'm just glad he recognized me before he started to rampage."

                        Alex shook his head, taking the ball as it materialized. "Terra would never rampage. He's a gentle giant." At his words and the sound of his voice, the newly materialized ball opened on its own, and Terra freed himself, looked around the Pokémon center for a moment, then all but tackled his Trainer.

                        Large as he was, very few beings could be tackled by such a strong Pokémon and hold their ground. "Ah! Terra, Terra, stop! I know, I missed you too." Alex grabbed his Pokémon's head spikes, and was lifted up and over onto his shell, covered in Torterra drool. He grabbed a branch on the large turtle's tree, and wiped his face clean on the soft leaves.

                        ________________________________________

                        He turned then, and settled on the white, raised hexagon just above Terra's head as he retried the Holociever. His granduncle grinned. "Gentle giant. Right."

                        Alex was focused on his partner, however. "How would you like to battle, hmm? I hope your Energy Ball isn't out of practice."

                        "Terra!" The large Pokémon rumbled. Seemed he was eager.

                        "Very well, return." Alex recalled Terra, landing carefully as his seat was suddenly gone, and then focused on the phone. The Professor seemed to have something important to say, but was holding back until his relative's attention was refocused.

                        ________________________________________

                        "I should tell you, by the way, there's a rumor going around. Remember that super-secret elite Pokémon League challenge I told you about once?" Alex nodded, vaguely recalling it through the hazy smoke-filled memories of their long basement talks. He'd thought he was being pranked at the time. It sounded made up.

                        "It's on." The Professor said, quietly. "League members and Gym Leaders worldwide have already been notified…and Trainers are already starting. Do you remember what I told you about joining?"

                        Alex nodded. "Beat…umm…four or five League challenges…and then…" He paused, clearly forgetting the rest.

                        "And then find one of the Psychic Masters to train you, and hopefully deem you worthy. Honestly lad, pay attention." His granduncle crossed his skinny, wrinkled, lab coat covered arms and shook his head in mock disapproval.

                        ________________________________________

                        "I am paying attention!" Alex said, knowing it didn't sound half as convincing as it needed to, "And I already started with Marlon." The Professor shook his head, and sighed.

                        "Are there any other ways of proving worthy? Preferably faster ones? Beating over thirty more gyms doesn't sound all too appealing." With a Charizard, he could probably finish relatively soon, as there were a number of Pokémon Leagues in the States, across the continent Unova shared with them.

                        ________________________________________

                        He knew however, that traveling with Jess would limit how fast he could beat them, if indeed he could. He'd never admit it, but Marlon almost had him in that last battle, and he intended to do some serious training with the rest of his team. He was still behind everyone his age, more so now that he'd lost so much time to the mountain.

                        The old man scratched his chin, which seemed to be perpetually covered in gray stubble. "Well...you could always stop a disaster, or accomplish a heroic feat that benefits the world as a whole...but to my knowledge, Unova is fine right now." Alex sighed, looking disheartened.

                        "Don't get discouraged, lad." His granduncle continued with a sly wink, "If there's trouble around, you'll probably stumble into it."

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex rolled his eyes before changing the subject. "By the way, did you manage to figure out what those crystals are?"

                        The Professor's face grew more serious, and he nodded. "Remember those Plates that I told you about? The ones that are said to boost a Pokémon's typing considerably? It seems that these fragments are made of the same stuff, and have the same inherent power. My colleague in Hoenn had a plate given to him by a Trainer, and we compared the energy readings they give off. His was a Fire Plate, and when we compared it to your crystal, the energy was identical, but somehow, your smaller one gives off the same amount of power as the Plate."

                        He stroked his scruffy, gray beard before continuing, "If it really is a piece of the Alpha Pokémon, we hypothesized that someone must have taken a crystal like yours, and hammered it down into a Plate. We're not going to try that however…as these crystals are rare."

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex nodded, stroking his own beard in thought. After a trim and a shower, it actually looked somewhat respectable, if patchy. "I understand. If I find one I don't need, like ice or something, we can try to turn it into a Plate."

                        He looked away from the screen, smirking as he spotted an unmistakably familiar shade of red coming from the hallway leading to the center's guest rooms.

                        As usual, Professor Redwood missed nothing. "Seems my own blood would rather talk to a pretty redhead than listen to me ramble on about science! Bahaha! I'll let you know if anything knew happens with our research lad, now go to her. And use protection! Ha!"

                        The line cut out before Alex could respond, and he was once more left flushed red, standing in front of a phone, on a call that he knew most of the surrounding callers, and their contacts, had overheard. His Gruncle was nothing, if not loud.

                        ________________________________________

                        He tilted his hat down, and fussed with his belt as he adjusted Terra's place on it. Blaze's ball was right behind Terra's now, followed by Hydrus, then Leo, Shruikan, and his to-be-named Ralts. He'd let his Ralts out earlier that morning after rising to discover he was sore in places he'd never been sore before. Sleeping on primarily hard stone for weeks on end left a mark, but he hadn't slept much until the sun had risen.

                        Thus, by the time he'd revealed his presence to the Pokémon Center, who then passed the news on to the local media, and after calling his granduncle, it was now high noon. He knew that he was being watched, as Humilau's 'open and free' center design had large windows on the front.

                        The local news crews had been taking constant pictures throughout his phone call, but he'd forced himself to ignore them. Thankfully, he'd had the phone closest to the windows, so the main irritation from the flashing was on him, and not his fellow callers.

                        ________________________________________

                        Of course, there were eyes in the Pokémon Center as well. Hiding from those eyes was a male Ralts that nobody seemed to notice. He'd been shown how to use the PokéNet by his Trainer, and given his typing and stubby hands, had been able to look up whatever he liked on his Trainer's travel laptop. But the problem with that was that he had no idea what he wanted his name to be.

                        His Trainer had, hurriedly, shown him his final evolution, and explained that once he became a Kirlia, he'd go straight into a Gallade, thanks to the stone Alex had given him.

                        However, when the female who shared his Trainer's room saw that, they'd resumed their heavy-panting-mouth-sucking, and the young Ralts had been summarily ignored. Had he been anything but a psychic type, this would've gone over his head, but he understood a lot of what his Trainer had said.

                        ________________________________________

                        He'd also understood why. In his Trainer's mind, the young Ralts had seen that he wanted every Pokémon to have their own unique name, just as humans did. To him, there was no reason not to. Calling his Ralts 'Ralts' would be like someone referring to him as 'Human', and thus the young psychic type had grasped the need for a nickname.

                        In the wild, there was no need for such a thing. Pokémon could always tell each other apart, more or less, but every name his new Trainer had offered once he and the red female had stopped making grunting noises had been unacceptable.

                        ________________________________________

                        With the understanding of names, the young psychic type had also understood that this was something he would be referred to by everyone. He couldn't explain why, but even his Trainer's other Pokémon, who he'd briefly met, now referred to each other by their nicknames. They had become them, and each of them fit like a glove. Especially the one called Shruikan.

                        Thus, he had been given access to the PokéNet, failed to find anything, and had then found himself wandering the building he was in while his Trainer made a call. Whatever that was. Nobody seemed to notice him, not even other Pokémon. He moved silently on his hidden legs, Teleporting into various rooms until he discovered one filled with strange square objects that had hard covers, but soft insides.

                        ________________________________________

                        The runes within them were understandable though. He didn't quite understand why, but after bonding with his Trainer, reading them had become ease itself. Granted, he hadn't seen many before that, but when he had, they'd been unimportant gibberish.

                        Now, they seemed to rearrange themselves into something he could understand, though when he deciphered them, it was his Trainer's voice that echoed in his mind, and explained their meaning to him. He might've been awed by that, had he not been engrossed in the tome he'd grabbed.

                        It was the first he'd touched, several isles into the room, and it had drawn him, somehow, by pure instinct. Humans had long since ignored their instincts, and thus they'd become dull, but Pokémon trusted theirs constantly. This allowed them to prepare for, and sometimes prevent, natural disasters, as well as accomplish other amazing feats their human counterparts had no idea they were capable of.

                        ________________________________________

                        The instincts of those with psychic power were, arguably, the best-attuned. They could even, sometimes, alter fates. This young Ralts' instinct had drawn him to this specific book on this specific shelf for some reason, one that became evident as he deciphered more and more of the text. It was a story about a king, a beloved king in a time far, far in the distant past.

                        Ralts quickly found that reading with his hands was far less efficient than using his powers, and soon, he'd found a dusty old couch to recline on as he held the book before him in the air, and scanned through it, reading at a speed that no human could match without the aid of a machine.

                        The king was called Arthur, and as he read on, the young Ralts found himself admiring the character more and more. He was kind, fair, just, and above all, a hero. He fought witches, monsters, evil kingdoms, and was surrounded by powerful, loyal friends who all treated each other like equals.

                        ________________________________________

                        It rang through the small Pokémon's very being as he finished the book, which had been a treasure hoard of information on the king's legend. All anyone knew at this point, so many thousands of years ahead of the time in which this man had lived, was that there had probably once been a king named Arthur, who had ruled over a kingdom that might have been called Camelot. It was good enough for Ralts.

                        He understood that this was a story, for Pokémon had them too, and while most stories were complete nonsense, they usually carried a hint of truth. Or rather, the ones his mother had told him had seemed to. He sat quietly, still levitating the book, as he struggled to recall her.

                        All he really had was images, and it made him sad to remember them. He focused on the book again, recalling what Arthur would've done in the face of such sadness, for he too had, supposedly, lost his mother. He would've continued on, focusing on his quest for the betterment of his people. That was what the young Ralts vowed to do as well, and then, he smiled as he knew what his name would be.

                        ________________________________________

                        The trick then, was getting his human to understand. In his limited experience, getting humans to understand anything was like trying to make a Geodude bathe. His Trainer was clever though, or so he'd sensed. It would probably be obvious if he saw the book. Pokémon had little concept of what 'property' was, and a Pokémon that wasn't territorial, like Ralts, had no experience with it.

                        Thus, he felt no guilt as he left the room, book in hand, and hurried towards where he sensed his Trainer, and the red female he seemed mentally, and often physically, attached to.

                        Jess had just finished lecturing him about being shy about showing her affection in front of so many watchful, knowing eyes, and in response he had done the only logical thing. The young Ralts, who now thought of himself as 'Arthur', came upon the two, wrapped up in each other in a kiss that was definitely not meant to be seen by the public.

                        ________________________________________

                        In Alex's mind, it was necessary. She had insinuated that he was too shy for her, and now he was proving otherwise. As usual, she could do little to resist his affections, falling into each one of them eagerly after a second of hesitation. Such was the power of newly discovered lust. Had Alex not felt his Ralts tugging at his spare, and now only jacket, they might have gone further right there in the main entrance area of the center.

                        Reluctantly breaking the kiss, which had prompted the media circus just outside to bombard the interior with seemingly endless flashes of light, Alex looked down to his newest Pokémon, as his newest lover was left with a distant smile on her face.

                        He hadn't had much experience kissing, but it seemed good enough for her. He'd found that trusting his instincts had always been the smart move, when it came to her. He blinked the thoughts of lust away as he felt a book being shoved into his hand by a psychic force. Looking down, he read the title, and smirked.

                        ________________________________________

                        He gave Jess a pinch on her rear, bringing her focus back to reality, and showed her as well. She giggled, just as amused as he was at a joke his Pokémon could tell he'd been missing out on.

                        "Ralts." He said, pointing at the book, wondering if his Trainer had understood. He seemed distracted by this female, and could not understand why his book was so funny.

                        Finally, Alex nodded, and handed the book back. "Very well. I'll call you Arthur." He began to laugh as well then, and the small psychic type finally had to speak up. "Ralts?" The questioning tone was universal, even to Pokémon, but his Trainer seemed to understand.

                        "It's not a bad name. We're laughing because, after I gave you the laptop this morning, Jess suggested I name you after Arthur Pendragon, or one of his knights. She said it fit you, but I was stubborn, and wanted you to choose for yourself." That made Arthur smile as well, and his opinion of the female did a 180.

                        ________________________________________

                        She'd seen what he'd felt, that the character and the Pokémon were really quite similar, even if his appearance didn't suggest it yet. Arthur turned to look at her then, and smiled, touching her consciousness with his thoughts of happiness, approval, and admiration for her ability to understand him.

                        It came off as emotions to her, of course, but Arthur noticed that she seemed to understand him as well as his Trainer did.

                        He decided to ponder what that might mean later as he yawned, and poked the ball button on his Trainer's belt, once more entering the new pocket dimension that he now called home. It was certainly cozy, and he could tell it had been made for a Pokémon like him. He radiated a sense of satisfaction, even from within his ball. He had a Trainer, a comfortable home, and now a name. He was finally part of their little round table, and by his reasoning, he'd just appointed himself the King.

                        ________________________________________

                        Arthur's sense of satisfaction spread to his Trainer, manifesting as confidence, renewed after being literally shattered by his trials on the mountain. He had the girl he'd dreamed of for years, he had the makings of his team, and already three of them were fully evolved and powerhouses in their own right.

                        He could handle addressing the media circus. He met Jess's gaze again, and nodded, as he adjusted his hat. She'd insisted on giving his hair a trim, and he wasn't yet used to the shortness. "Right. I think we've kept the jackals at bay long enough. Are you sure you don't want to join me? After that kiss, they're going to want to hear from you, I think."

                        She waved his words away, laughing nervously. "Ahaha…no. I'll be in enough trouble for that kiss. If not from mother, then definitely from father. And Connor might be annoyed as well…no, I'm in enough trouble already without adding a bunch of media rumors. They'll probably assume I'm pregnant already as it is. All they do is make up baseless rumors…I'm rambling. Go get'em, Pyroar."

                        ________________________________________

                        He stared at her for an awkward ten seconds, before laughing. "You should've gone with 'tiger'."

                        She turned red, cheeks flushing crimson, matching her hair. "I know, but you don't wear tights."

                        "I mean, even Luxray would've been better. Y'know, because I have one." He was biting his lip now, sensing that laughing might get him in trouble.

                        She shoved him. "Go! Before they push in here out of desperation. I'll be in the room." She added her seductive tone to the end of her sentence, and narrowed her eyes while twisting a lock of her hair. Day two, and she already knew how to stoke the flames.

                        She turned and left before he could think of a properly clever rebuttal, and Alex shook his head, muttering under his breath. "You chose well, Redwood. You chose well…" With that, he strode out of the doors into a barrage of intense camera flashes that, in broad daylight, were completely unnecessary. At this point, with their advanced recording technology, the flashing lights were literally just decorative, and annoying. But the news hounds didn't seem to care.

                        ________________________________________

                        It was a good-sized crowd, just large enough to be a nuisance to the regular Humilau foot traffic, but not as large as something say, a Champion would've drawn. The only reason it was that big was because the Redwood name was famous, even in Unova proper. He knew why, of course.

                        Every Redwood knew the secret family shame, but to speak of it was to give it life. As his granduncle had predicted, nobody important now remembered exactly why he was considered infamous. They just knew that the once honorable Professor Redwood had been disgraced.

                        Now however, the media had once again begun sniffing around for dirt, in the long absence of anything newsworthy pertaining to the missing Redwood. They gnawed at whatever source they could, like a Houndoom at a bone that had been picked clean years ago. With the barrage of light came a barrage of questions, that blurred into an incoherent babble of nonsense noise.

                        ________________________________________

                        After weeks of relative silence, it stunned Alex, and as he shouted at the crowd for quiet, his calls were drowned out, each one only making the mob of babble grow louder. Finally, there was a flash of red light, and a deafening roar tore through the babble as Blaze appeared beside his Trainer, and glared. A few more lights flashed, but soon were stilled as he followed his roar up with a deep, menacing snarl.

                        Each of his Pokémon had disliked the noise, truth be told, but Blaze was the first who did something about it. He had enough sense to know that these other humans probably wanted information on him. He'd caught a glimpse of a satellite, after all, not that he'd understood what it was. It was little more than an instinct, a feeling of eyes on the back of his neck in the middle of a battle, but he followed it regardless.

                        "Thank you, Blaze." Alex said, recovering from the barrage of noise and light. The Charizard snorted flame in response, eyes still glaring at the crowd.

                        ________________________________________

                        He put on his best public face, a face his father had coached him on long ago, when he'd been little more than a toddler. When his granduncle had been disgraced. They'd had to go on TV for some reason. He still couldn't remember why exactly, though he knew the bare details, he never pried. He knew his Gruncle was a good person, a bit crotchety, prone to bouts of sad silence, but truly and genuinely kind.

                        It didn't matter what his Gruncle had done, he was family, and family stuck together. Whether they wanted to or not, no matter how many branches separated them on the family tree. A Redwood was a Redwood. Or so the old man had said. It didn't matter that the aged Professor and his father didn't get along. He'd always stressed the importance of family.

                        "Please, I know you have many questions, and I will gladly answer them. But one at a time. I'm sorry about the wait, but its over now. Let's have a little respect for the town, eh?" To his surprise, the reporters shared guilty looks.

                        They had caused quite a stir, and more than a few locals were still glaring through their windows at the source of the disturbance. An elderly gentleman stepped forward then, and Alex had to blink. He was, arguably, the most famous person there. It was a testament to the severity of the light and noise that Alex hadn't even noticed him.

                        ________________________________________

                        His tone was deep and baritone as he spoke for the crowd with their unspoken and ungiven permission. "John Crimson, Poké News Network. I apologize for my colleagues Mr. Redwood, but we are a bit excited. You've been missing for months, after all. I suppose the question to start with is… where have you been?"

                        It was weird to be called 'mister' by the man he'd watched anchor the most famous global news network on the planet for years. He resisted the urge to address him informally. This was a time for questions, after all, he could show his appreciation for the Crimson Fox's appearance afterwards. He was more of a silver fox these days, though no less desirable, judging by some of the looks the female reporters were giving him.

                        He decided to keep to the formal tone, something he would not regret in the future. "Well Mr. Crimson, it's a long story…but I suppose I can summarize. When I first went missing, I'd been hunting a Bagon around Draconis Mons, to the north. I didn't find any, or any other Pokémon in the forest. Seeing that as odd, my Charmeleon and I climbed the mountain to discover the source of this strange lack of Pokémon, and we found that the mountain was under the rule of a tyrannical black Charizard I ended up calling 'Lizardon'. I stumbled upon him as he was defeating a rival Charizard. He noticed my Charmeleon, and before we could escape down the mountain again, for we were barely off of the path to the top, he landed in front of me, and slammed his tail into me, severely injuring me after I crashed into a nearby canyon wall."

                        ________________________________________

                        He paused for effect, and suppressed a smirk. Connor was right, he really did have a flair for the dramatic when the moment came, and though he was new to having an audience, he had them captive. He could sense the questions building, but the only sound was of writing implements scribbling furiously as they took notes on his story.

                        He could tell more than a few of the newer ones were thankful for his pause, but he continued all the same. After all, they'd never be good reporters if they relied on pauses.

                        "I was…nursed back to health by an old hermit, whose identity I will keep anonymous. All you need to know about him is that Lizardon kept him captive, and treated him like a plaything. He was old, bent, and covered daily in new bruises. But despite the risk, he saved my life. And yes, he is still on the mountain. I think that more or less covers where I've been."

                        ________________________________________

                        There was more scribbling, and when no more questions came forth, John Crimson spoke again. "I see. I suppose we'll need a formal interview for the full details, but for now, my next question is this: How did you escape from this...Lizardon?"

                        Alex met the old man's curious but intense gaze. He could see the question he really wanted to ask still beneath the surface. He knew, more or less, what it would be about. Hell, his Charizard had all but made them blurt it out, but nobody dared interrupt a legend like John Crimson.

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex allowed himself a confident smirk then, a smirk he'd practiced for hours while wearing his hat backwards. He knew it was a stereotype straight out of a cartoon, but honestly, he had stopped caring years ago. He knew what kind of Trainer he wanted to be, and if he ever did achieve true fame, he wanted that look to be obvious, and consistent.

                        He put off realizing that this was likely the start of his entire career as a Master, for such Trainers were almost always popular with the media. He didn't need that pressure. He instead nodded towards Blaze, who had the same smirk his Trainer did.

                        "Blaze here was the only Pokémon I'd brought with me onto the mountain that day. I left my bag at the Pokémon center as well, thinking I wouldn't need to lug all that weight around, as it's a relatively short trip to the mountain…Blaze stayed with the hermit, and once I was healthy again, we began to train."

                        ________________________________________

                        He tapped Shruikan's ball, and the Shelgon appeared in a flash of black light, staring at the crowd, and then looking up at Blaze and his Trainer. He grasped, more or less, what was going on.

                        Blaze had explained to him, once they'd returned to the center and rested, that he'd felt their battle had been seen by other humans. Shruikan had no idea what that had meant however, this entire scene being completely foreign to him. He followed his friend's lead, and looked over the crowd, like he was superior to them. Easy to do, as a dragon.

                        His appearance put any doubts of Alex's story to rest. He'd been in the area, seen on satellite, vaguely, and had both Pokémon who'd been in the battle. He was the real deal, and the few fame leeches who were watching live knew it. Most of them had a Charizard, but none of them could be put in Humilau at the right time, and none of them had a Shelgon. Even a con artist can tell when a jig is up.

                        ________________________________________

                        John Crimson smirked, and both he and Alex knew what question was next, but Alex continued answering for the sake of posterity. "I caught Shruikan here as we trained, luckily the ball I picked for him wasn't smashed, like my Pokédex was, and eventually, the time came to face Lizardon." He crossed his arms, hoping he looked as cool as he thought he did. "We won."

                        The reporters rumbled again, but John Crimson's deep baritone cut through the growing chatter like a hot knife through butter. "I see. So would I be right in assuming that the battle that's still being broadcasted and watched worldwide was fought by you?"

                        Alex nodded. He'd seen it of course, as Jess had shown both he and Arthur, the only one of his team, save perhaps Terra, that hadn't watched it live, or participated in it. She had certainly appeared impressed when he told her the whole story, and what had happened next was not appropriate for him to be thinking about while the media was grilling him for information.

                        ________________________________________

                        "I know several imposters have already claimed to be that Trainer. I can tell you with total certainty, that they are lying." He held up the red crystal then, which got everyone's attention, especially John Crimson's.

                        "This crystal is something I found in the mountain that was given to me after completing my training. Given by a Magmortar, who lived deep in the caverns within the mountain. Blaze retrieved it, and gave it to me…and when it became evident that Lizardon could also somehow Mega Evolve, I...activated it, which made Blaze Mega Evolve as well. I'm not quite sure how…"

                        ________________________________________

                        He paused again, this time less for drama and more for weighing whether or not he should mention his granduncle. "My granduncle, Professor Redwood, examined it this very morning, the source of my delay, and told me that it has the same properties as a Mega Stone, though he theorized that it could be used on any fire type."

                        He flipped it in his hand, and then appeared to pocket it, instead hiding it within his black Trainer glove. He had no doubt somebody would try to pickpocket it before the day was over. This kind of power always drew out a criminal element, and a crystal that could make any fire type mega evolve was going to be highly sought after.

                        ________________________________________

                        "I was given that stone because the Pokémon of that mountain needed my help to free them of their tyrannical ruler. Now that they are free again, I want to make it perfectly clear that they need to be left alone. No government, no tourists, no power seeking amoral Trainers. As he spoke, his pocket began to glow with a familiar red glow, and he raised his fist, appearing to draw the stone from said pocket.

                        "Anyone who decides to ignore this warning and desecrate that mountain…" Blaze's form grew and shifted as the red light enveloped him, "Will answer to us!" The Mega Charizard beside him let out a powerful Flamethrower in unison with Shruikan's Dragonbreath, crossing in the air above him.

                        Alex was impressed, and proud. He couldn't have choreographed it better. He knew, of course, that there would be idiots who decided to defy him on this, and that this challenge would only draw them like flies to muk, but they would've come regardless. Now, the public would keep an eye on that mountain, and anyone who did decide to desecrate it, and was caught doing so, would never recover from the stain on their reputation. It was the ones who didn't care about reputations that he had to worry about.

                        ________________________________________

                        The babble of questions rose up again, but a growl from Blaze, mega evolved as he was, and a raised hand from the legend, John Crimson, kept them in check. Sensing that this…whatever it was… had gone on long enough, Blaze let the power flow back into the crystal from whence it came, and Alex recalled his Pokémon.

                        John Crimson's voice rose again quickly, sensing their time was nearly spent. "Before you go, Mr. Redwood, one more question, if you'll take it." Alex nodded.

                        One did not simply defy a question from John Crimson. To be interviewed by him was a dream for any Trainer worth a damn. The fact that he was here at all was unusual, to say the least. As far as Alex knew, he hadn't been live in the field in decades.

                        ________________________________________

                        "Your story is…interesting, to say the least. The legal implications alone…" He whistled, and a chill went up Alex's spine. He'd hoped everyone would conveniently forget that going up on the mountain was illegal, but now he'd just admitted to doing it on live TV.

                        "I know I have a lot more questions for you, as I'm sure many other people do, so I'll get ahead of the flood and make this a two-parter. Will you consent to an interview in the near future? And what's next for you? After your exam and 'tournament' victories, and of course this mountaintop duel, what are you doing next?"

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex let out a small chuckle, not surprised that they'd tracked his every move since leaving home. He might have been John Crimson, news legend, and owner of a mustache so glorious his own scraggly one shivered in envy just by being this close, but at his core, he was still a reporter.

                        "Well Mr. Crimson, I can say I'll gladly schedule an interview with you in the near future. I would be honored, in fact. As for what's next…I have a certain Challenge to complete…several Leagues to win…and then after that, who knows. I may drop off the map for a while."

                        The old reporter nodded, making it clear he was done, and as the other lemmings surged forward, desperate not to be outshone by the famous old-timer, Alex quickly shouted, "No more questions, thank you!" and ducked inside the center again.

                        A few looked ready to storm the building, but getting on the bad side of a Pokémon Center was never a good idea, for any profession, and the local nurse had already warned them to stay outside. She was kind to Alex, and his travel companion, but he knew her nerves had to be wearing thin after dealing with him so long. For free.

                        ________________________________________

                        After explaining that it was probably a better idea to find a new town to make love in to his scantily clad and clearly ready-to-go redhead, he eventually relented to her persuasions, and thus, they ended up finally leaving after dinner.

                        They got looks the entire time, but when he told her, she'd simply shrugged and said, "I've been getting those looks my entire life, Alex. That's jealousy. They're jealous of my wealth, my looks, my clothes, my…boyfriend." She batted her eyes at the last bit and he found himself nodding in agreement out of reflex.

                        ________________________________________

                        That was that, then. He'd been wondering how to ask her, but it seemed she already considered them to be…a 'them'. A couple. "You're getting stares too," she said, unfazed, and seemingly not caring that the staff in the small dining area could very much hear her, "You're practically famous now. That battle of yours has been the most watched in recent memory. As if that wasn't enough, you discovered a new kind of Mega Stone. Just wait. You'll be getting mobbed before you know it. By reporters, by Trainers, by girls...but they can't have you. You're all mine."

                        As if to emphasize that fact, she snatched his hat and put it on, forgoing manners entirely, and shot daggers at the comparatively cute waitress who had apparently been watching him all through dinner. He hadn't even noticed. That left him in a thoroughly good mood through the rest of the evening, despite the glares he got from the other staff, particularly the men.

                        ________________________________________

                        Pokémon Centers were free because the Pokémon League had, since its inception, funded them. The Elite Four and Gym Leaders kept things relatively in control when random Trainers weren't wandering around nearby, and in return, were well compensated. That compensation went to two places: Trainers who beat the Elite Four, and the Pokémon Centers.

                        While the centers were required by the Leagues to take in all injured Pokémon, and anyone that needed a place while on the road, they typically despised 'freeloaders' who stayed for weeks on end.

                        He decided to tip generously, as Jess didn't, and when they left out the back of the building to attract less attention, he felt the goodbye the nurse gave them was actually genuine. Which was good, because nurses talked. Bad behavior at one center led to low quality rooms and food at others. It was a very good idea to not end up on their bad side. Thankfully, getting on their bad side was difficult.

                        ________________________________________

                        Blaze managed to fly them halfway to Undella Town, though the ride was a bit 'comfy' on his back, and the weight of two people was a bit more than he could take. Alex made a note to figure out their combined weight, and double it. He'd then make Blaze fly with that weight, every day, for every mile they had to walk.

                        It seemed harsh to Jess, but Blaze had risen to the challenge after Alex had explained that once he could be swift with the weights on, taking them off would make him much faster, and stronger. They needed to build up his wing strength, and quickly. Carrying them would also be a breeze, but he knew it would take his Charizard a while to get to that point.

                        He wasn't the only one with intense training however. Hydrus got some much need battle experience against other water Trainers on the road into Undella Town, eventually evolving into a Marshtomp. He might've been stronger, but he kept his playful attitude. He'd missed his Trainer, and though he'd grown to like Jess as well, Alex was the one who'd promised to help him grow. And grow he did.

                        ________________________________________

                        He had Terra train Leo in evasion, by dodging as many Razor Leaves as possible, and that task kept the two busy for several hours. Once Hydrus had evolved, it was Arthur's turn to battle the random Trainers on the route south of Humilau, and eventually, he learned several new moves that helped him grow.

                        During the last battle before arriving in town, he finally evolved, and then evolved again into a Gallade, thanks to his Dawn Stone. Alex wanted him to have as much experience with his amorphous body as possible. It was also good to evolve Gallades immediately, so their physical attack strength wasn't unbalanced by a Kirlia's affinity for special attacks.

                        He was taught to use Psychic, Shadow Ball, Night Slash, and Brick Break. With those moves, he became better at winning battles, even though he was relatively new at using them.

                        Shruikan continued to train against Blaze, despite his training weight handicap, but once Blaze used his new weight as a weapon, they became evenly matched again, more or less, as after flying so far with two humans on his back, he could barely flap into the air during their sparring match.

                        ________________________________________

                        They took the long way to Undella town, and eventually the forest on the other side of Humilau and Undella Bay gave way to a mountainous region that only helped him train his team further.

                        Jess wasn't idle either, having caught a Mareep she'd named Amphi while he was trapped on the mountain. She'd also gotten the Fennekin she'd asked Connor to bring her from Kalos, and had named her Delphi. It was fitting, given what the little fox would one day become.

                        She had properly trained her team as well, and had even challenged Marlon's elite team, as Alex had. The badge she received was the same as his, similar to the regular one, but not. Her Mareep, after evolving into a Flaaffy, had helped her beat his gym, and then her Serperior had finished the rest, proving to be quite adept at swimming, unlike Torterra. Her team's training was a bit less intense, but it wasn't long at all before the two humans had used both teams to train as effectively as possible. As a result, her partners rapidly grew as well.

                        ________________________________________

                        Terra already had a year of such training under his shell, the sole reason he'd won every battle so far. Blaze's experience in the mountain had certainly strengthened him, but while his fire power was intense enough, his flight skills had been noticeably lacking. He'd been able to learn enough to fight Lizardon, but it was mega evolution that had allowed him to keep pace in the air, combined with his natural talent that came from typing.

                        After facing a particularly tough Pidgeot however, he was shown that his flight skills were definitely lacking, for a partial flying type. That was another reason he endured such hard training.

                        All in all, the trip to Undella Town took around five days. Alex certainly hadn't minded, and though he'd expected Jess to complain, it seemed she'd changed quite a bit in the weeks he'd been gone.

                        Getting filthy while training no longer bothered her, she could sleep on the road without complaining, and when all they had was a thin bag between them and the hard rock terrain, she found sleeping atop his chest was quite a bit more comfortable. Once they found grass again, they continued to share a bag, and they used hers as extra padding, as it was incredibly fluffy, and high quality.

                        ________________________________________

                        As they arrived in Undella Town, they found that the main thoroughfare was blocked. On either side the local townsfolk, who were really just rich tourists experiencing the Undella Bay's sunshine for fun, as it was still summer, watched the lone figure in the road from behind barriers of hard brown mud that acted as fences.

                        They were high enough to be difficult to climb over, and one could not do so without getting their outfit covered in dirt, something these elite snobs would never dream of doing. Both Alex and Jess recognized the lone figure, and as a look of irritation came over the redhead's lovely features, Alex stopped her, one hand on her shoulder.

                        "Let me. I'll be the lightning rod for his anger." He already had Terra's ball in hand, as he stepped up towards Connor, his oldest rival, save for his brother. A makeshift arena had been carved into the sandy path, and as Alex took his position, he knew already what kind of match this would be.

                        ________________________________________

                        Connor shouted out the rules anyway, for the benefit of their small crowd. "One on one, Redwood! Your starter against mine. And if I win, you cease staining my sister's genes, and reputation." Alex could feel the tirade his lover was about to launch from behind him, and more than a few of the women in the crowd shot looks at Connor, as his remark bordered on sexist.

                        Alex knew it was more a result of his upbringing than anything, but Connor had always controlled his words well in the past. Well enough to avoid offending women, at least. Something was off.

                        He was big, though not as big as Alex, as he stood a few inches shorter, but they shared a similar body type. His primarily blue outfit and purple scarf, with hints of white, made it obvious as to which starter Pokémon he'd chosen. His Greninja was right next to him, after all.

                        ________________________________________

                        Alex called Terra onto the field, and immediately the crowd began to rumble. Grass beat water easily, and that Torterra was larger than any they'd seen. A few even recognized his Trainer from the news, and their disbelief began to turn into irritation, but Alex knew better to fall into the comfort of type advantage. This was his old friend's first Pokémon, and if he knew him at all, he knew their training had been just as long and intense as Terra's had. Finally, a worthy opponent.

                        "Alright, I agree." Alex said, turning his hat backwards. He felt the growing irritation turn to him, but the only opinion he cared about was Jessica's. He turned to glance at her, and winked.

                        The growing temper faltered, as her eyes widened. Alex continued, smirk wide on his face. "But when I win, nobody in your family may object to us. Not your father, not your mother, and not you, old friend. I had planned on doing this honorably…but circumstance forced my hand. Are the terms agreed upon?"

                        Connor nodded. "They are." He was the same cocky Alex. Now he'd see what three years on the road did for one's power. The thought that he might win wasn't even considered.

                        Terra stomped the ground, and the fire in his eyes matched his Trainer's. The battle was on.
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                          #12   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                        Old June 5th, 2018 (10:19 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                        Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                        Pokefan1337
                           
                          Join Date: May 2018
                          Age: 25
                          Gender: Male
                          Nature: Brave
                          Posts: 35
                          Chapter 10: All the World's a Stage

                          ________________________________________

                          Undella Town - Unova Region

                          ________________________________________

                          The crowd ducked again as the fierce impact of the Water Pulse and Energy Ball shook the small resort town with their collision. By sheer willpower, the Pokémon had managed to guide the stray balls of energy purposefully into the ground.

                          The road was littered with craters, but it was a dirt footpath, and the Pokémon knew that if they were going to destroy things, as was inevitable in a battle at this level, the humans would rather have to fix the dirt road than their houses. This knowledge didn't stop the locals from being angry however.

                          ________________________________________

                          It was far past the point of no return, as that point had arrived rather quickly. Gren's first attack had bounced apart from Terra's in a collision of energy, and hit the dirt and sand road on either side of the crowd, effectively trapping anyone who didn't want to get dirty behind the barricades, which in this crowd, was everybody. Not one article of clothing there was priced under a thousand units of their currency.

                          This was how confident they were that the local facilities, which amounted to a Pokémon Center at most, could fix the roads in time for them to get home for dinner without ruining a good pair of clothes. The few sensible rich folks, like Alex and the sibling's families, had already dirtied their clothes to get the hell out of this battle's path, though they watched from the sturdier stone path up the hill, right in front of the aforementioned Pokémon center.

                          ________________________________________

                          Connor had summoned both families when he'd learned, or rather, heard, what Alex and his own darling little sister were doing behind thin doors. While the parents were shocked at first, after a talk with their daughter, even the Gladstones agreed eventually that there were worse arrangements. As long as the two stayed together, there wouldn't be an issue of honor.

                          Connor had not accepted that, however. His sense of what was and was not honorable had shifted over the long months spent in the oriental communities sequestered within the borders of Southern Kalos, a region known as 'Gaulia'.

                          He'd gone there to train his Froakie into a Greninja, and as the two had matured, Gren and his Trainer had become masters, streamlining the Water Pulse technique into a form so powerful, Gren couldn't be beat. Not by the villagers anyways.

                          ________________________________________

                          So, Connor had left, trained the rest of his team as he traveled to Kalos proper, went through all the gyms, and returned to Lumiose City in time for the Pokémon League that year.

                          He'd lost, however, beaten in the final round by a superior Sceptile. It had been a six on six battle, but Connor had only entered Gren, as his other Pokémon were still too weak, and after five difficult opponents, including a Charizard, Gren had finally fainted. Nobody could solo the Kalos League. Not anymore. The Champion, Alain, was too powerful.

                          ________________________________________

                          Connor had returned to Unova then, still with his skewed idea of justice, to train his other Pokémon, and challenge the Victory Plateau. While Kalos was difficult, the Elite Four of the Victory Plateau were the new number one Elite Four team in the entire League, which basically meant the world. Their latest Challenge was considered ridiculously hard, as it required Trainers to take on the Four, one of the other Champions, and then the reigning Champion and Hero of Unova himself, N.

                          This year, the Victory Plateau was the hardest to beat, or so the rumors had said, and Connor had risen to the new Challenge as his sister and rival had.

                          With his new ideals, warped by a culture that had been transplanted into Kalos, or France, as some called the whole area, Connor had traveled ahead of them quickly via his Greninja's swim speed, and set up his challenge, as he knew Alex would want to start at the beginning of Unova on his quest for badges, and would have to pass through Undella town. With Hydrus and Empolia, the pair could have easily crossed the short way, and hit their first stop, Black City. It was in 'the plan' after all.

                          ________________________________________

                          Connor had heard about it too, though he'd only gotten an early draft by letter, asking his opinion on Alex's chosen team, but his friend's plan had not included his little sister. Upon returning home to find the two of them gone, he'd spoken to Eric, who was training like a madman, and learned the rest of Alex's 'plan'.

                          Thus, he now knew exactly where they'd be, and he could take his sister home. He felt confident that Gren could beat any of the six Alex had mentioned before. The Luxray would be hard, but not impossible. Everything else should've fallen to their Water Pulse.

                          ________________________________________

                          If the rumors were to be believed, the pair had been seen on the route to Undella several times, in the throes of passion, not caring who might hear them. In Connor's mind, the punishment for such brazen acts was total humiliation, thus he'd summoned their families, and enlisted their aid in setting the scene.

                          But it wasn't playing out right. Instead of being neutral to water, Terra seemed to enjoy the Water Shuriken that hit his tree, and sank into the bark harmlessly. Seeing that his grass typing was being used as defense, Connor had waited for the ground type offense, to counter with a water attack.

                          Unfortunately, the Earthquake had been far too powerful for Gren to block completely with his streamlined Water Pulse that formed an orb of water, in true Kalos style. It had made a swathe of untouched ground around Gren and his Trainer, but to the rest of the coast and into the ocean, the earth had been shattered.

                          ________________________________________

                          It hadn't been an issue for Gren though, not like it had for Squirt and Tyran. His nimble feet jumped from each large boulder easily. At 88lbs, they barely shifted in the mass of rubble. Terra had then planted his trunk like feet into the soft sandy dirt, and launched a massive ball of swirling green energy right at his opponent.

                          As expected, the blue frog had leapt high enough to dodge, but could now only fall aimlessly, as he'd strained himself getting to that height. He needed to land and recover his leg strength, but before that could happen, his eyes widened as another ball of green energy, but clearly one more condensed and powerful, shot towards him from below.

                          Terra was firing off Energy Balls like a cannon, crushing the rubble under his feet with the force of the push-back. Gren barely had a chance to raise a defense as it hit him, hard, but surprisingly to Terra and his Trainer, not hard enough for a K.O. Gren was clearly looking rough, but he could still win.

                          ________________________________________

                          For the past four minutes, he and Terra had exchanged attacks constantly. Normally, Water Pulse would win because it could be used more, but not only had Terra become capable of surpassing his limit, by about five, which would leave him quite drained, Gren's streamlined attack took up a lot more power. At least five hits worth. Doing the math, the two Trainers met the other's eyes, and their Pokémon stopped as well, sensing a pause.

                          "Impressive, Redwood. I expected to crush your Torterra. You've only had him for a year. He's easily strong enough to solo the Kalos League."

                          Alex just smirked, "You have no idea, my friend. This isn't even ten percent of his strength."

                          Connor's eyes widened at the claim. While no longer shiny and new, mega evolution was still a bar by which Trainers were judged. If you could battle a Mega Evolved Pokémon with one of your own, you were taken seriously by pretty much anyone in the Pokémon League. If you could make a Pokémon without a previously documented Mega Form attain that level, you were in a league of your own. Literally, as all such capable Trainers would soon find out.

                          ________________________________________

                          Connor's eyes burned, his issue of honor momentarily forgotten. This was a proper rival. Alex was seemingly every bit as competent a Trainer as Alain, and his Torterra was at the same level as Alain's Sceptile had been. If not higher. Thus, in his mind, Connor slowly forced himself to focus.

                          This was, from his perspective, his chance to redeem his loss in Kalos. If he could beat Alex, he would go back, challenge the gyms again, against their true teams, and then all but solo the League.

                          "Enough fooling around, Gren." Connor spoke softly, his deep voice barely louder than the waves hitting the ruined beach behind him. The fire in the Greninja's eyes flared, and like their opponents, they became linked.

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex's own fiery gaze seemed to increase as well. "So…you got him to do it too?"

                          Connor smirked, "I may not be the first…but since nobody but him has ever done it…that's my claim to fame. Certainly better than beating a Charizard with a Charizard."

                          "Oh, I'm about to be famous for another reason entirely." Alex said, smirking. "I've found Torterra's Mega Form."

                          After dinner on that first day back, Alex had examined his two crystals, and theorized that if the fire one had made Blaze evolve further, the grass one should do the same for Torterra. Theoretically. Once he'd figured out that to use the crystal's power, he had to have a clear focus, it became easy for Terra and Blaze to mega evolve.

                          Arthur had helped with understanding that, and Alex had shown his entire team the power Terra and Blaze could achieve. He promised to get all of them to that level, and their bond became even stronger. They were truly a team now, with a unified goal: to be the very best. They'd trained with impressive intensity ever since, and now Hydrus, Leo, Arthur, and Shruikan were rapidly closing the gap between them and his Torterra.

                          ________________________________________

                          At his opponent's words, Connor made a cross with his pair of pointer and middle fingers, and Gren copied the stance, his form shifting like water, and glowed a deep blue. Meanwhile, all Alex did was smirk as his pocket glowed green, and his Torterra shifted form, becoming armored around his head.

                          Spikes grew from the other side of his shell, and the tree on his back became heavier, older, and moved to the center of his back. His tail had grown longer, and formed a club on the end of it, and said club slammed the ground, causing the debris on the field to shudder. Without a word, battle was joined again, but now only Connor could see Gren move, such was his speed.

                          "Ice shuriken!" He shouted, and from seemingly every direction, spinning stars of ice slammed in Terra simultaneously, and evaporated into a mist after hitting his hide, so cold were they. Terra yawned, and gave a smirk towards his opponents that mirrored his Trainer's.

                          ________________________________________

                          Seeing Connor's confused look, Alex spoke up, taking on the tone of one who thinks they know more about Pokémon, and is about to demonstrate that fact. It was something he'd learned to mimic ages ago, and was to be expected when your mentor was a Pokémon Professor. "Like most Mega Evolutions, he gained a new ability upon evolving. He's easily over a ton now. And his Thick Fat has adapted to ice."

                          Connor's face tightened. "I see. Well that's irritating. I guess we're back to plan A." At those words, Gren formed another Water Pulse, and met Terra's countering Energy Ball full force. The two balls bounced off each other, further damaging the ground. Connor hid his emotions, but his tight expression was slow to fade.

                          Gren should've been able to handle any grass type after he'd learned to make his shuriken into ice. He supposed that if any grass type were to have Thick Fat, it would need to be similar to Venusaur in body type and species. Torterra was lucky, it seemed, as he was also a ground type. And now his weakness to ice was gone. He was now, in short, very hard to beat.

                          ________________________________________

                          Despite the damage from earlier, Gren kept fighting, but unfortunately, mega evolving was only straining what little stamina he had left. Knowing he had but one shot left in this state, Gren landed, and faced Terra head on.

                          He raised one finned hand over the other. The giant Water Shuriken on his back faded, and reappeared between his hands, spinning fast between them as the rest of his power was channeled into this one move. Gren's new form was almost identical to the only other Greninja that had ever achieved this level of power, save for his fins.

                          They were a deep scarlet, the color of his Trainer's hair, with a strike of black, but the crest on his head remained the same bright red. The rest of him also remained not that different from a normal Greninja. It was a far cry from Terra's change.

                          Moss had appeared under his chin, looking like a beard as he'd finished changing. He looked almost nothing like a normal Torterra. It was as this water attack was being prepped that Terra drew deep from the resort town. Once more, he was lucky.

                          ________________________________________

                          This place had enough sunlight this time of year to match Alola, and the amount of energy he could use from the local flora right now was nearly unlimited, after an entire season's worth of sunlight. He drew enough to finish this frog off, swirled it, condensed it, and made it stronger. Just as Tyranitar had showed him.

                          The two Pokémon fired, and this time, type advantage won out. Their Water Pulse could deflect Terra's ball with enough time, but this shuriken had tried to bisect it. With the amount of power in this Energy Ball, that was never going to happen. Thus, the grass attack won out, pushing through the shuriken, and slamming into Gren, finishing him. He tried to recover, but fell, losing his mega form as he hit the ground.

                          "I think that's enough." Alex said, crossing the ruined ground. He nodded at Terra, who began repairing the terrain by slamming each foot into the ground, and pulling it back together. Something he could only do in this new form, or so Alex thought. The ruined coastline slowly came back together, and it took Terra's entire focus to keep it like that as he guided the earth in mending itself.

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex stopped short, as he noticed Connor move for his belt, shouting, "Dammit! Dragon Rush!" A Garchomp appeared in a flash of light, and sighting Alex as his target instead of Terra, due to his closeness, he prepared to fire the attack. Had he been a Charizard he might've hesitated at the mere idea of attacking a weak human, but his Trainer had ordered a command, and he had to obey.

                          Connor was halfway through the word "Wai-" as he'd realized that Alex was the chosen target, not his Pokémon, when a burst of black light appeared in front of Alex, taking the super effective attack.

                          Enraged, but hanging on thanks to Protect, Shruikan retaliated with the kind of Dragon Pulse only a truly angry dragon could produce. This outsider had attacked his master, with a dragon type move, and not the Torterra. Now, Shruikan was taking revenge.

                          ________________________________________

                          The attack hit the Garchomp point blank after his Dragon Rush, and he went down with a crash, but was slow to rise. Shruikan turned his furious gaze on Connor then, reasoning that his master had been attacked, therefor Garchomp's Trainer deserved no less. It was a draconian punishment, for sure, but more than that, it was sweet revenge supported by a rage he'd had since he'd father had been killed by Lizardon.

                          He resented not being able to take that monster down, and now his fury had no outlet but the human in front of him. He opened his mouth to attack Connor, but instead found himself soaring through the air, before crashing into the sand several feet away. He'd felt a slight tickle on the right side of his shell, and when he rose from his hard landing and looked at his attacker, he saw the new Gallade, in a fighting stance, protecting the blue clad human.

                          Shruikan snarled. That arrogant psychic type was rapidly starting to irritate him. He didn't hesitate, a powerful train of blue fire burst towards Arthur, and the crowd behind him. Arthur crossed his arms, and using Psychic, forced the flames from the crowd, or their homes.

                          The path was ruined even more though, parts of it turned to glass by the power of the fire. Arthur refocused his Psychic attack, turning it on Shruikan then, levitating him into the air, and facing him towards the sky, where he couldn't hit anyone with his flames.

                          ________________________________________

                          This made the dragon furious, as he struggled against the psychic hold. He'd closed his eyes and prepared to counter with Zen Headbutt, when suddenly, he was forcibly returned to his ball. Alex looked furious as he eyed the Timer Ball, which had been strangely warped by the trip to the dragon mountain. Apparently, it didn't matter what badge he had, the eighth one received would always allow him total control.

                          As it stood, he had one. He needed to move faster, but first he had to deal with Connor, and their families. He nodded at Terra again, and the earth walls were shattered as well, allowing the townsfolk to move into the sturdier part of town, and get on with their day. Alex had won again. It was almost unbelievable, for a supposed rookie with only one badge.

                          ________________________________________

                          He walked with heavy steps over to his rival, and sighed. "That was low. Your Garchomp would've ended me without a thought. What was that you always told me about 'being in control of a force of nature'? Garchomp is probably the only ground type that can handle a Torterra evenly, but he was aiming a Dragon Rush at me. I might've survived a Rock Slide, but no, you ordered the most destructive move he has." Alex looked down at his rival, who had fallen to a seated position. Connor mumbled softly, realizing what he'd done.

                          "I didn't…I didn't mean…" Ordering your Pokémon to attack a fellow Trainer was unheard of, and now, he'd done it to one of Unova's alleged 'rising stars'. Who was supposedly his friend, no less. Not even team members sunk that low. They'd use harmless moves like Smoke Screen or Supersonic, but never an attack move like Dragon Rush.

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex noticed a familiar looking crystal pinned to his rival's jacket. The symbol of water types was within it. He reached down, and snatched it before Connor could blink or protest.

                          "So. You figured it out too. Well, clearly, you're not ready for one of these. This is my 'prize money' for winning. You can have it back when you beat me. These should be a last resort, not a crutch." With that, he turned on his heel and headed for the Pokémon center.

                          As he passed Jess, he spoke quietly. "Your turn. Once you're done, tell me, and we'll move on. Clearly some of my team needs training still." He switched Shruikan to the sixth slot on his belt, behind Arthur. His last resort, until his dragon could control his rage. He went out of the town, and the two worked out the dragon's frustration as Jess handled her relative.

                          ________________________________________

                          Jess took several hours to chew out her brother, deflect their family's inquiries, and heal her own Pokémon who were tired from road battling. They all got a needed rest from the constant training, and left early in the morning, surfing down the side of the road on their water Pokémon for strength training. Eventually, they passed the edge of the White Forest.

                          The forest had been small once, but over time it had grown in size from the coast of the river to the coast of the bay, the forest was enormous. A Trainer could spend a month in there if they left the path, if only because they often saw a rare colored Pokémon, and chased after it endlessly. That was the trap of the forest. It tempted you with what you wanted most, and kept you lost and wandering for weeks if you didn't pay attention.

                          ________________________________________

                          It was rumored that some of the remnants of Team Skull had come over from Alola several years back, after being beaten out of the region by a pair of thirteen-year olds. Rather than run this team out however, the local Gym Leaders and top Trainers of Unova trapped them within the Black City, after forcing them into the White Forest.

                          The few who could escape the forest had been forced to stay in, to serve the time for being a sentenced Team member, but when their sentence had ended, they hadn't wanted to leave again. During their stay in the 'prison', the team members had eventually overpowered their guards, who retreated into the forest. They then took over the city, and formed a loose kind of government with equally loose morals.

                          Thus, Black City had become a haven for undesirable types, and due to the enormous forest surrounding the city, they had all become a bit…strange, as isolation from society tended to have that effect. In either case, the locals of Unova avoided the city and the forest, often by surfing around or flying over them entirely.

                          ________________________________________

                          Despite the numerous warnings, Alex had declared that he had a number of Pokémon to catch now that his team was finally assembled, and catch them he did. They spent a full three days among the trees, as Alex used his Luxray's incredible eyesight to track what he was after by scent and print, and to keep sight of the road. A quick Thunder Wave usually made the young Pokémon weak enough to capture, and it got repetitive after a while.

                          He knew he was taking on a larger responsibility with so many new faces to train, but they would be well looked after back at the lab he could finally take them out, one by one, and train them up. He caught each of the starters he was missing, Squirtle, Chikorita, Cyndaquill, Torchic, Treecko, etcetera, and many of the Pokémon normal Trainers caught as well, like Pidgey.

                          ________________________________________

                          He had Ultra Balls, so the going was easy, the hardest part was always navigating the ever-changing maze of a forest. He'd also found an entire nest of Eevee, and after capturing their eldest brother, convinced the rest to come along in balls of their choosing.

                          He had enough for every evolution but Sylveon. Jess wasn't idle either, as she caught the remaining Eevee, a runt from a different litter, and agreed she was destined to be a Sylveon, if she had her way. Ultimately though, they agreed to let the Eevee pick their own forms. Alex's only caveat was that none of them become identical, which was apparently fine by them.

                          As the days slipped by, Alex was growing ever more impatient at his lack of progress in the Unova League, and thus he caught Pokémon at an alarming rate, often running through the forest, zapping ones he picked with Leo, and then throwing balls, staying just long enough to be sure they were caught. They transported soon afterwards, but by the time they were transported to his Gruncle's lab, he was already onto the next one.

                          ________________________________________

                          Jess also managed to train her Flaaffy, alongside Alex's Marshtomp, and once they were strong enough, they decided to move on to Black City. Home to TMs of every kind, rare Pokémon trading, specific battle types, and a bunch of other modern Trainer crap Alex didn't care for.

                          They even sold mass-produced Rare Candies, though the only place to get them was from street dealers, who would rob you just as soon as they'd sell to you. They were very much the out-of-place rich kids in a city full of criminal elements.

                          ________________________________________

                          He had one goal for Black City; get his TMs and Get Out. Because of what running aimlessly through the forest did to people, the residents of Black City were a little...off.

                          The remnants of Team Skull had not been the only criminals to end up in this unique prison. Several groups of former team members from Team Plasma, Galactic, Flare, and many others, had inhabited Black City. In response, many strong Trainers had come to the forest, to make sure the criminals stayed put. Over time, they decided to make the forest their home, and had even made the White Forest grow somehow, to be a thousand times larger than it had been in the past. Now, it was common sense for Trainers to avoid it, lest they lose themselves to chasing imaginary rare Pokémon.

                          As bad as the city was however, the people who lived in the forest had become the kindest on the continent, and had managed to, allegedly, cure the team members who came to them of their desire to do violence. They also directed Trainers chasing Pokémon to the exit of the forest, but there were too few of these strange, nature-loving folks to help every Trainer who got lost in the forest.

                          ________________________________________

                          To call the city creepy was an understatement. This was definitely a 'counter-culture' type of place, except it was full of scum. They were almost immediately set upon by the locals, and the two Trainers battled at least ten such thugs before Alex finally unleashed Terra, hopped on his back with Jess, and stomped off. None of them dared to test their Zubat and Woobat against a beast like that, especially once he'd mega evolved.

                          The Pokémon Center at least, seemed like a haven of sanity in a strange city, but the local nurse looked tired. She perked up when she saw them however, glad to see a pair of comparatively normal Trainers, instead of the usual punks who hit on her constantly. She had black hair, and make-up that probably wasn't approved by the League, but she was genuinely cool. She demonstrated that not all in the city were bad. Just most. They convinced her to join them for a bowl of Leaf before going to bed.

                          At her advising, they spent the night in the room with Hydrus blocking the door with his weight, and Leo watching the window with his eyes. Their room was almost broken into twice, but both times the would-be robbers ran away with searing electrical burns, and a bite mark. Leo was very protective, and while he was silent, the yelping locals were not. Eventually they got the message though.

                          ________________________________________

                          The rest of the trip to Nimbasa City was spent much the way their last time on the road had been. Alex had managed to find weights that Jess had sewn into vests for their teams during his re-supply. It was convenient, as Black City had almost anything a Trainer could want, but no massive crowds to slow him down.

                          He was challenged to battle, of course, but he let Hydrus, Arthur, and even Shruikan battle on their own against these wannabe Trainers, the only aid he gave them was, "Use what moves you think I would tell you to use, and you'll win. Be clever, and above all, stay in control." He'd glared at Shruikan after that until the dragon averted his gaze.

                          He'd been embarrassed by his rage in Undella Town, but had since calmed down. He and Arthur had gone around the city, fighting double battles together, and had repaired their budding friendship, to a degree. They would always be rivals, a knight against a dragon, but even they admitted that together, they were hard to beat. Alex imagined that once Shruikan had wings, they'd be even more powerful.

                          The vests had paid off, though they'd made every Pokémon but Terra pause at first with the added weight, eventually, each of them became used to it thanks to the constant training on the road. They sacrificed progress for training time, but eventually, they reached Nimbasa City. The whole trip through both sides of the forest had taken four more days, and the trip down the route to Nimbasa took another eight, thanks to their constant training.

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex had planned to skip Nimbasa and hit it when he looped around again, but fate had other plans. Elesa happened to be at the Pokémon center when they arrived, and after speaking in some strange woman language about clothes and shoes, Jess told him that she had challenged them both at her gym.

                          He'd shrugged it off, but then the television in the relatively high-tech Pokémon center turned on with a loud announcement: that Alexander Redwood was in the area, and Elesa had 'thrown down the gauntlet'. There was no ignoring a call out like that, not when an entire borough of New Tork City saw it.

                          The local news station then ran thirty minutes of a strange program that highlighted his journey so far, for those who hadn't heard of him yet, and he began to grow irritated at Elesa, who was narrating in a taunting tone.

                          ________________________________________

                          Many of the facts were wrong. He'd once tamed a herd of rampaging Tyrantrum with only a Turtwig. He'd gone to every party that school year, instead of catching more Pokémon. He'd run off and eloped with his rich neighbor's daughter three months ago, and she was now somehow six months pregnant.

                          It was, in short, the kind of fake news experience one usually expects from a town obsessed with fashion and aesthetics. After another examination of his so called 'deeds' was scheduled for the next half hour, he decided enough was enough, and marched over to the gym, a smirking Jess in tow.

                          He realized on his march over there that the 'show' had probably been a ploy to lure him in for a match. Jess had probably mentioned his plan to simply pass through, but Elesa wasn't having that. Elesa was a bit old to be a model, but no less attractive, really. Too flashy for his tastes, but certainly not ugly. She had been the Gym Leader of Nimbasa for decades, and was just as loved in New Tork City as Burgh was.

                          The two were old enough to be grandparents these days, but neither one seemed ready to retire, and indeed few in Unova could even imagine their city without Elesa or Burgh as the Gym Leaders of the northern and southern halves of it.

                          ________________________________________

                          As he entered the gym, he swore quietly, only then remembering that it was a very public runway. Keeping his face passive, he ignored the mix of jeers and cheers as he approached his target, only to be stopped by an attendant who forcibly attached a mic to his jacket's collar. The giant monitor in the back of the gym showed his uncomfortable face for a moment, before it switched to Elesa.

                          "Welcome, Mr. Redwood!" Elesa spoke, and her fans of both genders drowned out the sound in the arena gym with their cheering. That was going to get old fast, he thought.

                          He waited for the cheers to die down, and then spoke quietly and awkwardly into the mic. "I'm, uh, here to battle you." Though she'd once dyed her hair black, the once more blonde woman laughed at him, and then gestured to the arena they were standing on.

                          "I guessed that much." She was baiting him, but it took more than that to make him forgo his easygoing nature and lose his composure.

                          ________________________________________

                          He gave her his smirk, turned his hat backwards, and drew Hydrus' ball. The crowd made an 'ooooo' noise. "With your true team. Not the one you use on amateurs." That made her blink, before she returned his smirk.

                          "I see. Very well, challenger. I'll use my own team." The crowd cheered again, and he felt his nerves wearing ever thinner. The battle was short, for though Elesa was no slouch of a Trainer, Leo took down her Emolga easily enough, and after that, Hydrus finished the rest with Mud Shots, not even blinking when he took electric damage.

                          ________________________________________

                          The mud fish had grown significantly since he left his swamp, despite his Trainer's absence. The training they'd done had worked the best on Hydrus, who showed the most improvement and maturing of his whole team. He battled constantly against Terra. Evidently, he hadn't forgotten how pitiful their first encounter had been. They almost reminded Alex of himself and his own brother now. Before favoritism had separated them.

                          After taking his weighted vest off, Hydrus surprised the entire crowd by moving almost fast as Leo had. Leo had still fought with his own vest on, but his dark coat hid it well. The resulting illusion was that this Marshtomp was as fast as a Luxray. Another ridiculous rumor.

                          He was the only one who wasn't surprised when Hydrus decided to evolve after taking down her Zebstrika. He'd taken little damage, and upon becoming a Swampert, it affected him less. He was much, much larger now, which meant more stamina in battles, and a legitimate chance at matching Terra's strength.

                          ________________________________________

                          Elesa's first Pokémon had been a Blitzle, and she'd caught a Pichu on the same day. She had switched to Emolga soon after starting her journey, when she saw how tricky they were to beat, and now, she brought out her fully evolved Raichu, who had grown too strong for regular gym battles.

                          The two powerhouses fought it out, shaking the entire arena with their attacks, but eventually, Hydrus' series of Mud Shots slowed and blinded the poor thunder mouse enough to finally make it faint with a direct hit. Thus, Alex won his Jolt Badge.

                          The very public win only helped the small flame of his fame rise and spread through the region like a wildfire. Every once in a while, a genuinely strong Trainer would appear, and word about them would spread through Unova in a day. It helped that most of the region was connected to Castelia. Unova was one of the most technologically advanced places on the planet, and had the largest population by far. Only northern Kalos came anywhere near them technologically, and that was primarily because of Clemont.

                          The Lumiose Gym Leader had done more for that entire region than any other, after returning from a long journey around the world. He was on Alex's list of Gym Leaders he wanted to battle. Only a few had that kind of fame.

                          ________________________________________

                          As he and Jess left Nimbasa and began traveling down the Join Boulevard, it took him a minute to realize they were getting looks. Well, more looks than usual. If he was honest, he'd won half of his random road battles thanks to them being distracted by Jessica's looks. That applied to both genders.

                          Elesa had, at his request, personally admitted to making up the rumors from the last broadcast, but hadn't given them any new information on this Trainer either. Thus, the local hotshot Trainers in the city decided to keep an eye out for him, if only to see if the hype was real. As they walked further down the absurdly large tunnel, packed to the brim with shops for literally everything, the going was slow.

                          Like most women, his was not immune to the lure of shopping, and given that she'd coaxed a certain black piece of plastic from her father, her spending was wild. Naturally, Alex ended up shoving half of it into his bag. It was bigger on the inside, a 'Redwood tech trick' as his Gruncle had called it, but even it had a limit. He didn't mind the extra weight, though. She'd resisted her womanly impulses in Mall Town, the least he could do now was carry her stuff.

                          ________________________________________

                          The Join Boulevard had once been a small passage on the long road from Nimbasa to Castelia, but after years of support from Unova's many Champions, it had grown massive. The twins, Hilbert and Hilda, along with Nate and Rosa, all had entire sections of the boulevard devoted to merchandise they specifically supported.

                          Now, you could go from Nimbasa to Castelia without so much as sand in your shoe. All along the Join Boulevard, Alex and Jess were challenged on a daily basis by Trainers with actual teams, not just six Magikarp in a row. The experience was tough, but no tougher than training with their weight vests had been on the road to Nimbasa.

                          Now when they took them off for battle, the effects were already beginning to show. They had been forced to loop back to Nimbasa for several days, as there was no Pokémon Center on the Boulevard. They were enjoying the local fame, and then Jess had challenged Elesa as well, winning handily with her Charmeleon.

                          She too had purchased TMs in Black City, and now her team was rapidly becoming a challenge to his. They didn't battle however, not officially, as each of their teams considered the other a part of their road-bound family. Battling them seriously was just unthinkable, to most of them. They would spar, of course, but an actual battle simply never occurred.

                          ________________________________________

                          After a few days of battling genuine Trainers on the massive Join Boulevard, which had actual motels now that had once been homes, they reached Castelia City, a borough of New Tork that never slept. Alex was eager to challenge the local Gym Leader that very night.

                          He was stopped however, right in front of the gym, by an aide from the Poké News Network. John Crimson wanted an interview that night, and Alex agreed, saying, "Right after I beat Burgh."

                          The aide mumbled something about make-up and checked his watch constantly. He'd been told to collect Alex within two hours by John Crimson himself, but Alex was already inside the gym.

                          ________________________________________

                          He knew the drill by now, and he had Hydrus get used to using his Ice Beam in battle as he fought Burgh's warm up Trainers. It made Hydrus stronger, too. He'd been battling a lot lately, to try and bridge the gap between Terra, Blaze, and the rest of his team. They all needed to be that strong if they were going to take on the Victory Plateau. For the battle with Burgh himself, Alex's choice was different.

                          Blaze had begun to get twitchy, and while Alex knew Hydrus needed to train, his Charizard needed to battle strong opponents. Blaze gave his Trainer a look when he saw a bunch of bugs, but after a hard Metal Claw from Burgh's Scizor, a member of the team he had once journeyed with, Blaze got into the fight.

                          He took down four of the bug types, relatively easily as he could use his flames or his wings to fight them. Either way, he was at an advantage. Seeing he was sated with those easy but no less intense battles, and that his next opponent was part rock, Alex switched Hydrus in.

                          Another two Ice Beams ended Crustle, and then finally, out came Leavanny. Her Leaf Blade was nearly enough to take Hydrus down, but his retaliatory and doubly effective Ice Beam did what her blades had been unable to. Thus, Alex won his third badge.

                          ________________________________________

                          Burgh himself was a decent guy, and they had a chat over a bowl of Leaf before they returned to the bottom floor of the strange gym, only to find that Jess and the aide for PNN were still waiting. The aide had, upon hearing who she was, wanted Jess to interview as well, but he was denied yet again when she challenged Burgh herself.

                          The aide was a few years older than them at most, but his forehead already had signs of wrinkling. He wore a navy-blue uniform that seemed strange in public, and had no belt of Pokémon either.

                          He looked like a corporate drone, but corporate drones had name tags. Jess was telling him that she planned to battle Burgh next, and could interview some other time. She wasn't going to fall behind Alex. Burgh agreed to take her to the local Pokémon center, and then battle her, while Alex went for his interview.

                          ________________________________________

                          Deciding one Trainer was good enough to keep his job, the aide gave in, and brought Alex to the station, where he refused attempts to have make-up dumped on him, and offers to trim his scraggly beard that still had a few patches of lighter fuzz in it. He also got an offer for a new wardrobe, and though he was seriously tempted with going black and gold, he kept his clothes as they were. He'd managed to get another spare outfit in Nimbasa, and switched to the clean one.

                          Burgh's gym had been quite warm, as his Pokémon loved heat, and even on a cool summer night like this, Castelia City might as well have been an oven. He handed over his dirty undershirt and pants, letting them be taken to be washed after the people assigned to make him presentable insisted he do so.

                          It seemed that keeping their jobs depended upon them aiding him in some way, and they told him as much when he asked. It made his stomach curl, but he stayed polite, knowing it wasn't the aide's fault they had to act like this. Their usual clientele was probably a lot different than he was.

                          ________________________________________

                          Their world didn't have many problems, it was true. Once, supposedly before Pokémon ever came to be, humans had had to deal with issues of water, air pollution, violence, etcetera. It was said that the old world had collapsed, only rising again when Pokémon appeared, and solved many of these problems.

                          Energy, water, food, pollutants, there were Pokémon to combat every negative aspect of human existence. Some people claimed Pokémon had always lived with humans, but his granduncle had disagreed.

                          Like the skeptic he was, Alex had asked for evidence, and in response, had been shown stories in old fashioned books that didn't contain a single mention of Pokémon. It was hard to believe, since everything in the world he'd known had some tie to them, but the stories he had been shown when he was younger contained no trace. Just humans with the aforementioned problems, and many others in addition.

                          The ancient fairytales about King Arthur or the notorious archer of Albion, Green Hood, were good examples of tales without Pokémon, but most people saw them as just that: tales. Pokémon had been around longer than anyone could remember, and a few fairy tales from pre-history would not be enough to prove they had once never existed on this planet. Now though, after a very long time, Pokémon and their Trainers had become an integral part of their advanced society.

                          ________________________________________

                          Some problems still remained however, the largest being, as always, human greed. Money controlled many aspects of the 'real world', as his father had called it. It was fine for Pokémon Trainers to run around on the road, eating for free, and battling for fun. But, he had been told, society needed currency to function.

                          That was one point his granduncle and his father intensely disagreed upon. The aging professor had insisted that many of the issues they did face would disappear if humanity gave up currency. As long as greedy humans had something valuable to horde, they would do whatever they could to horde as much as possible. Far too many simply didn't care what they had to do to achieve a comfortable lifestyle, even if that meant ascending to disgustingly wealthy levels by stepping on the backs of their fellow man.

                          ________________________________________

                          His father had responded by saying new issues would rise to replace those that had been solved. Alex had done his best to remain neutral in this debate that he, as he'd gotten older, realized was at the core of the separation in their family.

                          But now, looking into the faces of total strangers who all but begged to serve him, lest they lose their job and their access to currency if they failed to do so, he started to understand why his granduncle was so passionate about defeating human greed. If these people just relied on Pokémon instead, they could be just as well off, but no, they needed currency like a crystal addict needed dust. Crystal was one of the 'harder' substances available in shadier places, that had similar effects to Leaf, but far worse consequences. It was also highly illegal.

                          For his part, Alex didn't really see the issue. In the now famous League Court case against three members of the now disbanded Team Rocket, evidence had been presented that showed, on numerous occasions, the criminals in question had scraped together funds for hundreds, if not thousands, of giant robots designed to catch Pokémon.

                          They obtained these funds, supposedly, by working at menial jobs. Apparently, they paid just as well as Pokémon battles, and were far more reliable for income. The cost of living in this modern age was low, thanks to Pokémon.

                          ________________________________________

                          As Alex subtly watched and spoke the numerous aides flitting about the dressing rooms of the PNN building's lower floors, he realized these poor people were essentially slaves to whatever 'celebrity' happened to be entertaining their audience that night. It was a business, and like every business, some parts were considered more important than others.

                          The aides assigned to him were obviously on the bottom of this business totem pole. They didn't even have name tags, and as he looked closer, more than a few had bruises. He felt Arthur's ball shake, as he waited to be called onto the stage for his interview.

                          He thumbed the release. "You sense it too, don't you." It wasn't a question.

                          "Gallade." The response was solemn and understanding, but under the surface, Alex sensed the same fury at this ridiculous pyramidal setup. He didn't have a better alternative for distributing currency. He knew others had been tried before, only to succumb to power hungry tyrants.

                          This currency based system had eventually beaten all the others, and his Gruncle had warned him that speaking against it, especially in public, would make you a pariah. You simply did not question the system.

                          ________________________________________

                          The door opened, and the younger male aide from before, who had to have been around ten or twenty years older than Alex, came in. He had the strange navy-blue uniform on still, the PNN logo was sewn into the chest of it, but otherwise, it was little more than a bland suit.

                          No name tag, no Pokémon belt. Even the man's features were unremarkable. Brown eyes, dark hair that was cut short, a clean-shaven face. Each of the aides assigned to him had looked this way.

                          "Mr. Crimson is ready for you, sir." He said, looking hurried.

                          ________________________________________

                          Sir. Alex had never been called 'sir' before he'd left home, but as he traveled, he noticed that amongst the few who'd heard of him, he was regarded with more respect. They'd called him 'sir' too. 'May I have a battle, sir?' 'Might I have your autograph, sir?' 'Please sir, keep your Torterra from defecating on the grass.'

                          Was that what he had to look forward to? A future where, eventually, he stopped even noticing aides like this entirely? He noticed Arthur staring at him, and the Pokémon smiled, sensing his emotions, and put a hand on his shoulder. Confidence filled him. He knew that his Gallade would keep him honest, if nobody else did. Alex nodded, smiling back, and then recalled him to his ball.

                          ________________________________________

                          "Thank you. What was your name? I didn't catch it." The aide blinked, and Alex could tell, nobody had ever asked him that question. His face betrayed a hint of nervousness, and Alex understood. He wasn't supposed to have people ask him his name. Judging by the beads of sweat forming on his brow, he thought he was in trouble.

                          Which meant that his superiors were either listening, or he thought he'd somehow offended this guest, which was, he assumed, an offense that resulted in being fired. Alex put a hand on his shoulder.

                          "Relax, you're not in trouble. I just wanted to know your name." If the younger man had looked put-off before, he was doubly so now. Someone famous enough to be interviewed by the legend, five-time Pokémmy award winning reporter John Crimson, taking notice of him? Unheard of. Impossible. And yet, it was happening.

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex gave the shoulder a squeeze, and the aide finally stammered a response. "I-I'm Joey."

                          Alex gave what he hoped was his best comforting smile. It needed work. "Well Joey, I need you to do me a favor, and it's going to sound unusual." The man's eyes faded back into the practiced neutrality he maintained as part of his job. Eyes that were dead, with no spark of hope whatsoever. He hadn't been noticed, this was just another celebrity with a fetish or something.

                          Even his response was robotic. "Of course, sir. Whatever you need, PNN will provide."

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex had expected such a response, you couldn't undo programming like this with a few sentences after all, and he was due to be on the air. "After I'm done, when I come back for my things, please bring in the other aides that were assigned to help me. Can you do that, Joey?" The man blinked again, wondering what new perverted hell awaited him and his coworkers now. You could never tell with famous Trainers.

                          "Of course, sir." He said, not betraying a hint of worry. "We'll be waiting here once you and Mr. Crimson are done. Now if you please, we really should be getting upstairs."

                          He was shown to the stairs leading up into the studio where he'd be interviewed, and before he could utter a word of thanks, Joey was off. Putting the man from his mind, and focusing again on his public face, he wandered onto the studio.

                          "Ahh, there he is. Mr. Redwood! Over here." Being waved over in such a friendly manner, by John Crimson, was going to take getting used to. He began walking over, and did a double take when he saw who the legendary reporter was talking to, over a shared dinner of steak, waffles, french fries, and of course, Scotch.

                          ________________________________________

                          Professor Gilroy Redwood. His granduncle. He broke into a smile. If John Crimson was someone his Gruncle could stand to talk to, he couldn't be all bad. From the way they were sitting, close, friendly, and with a pair of Scotch glasses, they seemed like old friends.

                          John Crimson offered a hand as he made his way over. "It's nice to properly meet you, lad. Your granduncle and I go way back, and you're the only relative he ever talks about favorably."

                          Alex returned the handshake, smirking at his Gruncle, and then the reporter. "I usually go by Alex. Only this old fart calls me 'lad' anymore."

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex grunted as he felt a hand slam into his back. He gave his Gruncle a look, and the old man shrugged. "What? I had to be sure you were really back. And that this crimson fox didn't take advantage of your naivete."

                          The aging reporter feigned offense. "Take advantage? Me? I'd never do that, Gil. You're practically family, and he's your grandnephew, which makes us…"

                          "Very distantly related." Alex said, smirking. The blood tie to his favored relative was already thin enough, he had enough trouble remembering his cousin's children, let alone all the family more closely related to his granduncle. He often mused at the irony. Redwoods were a particularly large species of tree. It was fitting his family tree was just as large.

                          ________________________________________

                          At a hand signal from one of the crew, who were similarly garbed as Joey had been, but did actually have name tags, at least, John Crimson led Alex onto the stage. It was a simple setup. Two chairs, a table, and glasses of water. There were of course, many ways to interview people.

                          John Crimson however, liked to say he was 'old school'. For a reporter, Alex supposed this was as old school as it got. He took his seat, the old reporter took his, and the countdown began. Alex knew the drill, as he'd told them earlier that he'd seen plenty of these interviews before. Mr. Crimson would start them off, but it soon became obvious he was reading directly from the holoprompter.

                          ________________________________________

                          "Tonight, on Poké News Network, we have a story from our home region of Unova! I, John Crimson, will be reporting on and interviewing one of the newest hotshot Trainers in our region; Alex Redwood, a supposed rookie with a winning streak, an epic adventure, and even an Elite Four level win on his record already. There's been a lot of talk about his exploits lately, and as always, we're here to separate fact from fiction. Muk from seed."

                          Hearing the intro for his own interview was almost surreal, and Alex wished he'd actually done more before agreeing to it. Three badges was nothing. That wish faded as one of the crew mumbled into their ear pieces, "Stay on script John. We're live. And manure is actually used to fertilize crops."

                          ________________________________________

                          "Well that is disgusting." Crimson said, loud enough for the mic to pick it up. "Script!" came the voice again. The old reporter turned his focus on Alex then, and he put on his trademark smirk as he desperately tried not to burst into laughter.

                          "So Alex," he said, dropping formality as he'd requested, "How are you? Two badges and a string of victories from here to Unova University. Not many people would believe it."

                          He let his smirk grow appropriately, before answering. John Crimson was stroking his moustache very obviously as he spoke, and he seriously considered a career in acting as he managed not to laugh.

                          ________________________________________

                          "Three badges, actually." He managed in a weak tone. He coughed, and spoke stronger, louder. "Burgh was kind enough to allow me a challenge before I came here tonight." He paused, enjoying the look of surprise on the old reporter's face. Interviewees didn't usually drop a brand-new story at the start of an interview, but it seemed like John Crimson was more interested in the badge itself.

                          "Can we see it?" Alex stared for a moment, then shrugged, and nodded. The old man stared at it openly and spoke not-so-subtly, "Ooooh. Shiny. But wait, that's not a standard Burgh badge, is it? It looks different."

                          Alex blinked, wondering if he'd meant 'bug badge', despite the fact that the official name for it was 'Insect Badge'. "Erm. No, it's not. It's part of the League's new challenge. You ask the Gym Leaders to battle you with their original teams, and in return, you get a special version of their badge, showing you beat them."

                          The silver fox nodded, still very obviously stroking his moustache. "Interesting. You know, I battled Burgh once. Great guy. Great Trainer. We made a bunch of happy little clouds after the battle. Good times." Alex blinked. Did he just imply that he too had shared Leaf with the bug training painter? It didn't seem too hard to believe. His gym was right across the street.

                          ________________________________________

                          "As for how I am?" Alex continued smoothly as the crewman shouted "SCRIPT!" once more, "Well, I've watched your show since I was five. I never thought I'd be on so soon…not before beating the Victory Plateau, at least. It's exciting. Thank you for having me."

                          John Crimson tried to sip his water smoothly, but ended up taking too much at once, and began coughing. "Ugh! What is this...tasteless garbage? Vinny, who was in charge of getting the Scotch out here?" The old man looked back stage as his crew manager grabbed a piece of white cardboard and wrote 'SCRIPT' on it.

                          ________________________________________

                          As the crewmen tried to keep from laughing while on the air, John Crimson eventually recovered and found his voice again after sliding the glass of water away and turning back to squint at the prompter, "So...who was the herdest...oh, oh, hardest...who was the hardest leader you've faced, so far?"

                          Alex paused a moment, stroking his patchy beard, and biting his lip hard as he tried to focus, and not laugh. "Marlon. His Mantine had my Torterra at a field advantage, and a type advantage with Wing Attack. Terra was really hurting after that fight, but we managed to pull it out in the end."

                          ________________________________________

                          "Always a good idea to pull out, lad." The crew burst into giggles and heavy sighs, but John Crimson continued, unfazed. They'd given up on shouting 'script' over and over.

                          "Terra…so I'm guessing that's the one you beat that Tyrantrum with at the start of the summer?" John asked again, this time apparently reading from a folder full of scripted notes that he'd failed to secret away before recording started. It seemed the prompter's script was too small for his old eyes.

                          Alex nodded, smirking. "Aye, I took the University's final test with a bit of a handicap, but we made it through." Mr. Crimson adjusted his seating then, and Alex felt the tone shift.

                          ________________________________________

                          A look of competence came over John Crimson, and Alex saw a spark of what had made him so famous flare to the surface for a moment. "The last time we spoke, you'd just returned from Draconis Mons after a fairly harrowing experience. I know that I, and many of our watchers have been eagerly waiting to hear the full account."

                          Alex let his smirk fade, and then sighed, nodding. "I don't know about the full account, but if you have questions, I'll answer them with as much detail as I can."

                          John Crimson nodded, and continued, flipping very obviously through his folder and tossing cards he'd already read behind him while the crew tried not to laugh. "Very well… let's see...ah!"

                          He traced the words with a finger as he read them. "What we saw on that video was quite an aerial display. Many have been wondering; how exactly do you give commands to a Pokémon that's in the atmosphere?"

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex chuckled, and wrung his hands out of reflex. "You don't really. What you need to understand is, at that point, we'd been living in that mountain for weeks. It was hot, uncomfortable, and what little food we could get was usually pretty nasty. Blaze couldn't leave the mountain, and I had to appear dead so that Lizardon wouldn't have a reason to attack him."

                          Alex paused, for a moment, then continued, "Blaze and Shruikan were doing whatever we could to beat that monster, and free not just ourselves, but the entire mountain. He was dominating all of them, even the dragon types. I told Blaze that, if he flew high enough outside in the sky, he'd eventually run out of air. I guess he remembered that, and figured he could get the advantage on his larger, healthier, and more experienced opponent if he fainted from lack of oxygen. But I didn't command him to do it. Once they Mega Evolved, they were fighting on instinct."

                          ________________________________________

                          The old reporter grinned, and Alex knew what question was next. "I see," he said in his smooth baritone, "So I guess the next question is…how did a wild Charizard Mega Evolve?"

                          Alex gave a mirthless smirk, and then looked into the camera directly behind John. "Well, there are a number of ways. We've seen it before, but only in Legendary Pokémon, and only with a stone containing Mega Evolution energy. My granduncle and I theorized that Lizardon must've had a stone like mine somewhere nearby, and used it on his own. I think he could've been classified as a legendary Pokémon, more or less. His speed matched Latios and Latias, and he was, at heart, half dragon. He lived among dragon types, and literally dominated them. He was a unique case, to be sure, but he lived in a unique environment."

                          John Crimson gave him his best attempt at a knowing look. "I see. A good answer that, but I assume you've heard that many are starting to claim that this transformation was an Act of Arceus. Would you agree with that assessment?"

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex sighed, "No. And even if it was, I couldn't really blame Arceus for bestowing the power. That Charizard was a product of our society. Some rich snot probably thought he'd be the next Champion because he had daddy buy him a unique colored Charmander. He probably lost a few battles, and went back to doing whatever it is rich snots do, abandoning his Charmander."

                          Alex looked down at the floor then. "I've never seen so much rage in a Pokémon before, and when I started to beat him with my Shelgon, he was roaring at the sky in frustration. Even I pitied him then. You didn't have to be a Pokémon to understand that he was asking why he couldn't have been the Charmander who got a skilled Trainer. I don't think he wanted to end up on that mountain, powerful and alone."

                          He looked up at the camera again, staring it down. "But of course, none of the Arceans claiming Arceus gave this power on purpose to wipe out humanity or something, were actually there. They didn't see that part of the fight. I did. And while I pitied him, truly, he was too far gone to ever be reached by a human. In the end, his rage consumed him. Act of Arceus or not, the deed is done, and Lizardon is a threat that Unova won't have to deal with. The Dragon Mountain is free again, and as long as humans have enough sense to stay away, it will remain free."

                          ________________________________________

                          John Crimson sat, listening, fingers entwined as he let his interviewee speak. "I see. Bold words from a strong Trainer." He gave a slight smirk then, his deep tone taking on a humorous tint. "So, how is it you know the mind of the Alpha Pokémon so well?"

                          Alex chuckled, and shrugged. "I don't claim to, I want to make that clear. But, if I were in his position, with the power to help that abused, vengeful Pokémon in his hour of need, I would've done the same thing. Blaze was going to Mega Evolve anyways, as I planned to use the crystal, somehow, just not that early. We wanted to damage him more, then finish him quickly, but fate had other plans. All his evolution did was balance the scales, and Blaze came out the victor."

                          ________________________________________

                          John Crimson nodded. "I see. It's getting late now, and I need a Reuben, so we should wrap this up. A few final questions. What's next? What should your fans be on the lookout for?"

                          Alex blinked, answering before thinking. "I have fans?" He knew he'd been asked for battles, autographs, Holociever numbers, but he always assumed that's just what you did when you met a strong Trainer. Fan clubs were for Champions, no?

                          John Crimson nodded, pointing at words only he could read within the folder. "Quite a few it says here, after that video of your battle. All around the world, in fact."

                          That was when it finally hit him. He was on, live, with arguably the most famous news man on the planet, being watched by uncountable numbers of eyes, in an uncountable numbers of countries. He resisted shivering as he felt a cold chill up his spine.

                          PNN had a presence everywhere, and TV sets sold cheap these days. Then of course, the PokéNet would have this interview on it tomorrow, too. He was on a stage, and a good portion of the Trainer world was probably watching him, either live or in the future. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the sudden feeling of millions of eyes on him. His voice came out shaky, and he had to clear his throat several times.

                          "Wh-what's next…let's see. I'll be hitting the rest of the gyms, of course. Then…Victory Road, and on to the Unova League. I'll challenge the Elite Four, so…I guess I would tell them to keep an eye on the next Champion of Unova." He spoke with what he hoped was confidence.

                          ________________________________________

                          John gave his 'I'm-going-off-script-look' to Alex, and said, "Whooooee. Boys got some balls. Where does this confidence come from, eh? What training method makes you so much better than all the rest?"

                          "Well," Alex said, smirking, "I want to be a master, and I have the skills to be number one. But, I admit freely, that without my friend Nick's training plan, I wouldn't have a chance."

                          John Crimson tilted his gray head. "Nick?"

                          Alex waved his question off. "A friend from University, from my home town in fact. My first year there, he helped me devise a training regimen for my future Pokémon team. Diet, exercise method, everything. It was his goal to be a Gym Trainer, although, not in the Pokémon sense. He trains people, mostly. I followed his plan to the letter, for months, and my Turtwig reached a level of power that beat a Tyrantrum. It's not for everybody though. In fact, you'd have to be insane to even try it…but I managed to survive intact, and so did my partner."

                          In actual fact, the plan had called for even more workouts than Alex had done, no days off, and a diet of strictly vegetables. He'd had to change it up a bit, as he would always be an omnivore at his core. Meat was as much a part of the 'circle of life' as any vegetable, and after raising a grass type, he didn't see a difference between killing animals or vegetables for food. It always came down to survival. You either ate, or you died. Just like his Gruncle had said.

                          ________________________________________

                          His response made the old reporter chuckle, as he clearly understood about a fraction of what he'd just said, and then he closed out the show with his usual catch phrase of 'Stay Classy Castelia'.

                          Before Alex left the set with his granduncle, John Crimson stopped him and said, "Lad, I hear from my loyal man, Danny, he's right over there behind the camera, that you have quite a lovely lady traveling with you." The old five-time Pokémmy winner handed him a dark bottle that was black, light blue, and streaked with gold. "Musk up with this before you see her. It's Luxray Musk. Illegal in nine countries. Makes women crazy."

                          ________________________________________

                          Alex stared at the old man with the glorious mustache that was offset by his crooked bottom teeth for a long time. Then, he pocketed the bottle, and said, "Thank you. I don't really need it though. I actually own a Luxray."

                          "Getting it from the source. I like that. It's smart. But trust me, sixty percent of the time, it works every time." John Crimson winked, as he watched the Trainer leave. Alex shook his head.

                          "He took the bottle." Professor Redwood said, grinning, and the two old timers laughed for a good minute before their aged lungs forced them into a coughing fit.
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                          Old June 5th, 2018 (10:18 PM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                          Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                          Pokefan1337
                             
                            Join Date: May 2018
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                            Chapter 11: Unova, Part 1

                            ________________________________________

                            Basement Level of PNN's HQ - New Tork City, Unova Region

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex thought long and hard about what he was about to say, ironically, more than he'd thought about what to say in an interview on live TV. He considered this next conversation one that was far more important.

                            He was on his way to his dressing room, where he'd left his bag, when he was suddenly tackled from behind. Feeling a familiar press against his back, he grinned, even as dainty hands covered his eyes.

                            "There you are…so…how did I do?" He felt Jess giggle against him.

                            "You're wasting time. Do you know how many Trainers he interviews weekly? You could be in Opeleucid by now." Her tone was teasing, but true. He'd been dragging his feet since coming back from the dragon mountain, and it became obvious why when he'd battled Connor.

                            Now he was dragging again, hoping to run into his friend and travel with him, the way they'd wanted to since they were ten, envious of Trainers in places like Kanto who started so early, without an education.

                            ________________________________________

                            "I have one more thing do here. Wait for me at the Pokémon Center. I won't be long, and then we can get to Driftveil." He felt her nod, and then slide off of him.

                            "I'm going to fly to Nacrene, and get that badge, while you waste time." She bopped his nose, then walked away, swaying her hips on purpose. He shook his head, then continued on down the hallway, stopping when he heard a creepy noise from a dark hallway, leading down presumably to the basement, or sewers.

                            "Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuk." Alex blinked, watching as a literal herd of poison type sludge monsters came towards him. "Mmmmmmmuuuuuuuuuukkkkk!" They cried continuously.

                            Then he understood why, and brought out the bottle of Luxray Musk. They stared at it, their sludge-eyes forming into hearts as they saw it. Finally creeped out, he threw it down the hallway, and he was pretty sure the Muk it landed on was devoured by the others.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex was just about ready to leave the city, after that display. The scent of a Muk was what gave people cancerous tumors in their lungs. If you left it in a sewer, and not open air, at least. This wasn't the first time he'd seen strange places for Pokémon to live while in the city. It was definitely a unique place, with unique people. You couldn't walk down the street without seeing someone his rural townies back home would call 'abnormal'.

                            He stopped again, before descending to the lowest basement where the dressing rooms were. There was a…nagging sensation in his head, like a voice, but not, urging him to come towards it. Normally, his skeptical nature would make him ignore such a strange thing, but he could tell this one was tinged with worry, loneliness, fear, and many other negative emotions.

                            He followed the directions, and instead went to the penthouse of the building. Once he met the source of the nagging sensation, it guided him to another floor, where he surmised the employees of the PNN building lived. Living at work was illegal for many reasons, but only one group got away with it, claiming that their 'beliefs' would be infringed upon if it wasn't allowed.

                            He didn't have to guess which group was using freedom of belief to hide behind and abuse their workers. It was a play straight from the Acrean's own handbook, a titillating read that his Gruncle had a copy of, and had let him read once.

                            ________________________________________

                            Fuming inwardly after what he'd discovered in the two rooms, he once more descended to the basement, and the dressing rooms, two Pokéballs heavier. Several of the gathered aides were female, and rather attractive, but the blonde one who looked disturbingly similar to that girl from that one old farming simulator game, was very obviously holding a can of some kind of spray he had a feeling was made specifically to repel creepy men. She was about to say something, as she saw his eyes, drawn by pure instinct to her generous attributes, when Joey appeared between them.

                            "Oh, Hi Alex. Welcome back. We're here, as you requested." They were all very obviously still on edge, and eyed him expectantly.

                            He was almost tempted to try to poke them, just to see the reaction, but he sighed instead, saying "What have these assholes done to you people?"

                            The tension bled from the room, and the blonde lowered her can. Finally able to tear his eyes from her glorious cleavage, he closed his eyes, letting the pause grow as he calmed himself.

                            This took about half a second as he looked back up at all of them this time, saying "I called you all here because I saw the conditions you're forced to work in, and wanted to help...but then I discovered the conditions I can only assume you're forced to sleep in, as well." The group shared nervous looks. They'd been expecting some strange sexually oriented request, but his tone was veering towards rebellion against their employer. At a normal job, loyalty might have kept them from considering. At this one, fear, and terrible living conditions, usually kept them in line. The blonde girl, despite her looks, was no idiot. She knew a way out when she saw one, and this Redwood had sway with John Crimson himself.

                            ________________________________________

                            The blonde was definitely gorgeous, easily on par with Jess, but his momentary distraction was based on instinct, and those instincts had been controlled years ago, by pure willpower. She raised a brow at him. They all did, as if they didn't quite believe what he said.

                            Alex turned to Joey then when nobody spoke, "I found your... 'apartment'. The door was unlocked, and there were some shady people in there, stuffing your Pokéball into a bag, as there was nothing else of value in there except a sleeping mat." Alex held out the Pokéball. "You shouldn't leave home without it. It's dangerous to go alone." Joey took the ball, and it shook, opening, and revealing a Raticate in a flash of white.

                            ________________________________________

                            Joey knelt down to his friend. "I'm sorry…" He looked up at Alex, "You're right…my Raticate is the best, and he should always be with me. But…" He looked back down at his Pokémon, "The higher ups don't allow us to let them out, or have them on us. This building is owned by the Arcean Church, you see…and they don't allow Pokémon they don't control on their property...and since we all essentially live here and work fourteen hour shifts…we have no choice but to leave them in their balls."

                            The blonde spoke up, then. "Even our bosses don't have Pokémon, but John Crimson doesn't work enough to miss his Ninetales these days. I know that during your interview, he didn't have his Ninetales on him though. Like Joey said, they're...strict."

                            Alex had a good guess as to what she meant by strict. He was familiar with the Church's not-so-subtle punishments, and knew what employees like these risked by asking for a raise, let alone bringing in their Pokémon. The disciplinary actions given out by Arceans were well documented. The Church, of course, denied any such actions were ever given out. They denied any negative allegation. Even when hard evidence to the contrary was readily accessible. It was a good bet that if they denied something, they were responsible for it.

                            More than that, they accused the people who reported these incidents of being the worst kind of scum. Pedophilia, thievery, drug use, any seemingly negative, and usually baseless, accusation they made was a total fabrication. Little more than an attempt to slander people. And yet, many humans bought into it.

                            When a large group of people picketed your neighbor's house and told you they were a pedophile, most people were gullible enough to buy into the lie. It was an effect of being in crowds. He'd written a report on it, once, back in University.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex considered the woman's words. "That means he doesn't have it with him now. Joey. Let's go pay your 'boss' a visit."

                            Joey nodded, and the two left the room, and headed back up into the shooting studio. Arthur appeared alongside Joey's Raticate, acting protective over all of them. He'd had trouble forming his arms into swords, hence his use of Psychic and not Psycho Cut, but it didn't seem to be an issue now that he needed them.

                            He was readying a Night Slash, and as their group reached the studio, a pinkish white energy appeared within the dark energy on his arms, swirling into a Taijitu symbol on each arm.

                            Neither Alex or Joey seemed to notice the swirl of energy, but their audience did. Most of the vacationing elite of Castelia were still there, partying in the now vacated studio, but John Crimson was in a corner, with an ominous older gentleman, clad in a large cloak that looked like it had been purchased from a movie involving one of those classic stereotypical villain types. Alex and Joey walked over to them, with both of their Pokémon out.

                            ________________________________________

                            The older gentleman was wearing a badge upon his chest that very obviously insinuated that he was a 'holy man' of the Arcean Church as indicated by the golden symbol covering the front of it. What was strange, however, was the fact that he was wearing a hood, indoors. A flash of red gleamed from beneath the hood as the man raised his head to examine the two youths approaching him.

                            "Can we help you?" He asked, looking at Joey for an instant before moving his gaze to focus on Alex. Judging by the stoop in his back, and his voice, the man was older than he seemed. There was something familiar about him, in a manner Alex couldn't quite place. The cut of the robe's style, the gold and white mantle that surrounded his shoulders and almost looked like a castle parapet.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex was still smirking as he eyed the man, despite his growing feeling of unease, "No, not really. We have no need for any guidance in 'holy' matters. We're here to speak with Mr. Crimson." Alex pulled out another Pokéball that wasn't his own, an Old School type design that was as fiery as the Pokémon inside it.

                            Ninetales had led Alex into John Crimson's home, and Alex had figured out that the Pokémon had guided him there because 'Tailsy' as he was called, knew that his owner would soon need him. He'd guided him to Joey's Raticate as well. He knew better than to question a premonition of a Pokémon with latent psychic power. The ball opened on its own, and the Ninetales within appeared in a flash of fiery red light. He wrapped his tails protectively around John Crimson, and snarled at the strange old man.

                            ________________________________________

                            The old man glared at the aging reporter. "Crimson...how dare you...you know the rules. Pokémon are not allowed at work, where they can be pushed around, and mistreated...you remember what happened the last time we allowed them. Leaving them at home is for their benefit."

                            John Crimson looked down at his Ninetales, who looked at him at the same time.

                            "Can you confidently say there is no truth in what I'm telling you?" The old man limped towards the reporter, and that was when Alex noticed he had a cane in his left hand, though he couldn't get a good look at it, the familiarity only increased, nagging at his brain to remember why this man looked so familiar.

                            ________________________________________

                            "Pokémon contain unlimited potential..." He continued, in his smooth, charismatic tone made hoarse by age, "They do not belong in human buildings, confined to wandering small spaces for hours at a time, every day. You may think leaving them behind is cruel, but is it not more cruel to have them be bored? Or worse, abused when you're distracted? At least their balls can be infinitely entertaining, and keep them safely in one place."

                            The old reporter kept his eyes on his fire fox. "I...I don't..." He was clearly struggling to argue against the relatively sound logic coming from the man.

                            That was when Alex realized who this old man was, as it all clicked in an instant. "Ghetsis…" He hissed quietly. He finally remembered. Long ago, when he'd been younger, he'd watched a video of the notorious villain, taken by way of camera phone, as he gave his first known public address, back when Team Plasma had appeared honorable, knightly, even kind.

                            ________________________________________

                            He'd used almost exactly the same words, and Alex too had once thought that he'd had a point, even though he'd been young. It had taken his Gruncle to set him straight by reminding him of one simple truth that every Trainer shared, and as he remembered that lecture, he started to repeat parts of it.

                            "Some people have them as pets...others use them to battle...at times we play together...other times, we work together..." The cloaked Ghetsis, Joey, and John Crimson were now looking at him, and Joey was grinning ear to ear. Every kid heard this speech at one point or another. Professors the world over went to classrooms all the time, making sure the next generation understood the world they lived in.

                            Alex stepped next to the old reporter, and put a hand on his shoulder as he quoted his granduncle, "But the most important thing to remember about Pokémon, any Pokémon, is that they're our friends." He turned his glare to Ghetsis then, and Arthur joined him in standing between the man and John Crimson. "There are no bad Pokémon...just bad Trainers."

                            ________________________________________

                            "Nonsense!" The shout from Ghetsis drew the small crowd's attention to their little corner once more, and murmurs filled the air as they noticed the Gallade with the shining arms, and the strange symbol. Gilroy Redwood, who'd been chatting up several older ladies who were gray, but still far too young for him, also noticed the symbol, and stared at it in awe.

                            Few remembered now what the sign of the Unovan Dragon had been, long, long ago in Unova's golden age, but the Professor was a learned man with a specialty in ancient and unique Pokémon, and the myths surrounding them. He eyed his relative with a new respect. Perhaps he would be the one to do it...

                            Ghetsis continued, devolving into a rant as he slammed his cane into the mahogany floor of the studio. "Pokémon are meant to be used not played with! They're incredible sources of energy! Friends...pagh!" He spat on the floor then, glaring at the arrogant Trainer from under his hood, oblivious to the looks he'd drawn.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex turned his hat backwards, but did not smirk. This was too serious. "I knew this 'No Pokémon' rule was tied to Plasma filth..." he said, glaring right back, "The rest of Unova has accepted that Team Plasma was wrong, hypocrite. Move on already."

                            Arthur's eyes glowed with Psychic energy then, and the robes on Ghetsis' ancient body flared up, revealing a full-size team of six Pokémon on his belt. He glared at Alex furiously as the rest of the room noticed this literal hypocrisy.

                            "I'll meet you outside, boy…I will not be humiliated by some child from who-knows-where..." He thumped out of the studio, and down the stairs, muttering, "Not again..."

                            ________________________________________

                            The room went silent. Alex understood then, nobody here was actually good enough to beat Ghetsis, a man known for abusing his Pokémon, and attacking civilians. He'd forced them to follow his absurd rules through fear. Yet another Arcean tactic, straight from their 'Prophet' and his 'playbook'.

                            Alex hurried down to meet him outside, emerging to his Cohagrigus' Shadow Ball as soon as the building's doors opened. Luckily, Arthur was there with his Night Slash from his glowing, swirling arms. A second slash followed the first, slashing right through the tomb Pokémon's ghostly body. It fainted in a single hit, but Ghetsis already had his Bouffalant and Bisharp out. Blaze joined Arthur as Alex threw his ball, giving them the type advantage, as they'd practiced.

                            ________________________________________

                            A pair of double Brick Breaks from Arthur into the charging Bouffalant and his partner damaged the Bisharp, but took down the bull Pokémon completely. Blaze finished off the Bisharp with a timely Flamethrower that was launched so fast mid-flight, it couldn't have been dodged.

                            Their training weights were off now, and they were benefiting from the long hours of wearing them in so many battles with Trainers on the road into Nimbasa, and then the Boulevard to Castelia.

                            As Ghetsis recalled his Pokémon, Alex did the same. This slippery bastard would claim the battle was unfair if he'd left them out during the next round. His notorious Hydreigon appeared, and Alex brought out Shruikan without hesitating.

                            Shruikan had been training solely for the Opeleucid gym, and the battle against the Gym Leader, Iris, and now his weights were off as well. His minor temper flare during the battle with Connor had been smoothed out, and now his sole wish was to evolve. Anything that would help him get experience, he did willingly, trusting his Trainer to lead him on the right path to attaining flight. All he could do now to honor his fallen father was prove that the strength he'd inherited was worthy of recognition.

                            ________________________________________

                            It was clear Shruikan was unusual somehow, his granduncle had muttered something about 'Pokérus' when he'd examined his ball, but hadn't explained what that meant, exactly. Alex figured that only flames from a Legendary Pokémon like a Moltres would be strong enough to evolve his Shelgon, so he'd been listening carefully to the world news, waiting for a bearer of such a Legendary to appear within his reach. For now, a fight against this Hydreigon would be a good test of how much stronger he was after so many battles.

                            Dragon Trainers were common in Unova, and Shruikan had seen some serious battle time. They traded furious Dragon Pulses. Shruikan's was a ball of dense energy, similar to his teammate's moves like Energy Ball and Mud Shot or Water Pulse, but Ghetsis' Pokémon used a stream of that energy, wild and uncontrolled.

                            When Shruikan's attack blocked his so easily, it infuriated the barely tamed Hydreigon, and all three heads attacked at once. Shruikan used Protect, taking the hit, and then retaliated with another dense, swirling Dragon Pulse, scoring a direct hit on the other dragon. It went down slowly, but Shruikan followed up with a Dragonbreath, and ended the round.

                            ________________________________________

                            Ghetsis' Drapion met a similar fate at the hands of Terra's Earthquake, and the old man laughed, then, in disbelief. "I didn't expect to need him for this. This was a routine security check for the building…it should've taken five minutes, and now I'm battling a boy in the middle of a street whose pushed me to this..."

                            It was a summer night, and the foot traffic on the Castelian street had stopped to gather around the two Trainers duking it out. The crowd had only swelled when it heard Ghetsis was involved, his hood now fallen, many people recognized him.

                            What nobody could believe was that another Trainer was beating him, and he wasn't even a Champion. Ghetsis had evaded capture for years because of his power, and now, he was being beaten in public by a nobody.

                            He hadn't intended this battle to last past that first surprise Shadow Ball, but he'd forgotten about the glowing Gallade. The crowd gasped then, as he called out his ace, and Alex stared in horror at the monstrosity they had all heard was long gone. A forced fusion of Reshiram and Kyurem by way of machines.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex knew what he had to do then as he recalled Terra, and brought out Shruikan. As hot as White Kyurem's Ice Burn was, Shruikan could handle hotter when he used Protect, and countered with a Dragon Pulse, hitting the abomination hard enough to stop it in its tracks.

                            Flames burned bright as the body of Kyurem connected to Reshiram's power, and it became apparent that Shruikan had merely stunned the Legendary Pokémon. As it readied another Ice Burn, it gave Shruikan time. The white half of the Pokémon seemed to be reluctant to listen, as if Reshiram was yet within, and aware of his chance at freedom. Kyurem had zero issues taking down a Shelgon, though. Even if it was at Ghetsis' order. The human was strong, and dragons respected strength.

                            The fused dragons had been slowed long enough for Shruikan to aim an attack at the DNA splicer forcing the two together, and break them apart. As soon as that happened, Reshiram was freed, and the monstrosity that was Kyurem roared, freezing the feet of every nearby human before it stomped off to the north, through the city, leaving a trail of icy terrain in a line straight to the Giant Chasm.

                            ________________________________________

                            Life had just begun to return to the chasm, but now, it would surely vanish as the product of man's desire to war with each other, which had split the Unovan Dragon apart, returned with an icy vengeance.

                            Reshiram examined Alex for a long moment, and a noble, strong telepathic voice echoed in his skull, and his alone, "Come to the Plateau...the time has finally arrived...come..." It gave him a last look over, then blasted upwards in a fiery swirl, and headed north as well, but towards the Pokémon League, to his Holder. The Champion.

                            Ghetsis stared at the shattered DNA machines. "You fool…what have you done? You've ruined any chance of uniting the Dragon!"

                            Alex just shook his head. "My truth is stronger than your skewed ideals. You only want the Dragon for power, but the more you take by force, the less you will truly have. Over and over you have been shown this lesson, by each of Unova's many Champions. It ends here. You will never have the chance to cause strife like this again."

                            ________________________________________

                            Arthur held Ghetsis in place with Psychic as Alex freed most of his team from their balls. Cohagrigus and Hydreigon stayed, but the rest left. Not even prison was able to split up master and Pokémon, which meant the guards of their prisons had to be serious Trainers, lest they be overwhelmed. The police arrived with their various partners, as Castelia was quite diverse, and Ghetsis was finally taken away in cuffs. Hopefully he'd stay there this time.

                            With the PNN crew now outright demanding the allowing of Pokémon teams in the building from their Arcean overlords, Alex decided to move on, assuming that their issue with the Arcean's rules was over.

                            ________________________________________

                            Beating one of their enforcers made it clear that he was ready and willing to back them up against any threat they received from Church members, and with Pokémon of their own, he hoped the employees would be able to avoid feeling threatened.

                            He met up with Jess at the Pokémon Center, and the two began the long trek to Driftveil as he explained what she'd missed. They spent most of the journey battling, as always. When they finally crossed the bridge into Driftveil, they headed immediately for Clay's gym which each of them beat rather easily. The Boss of the Underground was old, but not quite ready to retire yet.

                            It was on their way to the southern part of Driftveil that they got sidetracked again. A trio of men were battling in the old World Tournament building's main hall, as the stage was long since broken by the ferocity of the matches there. The new stadium was shaping up to be much more impressive. Still, this old building was used for battling, and today, the famous Triple Trouble Trio were offering a prize before they each finally retired.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex approached the men, and when he asked about the challenge, they revealed that they'd been battling all day, giving out their old elite versions of the Trio Badge, from their predecessor's era. The last ones had never all been given out, as the challenge had ended abruptly, and now these spares were offered by the League, until they ran out at least. They had one left, the pair discovered, and Jess sighed. Alex wanted it bad, she could tell, and his team was itching to battle strong opponents again.

                            She'd finally outpaced Alex, but she saw the look in his eye, and knew he couldn't resist battling them. It was the perfect chance to train every part of his team. The trio accepted his challenge, offering him their final badge if he could beat them in three six on six gauntlets, one battle against each of them.

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex agreed, and Cress was up first. He demanded a double battle, and so Terra and Leo teamed up to effectively wipe out his line up with a few Razor Leaves and Thunder Fangs. Leo covered for Terra's ice weakness by hitting those who might know ice moves first, and his Razor Leaf was strong enough to finish off most of them as well.

                            Cilan also wanted a double battle, which meant that Blaze and Shruikan were up. With a pair of Flamethrowers, Cilan's team didn't even have a chance. That left Chili, and his fire types, who wanted the glory that came with a one on one battle.

                            Such battles also came with humiliation, as Hydrus smashed down each of them with Water Pulses and Mud Shots. Blaze had been watching Chili's match, as he had wanted to battle other fire types, and he was instead astounded to see the little Mudkip he'd never seen as much of a threat, or ally, prove how strong he'd become.

                            Chili then questioned Hydrus' strength, saying that only Rare Candies could've gotten him to such heights so quickly. Alex denied his accusation, and flashed his recently acquired badges. Between road battles and his weight training, Hydrus had become a legitimate threat, and a key battler on his team. Eventually, the hotheaded brother withdrew his accusation, at insistence from the other two. Accusing a Trainer of using such things was serious, and incidents without proof were not taken lightly. One could end up in just as much trouble for falsely accusing a legitimate Trainer.

                            On the other hand, the police and the League had methods to test for such things. If a Pokémon received more than ten candies at once Trainers were issued a fine, and lost their ID, which effectively trapped them, for life, in their region. Trainer IDs were the only way to travel freely between countries connected by the League.

                            ________________________________________

                            With Striaton's Elite Trio Badge in hand, he and Jess moved on to Mistralton, where Alex finished Skyla, and her team of aging flying types single handedly with Leo, giving him some much-needed experience.

                            Blaze had wanted to fight, of course, and hone his aerial skills, but Leo needed the experience more. Jess used her Flaaffy, who evolved into an Ampharos after beating Skyla as well.

                            After getting so far in one day, the pair decided to rest in Mistralton, and while they enjoyed sleep and a dinner, Connor spent the night catching up to them after detouring to Virbank City, for the Elite Toxic Badge, and some training for his Garchomp.

                            Gren had handled Clay, and now Tonitrus, his Elektross, had swept Skyla's gym as well. She remarked that she hadn't seen so many strong Trainers in one season since Team Plasma first formed, and when Connor asked her to elaborate, he learned that he had finally caught up to Alex and Jess.

                            ________________________________________

                            They were away from the Pokémon Center, sparring against each other, alongside their Pokémon. They barely knew the basics of martial arts, but they had once taken such lessons simultaneously at their home town's dojo. Though they sparred hard, their movements were sloppy, compared to a professional, and lately sparring together rather than training specific team members had become more enjoyable, as it often led to other things.

                            Each of their Pokémon was having a battle south of the Mistralton Pokémon Center, atop the large hill. Their Trainers were fighting each other too, and Connor didn't know what to make of the strange sight. He'd never seen a Torterra and a Serperior coaching a Gallade and a Braixen as they battled each other.

                            ________________________________________

                            It was fortunate that Alex and Jess noticed his presence, as the two had been eye-locked for the past minute, and the sparring was devolving into something else. Any later, and her brother would've stumbled on something that would have probably started another grudge match between he and Alex.

                            "Connor…you finally caught up, hmm? Are you after your water crystal, then?" Connor smirked, and shook his head before responding to Alex.

                            "I have a new one. Keep yours. You'll need it more than I will." Alex felt slightly guilty at taking it now, as he had intended to return it. He hadn't even let Hydrus use it, though his Swampert clearly wanted to. Alex scratched his hat, and then turned it forward.

                            ________________________________________

                            Connor continued, "Each Trainer only needs one crystal…usually…and they can Mega Evolve any Pokémon of a matching type. At least that's how they do it in Gaulia. Kalos is catching on, but they still rely on Mega Stones. So really, keep it. I don't mind."

                            Alex listened, shrugged, and then smirked. "Good, you know, I'm glad you'll let me keep it. I learned about these crystals when my family vacationed in Alola for a few weeks, and since then, I've been trying out some new...techniques...with them."

                            He held up a crystal like Connor's then, but instead of blue, it was brown, had the ground symbol within it. "I was actually given this by one of the Island Kahunas…even though I didn't have a Pokémon, and made it clear I wanted a fire type. At the time. Or maybe even a grass type. She just shrugged, and gave me this. I didn't realize what it was until I came back from that mountain…but I convinced my Gruncle to send it to me when I passed through Undella."

                            ________________________________________

                            Connor's face had regained the similar look he'd been wearing in their last battle, a persistent frown, as Alex had spoken. "Wait, so one of the Kahunas just gave you a crystal?"

                            Alex smirked, "No, I helped her hatch a Mudbray. In fact, I spent several days of my vacation helping her out, so that was my reward." He'd been too young to battle, and had accepted the crystal regardless of the fact that he was unable to use it. His Gruncle had liked it, so he'd let the old man hang on to it. Until now. Evidently it was not a 'Z-Crystal', or so the Professor had told him, which probably explained why the Kahuna had given it away relatively easily. His Gruncle had theorized that Z-Crystals might be capable of triggering a mega evolution, but these Plate crystals were different. They came from a much stronger source than Necrozma.

                            Connor crossed his arms. "Well, go on then. Show me this 'new technique'." He was clearly skeptical that Alex had created anything truly new. Finding undiscovered Mega Forms was one thing, but new Pokémon moves were an entirely different trick.

                            Alex chuckled, and responded by summoning Terra over to them, and after mega evolving, the giant grass turtle used the crystal's power to combine grass and ground energy into a single, balanced ball, turning his Energy Ball into a dual-type attack.

                            Connor just stared. "That can't be legal…"

                            Alex shrugged. "Clay did something similar against Blaze when I brought him out to counter the steel type he was using." He smirked, lifting his hat slightly. "After that, I found out that anyone participating in the League's new challenge is allowed to use whatever moves they wish, in whatever manner they please. Technically speaking, what I just showed you is classified as a 'Z-Move'. It's something the Alolan Trainers do. Mine just don't seem to require interpretive dance to use."

                            ________________________________________

                            Connor's frown deepened. "Those moves require motion to unlock them…so how are you bypassing that?"

                            Alex smirked. "You'll find out. My Gruncle gave me some insight about this tournament back when I was learning. He said that it was unlikely that it would ever start up again, but wanted me to know what his master had taught to him anyway. I combined that with the dense energy technique, the one you use too, and that's the move. I asked Clay about it, and he said anything goes in this League challenge. Only the strongest Trainers have a chance of beating it."

                            Connor recalled his Greninja, and left, still not accepting that in so short a time, his rival had gotten so far ahead. Then he recalled the plan, and rightly surmised that since getting his full team together, Alex had begun battling as many people as possible, and trained by himself constantly.

                            Since returning from the mountain, Jess had joined him in said training, and her team had gotten stronger as well. She left Alex atop the mountain to train, and went to prove it to her brother. They were long overdue for a match, and she needed to practice using these new dual typed moves as well.

                            ________________________________________

                            The next morning, as they were leaving Mistralton, and getting ready for another day of hard Trainer battles, Connor joined them again. "I owe you two an apology. I've been acting strange since I got back."

                            He looked at Alex. "I forgot a long time ago, about our promise to travel together…but you're right, we're rivals second and friends first. Teach me what you know. Both of you. Help me catch up." Evidently, Jess had finally, and literally, beaten some sense into her brother.

                            Alex accepted his request for help immediately, as did his sister, and in the first battle they came across, Alex used Hydrus, and mega evolved him for the first time. Awed by how strong his combined water and ground type Water Pulse was, Connor asked again how legal this could be.

                            This time, Alex's opponent explained. She was in the new League challenge as well, it turned out, and ever since the battle against Lizardon had gone viral on the PokéNet, Trainers with such crystals had been using them as Alex had, with varying degrees of success, the world over. The trend was catching on, Professors were scrambling to record all the new Mega Forms being discovered, and as the crystals grew more popular, it seemed they would be even rarer.

                            ________________________________________

                            As Connor continued to watch Hydrus, who stayed mega evolved for most of that morning, he noticed something about the dual type attacks. Other Trainers used them as well, but they looked different from Alex's. That was when Alex decided to stop for lunch, and explain what he and Jess had discovered about those kinds of attacks.

                            Only Pokémon of a dual typing could do them without a partner, and when in a double battle alongside another Pokémon of similar strength, a Pokémon with only one type, like Luxray, could combine attacks as well.

                            With these new attacks, Alex was usually unstoppable. That was largely because his Pokémon had each learned a move that formed their energy into a sphere. Each of them had learned how to condense it, with Terra's instruction.

                            ________________________________________

                            In Terra his Energy Ball had gotten stronger with the ground type, and now in Hydrus, his Water Pulse had as well. Blaze had been practicing forming his Flamethrower into a condensed sphere as well, but without a flying type move that could form a sphere, it remained a single typed attack. As far as he knew, only a move like Aeroblast would suffice, but they didn't have a Lugia around to teach that to Blaze.

                            Leo also remained without a dual-type move, though with his strength and speed powering his Electro Ball, he didn't seem to need one. He'd considered combining Leo and Blaze as fire and lightning, but balancing two spherical moves from two Pokémon was beyond them. For now.

                            Arthur was a walking symbol of his typing balance, even if he didn't know Psycho Cut yet, and Shruikan wouldn't be one until he evolved. His Dragon Pulse remained as strong as ever though. Arthur had focused on trying to make his Shadow Ball a physical move by condensing it, but ghost energy was hard for him to control.

                            His orb was smaller than the others, but seemed to do more damage than an ordinary Shadow Ball, at least. It left him wide open for a counter attack though, as Delphi, Jess' Braixen, repeatedly showed him.

                            ________________________________________

                            "You know," Alex said after pausing to eat lunch, "Nobody ever examined Greninja's new form for a change in type. Judging by those shuriken, I'd say he was part ice."

                            Connor raised a brow at him, "Oh, and your Torterra was examined?"

                            Alex nodded. "My Gruncle examined both him and Hydrus, and both remained part ground upon Mega Evolving."

                            Connor looked at his Pokémon, then shrugged. "I would think the dark typing would make more sense."

                            Alex smirked. "So try teaching him Dark Pulse, and find out."

                            Connor glanced at his starter. "Gren, Dark Pulse." The Greninja sighed, and then formed a ball of dark energy in his palm. He continued to eat with his free hand.

                            Alex chuckled. "Weak. Very weak. You need his full focus for combining the types, he's still mastering this move." Hearing him, Gren's eyes narrowed, and the ball of swirling energy tightened, forming into one similar to his Water Pulse.

                            ________________________________________

                            "I think he's saying he knows how to do that." Connor said, mockingly.

                            Alex's smirk widened. "Alright, now combine Dark Pulse and Water Pulse in one single attack." Gren stared at him for a long moment, then looked away. "That's what I thought." Alex said, still smirking.

                            Connor sighed, "His ice shuriken are just…a trick he knows. They're not a dual-type move."

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex nodded. "They're an ice type move. Meaning he used ice type energy to turn the water into ice. If he balanced that energy with water, then they'd be even stronger." Alex looked at his sleeping starter. "Terra. Show him how it's done."

                            The large turtle rose with a yawn, and then began stomping away beside Gren, to find a spot that could handle the destruction this training would cause. Connor was busy examining his Pokédex, and then made an 'aha' sound as he displayed the page on the only known Greninja capable of mega evolving.

                            Alex shrugged. "Maybe you're right. In either case, combining darkness and water should be quite strong...if you can manage to do it."

                            It was Connor's turn to smirk triumphantly now. "Watch me." He joined Terra and Gren, and had his Pokémon focus on Shadow Pulse instead of his Ice Shuriken.

                            ________________________________________

                            They came to Icirrus later that day, around noon, exhausted from the constant battling on the previous route. They rested at the center then, and Alex left at dusk to challenge the local gym, not wanting to wait until the next morning.

                            He found Jess and Connor already there as well, and discovered what had held them up. The gym was opening for the first time since Brycen retired, and now his son was the new leader, an ice-type user, like his predecessor, his journey around the world's Leagues had just ended, and his team was young and strong. Arthur and Blaze bashed them down, winning the first Elite Freeze Badge.

                            It was in the old style, from Brycen's era, as nobody had ever won his final badge from the last League challenge, that had preceded this one by decades. Connor and Jess received the newer version, and they were assured that all of them would qualify for this challenge.

                            Alex tried to remember just when Brycen had retired, it had been long before his time, and it made him realize just how many Trainers had failed this challenge before. That didn't seem to be the case now, though. Everywhere they went, they met Trainers with crystals and elite badges from all over. Victory Road looked to be quite the ordeal.

                            ________________________________________

                            Most people skipped through Icirrus on their journeys, but during University, Alex had learned that the old gym would be re-opening in late summer. He had expected to have eight badges before that, but the mountain escapade had slowed him down, and the timing was now perfect. They moved on to Opeleucid then, and Alex won handily against Iris with Shruikan, who was as enthusiastic and powerful as Blaze was after so many battles. He was ready to evolve, but he could be patient. He knew Alex was looking for the right flames to evolve him.

                            Jess had caught and evolved a Snorunt with her extra Dawn Stone outside Icirrus, and now her Frosslass and Empoleon swept the dragon type leader as well. Gren was used again, as he had been with Clay, and his Ice Shuriken along with the newly combined 'Dark Water Pulse' swept Iris' team as well. After three consecutive losses, she announced that she was retiring, and left the gym to find itself a new leader on its own.

                            Confused, the gym Trainers, of which there were many, explained that the Elite Four's Marshal had just retired as well, and Iris was probably off in the city with him somewhere. Still feeling kind of guilty for temporarily knocking out the last gym of the region, and the most popular, as it was right before the Victory Plateau, the three Trainers set out on Victory Road immediately with their new elite Legend Badges.

                            ________________________________________

                            As they traveled, Alex instructed his friends on how to properly balance the energy of a dual-type attack. The key was to have your Pokémon summon two large forces of each type, and then combine them in a pattern called a 'Taijitu'.

                            This pattern was, according to Professor Redwood, the optimal combination pattern, and produced the most damage in a battle. It could only be used as a finishing move however, as it left Pokémon exhausted. It was as Alex was explaining this, his voice ringing throughout every cave in the mountain, that a figure appeared by their camp.

                            ________________________________________

                            He was getting on in years, but his hair was still a red mahogany color, streaked with gray. He wore a lab coat, under which he had a blue shirt, and between the edges of the coat, a crest could be seen hanging from a thin rope around his neck. It was the very symbol Alex had been describing.

                            "So, you think you know about the Taijitu moves, hmm?" The man's voice was dripping with sarcastic wit. "What makes you think you kids are serious Trainers?" They held up their collection of badges, and the man scoffed.

                            "Right. Badges. There were eight to get in Kanto. I earned ten." He shook his head. "I know you, Alex Redwood, and I know your granduncle. He hasn't told you anything about this challenge, has he? Just enough to be dangerous. Of course."

                            ________________________________________

                            Alex eyed the stranger, who'd invited himself to their fire, "And who are you then, if you're smarter than my granduncle?"

                            The man grinned. "I'm Professor Oak, one of the people who started the challenge you claim to know so much about." He looked around, and then lowered his voice. "I'm going to educate you, as I can't erase the knowledge you already have. So pay attention, because none of you are supposed to know this yet."
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                            Old June 6th, 2018 (8:13 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                            Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
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                              Chapter 12: Unova, Part 2

                              ________________________________________

                              Victory Road - Unova Region

                              ________________________________________

                              Professor Oak had the three Trainers spellbound as he told them of his adventures as a Pokémon Master. He had caught so many Pokémon, and catalogued so many regions, he considered himself a Professor, like his grandfather had been. Like his grandfather, Gary Oak was considered a 'brilliant mind', compared to Professors like Redwood, who were rumored pedophiles.

                              He went on and on about his superior child-free pedigree for a full minute before Alex interrupted, "So you know about Taijitu moves too? Knowledge is power, but a demonstration is more effective in this instance."

                              Gary Oak smirked at the challenge, and avoided the Trainer's gaze entirely, looking as smug as ever. "Right. You get the point, good job, Redwood. I was talking about this Challenge, and how you knew just enough about it to be dangerous. Courtesy of your relative."

                              Alex rolled his eyes. After that tirade, he couldn't let the insults stand. "I wonder how much you truly know, if you're gullible enough to buy into baseless accusations on the word of a cult."

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex waited, patiently, as Connor and Jess smirked. Both of them had seen Alex's skills from his granduncle's theorizing first hand by that point, and this so called 'Professor' was talking big. Gilroy Redwood was no pedophile, and in actual fact, the idea of combining energy in an attack was brilliant.

                              Professor Oak continued anyway. "This League Challenge is designed to test your aptitude as a Trainer. Usually, Trainers need to beat five or six regions before they start messing with Taijitu moves, because that experience is usually required for their proper use. You're from Unova though, a region where Trainers start when they're older. I saw you in Castelia against Ghetsis, and at each of your Gym battles since. I've watched all three of you. You're all worthy candidates."

                              The three Trainers shared looks as this famous Professor told them how great they were. They focused again as he mentioned the League Challenge, and their Gym battles. Alex raised a brow expectantly.

                              ________________________________________

                              The Professor continued. "Alex, you will find your next step after beating the Victory Plateau. It's the hardest League in the world, and a Champion from there is considered in a level all their own. If you beat the Unovan Challenge, you will be worthy of asking the Unova Champion about the Swamp." Alex wondered at his mention of the Swamp. Was it the Great Swamp that was south of Unova? It seemed likely, but he would wait to find out.

                              The Professor turned to the siblings then. "Connor, your challenge remains in Kalos. Practice what Alex has shown you, until he completes the challenge here. Then return to Kalos and prove yourself. You'll be worthy of the Swamp then as well."

                              He turned to their redhead then, "Jess, you have another year of learning. You'll find your path to the Swamp as well, but the boys will beat you there. Once the summer ends, you need to focus on honing what you have learned, and by the time you graduate, you'll be ready to beat the Victory Plateau as well and join them."

                              The siblings thought on what the Professor had said, and they both replied, "Alright. But we're staying and challenging the League after Alex. We didn't work for these badges for nothing." Professor Oak shrugged. "It won't really matter, and you'll understand why, after Alex wins it. If indeed he can."

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex rolled his eyes. After talking with several Trainers on Victory Road, he knew exactly how the Victory League was structured for this particular test, and he was planning on relying heavily on Arthur to counter the ghost, dark, psychic and fighting types. Once he made it through them, he needed to face down one of the four Champions, who would be using one of the Legendary Dragons. If he could win, he would take the defeated dragon, hopefully after a short rest, to face N, the reigning Champion, who would be using the opposite dragon to the one he would ally with.

                              If one could beat N, the League would recognize them as worthy of this challenge. Hundreds of Trainers had already tried by now, and all had been soundly defeated, unable to control the power of Reshiram's truths or Zekrom's ideals against N, who had mastered both, supposedly.

                              Alex had an idea of what he needed to do to beat N, but Gary Oak didn't need to know that. So he played along with feigned ignorance.

                              Seeing the disbelief in the 'leader' of this little trio, Gary grinned. "Let me see your Pokémon. All of them."

                              They appeared simultaneously, as each of them had been watching the scene from within their balls. The Oak name was a legend to Pokémon, as all who listened to Celebi's stories knew of his grandfather, Samuel Oak and the Trainer who joined him from the future to save the Forest Guardian's life.

                              The Professor eyed each of them, from Alex's Terra to Connor's Garchomp. He nodded then. "As I suspected. All three of you are indeed capable of becoming candidates for the Swamp. Do as I told you, and you won't regret it."

                              ________________________________________

                              The aging man got up and left, then, and the journey through Victory Road continued. Arthur saw the most use, and had by this point become as physically strong as Terra or the others, but still had a weakness in being limited to using Psychic. Once they arrived at the Victory Plateau's building, Alex went in first. The three had agreed to heed the Professor's words, even if he'd come off as a bit of an ass. He was still Gary Oak. The man was no fool.

                              Arthur made quick work of the first three members of the Elite Four, despite their use of mega evolution. Type advantage kept him strong, and between Brick Break and Night Slash, his opponents rarely lasted more than a few hits. The victories only made him stronger, and Alex had him rest up before each match. Through dark, psychic, and ghost types the Gallade had fought bravely, the only unusual thing about their challenge was the fighting type expert.

                              His door had remained locked after each challenge, and before his third, Alex had wondered why. He'd wanted to get the fighting types done with earlier, but now had to face them last. Of all the other types, even ghost, he knew the fighting types would be the roughest on the primarily psychic type Gallade.

                              Fighting moves were fast and hard hitting, and even though Arthur wasn't weak to them, Alex knew his Psychic would take two hits to finish each of them. Which meant several painful hits on his Gallade. He was simply better with physical attacks.

                              ________________________________________

                              As the door to the fighting arena finally opened, Alex strolled in to see Nick, his own physical trainer, sitting in classic 'Bruno-style'. The battle began without a word as Alex realized what this meant. He'd beaten Nick soundly in Icirrus, and now Nick would retaliate. Hard. His intent was on stopping him. Right here.

                              The two had often done this sort of thing, if Alex struck back against him at all, the retaliation for it would be severe and over the line. Alex decided it was time to show him just how outclassed he was. He'd just beaten three of the Elite Four's best teams, after all. Surely his old friend didn't stand a chance.

                              Arthur took down Machamp by making it punch itself four times, then came Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan. Hitmonlee had beaten on Arthur hard before Psychic brought him down, and the Sky Uppercut from Hitmonchan had been surprisingly effective. Arthur went down hard after that, but managed to hang on just enough to stay conscious. He didn't want to stop fighting.

                              Arthur was clearly drained, and Nick had three more Pokémon. Not willing to tire out Arthur completely before the battle against the Champions, he switched in Blaze, whose Wing Attacks, with the weights off, were all but unstoppable.

                              "Next time…" Alex said as Mega Blaze finished off Nick's Medicham he'd nicknamed 'Shifu', "Arthur will take you by himself. You will see without a doubt that the apprentice has become the master."

                              ________________________________________

                              It had been a running joke with them, that Alex had been Nick's 'apprentice' for years, but now he was making it clear who was where on the skill ladder, and judging by the fire in his eyes, Nick didn't intend to stay below him. Alex knew he'd always have a worthy challenge against him, but true to his word, he'd only use Arthur from then on.

                              Alex eyed his Psychic type partner, wondering not for the first time if he should've waited for an Espeon, or found an Alakazam. Alolan Alakazam were the same type, and presumably had stronger 'stats'.

                              But no, he thought as the Pokémon met his stare, and gave him a tired thumbs up, this Gallade had almost soloed the Elite Four. There was no shame in having Blaze finish up the last three. Not this early in their journey. He knew he could rely on each of his team to do their best, and Arthur had certainly done that. He could ask no more.

                              ________________________________________

                              On to the Champion he went, further up the man-made mountain that resembled the Celestial Tower in design. He came to the first level, and saw Hilbert, one of the Champions of Unova. Because of how long the Elite Four needed to recover, Connor and Jessica were forced to wait, so they decided to watch Alex take the challenge.

                              They'd reasoned that he should go first, to see if what the Professor had told them had been accurate. It had created an awkward moment though, when they bumped into each Elite Four member in the League's Pokémon center. They explained to the siblings that their teams needed a lot longer to recover after their battles, as many of them had mega evolved, only to be brought down by the strength and type advantage of Arthur's attacks.

                              By the time the pair returned from their brief intermission, they found Alex in mid battle against Reshiram. The Legendary had already taken out Shruikan, but Blaze was holding his own, thanks to his fire resistance and dragon types moves.

                              ________________________________________

                              He had just managed to hit the giant white dragon with such a move, unbalancing it. It was in that moment that he had the Legendary off balance that he mega evolved with the fire crystal, and after that, they were on relatively equal footing. The siblings were simply watching in awe as they shared a plate of nachos they bought from a strange trio of food sellers.

                              Head to head, Reshiram would always outclass Blaze, even when he mega evolved like this. It was the speed he gained in addition to the power that had them more than matched. Alex had his hat backwards, and had the look he got when he finally got the chance to battle a serious Trainer all over his face. He'd grown up watching the Champions of Unova save their home countless times, and if he was honest, Hilbert was his favorite. Behind N, of course. N had traveled to many regions on the eastern part of their continent, and his fame had only cemented his status as one of the best, easily on par with Cynthia, who had won the last World Championship, cementing her status as the strongest Trainer alive. If N had bothered to use more than Reshiram and Zekrom, that title might have been his.

                              "Now, corkscrew into a Dragon Tail!" Because of his speed, Blaze could swirl in with a high-speed attack from any direction, and be gone before the Legendary had time to use anything more than a Fire Fang in retaliation, which usually wasn't a problem for Blaze.

                              ________________________________________

                              Hilbert's mama hadn't raised a fool though, and he countered, hard. "Fire Fang."

                              Reshiram's maw opened, catching the attack, and whirling effortlessly through the air as he used Blaze's momentum to send him hurtling into the closest stone wall of the Champion's Hall. Blaze was hurt, but not down, even though his tail had a slight burn on it from the sheer heat of the Legendary Pokémon's fangs.

                              For a moment, Alex had wondered if Reshiram's flame would be enough to evolve Shruikan, but he had fainted long before they could find out. He was strong, a good battler, but he couldn't face such raw power unevolved, with only Protect. Dragon Pulse had been too much for him, and there was no way he could attack faster. Not with a shell that heavy at least.

                              This was the seventh such exchange Reshiram and Blaze had gone through.

                              Hilbert sighed. "We're too evenly matched." Alex reached for another ball from his belt as he nodded in agreement.

                              "Hilbert. I'm making this a double battle. I'm bringing in a water type, and I'm telling you about it. Just to make things interesting. What do you say?"

                              ________________________________________

                              The Champion raised a brow, then shrugged. "Fine. Grass it is." He lifted his own hat, so similar in style to Alex's, and revealed a smirk. "Caesar, come forth."

                              There was a green flash from behind the Champion, and a massive Serperior appeared, slithering onto the battlefield. He was at least twice the size of Serpi. The Champion's smirk shifted to a grin. "Mega Evolve."

                              He held out a crystal of his own, green, and with the grass type symbol embedded in it. It was similar to Alex's, the one he used when he mega evolved Terra, and as the grass snake began to shift in form, Alex didn't waste time either. Hydrus had appeared when Caesar had, and now the mighty Swampert was mega evolving as well with the water crystal that had once been Connor's.

                              ________________________________________

                              Caesar hadn't changed too much, his body was still serpentine, but now he had a crest of green that almost looked like armor, and it flared into a pair of green wing-like protrusions on either side of his large, coiled body. His tail had become razor sharp as well, and Alex had a feeling a Leaf Blade from that thing might just be enough to one-hit his water type. Hydrus looked ready to take it however, his new, massive form certainly looked sturdy enough.

                              "Dragon Pulse!" Alex watched Reshiram, waiting for the attack, but he saw Caesar using it as well, and swore.

                              "Hydrus! Ice Beam!" The two pulse attacks had combined, but as they hit the beam of ice, they were stopped cold as type advantage did its work. "Blaze, Dragon Claw!"

                              Hilbert ordered Reshiram back, expecting the Charizard to come after the Legendary again, but he had focused on Caesar instead. Guessing rightly that he'd become part dragon, Blaze's claws struck home, and he torched the giant grass snake with a Flamethrower for good measure.

                              ________________________________________

                              Seeing this, Reshiram had charged Blaze, blue flames forming in his mouth, swirling into a ball of fiery death.

                              "Ice Beam!" The attack from the Mega Swampert hit hard, as the Legendary dragon type had forgotten him for a moment. Reshiram spiraled down as the beam hit it, and then caught his balance. Alex frowned for a second, then silently swore. He was part dragon, part fire…ice wouldn't be his weakness.

                              ________________________________________

                              Reshiram turned his focus on Hydrus, and as Blaze was busy with finishing off Caesar, who was barely fending him off with his singed tail and Leaf Blade, Alex knew no help would be coming for Hydrus. That was fine though, he knew Hydrus was as defensively strong as Terra, if not stronger. Surely, he could take a fire attack.

                              The blue flames returned to the maw of the Legendary Pokémon, and fired seconds later in a brilliant burst of blue and white. They hit Hydrus hard, swirling around him, and Alex knew he was in trouble when the large mud fish fell to a knee, and struggled to rise. Blue Flare was no joke, apparently.

                              ________________________________________

                              There were ways through it though. "Earthquake!" Focusing again, Hydrus slammed the ground with both massive fists, and the entire plateau rumbled as the guided boulders from the attack shot towards Reshiram.

                              The Legendary Dragon was already trying to ascend, but it wasn't quite fast enough. Using Blue Flare had taken a lot of fire power, and the vast white Pokémon's tail had become unlit for a moment after the attack, which was when Hydrus had countered.

                              It was Reshiram's turn to be slammed into the rock face of the building now, and as it slowly pulled from the large crater, it looked up to find Blaze, a smirk not unlike his Trainer's on his face. Caesar had finally fallen, it seemed. A final Dragon Claw ended the match.

                              Hilbert clapped slowly, as Reshiram rose from the rubble, and examined Blaze, who had let the power from the crystal go as the battle ended. The two eyed each other, and Reshiram glowed then, its tail's flame surrounding both of them. It shifted to a deep blue color as the heat intensified, and Alex started to speak up before he saw his Pokémon's face.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Fire types aren't always injured by Blue Flare." Hilbert said, approaching Alex. "In fact, Reshiram can heal them with it, if it chooses to do so." Alex nodded, staying silent, choosing instead to watch the two.

                              Hilbert continued. "You've won the right to use him now, for your battle with N. He'll be using Zekrom. If you can defeat N, you will be the newest Champion of Unova." The Trainer smirked, shrugging. "We had so many Champions already. We needed to make things more difficult, for this."

                              Alex smirked as well, and then shook Hilbert's hand as it was offered. "I'd expect nothing less from the Victory Plateau. It's been an honor battling with you. We should have a proper six on six some time." He recalled his team after healing them up, and even offered Reshiram an Elixir.

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex needed him at full strength for the duel with N. He gave a small wave towards his spectators, all two of them, and then proceeded further up the plateau, to the very top.

                              He could understand why the Champions had beaten Team Plasma. If Hilda was as strong as Hilbert, no team of gangsters would be able to stand against them long. N was supposedly stronger than both of them, the alleged new incarnation of Unova's ancient hero. Alex had been looking forward to this battle for years.

                              As he reached the top of the plateau and looked around, he saw the familiar green hair of Unova's strongest Trainer. "Alexander Redwood." The voice was as charismatic and strong as it had sounded on the TV, where Alex had first heard it so many years ago.

                              A Trainer like N was, of course, famous and loved by the Unovan people, and he'd had many region-saving adventures, often stopping rampaging Pokémon, or shady people from abusing the power of Unova's many Legendary Pokémon.

                              ________________________________________

                              "It's about time you got here. I must thank you for freeing Shiro…I'd been looking for Ghetsis for months, after Kuro and I discovered Kyurem was missing. When Shiro went missing too, I had a feeling he was trying to fuse them all again."

                              Alex shrugged. "It wasn't that difficult…he's not the Trainer he used to be." He looked up at Shiro, and smirked. "I'm glad I was able to help the embodiment of truth."

                              N nodded. "I can sense the conviction behind your personal truth… impressive…you might actually prove challenging."

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex hadn't bothered with shoving Reshiram into a ball, yet, and had instead freed him entirely of the one Hilbert had used. This only seemed to make the white dragon like him more. He'd even spoken, using his latent psychic powers, to thank him for keeping him out of such a confined space.

                              His Gruncle had been right about Legendary Pokémon. They were simply too strong to keep confined to a ball. Trying to shove a force of nature into a pocket dimension was just a bad idea.

                              This was why Trainers weren't allowed to catch Dialga, or Palkia, who had jobs to do and universes to bind together. Other Legendary Pokémon were fine, however. As long as what they caught wasn't integral to the balance of the planet, the League didn't mind you using them.

                              To this day however, Professors could not explain why some Legendary Pokémon seemed to appear in multiple places. For example, the breeding habits of Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno were still unknown.

                              ________________________________________

                              The fact that you couldn't entrap them in a Pokéball however, did not matter to some Trainers. Some Trainers became 'Holders' and were able to summon whatever Legendary they had bonded with and proven worthy of wielding, at will, no Pokéball required.

                              Dialga and Palkia did indeed have Holders, but they wished Trainers wanting to battle them the best of luck. Being able to travel freely throughout space and time made it difficult for those who would challenge the Holders of Time and Space. They could be anywhere, at any time, and they sure hadn't seemed to stick around Earth.

                              They did show up when summoned however, and the only one who could summon them was Arceus…or a clone of Arceus.

                              ________________________________________

                              N proved his own skill by summoning the other half of Reshiram, Zekrom, whom he had nicknamed Kuro. Like Alex, it seemed he'd not bothered with a Pokéball. "Kuro, his truth is as iron…let us forge it into steel…or more likely, break it."

                              Zekrom's roar was the air, and Alex felt a shiver up his spine from the Hyper Voice. A dragon and electric type was a fierce combination, and the only counter to it was a Pokémon like Shiro.

                              Alex couldn't tell which dragon was stronger, and as he eyed the two of them in the same place. In fact, the more he glanced between them, the more he was convinced he was missing something obvious.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Fusion Bolt!" The Champion shouted. Alex raised a brow. Was he really going to start that contest? This early?

                              "Fusion Flare!" Alex responded, and the two Legendary Pokémon bashed against each other uselessly. Reshiram was unharmed, but Zekrom it seemed had, by pure chance, caught a burn. Seeing that losing was now a real possibility, N got serious. There was no point in using Blue Flare or Bolt Strike, not when dragon type moves were so much better.

                              "Dragon Pulse!" The two Trainers shouted at once. The Legendary Dragons responded, but different attacks came out. Shiro's Dragon Pulse had changed, becoming dense, and swirling with the energy of the dragon type move, and the fire type power he was drawing from his new Holder's crystal. This was a new trick, but one Alex was happy to observe, contribute to, and save for later. If his Pokémon could summon half the energy required themselves, and simply take the other half from a crystal, even single typed Pokémon could manage to use these moves. Theoretically.

                              It was too late for N to counter, and Zekrom took the hit hard, landing before N in a smoking heap while Shiro floated above, almost seeming to grin. Often had darkness bested light on this plateau, for many Trainers had truths they believed in, but few even knew what ideals were. N's ideals, what governed his very training style, were stronger than most, and thus, Zekrom responded just as strongly as Reshiram had to N's own truth.

                              ________________________________________

                              The Champion had forgotten, however, what his truths were. He sat on this plateau all day with Zekrom, usually, having forgone any other Pokémon. His ideals kept him stubbornly opposed to carrying them around in Pokéballs, and often the partners he'd had gladly offer themselves for capture, if it was by him, were outright ignored.

                              He'd refused them all, and eventually, they had left. The Pokéball was a device that had been designed by corporations, but had been commissioned by the Pokémon League almost two centuries ago. In those two centuries, training had changed entirely.

                              The pure convenience of being able to take your Pokémon wherever you pleased, and then store multiple once the pocket dimension system was applied to the PokéNet, couldn't be matched. Multiple Pokémon could travel with their Trainers all over the world, rotating in and out, but N hadn't wanted that. Alex had no qualms about it though, and his full team of six Pokémon was very obvious, even under his heavy black, brown, and green jacket.

                              ________________________________________

                              N stared at his belt, and his eye twitched. Reshiram watched, grinning knowingly. He'd finally found the right Trainer to move N past this block…or so he had thought when Alex had beaten Hilbert. Shiro was now convinced that this Trainer had what was needed, what they had previously thought only N possessed, the power to right the wrong of the ancient brothers, and once more unite Unova, and the surrounding regions of the 'States' into a cohesive, enlightened whole, as it had been before it was fractured by war.

                              N had come so close…but in abandoning his Pokémon-team while claiming to hold to his truths, he had ultimately failed. No one had been able to de-throne him however. It seemed that finally, someone had arrived who could.

                              Shiro felt his counterpart stir, and slowly reach this same conclusion. Bonded as they were, N sensed it too…and grew angry. "Hypocrite…" He snarled, "You sit there with a team you're not even using, abandoning them in favor of Holding my Shiro…you're like every other Trainer…you abandon your enslaved friends for a Legendary Pokémon at the first opportunity."

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex's brow rose to Spockian heights, as he'd just noticed N's rage. He'd been enjoying the battle, but something had shifted. Instead of bouncing back, Zekrom had risen slowly, sparking, his power being fueled by N's newest ideal, to never be replaced. It was twisted from his original ideal of never binding Pokémon to balls, but Zekrom was already bound to him.

                              For battle, they were connected on a deeper level, and this connection was now affecting the Legendary Dragon. It figured, for Kuro had always responded easiest to darker emotions. All Alex felt from Shiro was calming peace and light.

                              ________________________________________

                              That was when his eyes widened, a sudden realization completely distracting him from the battle. "Kuro, Bolt Strike!" With the rage that fueled the attack, Alex didn't need to bring up type advantages in his head.

                              If that hit Shiro, he might survive it, but would most definitely be paralyzed. And even one missed move in a battle like this meant defeat. No, Alex decided, that move needed to miss. He took a page from Hilbert's book.

                              "Fire Fang." Shiro's maw blazed to life, and it dodged its counterpart's furious strike effortlessly, and then struck at his outstretched arm, clamping down on it hard with his fangs.

                              ________________________________________

                              Kuro tried to switch arms for his Bolt Strike, but by the time he had, Shiro had already thrown him into the building that housed the only entrance down. Luckily, the viewing for this match was via satellite, in the highest definition of course.

                              Since this new challenge had started, Leagues all around the world had been in a constant state of competition, and all matches against Champions were regularly broadcasted.

                              The siblings took advantage of this, and were watching their friend from the Pokémon Center as the Elite Four recovered, and they all shared Leaf bowls and nachos. Jess had been chatting to, and eager to challenge Hilda, who was also there.

                              They agreed to battle, though the Champion had warned it would be a six on six, and not against Kuro, as he was busy and would need to recover from a fight like this. Every Trainer taking the new challenge had failed to beat this League over the course of the summer, reinforcing the League's title of 'hardest in the world'. Alex had ignored that title however, for he'd already started the Unova challenge, and didn't have time to visit a new region.

                              Beating Hilda, Nate, or Rosa would solidify their records as serious Trainers, but ultimately do little more than add to their Elite Four wins. The title of Champion, for this challenge, could only be given once. N had remained unbeaten all summer, living up to the legend he had built for himself.

                              ________________________________________

                              Watching Kuro in his enraged state, Alex began to understand Professor Oak's words. If his new idea, the product of his realization, actually worked, the challenge for the Unova region wouldn't be able to be completed more than once. He briefly wondered how Jess would ever reach the aforementioned Swamp, but resumed his focus on the battle as Kuro attacked again with a Dragon Pulse. This was it, then.

                              Alex smirked, and Shiro responded with his own densely compacted Dragon Pulse. He'd figured out how to do it after one demonstration from Terra, proving just how exceptional Legendary Pokémon could be. Alex had wondered if Arceus had the same similarities. He was a deity no? He had to already know something as simple as condensing a pulse attack. Right?

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex had Shiro combine his power then. Being a Legendary, he could raise a crystal's worth of Dragon power easily. The Firium crystal compensated, and his next Dragon pulse was once more part dragon, part fire type, and more than Zekrom or N could handle after all the intense battling.

                              Shiro's balanced dual-type attack again brought Zekrom low, and he crashed again into the Victory Plateau's harsh terrain. He struggled to rise, and then fainted. The red fury from N was cut off, and his eyes lost their enraged glow. N was still furious however. "This isn't over! You will not replace me!"

                              N dropped into a martial stance, but Shiro descended between him and Alex before N so much as moved. With almost a field between them, Alex did not hear what Shiro told N, but after, N calmed, and walked over beside Shiro.

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex had gone to Kuro, deciding that earning its trust now would help with his idea. It worked, and the deep black Pokémon thanked him as Shiro had when he was given a Max Revive, and an Elixir as well.

                              "You did it." N said. "You're the new Champi-" He paused, as there was a beeping from his pocket. After checking his Holociever, Alex's started ringing as well. It was his loving girlfriend, of course, as always with impeccable timing. He didn't care if N was interrupted, he'd still become the new Champion.

                              "Jess. My reason for existing. What is it?" She was having none of his attitude though, distracted as she was.

                              "If you two are done slamming dragons together up there, we need the Champion down here. Kyurem is on a rampage. It wasn't able to freeze the Chasm again, and now it's furious. People are dying, Alex. We need the dragons."

                              ________________________________________

                              N and Alex shared a look, and then N sighed at his device, and shut it down, ending the contact. "You heard them. They need the dragons, Champion. Go. Save Unova."

                              Jess made an 'o' face as she overheard N, and then looked excited. "You won!?"

                              Alex winked at her, then closed the phone. It wouldn't end the call, but N didn't need to know that. He also knew Jess would kill him if he didn't share something this good.

                              N looked depressed, almost pitiful, as he realized he wasn't needed anymore, that he'd somehow failed at being Champion. Alex patted his shoulder. "They'll need you, too. Don't sell yourself short, you're the hero of Unova. My victory isn't going to change that. You didn't fail at your duty…you just didn't finish what you'd started."

                              ________________________________________

                              N blinked slowly. "What…I started?" Alex pointed at the two dragons then, smirking.

                              They had told him they approved of his plan, after a brief telepathic conversation, and their good mood was infectious. "With them. You kept them separate, all these years. They're meant to be One, you brilliant fool. Until your Team Plasma awakened them, they were fine existing apart. Now that they're awake, and at peace, they wanted to become themselves again. You woke them up and calmed them into a state of balance, but simply never finished unifying them, and thus fell out of balance. Without unity, one side eventually takes over the other. For you, it was the darkness."

                              N stared at the new Champion. "What?"

                              Alex simply chuckled. "Hop on Kuro. I'll show you what I mean." Alex hopped on Shiro, and together, the four of them soared down the Victory Plateau. Alex had a feeling a certain fiery redhead would be calling whoever owned those satellites that had broadcasted their match, and demand they follow them. She needn't have bothered however, as the recording had continued, and would continue, until N fully declared Alex the Champion.

                              ________________________________________

                              That was their excuse for it anyways. Pokémon League monitoring was a boring job most days, and the men monitoring the intense match would take any excuse to not cover the drudgery of the minor League challenges after this battle resolved itself. Or so they would tell their boss.

                              In reality, it was the League cameraman's desire to take a break during what he assumed would be another loss to N, and leave the cameras on the Champion and the Challenger, that would lead to the recording of such an historic moment.

                              Kyurem wasn't hard to find, as its path of destruction was obvious. The frosty dragon had returned to his old stomping grounds, Lacunosa Town, a strange little place that had lost so many children to Kyurem, they had legends about him.

                              Instead of simply abandoning the settlement, as anyone with any sense would do, the people had stayed, at the behest of the Arceans, and their Church. They had claimed that if the townspeople but believed in Arceus as they did, he would shelter them from the monster.

                              ________________________________________

                              Over time, children stopped playing in the woods because of the town's high walls, technology had advanced, and portable tech was all anyone that young cared about as they were, of course, watching Pokémon battles live, all over the world. This peace is what had lent the Arcean Church credit for a 'miracle', for after they'd established a small church in the town, Kyurem hadn't taken anyone. The people of Lacunosa had become devoted Arceans, and with that devotion, Lacunosa had become a very…strange place, as the base of the Arceans in Unova.

                              They'd always wanted a base in the east after infecting the western coast, they'd finally gotten one. They claimed to have facilities the world over, but Alex had discovered during his research that the majority of them were actually entirely empty buildings, run by literally nobody. He'd even visited one, out of pure curiosity. The lights had been on, but nobody had been inside.

                              ________________________________________

                              Lacunosa Town had, as the Arcean's base, received an influx of Trainers from the Fornia region. Nobody knew what they were up to, only that they frequently visited the Chasm. This is how Kyurem became embroiled in an enormous battle that led to the deaths of hundreds of young Trainers. He'd stomped over to Lacunosa from Nimbasa, and hadn't done much the first pass through.

                              Once he'd discovered his Chasm however, he'd entered a state of rage. Lacunosa Town was a perfect incubator for the Arcean's strange and oppressive style of belief and living, as they'd moved in and taken advantage of the walls, and turned the once peaceful town into a functional prison for those who had once called it home. Despite their apparent conversion, the original residents had been treated poorly.

                              From Lacunosa, the Arceans had ordered their aspiring Trainers to visit the Chasm regularly, and catch as many Pokémon as possible. The wild ones there were quite strong, thanks in no small part to Kyurem itself, and upon seeing its friends being captured en mass as it returned, the ice dragon had made the Trainers responsible pay for it. Catching a few that jumped out of the grass was one thing. Those Pokémon usually wanted a human to train them. What the Arceans had been in the process of doing had been systematic, thorough, and all but robbed the area of its natural inhabitants.

                              ________________________________________

                              Kyurem, enraged, had headed for where the Arcean Trainers did as they ran from him in terror. Now, devout Arceans were being slaughtered, along with their guards, as Kyurem's Glaciate all but eradicated the town. Something similar had happened to Opeleucid, and while many people would be safe for a time in their homes, or be able to be thawed free in the coming days, many would simply die in that ice. It was why Unovans didn't upset the balance between the dragons, and why Ghetsis was now serving life in prison. But who knew if he'd actually stay there.

                              By combining Reshiram and Kyurem through force, the darkness that was also a part of Reshiram was pulled forth by Kyurem, and turned into a monstrosity. Combining Reshiram and Kyurem had weakened the light's power, and allowed Ghetsis' organization to take root in Unova, the unofficial capital of the north and eastern regions. Now, Zekrom had been stronger, and so Alex had appeared, providing Reshiram the strength it needed to be back in balance with Zekrom. That had not extended to Kyurem though. Calming its rage would be quite difficult.

                              ________________________________________

                              Alex and N arrived on the scene to find Kyurem nestled in an enormous crater of ice. Because of the town's tight knit construction, it appealed to both the controlling Arceans, and the wandering Kyurem, who made it into a new icy cavern.

                              "We have to smash the top of that before it freezes completely. Or it will never melt." N spoke quickly, guilt all over his face. Had he been paying attention, he would've surely gotten here sooner. The Victory Plateau gave one a large view of the entire region, and you could even make out Castelia's spires from the top.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Shiro and I will handle it." Alex said, knowing the fire would be quicker. "You go in through the 'entrance' by the Pokémon Center."

                              N wanted to salvage this town, but to Alex, it was a den of corruption, now frozen, that he'd just as soon let freeze. He didn't like Arceans, but they were still people. He also needed Kyurem, and if his plan succeeded, the town would likely be saved regardless.

                              ________________________________________

                              Shiro's blue flames melted the ice near-instantly, the only reason he hadn't used Blaze instead, and Kyurem was below them. It roared up at them, and as it did, Zekrom flew in with a Bolt Strike, upper cutting the hollow ice type in the jaw.

                              Alex winced. They needed dragon type moves here, or at least fire. Electric attacks were not very effective, a fact made evident by Kyurem's slow turn towards Kuro and N. Alex summoned Blaze then, and together, he and Shiro used Flamethrower to hit the dragon and ice type.

                              Alex had taught it to Shiro in favor of Fire Fang, as it was much stronger, and more useful for a Pokémon with strong special attacks. Kyurem went down hard under the twin torrents of flame, and Alex dropped to the ground, running towards N and Kuro.

                              He looked at Zekrom as it spoke into his mind, then glared at N. "You have a what? Give it to me. Now!" N looked confused for a moment, before Zekrom informed him of what the new Champion needed.

                              ________________________________________

                              "What? I'm not giving you that! I need it…" he let his sentence trail off. Alex had beaten both Hilbert and himself. Technically, he now was the Holder of both dragons. Which meant the crystal was his.

                              Sighing, N handed over a deep bluish-purple crystal, the symbol of the dragon types embedded within it. Dragon types were the rarest of Pokémon, and naturally, the pieces of a fallen Arceus' dragon plate were just as coveted, and rare.

                              They were so powerful, that an order of Dragon Masters had arisen for the sole purpose of keeping those crystals from the hands of dark minded Trainers. They didn't stop them from taking other crystals, though they confiscated them when they could, but the dragon crystals were by far the most important to keep safe.

                              Alex took the crystal, then looked at N. "You'll have this back, I promise. I just need it for a minu-"

                              N interrupted him. "Keep it. I no longer need it."

                              Not knowing what to say, as he was technically correct and pointing that out would be awkward, Alex simply nodded. "Very well…I'll be sure to use it wisely."

                              ________________________________________

                              He turned to Kyurem then, who had almost freed itself of the Flamethrowers, and even Zekrom's Fusion Bolt, which lanced from his maw in a streak of electricity. "Kuro, use Dragon Pulse, you too Shiro. Terra, Energy Ball, Hydrus, Mud Shot, Leo, Thunder, Shruikan, Flamethrower, Arthur, Psychic."

                              He called out each of the moves, and each of his team appeared as he called them. He weaved their energies together with the Dragonium, forcing the Legendary ice dragon down under the force of so many powerful and varied attacks. Alex approached, holding the dragon crystal in his palm.

                              He showed it to Kyurem, and the Legendary Dragon paused in his struggling.

                              "Cease." Alex said, and the attacks stopped. The dragon-ice type rose, looming over him. He nodded then, smirking, and turning his hat back, only to find that it was already backwards. "I understand." He said as he adjusted his hat, pretending he'd meant to do that, instead.

                              The ground shook as ice erupted and grew all around them. A gateway of sorts appeared by the entrance N and Kuro had used, and Kyurem walked backwards, slowly, then hunched down into a battle stance. He was inviting the human to face him. Properly.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Shiro, Kuro, you will help me battle him." The two dragons stepped forth, and it was on. Kyurem's Glaciate was the first move, and it assumed the only move it would need. "Blue Flare!" Shiro's flame burned through the attack, protecting Zekrom from his weakness, and doing minimal damage to him.

                              Fire always beat ice. The area not protected by Shiro was completely frozen however, and the move had one-hit Arthur, Blaze, Shruikan, Leo, and Hydrus, but not Terra, who had latched onto the grass crystal's power in time to mega evolve. His ability protected him from most of the damage, and he was still raring to counter-attack.

                              "Heal them." Alex said, pointing at his frozen team. "Terra." Alex blinked at the refusal.

                              "What? Oh." He saw that Blaze had actually hung on as well, and was now restoring himself, for a time, with the fire crystal. That restoring heat from his Mega Form was spreading to the rest of the team as well. All but Arthur and Shruikan had endured, and not fainted, but had simply been frozen. Once Blaze thawed everyone free, Alex recalled his team, and refocused on Kyurem.

                              ________________________________________

                              The insanely powerful dragon-ice type roared, and the two dragons roared back. Ice shot up behind them, locking them in, and once more, fire ice and lightning met in a collision of power. Alex glanced at what Kyurem had wrought, and though the circular town seemed more like a prison, to his eyes, it could almost be a stadium.

                              Later, he would learn that there had indeed been eyes to feel, as this time he was live, and very clearly seen. He'd made himself presentable for the League Challenge, and now, looked like he'd never lost a game of 'who's the protag' as he stared down the giant hollow abomination. The League's floating camera monitor continued to record, despite the ice. It was strong, but clear enough to see through. Kyurem wanted those present to witness this battle.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Shiro, Dragon Pulse…Kuro, Mega Evolve." Shiro launched his newly perfected dragon move at Kyurem, who took it head on, and looked seriously injured by the attack. A hollow hole had appeared in his head, in the crest of ice, but the unbalanced spirit would not be cowed so easily. As a Glaciate was launched in response, it was blocked by the still cone shaped Dragon Pulse of Mega Zekrom.

                              Zekrom needed to be able to balance his energy as Reshiram had, or Alex would lose balance as well. Allowing the mental contact between himself and the black dragon, Terra gave the knowledge freely, trusting the Legendary Pokémon to use it for the good of them all.

                              ________________________________________

                              "Now Kuro, balance your energy. Dragon Pulse!" A ball of electric energy swirled in the dark dragon's maw, and it was joined in a Taijitu swirl by the dragon type energy that was coming from the Dragonium, and fueling his mega evolution. "Shiro. Mega Evolve!" Again, Kyurem was unbalanced by the massive dragon and electric attack as it struck home. Kuro had focused on drawing electric power, and the Dragonium had given the rest.

                              And now Reshiram joined its counterpart at the same level of evolution. Their forms did not change much, save that they now each had a balanced swirl of their counterpart's coloring on their torsos. The Dragonium was providing the energy for all of this. It was, after all, only two thirds of a Pokémon he was evolving, and each of them drew from the same stone.

                              Now in their true forms, the two Legendary Dragons forced their empty, frozen shell into submission. Kyurem stared down the Trainer who had managed to subdue him so handily with the separated avatars of truth and ideals. A deep voice rang through the colosseum-shaped crater of ice, "You...have nerve...thinking to unite what has been broken..."

                              ________________________________________

                              "That was a long time ago..." Alex responded, holding the Dragonium crystal up to the Boundary Pokémon, "It is time for you to become One once more. Humanity will never sunder you again. Not while I yet draw breath, anyways." Kyurem looked ready to attack for a moment, then nodded, lowering its head and touching its snout to the crystal. It too, mega evolved, and of the three dragons, his form changed the most.

                              Kyurem had always been front heavy, with small arms and powerful legs, like a Tyrantrum, but now, its arms became longer, sturdier and ended in claws similar to his feet, the 'wings' on its back became even lengths, and rose from the base of his neck, which had also lengthened, and come up from his torso.

                              His body was now more akin to that of a Tropius than a Tyrantrum, and as Mega Kyurem turned its gaze to its two counterparts, the three spoke as one. "It is time."

                              ________________________________________

                              Each of Kyurem's 'wings' shot towards Reshiram and Zekrom, connecting to the Taijitu swirl on their stomachs, and the Dragon Crystal flared again as they used its power to once more become whole. The flash of blue and purple dragon energy fused them, and blinded those who tried to stare into the fusion. Finally, the light faded. Alex lowered the arm he'd used to shield his eyes, and gasped at what he now saw. The Unovan Dragon had returned.

                              Mega Kyurem had provided the boundary needed to keep the two other parts of itself in balance, and now once more, a golden age would rain over this land. Its typing had been fused by dragon, and thus had been lost in the final reforming. Fire, electric, and ice were now balanced in one draconic looking being who was as light as he was dark.

                              Alex and N knelt, awed that they were in the presence of this legend, appointed by Arceus to safeguard their continent so very very long ago. He had four limbs still, and his wings sprouted up from the base of his neck. The scales upon them were as white as Reshiram, but the webbing was as dark as Zekrom.

                              The Taijitu symbol, in black and white, was imprinted on the dragon's forehead. His snout was long, and had two long tendrils that dangled down from it. His claws were fire, his breath sparked with electricity, and the crest that surrounded and formed his horns, and ran all the way to his tail, was made of pure ice. N stared at Alex, conflicted, and yet balanced, in his dislike and admiration for this random Trainer. For this Champion of Unova, worthy of the title of Hero.

                              ________________________________________

                              The great white scaled dragon, whose underbelly was also black, leaned down to Alex, and in his golden eyes, he saw the eternal balance this being had enjoyed until humanity ripped him apart for a few millennia. "You are my Holder now, human. See that you do not ruin my perfection by splitting me apart again."

                              Alex smirked. "Don't worry, Tao. I shall see to it you remain whole." Enjoying the sound of his newest nickname the dragon grinned, and Alex focused on reviving and healing his team. His bag made him a walking Pokémon Center, but no amount of Max Potion could pass for genuine sleep at a real center.

                              He kept looking up at the massive dragon, and then realized why the statues in the Opeleucid Gym were not shaped as Reshiram and Zekrom had been. They had been carved in Tao's image, clearly, but evidently humanity had forgotten.

                              ________________________________________

                              With a glance, the First Dragon melted the ice his empty shell had created around Lacunosa Town. As the ice faded, the inhabitants slowly came out of their shelters, and many of the outraged Arceans were stopped mid-tirade as they witnessed the return of Unova's Dragon. He radiated a sense of calm that not even Arcean indoctrination could overpower.

                              Alex felt it most keenly, as he and N rode upon his long back. The energy from this dragon made him feel like he wouldn't need sleep for a month, so closely were they bound now. That bond was a safe, balanced center he could always come back to, if he focused, a gift that would be invaluable in the trials to come.

                              Tao flew them northwards, and then to the east, over the trail of destruction Kyurem had caused, and though many of the humans that had been caught in his ice attacks thawed harmlessly, as they approached the Giant Chasm, they saw that many others had not. The initial Glaciate had been truly powerful.

                              ________________________________________

                              Tao landed in the icy crater now, the long tendrils from his snout touched the bodies of many fallen Pokémon as they thawed, and then retracted in sadness. "What happened?" N said, astounded by the damage.

                              Tao snorted flame, then looked saddened again as his eyes were drawn back to the destruction. "The Arceans happened. This was where your predecessors split me apart, so very long ago. It was where the shell of myself, Kyurem, was most at peace."

                              It arrived, and found a group of them capturing Pokémon who had returned to live here, and dragging them back to Lacunosa Town..." As Tao spoke, the memories flooded into the heads of N and Alex. They saw what Kyurem had, and N grew angry.

                              "How...dare...they..." He said, sharing in the rage Kyurem had felt. Alex felt it too, though he was more saddened than anything.

                              ________________________________________

                              "That explains it then...with Ghetsis holding White Kyurem, the Arceans assumed the Chasm would be unguarded. Who knows how many Pokémon they managed to haul off before I split them apart..." Alex hopped down from Tao's back, and looked around, sighing. "Can you do anything for the land?"

                              The long-bodied dragon lowered his head next to his Holder's, and seemed to smirk. "Do you think I would have come if I could not?" Alex blinked, and the dragon raised his head again, surveying the land. "Once, Unova was golden. The land was bountiful, and Pokémon and humans lived in harmony...it took many millennia, but despite my absence, you managed to achieve that balance again. More or less."

                              His wings raised into the air then, revealing a white circle pattern of scales on his right side outlined by black, and a black circle on his left that needed no outline on his white scales.

                              ________________________________________

                              The tendrils from his snout grew longer, and moved back to link to both circles, and the dragon began to glow with golden light. "Behold," he thundered, "The return of Unova's Golden Age!"

                              His wings flapped, the power dispersed into the ruined landscape, and the very dirt began to shift in color. Grass returned then, appearing gold, and new trees budded from the seeds of the ones that had fallen to Kyurem's unbound rage. With time, the chasm would heal.

                              Alex and N returned to the dragon's back, and as they ascended, the two humans watched with awe as the dragon continued to smirk. They were so very easy to impress. The literal golden glow was spreading from the Chasm, from Humilau, to Mistralton, the land would once more enter a seemingly literal golden age.
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                              Old June 6th, 2018 (11:03 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                              Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                              Pokefan1337
                                 
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                                Chapter 13: Unova, Part 3

                                ________________________________________

                                The Dragonspiral Tower - Icirrus Town, Unova Region

                                ________________________________________

                                The return of the Unova Dragon had been televised, thanks to the League's cameras and their auto-pilot function. Naturally, it ended up on the PokéNet a few hours later, and soon the world knew. Alex Redwood had brought the Unovan Dragon, Tao, back into balance.

                                Once more the land took on a golden hue, and peaceful emotions reigned across the region. A holiday was declared, and everyone took the day off, bringing the region to a standstill, as the reformed dragon returned to the Dragonspiral Tower with the new Champion upon his back, after leaving N at the Victory Plateau by his request.

                                John Crimson was there, of course, eager for the story, only to have Alex remind him that it was all readily available on the PokéNet. He did however, mention that one of the Arceans at Lacunosa had tried to saddle him with a bill for damages, with a price tag that was a good number of zeroes above what anyone sane asked for, or even needed.

                                ________________________________________

                                Most of the damage was ice related, and since the ice had melted in Kyurem's absence, he didn't see the issue. Some Trainers between the Chasm and Lacunosa had lost their lives, but through Tao's power, many of those trapped by Glaciate had been successfully revived.

                                Given that most of the injured were Arceans, they were, of course, looking to sue someone. It was what they did, whenever anything even remotely bad happened to them, or their group. This tendency to go after whoever they could pin the blame on legally, and win, had led to most groups of note avoiding the zealots entirely. Nobody wanted to deal with them, or their crazy habits, for good reason.

                                In the past, the Arcean's legal team had 'miraculously' found documents that would often support their legal battles, and it was no coincidence that most of the judges who presided over their legal cases were rich enough to retire not long afterwards. The tactics of bribery, blackmail, and planting evidence didn't always work, but they worked often enough, and even if their involvement was discovered, anyone going after them was labeled a bigot, and claimed said person was infringing on their spiritual beliefs. Rather than attacking organizations, the Arceans had entire divisions of their government devoted to picketing houses of naysayers, and spreading foul rumors about the inhabitants. Pedophilia was a favorite accusation, but thievery, corruption, and even incest made their appearances. Thankfully, they hadn't had time to pin Alex with any of that before Tao had carried them away.

                                ________________________________________

                                All in all, it was a frustrating way to end such an epic day. The whole challenge against the Four had taken most of the morning, Shiro and Blaze had fought well into the afternoon, and by the time Alex had beaten N, and Kyurem had attacked, the sun had started to set.

                                Deciding that these zealots could try to bill him on literally any other day, he had taken off on Tao with his literal childhood hero, N. The One Dragon headed to his old seat of power, from which he had once dispensed wisdom and knowledge to Unova's Trainers. Alex had always wondered what the Dragonspiral Tower had been for, but he had no idea how integral he would be to reviving it.

                                As they came upon the large, castle-like structure, Alex felt the dragon sigh as his calming mental baritone echoed in his skull. "I knew it had fallen into disrepair...but this will take some time and effort to fix."

                                Alex had given the dragon a comforting pat, though he had no idea if it had been felt. "Worry not. I'll help, where I can. I'm sure they will too." He said, pointing to the milling crowd of Unovans below. Icirrus was flooded with people, and they all cheered as their Dragon God of legend returned home, at last.

                                ________________________________________

                                The media beat them there, somehow, and John Crimson repeatedly asked Alex to explain the concept behind his fusing of the three Legendary Dragons. He had to explain several times before the silver fox and the reporters around him grasped it enough to parrot back to their audience.

                                It was fair to say that most Unovans had no idea how Alex had balanced the dragons, but most didn't seem to care right then. The One Dragon had returned. Unova's Golden Age had started again. Many of them had been waiting for this for decades now, but they had expected it from N.

                                Nobody outside the Trainer world really knew who this 'New Champion' was, only rumors that he had supposedly beaten both Hilbert and N, on top of the Victory Plateau's Elite Four. A few recognized him from PNN's interview, but John Crimson had already interviewed three other up-and-coming Trainers since. His had been easily missed. It was always available on the PokéNet though.

                                ________________________________________

                                The celebrating of the One Dragon's return lasted a week, the last week of August, in fact. Almost a year to the day since Alex had first caught Terra. Alex spent that week by Jess' side as much as he could, putting off asking N about the Swamp. If they had to part, he could deal with it later. Mostly, they clung to each other as often as possible, in an endless game of hiding from her brother, who caught on to their antics almost immediately.

                                With the final two parts of the Victory League's special challenge now unable to be completed, Connor and his sister challenged the Elite Four, but had to settle for Hilbert and Hilda respectively. N had no other Pokémon, and Tao had made it clear that Alex alone had earned the right to use him in battle.

                                Alex had even selected a suitable Taijitu swirled Pokéball of black and white to stay in, when necessary, but both he and his Trainer agreed that he should interact with Unova as much as possible.

                                ________________________________________

                                Despite the semi-chaotic state of the Elite Four, Jess and Connor gained a League victory on their battle records, but N refused to tell either of them about the Swamp until they either had four more victories, or accomplished something as legendary as reuniting the First Dragon.

                                The crowd stretched from Mistralton to Opeleucid as Trainers came to see the reformed dragon, and hopefully catch a hint of his great wisdom. As Legendary Pokémon went, Tao was friendly, and could speak to them, which made him unique, and immensely popular.

                                Most Legendary Pokémon were shy, or angry towards humans, and could be enormously destructive without a guiding hand. Many of the Legendary class Pokémon had latent psychic abilities, allowing basic telepathic speech. Even then, many did not use them. With humans. Tao had never liked that approach though, and had always wished for closer ties between humans and his own kind.

                                ________________________________________

                                Tao spent his energy on rebuilding the tower, which had long since fallen into a state of near-constant disrepair, and became little more than a hangout for ghosts and wayward dragon types. He kept everyone but Alex from the tower as it was re-worked into what it had once been, and every so often, Alex would appear to ask the celebrating crowd outside the tower for a particular Pokémon move, or item that Tao needed. They usually had it ready for him, as the crowd had swollen to a massive size now.

                                Over time, Tao would stare out at the crowd, until he sensed one of the millions of humans swarming around them that actually had potential. He would single that person out, and offer them a chance to learn his Way. It was said that, with enough training, the disciples of the First Dragon would gain unnatural power. In modern times, such people were called 'psychics'. This was something only mentioned vaguely in the region's lore, from the era before the brother's war, and thus, all who were given the chance to learn, took it. One simply did not turn down the chance to be a vessel for the Dragon of Unova.

                                Thus, Alex had more and more free time to spend with his woman, but with so many eyes around the rapidly reforming tower all day, they'd resorted to sneaking north with their Charizard in the night. A small mountain range, nothing like the one up by the University, separated 'northern Unova' from 'Unova Proper'. It was in those foothills, they'd carved out a cave to chill in all night. It was a bit of a nostalgia trip for them, as that very area had been where they'd first met. The new World Tournament building was also nearby, but rumor said it still wasn't ready yet.

                                ________________________________________

                                The re-working had taken a few days, and in that time, much of the region had condensed itself into this usually sparsely populated area. Everyone wanted to be worthy of the great wisdom the Unovan Dragon possessed, and if they weren't here for the dragon, the Trainers in the crowd usually wanted to challenge the new Champion. Word had evidently gotten out about his winning streak, and as usual, the Trainers of Unova were determined to break it.

                                Alex had welcomed the challenges, though they took up time. He let Blaze and his other Pokémon battle to their heart's content, as most of the Trainers simply were not on their level, but he was usually just constantly busy working with Tao.

                                ________________________________________

                                He'd barely slept since he'd started work on the tower, though it was mostly Tao who worked. Strong as Alex and the other humans were, they were simply incapable of digging through millennia of rock and soil buildup. The Unovan Dragon, however, made short work of all of it. He'd smashed through the 'puzzles' of each floor with mild irritation, and had reformed the rooms into the designs they'd once had. The restoration had picked up considerably, once Alex and the others didn't have to hop around all the time.

                                Tao didn't exactly need help, either. He alone could sense what needed to be where in order for the tower to regain its 'Feng Shui', and though Alex had a few good guesses, this was beyond him most of the time, and as he lacked psychic powers, he couldn't really do much to repair the stonework itself, which left him to enjoy his lover in their private abode as the dragon flitted about his old home, repairing it.

                                ________________________________________

                                Finally, once the interior was repaired, Tao had the humans and Pokémon leave the tower. In an awesome display of his power, the Unovan Dragon had raised his ancient home from the swamp that had formed around it, reworking the very land itself, something that was simple to one on his level of power. Having been formed directly by Arceus, something as simple as this was nothing.

                                Buried by water and years of silt buildup, the uncovered levels were damp, grimy, and a pain in the rear to clean. But clean them Tao did. Alex had watched with interest as swarms of Unown had flooded from the sunken tower, only to then proceed to aid Tao in whatever he needed. Alex and the other selected humans were made ultimately useless in the reconstruction, and the new Champion wondered if he could convince the dragon to tell him what the Unown actually did.

                                Tao had responded with a smirk, and promised that, if Alex but obeyed his wisdom, he would find out. This was akin to most of the answers the dragon gave him regarding the mysteries of the universe, and thus, Alex contented himself with waiting. He supposed it would come to him the same way the idea to reform Tao had. In the moment, when he needed the knowledge, and not a second before.

                                ________________________________________

                                With everything once more in place, the dragon invited the growing horde of Unovans into his home, and all twenty four floors were filled with milling humans, each waiting for their chance at an audience with the dragon. Though Alex was nearby, the humans who approached usually regarded him with cold looks, fear, or general ambivalence. They didn't care to speak to the man who'd reunited the dragon, they wanted the legendary being himself. Alex found he didn't mind, as after listening to several of the conversations, he realized two things. Humans were, by vast majority, stupid. Most of the problems Tao handled could've also been solved by five seconds on the Pokénet. He also learned that his kin were, in a word, inherently violent. Too many who came to the dragon came seeking his power, so they could crush their rivals.

                                Once he'd had enough, he walked off to explore the other levels of the castle-like tower. It wasn't long before Alex found Connor sulking in a shadowy corner on the top floor, bluish-purple scarf around his mouth, like he was some sort of ninja. His hat was all wrong for it though.

                                Connor nodded at the dragon as Alex joined him. "I was thinking, looking at him, I'm reminded of that old line. 'Disturb not the harmony of fire, ice and lightning'…"

                                Alex tilted his head for a moment, eyeing Tao, then looked back at his friend. "You don't think Lugia and the others are…?"

                                Connor grinned. "I intend to find out."

                                Alex rolled his eyes. "Fine. If you manage to balance the birds, I'll eat…something edible, shaped like my hat." He liked his hat too much to actually eat it, and had no illusions that Connor would definitely hold him to such a promise.

                                Connor stood straight then, and Alex saw his bag as well. He was readying to leave. His bag was similar to Alex's, a few years older in design, and covered with a lot more sentimental junk, but it still matched his edgy dark blue thing he had going on.

                                "I'll hold you to that, Redwood. I should get going now. The party has been going for days, and I've idled long enough."

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex raised a brow, then thought for a moment. His past two weeks had mostly been spent restoring an ancient building covered in the dredge of a lake and hundreds of years of pollution buildup. He supposed everyone else had been enjoying the new 'golden age'. He'd heard about the golden grass, the bluer skies, the pinker nights, but he'd seen little of it between his lovemaking and his working.

                                Everyone told him how impressed they were with his achievement, and yet up until today, he'd seen almost none of it. Unova had definitely changed, and he would leave it to Tao to make sure it stayed balanced.

                                Connor walked off then after the manliest of brief hugs, to find his sister. It wasn't hard, for though much of Unova was a varied shade of hair colors, nobody else had red hair like hers, and she stuck out in the crowds when viewed from the air. It still took some time, though.

                                ________________________________________

                                Tao often levitated in the air at the top of the tower as he gave him patient wisdom, eyes closed, speaking quietly with the gathered Unovans by way of telepathy as he gave them insight into what their lives required for balance. He didn't solve every problem immediately, but most people left with words of wisdom that would only make sense when the time was right.

                                Often he was challenged to battles by Trainers who'd captured other Legendary Pokémon of which there were many, like Celebi. Such Trainers soon found out that the dragon, despite being quite good at battling, much preferred to Teleport away with the Legendary Pokémon in question, and enjoy a private chat as they caught up on news, and shared important information that evidently was for their ears only.

                                Alex was usually left alone when he did this, and those training the rare Pokémon looked at him like a leech, rather than the human who'd literally tamed the strongest dragon in...anywhere. He knew the time to head for this Swamp he'd heard of several times was fast approaching. Dealing with humans was clearly Tao's specialty.

                                ________________________________________

                                Stuck outside while the temple was full of petitioners, Joey and other Trainers had gathered at the local fan club, and had happened to recognize Jessica Gladstone as she was heading to the Pokémon center. She was semi-famous of course, but nobody had tied her to Alex yet, nobody except those who had seen how they acted together. Joey had been chosen by the Dragon too, and had seen how they were in the temple. They'd even spoken around bowls of Leaf on breaks.

                                Joey had convinced her to chat for a minute once more, even though he was surrounded by a troupe of equally overly-interested Trainers, who hadn't been chosen, but clearly found Joey and Jess awesome, because they had. Rumors abounded about Tao's 'enlightened disciples', and the only way to find out if you had that potential, was to speak to the Dragon himself.

                                They all made it clear that they wanted to learn from her boyfriend. She admitted that having him teach them now would take time away from his other duties. She was in the middle of explaining the awkwardness of the soon to be long-distance relationship when Connor spied her hair, and descended alongside his Reuniclus, Lancelus, who was flying him around with Psychic, and evidently having a blast doing it.

                                Feeling nauseous as the overly bubbly psychic type twirled him towards the ground, Connor muttered, "Gah…flying is for Pokémon…"

                                ________________________________________

                                Once he landed and fought the urge to hurl, he eyed the group of strange men surrounding his sister with strangely eager looks, Connor moved towards her. "I'm, uh, leaving."

                                He was too distracted by the men, who were very obviously staring at him too now, to come up with a more elegant way of phrasing his imminent departure. He met her gaze, and then nodded at the men, who continued to smile enthusiastically. They really just wanted to meet the Champion, but these Trainers had never mastered social graces, especially not around women like Jess.

                                Jess found the whole situation hilarious. "They're here to meet Alex, gutter-brain. They want to be his 'disciples' and learn what he's apparently taught us as well."

                                Connor's eye twitched. "So…we're his apprentices now? Senior apprentices, since we've mastered these 'skills'." He looked at the ground, then at the Trainers, and then at his sister who he could tell, had recently been intimate. They weren't too careful about hiding the aftermath lately, and didn't seem to care, judging by the slightly mussed hair and askew clothing. The imminent separation was approaching. Little else mattered, apparently.

                                ________________________________________

                                "Right." Connor said, tossing his old hat he'd worn since he'd been in University to the ground. "I'm going to call you around Festivus dear sister, I need you to make something edible in the shape of Alex's hat."

                                Jess arched a brow. "Whyyy?"

                                Connor grinned. "I'm going to...do something 'Legendary'. I've a bet with Alex. It involves a hat-shaped edible arrangement, and you're the only one of us who knows how to cook."

                                He walked off before Jess could say anything more, and accelerated into a run, just like he had been taught. Then, he vanished. He needed a new hat, and plenty of training. He was behind his sister and his rival in the balancing of these moves, but had picked it up quickly. Too quickly, for Alex's tastes, who had stopped teaching him just in time for them to arrive at the Victory Plateau.

                                ________________________________________

                                He had used his position as friend of the Champion, and being a Champion, technically, himself to finally see Tao for insight on his idea of uniting the birds. The Dragon had paused as Alex frowned, and then said that he already knew what path he had to take, thanks to fate, and anything else would just be a distraction from that.

                                His destiny was Kalos, and had always been Kalos. With that, he'd left without another word to Alex, who had tried to stop him. Uniting the birds and battling him wasn't his path, but he was letting their rivalry cloud his mind. He'd been joking earlier.

                                He would grasp for power until he felt he'd matched his rival, but would only understand after several long months that he should've just followed what Oak had told him.

                                ________________________________________

                                As she watched her brother leave on his quest, Jess decided to leave as well. Alex tried to persuade her to stay, until he saw it was already past midnight. They'd been making love straight through dinner, and then work had pulled him away. He was helping Tao solve people's problems, and the more of them he heard, the more he was convinced that humanity was doomed.

                                Eventually, during yet another examination of Arcean-supporter philosophy and the legitimacy of their mythology with regards to who had really brought the golden age about, he walked away, and left it to Tao. They were now trying to claim that, had Ghetsis not held Reshiram and Kyurem, Alex would've never united the Dragon. They now claimed to own 2/3rds of Tao, in Kyurem and Reshiram. Since Ghetsis had been part of their cult, his Pokémon were, supposedly, also part of their 'religious property'.

                                Reasoning with those people was like teaching the alphabet to a barn door, and instead of knowledge about the dragon, and how the three were literally just One, these people in old style navy military uniforms only sought to inform him that he was being sued for damages to their town. Over and over. Every time he finished speaking.

                                As the town had been smashed by a Legendary Pokémon, he wished them good luck with their ludicrous lawsuit, and went to find his girlfriend. He hadn't controlled Kyurem. Kyurem was their property. They'd damaged it themselves. Alex wondered if the Arceans would actually try to sue themselves as he returned from his work to find his lover ready to leave.

                                ________________________________________

                                They made no mention of Festivus, as she knew he couldn't stand his family all at once for a full month. Especially not now that he'd done something so 'unbelievable'. He also had a feeling it would take more than a few months to deal with whatever this 'psychic master' had in store for him.

                                Then, finally, she was gone. It was cold in Icirrus now, granted, being thousands of feet up might've caused that, and he watched the light of her family's luxury driving car head north until he could no longer make out the lights.

                                ________________________________________

                                Discovering that he was genuinely freezing, even to his nose hairs, he went back to the Pokémon Center on Blaze, who had been responsible for flying him up. That cold air above that had carried the first freeze of the coming winter had chilled him more than he expected.

                                He enjoyed a bowl of Leaf then, and was soon joined by other people, who were all passing around a bong full of it. Typical grass Trainers. The massive crowd brought all types to the formerly sparsely populated Icirrus Town. It looked more like a tent city, these days.

                                The Arceans had pitched a fit when they saw a follower of 'their dragon' smoking 'drugs' with other 'random Trainers' in the middle of a Pokémon Center. The local nurse, who was rapidly considering relocating, had considered a group of relatively harmless Leaf smokers the least of her worries. The crowd was full of battles, and lack of hygiene was causing sickness to spread. She had bigger things to worry about, but the Arceans were relentless, and it wasn't long at all before the legality of the Leaf was once more in question, as the use of the herb had become strong amongst those milling around Icirrus. There were simply too many for the local police forces to handle. Many had simply joined in, as the good mood following Tao's revival had been infectious.

                                ________________________________________

                                For once, the Arceans made a good case. Devout followers of the Dragon famously claimed that he had abhorred the Leaf. It was the entire reason the herb had been banned in the first place. These so called 'dragon-priests' had evidently been wandering the crowd, shaming anyone they caught enjoying the Leaf. Arguments became heated. Sides began forming.

                                The issue was then brought to Tao, by Alex, who after being told, preceded to fly out of the massive structure that was his home, awing the equally massive crowd with his heavenly grace. The cheers lasted a full five minutes, and the vain dragon enjoyed them as he gracefully twirled through the air. It was good to be whole.

                                The dragon flew low over them then, and winked. He twisted a claw, and a piece of thin, wispy cloud, the only one for miles that day, became a familiar glass shaped instrument. He curled his tail in the air, and rested his upper half on it as he pointed at the ground, and massive balls of green rose to his claws as nature itself bent to the Dragon's needs.

                                He twisted his claw again, taking what was left of the thin cloud, and turning it into a familiar glass slide. The balls of green floated into the new slide with his telekinesis, one of the powers his followers supposedly gained, and the crowd quieted entirely.

                                One of his claws blazed with blue flame over the large green buds as the massive dragon inhaled. Thankfully, it was a now cloudless, late summer day. There was no cloudy moisture to ruin the buds. The force of his inhale would've definitely brought them through the slide, and made his buds damp, and unsmokable. He usually didn't do this this high up, with a bong this fragile. The wind sucked, the cold air ruined the burn, and he never got as much as his massive body desired.

                                He had an entire room in his temple for this sole activity, that he and he alone could handle. Only Alex joined him in those sessions, with a gas mask for all the smoke. But he had a point to make.

                                ________________________________________

                                The legality of this same herb was an issue with Legendary Pokémon as well. Some enjoyed it. Some did not. Some claimed the Alpha was against it. Others said it was the only way to the Alpha. Tao was one of the latter.

                                He eyed the stunned humans as literally everyone stared at the dragon, usually in disbelief, but just as commonly with open laughter at the sheer absurdity of what was happening. The dragon-god of their people was smoking a bowl.

                                A cloud of light-gray smoke rained down on Unova, and thousands started coughing, like complete newbies. Tao sighed, and his tone rang out over the hazy crowd. "We have much training to do…"

                                ________________________________________

                                The legality of the herb was settled, then. The Governor of Unova had looked at the Arceans of Lacunosa, or AoL, and said to their leader, Ghetsis' handler, "I'm not going to argue over the legitimacy of sacred texts when the Dragon God himself smokes a bowl and bathes half the region in harsh smoke." Evidently, the 'dragon priests' had just been Arceans, converts from Unova itself, and history buffs as well.

                                Even the Arceans couldn't argue with the dragon's actions though, and dropped the issue entirely. Strangely enough, the Dragon's smoke had only caused good effects, cured many of the crowd's diseases or infections, and even healed wounds.

                                The crowd only grew as tales of this 'magic herb' spread beyond just Trainers, and Tao took to smoking on the ground with them. One day, when John Crimson predicated a thunderstorm approaching, Tao had taken those strong, dark clouds and forged a set for both himself and his Tamer with the power of electricity, fire, and ice. Storm clouds were a bit harder to mold than wisps.

                                ________________________________________

                                After witnessing Tao's little stunt and laughing for a full minute, Alex had returned to the former gym of his friend Nick, who had also come down, with the other Four, and joined in the festivities. The entire gym was on break from training, and those within were hanging out, and smoking bowls of the herb.

                                The offers for sex 'now that Jess was gone' came rolling in as word spread among Tao's followers that the Champion was out of the tower and among the throngs of people. Eventually, he had to leave the gym's rooms for the tower again. Free of the distracting haze he usually only shared with one person, he returned to Tao, and told him that he would be leaving as well.

                                The dragon had simply nodded, and spoken, gaining the attention of the entire crowd. "Go then, Champion. If you need me for battle, I will be there." They enjoyed a final bowl together in their new cloudy gray glass sets, and then Alex headed off for the Victory Plateau upon Blaze again. N would still be waiting there. It was kind of his thing, a habit he'd developed once the League had named him the strongest of Unova's many Champions.

                                ________________________________________

                                He arrived once more atop the battle-torn plateau, now understanding just how epic his battle must have looked. The plateau had once housed N's castle, but now, the land it had stood upon connected to the back of the Victory League's final room. All that remained of the castle were the stone pillars that formed a loose circle around where the two dragons had battled. As expected, said pillars did not last long, and usually had to be rebuilt. This was where most of the material making up N's old home had gone, and over the years, it had faded entirely as it was deconstructed piece by piece.

                                "It's about time." N said, not turning to his newest, youngest rival, who he refused to be surpassed by, "You've taken two weeks. We'll be late at this rate."

                                Alex raised a brow. "Late for what?"

                                N grinned, turning to him. "For the race to the Psychic Master in the Swamp."

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex and N departed then, and found him a flying type as soon as possible. They hadn't looked far, as there was an Aerodactyl waiting for them at the bottom of Victory Road. N looked at the Pokémon, speaking to it, and then shed a single tear.

                                His old friend Archeops had sensed his Trainer's need, and sent a friend to help. The offspring of his own nest's neighbors, a young Aerodactyl who needed and wanted a Trainer. He came clutching a Pokéball as well, one that was as black as Zekrom had been.

                                ________________________________________

                                Inside the ball was his Zoroark, who had been captured by Ghetsis. N asked if he wanted to be released, but he refused. His ball belonged to N now, and he was fine with having one if N was his Trainer.

                                Alex gave him a Luxury Ball for his Aerodactyl, but then said he'd need to earn money by battling to get balls for his other Pokémon. Twitching slightly, N nodded. He'd never needed money, or Pokéballs. He was still wrestling with balancing his strong ideals.

                                "I just don't like confining them to Pokéballs." He kept saying as Alex continuously pointed out the many advantages of having them on hand. Finally, he'd convinced Arthur to come out, and share mentally with N what the interior was actually like. After that, his reluctance was lessened, but he still let his two partners out often.

                                ________________________________________

                                Hilbert had had a conversation with N before leaving ahead of Connor, Jess, and now Alex as to the fate of himself, and the other Champions. Nate had taken over as the leader for Opeleucid's gym, which left the two female Champions, Rosa and Hilda, to keep the Unova League's status as the hardest in the world.

                                There was a backlog of Trainers coming up Victory Road, and the Elite Four didn't always beat them. Since adding Nick to their ranks however, just getting to one of the girls was quite challenging. Very few Trainers could match Hilda or Rosa though, and the ones who did would end up battling Tao, and losing.

                                By the time all this transpired, Alex and N had reached the southern edge of Unova. South of there, things got…strange. Strange people, strange culture, all terrified of the Swamp that loomed to the south, and threatened to swallow up their home, as it had to the land once known as Floria, which was now overgrown with massive sky-scraping trees, and people who lived on the dangerous and salty swamp waters.

                                ________________________________________

                                "This is where I leave you, Champion." N said as they reached the southern edge of Aspertia City.

                                Alex raised a brow. "Are you not coming?"

                                N shrugged. "I might, someday, but you made it clear that my destiny is not yours. Perhaps I am destined for a different Psychic Master."

                                "I was wondering about that," Alex said, eyeing the tree line. He could see a barely used footpath there on the edge, and knew walking through it at his size was going to be a joy. "Professor Oak met me while I was on the Victory Road. He said to ask you about the Swamp."

                                ________________________________________

                                N sighed. "Show me your badges." Alex did so, and the Champion swore. "Fine. I guess we're just handing all the secrets to you."

                                Alex smirked at N. "That's the idea. I am the Champion."

                                "Bianca should be doing this…" N muttered. She was the Pokémon Professor now after all, though the aging Professor Juniper still helped every so often.

                                "The Swamp is the second part of the League Challenge you've somehow managed to complete. Usually, a Trainer whose beaten several Pokémon Leagues is given this information. Because Oak told you enough already, and because of what you did for Unova, and your victories here, I will tell you where to go. Head south, past the Swamp fearing people of Jinia Town, and you will find a group of Trainers. They're from the hundreds of regions on this continent, and all are going to venture into the Swamp to find the Psychic Master. Assuming you survive the Swamp, the Psychic Master will inform you of the rest of the challenge."

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex blinked, absorbing the information. "And who is our Swamp's Psychic Master?"

                                N tilted his head. "A powerful one. He's as close to human as a Pokémon can get. Intelligence wise. Big, like you. You'll like him." Figuring that meant N had seen this master, he began to ask, but N had already flown away on his Aerodactyl.

                                After battling through half the region, it was now strong enough to carry N. Several of his old team had returned, but he had a few new faces as well. He would need time to train them, but they promised to be a difficult team to beat. His reluctance to battle had faded when his partners had told him how much they enjoyed it, how strong it made their bond, and most importantly, how skilled he was as a Trainer. Even without one of the dragons, the former Champion was quite good.

                                ________________________________________

                                As Alex turned to face the barely used path to go further south of Aspertia, he blinked, seeing a trio of youngsters step in front of him. They were adorable, and each one wore a color matching the grass, fire, or water type.

                                "Stop right there, Champion." Said the boy who was wearing fiery red. If Alex had been in a game of 'who's the protag' this youngster would've beaten even him. His hair was gelled and spiky, with a flame like pattern on each spike. This was the future. Alex sighed.

                                The girl with the green clothes on threw a Pokéball then, and a Servine appeared.

                                "Not yet!" The other young girl in blue growled. She stared then, as her own ball opened, and her Dewott appeared beside the Servine. They glared at each other, and Alex knew, they were rivals. Sighing, the fiery boy brought out his Emboar, fully evolved. It was fitting, as the flame-head was a few years older than his lady friends.

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex raised a brow, then eyed each of the Pokémon, who had dropped to their battle poses and stared him down, eagerly. That was when it clicked. He had rejected these very three, and had sent them to partner with Trainers as young as they were.

                                "I see." Alex said, smirking. "They noticed me, and called you three out of your homes. Very well. Let us battle." Terra popped out, towering over the Servine, Blaze appeared before the Emboar, and eyed the fire pig, smirking. Hydrus yawned and examined the Dewott, then shrugged, and dropped into his battle crouch.

                                "Go easy on them." Alex said, hands in his pockets.

                                ________________________________________

                                It was over in one round. Terra had turned, and blasted the Dewott with a Razor Leaf, the Servine had received a non-condensed Flame Burst from Blaze, and Hydrus had taken down the Emboar with a single similarly non-condensed Water Pulse.

                                The three Trainers stared at him.

                                "A good Trainer relies on their starter." He said, patting Terra, "But they also have other Pokémon, with different typing. Next time we will battle one-on-one. Prepare for that day, conquer Unova, make a strong team, and then come and challenge me. Who knows. You might become the Champion."

                                He winked then, leaving, knowing that maybe one of those three would accept his challenge, and make it all the way up the Victory Plateau.

                                ________________________________________

                                Everyone thought his title of 'Champion of Unova' relied on the dragon's power, and not his. Many still hadn't had the chance to battle his team, though on the way down with N, he met quite a few, and beat them as hard as Hilbert had.

                                Alex and his team were essentially following Hilbert's own string of victories through the mostly undeveloped, but populous regions in the center of the eastern coast. Much of the land was used for farming, as the east had always been more fertile than Fornia to the west, which was mostly covered by a massive desert. This region provided food to almost every one of the states. He knew they were on the right path to the Swamp as, whenever he asked about it, the Trainers he met would make Arceus' sign in the air with their fingers, and promptly leave. That was fine, though. He could find the true edge of it on his own.

                                ________________________________________

                                Once he was through the more wooded part of Transylveticut, the state directly south of Unova, he found a rustic looking Pokémon Center, and decided to rest up. One or two Trainers asked if he was the new Unova Champion, but beyond that nobody seemed to know him.

                                It was nice not having all eyes on him all the time. He hadn't been this ignored since before the mountain fiasco. He made a call to his Gruncle, and thankfully, the center still had modern technology within its wooden frame. A sign of the League's wealth, even here, in these wide, primarily empty farm lands. The 'breadbasket of the continent'.

                                After having him transfer over a new Pokédex, he plied his granduncle for information, but he was a stubborn old goat, and apparently, was in the middle of an experiment. That was odd, for as far as Alex knew, his granduncle hadn't conducted an experiment in decades. He usually sat around smoking Leaf in his lab's dingy basement, dispensing wisdom to anyone who would listen. Not many did.

                                ________________________________________

                                Feeling exhausted and frustrated at his lack of progress on finding out anything more about this Swamp, Alex went to bed. His relative had stubbornly refused to talk about the Swamp. He was 'on his own for that nonsense'.

                                He slept for almost a full day, recovering from the long weeks of work, and sex, with almost no sleep. Tao's energy had sustained him, but he could feel himself slowly growing more exhausted the further he went from Unova. He awoke over a day later to find that Arthur had taken care of the rest of the team, letting Hydrus and Terra out to lounge around.

                                ________________________________________

                                Blaze was practicing aerial maneuvers, with his weights on, and Alex was surprised his team knew how to attach them properly.

                                Impressed with his responsibility, Alex sparred against Arthur, something he often lost at, but knew his Pokémon enjoyed immensely. They both had rough, untrained styles, and were both complete amateurs. Still unable to properly control his Sword Arms, Arthur took every chance he could to try and master them.

                                They had just finished battling, when Alex noticed a blur of dust headed straight for his lounging team. If he was being fair, he'd been petting Leo, who noticed it first, and growled. The cloud turned towards them, and at the head of it, Alex saw a familiar dragon type.

                                The Dragonite pumped its absurdly tiny wings as it struggled to stop its forward momentum. How a creature that oddly shaped flew so fast was an aerodynamic mystery that scientists still hadn't figured out.

                                ________________________________________

                                The large dragon stomped over, and that was when Alex noticed the bag around its body. It handed him a pamphlet of some kind, and waited patiently. Looking around, as he didn't quite believe he was experiencing this exact scenario, he turned his focus to the pamphlet then.

                                "If this is an exploding hologram, I swear…" He opened it, and while it had some sort of tech within it, the words required one to read them. It was an invitation, apparently, to some sort of gathering by the northern edge of the Great Northern Swamp.

                                He looked up at the Dragonite, who was still waiting, and noticed it was offering him a writing implement. He checked the 'accept' box on the small card that had come with the pamphlet, and after taking it, the Dragonite launched into the air again, straight up, before stopping in mid-air, and then zooming southward with incredible speed. Blaze growled, he'd wanted to fight a dragon like that. It may have looked silly, but it was clearly strong.

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex recalled his team, and then walked over to his Charizard. "If you can catch up to him, we'll battle him." Motivated to carry his master's large frame for once, Blaze launched himself into the air, and began flying south as well. As he was carrying a passenger, there was no way he could catch up. At least Alex had removed the training weights though. He usually left them on.

                                It didn't take long for them to find what they were looking for. The massive group of Trainers was stretched out on the abandoned, grassy fields north of the Swamp. Makeshift battlefields had been carved into the dirt in a haphazard mess, and from the air, it looked quite unusual. Knowing he needed to find someone in charge of this chaos, he had Blaze hover behind clouds as they approached. Not that it helped.

                                ________________________________________

                                He could see the people battling below, and had a sudden premonition that they'd be in the air as well. He was right, as a mega evolved Pidgeot blasted past him, straight into a Staraptor it was battling. A Talonflame joined in then, and it was ridiculously hard for both Alex and Blaze not to watch. They were masterful in the air, and he had to all but smack his Charizard to get his attention, and refocus on flying.

                                He took Blaze down then, and just for fun, the flying orange lizard began to spin. It was a good trick, but his Trainer felt his lunch threatening to come up.

                                As his Charizard leveled out over the crowd, gaining the attention of many of the idle Trainers camping below them, he spotted someone who looked like they were in charge. They were by the Swamp's edge, so he guessed they must know about it. He was directed from person to person until he finally found the real makeshift headquarters. Because of the barely controlled chaos, he'd needed aid in finding it.

                                ________________________________________

                                The Trainer in charge of this mess was a woman with purple hair, and a strange garb. She was older as well, and her left eye had a patch of dark cloth over it. She carried a staff, ordinary, wooden, which she leaned on as she surveyed a map of what he assumed was the Swamp.

                                She looked up as Alex was escorted into her tent by her similarly garbed guard. They wore a strange kind of clothing that was patterned with green, brown, and gray. When asked, one of the guards had said that it was old-fashioned survival gear that the people of this region had apparently worn for millennia.

                                "Ah yes, the Unova Champion. Good. Now we can begin." The way she looked him over made him nervous. It wasn't all that different from how Leo had eyed the female Luxray they'd encountered in this area of the continent.

                                Raising a brow, Alex held up a hand. "Please, I have a few questions, before anything begins, I'd like to know what everyone else knows. What is this challenge?"

                                ________________________________________

                                The older woman eyed him for a moment. "You already know what everyone else does. Like you, they were told by the last Champion they surpassed that they needed to come here to seek the Psychic Master. Beyond that, nobody knows what this challenge will entail. Now go outside and join the others…the test will begin soon."

                                Being relatively fresh from University, the word 'test' still made him flinch and filled him with an aura of anxiety. He despised tests, or rather, written ones. There had been a fair number of physical tests over his years there, but most had been of the writing variety. It had taken him two years to realize that everyone was cheating on them. The increase in his grades after acquiring that knowledge was, of course, purely coincidental.

                                "Fair warning, Redwood" the woman said as he left, "Most of the other Trainers here know about you, and what you did in Unova. Some are impressed, but most are irritated that you acquired the knowledge of this challenge without beating other Leagues in other regions."

                                ________________________________________

                                He sighed, and nodded as he left. It figured as much. Something as notable as reforming an ancient and unimaginably powerful Legendary Dragon Pokémon was exciting news, and in a world as globally connected as theirs, everyone naturally had an opinion on it.

                                He put it from his mind, and ignored the occasional too-long stare he sometimes caught from the crowds of other Trainers gathered around makeshift campsites. Judging by their clothing, he soon got the feeling that each region's worthy competitors were expected to team up for this.

                                ________________________________________

                                His feeling was confirmed as he saw Hilbert approaching him. It seemed Unova only had two competitors, as he was camping alone. They clasped arms, and shared a smirk. "Welcome to the Swamp, Champion."

                                "Glad to be here." Alex responded. They had about fifty-five minutes of casual conversing over Leaf that his Servine, Caesar, had grown, before the announcement happened.

                                A Hyper Beam shot into the air, and punched a wide circular hole through the clouds. Finding its source, Alex stood. It was the Dragonite who'd delivered his pamphlet. Motioning for his fellow Champion to follow, the two men made their way towards the purple haired woman's tent, which was closest to the Swamp's border.

                                Hilbert was quite a bit older than Alex, by at least three to four decades, but they had become fast friends since their match. He also knew Leaf smoking techniques that had been quite beyond Alex when he'd tried them, and looked forward to practicing them more. If they could.

                                ________________________________________

                                The purple haired woman thumped her staff, gaining their attention as she began to shout at them, without raising her voice. Despite that, he words still reached their ears, somehow. "Welcome, Trainers of the Northern Continent. Some of you have waited years for this challenge to begin, others among you have only recently acquired this knowledge. Regardless, the Master himself instructed that each of you be invited here."

                                She began pacing on the platform of raised earth that hadn't been in front of her tent earlier. "Each of you has demonstrated a potential worthiness, however, few of you will actually succeed in this challenge. Indeed, many of you may even lose your lives. If you are not willing to risk death or maiming, leave now."

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex sensed heads turning as people watched for those whose nerves were weak. Most of these Trainers were hardened Champions, however, and had traveled the world. Their resolve would only break during this challenge.

                                Surveying the crowd of Trainers, and noticing that none had left, the woman smirked. "Good. At least you're all worthy of not being called cowards." She knew that a few of them would likely leave once the challenge began, to avoid scornful looks.

                                Some Champions prized their lives and material wealth above such challenges, and weren't willing to risk cutting them short for more glory.

                                ________________________________________

                                She continued, suppressing a wry grin. "During this challenge, you will be required to venture to the heart of the Swamp. You may not fly above the canopy while the challenge is in progress. Violators of this rule will be shot down." Alex flinched again, as did every Trainer in the crowd. The feeling of unease from this woman was universal, it seemed.

                                Each of them had seen her Dragonite's Hyper Beam, and most of the Trainers gathered knew it would be enough to cause serious injury if it came out of nowhere and hit their Pokémon mid-flight. There were always exceptions, of course. Alex had a feeling they'd learn the cost of breaking the rules rather painfully.

                                ________________________________________

                                "In the Swamp, you will each encounter a challenge that will be tailored to you, and your past. Some of you will re-live harsh emotional events from your life, and feel things you thought you'd never feel again. If you are not prepared to suffer such things, leave now."

                                This time, a few left, hopping on their various flying Pokémon and soaring away. Evidently there were some who had experienced such horrifying trauma that no reward was worth re-living that experience. Nobody sneered at them, however. Not openly, at least.

                                "If you manage to pass this challenge, you will soon find yourself in the heart of the Swamp, and in the domain of the Master. If you fail, you will continue to wander aimlessly, lost, until you complete it…or go mad. Many who venture into this terrain do not return. Those of you who have visited the town to the north know that the locals fear the Swamp. They do so for good reason. Underestimate it, and you have already failed."

                                ________________________________________

                                That got a few murmurs, but otherwise, the crowd waited patiently for the old woman to finish. "If you, at any point, wish to quit the challenge, you need only fly two miles above the canopy. Keep both arms raised above your head as you do, and you will not be shot down. Once you reach the aforementioned height, you may leave."

                                The woman paused then, and affixed an item to her Dragonite's head. It was a scope of some kind, with a green lens that hovered in front of the Pokémon's eye.

                                "These scopes will be affixed to each group of Pokémon assigned to shoot down those who violate the no-flying rule. The League has banned these devices, because they allow a Pokémon to attack with a move, and rarely miss. Do not try your luck against them, you will fail."

                                ________________________________________

                                There were a few skeptical rumbles, and there would likely be a few daredevils who tried to cheat, believing their aerial dodges would suffice here. They would be proven painfully wrong. The Sage's Examiners took the 'no-flying' rule quite seriously.

                                "In a few moments, I and my attendants will take position at the Swamp's edge. Each of you will come forward, and speak to your guide. There are papers you'll need to sign, as well as last wishes, and what you want done with your bodies, should they be recovered. Once that is complete, you may enter the Swamp." With that, the women hopped onto her dragon Pokémon, and headed for the edge, where the rest of her strangely camouflage garbed people were already standing.

                                ________________________________________

                                It took a few minutes before the crowd surged forward, and as it looked like a few would try to avoid the lines and just enter the Swamp regardless, a massive wall of red light shot up from behind the stationed guards. The Swamp's trees were massive in size, but the wall served its purpose. Anyone trying to circumvent it would be noticed easily, and then presumably shot down.

                                A few Trainers tested the barrier of energy, then resigned themselves to the que. Alex and Hilbert, along with other scattered loners from remote regions, lagged behind. They saw no sense in rushing, and instead spent their time waiting in the now abandoned campsites by the old woman's tent. Hilbert was mainly fine with waiting, because he thought Hilda, Rosa, or even Nate would join them down here too. They had all beaten the League, after all, and saved Unova. They'd earned this.

                                It took about three hours for the lines to die down. They were mostly filled will large groups of older Champions from many of the 'east central' states. Given that the crowd was enormous, they rightly assumed a Champion from every region on the continent was here.

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex wondered why they didn't try to go earlier, to be able to scavenge more food, but Hilbert didn't seem to be concerned. When Alex asked why, he learned that his Pokémon were capable of feeding their Trainer if they had to. It was namely celery stalks from his Serperior, but it sufficed. Alex supposed he could always survive on Terra's apples, if he had to. His Mega Form could make them easily, and they were red, and delicious.

                                Alex and Hilbert had made several new friends, and had spent the time waiting sharing stories and several full bowls of Leaf. It really was a popular herb, especially among Trainers. Only more so now that Unova, the so-called 'Eastern Capital' had now officially legalized it, effective immediately.

                                Anyone strong enough for this challenge had a means of growing it, usually by using their grass type. These Trainers had teams that were well balanced, and could handle many type variations. Often, the battles here had resorted to flying vs flying or fire vs fire, if only to avoid constant switching out to gain type advantage.

                                ________________________________________

                                Upon learning who he was, his group had, of course, asked how he'd reunited the Unovan Dragon. Thankfully, they grasped the concept easier than John Crimson had, but none among them had thought to try combining moves. He did notice that several of them had crystals similar to his, and he was informed that many Trainers had acquired one of every type before coming here. Nobody had tried Mega Evolution with them. Yet.

                                He'd spent the last half hour beating himself up for not gathering a full set as well, but it was too late now. He'd been told he was almost late for the challenge, and had rushed here. It wouldn't take long for Trainers this skilled to grasp what they could use their crystals for.

                                Once more he lamented losing so many days to Draconis Mons. He would've likely had time to gather them, if he'd just been more careful. Seeing that the lines were reasonably long now, Alex and Hilbert parted, and headed for the Swamp.

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex went into the 'dragon lady's' line, a nickname he'd learned the Trainers who'd camped here for weeks had given her. He signed the documents without hesitation, and she smirked, then gave him breakfast.

                                After his papers were processed, a square shaped outline appeared in the barrier of crimson energy. He entered through it, and the Swamp challenge began.

                                "Hello." A voice said to his right. Alex jumped as he looked, realizing how on edge he was. This place was massive, full of Pokémon his Pokédex had never seen, that all had strange, unique, and likely deadly abilities. This place was a region in its own right.

                                Alex looked at the man, who stood as he approached. He was 6,4, blonde, and more muscled than Alex would ever become. Alex raised a brow as the man stood two inches over him. He had to look up to address the man, something he was clearly not used to, and said, "Do you speak-a my language?"

                                ________________________________________

                                The blonde man stared at him for a long time, and then pulled a large bong from a camouflaged backpack. He winked at Alex, and began walking through a path in the dense Swamp they could both easily traverse with their size. He handed the challenger a Vegemite sandwich as he began loading the bong. He took a long hit, exhaled, and then offered it to the Champion.

                                "Do you come from our land'a'plenty?" The man grinned, and Alex nodded as he took the bong, smirking. This was a land 'down unda' alright. They had different styles of living, and Alex just shook his head, hitting the piece as well, before passing it back.

                                He exhaled the smoke slowly, and chomped into the Vegemite sandwich. This was going to be a fun challenge. He could tell.

                                ________________________________________

                                On the northern continent, there were a series of territories known as the 'States' from coast to coast. Nobody quite knew why they were called states, all anybody could tell, from ruins and texts of a bygone age, was that was what they had once been called in the past. Now however, they were anything but united.

                                Each of them was ruled by a Governor, and each Governor was part of a council that oversaw regional issues of trade and such. Naturally, with so many voices clamoring to be heard, this council managed to get very little done. Votes on anything often ended up tied, until one of the abstaining states could be convinced to change their vote. The coasts generally unified under one Governor, and for the east, that was Unova's, as New Tork was the largest city in the east, and Unova had the largest population.

                                More importantly, Unova had also once been the head of their empire, which had stretched from coast to coast, and had given their land millennia of peace and prosperity under the First Dragon. Many who wanted to see those days return, tended to look favorably upon the old imperial capital. Others, namely from Fornia, wanted a new power to rise. The Arcean Church had an iron grip over Fornia to the west, and had been slowly expanding their influence east for centuries now. Nobody considered them a legitimate threat though, and the Church itself was seen as little more than a nuisance that would sue anyone who went against it. Thus, it was largely ignored.

                                ________________________________________

                                Each of the states had a Champion chosen to participate in this challenge, and from Alola to Unova, they had come. Just over five thousand Trainers had entered the Swamp, and since the Swamp stretched from the middle of the eastern coast all the way to the southern tip, there was plenty of room for all of them.

                                It didn't go nearly as far west as it did north, but still, the sheer size of it was impressive. From the word go, Alex had sensed something strange about the Swamp. Something about it made the back of his head tingle constantly. There was an ever present brownish-green haze that filled the humid air, and the vines between the massive trees made flying impractical for all but the smallest of Pokémon.

                                No Pokémon small enough to successfully fly through the tangle of vines could carry a person as well, with the exception of the 'Eurafricasian Swellow' which could carry five times its body weight with ease. Very few Trainers here had one of those however, though many had caught the far more popular 'Hoenn Swellow' which had spread to every continent the world over, more or less.

                                The difference between the two species was minimal, really, but several Professors from the Albion region, north of Kalos and across 'The Channel', had insisted upon making the variation well-known.

                                ________________________________________

                                Alex spent about five minutes with his 'guide' before he realized that he too, was Unovan. It had been kind of obvious, though. They traveled for days, as the man taught Alex the finer points of their region's lore. It was custom, for Champions to educate other Champions on it, and make sure they understood what they were representing. Thankfully, Alex already knew much of what the tall man told him. He paid attention regardless. This man had come in-between the last official challenges, and had thus wandered the Swamp, for years, before stumbling on the Foggy Swamp Sage.

                                He had been commanded to use his experience surviving in the Swamp for years to guide those from his region, for a time anyways. Just long enough to make sure the new Trainers understood the important things about the Swamp, like not to mutilate it to make travel easier. They had come across several macabre sights, Trainers crushed to death by vines, and his guide claimed that this was the fate of any who overtly harmed the Swamp. It was also why the locals of Floria had been unable to stop it from growing so large, and swallowing their home. Everyone like him, and there were many in this Swamp, trapped like him since the last challenge, knew where the center was. As well as the Sage who lived there. They had been rejected before, but now, he'd claimed, they had a second chance to prove their worth as his disciples.

                                The Swamp was indeed a region in itself, and Alex would evidently be expected to one day do as they did, and leave the Sage to educate other lost Champions. The blonde, muscled man told him that the Sage expected as many potential candidates as possible. Nobody knew what exactly they would be candidates for.

                                ________________________________________

                                Eventually, the man parted, saying that anyone from Unova should be able to survive easily in a land like this, and find their own way. He'd hopped on his Floatzel then, and smoked a bowl as he chilled on its massive stomach, and followed the river's current away.

                                Alex was now on his own with this challenge. With the lack of flying, that meant traversing the Swamp's wet, slimy ground. Alex took about ten steps before he found his oversized feet stuck in the muck. He was forced to call out Terra, and ride him instead.

                                He didn't seem to mind the Swamp at all, which worked for both of them. The going was slow however, and eventually the mighty earth turtle tired of pulling his feet from the muck.

                                ________________________________________

                                Remembering that Swampert was, supposedly, the 'king of the swamp', Alex called out Hydrus instead, and rode on his back as he swam through the murky brown water. He was indeed at home in this place, and apparently loved the smell and taste of the water. They traveled for what felt like hours, and soon Trainer and Pokémon grew bored. The scenery was the same wherever they looked. Brownish green, vines, trees, and more water.

                                The Pokémon were unique, true, but Alex conquered most of them with his Shruikan, and the Flamethrowers he had. He didn't need to fly, like Blaze, and could essentially burn away any challengers that popped out at them. They didn't see any other Trainers.

                                Alex spent several days traveling on his own, and one night, as he enjoyed a bowl of his ever-full personal Leaf stash, courtesy of his beloved turtle, with the draconic blue flames provided by his loyal dragon, Alex decided to try to call out to whatever Psychic Master was supposed to be testing him.

                                "I can handle navigating the terrain. Are you going to challenge me, or not?" Silence answered him, and he sighed, packed his instruments safely away, and went to sleep.

                                ________________________________________

                                As soon as he'd finished sleeping, and had continued on his journey once more in what felt like the morning, he felt Hydrus stop, and then looked at what had made him do so. A bright circle of white light had appeared before Hydrus, and out of it, floated a creature from myths. Alex stared in open awe upon the impressive form of Arceus, the Alpha Pokémon.

                                He was white, with a regal looking horned head, impassive red eyes, and the body of a stag. Around his middle was the golden ornament that was used as a symbol by those who followed him.

                                It was not only the Arceans who worshiped him devoutly, across the Eurafricasian continent he still had pockets of tribal followers who, through their kind hearts and unwavering devotion, were rumored to be able to tap into his power. But now, here before him at last, was the real thing. He bowed as low as he could, and Hydrus also dipped his head.

                                ________________________________________

                                You have asked for challenge…and so I grant you one. Prove yourself, Trainer. Shivering from hearing the psychic speech of the Alpha Pokémon reverberate through his very being with unbridled power, Alex smirked.

                                "Challenge accepted." He said, turning his hat backwards. The eyes of the Alpha Pokémon narrowed, and as Alex brought out Terra, he had Hydrus bring him to the closest mound of relatively dry dirt before recalling him.

                                Alex didn't hesitate then, shouting "Energy Ball!"

                                ________________________________________

                                The gold coloring of the white Pokémon shifted to an icy blue, and a tinge of dread rolled up Alex's spine. The rumors were true, then. The Alpha Pokémon could change type at will.

                                A beam of ice formed where its mouth should've been, and as Terra saw this, his form shifted, the power of the grass crystal coming to his aid with rapid speed.

                                If it was impressed, Arceus did not show it. Even as Terra fired the Energy Ball, the Ice Beam lanced forth from Arceus' maw, and cut through it with ease. It hit Terra before he fully mega evolved, and Alex knew his strongest ace in the hole had just been taken down in one hit.

                                ________________________________________

                                It wasn't the first time Terra had fainted, nor would it be the last, but it was a rare enough occurrence. Switching Terra out quickly, Alex shouted, "Flamethrower!" Blaze appeared in a burst of red light, and once more, the color of the Alpha Pokémon shifted, from an icy blue, to a deeper navy color. The flames passed over him harmlessly, his water typing making them all but ineffective.

                                Then, he countered, and Alex knew that it would almost certainly take down his Charizard with one blow. This was a deity, there would be no counter-attacks.

                                "Blaze!" He shouted quickly, "Fly up!" Blaze was already moving, but Arceus' eyes were already glowing with fierce power that Alex could sense from his spot on the embankment. A wave of filthy water rose from the Swamp, and hit Blaze directly.

                                The sheer force of the attack slammed him into a large tree behind them, and Alex recalled him before he hit the ground, knowing the move had finished him long before the impact had.

                                ________________________________________

                                Thus, he continued. Leo was taken down by an unavoidable Earthquake, Arthur by his own Shadow Ball, and then Shruikan by Ice Beam once again. No matter how hard he urged them to dodge, duck, dip, or dive, each move from the Alpha Pokémon hit without fail, and every counter he managed to make was immediately nullified or made not very effective by Arceus' type change.

                                He'd saved Hydrus for last, wanting to keep him strong for the remainder of their trek, but now he called him out as well.

                                He'd never had a full party wipe before, and he didn't intend to have one now. Even before a 'god'. He saw the Alpha Pokémon's type change to a familiar green, and he suppressed the urge to cheer. He'd actually made the Alpha Pokémon fall for it. Water had two weakness, electric and grass, but electricity didn't really harm a ground type. At all. That left grass, and thus, the change to a familiar green.

                                "Ice Beam, quick!" Hydrus launched the attack, and it hit the stag shaped Pokémon square in the chest. Alex cheered. At least he'd managed one hit. "Well struck, Hydrus! Aga-" but it was already too late.

                                The Alpha Pokémon had flinched, briefly, and then retaliated. A familiar looking ball of condensed green energy came arcing from his maw.

                                ________________________________________

                                "Ice Beam!" He needed another hit, and that meant at least trying to neutralize this attack. Then, somehow, the Energy Ball curved away from Hydrus' attack, and came around at his left side with incredible speed. It slammed into the mighty Swampert, and sent him crashing into the tree that took up most of the embankment Alex was on. Running over to his friend, as he'd feared he'd heard more than just wood break with that impact, he knelt beside him.

                                "Hydrus…easy bud…you'll be okay…" He fed his Pokémon a Max Revive, which slowly brought him back to consciousness. Alex smiled, then faltered, as he sensed a massive amount of power behind him.

                                He rose quickly as he simultaneously turned, and found himself face to face with the Pokémon he'd dreamed of catching since he dreamed of becoming a proper Champion. It rose above him then, coloring returning to normal white, and Alex recalled Hydrus.

                                He'd given each of his Pokémon a revival item, but hadn't brought them out again. They were usually in no shape to fight once revived, which seemed off to him for some reason, but distracted as he was by literally facing down a god, he failed to make much of the observation.

                                ________________________________________

                                You have failed your challenge. Alex began to protest, then stopped, and nodded. He had, indeed, lost. Finally, his party had been wiped out in its entirety. The sarcastic part of him remarked that it had taken a deity to do so, but he was in no mood to feel smug. He'd finally had a chance to catch the Alpha Pokémon, or at least prove worthy of being his Holder, and he had failed.

                                "I have." He mumbled softly, turning his hat forward once again. He looked down for a moment, then met Arceus' gaze.

                                And now, the Alpha Pokémon declared, You will be Judged.

                                Alex froze. He had heard the stories from Sinnoh, of how Arceus' Judgement had been furious to behold. Luckily, the damage had been negated by some sort of time travel shenanigans, the details of which had never been made fully clear, but still.

                                Many had witnessed his rage, and to this day, those who had seen it lived in constant fear that the vengeful Pokémon would someday return to finish them. Of course, any who had seen it and yet lived were almost a century old, and were nearly senile, yet they feared all the same. This fear made them easy prey for the Arcean Church to get a foothold in Japan.

                                ________________________________________

                                He decided then, that he wouldn't be afraid. He'd lived his life trying to be as kind as he could. He recalled several of the tenants Arceans adhered to, and wondered if Arceus would now make him pay for not obeying them.

                                He dismissed that thought, then. He refused to accept that the Arceus the Arceans worshiped was so petty and cruel that he judged humans harshly for enjoying their brief existence. Surely the true deity was not the vengeful monster that absurd cult groveled to. No merciful god chose a man like Caleb Pravus as a 'Prophet'.

                                His uncle had told him of his escapade into Fornia, and had recalled the man's brutality, and amorality, many times in their smoking sessions. He always seemed frustrated to have been slandered into ineffectiveness.

                                ________________________________________

                                "I accept my failure, and your Judgement, Alpha Pokémon." A swirling orb of pure power formed above Arceus' horned head. Alex's eyes were upon it as the Alpha made it grow in size.

                                Alex briefly wondered if the resulting explosion would kill other Trainers in the Swamp, and he sincerely hoped the Alpha Pokémon had enough control to avoid collateral damage. This Judgement was his, and his alone, and he would not run from it.

                                The red eyes of Arceus shifted back to him then, and he barely had a chance to shiver with suppressed fear before the blinding ball of light shot towards him. The resulting explosion filled the area with blinding white light, and Alex knew no more as he whited out.
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                                Old June 8th, 2018 (9:55 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                                Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                                Pokefan1337
                                   
                                  Join Date: May 2018
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                                  Gilroy Redwood, Pokémon Professor

                                  ________________________________________

                                  This is a 'canon' short-story with relatively important plot information. But you can skip it, if you like.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Gilroy Redwood, who went by 'Gil' most of his life, became a Pokémon Professor around the same time the far more famous Samuel Oak did. Unlike his Kanto counterpart however, he stayed in Unova, in his family's home town.

                                  There had always been a Redwood Lab adjacent to their farm land, handing out Pokémon to Trainers from towns all over the largely unpopulated north east. Most would hardly even call that area Unova, Unovans would call it 'northern Unova', and given that not many people lived up there, not many people minded the lack of an official region name.

                                  Unova was close enough of a trip whether by car or flying Pokémon, so it didn't really matter to the locals of that area. It was, however, far enough for Professor Juniper and her associates not to bother with it. Unova proper had enough Trainers as it was, and it was hard enough getting them Pokémon.

                                  Because of the general lack of people, Trainers around that region within a region didn't usually go off on journeys. The people who lived there could generally trace their roots in the area back five generations, and the Redwoods were no exception. Unlike more populated regions, this also meant that the official lab servicing the area didn't stick to a trio of particular starter Pokémon. It was more of a 'choose what's around, and go catch it' type of experience.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  This is also what caused the local Trainers to start so much later than other regions. The north east was dangerous, home to Tyranitar, Ursaring, and even the occasional Beartic. The winters were usually harsh and long, and the summers didn't tend to last through August.

                                  Despite all this adversity, the area did tend to breed a tougher kind of Trainer, for the few who actually bothered to prepare to go on a journey. Most kids worldwide were taught early on about tall grass being dangerous, but the locals here had a different tradition.

                                  They let their youngsters wander the woods, and they left it to the esteemed Professor Redwood to teach them. There were wild Pokémon all over the place, and walking through grass was an inevitable nuisance. Thus, the community had decided long ago to educate the children early.

                                  This is how poor Gil got roped into sticking around his hometown. He would've much preferred to go south and study the strange Swamp that took up half the coast, or continue to wander the world searching for unique variations of known Pokémon species, like the Black Salamence, but he was needed at home. It was hard to up and leave when most of the youngsters relying on you for their education were related by blood.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The Redwoods had, by far, the largest family for miles, with an aged manor home that could barely fit them all. They never had an issue with extending the barn to make room for more Miltank and Tauros, but Gil's brother, Renault, had outright refused to let anyone touch the house itself.

                                  When Gil and Renault's father, Professor Alaric Redwood, finally passed, the surrounding towns were left without an official Pokémon Professor for several years, as Gil was still getting educated. Becoming a genuine Pokémon Professor tended to take a long time, especially if your specialty was on rare and unique Pokémon that were, more often than not, completely made up.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Gil spent many years as a Trainer of sorts, on the road, traveling the world. Decades had passed by the time word reached him of his father's death, and his brother's. Thus, he managed to miss his nephew's generation entirely, and they were all grown by the time he returned to the family lab at the ripening age of seventy-five.

                                  It became obvious on day one that he would be arguing with his brother's children for the rest of his life. Renault had four, and they themselves were in the process of making even more children. Renault had passed while Gil was still in school, and thus when he finally returned, his young nephew Frederick was playing the 'man of the house'.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  It was an altogether dreary, depressing place in his opinion. The children had clearly been raised 'proper' and saw Pokémon as a source of income, not fascinating creatures meant to be studied and loved.

                                  Frederick had three siblings, Lisa, Edward, and Gilbert (who also went by Gil, making things even more confusing), and they were all in the process of expanding the family line. In short, he returned to a house full of pregnant women and screaming babies. This is how he took to shutting himself in his lab's basement, rather than the uppermost room of the manor.

                                  Everyone was okay with this, as 'The Professor', as they all called him, had a 'foul and disgusting habit'. Smoking Leaf had been illegal during his school days, and that had only made it slightly thrilling. Now, he mostly smoked to alleviate the headache his relatives gave him.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He spent some years living like that, out of his lab's basement, until eventually, by an act of Arceus, he found a woman. Elaine was a 'local', which meant she was from one of the surrounding towns. Nobody cared that her hometown was on the north-eastern coast, they still considered her 'local'.

                                  For a local, she was quite a looker. Hair that was a wonderful cross between red and scarlet, curves in all the right places, and as if that wasn't enough, she shared his sarcastic wit and love of the Leaf. He knew as soon as he met her, and discovered these things, that he would marry that girl.

                                  Which of course, he did, despite his age. With their technology, humans were living longer than ever, and the males of their species didn't lose their juice until they hit their nineties. It also helped when one's lover had a thing for older men and still looked as young as women in University.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  For about a year, things were fine. Their basement was extended, if only to give them a private bedroom, and while it was cozy and stank of many, many smoked bowls of Leaf, the two were quite content to live there.

                                  The trouble started when Elaine discovered she was having a girl. The Leaf smoking stopped, of course, and suddenly, their living conditions were unacceptable, a fact Gil agreed with. The only problem was that by now, everyone had four-year olds running around the main house.

                                  Frederick was also finally married which meant the promise of more children, and he refused to expand the house, as his father had, and also refused to let Gil take his portion of the family money to build a proper house elsewhere. Gil even offered to extend the lab into a second house, but that too was 'unacceptable'.

                                  These long months of stress, coupled with the total lack of stress-relieving Leaf sessions, is what caused Gil's hair to finally turn from a rich auburn-brown to gray. Not entirely at first, but enough to be noticeable, around his dwindling hair-line.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  What turned him snowy white was his wife's death, in childbirth. As obscure as their town was, they'd made the trip to Unova for the birth, and for reasons that were never fully explained to him, he lost his wife, but gained a daughter. The combination of shock, lack of sleep, and having to drive a screaming child up to his home kept him from questioning it properly for years.

                                  As a Professor, he should have pressed harder. He had been trained to handle human injuries, as well as Pokémon's, and he knew enough about the body to understand the medical jargon that the average layman would not. He stayed preoccupied however, as the depression, funeral planning, and lack of sleep kept him from being anywhere near as sharp as he should have been.

                                  His demeanor changed, after that trip. He stopped arguing with his relatives, barely leaving his lab. Almost all of his aides left, and the few that stayed only did so because they had become ingrained in the town after spending so long at the relatively isolated lab. Many said that he'd simply lost the 'spark' that had driven him to investigate even the most absurd rumor in search of a new Pokémon, and it was only his years of travel and experience that kept the rest around.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  His daughter, Malina, grew up in the main house mostly, spending most nights with the other children. By the time she was five, she was already sick of their smelly basement, and was more than eager to get on with becoming a Trainer. Her father didn't often brighten up, but every once in a while, he'd tell her about his travels. For a brief moment, the man he used to be would return.

                                  The cold cynic would always come back, however, as the story only had one ending, and he stopped telling it long before he got to mentioning her mother. By the time Malina was ten, Frederick had finally managed to have his first child, who he'd named Alexander. Up until then, he and his wife had cared for her like a daughter most of the time, and she was a large part of what kept the two men from arguing.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Malina was sixteen when she demanded to be taught to be a Trainer, claiming that Unova girls were already adventuring, and taking down evil organizations with full teams of Pokémon. She had a point, as everyone had seen what Hilbert and his sister had accomplished against Team Plasma. The old Professor finally relented, and resumed teaching the new generation about Pokémon, as best he could.

                                  Aside from a few Trainers who came by seeking a proper starting Pokémon, his students were the offspring of his own nieces and nephews. He taught them everything his own grandfather had, how to walk in tall grass without angering wild Pokémon, which Pokémon were territorial, which would attack to defend their territory, and which would simply growl if they accidentally intruded.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He noticed two things as he began educating his thirteen relatives. His own daughter, and Frederick's son, were remarkably close. What was more, was the son in question clearly did not take after his father. His eyes lit up around Pokémon just as brightly as Malina's. He clearly loved them, and one had to be blind not to see that love reciprocated. He'd been in class for a week before he and his daughter had run off to the nearest pond to try to find a Squirtle, or a Bulbasaur.

                                  That ended quickly, when young Alex's father found out. The other children had been just as eager, but when their parents discovered their plans to go around the nearby wilds in search of Pokémon, they mostly shut them down. A few of the older kids, like Malina, Geralt, and Aria had already managed to catch several Pokémon by convincing them to become their partners. That too, was a Redwood specialty.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Like his grandfather, Gil taught the kids that offering a chance to join your team, rather than snatching a Pokémon from their home, usually made for better companions. Some would battle to test a Trainer's worthiness sure, but most Pokémon were capable of deciding whether they wanted to be part of a Trainer's team or not.

                                  It was an 'outlandish' theory to the more popular Pokémon Professors, who to that very day continued to tell new Trainers that 'weakening' them was key, but it was one theory that Gil had seen disproven over and over again on his travels. There was no need for a battle if the Trainer in question could approach a Pokémon properly.

                                  He had no idea where the concept of needing to battle before catching came from, but he'd done his best to discredit it. That, along with his discovery of the difference between truly unique species variations, and regional variations, was what had given him his small amount of fame.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  With most of the burgeoning Redwoods prohibited from becoming Trainers, Malina's closeness with Alex's parents soon faded, and only faded further as they were primarily focused with caring for Eric, who'd been born three years after his brother. When Gil made his rare visit to the main house to watch the PNN, and his old friend John Crimson, he noticed something else that irked both him, and his daughter.

                                  Eric had been four when the family decided that catching more Pokémon would mean too many mouths to feed, now he was eight, and his brother was ten. There was no ten-year-old alive that wanted a Pokémon as badly as Alex Redwood. He talked constantly to his 'Gruncle Red' about having a Charmander, or maybe an Oshawott, or a Tepig, and so on. It changed almost hourly, but he usually stuck to Charmander as his default.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  His father was adamant though, he could have a Pokémon when he could afford one. It was no secret that the family funds were running on the low side, even with Gil doing what he could to help out. Pokémon Professors got a nice paycheck from the Pokémon League, especially when they actually started a Trainer on their journey. It was hard to do that, given the lack of gyms in their 'region', but he managed.

                                  When Eric turned ten, he was presented with a Squirtle. The family's fortunes had slowly improved, or so Frederick had claimed, and the new generation was allowed to choose partners, with young Alex being the exception. Gil was there for that too, as was Malina, who had just finished her final year at University. She'd inherited her father's mind, praise Arceus, and was on the fast track to becoming a Professor in her own right. That night, as Alex's brother slept soundly curled up with his new Squirtle, the thirteen-year-old and his favorite cousin went to see his father.

                                  Gil had sighed when Eric received the Squirtle, and seeing the glimmer of hope in the young Alex's eyes fade as they took in that sight caused more of a heart ache than he thought he could still feel. His naïve daughter had been sucked in by those large blue eyes on the verge of tears, and she later admitted she spent much of that night to keep him from crying. Even back then though, he'd managed to keep his face somewhat passive, though his chin had trembled.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  When asked why Alex was still being denied a Pokémon, Frederick's response had been to push his son into the hall, and have a long talk with his uncle's daughter. His reasoning had been thus: because Alex had a tendency to be quiet, shy, and withdrawn around people, the local grade school teacher had informed his parents that something was 'wrong with him'.

                                  When he did talk, it was about Pokémon. Rather than doing math, he drew doodles of Charmander. Even at recess, he'd wander into the nearby woods and entertain himself with the Caterpie there, rather than join the other kids. Were it not for his size, he would've been bullied.

                                  His parents had 'tested' him then, driving him down to Unova so a 'proper doctor' could examine him. The doctor had found him to be 'slow' and recommended keeping him from becoming a Trainer, lest he hurt someone with the power a Pokémon could put out. It wasn't that far-fetched of a fear. There were teenagers running around taming Legendary Dragons, after all.

                                  Malina was, of course, furious when she heard this. It was clear what young Alex's parents thought of their children. One was a 'Professor in the making'. One would be lucky to live out his life as a stable hand. Naturally, she went to her father with this news, only to discover that he'd known about the Squirtle. Gil had tried reasoning with his nephew, but as usual, that got him as far as it ever had, and it seemed Alex would continue to be denied a Pokémon. Frederick had even gone as far as to threaten to evict the Professor if he got one for his son anyways.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  That, more than anything, set his daughter off, and it was only his laughing that kept her from demolishing their cozy basement furnishings. He told her that she reminded him of her mother, even though she'd inherited his brain and his hair color. They talked long into that night, and even enjoyed a bowl of Leaf. He wasn't all that surprised to learn she'd become fond of it while away at school.

                                  The next morning, she demanded that they go down to the hospital in Castelia City to find out what had actually happened to her mother. Given that he had always preferred Pokémon to machines, he called out his aging Rapidash, who was still every bit as fiery as he'd been in their youth, and rode him down to the city.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  It was more crowded than he remembered, but much of his memory of his last visit down here had been hazed over by pain and time. Malina was adamant though, and eventually, they tracked down the hospital. Gil had to blink several times as he stared up at the symbol that now adorned the entrance of the building that had not been there previously.

                                  The symbol of Arceus, supported by a metal cross underneath it. Evidently, the Arcean Church had bought out yet another building. He paused, holding his daughter by the shoulder. "We should stay out here. There's no reason to get involved with these people…and knowing them, the records are probably ash by now."

                                  Malina sighed at him, "Dad, most records are kept on computers. Honestly, how old are you?"

                                  The Professor sighed, and muttered something about being too old for this muk, before heading in. The desk monitor already had her hand on the desk phone, presumably to summon security, as he walked in. He didn't particularly find a brown suit covered by a lab coat threatening, but evidently this poor woman did.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  "'Morning, ma'am. I was here about two decades ago with my wife, while she was giving birth to this one," He patted his daughter's head, and smirked as both women gave him a look, "Unfortunately she died during the birth, and nobody could tell me why. I wasn't in my right mind at the time, not enough to prod anyways, but now we'd both like some answers. Do you happen to have any records from back then?"

                                  The woman looked between him, and his daughter, then shrugged. "You can hav'a look in tha basement. Don't get'cha hopes up though. Floodin's a rattata." He nodded his thanks, but the evidently locally born and bred woman was already on the phone again.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Upon seeing the basement, the Professor had to agree. Flooding had indeed been a rattata, but by an act of Arceus, the records from the year in question had been stored on a top shelf, and thus were some of the only papers still intact.

                                  The two Redwoods searched what they could when the Professor suddenly asked, "Malina, what did you say the name of Alex's doctor was? The one Fred took'im to?"

                                  She was by his side seconds later. "I think it was…Doctor Ein…wait, he handled mom, too?"

                                  The Professor's eyes narrowed as he examined the picture. "That name…seems so familiar…but why?"

                                  The two left quickly and quietly then, with a lead to follow. The entire ride back up to Derrion Town, the Professor was lost in thought, using his considerable brain power to try to remember why that name sounded so familiar to him.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Once he got home, he began researching on the PokéNet as his daughter eventually dozed off on their basement couch. He'd shared as many stories of her mother with her as he could bear, over a bowl of Leaf of course, and then once they'd cried themselves out, she had fallen asleep. It was hard to remember she was still just a kid as, like her mother, she'd developed relatively early. He had enough on his mind though, and put the thought of worrying about boyfriends away for another time.

                                  Three hours into his research, he finally dug up something useful. An report from Orre, where a scientist by the same name had been involved in the Shadow Pokémon incident, a calamity that had gained worldwide attention when it had been leaked that a Lugia had, briefly, been infected with shadow energy as well. Thankfully, the science was too complex to easily replicate, and those who had started the research were either in prison, or defectors who sold out their former comrades for reduced or no jail time.

                                  The Professor had had many gut feelings over the course of his life, and he didn't like where this one was leading him. He needed to follow it regardless, however, which meant more digging. He left his daughter a note, got a haircut, and trimmed his beard. He added a bit of hair dye, red like his wife's had been, and he was reasonably disguised.

                                  He got on his Noctowl, Soren, then and headed for the distant Fornia region. The trek was long, and his Noctowl was as old as he was, but he was still a stealthy flier. They moved at night, when he was hard to see, and eventually, they managed to enter the Fornia region by coming down from the north-western coast. That small region was the only part of the coastline to remain free of Arcean control.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Infiltrating the Church wasn't exactly difficult. They welcomed new members, especially members with a background in science and the study of Pokémon. A friend in the north-western region of the coast had given him a fake ID, as a Fornia-certified Professor. His name was changed, but his skills were still very much real. Within a week, he had passed their PokéMeter tests, and was admitted into their main lab in the center of the region, in the city of Sacreus.

                                  Being inside the organization itself, it was easy to see why so many people clung so tightly to their status as a member of this cult. At that moment, he was a cog in a much larger machine, and had he not had an ulterior motive, he might've been swayed into believing their menial busywork actually had a greater purpose.

                                  The longer he stayed, however, the more the corruption began to peek through the cracks in the aesthetically pleasing society. Coworkers would appear with bruises after not having any the day before. Female workers were often called into their superior's offices, and one didn't have to be psychic to guess what was going on behind the doors. He could only hope it might be consensual.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  What got him in trouble, were the children. He loved teaching young ones, and had done so many times on his travels, as well as back home. His station in the medical wing often had him walk by classrooms full of children, whose parents were presumably hard at work 'in the name of Arceus' prophet'. He noticed one of the supervisors of these children, not much older than some of his own family members, getting far too friendly with several of them. Boys, girls, it didn't seem to matter to the man in question.

                                  He reported it to his superior of course, with the idea that not even the Arceans, who he'd never had a high opinion of to start with, would be okay with a pedophile in their midst. Instead of punishment however, the supervisor in question was moved to a different classroom, and Gil got to spend eight consecutive hours in 'PokéMeter Therapy', until he admitted that he'd only 'made up' those accusations because he had 'guilt' for his own 'crimes'. After eight hours of repeatedly answering the same damned question, he made up whatever lie he could, just to get out of that room. After that, he began to understand why it was so hard for people to leave. This was little more than brainwashing. Legal brainwashing, he reminded himself.

                                  He resolved to get out as soon as he could, and thankfully, an opportunity presented itself two weeks after he was brought to live at the facility. His room was spartan, and he'd seen jail cells with better lodging, but he didn't mind. Living in this hellhole gave him access to what he needed: files.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He'd mentioned early on that he could work night shifts with ease, and as he'd guessed, most of the other night workers were not nearly as adjusted. Most adults worked sixteen-hour shifts, so he couldn't blame them. Most teenagers worked the same shifts. If you were in an Arcean family, you let the church educate you, and church education, as usual, left much to be desired. Like actual education.

                                  The lack of education was yet another shackle that kept the cultists where their leaders wanted them, as even if they did escape, they would never earn enough money to support themselves on battling alone. If one family member left the Church, the others either disconnected from them in every conceivable way, or left with them. Sadly, the families in question, while saddened at losing a family member, thought the 'Prophet's mission' was far more important. Thus, the very idea of leaving was considered taboo. It was on one of these graveyard shifts that he finally managed to find what he needed: a detailed file on 'Doctor' Ein's experiments.

                                  It seemed that after the Cipher Organization had fallen to pieces, the Arceans had moved down the coast to absorb what was left of them. One of their own former admins, Ardos, was reportedly working for the 'Prophet' himself, as one of his Hands. The idea was that, because Arceus himself was rumored to have created reality with a thousand arms, his 'Prophet' should have many arms as well. It was the highest position one could hope to attain in the Church.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The research on Ein's work almost made him vomit where he crouched. The Church had evidently started up the process of creating shadow Pokémon again, but as before, they had been unstable. This Ein character had gotten the brilliant idea to use human cells to try to stabilize the darkness, and after injecting them into several Pokémon eggs, they'd had a breakthrough. The madman had copied what the scientists behind Team Rocket's Mewtwo disaster had done. Evidently, they wanted history to repeat.

                                  He couldn't really blame them, as Mewtwo was monstrously strong. According to the file, the infected Pokémon were bathed in shadow energy, and then handed out to local Trainers. Naturally, the poor things were confused, angry, and unable to bond, unless their Trainer proved themselves by dominating their partner.

                                  In this way, the Fornian Trainers kept the weaker bleeding hearts from advancing too far in the Church, while those who embraced their cruelty were given legitimate power, to be used in the name of the Prophet.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  His gut guided him towards the cells used, and his lunch nearly came up as his worst fears were discovered. The use of stem cells to extend human life and repair damaged organs had been discovered ages ago, the only problem was getting a supply of them. Most modern doctors had moved on to other methods of repair, and only used such cells sparingly when needed from the donated surplus their organizations managed to collect, but from what the files he dug up said, the Church had been gathering a stockpile large enough to support a second shadow Pokémon project.

                                  He could only imagine what two decades had done for their research. He carefully took the files, and gave them to his Noctowl, who carried them to a safe place, far from Arcean jurisdiction. Given that they were paper files, created in case the computers ever went down, he didn't expect them to be discovered missing for quite some time.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  As he entered his third week of hard meaningless labor and graveyard shifts, the wear was starting to show, but he couldn't give up yet. He needed hard evidence to tie Ein to his wife. He'd read that one of the methods of collection was siphoning cells from umbilical cords that were supposed to go to legitimate facilities, and legitimate doctors who, presumably, still held a moral code.

                                  Such methods could only get so many cells however, and after finding a vague mention of siphoning cells from fetuses about to be born, it didn't take a large leap in logic to assume what might have happened to his wife.

                                  He could stand to be tired if it meant discovering that secret. He'd even risk being caught, but he no longer cared. The truth was out there, and it was so close. He remained stealthy however, always making sure to get a full rest before attempting another search. It didn't mitigate the exhaustion completely, but it helped.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  It took many long hours of scouring through records both physical, and on the net. He knew he risked discovery by using his computer, but he had no choice, if it meant following a lead. He tried to hide his extracurricular searches in between the numerous logs he made to keep the medical wing running smoothly twenty-four seven, but eventually, his luck did run out.

                                  It was on the day that he finally found hard evidence of Ein's pass card being used on the Unovan facility labor ward, when he was confronted. He'd been the only person in the office that night, and had taken the chance to dig online for what he needed. Had he been more awake, he might've smelled the not-so-subtle trap.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  "Well well well." A smooth baritone interrupted his search, and he felt a chill go down his aging spine. The tone might've been charming had it not oozed sleaze. "Someone has been searching for information in all the wrong places. You're clever though, Professor Redwood. It took us far longer than I'd like to admit to notice where you were digging, and why."

                                  After spending over a month pretending to be a devoted Arcean, the Professor knew who he was talking to. The 'Prophet' of the Arcean Church was a figure the workers pledged their oaths of loyalty to on a daily basis. He coughed, his voice rough from disuse, "Caleb Pravus…I thought I smelled a Muk."

                                  The strike to his cheek was as hard as it was fast, and it sent the elderly Professor spinning in his chair towards his keyboard. He glared at the man, wondering how anyone could purposefully go for the 'evil villain' look, goatee and all.

                                  "I guess the rumors are true then…beating subordinates must be so easy when you control every aspect of their lives…" The Professor expected the next punch, and the one after that, as his arms covered his face. One glance at the 'Prophet of Arceus' told him all he needed to know. The man was enjoying beating on him a little too much. The look in his eye was almost manic.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  "You'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Professor?" Pravus grabbed what little dyed red hair he had still, primarily on the back of his balding head, and forced their eyes to meet. "I had no problems ruining your life…it was so easy to fake her death…on paper, at least. Ein was the one who had to get his hands bloody, weren't you my friend?"

                                  The bespectacled man with dark hair and a hair flick that was entirely too long walked into the Professor's vision. "Caleb, we shouldn't be-" The man was silenced as the fist that had been holding the Professor's hair swung to strike the scientist across his face.

                                  "You will Address me…as the Prophet! Sir will also suffice…" Pravus was panting slightly, his face red from the exertion. It took the Professor a moment to realize that it wasn't exertion that had caused his heavy breathing, but pure, undiluted rage.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Gil wondered for a moment how a man with such issues managed to control an entire state, on a coastline, with absolute authority. Then, he surmised, a cult was probably the way he would've gone about it as well. In this era, such groups were rare enough, but they always devolved into brutality. During the Dark Times they'd been far more popular. Thankfully, the world had turned more peaceful, and rational. To a point.

                                  Ein glared at his superior, and then adjusted his black, spiky glasses. They were several years out of style, and now had cracked lenses. "Sir…is it wise to be telling him so much?"

                                  Pravus turned back to the Professor, and smirked, "Oh Ein…fret not. This wrinkled sack of skin won't ever see daylight again. Put him in the Hole."

                                  The Professor felt himself being lifted by two burly sets of hands, but after being struck and beaten, his vision was becoming unsteady. Fist fights and old age did not mix well.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The next thing he knew, he was waking up to the feeling of someone shaking him. He blinked his weary eyes open, then looked around. He was still clothed, and judging by his exhaustion, hadn't been out for too long.

                                  He noticed then, that he was being shaken by a blonde boy, who couldn't have been older than Alex. "Hey mister," he said, sounding entirely like a twelve-year-old, "You should sleep in the day, when it's hot. It's better to be awake at night. That's the only time we get food."

                                  Groggy as he was, it took the old man a minute to comprehend the boy's words. "Food? What?" He blinked again as several loaves of bread, covered in what looked like dumpster gruel, fell on top of them, and the forms of several other huddled humans nearby. He grabbed one, and sniffed. He'd tasted some harsh dumpster gruel in his time traveling the world, but this was an entirely new level of foul.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He took the time then to figure out what exactly was going on. The boy, whose name was Bradley, said that they were in 'The Hole', and that it was where people went when they were bad. When he asked the boy what he'd done to get put in here, he said, "I…lost my Charmander…Uncle told the Prophet, and then he…then I was put in here."

                                  The Professor gave the lad a hug, though he kept it brief, as he felt the child stiffen in fear at the contact. That was another aspect of this cult he didn't particularly enjoy. Members were required to report other members for violating the 'rules' of the Church. Not doing so got you put in here, or so he heard from his fellow prisoners, and he realized that was probably what had gotten him eight hours of meter time.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Night eventually gave way to the day, and the Professor chuckled. It was amazing how wrong Pravus could be. Judging by the hole's entrance, the sun would be visible for several hours a day, at least. By his third day in the pit, he'd figured out the guard rotations, and from then on, began to plan his escape.

                                  He knew Soren was likely looking for him, and given that they'd been in worse prisons than this, he felt escape would be relatively simple. To the guards, he was just a sunbaked old man making hooting noises for hours on end, but he knew the hole's acoustics would likely be what helped his sharp-eared friend find him.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  Eventually, of course, he did. Hypnotizing the guards was simple, it was helping his fellow prisoners that almost de-railed his plans. None of them would escape with him, each of them, Bradley included, said that they couldn't just abandon their families.

                                  Leaving them behind was hard, but after ten minutes of arguing, he'd had enough. He had information to share, a story to tell, and a daughter to go home to. If these people refused to help themselves, he couldn't force them. Not with only one flying Pokémon. Soren flew him back up north, sticking to the treetops, and eventually, they were free. He patted his old feathered friend, and thanked him.

                                  Once he was safe in his temporary hidey hole that belonged to an old friend with a vested interest in bringing the Arcean Church down, he discovered that he did indeed have useful information on not only Ein, but Pravus as well.

                                  He'd taken to walking around with a pocket recorder years ago, as he and his wife had won or lost arguments by recording previously spoken words. He'd kept hers for years without over-writing it…and in the moment he'd been caught, he'd turned it on more by reflex than anything else. He wouldn't let the loss of the last recording of her voice be in vain. He had proof, now all he needed was an exposé, and he knew just the man to do it.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  "I'm sorry Gil, but I'm not the man to do this." John Crimson said as he poured yet another glass of what looked like scotch. They were in his penthouse apartment of the PNN building in Castelia, and the legendary reporter was bathing in his hot tub, a tray with his favorite meal floating before him, "The Arcean Church has been trying to buy this studio for years, and they're about to succeed. If I run this story, the entire network might go down after they sue us for every charge their lawyers can cook up."

                                  "John, I have the man on tape admitting to covering up murder. That's as hard as evidence gets. It's like you, in Nimbasa's Red District." He'd made four copies of the tape when he'd returned home, and hid them in every safe spot he could think of. Paranoia was a blessing, sometimes.

                                  John Crimson shrugged, "If it's that hard, bring it to the police. If Officer Jenny can't make it stick, no one can."

                                  After several more minutes of arguing, the Professor eventually left the PNN building, and went to the police. Finally, after weeks of hardship, he felt progress was being made, as the officers at the station guaranteed him they could convict on evidence like that.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He went home then, and slept soundly for the first time in a month. He called a week later to check the status of the investigation, only to find that the officers at the station had no recollection of his visit, the evidence he'd presented, or the charges they'd discussed filing. The man on the other end of the phone was more than interested in knowing if he had any additional copies of this evidence however, and the Professor disconnected the call before swearing loudly and colorfully in the privacy of his lab-adjacent room.

                                  He went to every news station that would take his call then, resolved to give the story to a hungry young reporter, eager for a 'scoop'. Instead, he discovered that the Arceans had moved quickly to counter him. Pokésites had popped up, claiming that the esteemed Professor Redwood had recently taken a vacation to the Fornia region, infringed on the religious rights of the Church, and had returned home, drunk off his ass, trying to sell a fake story in order to get a scrap of fame.

                                  Any idiot with a three-digit intelligence quotient would've been able to tell who was sponsoring the aforementioned sites dedicated to smearing him, but the press' interest was on his personal affairs, not the truth. Moreover, they'd taken a similar tactic to his own, and used his own recorded words about his 'crimes' to slander his name. His tone was clearly sarcastic, irritated, and exhausted, but the 'evidence' in his own voice was damning. Eventually, he resigned himself to the fact that he would never be in a position to take Pravus down.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He became even more withdrawn after that, his daughter met a man from Kanto, and moved overseas with him, desperate to get out of that lab basement and start her life. He never heard from her again.

                                  Abandoned, slandered, and outfoxed, Gilroy resigned himself to his studies, but his efforts were fruitless. His sole comfort was his great-nephew, Alex, who alongside his uncle, Gilbert, often joined him in his basement for talks about life, and Leaf smoking sessions. Of Frederick's generation, Gilbert had turned out to be the least stuffy.

                                  The Professor buried what evidence he had in his former bedroom, and took to sleeping on the couch. Eventually, he sealed the door entirely, utterly convinced that what was behind it would never be useful.

                                  He often wondered why people had so easily believed the lies on the PokéNet, and the cynic in him said it was because most people were too thick to dig a little and find the truth. Eventually, he stopped caring altogether, and focused on trying to impart some kind of life wisdom onto his favored relative.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  He'd tried telling Alex's father who the doctor responsible for labeling him really was, but as usual, Frederick took his word, and chucked it. Gil had discovered that Ein had been the one to test Alex, and not using psychological methods. They'd put him on a PokéMeter, and he knew all too well what had happened after that.

                                  The boy had no doubt registered some degree of talent, enough to be a threat. Arcean procedure then instructed the meter reader to either indoctrinate the individual in question, or keep them from becoming a threat. Ein had deemed Alex too 'mentally unfit' to handle a Pokémon once the attempt to indoctrinate his parents failed, and thus Alex grew up without Pokémon. The only comfort he had was the love the Pokémon of the ranch showed him. He handled them better than anyone, and thus was often the one left to clean up after them. It took him all day, usually.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The Professor wanted to help him out, but knew that giving him a Pokémon would only result in eviction. Something needed to change, before he risked that, and eventually, something did. New neighbors moved into the old mansion roughly a mile from their own plot of land, and the Professor watched the new arrivals with curiosity.

                                  For once, Alex bonded with people over Pokémon, though he suspected they only kept coming around because there was literally nothing else for bored rich kids to do in town. Not long after the neighbors came, Frederick made a deal with the man of their house, an agreement to share the vast swathes of land that had been 'town property' for decades now, and far out of the Redwood's price range.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The number of ranch Pokémon increased, the Redwood family clawed back from bankruptcy, and by the time Alex left for University, they were once more sitting comfortably on a pile of golden currency.

                                  Alex had changed as well, however. The Professor had noticed a hardened look in his eye one day, and from then on, it seemed obvious the lad had a goal. He'd spent years on the ranch battling Tauros against Bouffalant or vice-versa, learning Pokémon moves, and squirreling away what allowance he received in order to buy items.

                                  It didn't take a Professor to figure out he was going on a journey soon, and it wasn't until he asked for aid on a topic for a school paper that the old man got an idea. He recommended his great-nephew research the Arceans. He had a mind that, with maturity, had become as sharp as his brother's, and the Professor knew that he wouldn't stop at the surface of the rumors he'd no doubt find.

                                  ________________________________________

                                  The Arceans hadn't become kinder in the years since his infiltration, and his hunch that they would eventually out themselves with their plans for world domination eventually became substantiated. He slowly realized, after watching his relative battle with a Turtwig against a Tyrantrum in his final exam, that this was a Trainer who could out the foul cult, perhaps permanently. All it took was a bit of strategic placement.

                                  John Crimson agreed to help this time, and by pure coincidence, one of the Hands of the Prophet paid the PNN building a visit on the same day Alex Redwood gave an interview. In truth, the Professor had thought his plans foiled before they began once he disappeared on the dragon mountain, but when the video of his great-nephew's Charizard surfaced, he was more convinced than he'd been in decades. This was his chance for justice.

                                  Fate, it seemed, agreed with him, as it was Ghetsis' own pride that led to Reshiram's freedom, and all the wonderful things that followed.
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                                  Old June 9th, 2018 (9:13 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                                  Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                                  Pokefan1337
                                     
                                    Join Date: May 2018
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                                    Chapter 14: The Foggy Swamp Sage

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The Great Swamp - Floria Region

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The first thing Alex felt, was damp wetness. There was nothing he hated more than feeling dirty and damp, and it was that innate discomfort that finally brought him to consciousness. He sat up, groaning, and looked around to find that his entire team of Pokémon was out of their balls, standing around him, with concern in their eyes.

                                    Arthur knelt next to him, and he rubbed his aching head. "Oof. What happened? Where'd Arceus go?"

                                    Arthur tilted his head at his Trainer. "You fainted. Never saw an…Arceus. Whatever that is."

                                    He turned his head to the others, "Did you guys?" They all responded with negative sounds that were part of their name, and that was when Alex noticed. His head snapped back to Arthur. "Wait…did you just speak?"

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Arthur blinked at him slowly. "You…can hear me?" He sensed confusion, and not just from Arthur, but from his entire team. Alex nodded, eyeing each of them. It was like he was seeing them for the first time, what they thought, what they felt, and with but a glance, he could tell how much they cared for him.

                                    His heart wrenched as he sensed their loyalty, especially Terra's. He resisted the urge to hug them all, and forced himself to stand up. They were sensing the connection as well. Something had just awakened another part of their Trainer, and their bonds were stronger than ever. He formed their seven minds into a unified mental web by pure instinct, and a little help from Arthur. They were a team now, bonded in thought and purpose.

                                    He'd felt their loyalty before of course, in battle, but this…was different. "We battled with Arceus." He said, voice returning to his usual confident baritone, "We battled and lost…hard…he used Judgement on me…and then I fainted."

                                    His team continued to stare at him. Arthur spoke again, and as soon as he started, Alex's eyes went to his mouth. It wasn't moving.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "There was no battle, partner. No…Arceus. We would know the Alpha. You rode Hydrus, then fell into dirt-water. Been lying here ever since." Alex let the psychic words ring in his head for a moment, still amazed that Arthur could form them.

                                    Of his entire team, he now knew, Arthur was by far the most intelligent, meaning were he to be tested, his intelligence score would be the highest.

                                    That was normal for psychic types, as they were said to have near-human intelligence. Now, with his strange new ability, he was slowly realizing that it was humans who had near-psychic type intelligence.

                                    He eyed each of his team again, and noticed something else. Their coloring was…different somehow, brighter, and though he knew their typing by heart, he knew that with a single glance, he'd be able to tell another Pokémon's typing as well. Then, on a whim, he looked at himself, and his mouth dropped. One eyebrow raised to Spockian height.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    In each of them he could see their typing, and by pure instinct, he knew what they were, each of the known types having been drilled into his skull at University. When he looked at himself, it was no different, but what he sensed was normal, and psychic typing.

                                    Did that technically make him a Pokémon? Was this how all psychic types viewed the world? Could he learn attacks, or something? What did that make the rest of humanity? Could they learn from TMs as well? He tried not to wonder the chaos that would ensue from humans learning they could, if the trend held, learn a move like Hyper Beam.

                                    Realizing he was damp all over, he paused the flow of questions as he undressed from his soaked, wet clothes and changed into his spares, or rather, he would have, but instead found a new outfit, and a note within its folds as well.

                                    He didn't have to read it to know who it was from, her scent was all over them, and suddenly, standing in naught but his undergarments, he was reluctant to put the new clothes on. He might go months without that scent, he didn't want to lose it.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He decided to keep his damp socks, and had Blaze dry those first. They were a bit singed afterwards, but warm feet were better than damp feet, and now, the pair from his lady love would remain untouched. As long as he washed and dried them, the ones he had would never need changing. Holes in one's socks were a thing of the past.

                                    He grimaced then, as he realized he'd be living out here for who knew how long with only one pair of socks. He fervently hoped this Psychic Sage had clean water. Then again, there was always Hydrus, who even now was washing his filthy clothes with Water Gun. Even though he'd forgotten that move ages ago. Arthur then let them hover over Blaze's tail to dry, using his psychic power, and keeping them from burning. The whole process was relatively quick.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Examining himself again, he tried to figure out how to tap into his supposedly psychic abilities. As he had so often in the past, he reached out towards the nearest small object, a rock on the embankment, and tried to make it levitate. Something was different this time. He could feel it.

                                    He pushed and pushed, until he began to sweat, but the rock he focused on remained firmly in place. That was when a new voice, similar somehow to Arthur's, rang in his skull, and he took a moment to puzzle out the words.

                                    "There will be time enough for that later. Come, my student, and I shall teach you."

                                    "How?" he said aloud, drawing looks from his team once more. Leo muttered to Terra in Pokéspeech, but Alex understood the gist of what he said near-perfectly. He'd been able to before, with about 80% accuracy, but now, he had no trouble discerning that Leo was wondering if their Trainer was losing his mind. Fainting randomly, and now speaking to the open air? Signs of madness indeed. He ignored the two, and mentally fumbled for the source of the deeper voice.

                                    "How?" he asked again, without speaking, instead letting his question echo in his head, hoping that would work.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Then, just like that, he knew. He knew every part of the swamp, every tree, every river, every Pokémon. He could sense them, if he focused, and he had a feeling he would be able to do this on a much larger scale once he was trained.

                                    More than that, his insight into the previously unknown Pokémon's minds gave him Pokédex worthy information. He could catalogue entire regions, if he entered entries manually.

                                    He felt his excitement build. Not because he would likely be able to finally move objects with his mind, but because through this sensory technique, he could maybe, one day, communicate like this to Jess. Distance could mean nothing. He was even more eager to learn, now. He tugged at his new jacket, as it fit a bit snugly over his large frame.

                                    It was primarily black, lined with white, and his undershirt was white, and bore a green Pokéball on it. He had black pants and shoes as well, also with bits of white. His new gloves were white, and his new hat was similarly split between the two colors, but more importantly, bore the symbol of eternal balance on the front of it. She knew him so well.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    His clothes still smelled like her, even his new hat, which he had instantly loved. He was half tempted to try reaching out to her right there, but had a feeling that would be meddling with powers he had not yet mastered.

                                    He'd read enough stories to know that heroes who used such things without practice usually ended up paying for it. Heavily. For all he knew, his attempt at psychic contact would fry her mind and leave her a tragic vegetable. He could be patient, if it meant avoiding that.

                                    So instead he recalled his Pokémon, and rode forth once more on Hydrus. He knew their destination now, and as he linked with Hydrus, he knew his Pokémon knew the route now as well. He'd almost jumped out of the water when he felt Alex's consciousness brush his, but he was rapidly adjusting to it. He was the last member of the team to be fully integrated into their mental connection, and the others teased him like he was their little brother.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Feeling a sudden urge to prove himself, Hydrus reached out with his mind to his Trainer's over this new link. They were one. Alex crouched, placing his oversized feet where he knew Hydrus preferred them, and the swamp Pokémon picked up speed, as he could feel his Trainer's movements, and easily keep him from falling.

                                    The Swampert smirked as he sensed the rest of the team's shock at his speed through the swamp water. He was built for this. They all shone with the power of the Waterium crystal, as Hydrus mega evolved. His arms rumbled like rocket engines, and now, Alex had to cling for dear life as the speed of Mega Evolution propelled them along the massive swamp rivers.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    They were speeding now, rapidly, down a series of smaller rivers, and then into a larger one. He saw several other Trainers doing the same, and gave them a tip of his hat and a smirk as he blew past them. They would try to follow, but he understood the Swamp now.

                                    He'd had his resolve to be a Trainer tested by what seemed like an illusion of the Pokémon he wanted to one day partner with. He didn't care whether it had been real or not, that had nothing to do with the lesson he'd learned.

                                    Losing was as much a part of the path he'd chosen as winning, and even when he'd managed to almost turn things around at the end, and was then cheekily thrashed, he hadn't given in to despair. He didn't care what his record said now, he would always consider himself one loss heavier than the official number.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He adjusted his seating again, regaining some hold, and felt Hydrus turn then, down a side river, and heard the Trainers behind him make the same adjustment. They were a persistent bunch, and he had a feeling that guiding them to the Sage wouldn't be a good thing, for himself, or for them. He almost stopped to reason with them, when he spied a fork in the river he knew Hydrus had to take. They were moving in a counter-clockwise spiral, heading ever closer to the center, and so their path always was to the left.

                                    He knelt down on Hydrus then, and gripped his head fins, the way he knew he'd have to once he submerged himself. They weren't as sensitive anymore, but Hydrus didn't mind having them petted now.

                                    "Water Pulse." A condensed ball of water shot from his mouth, and Alex marveled at how he'd drawn the power, formed it into a sphere, and then launched it all within seconds. He'd felt it like he was actually doing it. He was quite proud of how strong his little Mudkip had become, and he felt Hydrus grin as he sensed his Trainer's pride through their link.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The river exploded before them, and Hydrus dove, dragging his massive hands through the silt at the bottom before moving left again. The other Trainers tried to follow, but by the time they decided on a direction, they'd split up, and the pause had given Alex and Hydrus enough time to make two more such left turns.

                                    They were closer, but it still took some time for them to travel the spiral. He knew Hydrus sensed quicker paths, but he kept him on the spiral course. Alex didn't quite know why, he simply felt his instinct telling him to do it, so he did.

                                    Hydrus didn't argue with his Trainer's instincts, and took the longer path without complaint. He opened up his speed as they came into the last turn, and they sped through the water like a bullet until finally they spied the center. Hydrus slowed to a paddle in the filthy swamp water he loved so much, but his attention was on land, for once. The river's center flowed into a massive wooden hut, and as they entered it, Alex felt a presence. It was enormous, ancient, powerful. It had to be the Sage.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The room they floated into was half water, half wooden flooring. The wooden half had a Taijitu symbol carved into it that must've been centuries old. He couldn't help but grin. His granduncle wasn't as 'mad' as everyone made him out to be. This was physical proof that his concept of combining type energy was the right way to go.

                                    He recalled Hydrus, and entered the wooden building. It was little more than a dock, really, evidently made for Pokémon Trainers arriving by way of surfing. As he exited the old structure, he found another symbol of eternal balance, right in the center of several other similarly old, moss-covered buildings.

                                    This one was much larger, however, and newer. It was made of stones of varying shades of white and black, that had been fused together somehow. In short, it was a masterful work of art and he didn't want his clumsy feet anywhere near it. He walked around, on the white side, towards the large building directly in front of where they had entered this new central area. That was where he sensed the Sage.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    It was, by far, the nicest building in this compound, despite the fact that there was an enormous tree serving as the back of it that reached well above the canopy, and into the sky. Now he understood why flying wasn't allowed. Anyone who saw it could make their way towards it easily, and bypass the test.

                                    He had seen had several other buildings and wings to the compound, but they were simpler compared to the one he was approaching. He wanted to explore every inch of this place, but first, he needed to meet this Sage.

                                    As he entered the building by way of ascending wooden steps, he found himself standing in a grand room that almost reminded him of a throne room in the ancient castles that yet dotted the planet. Nobody knew who had built them, or why, but they had captured the imagination of humans.

                                    They were only owned by the mega-rich, of course, as they were limited in number. The Redwoods owned none, as no such castles had been found in their region. He knew Jess' father had at least one somewhere in Albion, north of Kalos. He bragged about it every Festivus.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Perched on an ornate circular wooden bowl that acted as his 'throne' Alex spied the Sage. He was an Oranguru, but he was easily larger than every other Oranguru on record. Most averaged out at four to five feet. This one had to be pushing fifteen. Instead of a star upon his brow, Alex again spied a Taijitu symbol, white and dark pink, outlined by black.

                                    He examined every part of the room then, and realized this wood was mahogany. The Sage had good taste, it seemed, especially in his doors, which also bore the Taijitu symbol. It was everywhere.

                                    Two Passimian stood before the Sage, clearly acting as bodyguards. They, at least, were more normal sized. He still wouldn't want to fight them himself, however. He approached, and saw the guards tense up, ready to fight. His team responded, eager to thrash these strange, new, and evidently powerful Pokémon.

                                    He held them in check, and gave the guards a smirk. He couldn't wait to battle like this. They'd be unstoppable, now that he didn't have to call moves aloud. They could hear his thoughts as Arthur could, though forming a similar response with human words was, for the moment, beyond them.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Ascending the steps to the throne, Alex looked up at the Sage, and blinked. He'd assumed the large green thing behind the Sage was just another part of his ornate chair, but no, it was much more. Most Oranguru used hand fans made of leaves to channel their psychic power. This one was much, much larger, though given the size of the Sage himself, Alex didn't doubt he could wield it with one hand.

                                    The Sage spoke first, and the power in his voice sent shivers through himself, and then every member of his team. "Hello there." Alex had paused before the guards, who had moved out of his way. He hadn't stopped for them, but had instead been, for a moment, unable to move forward against such raw power. "Come here, my little friend. Don't be afraid." Again, his voice echoed, but this time, with far less impact. Like Arthur, his mouth did not move as he spoke. He was more amazed that someone had actually called him little.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex placed his right fist against his left open palm, and bowed in the classic Unovan style. "Sage, I have come many miles to learn from you. Please, teach me." Oranguru eyed the Trainer then, and his eyes widened. Old as he was, with mastery of the psychic power a human could only ever dream of wielding in their limited lifetimes, he saw many things with the same kind of sight Alex had only just acquired.

                                    Only those with the potential for such power made it through the Swamp. The others usually quit, disappeared from even his sight, or were eaten by one of the many Pokémon that had acquired a taste for humans.

                                    Those mostly lived south of him though. There was a reason Trainers came here from the north. The local wildlife knew not to attack humans in his territory, but should they wander beyond it, said humans were considered fair game.

                                    With his sight, the Swamp Sage saw that this Trainer had already used his new connection to bind his team together. A tingle of what might have been excitement ran through the ancient Pokémon.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    There had been a prophecy, made thousands of years past, during the age of Arceus' last Holder. It said that one day, another Trainer would rise to the same heights he had, and when Arceus was again tamed, the whole of time and space would finally enter into an eternal balance with the realm in which Arceus dwelled.

                                    Passing between them would become easy, and all those who suffered would have a means by which their suffering would end. Since that prophecy had been made, the world had descended into the era known only as the Dark Times, which had ended not so very long ago, at least for a Pokémon as long lived as he.

                                    Oranguru's sire had passed when the Dark Times finally ended, and that was when his heir finally stepped up to become the next Foggy Swamp Sage. As it stood, he was still in his youth, though he was old beyond measure by human standards. In those long, dark centuries, he had seen attempts to find the next Holder fail time and again. The few candidates who made it to the Sages were always turned away, or denied the chance to become the honored student of the Sage who taught them.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Oranguru expected this time to be no different, and yet, the raw potential in this Trainer before him, and indeed, in all the Trainers that had thus far arrived at his secluded home, astounded him. There were several Sages around the world, and though he had several rivals amongst them, he had friends as well. One such was a Slowking, who was the Secret Island Sage of his region, Alola.

                                    They had often competed in games of chess, an amusing and challenging game the humans had invented in a time lost to history. Slowking had also sent word; his own crop of candidates was just as promising. After checking with and receiving similar reports from each of the Sages, they had all agreed. This time, the World Tournament would truly commence, and for the first time in centuries, one of their pupils might climb all the way to the top. But first, they needed to be trained.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex had been waiting, awkwardly, for about five whole minutes as the Sage sized him up, and after coughing, Oranguru blinked, and Alex felt his focus return. "Hmm? Oh yes. Train you I shall. For now, join the others in the dormitory. It is almost time for food."

                                    Bowing again, Alex strode from the Sage's hall, following the mental directions the Sage had shared. He was experimenting with following them while his eyes were closed, when he felt himself bump into someone.

                                    "Oof, I'm sorry, I wa-" he paused, opening his eyes as he didn't quite believe who he sensed. "Professor Oak?" It was indeed the same Professor from Victory Road, a little worse for wear, but unmistakable in appearance.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Gone was the lab coat, and without it, Alex got a good look at his outfit. Purple, mostly, on his long, woolen shirt, the manliest of colors, with the Taijitu pendant still where it had been before, dangling from his neck.

                                    "Ahh! Young Redwood. Glad to see you made it."

                                    Alex raised a brow at the Professor. "I…didn't expect to see you here, Professor. I thought this challenge was for…erm…younger Trainers."

                                    ________________________________________

                                    That got a laugh from the aging Professor, who shook his head. "Nonsense. Most of the challengers are my age at least, or rather, the ones who made it here are. Though there are a few exceptions."

                                    Alex's brow rose further. "Really? Who? How many made it here?"

                                    The Professor stroked his stubble-covered chin, saying, "So far? Around thirty. I didn't expect so many. As for who? Hmm…well there is one you might have heard of. His name is Red."

                                    Alex blinked. "Wait, not the Red…from Kanto? Trained on Mount Silver? Champion of who knows how many regions?"

                                    "The very same!" Gary Oak said, chuckling. "He was in the Unova region actually, but didn't get a chance to challenge the Four before…well, before you showed up. He ran into Lance, the Dragon Master, who was searching for his nephew in Unova, and Lance guided him here. I tagged along as well. I've always wanted to train under a Sage."

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex paused for a moment, then eyed the Professor. Normal typing only, or so his instincts said. Perhaps not everyone's challenge had awakened their psychic potential. Or perhaps the Professor's potential lay in another direction. As he was contemplating the possibilities, the Professor looked around twice, then interrupted the sudden silence.

                                    "Well, I have an appointment with a bush I need to get back to. Don't eat the berries. Smell ya later, Champion." Suddenly glad that they hadn't clasped hands, Alex continued on to the dormitory, to find that the Professor had been right. Most of the Trainers here were several years older than him.

                                    Looking around, he realized he was probably the youngest. He ignored their stares, a skill he had acquired after being forced into the spotlight so often back at the Dragonspiral Tower, and claimed a bunk at the far end of the dorm.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He decided immediately that he could not, would not, live like this. The combined stink of thirty grown adult humans that had just spent over a week in the Swamp, minimum, was almost too much to bear. Even swamp gas was better than this.

                                    Dinner came, and after gathering in a great hall on the opposite side of the dorms, to the right of the main entrance yard with the Taijitu symbol etched in precious stones, Oranguru informed each of them of how their training was to proceed. Each day, they would receive exactly one lesson, no more, no less. Upon completing that lesson to the best of their ability, they would be given a new one the next day.

                                    These lessons were quite difficult however, the Sage had warned, and some trainees had taken lifetimes just to complete one. Having acquired a nose for BS from living with his granduncle, who had quite literally berated the naivete out of him long ago, Alex had a feeling most of them would not require a lifetime to complete, but rather would improve consistently over the course of a lifetime.

                                    He groaned inwardly. It seemed Oranguru was one of those hermit-types that liked to speak in half-truths and give information from points of view only he was privy to. Just like Tyranitar, Tao, and his Gruncle. His mentors had a common theme, apparently.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Dinner was simple fare, some bread, some rice, and a banana. The Sage gladly took the fruit from those who abstained from eating it. Alex had no desire for it either, but he knew he'd need more than bread and rice before long. His body was large, and required quite a bit to keep it running at the level he knew he would need. Thankfully, the Sage informed him that they could indulge in as many helpings as they dared.

                                    Wary of the master's word choice, he settled for seconds, and didn't take more after that. Some other Trainers did, however. One in particular, a Trainer with a red jacket, tanned skin, and sandy blonde hair who was clearly from the Fornia region, Unova's equivalent on the western coast, helped himself to four rounds of rice and bread, eating as though he'd been starved for months.

                                    The others, Alex included, had watched for the consequences of so much gluttony, but the Sage had seemed to ignore him. Indeed, he ignored them all most of the time, preferring to spend his day meditating on his throne. At his size, moving was a chore.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    That was how the first three weeks passed. Occasionally a new student would arrive, or an older one would depart, frustrated with their lack of progress. September was just ending, when something interesting finally happened.

                                    The old Psychic Sage had mostly ignored the apprentices who survived the Swamp, and while he trained them, and answered any question with a confounding riddle, he wasn't the sort of Master you could just visit. He battled each of them once a day, and by using Instruct, taught their 'weakest link' in their Pokémon teams how to properly get over a shortcoming.

                                    For Alex, he knew it was Arthur's inability to learn Psycho Cut, a physical move, instead of Psychic. To get to Psycho Cut however, they first had to learn a new fighting type move that suited this Gallade perfectly.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    His other partners had gotten lessons in battle experience against the Sage, and those battles had not allowed talking. Many students, who Alex saw also lacked psychic typing, had floundered. Yet when Alex's opportunity had finally come, he had excelled…or rather, he'd at least managed to order an attack.

                                    Like the others, he lost consistently to the Sage's fierce psychic power, for he never went easy on them. It was only once Terra had demonstrated that he could balance both types of energy in his Energy Ball, and thus survived the Sage's fierce power, that Oranguru had ordered him to appear early the next morning, for a private lesson. Other students had received similar instructions, and always, they and their Pokémon came away stronger for it.

                                    As instructed, Alex appeared the next morning on the training field. The compound was south of the massive tree that grew partly out of the Sage's main hall, but to the north of it, there had been enough untouched land for a proper battlefield to be constructed.

                                    Instead of a Pokéball in the center however, yet another Taijitu symbol had been carved. Alex was starting to see it in his sleep, and he knew there was a reason. His mind kept nagging at him to look at it, but he never quite figured out why. He felt something obvious was staring him in the face, but the more he tried to see it, the more it eluded him.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Today, Arthur had been picked out by the Sage, and he and Alex stepped onto the field, expecting a battle. Out of all his team, Arthur usually did the best, as fighting moves were Oranguru's weakness.

                                    "Not today." The Sage had said, as his fan glowed with psychic power from where it was fastened to his back. A large boulder had been brought onto the field then, and placed before Arthur.

                                    "Now," came the psychic tone of the Sage, "Use Brick Break upon it."

                                    Arthur's hands glowed with the energy, though they didn't form swords for this move. Oranguru's fan glowed again then, and before Trainer or Pokémon could blink, he'd used Instruct to force Arthur's hand into the massive boulder, burying it deep.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The energy of the fighting type move faded, and Arthur looked at the Sage. He tried to raise his fist then, and found himself stuck. He couldn't pull his arm free of the stone. Refusing to be made a fool of, Arthur summoned the fighting type energy again, and it flowed through his arm.

                                    Deep within the stone, the Sage had used his power to shape it, molding it, and forcing the malleable arm of Arthur, unique to his species, into a proper sword shape. It had been stuck however, despite now being sharp.

                                    As he used Brick Break, planning to pull free of the stone by force, the fighting type energy of the move, channeled through his sword-like arm, allowed him to pull free effortlessly. Eyeing his arm, Arthur switched it between its normal and sword forms at will, a skill that until now, he had not had.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "Form a sword, and channel the energy again." The Sage had instructed, and as Arthur complied, his Trainer stared. He wasn't using Brick Break anymore. He and his Trainer shared a smirk. They had always talked about him learning Sacred Sword, but had no idea for how they might achieve that.

                                    As he focused the power for the attack, his sword arm began to glow with a golden light. Alex suppressed a chuckle, as he heard what his Pokémon planned to call his newest weapon. When filled with fighting type energy, and using Sacred Sword, he would refer to his arms as 'Excalibur'.

                                    Oranguru beckoned the fighter, only to see that Arthur was already being given a PP Max for his new move by his eager Trainer. Eye twitching, the enormous ever-present fan on the Sage's back glowed with a furious pink colored energy. Not unlike Mew, when frustrated.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Suddenly sensing that their daily battle was very much on, Arthur's eyes glowed as well. But for this attack, his arms glowed with a Taijitu swirl on both limbs, a balance of bright pinkish white psychic energy, and the dark type energy he now called forth as well. He never had problems forming sword arms of dark type energy.

                                    He slashed through the furious Psychic attack, canceling it out entirely. Had it continued, it would surely have obliterated the rest of the compound behind them, which would've meant failing, and proving unworthy of…whatever he was here to learn from this Sage. The boulder had, of course, been crushed when the moves had canceled out, and now the field was clear once more.

                                    The Sage's eye twitched again, this time a proper battle-strength Psychic lashed out at Arthur, and even though he knew fighting type energy had the disadvantage, he used his new move, Sacred Sword, anyways.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    It was a poor choice. The immensely powerful Psychic attack cut painfully through the perfected fighting type move's energy, revealing a hidden layer of psychic energy just underneath it, and the attack was canceled out again. Astounded, the Sage sat hard on the ground, a little impressed that this duo had withstood a serious attack from him.

                                    Arms still glowing with psychic power, Arthur looked back at his Trainer, giving a weak grin as he held his smoldering arm. "It's Psycho Cut! At last!"

                                    He looked back to the Sage, who had a smile for once upon his lips. Nothing could quite compare to seeing one's students excel, and these two were quite the pair indeed.

                                    The battle raged on for a few more rounds, and eventually, the Sage called a draw. With Sacred Sword, Psycho Cut, and Night Slash, this Gallade had managed to hold his own against the fearsome power of a Sage Pokémon. They were almost ready.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "How did you two come by such a strong bond so quickly?" The question rang in the skulls of Trainer and Pokémon, and Arthur let Alex answer. Even though he could communicate now, even with other Trainers, he found conversing to be irritating.

                                    It seemed that after their trial in the Swamp, Alex had not been the only one to gain a new ability, and yet only Arthur had benefited as well. The other five seemed unchanged, though now, connected as they were, they could use Arthur or Alex as mouthpieces. It was quite useful for all of them.

                                    "After I…experienced a vision in the Swamp, I awoke to find that I could see the typing of other Pokémon, and communicate telepathically…with those I could see, anyways." The Sage came closer then, sitting before the Trainer and his now-released team. He made a gesture that suggested they should sit as well. Though most of them were itching for a battle as well now, they complied. Chances for Instruction from the Sage always gave them new insight that made them stronger.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "And what did you do in your vision?" The Sage had an inkling, but he needed to hear it from the Trainer himself. Reading minds was nothing for a Pokémon of his power, but when it came to humans, he found that they appreciated not having their innermost thoughts read aloud.

                                    "I battled Arceus…I battled Arceus, and lost. Hard. I managed to get one good hit on him, but then he took out my last Pokémon, and used Judgement on me. When I woke up, I saw the world with different eyes." The Sage pondered his words, then nodded.

                                    "No more training do you require today…nor any other day. You and your partners are ahead of the others by many degrees. You may stay, train, observe, but until they catch up, you do not require more instruction. For now." The Sage eyed the human subtly, watching for a reaction of rage, or disappointment, or entitlement…but this Trainer remained calm, balanced, and though he could see the Unova Dragon's presence deep within his very being, he did not need to rely on that Pokémon's balance to keep his own.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Choosing an honored apprentice this early was unheard of…but the Sage had a feeling that this Trainer would definitely be one of the final contenders for that honor. There were many challengers now, though. Roughly five hundred Trainers total now remained at the Swamp Dojo, roughly half of what they'd started with.

                                    The others had mostly gone home, but some were simply lost. Even though training that many other humans would take time, Oranguru resolved to keep an eye on him from then on. "Go, enjoy your free time, do what you wish, and when the time comes to resume your training, you will know it."

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex nodded, then stood, and bowed. The rest of his team, even the prideful Charizard, did the same. The Sage felt the tingle of what could have been excitement once more. "We will still battle once a day…but otherwise, you are free to do as you please."

                                    Alex nodded again, recalled his team, and left. Oranguru then announced that for the rest of that day, all but Redwood would be required to endure physical training under the guidance of his strongest Passimian.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The announcement caused confusion, even anger, but Oranguru knew that drawing ire to his strongest pupil would only forge him further into what he needed to become. He had singled out a candidate, and that meant Redwood now had a target on his back.

                                    He reacted accordingly, and that night he did not return to the dorm, much to his fellow Trainer's surprise. Instead he camped out in the Swamp, on an unused part of the massive landmass the great tree stood upon. It was probably the largest mass of land in the entire Swamp, and the Sage's compound took up only a small space.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex set about constructing a small private dwelling then, with the help of his team. Each of them pictured what it should look like, and eventually, they worked out a design and set about building it. On the westernmost edge of what he'd nicknamed the 'Sage's Island', for the landmass was surrounded by water, Alex set up his hut.

                                    Hydrus had access to the water, and was content with sleeping in the mud and filth his kind preferred. He said that on the Swamp Scale, this one was a ten. Alex didn't quite understand that, but took Hydrus' word for it.

                                    With the help of the rest of his team, he gathered logs, cut down a few trees across the massive swirling river, and bound them together with the ever-plentiful vines that crisscrossed the Swamp's canopy.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Terra also slept outside of the small dwelling, covering most of it from view with his tree. He buried himself in the rich soil, as his mother had, and each night grew stronger for it. He too found that the land here was giving him immense power, as he adjusted to it.

                                    Blaze rested atop the domicile, and because everything was flammable, he'd been given a small U-shaped perch he could rest his massive tail upon safely. Leo preferred to stay inside, with his Trainer, keeping him warm as he lounged in the bed of woven vines he'd shaped like Oranguru's 'throne'.

                                    Arthur had a small adjoining room where he let himself hover in the air as he slept. It wasn't full sleep, but more of a restful meditative trance that allowed him to remain vigilant, but also rest his conscious mind. Shruikan, for his part, had opted to remain in his ball. He didn't care for the Swamp, finding the whole thing a waste of time. He wanted to evolve, and he often asked Alex how he expected to find a Legendary Holder if all he did was train here.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    As time passed and October passed with it, the training of the rest of the compound intensified, and the Sage kept an ever-present eye upon the Trainer he had a feeling would surpass them all.

                                    He was a strange man, always lounging around with his Pokémon, smoking various plants he grew on his Torterra's shell astoundingly quick in the bright southern sun. Despite the Swamp's ever present and entrancingly green canopy, there were patches of sunlight where his Torterra would lounge, and he'd discovered that tossing the seeds of Leaf he found in his purchased bags onto his Pokémon's shell was an amazing way to grow a stash for the rapidly approaching winter.

                                    He'd run out of seeds once, of course, but the 'Vegemite Man' as he'd named the blonde stranger, always had more. From his region, no less. The Leaf often reminded him of home, and Terra kept up a steady supply of it for his Trainer, who horded it in a strong, storm cloud colored jar, full of crushed Leaf.

                                    When asked why he did this, by the Psychic Sage himself, Alex replied, "Because, winter is coming." Oranguru's stoically passive face had twitched as he suppressed the urge to laugh, and he had left the Trainer's hut without another word.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    The next chance he had, Oranguru spied on him some more. He moved around strangely, with a makeshift 'staff' of what looked like a long, thin, ancient piece of plastic waste used at one point, ironically, for cleaning homes.

                                    He'd apparently found it while wandering the Swamp, but now, it was an extension of himself, and when asked if such a strong Trainer like him needed a real staff, Alex simply shrugged saying, "I don't mind using this one until it breaks. I have a better one."

                                    From then on, he made a show of idly twirling it as he amused himself on his solar-powered computer, which he'd stashed in his bag. He smoked, gamed, and grew more for winter.

                                    His debts were paid back home, and he'd earned the right to not have to deal with his family's insanity this Arcanalia, another term for the Festivus season. When his device needed recharging, he trained with his team, every day, pitting them against the opponent they'd have the most trouble against over and over, until they found a way to win.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He'd told his family he would become a serious Trainer, and with the sheer amount of uncontrolled destruction his lounging Pokémon wreaked on his 'room' any civilized home would've been destroyed. Yet another reason not to return home for Festivus. After Redwood had blocked the Sage's full power moves, there had been a shift in the mood of the complex.

                                    The other students got one-on-one time with the Sage, but Redwood had not, as his Gallade had already learned Psycho Cut and Sacred Sword, thus fixing the weakest link in his team. While many of the other disciples envied or disliked him for his seemingly rapid advancement, most had been fascinated, and sought to learn from him.

                                    He had combined the Unova dragons together again, after all, at the Sage's own admission. It was no mean feat, and none wondered if the Sage was lying. There had been video evidence of the entire thing, after all.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex explained what he'd learned about combining the energy of Pokémon, and how he used it in battles, and often he would spar with the other Trainers, teaching them what martial arts he could, usually however, he was the one learning.

                                    Oranguru had approved of this, and soon, being able to successfully combine a dual-type Pokémon's attacks was a requirement for advancing. Many Trainers had special crystals and at least one Pokémon with dual typing, so all of them had the potential to master this style of battling.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex hadn't held onto his perfect win record, not like he supposedly had in Unova. The Trainer from the Fornia region with the sandy blonde hair and classic good looks had arrived at his hut to challenge him one day, and revealed that all he used was a Rayquaza.

                                    Typically, there were three shades of Rayquaza to a continental region, not dissimilar to the roosting habits of Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno. Each Rayquaza ruled over a portion of the sky, and often you could tell which you were facing by its coloring. Because much of the western part of the continent had red rocks, the western sky's Rayquaza had formed red scales, while the east's remained green. Unova's Rayquaza was much, much older however.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    This Trainer's Rayquaza was powerful, and could even mega evolve. Often a powerful Outrage attack would one-hit Alex's chosen Pokémon, Shruikan, and through the bastardry of item usage mid-battle, he could end up missing the right moment to hit the Legendary with a dragon move in between truly destructive bursts of rage.

                                    Shruikan saw it as good training though, for if he was going to be stuck in this green hell, he might as well benefit from it. As messy as his Pokémon were, their destruction usually did not permanently injure their surroundings, but this Trainer and his partner did not seem to care what destruction their attacks left in their wake.

                                    Each time they battled, the Swamp around them would have devastation for miles, the only exception was when Shruikan actually got hit. Then, it was the makeshift battlefield that took the damage.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    After a straight week of being beaten in this manner, Alex approached the Sage, more irritated than anything. His items were not infinite, and he was running through Max Revives. There was no place to replenish them, either. Oranguru had almost seemed to smirk, and say that Alex simply hadn't practiced enough, clearly. He'd returned home then, only to find Brad waiting to battle again. This latest loss was different, however.

                                    "What's the matter?" The sandy blonde Trainer said, shouting as Shruikan went down again after the latest pair of Outrage attacks. The Trainer's flute cured confusion, so after a brief song from it, his Rayquaza could attack over and over.

                                    "Too much for you? As someone who's supposedly mastered a Trio of Legendary Pokémon, I figured you of all people would be able to handle my 'inferior' west coast Rayquaza. Have you caught the eastern one yet? Or, you could just use the Unovan Dragon… unless he was too much to handle in a ball."

                                    ________________________________________

                                    For their continent, Unova and Fornia had always clashed, as they were the center of their respective regions, and the most obvious way of testing which coast was stronger, short of war, was battling. There was a tradition of Trainers catching the Rayquaza of their region, and then battling against the other.

                                    The east coast had a record of victory over the west, but since the east's Trainer had passed several years ago, causing their Rayquaza to disappear in sorrow, the west now claimed superiority. Nobody in Unova seemed to care however, as they were too enamored with the return of Tao to bother with worrying about the annual battle with the Fornians.

                                    Alex smirked. He swirled his bag around to his front, catching the 'staff' that had been resting between the pack and his back expertly, before it could fall. He fished through his pack with one hand, and pulled out an emerald colored ball, patterned with the coloration of the eastern green Rayquaza's scales.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    These battles had acquired a small crowd of other disciples over the past few days, and now, they murmured with excitement at the appearance of this ball. This was the Trainer who combined the Unova Dragon. Surely catching a Rayquaza would've been easy compared to that.

                                    The other Trainer stared. "You…did catch it? Then why aren't you using it?" Alex shrugged, smirking inwardly as he played up his bluff. The ball was, of course, empty.

                                    "My own team needs the experience more than a Legendary dragon type does. I was hoping to battle your team, you know, the one you journeyed with?" The crowd murmured again, and the Trainer, whose name was Brad, lowered his gaze at the mention of his team.

                                    He had classic good looks and tan skin to match his hair, a perfect stereotype of the people who lived on the western golden coast. As Brad looked down, a flash of red light burst from Alex's belt. Blaze appeared in a burst of flame, and glared down at the tan Trainer, nostrils flaring as he recognized the scent of the man who'd abandoned him.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He'd watched from his ball for several days now as this Trainer had beaten his, but he hadn't been sure of his identity until he'd gotten a good look at him, and his chosen Pokémon. Blaze had been abandoned, forced to wander the massive desert of the Orre region, as his Trainer had managed to catch Rayquaza early on through sheer luck. A relative's Pokéball.

                                    Evidently, he had no longer seen the point in using his Charmander, so he flew into the desert and left it. Blaze shifted his gaze to the 'guardian' that was responsible for abandoning him. This Rayquaza could fly far and fast, and once it saw his Trainer leave Blaze's ball, it must have known the Charmander within was likely to die if left alone. Yet it had done nothing to prevent this.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Blaze had emerged from his ball on his own however, alone, lost, and in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. He crossed it all the same, gaining only a few levels. Enough to, at least, learn Ember and give him a slight type advantage over the many bug and grass Pokémon he ran into. Between that and Dragon Tail, he'd managed to survive. He'd traveled from one side of the continent to the other before he realized what he was looking for was an honest Trainer who could make him strong. He was sick of losing to ground types.

                                    The fire crystal in Alex's pocket glowed, and surrounded the Charizard. His form shifted as he near-instantly mega evolved. His eyes were as red as they had been against Lizardon, and he snorted blue flames at Rayquaza, before focusing his gaze on his old Trainer, and snarling.

                                    Being the sole member of a Trainer's team for most of his pretty challenging journey had made this crimson Rayquaza a bit arrogant. He was in prime form, could mega evolve, and few were capable of withstanding his Outrage. The Legendary Pokémon's eyes burned as well. If this upstart thought he could match a Legendary because of a temper tantrum, Rayquaza would put him in his place.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Realizing the battle was on again, Rayquaza kept his mega form, but before he could unleash an Outrage, Blaze was there, furious, both claws engulfed in the deep red energy of his Dragon Claw. Alex shared his rage, as through their link he had read the Charizard's thoughts.

                                    Blaze had always been reluctant to share his past with his Trainer, but now, the secret was out. There was no hesitation on Alex's part. He shared the universal dislike of Trainers who abandoned their Pokémon, and Blaze had more than earned his revenge. He freely gave him the power to take it. United, they were ridiculously strong.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    It didn't matter if this single battle with Shruikan had already ended, Rayquaza hadn't been hit, and this was a grudge match that Alex had no intention of stopping. The crimson Rayquaza went flying through the air, and though it eventually managed to right itself, it had been knocked clear of the makeshift field Alex had outside his hut.

                                    After so many Outrage attacks, the 'field' was basically gone, but that didn't matter anymore. Furious, and knowing he'd need room to fly, Blaze torched the vines around them, clearing a space above the field. Oranguru's field had a similar open-air space, so Alex figured it was fine. There would always be more vines.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "Alex! Calm your Charizard down!" The cry came from Red, who was standing beside Gary Oak. Both known experts on how to use a Charizard. Reds', once Gary's, was rumored to be a king. In Johto.

                                    The two had met, of course, and Alex found the older Trainer's insight both amusing and enlightening. They'd even pitted their Charizard against each other, and had a great match. Blaze had gone strike for strike with Red's Charizard. Alex was kind of proud. They'd eventually had to stop however, as the combined heat of two Pokémon with Drought had rapidly turned the Swamp to kindling.

                                    Oranguru watched the battle from his bowl throne, which could ascend to the branches of his tree. Did they not hear the thunder? That was his home that was likely to catch on fire. He mentally spoke to the Swampert, and told it and every other water type around to put out any fires.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex shook his head at Red's words, and the other Trainer arched a brow. Alex spoke quickly as Brad's Rayquaza recovered, and prepared to retaliate. He had no doubt as to what move it would use.

                                    "Trainers who abandon their Pokémon are scum." Alex declared, glaring across the ruined field at his opponent. "This Charizard was once your Charmander. Do you remember him? You left him in the Orre Desert to die once you had your Legendary."

                                    Brad kept his face neutral as he ordered his partner to attack. "Outrage." The small crowd's murmurs turned to angry whispers, and more than a few glared at the Fornian Trainer. It seemed the rumors about the Fornian's tendency to leave weak Pokémon to the desert east of their region was true.

                                    Nobody liked stereotypes but most gathered had learned about Alex's connection to his team. His words rang with truth, and Blaze's fury only reinforced them.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Crimson light surrounded the Legendary dragon, and a similarly colored beam shot from its maw, towards Blaze. Wordlessly, he dodged, and flew towards his opponent. The thing about Outrage however, was that it was a furious, multiple shot attack that kept coming and rarely missed.

                                    Blaze dodged each of the fierce shots, using Alex's eyes and his ability to fly in combination. He'd been burning for a shot at this Rayquaza for years. He refused to lose. Now, this Trainer would see what he had missed by choosing a Legendary Pokémon over him. That choice had cost him everything he'd ever known. It was time for revenge.

                                    Once he reached his opponent, the Charizard raised a claw, and Rayquaza twisted, planning to dodge it. Blaze let the claw slash through the air uselessly. He hadn't summoned power for the attack, but instead used it to gain momentum for a forward roll, that ended with a fierce Dragon Tail.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Rayquaza eye's widened as it recognized that particular strike, one his sire had mastered. This was no Unovan Charizard. The crimson dragon went down hard, but this was a Legendary, and a well-trained one at that. The irritating sound of Brad's flute cured the haze of confusion that had begun to settle over his eyes, and once more, Outrage struck.

                                    Once more, Blaze dodged. In a normal battle, he might have taken a hit, but this was no normal battle. Not for him. This was long-awaited revenge against the Trainer who'd abandoned him. His focus was like iron, and linked as he was to his Trainer, these attacks almost seemed to move in slow motion. Seeing them from multiple angles made dodging much easier.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Again, he countered, dodging the last furious blasts of red energy before coming up and hitting the Legendary with a dual Dragon Claw across his throat. It was a critical hit, and caused serious damage, but Blaze wasn't done. He spun again, sideways this time, hitting the snake-like body of the Legendary horizontally, and sent it soaring across the river to the west, through yet more vines that hadn't been burned, and into the trunk of a large, ancient tree on the opposing side of the wide river that surrounded the island.

                                    Alex sensed his Charizard fully intended to rid the western skies of their guardian, when he shouted, "Enough!"

                                    Blaze paused, glaring back at his Trainer, and Alex focused on their link, reaching into his partner's mind, and letting his inner peace mix with and balance out Blaze's rage. "Enough…" He said again, tone soft.

                                    Blaze landed, and Alex held out his hand, palm open. The fire lizard pressed his forehead against it, and his Trainer sighed in relief. He'd been close to losing control, closer than he'd ever been, but Alex didn't blame him for it. He would've been just as furious.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    "You'd better go to him." Alex said, louder, hand still resting against his Charizard. "He's hurt. I can sense it from here." He looked from Blaze to Hydrus then. "Help him cross the river, and then bring him to the northern edge of the Swamp."

                                    The Swampert then ordered the other water types he'd gathered at the Sage's request to keep dousing fires, as it obeyed Alex's command. Oranguru watched, stunned, as his command was overwritten. The mud fish respected the boy more than a Sage. He sighed, exhaling Leaf smoke as he watched the human from his perch. "This kid…"

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Alex turned to Brad then, giving him the same icy stare his Charizard was. "From there you can find a Pokémon Center. Heal your partner, and don't come back. Scum like you doesn't deserve to learn from the Sage."

                                    The sandy blonde's face twisted with anger. "You're going to pay for this, Redwood…"

                                    Alex smirked. "No, I don't believe I am. When you and I next meet, Shruikan will be more than a match for you, and on the off-chance he isn't…" Blaze snorted, his flames still burned blue, and they seared the air.

                                    "My Charizard will handle you. Either way, you are done here. I'm not going to abandon you and your injured partner to the Swamp, the way you abandoned Blaze. I'm a Pokémon Trainer. I try to help everyone. Now get out."

                                    ________________________________________

                                    Brad looked around, but seeing that the few friends he'd gained here had turned to enemies, judging by their expressions, he did as Alex suggested. He was wise enough at least, to take help when it was offered. He stomped over to where Hydrus waited, muttering as he shoved past Alex, "You will pay for this, Redwood. I'll find another Sage. Mark me, this is not over."

                                    Blaze snarled at the Fornian Trainer, fangs bared. "End him now, no threat later…" His thought process echoed in Alex's head. Rather than respond, Alex focused on keeping Blaze's fury from re-igniting.

                                    "Not yet, my friend…" He replied, glaring at the Trainer as Hydrus ferried him over. "Not yet…be better than he is." He stayed closely linked to Hydrus for the rest of the day, and when he felt the pair had reached the northern edge of the Swamp, where they'd started from, he instructed his Pokémon to return post-haste.

                                    ________________________________________

                                    He did so, but not before batting away a Master Ball from Brad, sending it smashing back into his face. The coward had tried to add thievery to his list of abuses, and Alex looked forward to the day he dared to show his face again.

                                    Alex exhaled slowly, and kept himself, and the rest of his team, calm. They would use that anger later, and save it for a battle in the future. For now, he would let it simmer. Once Hydrus returned, Alex sensed Red approaching.

                                    He arrived just as his Swampert did. "The Sage has asked to see you." Alex nodded. He'd been expecting that, as well. He rose, and headed back towards the compound.
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                                    Old June 9th, 2018 (9:37 AM). Edited January 9th, 2019 by Sahqoreyth.
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                                    Sahqoreyth Sahqoreyth is offline
                                    Pokefan1337
                                       
                                      Join Date: May 2018
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                                      Chapter 15: The Castelian Civil War

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Hall of the Swamp Sage - The Sage's Isle

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "I will say this much. You have nerve, Redwood." The Foggy Swamp Sage sat upon his wooden bowl-throne which, Alex realized, was balanced perfectly on one of the massive roots of the tree that grew on this 'island'.

                                      He raised a brow at his mentor, and crossed him arms. "I'm sorry, I assumed you wouldn't want Trainers who abandon young Pokémon to their death in favor of power, learning from you. Was I wrong in that assumption? If so, I'll leave right now."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Oranguru raised a hand. "Nonsense. Nobody leaves until I allow them to. What you learn here can be dangerous if not used properly."

                                      Alex rolled his eyes. What he himself had actually learned here was minimal. His team had gotten most of the training. His own 'power' remained woefully untrained. "All the more reason to not allow Trainers like Brad here in the first place."

                                      There was a heavy sigh from the Sage, and he glanced at his Passimian guards. They proceeded to leave immediately after. "I sense conflict within you. I assumed that when you said you would be staying here for the winter it was because you had nowhere else to go, but that is not the case, is it."

                                      Alex frowned, and buried his surface thoughts. "Don't change the subject. We were talking about Bra-"

                                      "We talk about what I say we talk about, Redwood." The Sage interrupted, "I am the master. You are the student. Speak, why have you not opted to return alongside the others for your solstice holiday?"

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Alex averted his gaze from the Sage, "I have no desire to see my family when I could be honing my skills. I still can't use these powers I supposedly have." That wasn't entirely true, as he could at least levitate a pebble now…but the appeal of levitating a small rock was short-lived. Still, just seeing the damned thing move when he ordered it to with his mind was intensely satisfying, after years of literally nothing. He levitated his Pokéballs every chance he got, wanting to get stronger.

                                      The Sage pressed him, speaking as he always did, with his mind, not his mouth. "There is more to life than training. For those like us, there must be time to eat and rest as well. Do you not care for your family? Do you not wish to see your-"

                                      ________________________________________

                                      It was Alex's turn to cut him off. He didn't want to think about who he was missing out on seeing, as it was too painful. "Of course I care. I have those I wish to see. But this is more important. My instinct says to stay here and train."

                                      Oranguru's wide lips formed into a sly smirk. "You humans pride yourselves on the ability to ignore your instincts, do you not?"

                                      Alex's eyes narrowed, as his mastery over his lustier urges had been a recent stray thought when Jess had been all but mentioned. "Stay out of my head."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      The large Pokémon laughed then, a sight that was rare, as the Sage did not often display emotion. "I cannot. Your thoughts are like a loudspeaker, and my senses are everywhere, I see all, I hear the thoughts of every living thing in my domain. I could listen to the planet, if I wanted to go mad. I cannot help it if I overhear yours. Such is the strength of my psychic power."

                                      "See? That! That is what I want to learn." Alex sighed, looking down, then finally back to his master. For all the grief and riddles, he had come to like the old Sage in the long months they'd been stuck together. His humor was dry, clever, and often Alex was the only one who laughed at his jokes, as he was the first one to grasp them. The Passimian found them humorous as well, but the other students were still convinced the Sage simply wasn't funny.

                                      They still needed time, and that was the deciding factor in what had convinced Oranguru to let them return to their homes for two months. He knew many would not return. Living in the Swamp was hard, after all.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "A compromise then, master. Teach me how to speak to those I cannot see, with my mind. Or tell me how I can lift more than a damned pebble. Give me something to hone over the two months you want me gone. If you don't, I might go mad with boredom."

                                      He'd almost gone mad with it by staying here. Red had been the last to leave, and that had been in the middle of November. Since then, the days had become monotonous, and aside from his daily spar with the Sage, the rest of his time was outright dull. There was no connection to the PokéNet out here, he'd thoroughly beaten what games he'd brought with him, and if he was being honest, he missed conversing with people whose mouths actually moved when they spoke.

                                      He missed food that had flavor, and wasn't remotely related to rice or bread. He hadn't had meat for the longest time, and while Blaze, Shruikan, and Leo hunted, he didn't find what they brought back very appetizing.

                                      The Sage looked him over, the same way he'd done when he first arrived, and Alex's excitement grew as he sensed he was finally about to convince his master's stony refusal to teach him to bend.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "Fine."

                                      The deep voice boomed in his skull, and rang with a tone of conceding an argument. He'd been pushing for more training for months, without success. Until now.

                                      "I will teach you how to reach out with your mind and communicate with those you cannot see, and even those who are far away. Then, once you have the basics to practice, you will go home, and enjoy what time you can with your family."

                                      He knew better than to jump with excitement, but he was practically shivering with it. He bowed instead, right fist to left palm. "I await your instruction, master."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      The Sage rolled his tired eyes, and then closed them. "Enter the state you are in when you meditate…Arthur, join us." Arthur appeared then in a flash of pinkish-white light, bowed, and sat beside Alex, legs crossed. Alex copied him.

                                      "Show him."

                                      The Sage spoke again, echoing in his head, and Alex blinked in surprise. "Wh-" but he was already being guided by Arthur's own Psychic power, instructed first hand on how exactly to reach out with his, and sense the world around them.

                                      Emotion played a large part in this, and Arthur warned him to maintain his balance. Anger, frustration, rage, these things could manifest as devastating forces if left unchecked, and could potentially destroy the world around them. If he turned too dark, the atrocities he committed with such power would haunt him forever. Luckily, Alex had always been slow to anger.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Something he felt he'd been missing for months finally clicked into place, and his eyes shone blue. First, he sensed Arthur, then the Sage, then the Passimian guards just outside the room. He opened his eyes, and felt he could still sense them.

                                      He brought his senses in, then expanded them again, over and over, testing the limits of how far he could actually reach. Oranguru watched his student with his third eye as he took his first steps into a larger world.

                                      "Come." The Sage said, "Place your hand upon this root…sense the tree as you have sensed us, and you will understand."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Alex raised a brow, and rose. Arthur followed him as Alex ascended to the throne, and surreptitiously peered into it as he knelt beside the root his master was balanced on. He knew Red had been lying about the master having Pokéballs within his reach. A Pokémon as a Trainer? Outrageous.

                                      They could teach, yes, battle alone, learn from and enlighten others, but battling as Trainer and Pokémon was an act only humans and Pokémon could do together. He didn't quite know why. Yet.

                                      Red had the opposite opinion, mostly because his spoon-wielding Mewtwo had battled him with his own team of allies, before Red eventually caught him. Mewtwo and Arthur had yet to face each other, as Alex kept holding off, until they had a Psychium crystal. Mewtwo's power was allegedly on par with Arceus. Especially in Mega Form. If they were going to battle, it needed to be somewhat even.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      He felt the Sage's power force his head back to the root, and he cleared his mind once more, placing a hand upon it. He reached out, feeling it as he had felt the others. It was alive, of course, but beyond that, he couldn't tell what he was supposed to be understanding. "I don't…I don't sense anything, master."

                                      He heard the Sage sigh. "You're too focused on what is in front of you. Reach out to what you know is beyond you. Be mindful of your surroundings."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Sensing what he was getting at, Alex shifted his focus to the tree itself. It was just out of his reach, but then he noticed that if he but followed the root, he could reach it. That was when things began to make more sense.

                                      The root was a part of the tree, it didn't matter how far away it was, they were connected, and that connection could be followed. Follow it he did, and again, his perception changed. The tree, he had known, was massive, but he had never understood just how massive it truly was.

                                      It went deeper than he imagined, and he followed the roots, until eventually to his surprise, instead of ending, they grew into another tree. And another. The further he followed them, the wider his perception became, until finally he could see it all. It was similar to when he'd received the map to this place telepathically.

                                      For a brief moment, he had sensed the entire Swamp, and everything's position in it. Later, he had discovered that ability had disappeared. Now, he realized, that awareness had been residual knowledge from the Sage. He was as much a part of the Swamp as this tree was. Alex once more felt as though something obvious was staring him in the face.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      He sensed the Swamp, and everything in it, and just as he felt he was about to cross that threshold of understanding, an entirely too-relaxed voice echoed in his head.

                                      "Hey there."

                                      The random, casual voice he heard in his head made him jump, and he could feel the two psychic types next to him smirk.

                                      "I'm the Swamp Tree. How's it hangin' bra?"

                                      Alex glanced, eyes still shining blue, at his master, and then the tree again. He sensed it all, and the Swamp Tree made him realize just how close a connection psychic power let you have. With anything. Plants were great, naturally, and were usually pretty chill to talk to.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      He smirked, and decided to enthusiastically roll with it, responding mentally, "Not much, Swamp Tree. What's up with you?"

                                      The two conversed for almost thirty minutes then, and Alex learned exactly how effective trying to get information out of a tree was. You had to know the right questions, otherwise the trees would mock you, and remind you that they were just trees.

                                      He sighed, as he sensed the Swamp Tree was yet another witty mentor. He knew they'd be having lessons all the time.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "At last, he understands." The gentle mocking of his psychic partner echoed in his head.

                                      "Return to us." The Sage said. His usually thunderous tone seemed muted.

                                      Alex panicked for a moment, unable to separate his own senses from everything he was connected to now, but then Swamp Tree reminded him that he could simply follow his mind's own tie to his body back to the Sage.

                                      It was a complex bit of mental gymnastics, but eventually he forced his eyes open. He was sweating, drenched, really, and he hated every second of being so swampy, but he'd finally done it. He also had an inkling as to how to solve his pebble problem, but that could wait. He looked up at his master then, and simply bowed.

                                      "Thank you. I will depart." The Sage stopped him.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "Hold, a moment. What you have just learned is not to be shared lightly. In the wrong hands, this power could unbalance the entire world. It has before. Understand that if you share this knowledge with whoever you can, you will not be welcome in this Swamp again, nor will any of the other Sages train you."

                                      Alex frowned, "But how do I discern who I can and cannot pass it on to? Did you not tell us that someday we would be responsible for passing on what we have learned?"

                                      The Sage sighed again. He'd forgotten how impatient humans were. "Always reaching for knowledge they cannot yet handle…" Alex blinked. He had a feeling the Sage hadn't meant to share that thought, but he'd picked up on it anyway.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Indeed, he realized, he could now sense the surface thoughts of Arthur, and the nearby guards as well, if he but looked. He felt that doing that was a bit rude however, so he tried to ignore it.

                                      Oranguru continued, "When you can peer into a person's mind and see the core of their being, you will know. It's the same as how you know what typing a Pokémon has. Instinctual. You are not, however, able to keep your emotions from clouding your perception yet. Leave the passing of knowledge to the Sages, and be patient. Your time will come."

                                      Alex thought for a moment, then responded, saying, "I know someone who is worthy. If I judge her correctly, and you share my judgement when she comes here, will you trust me to share this knowledge?"

                                      The Sage eyed him again, and Alex had no doubt that he knew exactly who he had in mind. "Interesting. Very well, it is agreed. If you can successfully judge her potential without being blinded, I will help you refine your skill in this further. It will be a good first step. Once I deem you ready, you may share it with whomever you wish. Know this, however, those you teach will be bonded with you for life. They become your responsibility, their actions will reflect your tutelage."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Alex bowed again, nodding. "I understand, master. I won't fail." The Sage eyed the young human, and suppressed the urge to chuckle. He didn't understand, not yet, but he would. Sooner than he could imagine.

                                      Packing his things took less time than he thought it would, and as he headed for the entrance that connected to the river, he saw the forty Passimian who lived with and protected the Sage awaiting him, though many sat on the roof of the entrance building, or in some of the lower hanging branches of the great tree.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      They too trained here, practicing a style of martial arts that was all their own, the Foggy Swamp Style, that each human pupil was expected to learn as well. Alex hadn't really picked it up as well as the other students.

                                      They were all still nowhere near the Passimian's level however. Their leader, who Alex had personally sparred with only once, and lost badly against, was holding a small cloth sack full of rice and bread. He blinked, wondering how he knew that, and then realized that he had inadvertently sensed the thoughts of the Pokémon before him.

                                      Feeling slightly guilty, his appreciation for his budding power grew, and he knew it would only grow stronger. He needed to keep it in check, always. His master had once compared his fledging power and his own, saying that he had achieved but a single drop, in a wide, wide ocean. He decided not to give the Sage attitude if he accidentally sensed his thoughts in the future, and he knew the urge to resist reading someone's thoughts would be strong indeed.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Accepting the gift, he bowed low, and then brought his free right hand up rapidly as he sensed the lead Passimian strike. He'd taken his eyes off the Pokémon, but he managed to catch the blow on his own arm, even though it hurt quite badly. He'd have a bruise there for sure. Seemingly impressed, the Passimian dispersed then, and let him be on his way.

                                      The trip through the Swamp this time was actually rather pleasant, and for some reason, many of the Pokémon he saw from Hydrus' back eyed him for a long time as he passed. It was only when he reached out with his new senses and caught some of their surface thoughts that he realized they had felt him earlier, and recognized his presence as a friendly one.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Feeling Hydrus' sudden desire to speed through the rest of this trip, he crouched low again, and once more, Trainer and Pokémon rocketed around the spiral. He was much faster than last time, and Alex held on to his head fins for dear life. Each of his team had grown stronger over the past few months here, but he wouldn't know by how much until he battled some Unovan Trainers. Still, Hydrus' improvement was a good indication.

                                      His little mud fish had once more improved in skill, and now, when he and Terra sparred, the very earth shook, roaring like thunder. They'd become good friends as well, the shared ground typing and the beneficial relationship between water and grass types made them natural friends, and rivals.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Instead of just stopping at the edge of the Swamp, Hydrus found a route that led into a river which would take them onto the western part of the grassy plains they'd entered from. Most Pokémon would've just stayed in the water and let their Trainer disembark, but Hydrus was nothing if not playful. As a Mudkip it had been cute. As a Swampert, it usually meant Alex was in for another night of sore bruising.

                                      Hydrus approached the bank from the water, and launched into the air, soaring a respectable distance before landing hard on the shore. Being part ground type, he didn't mind. His Trainer, however, was tossed violently and rolled a few times before coming to a stop, and groaning.

                                      Thankfully, his water-proof bag full of fragile items had been strapped to a safe place on the large Pokémon, and seemed to have avoided damage. He was glad. A 'bigger on the inside' bag was rare, and his gift from his granduncle was apparently unique.

                                      Alex raised his head groggily, and saw the river which curved to the west, and eventually fed into the much larger river that split the northern continent unevenly in half.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      The eastern states had a certain amount of territory a specific number of miles west of that river, which was under their control. The center of the continent was full of regions and people who wanted no part of the eastern and western rivalry, and they served as a buffer between the two, to prevent war. That hadn't always been the case, and there were still some areas of the middle of the continent that favored one coast over the other, but in this modern age, they were at peace.

                                      Once Alex recovered from the rough landing, and glared at his ever-happy Swampert as he recalled him to his ball, Blaze was up next. He hadn't been very good at carrying Alex on his back before, as his Trainer was quite large, and that muscle mass added a lot of weight.

                                      Now however, he didn't seem to have a problem. After months of staying low under the vine-filled canopy, training against Pokémon, like Red's own Charizard, who had been flying much longer than he had, his wing strength had increased considerably.

                                      It had to, as the Passimian he'd sparred against were weak to flying type attacks, but only if he could hit them hard enough with them. Now free to fly as high as he wished, Blaze shot flames from his maw and corkscrewed through the air as they headed ever northward. Once more, Alex held on for dear life, and wondered if he'd ever be able to simply enjoy traveling on his Pokémon.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Eventually, Blaze's giddy joy at being free to fly as high as he wished faded, and he leveled out. They flew low and fast over the land, passing many towns, and even cities. His Charizard was much faster than before with his new size, and on their journey north, they were stopped twice by enterprising flying type Trainers who simply needed to battle that Charizard. Upon learning he was somewhat famous as well, they'd only gotten more excited. The battle over the Dragon Mountain had gone viral, evidently.

                                      Alex indulged them, as they had both been rather young, as most Trainers whose teams consisted of only one species or type of Pokémon often were. It was usually the older Trainers who had balanced teams, like his, that could give an advantage over pretty much every type. He'd let Blaze battle on his own, deciding to take the time to inform a certain lady of his impending arrival.

                                      He had no desire to intrude on the Festivus celebrations quite yet, and he knew the Gladstones would likely be at the ranch. The Redwoods always had their neighbors over this time of year, which of course meant that it became a madhouse.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      While he would never admit it to his master, he had missed many of his cousins. He hadn't seen them since the start of the summer after all, and now it was December. So much had happened in that time, it felt like years had passed, not months. More than that, he was the Champion now.

                                      He'd done what he'd said he would do, and had excelled once he'd finally gotten his team together. He wondered if his stubborn father would finally admit that he'd been wrong in essentially ruining his childhood, but that was one conversation he fully intended to avoid. Irritating him purposefully for the holiday would only irritate everyone else who had to deal with him. He'd waited two decades for the opportunity to prove him wrong. He could wait some more.

                                      He knew that the arrival of a Champion in such a crowded house would change the mood, and likely spark the aforementioned confrontation. Jess however, from the image she sent in response, did not mind the return of her Champion. She'd even mentioned that her own house was empty. He was suddenly rather glad he'd been coerced into coming home. One sparring session a day was simply not enough to release his stress. It was as he was enjoying the thought of imminent rest in civilized company, that he noticed the air around them had gone still.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      It was still cold, but the wind was gone. Blaze had mega evolved halfway through the miles of land between the middle coast and Unova, and though they made great time through the snowstorm currently hitting the region, the wind had been rough.

                                      They had just crossed into Unova, and were now crossing high above New Tork City on their journey northward. They had no idea what was going on in the city below, but they'd be back soon enough to find out.

                                      They were over the region's Entral Park when they noticed the sudden lack of frigid, north east coast winter wind. Blaze let out a Flamethrower at a mental command from his Trainer, and he nodded, understanding. Even the falling snow had frozen in mid-air. This was something related to a Pokémon, then. A strong one. What else could essentially lock the air in place?

                                      ________________________________________

                                      It was as he was pondering why the locking of air seemed so familiar, that he noticed. A flash of green came to the corner of his eye, and Blaze, with his reflexes in his mega form, shot upwards, above the powerful bluish purple Outrage attack. They unified their sight, as they did before every battle these days, and both rider and Pokémon saw their opponent.

                                      The Rayquaza of the eastern coast. Many Rayquaza patrolled the massive expanse of sky across the world, but because it was the Unovan Dragon that created them, Unova's was the oldest, by far. This meant that he was twice as long as his other counterparts, and that much harder to tame.

                                      The eastern coast's guardian of the sky had vanished when his previous Trainer had passed on. Dragons, especially Legendary ones like Rayquaza, were exceptionally long-lived, if not outright immortal. They tended to avoid Trainers, because of their tendency to be mortal, but once they bonded, they were friends for life.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Alex smirked, as he realized the Outrage attack had been to get his attention. He could only imagine how it looked from the ground. Tao had warned him that his revival would likely draw out the grieving Rayquaza, and that Alex would have to capture him if balance was to be maintained. Alex hadn't actually expected to run into him over the city.

                                      He hoped they were high enough to avoid collateral damage. Blaze launched a Flamethrower in a wide fan at the Legendary dragon, only to burst through it at a different angle, and strike with a Dragon Claw as the jade dragon gracefully dodged under the flames.

                                      Blaze was relentless, and refused to lose to a Rayquaza. He didn't care how old it was, he would establish himself as being on par with dragon types. Especially in this form. His successful claw sent the large jade dragon down, and he spun into a Dragon Tail. Bonded as they were, Blaze knew his Trainer feared for the residents of this massive, poison infested nest of humans, and thus the great green dragon had been aimed into a part of the water surrounding Entral Park.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Nimbasa was close enough to see, and Alex again reminded his Charizard that there were people nearby. The area between Nimbasa and Opeleucid was lightly populated by humans, but he knew Pokémon had homes here as well.

                                      The Legendary dragon managed to right itself, expending energy hard, as it consciously tried to avoid crushing the many water types that called this park home. That was when it felt the ball hit its scales, and it turned, glaring at its would-be Trainer.

                                      He began to resist the capture, only to realize that this was a Master Ball the human had painted to match the green pattern of his scales. The dragon rumbled, and the Master Ball shook longer than it should have. If he was going to be captured, he was going to make this pocket dimension enjoyable to be in. Warping something as simple as a Pokéball was nothing for a Legendary Pokémon. The ball dinged shut, and then began to fall towards the water.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Not even Blaze could keep it from hitting the water, however, far away as he was. One of the Floatzel that lived in the park that happened to be nearby caught it, and batted it upwards with an Aqua Tail, shooting it high enough for Alex to catch as Blaze flew by.

                                      Alex tossed down a Sitrus Berry he'd found, and he chuckled as he saw it submerge in the Floatzel's paw. He turned his attention to his new Pokémon then, and headed for the Victory Plateau. He knew this Rayquaza would always resent him if he kept him locked away in a computer box, or a Pokéball, and he usually made a point of meeting newly captured partners before letting the PC system take them away.

                                      He'd specifically disabled that feature on this ball, however. Having a Rayquaza nearby would undoubtedly be helpful, and it wouldn't be against the League's rules if he didn't battle with him. He had several slots for extra balls in his bag, but he hadn't expected to be using them just yet. Tao's was, of course, in there, but he'd let him remain free of it.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      The Victory Plateau was empty, as he landed, and let Rayquaza free of his ball. The long-bodied dragon eyed him with suspicion, and curled himself into a pile of coils he could rest on. "Go ahead, then." The tired, psychic voice thundered in his skull, "Make your wish."

                                      The Trainer tilted his curly haired head slightly. Everyone had heard stories of a Rayquaza that granted someone a wish if you presented the sleeping stone forms of Reshiram or Zekrom to it. He hadn't thought it was real.

                                      "You mean that 'wish' nonsense is actually true?" The great green dragon nodded, its expression unreadable. "Well we can't have any of that." Alex said, crossing his arms. "How about we skip the part where you teach me a lesson I already know about my personal greed? I hereby wish that from this moment on, you are free from granting more wishes to those you do not deem worthy. Upon my passing from this world, your ball will become your own, to give to a Trainer you wish to partner with. The first Rayquaza shouldn't be used like Hoopa."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      The great green dragon stared at the Trainer for a minute, then recognized the symbol on his hat. "I see the Swamp Sage has taught you well…it is done. Your wish is granted. I will accompany you."

                                      "You don't have t-"

                                      The giant snake-like dragon seemed to smirk as his thunderous mental baritone interrupted Alex. "I will accompany you whether you want me to or not. You have piqued my interest, little human. Take from that what pride you can."

                                      He was about to cleverly quip a response when something on the wind caused Blaze, still mega evolved, to turn. He hadn't dropped the form for some reason, as his instincts told him to hang on to it for now, and linked as they were, Alex smelled it as well, though not nearly as clearly.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Seeing that something had drawn his new Trainer's interest, the old Rayquaza looked now, and raised a scaly brow at what he saw. Like most Legendary Pokémon, he saw the world in a different way.

                                      To try to put it to words is futile, suffice to say that he, like the Sage and now Alex, could tell typing from a glance. He had noticed this Trainer's latent psychic power, small and undeveloped as it was, and now in as many hours, he found a second human with similar potential, though far deeper buried. He had been right to return. The winds of change had again begun to blow.

                                      Blaze shot a Flamethrower into the air, only to see one in return, in the distance. His Charizard was grinning, and his tail actually wagged back and forth. "My, someone's eager tonight…" Alex chuckled, guessing correctly at who was intruding on their little gathering.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      A Charizard that was a bit small for a mega evolution zipped down from the gathering clouds, and entered the area of calm snow and wind that constantly surrounded Rayquaza. Alex briefly wondered if this was why people said it flew so fast.

                                      Not having to deal with weather would certainly make flying a lot easier. Jess, for her part, looked like she'd flown through a blizzard, which indeed she had. It had kicked up halfway between their home to the north and the Victory Plateau. Her heavy winter clothes, red as always, were almost white with frozen snow. She'd never looked better, to him.

                                      Once he'd offered his jacket, and warmed her up with the fire of their two still mega evolved fire lizards, she started speaking. "As soon as I got your message, I realized I had to come get you. Things have changed in Unova, and right now, nobody expects you at home. Not yet, anyways." He sighed. He'd had a feeling Unova's balance had been disturbed, but Tao had never called him back, and Alex assumed he could handle it. Apparently not.

                                      ________________________________________

                                      "Well, go on then, what happened in the few months I was gone? Is it so hard to maintain the balance without a babysitter?" She gave him a look, before continuing. Apparently, Festivus had been stressful.

                                      She spoke softly. "The Arceans took Tao."

                                      Alex blinked down his rising fury. He knew there was a reason Tao had still felt distant, despite his return to Unova. "How?"

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Jess shrugged, "How indeed? Once you left, Tao spent most of his time in deep meditation, though he continued to help those who visited him. Apparently, he didn't notice being captured, because he hasn't awoken since. The Arceans have him on display atop the PNN building, still resting. Anyone who tries to enter, to free him, gets blasted by a Tri-Attack from a machine they've hooked up to him. Ghetsis and the Arcean's leader, Caleb Pravus, have been ranting about their 'superior technology' for the past three months, claiming that their possession of it was what had kept you and the other Champions away from Tao, who is apparently, legally, two thirds their dragon."

                                      At the mention of the other Champions, Alex raised a brow. "You mean the others, all three of them, were beaten back? How? Ghetsis was easy enough for me, and I hadn't even gathered eight badges when we battled."

                                      ________________________________________

                                      Jess looked down, and sighed. "The four of us, as I went with them, were repelled by Pravus, and his minions. They don't battle by League rules. They ambushed us at the front entrance with ten other Trainers, and then finished us with a Tri Attack from their machine. It's not like a Pokémon move, it's much stronger. Delphi managed to keep it from injuring us too badly, and we escaped. We tried a few more times to get in, but they repelled us, so we decided that we'd have to accept the situation until you returned with Hilbert."

                                      As Alex absorbed the information, he knew numbers would be useless here. They needed to take that machine down first, and then rush in, preferably with a small group. He looked to his newest partner, the massive, ancient jade colored dragon.

                                      "Can you take down that machine?" The Rayquaza nodded, and Alex turned towards Castelia city, then blinked again. "Hey…does Castelia look different to you? I've never seen it so bright…o