The Stairway to Heaven

pokemon-fanfic
The Stairway to Heaven
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#1

The Stairway to Heaven

Follow the journey of seventeen-year-old rookie trainer Eloy Chance and his partner Deacon as he explores the Sigia region on a quest to become a professional trainer in the Champion’s League of his region. It’s a long way to the top though, and Eloy is but a farm boy who is naive about the struggles of a trainer and the darker underbelly of the battling scene. The trials he will face and the people he meets along the way are bound to challenge Eloy in ways he never expected.

Chapter One: New Morning
Chapter Two: The Mountains Win Again
Chapter Three: Tubthumping
Chapter Four: Having a Blast
Interlude One
Chapter Five: Surprise Surprise
Chapter Six: Impressed
Chapter Seven: Welcome to the Jungle
Chapter Eight: Money, Money, Money
Interlude Two
Chapter Nine: Brush With the Wild
Chapter Ten: Dogs of War
Chapter Eleven: Night Run
Chapter Twelve: Catch a Bad One
Interlude Three
Chapter Thirteen: Victorious
Chapter Fourteen: A Fork in the Road


#2

Character Gallery

Eloy Chance


Layla and Guinevere

Lauren Ipsum


#3

1: New Morning

“In Scholery Town, a new gym leader has been appointed by the Sigia League administration. New leader, Melanie, comes from impressive stock being the granddaughter of veteran leader Maggie, who some suggest could have reached the Elite Four had she entered the Champion’s League,” a well dressed reporter on the dusty television screen reported from out the front of a stone building, that Eloy took to be the Scholery Gym.

He bent down to tie the laces on his sneaker, pastel pink just like the dye job on his hair that his mother disapproved of. The face of the reporter disappeared from his view, but the sound of her voice continued on in the background.

“This of course comes only a month after former gym leader, Blake, was involved in a scandal that rocked the entire Sigia region when it was discovered that he had been injecting several of his Pokemon with a strain of Pokerus. The Pokerus virus is known to enhance the abilities of its hosts but the majority of its strains are known to also cause health defects. At this stage it is still unknown where Blake obtained the vials containing the virus he had in his possession, but his Pokemon have been confiscated and he is now awaiting a formal trial. This after several other trainers throughout the region als-”

Eloy switched off the TV. The whole business with Blake had left a bad taste in his mouth since he had first heard it and as interested as he was in hearing about this new gym leader, he had no intention of letting Blake’s wrongdoings sour the first day of his journey from halfway across the region. He’d spent the last five years doing remote study with the nearest trainer school to get his trainer’s license, nothing was ruining this moment for him.

He got up and pulled his coat on, the fur collar of the garment soft in his hands as he adjusted it. He grinned, catching sight of himself in the old mirror standing in the corner of the living room. Almost entirely pink with only the blue of his jeans, black of his shoes and the red bandanna around his neck breaking up the otherwise monochrome colour scheme. There was rarely a reason to use the mirror but seeing himself decked out in his favourite colour ready to set off on his journey at last filled him with a sense of pride, he found himself oddly glad to have it there.

“Alright Deacon, let’s go!” he said loudly, walking over to where the mirror was and nudging the small Pokemon bed that was sitting there with his toe. Deacon immediately bolted upright, the Nidoran as pink all over as Eloy was and full with twice the energy as his enormous ears perked up. The small Pokemon cried out happily as he leapt from the bed and started running around and between Eloy’s feet. Eloy looked back at the mirror and saw his smile widen as he saw them there, a matching pair.

Truth be told, his parents had been trying to get him to choose a different starter for a while in the lead up to his graduation. Up in the mountains it was tradition for a village elder to bestow upon new trainers a Ground, Steel or Ice type to be their first official pokemon but Eloy wasn’t having a word of that. Deacon had been with him since he started his study, he wasn’t going to leave him behind and run off with some Pokemon he’d just met. Eloy grabbed his trainer’s license and pokegear off the dining room table with Deacon bounding happily around him and stuffed them in his bag, slinging it over his shoulder.

“Eloy Chance, Pokemon trainer,” he said to his Nidoran “has a nice ring to it I think, let’s head off.” It was a short walk to the front door of their tiny house and as he stepped out he was greeted with a rush of icy mountain air. Citri Town wasn’t high enough up in the mountains to be perpetually covered in snow like some places but it was the opposite of warm because of the icy winds that carried down from above.

By the time Eloy had shut the door and turned away from the tiny red brick house he shared with his parents, Deacon had already bounded some distance away and was waiting for his trainer to catch up, ears still standing at attention. He jogged forward to catch up with the little Poison type before slowing to a more reasonable pace as they trudged down the dirt path towards their front gate. It was a long walk compared to leaving your home in the city to say the least.

When he reached the gate, he looked back behind him. In the distance, he could make out the figures of his parents herding their flock of Skiddo and Gogoat. They’d eaten as much of the grass in one area as could be allowed and were now being moved on to greener pastures. He’d been a bit concerned about leaving all the farm work to his mother and father at first, but he could see they were managing just fine. They weren’t that old after all.

Turning around and walking out the gate, he was treated to a different view. Sprawled out below the hill they lived on was the majority of Citri Town. It was a small community composed of a few farms, a handful of other residences and the old town hall and that was about that. But it had a pretty location looking down on the mountainous landscape alone. You could call it picturesque and not be exaggerating. Still, aside from a handful of treks to the neighbouring Avent Town, it was pretty much all Eloy had ever known and he had bigger ambitions than spending his whole life in a tiny town wrangling Gogoat. He wanted to explore the rest of Sigia, experience the big cities and to one day find himself on the big stage in the Sigia Champion’s League. Of course, first he had to get through the base level of the Sigia League: collecting eight badges and winning in the Diamante Conference. These were simply the first steps of many.

Team Eloy


#4

2: The Mountains Win Again

Unlike some of the longer roads Eloy knew were on the horizon, the route from Citri Town to Avent Town wasn’t a long one, so there was still plenty of time left in the day when Eloy could finally get a clear view of the first stop on his list. Stopping up the road, Eloy reached into his bag to take a swig from his water bottle. The liquid was still cold against his throat, kept chilled by the frigid mountain climate. The land around him was growing steadily greener however, and unlike Citri Town which was a landscape of touch yellow grass and rocky outcrops, Avent Town sat on a rocky plateau surrounded by trees and with lush green grass peppered throughout the town.

“Ni!” Deacon called out, the rodent having bounded a solid twenty feet ahead of Eloy before realising his trainer had stopped “Ni!” he called again, running around in a few tight circles as if to tell Eloy he should get a move on. Eloy smiled and relented, returning his water bottle to his backpack and moving to catch up with the Nidoran. It wasn’t much longer before he found himself walking past the first few outlying buildings.

Avent Town was small, places up in the mountains needed to be as a matter of necessity with a lack of settleable space. It was several times the size of Citri Town however, serving as the gateway between the rest of the Sigia region and the mountains it acted as a trading post for people from smaller villagers and a rest stop for travellers looking to explore higher up. It was an old town, but few of the wooden buildings that once made up the town still stood there having long since given way to rot in the damp air. Instead small brick cottages like the one Eloy himself lived in made up most of the residencies there. The heart of Avent Town however was, naturally, in the centre where most of the local businesses stood. In recent years a fancy new PokeMart had opened in the town, although far smaller than its counterparts in the bigger locales in the region. Next door was an even smaller Pokemon Centre. Pokemon Centres were something of a hub for most trainers, offering free medical care for Pokemon, cheap lodgings, meals and in several instances training facilities. The Centre in Avent Town could only be given the title as a stretch. It was a small brick building that blended in with houses nearby and, Eloy new, it contained only the most essential medical equipment and had only three rooms to sleep in - one of which was occupied by the nurse on a permanent basis. This wasn’t a bad thing though, it meant that a pair of local inns were able to remain open.

Eloy made his way towards the Pokemon centre, taking note of Avent Town’s pride and joy in the near background. A few minutes outside the town stood a large metal building from which a thick, taut metal cord emanated. Several enormous pylons helped further support the cable as it moved down the mountain, carrying large rectangular cable cars. The Avent Town Gondola served a dual purpose. It usually remained active to transport people up and down the mountain, but at certain times served instead as a more efficient means of moving goods from the route at the base of the mountain to Avent Town for sale. Eloy planned on catching the cable car down to the base of the mountain but had been advised by his father to have Deacon given a quick once over at the Pokemon centre first to ensure he was ready for battle. Eloy wasn’t concerned. One look at the happily bounding along Nidoran made it apparent he was in peak condition. Still, he figured he might as well do it to keep his folks happy.

Eloy entered the small building to find himself in a simple reception area with pale pink walls. He’d always liked the colour of the walls. Unlike the more sterile looking Pokemon Centres Eloy had seen on TV, this one had a homey feel. The wooden floor was covered by a soft rug, old dusty painting hung on the walls and mismatched, worn armchairs rested empty against the front wall. At the back of the room stood the counter, in front of a doorway that lead to the medical area and in the back corner of the room a staircase lead to the accommodation upstairs.

“Hello?” Eloy called out, noticing that there wasn’t a bell anywhere to get attention. He was pretty sure there had been one on the door the last time he’d been there.

“Ni!” Deacon chimed in, apparently attempting to lend a hand. A thump and a clattering of metallic objects could be heard upstairs, followed by a door closing loudly and hurried footsteps. It wasn’t much longer before a short woman in her late twenties or early thirties sporting a black pixie cut rushed down the stairs.

“Sorry!” she exclaimed, rubbing sleep out her eyes “I only just got back this morning from a house call and I must have dozed off at my table. How can I help you?” Much like how the Pokemon Centre itself didn’t look like big city ones seen on TV, neither did the nurse. Where city nurses sported pristine pink and white uniforms, she was dressed in wrinkled old ripped overalls and a checked shirt, dirty work boots still on her feet from the housecall.

“It’s nothing major,” Eloy backpedaled, feeling guilty for waking her up for something he was pretty sure didn’t need doing. “I can come back later if you want.”

“Not at all!” the woman insisted “You’re here now, so let’s see what we’ve got.” Eloy ran his hand through his hair sheepishly, the guilt still holding strong.

“Are you sure, you look a mess.”

“It’s fine, really,” the tired nurse continued, forcing Eloy to relent and explain why he’d woken the exhausted woman up.

“I’m just looking to get Deacon here a check-up,” he explained apologetically “I just got my license and I’m going to be taking the gym challenge but he’s never really battled before. So my parents want me to get him checked over first.”

“Responsible parents,” the nurse smiled “If you wait here I’ll take a look at him.” Without even waiting for Eloy’s go ahead, Deacon happily hopped off after the nurse, leaving his trainer to sink into one of the ancient chairs. He was pretty sure that comment had been a subtle jab that he shouldn’t have needed telling.

Fifteen minutes passed and Eloy was soon reunited with Deacon, the Nidoran cheerily running laps around his legs once more as the nurse reported on the Pokemon’s condition. Unsurprisingly, Deacon was given a clean bill of health and was noted to be in exceptionally healthy condition. Eloy parted ways with the tired nurse as she trudged back upstairs.

Unsure whether he should feel vindicated he had been right or ashamed for making the assumption he was, Eloy exited the little Pokemon Centre back into the town. He considered wandering around Avent Town for a while, but only a few minutes of aimless wandering made it pretty clear that there was little point in doing so. He was well stocked on supplies, having bought them well in advance of getting his license and Avent Town wasn’t exactly a hub for sightseeing. It didn’t even have the best views of the mountain towns. Besides, Eloy felt a bizarre desire to get as far away from the nurse as he possibly could.

“Onwards then, yeah?” he said to Deacon, his Nidoran immediately taking off in the direction they had been walking. Thankfully, it was the correct one and Eloy wasn’t forced to chase the little Pokemon through the town. “We aren’t exactly in a rush, you know!” he called after Deacon.

“Ni Ni!” came the reply. Some people might have said he was imagining it, but Eloy was positive he heard a cheeky tone in the cry. Shaking his head, Eloy walked briskly after him. It wasn’t like he had to conserve energy to descend the mountain, he could afford to walk a bit quicker. As it was, that meant a few minutes later he was reaching the cable car station.

The area around the facility was largely devoid of people. Only three were visible. The slightly pudgy, balding proprietor sat on a rickety stool just outside the entry to the station itself, smoking a cigarette and stroking an ageing Growlithe as it slept with his spare hand. Closer to Eloy was a pair of girls closer in age to him. One was slightly taller and dressed in stylish skinny jeans and a bright yellow midriff top that was in no way appropriate for the weather below a simple white jacket that she hadn’t bothered to do up. Her blonder hair was worn in long pigtails. Eloy wondered how it was she didn’t seem to be cold at all. Her companion, a shorter girl with shoulder-length mousy brown hair hanging in a curtain around her head seemed to have more sense. She donned a heftier brown coat and black leggings. A red and red and white tunic hung out below the base of the coat. Eloy managed to hear a snippet of their conversation as he past them.

“You’re the one that wanted to come here,” the more sensibly dressed of the two was saying to the other. “I did warn you there was nothing here.”

“I know, I know. I didn’t realise nothing meant, like, this nothing !” the other responded “I just wanted to see where you were born, okay?” The first girl sighed in response, her tone exasperated. Eloy noted though that her expression didn’t look displeased at all. He didn’t hear the rest of the conversation however, as he had reached a large sign bearing the prices for making use of the cable car. If he’d been drinking, he may well have done a spit-take.

“Six hundred Poke!” he couldn’t help but exclaim out loud, looking down at Deacon with shock and disbelief. Deacon in turn, cocked his head to the side and looked back at Eloy with a blank, confused stare. Eloy had never ridden the cable car and had not realised how expensive it was going to be to use. The cost was half the money he had with him, which was to say, half of all the money he had.

Apparently he was going to have to do some battling and soon. Being a travelling trainer was essentially being a professional gambler. While gym leaders and professionals in the Champion’s League, like the Elite Four, were paid a sizeable wage by the Pokemon League Administration, most trainers had to win their lunch. That meant earning cash rewards from beating gyms or winning competitions, or more often, by putting money up for grabs in street battles and winning to make a profit. Needless to say, this was a rocky start.

“Hey, you,” Eloy was shaken from his lamentations by the sound of a female voice. He turned around to see the blonde from before striding confidently towards him while the shorter girl hurried after her friend wearing an expression not unlike the one Eloy had just seen on Deacon. “You were pretty loud with your money woes there, you know? So we had an idea.”

“We?” the other girl asked incredulously, clearly not having the faintest idea what was going on.

“Okay, me,” the first said, her voice a touch louder than it needed to be “My brilliant idea. Since I’m bored and this place needs some livening up, desperately, and you’re poor and need to get down the mountain, let’s have a battle. If you win, I’ll pay for your ride down. If I win, no worries. You don’t have anything I need. As an added bonus, us lovely ladies will keep you company on the ride down.”

Eloy wasn’t exactly thrilled about having his lack of wealth rubbed in his nose, and the girl’s exuberant personality was rather off-putting, but he had just said to himself he needed to get into some battles sooner rather than later.

“Okay,” he said “You’re on.”

Team Eloy


#5

3: Tubthumping

Eloy and the two girls moved a short way away from the cable car station to a small clear space, just big enough for two Pokemon to do battle. This coming after the shorter of the two girls suggested that starting a battle directly in the way of the cable car was probably not excellent etiquette.

The spot they had moved to was just barely out the way, a grassy patch surrounded by hardy mountain trees that protruded from craggy ground. The taller of the two girls stopped at the edge of the clearing, affording Eloy the pleasure of traversing the extra distance. Turning to face his opponent he could see the cable car operator was still lazily stroking his Growlithe, but had now turned his attention to the battle that was about to take place.

Eloy felt the pre-battle tension building, excitement bubbling up in his veins. This is what he’d set off on his journey for. He was about to undertake his first official trainer battle. This wasn’t one of the rare occasions he’d had to come to Avent Town for a trainer school exercise: this was the real deal.

“Hope you’re ready!” the blonde taunted from the other side of the field as her companion sat on the grass behind her, pulling her knees up to her chest. There was no backing now, Eloy wasn’t about to let his first real battle end in failure.

“Of course,” Eloy said, grinning back at his smug foe “Deacon, you’re up buddy.” The Nidoran immediately ceased his typical bounding around. He halted in front of Eloy, facing down the girl across from him with his ears pricked up, making himself look as big as he could.

“Alright then, I’ll go with this one then,” the girl smiled, pulling out a white Pokeball that had been stuck to her belt below her jacket. Eloy wasn’t particularly surprised to see she kept her Pokemon in fancy Premier Balls at this point. She tossed the ball forward casually, and a flash of light exploded for the sphere. From within the light emerged a small brown Pokemon with a fluffy lower body and large ears. A Buneary. “This is my Florence.”

“Nice to meet her,” Eloy smiled. Thankfully, it seemed like his opponent most likely wasn’t a veteran. He knew full well that Buneary were neither evolved Pokemon nor known for being particularly powerful. He felt confident that he could win. “This is my first time seeing a Buneary in person.”

“It’s your lucky day then,” the reply came “This isn’t just any Buneary. Mine’s special.” Eloy wasn’t sure how to take that one, she looked much the same as any other he’d seen. He couldn’t help but think that this was just her obvious ego shining through again. “Now let’s get the show on the road! Florence, Quick Attack!”

Eloy was taken aback by the sudden order. Florence was a blur of motion. One second she was in front of her trainer, the next she was right in front of Deacon, delivering a sharp kick to the side of his head. Deacon was knocked sprawling, rolling back to his feet a short distance away.

“Ni!” Deacon snipped, posturing aggressively. Eloy was of the same mind.

“Deacon, Double Kick!” The Nidoran literally leapt into action, crossing the distance between Florence and himself with a bound. As his front legs hit the ground, he threw his weight over them, rotating to back Florence and deliver the first kick with one of his powerful hind legs.

Florence leapt over the top of the kick deftly, landing face-to-face with Deacon. Deacon planted his back legs as they hit the ground and flung his front legs up for the second kick.

“Baby-Doll Eyes!” Florence’s trainer ordered suddenly. Her Buneary’s eyes flashed blue, a flash reflected in Deacon’s eyes as his attack connected and sent Florence tumbling. Florence stood back up and brushed the dirt from her fur. Eloy saw his opponent smirking at him from across their makeshift battlefield. She’d just effectively neutered Deacon’s physical offensive abilities. Had she predicted that was all he had, or was it dumb luck? Eloy’s pulse quickened.

“There’s more where that came from. Poison Sting!” Deacon rushed Florence at close range, the tip of his horn glowing purple. The attack never connected.

“Charge Beam!” At point blank range, a yellow beam that crackled with electricity burst out from the Buneary’s mouth. Deacon was too committed to the frontal charge to avoid the attack, taking the Charge Beam head-on.

Deacon yelped as he was launched back, a residual charge still crackling over his skin. His Buneary foe looked back at him, her face almost as smug as her trainer’s as she looked down at Deacon. The Nidoran climbed back to his feet.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” the girl said from across the clearing. The remark grated with Eloy, his fist clenching reflexively. He could feel his confidence plummeting but he refused to give in.

“Not even close,” he defiantly replied. Her smirk didn’t falter.

“Well in that case then, we better step it up a notch. Work Up, Florence!” the girl commanded. The Buneary bounced lightly on her feet, a faint red aura surrounding her body. Her expression shifted slightly as she felt her offensive power grow. Eloy didn’t like the look of that.

“Ni!” Deacon cried out, alarmed.

“Charge Beam!” Florence once again let loose with the sparking blast of electricity. Eloy shouted for Deacon to dodge and the Nidoran dived to the side, landing on coiled legs. He then rocketed forward towards his opponent.

“Peck!” Eloy called. Without hesitation, Deacon lashed out with a quick jab of his horn. The incoming attack was obvious though, Florence pivoted deftly on her feet to avoid the attack. Eloy doubled down on the attack. “Fury Attack!”

Deacon pressed his assault lashing out with several more rapid jabs in quick succession. Nimble on her feet, Florence avoid jab after jab, lightly bouncing from side to side. Determined and desperate, Deacon kept trying. His and Eloy’s frustration growing in synchronisation with each narrow miss until finally, deacon managed to clip the Buneary with an attack and send her stumbling. Eloy pressed the advantage.

“Poison Sting!” The tip of Deacon’s horn lit up again as he dived for the Buneary, capitalising on her fumble. The attack connected and this time the Buneary let out a cry of her own and she knocked sprawling, tumbling back several feet.

Eloy felt his confident grin return as a wave of elation ran through him. He still had this. One more attack was all he needed.

“Once more!” he instructed. Deacon let loose with a battle cry as he rushed in, making his charge for victory at the downed Buneary. In moments, he was about to connect and finish the battle.

“Pound!” the girl shouted. Florence rolled onto her back suddenly as Deacon reached her. Then, her ear shot up like a boxer’s fist, connecting hard with the underside of Deacon’s jaw. The Nidoran was lifted several feet into the air as he flew across the clearing. He landed heavily and the onslaught continued. “Charge Beam!”

There was no chance of avoiding the attack. Deacon had barely returned to his feet when he was engulfed in the intense light of destructive electrical attack. Deacon flew back into a nearby tree like a missile and tumbled to the ground. The battle was over.

“That went about as expected,” Eloy looked on stunned, not realising at first that the remark had actually come from the quieter girl, not his vocal opponent. The surprise of finding another person in the clearing shook him from his place as he hurried over to Deacon.

The little Poison type looked worse for ware, in stark contrast to his energetic self only a short while ago. The Nidoran lay in a heap at the foot of the tree, emitting a low groan. Eloy picked him up, cradling him in his arms protectively like an infant.

“Here,” again the second girl’s voice jolted Eloy from his thoughts a second time. She had crossed the clearing and was offering Eloy a small purple spray bottle. “It looks worse than it is. Spray this on him and give him some rest and he’ll be fine by the time we get to the bottom.”

“Thanks,” Eloy said, gratefully taking the bottle from the short girl. “I’m Eloy by the way, your friend got us started before we ever introduced ourselves. She’s uh… enthusiastic.” A smile crept onto the brunette’s face at that comment.

“Yeah, she’s like that,” she replied, her tone communicating something more akin to admiration than the exasperation Eloy was expecting. He wondered if it was because she seemed more reserved than her boisterous blonde companion. “I’m Guinevere, for the record, and she’s Layla. Don’t feel too bad for losing. Layla’s getting really good.”

Without saying anything else, Guinevere turned around and walked back to where Layla had finished up with her Buneary and returned her to her ball. The two girls said a few words to each other that Eloy missed and started making their way back towards the cable car.

“Yeah, you put up a good fight,” Eloy said to his fallen Nidoran, spraying him with the potion, taking care to apply extra to the areas that had taken the biggest beating. Once he was done tending to Deacon, Eloy returned him to his Pokeball to rest.

Post-battle treatment done, Eloy began to trudge back towards the cable car himself. Soon coming to a halt with a look of surprise on his face when he found the pair of girls waiting for him out the front of the Avent Town Gondola.

“Well hurry up!” Layla said, as loud as ever “I did say I’d reward you with our company whether you won or not. Get a move on!” Eloy couldn’t help the sinking sensation he felt in his stomach. Despite Guinevere’s earlier kindness, he didn’t get the impression this was going to the pleasant ride down he had initially imagined. “Don’t worry about a ticket, I bought you one already anyway since I’m such a nice person.” Layla added, waving a ticket in his general direction.

He definitely wasn’t going to enjoy this cable car ride.

Team Eloy


#6

4: Having a Blast

The cable car moved down over the mountains at a comfortable pace. Too slow and there was a greater risk of it being scary for passengers, but the same was true of it being too fast. Eloy remembered learning that when it was being built a lot of careful thought was put into just how fast it would travel. It didn’t look like much, but the Avent Town Gondola was actually a technological marvel that had been meticulously designed over a long period of time. It wasn’t the biggest in the world, that title went to the cable car along Hoenn’s Mt. Chimney, but it was still a long way down and every effort had been made to make it safe and comfortable. It even adjusted itself to suit the incline as it went, dangling from two robotic arms instead of a single tether like most of its kind.

At that moment though, that trivia was at the back of Eloy’s mind. He sat across from Layla and Guinevere in a comfortable velvet chair while the former of the two girls talked to the latter endlessly. It was peculiar to watch. Guinevere, or “Gwen” as Layla referred to her, remained silent for the most part, offering an answer only every now and then. Despite this, Layla spoke at her incessantly about any topic that crossed her mind. It was almost like watching his “conversations” with Deacon more than dialogue between two people. Somehow though, Gwen seemed to enjoy the other girl’s company and be quite content with the dynamic. It was utterly bizarre.

Every moment he spent in Layla’s presence made him progressively more uncomfortable, building on top of the hollow feeling still remaining from his defeat. He’d tried to put it out of his mind and be positive about how he and Deacon had performed, but Layla’s overbearing aura was filling the cable car and making it impossible to forget. Suppressing a sigh, he looked out the window at the scenery below.

Eloy had to admit, sour mood or not, it was a beautiful sight. A sea of different shades of deep green rising up out of the craggy brown of the mountains, parting to allow a crystal clear river of melted mountain ice and snow to flow down the mountainside. Much like the cable car, the river was named after the town they descended from: the River Avent. It branched off as it flowed along beneath them, splitting into a series of breathtaking waterfalls that sent up a spray of mist, light refracting through them to produce faint rainbows. Every so often, a flock of bird Pokemon would rise up from the trees in numbers Eloy could scarcely fathom. It was Natu and Xatu predominately, they were the most common birds to the area, but it wasn’t unusual to see something rarer like a small group of Chatot. It was picturesque, but Eloy found himself struggling to appreciate nature’s splendour.

What happened? The thought had come up in Eloy’s mind more times than he could count at that point. He’d felt so confident, Deacon had been in peak condition and for a moment he’d felt victory seconds from their grasp. Looking back though, he obviously hadn’t been anywhere near as close as he’d thought. He’d gotten a few good hits in, but every one of them had been weakened by Florence’s Baby-Doll Eyes. If he’d been more observant, he’d have noticed that the Buneary hadn’t been that badly damaged after she’d taken those Poison Stings. On top of that, between Charge Beam’s boosting effect and Work Up, Florence had only grown more powerful as the match progressed. He’d been thoroughly trounced in reality, but he’d let himself believe it’d been a close battle.

“Hey, Space Case, I asked you something,” Eloy looked back around from the window. The demanding tone had obviously come from Layla, he’d established pretty early on that he wasn’t going to hear anything of the sort from Gwen. She’d been blunt, but always polite.

“Sorry,” Eloy said, more embarrassed than apologetic “Was lost in thought. What was it?”

“Geez, I know I destroyed you but you don’t need to mope about it,” Layla teased. Eloy had to force himself not to wince at what felt like a gut punch. He knew she had no idea what was going on in his head, but in the extremely short time he’d known her, Eloy had come to realise that Layla had an uncanny ability to take a stab in the dark and manage to hit exactly the right nerve. “I said, where are you from anyway?”

“Oh, I’m from Citri Town,” Eloy responded, surprised that the girl had asked a question about him. She didn’t seem the type to be that interested in other people. “It’s a little farming village a few hours out of Avent.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Layla replied, sounding weirdly matter-of-fact. It almost seemed like she was still jibing him about the battle. He tried to push that idea back, it wasn’t like him to think so badly of a person he’d just met. It did make sense. “Gwen was born in Avent Town, you might even have met when you were younger if you ever went through there,” Layla added.

“I guess it’s possible, I never really got to know the local kids in Avent that well,” Eloy replied, not bothering to mention that he’d overheard the bit about Gwen’s origins already.

“We both live in Techniti City now though,” Layla continued as though he had never responded to her earlier point. “Well, more accurately, Gwen does. My family actually live in Erythie City, but I boarded in Techniti for trainer school.”

That made an almost excruciating amount of sense to Eloy. Erythie City was a coastal resort city, only the very rich and tourists were really found there. Although, gym challengers would often pass through as Erythie was where the Sigia Region’s Fairy type gym could be found. Not only did the location suit her personality, but if she was wealthy enough to have grown up there and boarded in Techniti City for her trainer school, she’d probably attended one of the elite academies there.

“Actually, how’d you get your trainer license living up in the mountainous middle of nowhere?” Layla asked. Eloy hoped he hadn’t missed any more of the, for want of a better word, conversation while he’d been pondering Layla’s place of origin.

“I did most of my study over the internet from home,” Eloy replied “Every now and then though I’d have to go into Avent for exercises or tests.” Students from all the smaller villages congregated there for things like that and would fill up the inns for the duration if they weren’t going to be able to make it back home before dark, which pretty much nobody ever could. Eloy had always enjoyed those times because there wasn’t really anyone in his age bracket in Citri. It was hard to think back on his education fondly though with Layla sitting across from him. His answer sounded like an excuse.

Am I really already thinking like this at the very beginning of my journey? Eloy thought to himself. This girl has an awful effect on me.

“Maybe that’s why I’m so much stronger than you,” Layla chimed, obnoxiously happily “Well, that and Florence.” Eloy was about to question what she meant about that, she’d mentioned that the Buneary was “special” at the start of their battle too, but was cut off by Layla again. “If you think I’m good though, you should see Gwen in action. She probably taught me more than the school did.”

That was something Eloy hadn’t been expecting on two counts, and he couldn’t decide what was more surprising, that the quiet and reserved Gwen, who had not said a word to him yet through the trip, was apparently the best battler in the cable car, or that the cocky and pompous Layla had just given someone what sounded like a genuine compliment.

“You’re better than me,” Gwen said suddenly, not quite succeeding at hiding that she was pleased by the compliment. She didn’t elaborate any further, that part of the proceedings didn’t have quite the same shock value. Still, the discrepancy was interesting. If his limited experience was anything to go by, Gwen’s account of things was probably the more accurate. Her version certainly made more sense to Eloy. He recalled a few moments prior where he’d thought Layla and Gwen’s dynamic wasn’t unlike a pet and its owner. Maybe Layla was the sort who liked to brag about her pets.

After that exchange, Layla went back to chatting away at Gwen and Eloy went back to trying to tune out the sound of her voice. Thankfully, it wasn’t too much longer before they reached the ground-level cable car station and, after turning in their tickets, exited down a flight of aluminium stairs onto the route beyond.

The environment beyond the station was already quite different to what Eloy was used to. A wide dirt path extended out from the base of the mountain. On either side of the path, trees sprouted up, the bases of their trunks obscured by tall grasses. He couldn’t make it out through he progressively thickening woods, but off to one side he could faintly hear the sound of the River Avent flowing off to where it would eventually merge with a larger river and flow out to the ocean beyond.

“Well, we’re going to head off towards Rosaste Town now,” Layla declared, apparently not needing to consult with Gwen before hand. “What about you?” Eloy was also going to be headed in that direction. Rosaste Town was not only the nearest large town, but it was also the location of the closest gym. That being said, he didn’t want to open himself up to a situation where he’d be travelling alongside the girls. He was perfectly comfortable with Gwen, but according to the maps he’d read, Rosaste was at least a day away on foot if not more. Eloy was of the opinion that if he spent even half of that time in the company of Layla, he’d lose his mind. He quickly settled on his response.

“Yeah, I’m heading to Rosaste too. Don’t wait for me or anything though, I feel like exploring around here a bit first. Maybe I’ll see you there.”

“I didn’t invite you,” Layla joked, poking her tongue out. “I guess we’ll see you around then.” She gave a wave and very suddenly turned and walked off along the path.

“Bye,” Gwen said, much less exuberantly, before quickly heading off in pursuit of Layla.

Eloy headed into the woodlands a way until he couldn’t see either of the girls anymore, then dropped to the ground, slumped against a tree. He let out an exasperated sigh. This hadn’t exactly been a good start to things, much of it had been downright annoying really. That being said, he was in uncharted territory now, he needed to keep a clear head going forward with his journey. After taking a brief moment to bask in the sudden quiet, Eloy climbed back to his feet and set off through the woodlands in the general direction the path had followed at a leisurely pace. He wasn’t in any hurry to catch up with Layla and Gwen, so he figured he’d go a short way before setting up camp for the night. The sun was starting to hang lower in the sky at that point and despite having spent the past while sitting down, he felt like he’d ran a marathon.

Team Eloy


#7

Interlude One

“Ah!” Melanie yelped, tripping over the leg leg of a coat rack jammed into the corner of the tiny entryway. A faded black fedora and coat falling to the ground as she stumbled over the inconveniently located furnishing. Feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment she hurriedly scooped the articles of clothing from the ground and returned them to the stand.

She failed to suppress a sigh as she looked at sight in front of her, hastily covering her mouth as though she could force the disappointed sound back into her jaw. A grand manor this was not. It was startling to see how far someone could fall in such a short period time. The cabin, located on the outskirts of the forest by Scholery Town, was too small for all the clutter within. It’s yellowed, peeling walls were scarcely visible behind all the ancient wooden furniture crammed into the structure.

Melanie walked forward from the entryway into a tiny living and dining space, the equally small kitchen just beyond. To her left the door to the only bedroom in the home hung ajar and she could see the mess beyond. The owner of the home was slumped across a couch, asleep. On the coffee table in front of him, one too big for the little room, sat a bottle of gin now nearly gone. The denizen of the couch still clutched the glass in his hand. Unsurprisingly, he was a mess.

Blake had always been a thin man, tall with prominent cheekbones and spindly limbs. He had always been healthy though, handsome even. His long black hair had always been carefully styled, slicked back over his head and held in a ponytail, his face clean shaven and his skin just barely dark enough to not be too pale. He’d dressed himself well in expensive clothes like his trademark coat and hat. Melanie could barely recognise him now.

He’d lost a lot of weight, now looking more like a skeleton than a person and his cheekbones seemed like razors more than an attractive feature. His hair had fallen partially loose and was knotty and damaged, lacking its former lustre. Messy stubble now adorned his face and his skin was so pale it was nearing transparent. He still wore his old expensive clothes, but they were torn and stained. The scandal had taken its toll on him and now he seemed like a zombie, not even a ghostly memory of his former glory. He was in his early forties but looked so much older.

“Mr Blake,” Melanie gently shook the man, her voice soft, “Mr Blake, it’s Melanie. Wake up, please.” After much coaxing, Melanie’s predecessor slowly roused himself from his alcohol induced slumber.

“Melanie?” Blake groaned “I thought you were coming on Monday.”

“It is Monday.” Melanie said, struggling to keep the pity and disappointment out of her tone. She’d grown up idolising this man. He was the reason she chose to focus her training on Dark types.
“Oh.” Blake forced himself into a sitting position with great difficulty, groaning loudly through the long process. Melanie had difficulty even imagining the kind of headache he had to have terrorising him. She made her way into his kitchen, trying not to look at the growing collection of empty bottles on the bench. Opening the fridge, she quickly found a pitcher of water and brought it over to the former gym-leader. She deftly grabbed the glass that was still in Blake’s hand and pressed his fingers firmly around it, filling it.

She stepped back, forgetting the too-large coffee table behind her. Losing her balance once again, she only barely managed to avoid shattering the glass pitched on the wooden floor. She was less successful at keeping its contents inside it. Water flew across the room, splashing the walls and furniture and forming a puddle on the floor.

“Oh no! I’m so sorry. I just can’t seem to help myself today,” Melanie lamented, however Blake merely waved her off.

“You haven’t been able to help your klutziness since the day you were born,” Blake corrected her “Don’t worry about is so much though. It’s not like a little water’s going to make a shithole like this any worse.” Melanie tried to protest, but was merely waved off again. She took a seat next to him, finally giving in.

“How did you end up here anyway?” Melanie questioned, trying to hide how sad she found her former idol’s new abode. “When mum and I visited you just before this mess started, you were still living in your old house. This is uh… quite a change.” Blake laughed, a dead sound devoid of humour.

“What happened was I fucked up and I got caught, kiddo,” he explained “I was running low on cash beforehand anyway. Then when they found out the League Administration fined me and suspended me. So I had to pay them and I had no income coming in. Then the criminal charges hit and I paid for one hell of a lawyer - fat lot of good he’s done - and they fired me so I wasn’t making that back. I still owed money to my supplier too, so I sold the house to cover it.”

Melanie, officially confirmed as Blake’s successor was well aware of how much money a registered gym leader earned from the Administration. She couldn’t help but let her mouth fall open in shock at the revelation that despite his ample earnings, Blake had managed to get himself in debt. She felt the Butterfree in her stomach start going double time. They were getting to the crux of why she’d come faster than expected.

“Who is it that you owed money to?” Melanie asked, a faint tremble in her hushed voice. Blake ran a hand through his hair and gave an exhausted sigh. He drained the glass of water before answering, it was obvious to Melanie he knew she wouldn’t like the answer. He was procrastinating. She couldn’t remember him ever being such a coward. It was like he was a totally different person.

“You know I can’t tell you that. Or anyone else.” There it was. They had reached the first of the important points that Melanie had come to broach.

“Why not?!” Melanie said, her voice quivering more as it rose in volume. “They offered you a plea deal, Mr Blake. It’s all over the news, someone leaked it to a reporter. All you have to do is reveal how you got the Pokerus and there’s no jail time. They gave you the offer a couple of days after the charges were laid. This could all be over and you could be shipped off to Alola in witness protection by now!” Blake just shook his head sadly.

“These people? I could get rocketed to the moon and they could still get to me, and if they couldn’t they’d be after you or your mum. Even Maggie might not be safe. We are all safer if it is made very public that I didn’t give anyone any names and live out the rest of my life is a little cell.”

“Why did you even do it? You were already so good.” Melanie couldn’t help the tears now, her dark makeup smearing as the drops fell down her face. “You were already so good, but you injected a dangerous virus into your Pokemon. You had some of them with you for over twenty years and now who knows where they are?!”

“Because I wasn’t good enough,” Blake said, refusing to look at his successor in the eye “I was starting to lose more and more. Trainers these days are stronger than ever before and it’s a rare trainer like Maggie or Dragomir that can actually hold onto their positions. Every time we lose, the Administration has to pay out so the challenger can afford to eat on the way to the next gym. Then on top of that, they have to pay for new batches of badges more and more frequently. I was hemorrhaging money because I couldn’t keep up. Why do you think you got brought in so quickly? They had already decided on having you replace me.”

Melanie could hardly believe what she was hearing. She felt herself shaking. It wasn’t just from the crying now either, she realised. She was afraid. Was this how she’d end up too? She wasn’t half the trainer that Blake had been. What was worse, she could tell there was an unspoken bit of information floating in the air between them. Why was it that such a skilled trainer had suddenly found himself unable to keep up a satisfactory win record?

“H-how bad is it?’ Melanie stammered.

“You have no idea.”


#8

5: Surprise Surprise

Eloy found himself suddenly awake, curled up in his sleeping bag with a slumbering Deacon. He begrudgingly opened his eyes, peering down at his partner, whose head was poking out of the top of the bag, horn pointed in the opposite direction to Eloy’s throat thankfully. Eloy had released him from his ball after setting up camp for company and a little extra warmth. The nights weren’t nearly as cold as they were up in the mountains, but he wasn’t afforded the same protection from the elements as he was tucked up in his bed.

All signs of the beating that Deacon had taken in his previous battle were long gone, potions tended to work quick on more superficial injuries like those sustained in the average battle. That was good news for Eloy. His companion was not only healthy but would be ready to jump back into any other battles that came up. Still, Eloy was loathe to disturb the Nidoran. Deacon was a surprisingly heavy sleeper given his energy when awake and he looked so peaceful.

Eventually though, as the sun rose to a more prominent position in the sky and rays of warm light began to filter in through the canopy above him, Eloy decided that it was time to get a move on. He began to climb out of the sleeping bag and, as though he’d flipped a switch, Deacon’s eyes shot open and he immediately perked up, practically humming with energy. The sight brought a grin to Eloy’s face.

“Ni!” Deacon cried out, flying out the sleeping bag and dashing over to where Eloy’s bag rested nearby. Moments later, the Pokemon was running tight laps around the bag. Eloy had seen similar enough behaviour around breakfast time to know what that meant.

“Alright, alright. Breakfast first, then we get moving.” Eloy chuckled as he pulled on his coat. He bent down and pulled out supplies for breakfast from the bag. It wasn’t the most impressive meal, sandwiches with a nut spread for him and a travel bowl of pellet food for Deacon, but it was enough.

Eloy hurriedly at his morning meal, watching Deacon devour his own with gusto as he did so, and soon enough, he was finished eating and packing anything he’d removed from his bag away.

“Okay,” Eloy said, pulling the straps of his back over his shoulders, “There’s not really any more reason for us to dawdle around in the woods now. Let’s head back toward the road and then follow it the rest of the way to Rosaste.”

“Ni!” Deacon replied enthusiastically, dashing past his trainer once he knew which direction they were heading in, only to halt before he got too far away and let Eloy catch up before dashing off again.

Like that, the pair made their way towards the road that would lead them straight on to Rosaste Town. Rather than backtracking however, Eloy set them off in a route that moved diagonally forward through the woods. That way they would eventually meet back up with the beaten track without wasting time doubling back. As an added bonus, it also meant Eloy got to enjoy the walk through nature.

He hadn’t been in a good enough mood to properly appreciate his surroundings the previous day, but now that he’d slept on it and woken up feeling rejuvenated, Eloy was able to bask in the pleasant atmosphere of the woodlands. Unlike further in, a thick forested area, the trees here weren’t too close together and plenty of light got in, causing the morning dew that clung to the area’s flora to sparkle. Occasionally, Eloy would catch a glimpse of a wild Pokemon that called the area home, but for the most part the only indication that Deacon wasn’t the only Pokemon present was a choir composed of the calls of a multitude of species.

He wasn’t able to identify every call he heard, but amongst those he did recognise were the musical intonation of Kricketot and Kricketune, Pokemon famed for the beautiful melodies they could create. It wasn’t surprising to hear them in an area like the one they were moving through, but nonetheless, Eloy found himself enjoying the sounds. More surprising, was when one of said Kricketot wandered out from within a patch of shrubbery, directly into the path of Deacon who was hurtling forward in one of his periodical dashes ahead.

The tiny bug screeched as the impact sent it tumbling, covering its orange and yellow carapace in dirt and wrinkling the collar around its neck. The Kricketot, struggling a little because of its stubby arms and legs, climbed back to its feet, looking to Deacon with a mix of fury and terror.
“Toooooooooooooot!” the creature intoned frantically, glancing around it rapidly and waggling its arms. Strangely enough, it didn’t seem pleased about having a Nidoran barreling into it.

“Ni!” Deacon replied enthusiastically, coking his head to the side and wiggling his ears playfully. The two Pokemon were apparently on very different pages about the turn of events. Deacon took a step forward as the Kricketot waddled backward.

Eloy found himself struck with inspiration. Deacon wanted to play and let off some steam, and he needed to catch another Pokemon at some point. He’d start things off with the Kricketot. Going by how it was trying to back away from Deacon, this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as difficult as battling Layla had been.

“We’re going to catch your friend there, Deacon,” Eloy announced, then immediately giving the instruction to attack “Peck!”

Deacon immediately switched from tentative steps towards the bug to a flat out charge, quickly catching up to the Kricketot as it tried to waddle out the way of the super-effective attack. Deacon was faster though, and with a sharp jab of his horn, his attack connected and sent the wild Pokemon tumbling across the ground again.

The Kricketot apparently wasn’t quite as devoid of battling know-how as it appeared, though. Using the momentum of its roll across the woodland floor to its advantage, the Kricketot deftly returned to its feet. It looked around madly, its eyes eventually settling back on Deacon.

“Tot!” it cried out, sounding almost accusatory, followed by a second cry. The second sound was different though, the sound had direction and Eloy could practically feel the change in the air as the vocalisation washed over Deacon.

“Looks like I misjudged you a bit, didn’t I little guy?” Eloy realised that what he had just felt had been a Growl attack. He hadn’t expected it to come from a Pokemon that obviously wasn’t capable of producing an actual growl, but the move still carried the same attack lowering effect. Apparently impeding Deacon’s offensive capabilities was going to be a running theme. “Deacon, Peck again!”

Deacon lunged for the Kricketot, striking it once more as it failed to get away. Yet again the small Bug type let out a cry and was sent sprawling as it took the extremely effective attack yet again. Once more, the Kricketot made use of the momentum inflicted upon it to roll its body back onto its feet. The wild Pokemon panted.

Eloy grinned, he’d been right. The Kricketot had some good moves, but it wasn’t a fierce battler at all yet. With training though, those natural instincts that let it keep getting to its feet could be a big part of turning it into a powerful foe. Eloy was excited about the prospect of raising the Bug type.

“One last time, Deacon. Peck!” Eloy instructed.

Deacon rounded on the struggling Kricketot and shot forward like a bullet. He struck the Nidoran with his horn and set it hurtling backwards, churning up the ground as it landed hard and rolled back onto its feet.

Once more, the Kricketot rolled back to its feet, swaying as the brief but severe beating it had taken began to take its toll. Then a brilliant, ferocious blast of white light erupted forward from the Kricketot in the direction of Deacon and Eloy. The blazing, vivid beam of energy a shot of destruction incarnate that sent both Deacon and Eloy’s eyes wide.

The Kricketot swayed on it feet, the attack swinging up at an angle and shooting just past Eloy’s head. The attack collided with a tree and ripped a chunk out of its side.

“Ni!?” Deacon shouted, confused and surprised by the sudden and vicious counter attack.

Eloy felt similarly, his heart still located in the vicinity of his throat. Bide. An attack that turned all the damage a Pokemon sustained back on the enemy as a single concentrated blast of energy. That was why the Kricketot hadn’t been fighting back. Eloy fell onto his backside, shaking with adrenaline. The tree could have been his head.

“Woah,” Eloy breathed, the only thing he could managed to say for several minutes. He watched as the Kricketot continued to sway in place for several minutes before it fell over, inured and exhausted. Suffice to say, Eloy was impressed. “You’re full of surprises aren’t you? I can’t believe I didn’t think of Bide.”

“Ni?!” Deacon cried out again, apparently still in shock from the sudden counterattack.

Eloy reached into his bag and retrieved an empty Pokeball. He couldn’t say what would have happened if Deacon had took a hit from the Bide, that was even more reason to capture it. He lobbed the capsule at the Kricketot and the bug was drawn inside by a beam of red light. The ball hit the ground and wobble lightly for several moments. Then it was still.

“Welcome to the team,” Eloy beamed, pushing himself back to his feet and retrieving the ball. “I think I’ll call you Maestro.”

Team Eloy


#9

6: Impressed

Eloy collected his pokeballs from the nurse, noting that the staff in Rosaste Town’s Pokemon Centre were all dressed in immaculate white and pink uniforms, just like the big city nurses that he would see on the television from time to time. Compared to the worn out woman with the lively personality he’d talked to back in Avent Town, the people in this Centre were all well-rehearsed and professional, almost too pleasant and a little robotic.

The facility itself also stood in stark contrast to the previous Pokemon Centre Eloy had visited. Where Avent Town’s had been a small, old building with ancient mismatched furnishings and little space for overnighters, the Rosaste Town equivalent was the definition of a modern day Pokemon Centre. It was a large building rendered in white with a bright red roof, the front covered with tall glass windows and an automated door. The interior was dominated primarily by a large lobby with peach coloured tiles on the floor and white on the walls. A desk blocked entry way into the back which housed the medical facilities. The remainder of the building was dedicated to housing trainers; a small cafe and the upstairs accommodations. There was also a training field behind the building itself.

Eloy exited through the automated doors and out into Rosaste Town itself, the air outside noticeably warmer than the carefully maintained cool of the Pokemon Centre, although Eloy had experienced first hand that it was made pleasantly warm at night.

Now Eloy made his way through Rosaste in the direction of the gym. He had arrived far too late into the night to challenge it the previous day, but he’d come past it on the way to find somewhere to stay. It wasn’t a particularly long way away, but it was far enough that Eloy had some time to take the town in.

Rosaste Town was far bigger than either of the towns Eloy had been in before, the smallness of where he’d come from making it seem all the larger. It wasn’t quite sizeable enough to be called a city, but it was obvious that the population there was measured in the thousands, not in the hundreds like the mountain towns. In fact, it probably had several times the population of Citri and Avent combined.

As he walked across the town, Eloy could see that Rosaste was more or less divided into districts. Where was seemed to be more of a community district and housed various businesses like a handful of restaurants and taverns, boutiques and a PokeMart. Several streets lead to the residential parts of Rosaste, Eloy didn’t venture down those though. His destination had come into view: a large park that seemed to be central in the town to Eloy. A brightly coloured playground and a large pond with a fountain could be made out, but they weren’t what drew Eloy’s attention. At the centre of the park stood a round building with a roof of panelled glass. Above the building’s automated door was a sign designating it the Rosaste Gym.

“Alright,” Eloy said to himself, feeling his excitement building “Today’s the day. We had a rocky start, but I know we’ve got this.” Feeling his heart thudding in his chest, Eloy sped his pace up as he approached the gym and soon found himself stepping inside.

Eloy found himself standing in a small lobby. At the back of the room a young man sat behind a stone desk, idly flipping through something on his PokeGear. To either side of the desk, two double-doors were closed to what was beyond, although Eloy could faintly hear something going on beyond. That was all pretty standard, what wasn’t standard was everything else. The floor of the lobby was covered entirely in very real grass, creeping vines covered the walls and to round everything off the room was surrounded by a ring of potted berry plants of different kinds.

“Not what you were expecting?” the concierge at the desk asked, looking up from the device in his hand with a chuckle “Don’t worry, everyone always reacts like that their first time here.”

“I can believe that,” Eloy replied with a chuckle “I’m here to challenge the gym.” Eloy showed the man his trainer license.

“Yeah, no problems with that.” the concierge replied casually, leaning back in his chair “You’ll have to wait a bit for your shot though since Vinnie’s taking a challenge right now. Feel free to head through and watch while you wait.”

Eloy thanked the man and decided to take him up on his offer. This was a great chance to see just what it was he’d be up against. He knew well-enough that Vinnie was a Grass type user, a fact made even more evident by his building’s decor, but that was about it. While gym leaders frequently appeared on TV or in internet interviews, Vinnie tended to be a bit more reclusive when it came to the press.

Eloy passed through the doors on the left, finding himself standing on a metal platform overlooking what seemed to be a clearing in a forest. Tiered seating made of steel rose up in an amphitheatre style around a grassy battlefield that was dotted by small trees. At the centre of it all stood two trainers and their warring Pokemon. Eloy froze.

The trainer furthest from Eloy was a man who looked to be in his thirties. His brown hair was long and messy, decorated with small green, pink and yellow beads and his face was covered in stubble. He was dressed casually in a white tank top with a green paint splotch pattern and hems and brown jeans. Eloy recognised the man from a handful of things he’d seen as Vinnie, the gym leader. He looked even scruffier in person, but that wasn’t why Eloy’s stomach lurched.

Vinnie’s opponent was a girl about his own age, with long, straight blonde hair. She was dressed in dark cargo pants and a red T-shirt worn over a black and grey striped top with long sleeves. It took several minutes before Eloy could relaxe, it wasn’t Layla. As he rounded the arena and took a seat it became quickly apparent that although she was of a similar height and build, she looked quite different overall and her style was completely unlike Layla’s. Besides, Gwen was nowhere to be seen.

Crisis averted, Eloy looked back over the battlefield. On Vinnie’s side of the battlefield a singed Hoppip was bouncing expectantly. On the other side of the field, the spectral form of a skull-faced Duskull floated serenely. A faint smile adorned Vinnie’s face while his opponent was all business. A glance at a large monitor on the wall behind Vinnie showed Eloy that both were on their first Pokemon. Vinnie seemed to be pondering his next move.

“Alright,” he began “Dandy, give ‘em an Aerial Ace.”

The Hoppip, Dandy’s, leafy propellor began to spin on the top of its head as it rose into the air. The small pink Pokemon performed a loop in the air, gravity increasing its momentum as a result, and flew towards the Duskull like a living projectile.

“Mortimer, use Protect.” A glowing green barrier exploded into existence, encasing the Duskull at the girl’s confident command. The timing was perfect and it was too late for Dandy to abort, the Grass type crashed into Mortimer’s defense hard and floated back with a ringing head. “Follow that up with Dark Pulse.”

Mortimer raised his small arms forward and a black and purple energy formed there, then the attack shot out, the colours swirling around each other in a helix as the blast raced forward and collided with the Hoppip. Dandy was launched across the room, hitting the ground and skidding to a halt near Vinnie. It climbed to its feet, seemingly ready for the counter attack when suddenly it dropped back to the ground.

“Hoppip is unable to battle,” a third voice said, the sound coming from a referee Eloy had failed to notice leaning against one of the trees “The first round goes to Lauren.”

“Good try, Dandy, my dude,” Vinnie said, his casual tone sounding more like he was out bowling than taking part in a legitimate gym battle. He returned his Hoppip to its ball before releasing his next combatant, a green Pokemon with long, gangly arms, a red bill and a large leaf on its head resembling a sombrero. He’d selected a Lombre. “Paco, you’re turn man, Rain Dance.” Vinnie punctuated his instruction with a thumbs up.

“He’s kind of a weird one, this guy,” Eloy muttered to himself as Paco started swaying with his long arms above his head. Dark clouds formed above the battlefield, blocking out the sun from the glass ceiling. Rain began to fall across the battlefield.

This was more like what Eloy expected from a gym leader. The rain would activate one of Lombre’s abilities and help it heal or make it twice as fast. He leaned forward expectantly to see what would happen next.

“Bubblebeam, right up close, Paco.” The Lobre moved instantly, blitzing across the field with a kind of speed that an awkward frame like his shouldn’t have been able to possess. In an instant it was right up in the Duskull’s face.
“Shadow Sneak.” Mortimer sunk into the ground, merging with his shadow as Paco unleashed its attack. A high-pressure spray of bubbles rushed past Lauren like a cannon and explode in a spray of water against the wall behind her, missing Mortimer entirely. Then, Mortimer shot up out of the ground behind Paco and collided with his back, knocking him into the ground. The Lombre immediately rolled onto its back, ready to let loose with another attack.

“Disable,” Lauren instructed. Blue light shone from the eye sockets of Mortimer’s skull-like face, a similar glow briefly encompassing Paco’s body. The light faded and Paco found himself unable to create the attack he’d prepared.

“Ah man, not that again,” Vinnie said, scratching the back of his head. He didn’t look nearly as perturbed as the sentence implied though.

Eloy didn’t know what to make of the gym leader, he seemed far too lax, like he didn’t take his job seriously. Maybe that was why the battle didn’t seem to be going in his favour. Lauren on the other hand, was stoic and business like in her demeanour. Her eyes scanned the field intently, analysing every detail. If he had walked into this situation without already knowing who Vinnie was, Eloy might have thought she was the actual gym leader.

“Will-o-Wisp, Mortimer,” Lauren replied to her opponent with another attack, taking advantage of the opportunity. Even with his increased speed, Paco couldn’t dodge the attack at such close range. Mortimer shot a small blue fireball at the Lombre, the attack steaming slightly in the rain. The Will-o-Wisp collided and for a moment, Paco was engulfed in blue flames before they suddenly disappeared, leaving the Grass and Water type charred. Apparently, that was what had happened to the Hoppip previously.

“That too then,” Vinnie said with a shake of his head “You’re one serious opponent, huh?”

“Thank you,” Lauren replied somberly “I wouldn’t be doing this right if I wasn’t.”

“Well said!” Vinne commended “Don’t count us out yet though. Try an Energy Ball, Paco.” The Lombre leapt up, a glowing ball of different shades of green pulsing between his hands. Paco launched the sphere at Mortimer.

“Protect,” Lauren said, the barrier once again erupting into existence. Green exploded against green, rain droplets blasting out in all directions from the force of the attack. The Protect shattered but Mortimer remained unharmed. That was, until Paco launched another Energy Ball immediately after. The second attack hit the Duskull hard, there was another explosion of green light and Mortimer careened across the battlefield. The Ghost type was hovering in front of Vinnie when he managed to right himself, his expressionless face giving little indication of how much damage he’d taken.

“Come on now,” Vinnie said “I’m pretty chill but even I’m not gonna let you keep pulling the exact same stunts. Good going Paco, my man.”

“Lom!” Paco replied cheerily.

Eloy couldn’t help but get the impression that “pretty chill” was an understatement of Vinnie’s character. He looked and sounded like he didn’t have a care in the world.

“Time to do something different then,” Lauren replied calmly “Mortimer, use Haze.” The Duskull complied, blowing a cloud of grey over the battlefield that billowed up from the ground. Soon a deep fog encompassed the battlefield, obscuring the onlookers visions.

Eloy could just make out the trainers on the edges of the Haze where it wasn’t as thick, the pair looking like silhouettes as the heavy grey fog distorted their colour. Haze was a move that reset boosts or drops to a Pokemon power, but with the rain still falling it wouldn’t counteract Paco’s increased speed.

“Now you’re just fighting dirty,” Vinnie joked, once again sounding far too relaxed for the words that had come out of his mouth.

Tonal dissonance or not though, the statement clued Eloy in to what Lauren was doing. A side effect of the move Haze was, well, a haze. Neither Lauren, Vinnie or their Pokemon could see in the thick gas. Lauren and Mortimer didn’t need to fight though, with Paco having sustained a burn from Will-o-Wisp that would continue to sap his health, they just had to wait it out until the Lombre couldn’t keep going. Eloy had to admit, it wasn’t the nicest of strategies, but it was clever.

It wasn’t exciting to watch either.

“Energy Ball, Paco. Let’s try an indiscriminate attack and see if we can hit this little dude,” Vinnie said.

“Use Shadow Sneak to keep out the way, Mortimer,” Lauren instructed in turn.

Eloy couldn’t see any of it, only the faint flashes of green as Paco tried to hit a target he couldn’t see. Even without the Shadow Sneaking it would have been hard given Mortimer’s coloration. Eloy was forced to rely on sound, listening to explosion after explosion as the Energy Balls hit the ground. There was no indication of any of them meeting their mark.

The onslaught continued as the thick haze slowly began to fade, the attacks continuing on so long that by the time the gas had mostly cleared, the rain had stopped falling and the clouds had parted to let the sun shine through the roof once more. The now clear field revealed a panting Paco and a serene Mortimer, the Ghost type behind the Lombre, where it couldn’t see it.

“Ah, there you are.” Vinnie said, sounding like he’d just found a missing sock more than an enemy. That was all the reaction he was allowed.

“Dark Pulse.” Mortimer once again fired off the blast of swirling, nefarious energies. The attack struck Paco in the back and launched him into the wall behind Vinnie, just below the monitor.

“That means the winner is Lauren,” the referee announced.

Mortimer sunk into the ground and emerged by Lauren, nuzzling against her happily.

“You were great, Mortimer.” Lauren said, her demeanour suddenly relaxing as she hugged the Duskull.

Eloy got up and made his way towards the battlefield so he could have his turn, tuning off to conversation as the two trainers met in the middle of the battlefield so Lauren could be presented with her badge. He had been excited before, now he was raring to go. If Lauren could so easily trounce Vinnie, there was no reason that he couldn’t. Besides, Vinnie didn’t exactly seem to be putting in a world of effort that day.

“You can sort out your winnings with Rick at the counter.” Eloy heard Vinnie saying as he reached the edge of the battlefield. “Since none of your Pokemon fainted, you’ll receive a nice bonus.”

Lauren turned from Vinnie and walked in Eloy’s direction to leave.

“That was a really good battle, nice work,” Eloy said, grinning at her “You too, Mortimer.”

“Oh, thank you,” Lauren replied “I didn’t realise I had an audience. That’s a bit embarrassing.”

“Nah, no reason to be embarrassed about destroying a gym leader like that.” Eloy found the contrast between her cold and calculated demeanor in battle and how she carried herself now surprising. She didn’t seem meek like Gwen, but she gave the impression that she wasn’t the type to seek out a conversation from strangers either.

“I wouldn’t say I destroyed him. He really knows what he’s doing,” Lauren said again, brushing off the compliment.

“Trust me, you were great,” Eloy insisted “But it’s my turn now so I’ll let you get going. Maybe we’ll run into each other again.” To Eloy, it seemed almost as though she was uncomfortable being praised. He didn’t really get it, but he wasn’t going to let that drag on for her when he had his own victory to achieve.

“Yo,” Vinnie interjected as Lauren and Eloy parted ways “Are you here to challenge me too or are you a friend of hers?”

“I’m here to challenge you, yeah,” Eloy responded.

“Here I was thinking I’d get to go back to gardening. That’s all good though, my man, let’s get this show on the road.”

Team Eloy


#10

7: Welcome to the Jungle

Eloy stood on the same side of the field that Lauren had, looking across at Vinnie on the opposite side. He could just barely make out the patches where the grass had been damaged by Vinnie’s own indiscriminate energy ball attacks. The damage seemed surprisingly little though, as if the Grass attack struggled to destroy its namesake. It left Eloy with a surprisingly whole battlefield to work with.

“Alright, Eloy, my dude,” Vinnie said, shaking Eloy from his ponderings and causing his blood to pump through his veins in double time “I’m going to start with this girl, Chanterelle.” The gym leader released his Pokemon with a flash, revealing an orange insectoid whose body was dominated by a large mushroom. The Parasect clacked its pincers as though it was trying to remember how to use them, then fell as still as a statue. It was a little unnerving.

“Now’s as good a time as any then.” Eloy tossed his own pokeball, the light fading away to reveal his own Bug type.

Maestro looked around, rapidly shifting his whole body from side to side as he took in his new surroundings. Then his fell on the somewhat disturbing Parasect, causing the little Kricketot to quite literally jump with surprise and begin looking around even more frantically, as if looking for an escape route.

“Tot!” Maestro cried out, the alarm evident.

“Relax, Maestro, you’ve got this,” Eloy said, just barely managing to hide his embarrassment. He could see Vinnie cock an eyebrow on the other side of the field. Eloy forced back the sigh that nearly escaped his lips, his Kricketot turning to him and looking at him a little accusingly.

“We all good?” Vinnie queried.

Eloy nodded. Maestro was a bit of a wimp, but he knew that there was some natural battling chops in there… deep down. Eloy just had to capitalise on Vinnie’s surprise when they finally showed. It was time to get started.

“Maestro, use Bug Bite!” Eloy gave the instruction.

Maestro jumped with a start again, but followed the command. He dashed forward, surprisingly quick for the waddling way he ran, and jumped for the Parasect.

“Let’s give them a Substitute,” Vinnie said, sounding like he was suggesting showing off something he bought at the supermarket more than anything.

Chanterelle’s expressing didn’t shift, and the Parasect didn’t move, but she responded immediately. A blur rippled across her body as a clone stepped forward from the stationary Parasect, indistinguishable from the real one if not for a fuzziness to its composition.
Maestro bit down on the clone Parasect, the substitute not showing any signs that it had even experienced an attack.

“Next try a Leech Life.” Came the next instruction. The substitute suddenly vanished and the real Chanterelle lunged forward, her face still a blank slate but her pincer cloaked in a faint red energy. The attack struck Maestro and as he tumbled back, streaks of light seemed to be pulled from him and into the claw.

Maestro rolled back onto his feet, halting his backward trajectory, flinching slightly when he found himself staring right into the lifeless eyes of the Parasect.

“Struggle Bug!” Eloy didn’t have time to worry about Maestro’s jitters, besides he could help with that by defeating the creepy Pokemon and having it returned to its ball.

“Tot!” Maestro squeaked nervously, but the attack continued. Crimson light erupted up around Maestro in a daunting pillar, then rushed outwards in all directions. As the attack approached Chanterelle however, the clone Parasect appeared again and took the attack, the substitute had yet to break and faded away again.

“Alright, Cross Poison,” Vinnie said casually. Chanterelle leapt forward, her pincers forming an “X” as a purple glow bubble around them. Her victim yelped as she slashed, separating the crossed claws and once again sending Maestro tumbling.

“Bide, Maestro!” Eloy ordered. This was bad, he couldn’t seem to break through the Parasect’s defenses and even if he did, it always had the ability to simply recover the health it lost with Leech Life. Even with Maestro being a Bug type and resisting the move, he had taken a decent amount of damage on account of his poor defenses. A big devastating attack like from Bide was his best bet.

“Uh oh, man, you didn’t think that through,” Vinnie said, almost sounding like a gym leader for a moment. Before Eloy could question what he meant, he gave the instruction, “Chanterelle, give ‘em a Spore.”

Eloy winced as Vinnie’s meaning became clear. He hadn’t thought that through. Parasect was a Pokemon known for its liberal use of the dangerous status move and he’d just instructed Maestro to use a move that prevented him moving out the way.

Powdery spores burst up from the mushroom on Chanterelle’s back and billowed in Maestro’s direction, engulfing the Kricketot in a glittering yellow-gold cloud and immediately sending him into a deep slumber. Not only did this cancel his Bide, but it rendered Maestro completely unable to defend himself.

“Sorry about this,” Vinnie said, scratching his head sheepishly “Chanterelle, let’s wrap this round up with Fury Cutter.”

The Parasect slowly walked towards Maestro as scimitar-like blades of violent red light grew over her pincers. Then, when she reached Maestro, the attack began. She slashed, knocking the Kricketot to the ground. Then she slashed again and again and again. Each attack seemed to grow in power and ferocity until with one final cut, Maestro was launched clear across the room and collided with the back wall where the main gym joined the lobby. There was no question he wasn’t getting back up to fight back.

“That’s a win for Chanterelle, round one goes to Vinnie,” the referee announced.

Eloy returned Maestro, congratulating him for a valiant effort and reached for Deacon’s ball. This wasn’t how the battle was supposed to go. Eloy couldn’t but question if Vinnie had really been that formidable the whole time. He didn’t really seem to be putting any more effort in than he had with Lauren. Was she just that much better than him? It was Layla all over again.

I can still turn this around though.

“Deacon, your turn,” Eloy said, releasing his partner from his containment. Deacon appeared, ears pricked up, raring to go. He dug his feet into the ground in preparation of the charge. Eloy grinned, if any Pokemon was suited to the strategy he was going to try, it was Deacon. “Double Kick!”

Deacon leapt into action, sprinting full pelt at Chanterelle, eager for the battle and with energy to burn. The clone Parasect blurred into being again, barring his way and Deacon went right for it. He pivoted on his front foot, rotating and delivering a kick with his powerful back legs. The clone Parasect exploded on impact, finally breaking after taking multiple attacks. The attack didn’t stop there though, Deacon landed on his back feet and pushed off hard, flipping backwards to bring his rear legs down hard on Chanterelle’s head, driving it into the grow. Then he darted forward to avoid a counter attack.

The Parasect, climbed to its feet, her expressionless gaze not changing a bit.

“Try Seed Bomb, Chanterelle,” Vinnie instructed. A yellow glow formed in front of the Parasects mouth before shooting forward in the form of an ovoid projectile. Eloy commanded Deacon to dodge, but the attack exploded on impact, catching the fleeing Nidoran on the edge of the blast and sending him skidding.

“Fury Attack!” Eloy called as Deacon defiantly rose to his feet “Hit her from every angle you can.” Deacon wouldn’t be able to win a battle of attrition with Chanterelle, but Eloy had realised what he had to do from how Vinnie had defeated Maestro. Chanterelle was slow moving, he just had to bombard her with strong attacks faster than she could recover.
“Chanterelle, use Substitute,” Vinnie gave the instruction as Deacon neared. Once again a blur seemed to envelop the Parasect as her clone stepped out from her.

Deacon jabbed the Substitute with his horn, ramming the protrusion into it over and over, preventing it from dispersing so the real Chanterelle could make a counteract. Then, as the clone exploded once more he rushed in towards the Parasect.

Vinnie had Chanterelle try and respond with a Leech Life counterattack, but Deacon was nimble. He ducked under the ominously glowing pincer and struck out with his horn to complete the Fury Attack. Chanterelle stumbled back silently.

“Now Deacon, Peck!” Eloy pressed the attack. Deacon slashed upward with his horn, striking the underside of the Parasect and knocking it sprawling. Eloy smirked, being both Grass and Bug typed, Chanterelle was extremely weak to a Flying attack like Peck. “One more!”

Deacon closed the distance fast, not giving Chanterelle the time to get back on her feet and defend herself. He lunged forward and rammed his horn against her carapace. Chanterelle was yet to make a sound, but as she skidded to a stop behind Vinnie, she didn’t try to stand back up. Now the match was tied up again.

“That was smart of you,” Vinnie commended Eloy before returning Chanterelle “Let’s see what you think of Venus then.” Vinnie released his next combatant, and from the flash of the Pokeball a plant-like Pokemon with leafy arms, a tangle of vines in place of legs and an enormous dish-shaped head emerged. It looked like a venus fly-trap, hence the name, and was easily identified as a Carnivine on account of its distinctive appearance.

“Interesting,” Eloy said “I didn’t expect that.”

“Well, I suppose I’ll take the first move then,” Vinnie said with a shrug “Venus, use Bite.” The Carnivine, floating just above the ground, lunged forward, crossing a surprising amount of distance, with its enormous mouth opened wide.

Deacon skittered out the way just in time to avoid being caught in the Grass types jaws, this time it was Vinnie’s turn to press the offensive though. At a command from its trainer, Venus lashed out with one of her leafy arms in a Vine Whip. The attack caught Deacon’s side and sent him to the ground. It wasn’t a particularly effective hit, but it was enough to give Venus a second shot at her Bite.

“Go for another Bite,” the gym leader instructed.

Venus whirled on Deacon as he got to his feet, slamming her jaws shut over the smaller Pokemon. Deacon cried out and Venus tossed him aside, skipping him across the grassy battlefield like a pebble over a lake.
Eloy had gone from a surge of confidence back to concern. Deacon wasn’t built to sponge attacks and Venus was really powerful. He could see that his partner had already sustained heavy damage just from the two attacks he’d taken.

“Poison Sting!” Eloy ordered, Deacon springing back into action, the tip of his horn aglow with a toxic purple. Faster than his opponent, Deacon got past the Carnivine’s defenses and jammed his horn into the Grass type, the super-effective hit causing her to recoil and crash into the ground. “Again!”

The second attack failed to connect however, one of Venus’ vines shot out and wrapped around Deacon as she righted herself once more. She pulled the struggling Nidoran in, hungry for revenge.

“Okay, how about Throat Chop?” Vinnie said, almost seeming like he was asking permission instead of giving a command. Whatever the case, Venus seemed to agree with her trainer. She slammed one of her leafy arms into Deacon’s neck and dropped the spluttering Poison type to the ground. “Let’s knock it away too.” Venus didn’t have a problem with that either, swatting Deacon back across the room with a Vine Whip. The Carnivine barely seemed to have sustained any real damage from the Poison Sting.

Eloy thought back to Lauren’s battle with the gym leader, she’d won effortlessly by inflicting a Burn onto Dandy and Paco and then just having Mortimer stay out the way for the most part until the status condition finished them off. He didn’t have quite the same luxury, but if he took a page out of yet another trainer’s books, maybe he could make something happen.

“Deacon, Leer!” Eloy ordered. Deacon’s eyes locked onto Venus’, glowing a bright red. The glow was reflected in the eyes of the Carnivine, before fading from both. Eloy grimaced, what he was going to try for was risky. At least this way though, he’d been able to put a dent in Venus’ defensive abilities so he could maximise his damage output. “Okay, Poison Sting!”

Deacon rushed the Carnivine, dodging a vine that shot out to intercept him and continuing his mad dash forwards. He leapt for the plant-like Pokemon and once more the glowing tip of his horn collided with her and knocked her back onto the ground.

“Poison Sting again, Deacon!” Eloy called, Deacon rushed in again. Much like before, a vine shot out to grab Deacon and halt his attack, but the Nidoran was getting used to this maneuver now. He ducked below the vine and then rammed up with his head, striking the vine itself with the Poison Sting. Venus hissed in pain and Deacon resumed his charge. This time no vines got in his way and he collided with the Carnivine just as she returned to her upright position, smacking her back along the ground once more. “Again!”

“Go up and over, Venus,” Vinnie instructed. The Carnivine rolled over the top of Deacon, avoiding the attack and returning to her previous stance. She snared Deacon from behind with one of her vines and squeezing tightly, dragged him into her face. “Let’s give ‘em another Bite, now.”

Venus clamped down hard on Deacon again with her monstrous jaws, causing the Nidoran to cry out in pain and alarm. She’d bitten harder this time it seemed.

Eloy could almost feel the pain of the Bite himself hearing the sound, he was sure the Carnivine had clamped down harder this time. He’d have time to worry about Deacon later though, right now he had to use the opportunity he had.

“Deacon, Poison Sting again!” Deacon lashed out, thrusting his up and back violently to stab at the side of Venus’ head with the glowing tip of his horn. The Carnivine screeched and dropped him, affording him the chance to strike her midsection as well before backing up out of the way.

Venus floated back up again, but this time she was definitely feeling the effects of her attack. Where the second Poison Sting had hit her midsection, a discoloured patch had spread across her body and she seemed to sag slightly where she floated.

Eloy breathed a sigh of relief. It had worked and he’d gotten lucky, Venus’ had finally been poisoned by the attack’s additional effect. Now between the damage the attack had done with her weakened defenses and the gradually worsening effect of the poison sapping her health, Deacon just had to avoid taking any more hits.

“Looks like you were watching pretty closely, huh?” Vinnie asked rhetorically.

Eloy nodded. It wasn’t the clean win he was hoping for, but he wasn’t above learning from his betters. He’d put his strategy together by piecing together what he’d learned from seeing both Lauren and Layla in action. He didn’t particularly like that he’d had to rely on inspiration from others to win, but right now victory was what was important. Here was no way he was losing that gym battle.

“They want to keep out your reach now, Venus. We should Bind them.” Venus lashed out with not just one but several of her vines this time, intend on trapping and constricting Deacon to prevent Eloy from putting his plan into action properly.

“Run, Deacon!” Eloy called. He knew Deacon couldn’t afford to be caught, one more hit from Bite or Throat Chop and the battle would be over for him. It was touch and go though, Deacon had taken a beating and he was exhausted. Eloy just had to hope for the best, that Deacon wasn’t too roughed up to avoid getting caught.

Deacon dodged under several vines, then hopped back to avoid more. Next he had to roll sidewards to avoid getting caught by the vines he’d just avoided the first time. He picked up the pace, keeping to the edges of the battlefield as Venus floated after him, trying to keep herself in range.

Over and over the entangling vines rocketed out, but Deacon just barely managed to slip away from them every time. He jumped over one vine only to suddenly duck below the next, or swatted one away with his horn only to immediately retreat to avoid the next one. It was tiring on Deacon though, he was battling his way through his second opponent and he’d taken some nasty hits. He just had to last long enough for the poison to do its job though.

Suddenly a vine wrapped around Deacon’s leg, having swung to the side as he’d dodged. The Nidoran hadn’t quite been able to get away. The grip was just strong enough to prevent Deacon’s escape, the poisoning having taken a hefty toll on the Carnivine. Now though, she had managed to get Deacon in her grip. She pulled him in towards her, hard.

“Poison Sting!” Eloy yelled in desperation. Deacon let himself be pulled in, using the momentum he’d been given to his advantage. Venus had pulled back hard enough that he was able to swing his head in and connect the attack.

The Carnivine immediately let go of Deacon and was knocked rolling across the ground, coming to a stop at Vinnie’s feet. There were several tense seconds, Eloy’s heart pounding so hard it sounded like a Tyranitar was stomping across the inside of the trainer’s skull. She didn’t get up.

Eloy let out a sigh of relief as Deacon hobbled back to him, looking triumphant. He’d managed to win. Just barely, but he’d done it.

“That was great, Deacon. I don’t know how you did it, but it was great.”

Team Eloy


#11

8: Money, Money, Money

Author’s Note: Apologies in advance, this chapter is extremely short and not a lot happens in it. It’s mainly just intended to close off Eloy’s time in Rosaste Town and to shed a little more light on the Sigia region and the lifestyle of a travelling trainer. Up next is the second interlude chapter which I’m really looking forward to writing.

With Deacon and Maestro recovering in the Pokemon Centre post gym battle, Eloy was left in Rosaste Town with time to spare. As much as Eloy would have preferred to just wander around exploring the town though, this was time that he had to use to prepare for the next leg of his journey. He as a league trainer after all, not a tourist.

Eloy returned to the park where the Rosaste Gym stood, but this time he walked in the opposite direction to the gym and seated himself on the grass near the fountain, enjoying the warmth of the sun against his skin. The fountain itself was also something Eloy could appreciate, a marble structure depicting a Swanna and her Ducklett babies standing on a plinth in the centre of the pond, spraying water in all different directions. There weren’t really any parks up in the mountains and Eloy enjoyed the change of setting just as much as the change of climate.

Once he was sufficiently comfortable, Eloy pulled out his Pokegear and set it to the map function. An image of a vaguely crescent-shaped landmass, sitting beneath a smaller tear-drop island appeared on the screen. Predominantly green, especially in the very centre, with more brown around the lower edges. Eloy’s eyes immediately located Citri town, a small blip to the south-east nestled in the brown of the mountains. A blinking light to the north-west of Citri, where it was greener, indicated his current location in Rosaste Town.

“I could go from here to Jaspern, but that would involve a long trip through the middle of nowhere,” Eloy said to himself “Definitely better to head to Erythie Gym. It’s closer and there’s more civilisation in that general direction.”

The selection of route meant that he would be continuing his north-westerly travel, passing through Topa Town before eventually reaching Erythie City. Eloy couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease about that particular location. It was a large city, although not nearly as large as Techniti, and a hotspot for celebrities, rich people and tourists. It wasn’t exactly the sort of place you’d find many mountain-dwelling farmboys. More concerning still, Layla was from there. The chances of running into her in such a large city weren’t particularly high, but anything that increased those odds was not something he was thrilled about.

With a sigh, Eloy pushed himself to his feet, he’d only packed enough supplies for the trip to Rosaste originally, there was only so much room in his bag afterall. That meant he’d need to stock up.

Eloy set off, walking back in the direction of the Pokemon Centre. He’d seen both the Rosaste PokeMart and a general store both quite near the facility. He could stop by both shops and then head back to the Centre to have an early dinner, collect his Pokemon and rebook his room. It wasn’t nearly late enough that he couldn’t move on towards the next stop on his journey immediately, but there was little reason to rush either.

Eloy soon enough found himself entering the general store. It was about what he expected, a small establishment with a wooden floor and green walls. Only a single teller sat at a counter near the front with a clear view of the rows of shelves and the small refrigerated area. Eloy looked at the small chalkboard signs in front of each isle, each displaying a handwritten list of its contents. He noted there was no section for meat, but that wasn’t much of a surprise. Very few people in Sigia still ate meat since Pokemon had grown to be regarded as more than just a resource. The closest Eloy himself got to meat was unfertilised eggs.

Meat or not, even the tiny stores selection suddenly seemed overwhelming to Eloy. He hadn’t really put that much thought to the practicalities of his travels until that point and as he walked through the store he was quickly realising that the three thousand Poke in winnings he’d had transferred to his account by Rick after beating Vinnie wasn’t nearly as much as it sounded. Specially when he had to stock up on Potions and food for his team at the Pokemart as well.

“Screw it,” Eloy sighed “I guess I’m eating sandwiches on the way to Topa too.”

Team Eloy


#12

Interlude Two

Author’s Note: So, in case it wasn’t clear as there’s only been the one until now, every fifth chapter posted will generally be an interlude. These will always give us a break from Eloy’s journey to explore things from the perspectives of other characters, major or minor, and will often reveal little tidbits about the world or plot. This particular interlude is a flashback chapter taking place roughly three years before Eloy’s journey begins.

Gwen found herself seated at the back of the class, not by the window in the protagonist seat though, no she was lucky enough to have ended up at a desk right in the middle. Right in the middle not just in respect to the physical location of her desk, but in the middle of a friend group that she was very much not a part of. She was the new kid from the country and on either side of her and in front of her there was a boisterous rich girl, chatting obnoxiously loud across her. His wasn’t somewhere she belonged, it wasn’t even a class she wanted to participate in. She was still a year off of being able to just elect out of it though.

It’s only three more years, I just have to stick it out for three years. She closed her eyes and rested her head on the laquered wood of her desk, repeating the refrain to herself as she tried to drown out the noise of her classmates.

Gwen had known that her experiences at the school were bound to be different than at the two-classroom school she had attended back in Avent town, but she hadn’t counted on the sheer noise. She was two stories up in the immaculately rendered main building of the Nora West Academy, and she could hear not only the incessant chatter of her classmates but also that of the class behind her and of the students still moving through the tiled hallways. At times she could swear she was hearing noise from the rooms above and below her as well, but she was sure that she was at the very least imagining that. She had come to realise that everywhere in Techniti was like that. In the month since she and her parents had moved there, Gwen was yet to find anywhere she could escape the constant noise.

“Hey you,” Gwen heard a girl say, her voice oozing a sense of entitlement. She’d have liked to have pretend that they weren’t addressing her, but it was pretty evident that both the girls to her left and ahead of her and the boy to her right all new each other well. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes and lifted her head. “I don’t recognise you.”

The girl speaking to Gwen was the one sitting in front of her, taller than she was, not that this was an achievement, with long blonde hair worn in a high ponytail, clear skin and dazzling amber eyes. Gwen found herself forced admit that this girl was pretty, but that didn’t excuse the fact she was obnoxious. She’d said “I don’t recognise you” in the tone of a queen expecting her subjects to present themselves to her. She lost extra marks for vividly yellow top she was wearing with a neckline that Gwen was confident was well outside the academy’s dress code. She wouldn’t have been totally shocked if the violently yellow colour choice was too.

“I’m Guinevere,” she introduced herself, hoping to get the interaction over and done with as soon as possible, “I’m new this year.”

“Guinevere’s hard, I’ll call you Gwen,” the girl announced, “I’m Layla. So, where are you from, newbie?” Gwen forced herself not to wince at the uncomfortable familiarity with which Layla spoke to her. Only her family called her Gwen.

“Avent Town,” Gwen answered, painfully aware of the classmates on either side of her eyeing her like hungry predators. She wondered if they knew how overt they were being. It was obvious they were just waiting for something they could pounce on.

“That town in buttfuck nowhere up in the mountains?” the boy on her right asked, or rather disguised the jab as a question.

Gwen didn’t respond, instead making a note of the dyed blonde hair and gold earring dangling from his left ear, each standing in stark contrast to his dark skin. She was pretty sure his appearance was breaking about fifty rules too.

“Ooo, she didn’t like that!” the gleeful explanation came from the red haired girl on her left. Her appearance was a lot more conservative than Layla or the boy, but she was doing the poorest job of the three at hiding her intentions.

“I’m not wrong though,” the boy shrugged

“True, true,” Redhead laughed.

Apparently, Gwen was a novelty. She couldn’t say she was surprised by this, she had fully expected this was how things would go. She was the poor girl from the mountains in a class full of rich socialite’s kids.

“How’d you end up here then?” This question was from Layla again. She sounded like she was demanding an explanation for why a peasant had set foot in her court. Already Gwen was lamenting that she couldn’t have just stayed in Avent Town. One day into the school year and already she was finding she would be perfectly okay with the entire academy mysteriously burning to the ground.

“We moved here to be closer to family, my grandfather isn’t well.” Gwen replied, choosing not to address the more underlying question. The question of how someone from the middle of nowhere had ended up in the top-tiered school bearing the name of one of the Elite Four. They were already having a field day with her origins, there was no reason to tell them she was a scholarship kid too. Then again, they’d probably worked that one out on their own anyway. They were dressed in designer labels and she was sitting there in faded jeans and an oversized hoodie.

“I guess that makes sense,” Layla replied, apparently not particularly concerned about the health of some commoner’s grandparents. This might have angered Gwen if she wasn’t already too tired from the continuing interaction.

“Wait, you’re not even boarding here?” Red Hair asked with mock astonishment. Of course Gwen wasn’t. There was no reason for her to do that. She lived in the city and there was no way she could afford that anyway.

“No,” she replied, knowing she was struggling to conceal her growing annoyance at this point, but also knowing she didn’t have it in her to actually act on it. Gwen simply resigned herself to an extremely unpleasant first day. A first day that was inevitably bound to get worse.

The door flew open and a man in his thirties, carrying a heft bag hurried in. He unceremoniously dumped the bag behind the larger desk at the front of the room, effectively identifying himself as their teacher.

“Sorry I’m so late,” he said apologetically “I got caught up with something at home. Over ten minutes late is not a great start, but I assure you things will pick up from here.”

Gwen doubted that last part with how things were kicking off. She hadn’t even realised that it had been that long she was so overwhelmed by trying to ward off her classmates.

“So, I’m Mister Hawthorn, here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll be heading down to the training fields to do some quick one-on-one battles so I can see where everyone is up to. Since we have four rows of five desks here, everyone in the first and third rows, you’ll be battling the person directly behind you. I’ll take the role call as you battle. If you don’t have a Pokemon of your own and need a rental, make sure you let me know before you’re up.

Gwen failed to stop herself sighing as she got up, hand instinctively brushing the ball attached to her belt. Already the reason she hadn’t been looking forward to this class. If previous experience was anything to go by, this was only going to serve to widen the divide between herself and her peers.

“Well, you’re screwed now, Mountain Girl,” the boy to her right said, not even trying to hide how much he seemed to enjoy the thought. “Layla’s Pokemon was specially m-”

He stopped short suddenly, and Gwen didn’t miss that it probably had something to do with Layla smacking him. Someone less bright than she was might have thought it was on her behalf, but Gwen got the distinct impression that it was for something else entirely.

What was that about?

“My Buneary is special, she’s pedigree, you see,” Layla said, once again wearing an obnoxious “I’m-better-than-you” smile. As if that would erase what had just happened from Gwen’s memory.

“Yeah, you don’t have a chance,” Red Hair said from behind Gwen.

Gwen simply sighed at that. She was definitely not going to win herself any friends with her performance in the upcoming battle, whatever the deal was with Layla’s “special Buneary”.

“That’s fine with me, I’m here to become a breeder anyway.” With that out the way, Gwen made her way out of the confines of the classroom as quickly as she could, desperate to get out of the stifling atmosphere even if she wasn’t really looking forward to what was coming.


#13

9: Brush With the Wild

Eloy halted his forward trek and stretched his arms towards the clear sky above him. He had been walking along the main path between Rosaste and Topa Town for several hours already and the pleasant atmosphere was starting to take its toll. The physical activity wasn’t a problem for Eloy, he was lean but he had grown up working on a farm, but the warmth was pleasant and was starting to make him sleepy.

His surroundings were doing little to help his situation. The road was clear, the glow of the sun flooding the open space while on either side of him thick woodlands rose up, parting to let Eloy through like a biblical sea. From within the depths of the trees the sounds of the wildlife filtered through, a choir and orchestra all in one. The only thing keeping the scenic landscape from putting Eloy to sleep as he walked was Deacon.

Deacon was as always a little pink ball of energy, routinely sprinting well ahead of Eloy and then squeaking at him, nagging his trainer to hurry up and catch up to him. That was until the Nidoran’s forward momentum ceased and he instead put his energy into running laps in and around Eloy’s feat.

That was a signal that Deacon had decided it was now lunch time. A low rumbling from Eloy’s own stomach and it was decided that Deacon was correct.

“Well, can’t argue with that,” Eloy chuckled. He lead Deacon away from the road and into the trees to make sure he wouldn’t risk getting in anyone’s way. A little way off the beaten path he found himself in a small grassy gnoll, the main path just barely visible through the thick plant life.

Eloy set down his bag and pulled out a tin bowl and a bag of Pokemon pellets. He filled the bowl for Deacon and then went to get his own food, stopping when he realised he had another Pokemon partner with him. He hoped Deacon hadn’t noticed that.

“Maestro, lunch time.” Eloy released the Kricketot from its ball with a flash, the small Bug type immediately looking around the area, scanning for danger. “Relax, it’s time for food not fighting.”

Eloy gave Maestro a gentle shove towards the food bowl, turning back to his bag to get his own meal as the bug waddled off. He withdrew a sandwich that was oozing something pink and sticky out the sides and unwrapped it. Truth be told, he had no idea what the pink goo was exactly but he’d seen it on the shelves at the store and there was no way he could go wrong with pink.

A squeak of terror caused Eloy to lose track of his ponderings of the sandwich’s pinkness, he whirled around almost dropping his sticky sustenance in the process. Deacon had, miraculously, looked up from the food dish as Maestro got to it and the Kricketot, the source of the noise, was now rapidly backing up. Not exactly a promising sign to Eloy, who was now realising this was the first time the two had really been able to socialise with each other after their initial battle. That was an oversight on his part and he was going to have to work on that… and Maestro’s cowardice in general.

“Come on, he’s a friend,” Eloy sighed, scooping up Maestro, who for his part screeched in surprise at suddenly being airborne, causing Eloy to wince. Ignoring the unpleasant ringing in his ears, Eloy walked over to the bowl and plopped Maestro back in front of it. Then, he took a seat on the ground in front of the bow, between Deacon and Maestro. “See, you’re fine. Eat up.”

Maestro cautiously leaned toward the pellets, sniffing them before slowly allowing himself to enjoy the food. Frequently, he would glance up at Deacon who was once again unabashedly devouring the lunch he was sharing, for want of a better word, with Maestro.

Eloy sighed again, it was better than it had been a moment ago, but the two were going to have to get used to each other. Deacon had to learn to share and Maestro had to simply get used to having Deacon around. This was another challenge he hadn’t exactly counted on, but he’d just have to deal with it.

He got back to eating his own meal, biting into the bread. A powerfully sweet taste filled his mouth as the glue-like goo hit his taste buds, the sensation practically sucking his lips back into his face like some sort of vortex. The taste wasn’t bad at all but intensely sweet was an understatement. He recognised the flavour of watmel berry in the spread almost immediately. Some might have taken that as their queue to give in, watmel berries were infamous for being sickly sweet, Eloy was not most people. Valiantly, hungrily, he continued to power through the sandwich. The morsel was no match for his sweet tooth.

So engrossed was he in the explosion of flavour overrunning his mouth, Eloy almost missed it when Maestro suddenly froze, staring off into the depths of the trees and Deacon’s ears pricked up curiously. It was a while later, after forcefully swallowing the sticky clump in his his mouth, that Eloy also began to hear the rustling.

Several moments passed before the source of the sound became apparent. From the edge of the gnoll a pack of brown canid Pokemon were emerging. Predominantly they were small, similar in size to Deacon and covered almost entirely in light brown fur that became cream-colored and fluffy around their faces. Sprinkled throughout however were Pokemon twice the size of the smaller ones, similar in appearance but with longer bodies, an overcoat of shaggy dark blue fur and the cream fur on their faces was less widespread, resembling a moustache.

Eloy recognised them almost immediately from their distinctive appearances. The smaller were Lillipup while the larger dogs were Herdier. He’d seen a few domesticated ones in Citri and Avent, but this was his first encounter with the wild variety as they didn’t live in the mountains naturally. Eloy smiled, these Pokemon had a reputation for being very sociable and friendly.

“Hi there,” Eloy greeted the newly arrived Normal types.

The pack started inching forward, teeth barred and a low rumbling growl filled the gnoll. Deacon bristled at the aggressive gesture as Maestro hurried backed away, bumping into Eloy’s leg and letting out a squeak.

“Tot!”

“Calm down,” Eloy said, although his own heart was beating at a million miles an hour and he was fighting to control his own desire to just turn tail and run. Something told him though, that turning his back here wasn’t a great idea.

“Ni!” Deacon snarled, ears flaring up to make himself look as intimidating as possible. The pack didn’t falter, creeping in closer and closer. They weren’t going to be fooled by a threatening display when they had numbers on their side. Besides, several of them were evolved Pokemon.

Deacon snarled at the oncoming threat again, but Eloy knew it wasn’ going to work. He felt the panic taking hold of him now. Several of the aggressive Pokemon had started to foam at the mouth, even the cute Lillipup now looked like vicious nightmare monsters. Then the first one attacked.

A Lillipup lunged aimlessly in their direction with its mouth open wide, displaying its sharp teeth as it attempted a Bite.

Deacon reacted before Eloy could even give a command, dashing forward and jabbing up into the lunging Pokemon’s underside with the now glowing tip of his horn. The Poison Sting deflected the attack and sent the Lillipup tumbling. One attack wasn’t going to be enough to take it out of the fight though and it climbed to its feet, now growling even harder than before. Aggressive barks joined the cacophony of growling.

Two more Lillipup began moving forward ahead of the pack, preparing to launch themselves into the fray. Eloy could feel the sweat beading on his skin, hyper aware of his surroundings and his body as his mind finally raced into gear and produced a coherent thought.

“Maestro, Struggle Bug!” he shouted

“Tot?!” the Kricketot cried out in surprise and shock.

“Quickly!” Eloy yelled, unable to keep the panic out of his voice. There wasn’t time to gently coax Maestro into things and unfortunately he was better equipped for deflecting multiple attacks than Deacon.

Maestro rushed forward as the pair of canines made their move, pouncing after Eloy and his Pokemon. They didn’t manage to hit whichever of the three they were targeting however, as a pillar of blazing crimson light explode up from Maestro and intercepted their attack. The red light expanded outwards, pushing the two Normal types away before fading out the way just before reaching Eloy and Deacon.

“Deacon, Double Kick!” Eloy had turned his head just in time to see the first Lillipup attempting to retaliate against his Nidoran with a tackle. Deacon responded just in time, spinning on his front legs to lash out with his hind legs. This attack held a type advantage and hit the Lillipup much harder, sending it careening past its fellows.

A Herdier was already charging in again now, a terrified cry from Maestro alerting Eloy to the attack. Eloy gave the command for another Struggle Bug, hoping to force it back again.

Once more, the crimson pillar burst into existence to block the path of the attacker. The Herdier was much stronger than it’s pre-evolved form however and even as it took the damage from the attack, it dived through the fierce light.

The Herdier’s jaws locked around Maestro hard and the Bug type screamed out in the kind of pain you would never hear in a normal battle. The Herdier made no move to let go.

Fueled by adrenaline, a herd of Mamoswine rampaging around in his chest cavity, Eloy rushed in without thinking. He kicked the Herdier hard in the head. The raging creature seemed to barely feel the impact, but it was enough to loosen his grip on Maestro, allowing Eloy and his Kricketot to scurry back.

The Herdier hurtled towards Eloy and Maestro with lethal intent and would have mauled the pair of them if not for Deacon running interference. The Nidoran shot in like a bullet, ramming his horn into the Herdier’s side and sending it skidding. His back was open now though and two more Lillipup dived for him.

Suddenly, Maestro, crying out with abject horror all the while, threw himself over the top of Deacon. The first of the duo latched onto the already wounded Kricketot with a vicious Bite as the other one leapt forward to join it. Maestro let loose with his Bide, an intense blast of pure white energy exploding forward from the tiny Bug type, weaponising all the damage he had taken. The Lillipups were blasted through a through a tree, the sound of cracking wood filling the tiny gnoll as it topped over, colliding with others of its kind with a loud bang before it could reach the ground.

That was two Lillipup who wouldn’t be rejoining the battle, but Maestro wasn’t a tough Pokemon ad had taken a lot of damage to make that small dent in their numbers. Eloy was impressed and proud, but there were more pressing concerns that giving a much needed ego boost.

The Normal types were attacking again, fewer staying back each time. More and more of them slipping through Eloy’s attempts at keeping them at bay. Eloy’s Pokemon were sustaining heavy damage and even he was falling victim to attacks. A Lillipup made it past both of his Pokemon and sunk its teeth into his leg. Eloy yelled in pain and before he could even react to the attack was blindsided by a second of the dogs flying at him seemingly out of nowhere and clamping down on his arm. Eloy could feel the blood spilling from his wounds. He didn’t have the thick skin of a Pokemon and wouldn’t survive if he he kept getting bitten like that. He wasn’t even sure his pokemon could make it out.

Still screaming with uncontrollable fear, Maestro threw his body against the Lillipup biting into Eloy’s leg. It wasn’t a proper move, the sagging Bug type just blindly tossed his weight into the Lillipup. It loosened its grip and Eloy kicked at it to knock it away a bit. Struggling to cope with the blinding, burning pain in his limbs, Eloy threw his arm about to loosen the grip of the Lillipup still clinging to him. Feeling a slight relaxing of the pressure on his arm, he grabbed the Pokemon with his free hand and wrenched it off by the scruff of its neck, tossing it over to the other one. Both were back on their feet as Eloy’s shaking legs collapsed out from under him.

“Ni!” a furious cry came, blocking out even the sound of ceaseless barking for a second. With a murderous glare plastered on his face and a Herdier literally still clinging to his back with his fangs, Deacon barreled into one of the Lillipup that had reached his trainer, impaling its flank with the tip of his horn and launching it into the other next to it. Both went flying across the gnoll. The less wounded of the two leapt back to its feet but the one with the more severe injury took the chance to hobble away.

That was three Lillipup somehow out of the battle, and a few more Normal types looking a bit beaten up. The attacks kept coming though and it was clear to Eloy this wasn’t the kind of battle he could win. They just had to find a way to survive. He didn’t understand what was happening, these were Pokemon famed for their friendly demeanours but here they were brutally and maliciously attacking out of the blue. What’s more, some of them just seemed not only unnaturally bloodthirsty but able to dish out more punishment than normal. Eloy had no idea what was going on but he was bleeding pretty heavily from two of his limbs, Maestro was barely on his feet anymore and even Deacon was looking worse for ware.

The next wave of the attack then began. Eloy forced himself to stagger back onto his feet, exhausted and suffering from an unbridled pain like none he’d ever experienced before. He backed up a bit, as did Maestro and Deacon, the Pokemon staying close by his side this time as three of them prepared to take the onslaught.

As a collective, the pack charged for them with a single-minded bloodlust. They were like a single rampaging beast with twenty mouths and eighty sets of claws. One dangerous mass all racing towards the injured trio.

Suddenly, a screech echoed over the gnoll from above. A yellow ray of light shot over the top of one of the Herdier and although it took no obvious damage, it stumbled and latched onto a nearby Lillipup with its teeth causing it to cry out with pain and alarm. Several more of the pack stumbled and fell over the top of their fallen brethren caught by surprise.

Several more of the Normal types pressed the attack, but from the side of the gnoll came two more attacks. A dark purple blob that rocketed into their midst and exploded with surprisingly violent force and a swirling, helix shaped blast of black and purple that cut across their numbers and forced them back.

Bewildered, amazed and thankful all at once, Eloy looked around the area rapidly. Above him he caught sight of a blue Pokemon with small, leathery wings. The first attack, which Eloy now realised was a Confuse Ray, had come from the Zubat. From the side, where the other attacks had come from, emerged a pair of Ghost types. A doll-like Shuppet, seemingly made of a cloth draped over empty space and a stoic Duskull with red light gleaming behind its eye sockets. Behind them came their trainer, she was covered in dirt and her clothes were torn and damaged, but Eloy recognised her instantly.

Team Eloy


#14

10: Dogs of War

“Are you okay?” Lauren breathed, quickly making her way to Eloy with her Pokemon keeping between her and the wild canines as the rabid Lillipup and Herdier started to get a grip on themselves.

“Oh yeah, having the time of my life,” Eloy joked, clutching his arm in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. He could see that Lauren had suffered bites and scratches of her own, although none nearly as severe as his own.

“Don’t worry about this,” Lauren said suddenly, as if she’d read his thoughts “It’s mostly from running through the woodlands than from Pokemon attacks, and the worst of those I have are graze from near misses.”

Eloy nodded, they didn’t have time for conversations. The pack was back together again, and although more cautious now, was closing in on the trainers and their teams. Eloy began running through scenarios in his mind. While they had increased their numbers, the pack still outnumbered them pretty significantly and they were all worse off than the canines.

“We could escape under Haze cover,” Eloy suggested, not taking his eyes off of the slow approaching Normal types.

“They’d just follow us by scent. They don’t need to pinpoint us, just follow the general direction until they’re on us.” Lauren shook her head, her attention also focused on the incoming threat.

“I guess we have no choice but to fight.”

“We might be able to beat them together,” Lauren said “Our Pokemon are properly trained after all… but there’s a problem.”

“Problem?” Eloy did not like the sounds of that.

“Yeah, we don’t have long before the Stoutland gets out from under the pile of logs I left him under. I’m an okay trainer, but Mort, Marion and Echo were losing three on one. It’s really, really powerful.”

“Oh.” Eloy nearly dropped back to the ground hearing that. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of crushing defeat. He could maybe imagine beating the pack, but he couldn’t fathom then somehow defeating a monster Stoutland on top of that. He didn’t get more time to ponder his situation however as the pack took that moment to attack again.

Ten of them attacked at once, three Herdier and seven Lillipup, all of them suddenly rushing forward to close the last small amount of distance. They didn’t bare their fangs this time though, instead they just charged forward with strong Tackles and Take Downs. Eloy could tell that they intended to barrel over them and then savage them when they were down. Lauren reacted first and Eloy rushed to provide support.

“Echo, use Air Cutter!” Lauren instructed.

“Maestro, Struggle Bug!” Eloy followed suit.

A flurry of cutting blades of air halted the forward charge just before the mass of Normal types reached the kill zone. The the red glow of Maestro’s Struggle Bug pushed the weaker Lillipup’s back, although the Herdier could endure it. Both trainers followed up on the attacks immediately.

“Mortimer, Dark Pulse!”

“Deacon, hit one with Double Kick!”

The Duskull unleashed the spiralling Dark Pulse, the swirling black and purple of the attack striking one of the three Herdier and rocketing it back into the pack behind it. The remaining two at the forefront turned to face the Ghost type, allowing Deacon to dash in unmolested and deliver to hard kicks to one closest to him with his rear legs.

The Herdier tumbled across the grass, taking super-effective damage from the Fighting move. Deacon was left open now though, with his back turned to the third Herdier. Deacon wheeled around, but the Herdier was already diving for him, jaws open wide. A purple projectile intercepted though and in an explosion of purple sludge the third assailant was blasted back into one of its companions as it tried to regain its feat. Marion, the Shuppet, giggled at the sight, having been the one to let loose the Gunk Shot.

A wave of Lillipup suddenly rushed forward, but Lauren gave the order to block their path. Mortimer shot out another nefarious-looking Dark Pulse as Echo attacked with another Air Cutter. The joint attacks blasted the smaller canines away with ease as a Herdier rushed in past them.

“Poison Sting!” Eloy called. Deacon rushed the Herdier, striking it with the glowing tip of his horn and knocking it back. It wasn’t enough to down the Herdier though and it attacked again.

“Wing Attack, Echo!” The Zubat dive bombed the Herdier, its wings glowing a vivid white as it struck the Normal type with one of them in the surprise attack. The Herdier was knocked back to the ground, but it was already moving to stand again, all the while growling and barking furiously.

“Again!” Eloy shouted, and Deacon silenced the Herdier with another Poison Sting into its side. The Herdier fainted on impact and dropped like a heavy sack. For all that effort though, the Herdier and one of the Lillipup were the only enemies to go down and every passing moment meant they were closer to having to face down the Stoutland Lauren ad fought.

As if it had heard Eloy’s thought, a howl rose up from the trees in the distance. Several of the assembled canines howled in response as the rest continued to bar and growl menacingly at Eloy, Lauren and their Pokemon. Eloy felt his body go into overdrive, pumping out the adrenaline like crazy as it prepared for the incoming threat. Time was running out.

Another wave attacked, four Lillipup and one Herdier, the five Pokemon racing forward after Deacon who was separated from the ranged attacking Mortimer, Maestro and Marion and the flying Echo. He backed up as Lauren’s Pokemon provided cover, another Dark Pulse and Air Cutter blocking the way. Or so it seemed.

A single Lillipup made its way through, bursting forth from the soil dust churned up by the attacks and ramming hard into Deacon. Deacon tumbled back and the Lillipup and the other Pokemon behind it all charged.

“Protect him!” Lauren called. She didn’t give a specific attack instruction, but her Pokemon leapt into action as though they had rehearsed for that moment. A Dark Pulse and Gunk Shot flew into the four Pokemon further behind, exploding against the ground as the Normal types were forced to abandon their attack and scatter. Echo dived down from the sky again, purple glowing fangs clamping down on the remaining Lillipup. Echo kept flying, dragging the struggling Pokemon along the ground with the Poison Fang and only dropping it near the edge of the clearing. That one was knocked out.

“That was the Stoutland!” Eloy shouted in desperation, as if he could drive it away with sheer force of voice and will.

“Fighting retreat,” Lauren replied harriedly, not taking her eyes off the enemy Pokemon. “We have to run before it gets here.”

Eloy nodded his reply, even without the Stoutland he needed to get away so he could bandage his arm before he passed out from blood loss.

“Mort, Marion, use Dark Pulse and Gunk Shot again!” Lauren called, backing away towards the trees behind her as her Ghosts attacked again. Blast of dark energy and toxic projectile both shot into the midst of the Normal types as they advanced again. Several of the canines were sent reeling by the assault as others dived out the way.

Taking the chance they had, Lauren and Eloy turned and ran, their Pokemon joining them in their attempted escape. Eloy returned Maestro as they sprinted, the injured Kricketot too hurt to keep up on its stumpy legs. Mortimer was slow too, but the Ghost type cleverly kept up by chaining Shadow Sneaks, his form sinking into the ground to rise up ahead of them, sinking once more as they caught up.

“Air Cutter!” Lauren called out, and from above Echo let loose with the attack, felling some of the less stocky trees and using them to help slow the Normal types who were giving chase. Three Lillipup made it past the trees as they fell, barking like bloodthirsty hounds of hell. “Air Cutter again!”

Echo once more flapped its wings hard, the shimmering blades of air intercepting the Lillipup and knocking them back into the mess of branches behind them. Despite the effort, one of them easily rejoined the chase and now was joined by a pair of Herdier that had managed to power through.

“Gunk Shot, Marion!” Laughing maniacally, the Shuppet wheeled around and launched another purple globule at their pursuers like a missile as she floated backwards. One of the Herder avoided the attack, but the other and the Lillipup were struck by the powerful Poison move. The remaining Herdier hurtled after them, quickly closing the gap despite the distance between them.

“How is it that fast?!” Eloy yelled “Deacon, Poison Sting!” As the Herdier reached them, Deacon whirled around as rammed it with the tip of his horn alight with its purple glow. The Herdier was slammed into a nearby tree hard enough to fill the air with the sound of cracking wood.

“Dark Pulse!” Mortimer unleashed the attack again, the blast propelling the Herdier straight through the tree and causing the lumber to fall across the space behind them, another obstacle for the pursuing Normal types to deal with.

Eloy and Lauren kept up their forward dash, soon exploding out of the trees and onto the road again. Panting the stopped for a second to catch their breath, they knew they didn’t have time to rest though.

“What is going on?” Eloy puffed

“I don’t know, but I can hear them coming,” Lauren replied, chest heaving. Without another word, the pair took off along the road at a sprint again with their Pokemon close at hand. They wouldn’t be safe until they reached Topa Town.

Team Eloy


#15

Will be reviewing “Dogs of War” and further chapters here on out!

Bolded part repetitive with “injured” there.

“Shuppet.” Also want to comment how I liked what you did with Marion’s personality there.

All right so this continues off from last time with Eloy and Lauren trying to get away. The action in this flows fine and easy to follow. There were a couple parts where it gets a bit mechanical though.

First thing here is you have “super-effective” damage. I think the wording would work better if you describe the damage (any cuts/scrapes, pain noises, etc). Then there’s “going in for a Bite.” Something like, “its jaws wide open” would sound less mechanical.

Here’s to hoping the two will get to town safety. Looks like they’re gonna need it.


#16

Followed most of Bay’s suggestions.


#17

11: Night Run

The moon was now high in the sky and the warm daytime air had gone cold. A dark mass rose up on either side of the road unpierced by the light from above. The sky above was clear, unblemished by light pollution. A breathtaking veil of glittering stars covered the sky.

Eloy would have stopped to stare at the beauty above him, but an ominous growling and howling pervaded the air. The chilling sound emanating from the shadowy mass of trees to his left. The pack seemed to be following slowly, not pursuing at their full speed. Neither he, Lauren or their Pokemon were prepared to stop for long though. So far they had stopped only twice, and one of those times had been for Lauren to bandage the wound on Eloy’s arm.

“We should be able to see Topa Town soon,” Lauren said, breaking the silence that had befallen them.

Eloy was pleased to hear that, his arm was throbbing and he needed to get it properly treated and his legs were on fire from lack of rest. They’d sprinted as long as they could at first before slowing to a jog and eventually a brisk walk. They didn’t dare take more than a few minutes when they had rested and tried to move as fast as they could without expending the energy they needed to keep in reserve in case the pack of Lillipup and Herdier returned.

“Good,” Eloy replied “if I don’t get off my feet soon they might actually fall off.”

“I’d be more worried about your arm. Besides we’ve only been on the run for about eleven hours.” Lauren smiled warmly.

“Oh, is that all?” Eloy grinned back, chuckling. He wasn’t sure what to make of Lauren yet. She rarely spoke first, but when she did talk she seemed confident and friendly. He couldn’t tell how much of her demeanour was the cause of their circumstances and how much was her actual personality. Either way, he was glad for her company. As much as he loved Deacon, he had come to appreciate that human conversation was a calming exercise.

“The town should come into view in about half an hour,” Lauren continued “It shouldn’t be too much longer to actually get to it from there.”

“You hear that Deacon?” Eloy said to his Nidoran, the Pokemon moving uncharacteristically slow and close to Eloy with his constantly pricked up ears, listening to the calls of the pack in the distance. “We’re almost home free and you’ll be able to relax soon.”

“Ni!” Deacon responded enthusiastically. Mortimer, on the other hand, remained silent, floating calmly by Lauren’s side. Eloy had to remind himself the Ghost type hadn’t been returned to his ball with Marion and Echo at times. It was hard to see his grey form in the darkness with only the glowing red from his eye sockets giving him away. Eloy got the impression he was always on the quiet side.

“He’s like a sentinel,” Eloy said, surprised to find he’d voiced the thought out loud. “Uh… Mortimer I mean.”

“You’d be surprised,” Lauren replied, smiling to herself “He’s the curious sort really. He likes to watch and take everything in. Sometimes though he’ll do something completely out of the blue just to see what will happen. That tends to catch people off guard because they assume he’s very solemn. People tend to have misconceptions about Ghost types. If they’re quiet like Mort, then they’re serious guardians of the dead or something. If they’re more energetic like Marion, they’re malevolent pranksters or worse. Although, malevolent prankster isn’t entirely off the mark with Marion.”

“I guess that makes sense. It’s probably what we get for labelling them the Ghost type to begin with.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Meanwhile, here we are getting attacked my murderous Lillipup and Herdier. Goes to show that you never really know what to expect. Some types of Pokemon have unnecessarily bad reputations and some can be surprisingly vicious.”

Eloy listened intently. Lauren seemed to have a reverence for Ghost types that he found surprising. From what he knew, Ghost types were not very popular among trainers but here he was walking with someone who kept at least two in her company and who talked about them with the utmost respect.

“I guess you’re right. Ghost types are a rarity where I’m from but even I’ve heard the superstitions.”

The conversation went on like that as the pair of trainers continued their exhausted trek towards Topa Town. If not for the circumstances of their reunion, it would have been a pleasant evening. As it were though, the conversation merely served as a distraction from the potential attack the trainers were forced to live in fear of.

As it was, Topa Town soon came into view in the distance. It was a small settlement, similar in size to Avent, that appeared suddenly in a wide clearing, the road running straight through the centre of the town. From what Eloy could tell from the lights shimmering from between the trees, the town actually extended into the woods with houses appearing in small clearings devoid of trees. It was like Topa was growing out of the forest instead of taking its place. It was unlike anything Eloy had expected.

“That’s different,” he stated in his surprise.

“Topa Town makes every effort to integrate with nature instead of overrunning it,” Lauren explained “While there’s hardly any forest left around Techniti, they’re making a point of living as green as they can.”
“Impressive,” Eloy said. It sounded to him like Lauren was familiar with the town and he was about to ask if she had been there before when suddenly Deacon let out an alarmed cry.

Eloy, Lauren and Mortimer all froze at the sound, looking at the Nidoran who was sniffing at the air and listening intently. As his partner did so, Eloy did his best to survey the area himself, shining torchlight into the trees. It occurred to him then that he could no longer hear the sound of the pack.

“Is it just me, or is it eerily quiet?” he asked, straining his ears.

“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Lauren said in reply. She too was looking around in search of a threat, but everything around them was still and silent.

“Ni!” Deacon cried out at the top of his lungs. Eloy wasn’t waiting for clarification on his meaning. They couldn’t hear the Lillipup or Herdier anymore because the pack was stealthily stalking them.

“Run!” Eloy shouted, taking off at a sprint for Topa Town. Lauren was right on his heels, grabbing a pokeball from her belt as she ran.

The barking and growling started up the instant they started running, efforts at stealth forgotten once the pack knew they’d been made. The noises were alarmingly close. Eloy couldn’t make out any sign of the Normal types in the darkness but he could hear them hurtling through the brush.

“Where are they?!” he shouted in his panic.

“Close! Too close!” Lauren yelled in response, Eloy could hear the same fear in her voice as he did in his own.

There was a flash of light as Lauren released Echo from her ball, the Zubat immediately flying up to loop around above them. Faint clicking sounds could be heard as she echolated, searching for the incoming threat.

As Echo searched, Eloy continued to sprint for Topa Town alongside Lauren. His lungs were burning and his heart hammered in his chest. His limbs ached from the strain but he didn’t dare slow down.

Echo screeched above them and as Eloy looked up he saw the faint distortion and shimmer of her Air Cutter flying into the depths of the forest. He heard the impact of the attack on the ground and splitting wood where it struck trees.

From either side of the road, the pack emerged from the trees at full speed. Meeting in the middle on the road without slowing down as they continued their forward chase. The cacophony of their bloodthirsty barking reached its peak as they chased down Eloy and Lauren.

“We’re not going to make it!” he yelled between breaths

“We don’t have much of a choice,” Lauren panted.

Despite that affirmation, the pack was steadily gaining on them. It wouldn’t be long now before they were at the mercy of twenty or more sets of ravenous fangs.

“Echo, Air Cutter! Mort, Dark Pulse!” Lauren called. Mortimer turned and launched the attack, nearly invisible in the darkness, as he floated back while the shimmering Air Cutter came from above. Both the attacks hit the mass of mouths and claws that was the pack with an audible sound, sending dust from the road up upon the collision. The pack kept coming, those who had been struck by the attack simply climbing to their feet and rejoining the chase from its rear.

“We don’t have that kind of range,” Eloy heaved, pushing his body to its limits “Closest alternative is Maestro’s Struggle Bug.”

“Don’t worry about it, just run!” Lauren shouted, punctuating her response with another attack instruction. Once again Mortimer and Echo let loose with their attacks and once more they made little difference.

Eloy was feeling the noose around his neck now. He was struggling to keep running and there was still several hundred metres between them and Topa Town. He knew logically that there was no way they’d make it. He could tell they were starting to slow down. The pack was not having the same problem and would soon reach them.

Eloy felt his body began to betray him, his limbs felt heavy with exhaustion and he was barely moving faster than a jog. There was only seconds between him and imminent death.

Something rocketed down from the sky, landing between Eloy, Lauren, their Pokemon and the pack of Lillipup and Herdier. It cooed calmly, reassuringly. Eloy felt himself stagger to a halt, surprised. At first he thought it had been Echo moving to intercept the pack, but this Pokemon was avian and larger. It took a few moments before he registered that he was looking at a Noctowl.

The pack reached the bird, but stopped suddenly. The Noctowl didn’t budge. It simply continued to coo calmly even as the Lillipup and Herdier growled and menacingly bared their teeth. The Noctowl spread its wings wide and suddenly flapped them hard.

A monumental gust of wind blasted the assembled pack, increasing in intensity with each flap of the bird’s wings. Soon the pack was propelled down the road by the force of the wind, colliding with trees and skidding along the dirt.

The Noctowl folded its wings and the onslaught immediately ceased. The bird cokced its head to the side, watching and waiting. The pack barked and growled but did not attack again. Instead they slowly slunk back into the trees.

Eloy and Lauren collapsed to ground, huffing and puffing. The Noctowl standing guard over them while they recuperated.

“Thank you,” intoned Lauren, Eloy coughing out his own thanks along with her. The bird simply cooed serenely, apparently not perturbed.

“I don’t suppose that’s your Noctowl?” Eloy asked Lauren, eventually finding the strength to climb to his feet.

“I don’t have any Flying types aside from Echo.” Lauren shook her head and pushed herself to her own feet.

“I wonder whose it is. It seems too powerful to be wild,” Eloy said.

“Maybe we’ll find out in Topa Town,” Lauren said “Could be it was sent out to guard against the Lillipup and Herdier.” She returned Echo with a word of gratitude.

Apparently deeming the pair of trainers safe, the Noctowl opened its wings and returned to the sky, flying in the direction of Topa Town. Eloy and Lauren followed along in its wake, eventually reaching their destination as the Noctowl turned back and made its way back in the direction they came from.

Team Eloy


#18

12: Catch a Bad One

Eloy yawned and stretched as he entered the Pokemon Centre’s lobby. His arm was still throbbing beneath its fresh new bandage and he was stiff and sore all over from his and Lauren’s mad escape from the Lillipup and Herdier.

For a moment, Eloy almost thought he was back in Rosaste Town. The building was outfitted almost identically to the Centre in the previous town, but closer inspection revealed that it was quite a bit smaller. It was like a miniature replica of Rosaste’s Pokemon Centre.

Eloy located Lauren sitting in the small cafe area with a short stack of pancakes in front of her. She’d ditched her damaged clothes from before and donned a black pokeball print t-shirt and jeans. Mortimer floated by her side, silent but quizzically prodding the pancakes.

“Morning,” Eloy greeted her, taking a seat opposite her. He smiled, noticing Mortimer wave at im before returning to his investigation. “I see what you mean about his curious personality.”

“You haven’t seen anything yet, trust me. Sleep well?”

“Like an extremely sore log.” Eloy punctuated the sentence with another stretch and yawn. The cafe’s lone waitress took that as her queue to approach their table.

“Coffee?” the young woman asked.

“I’m more of a hot chocolate kind of a guy,” Eloy responded.

“That can be arranged too.” The waitress gave a forced smile and chuckle and headed back behind the counter to get the order.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to the fake smiles they all put on in these Pokemon Centres,” Eloy sighed.

“I’ve never really thought much about it,” Lauren replied between bites of her breakfast.

The waitress brought back Eloy’s hot drink. He paid her and began to gladly sip the sweet beverage. For a while he and Lauren just sat there enjoying the meal. It soon occured to Eloy though, that it was unusual for the waitress to be the one to take his money.

“Hang on, shouldn’t I have paid at the counter?”

“It’s because it’s so quiet. She probably just wanted something to do,” Lauren answered “Most of the other patrons have gathered outside already. They’re taking volunteers to help round up that pack. Apparently they’ve been a problem for a solid week or so. I’m thinking I’ll probably help out but there’s still a while before the talk about it is meant to start.”

“Makes sense,” Eloy said “I guess I’ll go too.” He hadn’t even wanted to think about the events of the previous day in truth, but if Lauren was prepared to face the pack again he couldn’t be the one to back down.

They didn’t say much else, quietly finishing their breakfast - although that was a loose term for Eloy’s drink. Then, Lauren suggested it was about time to head outside to listen to the volunteer briefing. Eloy collected his pokeballs from the nurse’s desk and headed outside to join her.

Including them, Eloy counted about ten volunteer trainers as well as a handful of trainers dressed in bright red-orange uniforms: pokemon rangers. The person who attracted the most attention for Eloy however, was a woman standing at the forefront of the group with one of the male rangers.

She was unassuming in appearance, in her forties and dressed in plain jeans and a charcoal-colored long sleeved shirt. Her hair was shoulder length, brown and curly and held in place with a blue bandanna. A belt bearing six ordinary pokeballs hung loosely from the loops on her pants. Eloy recognised her immediately, Nora of the Elite Four.

“Lauren, do you know who that is?” he asked excitedly

“No idea, but everyone is staring at her like she’s the messiah.”

“That’s Nora. She’s an Elite Four member that specialises in Normal types. I bet that was her Noctowl last night!” Eloy’s jaw practically hit the ground. He couldn’t believe Lauren didn’t recognise one of the five best trainers in Sigia.

“Oh really? That would explain why it was so powerful.” To Eloy, the reply wasn’t exactly satisfactory. He couldn’t believe that Lauren was so nonplussed by the Nora West was standing in front of them. He was about to follow up on his thoughts on the matter when the ranger the Elite Four member had been talking to coughed to get their attention.

“Okay, looks like this is everyone we can expect,” he began “I’m Captain Rhys Clarkson from the Sigia Ranger’s Guild. First of all, I’d like to thank those of you who are volunteering to help us out with this problem, especially to Nora of the Elite Four who took a detour to be here and whose Noctowl has been keeping guard of the town during the nights. Ordinarily we’d have dispatched a full ranger troup to deal with this, but we’re a bit short staffed right now.”

Eloy barely even heard the introduction he was watching Nora so intensely. She had a perfectly calm, natural smile plastered on her face. It was like this was just an ordinary day out for her. She seemed totally oblivious to the numerous awed faces directed her way. Eloy wondered how many of the volunteers were staying just to work with her.

“The way this will work is pretty simple,” Captain Clarkson continued “We’ll be splitting into teams. Each team will be lead by myself, one of the other rangers or by Nora. We have a bunch of green painted pokeballs here. The goal is to catch the entirety of the pack in these balls and then return them to us here. We’ll take them back to the guild HQ in Techniti City to be examined and once we work out why they’ve gotten so aggressive and fixed them up, if we can fix them up, we’ll release them back into their territory. Please don’t try to keep any of the pack, you’ll only cause trouble for yourself and others.”

The next few moments consisted of safety protocols being detailed and the captain splitting everyone up into groups. Eloy couldn’t help the massive grin that spread on his face as Nora approached he and Lauren.

“I’ll just take these two since they seem to know each other, Rhys,” she said, maintaining her pleasant smile as she spoke.

Eloy felt his stomach turn flips at those words.

“Pleased to meet you!” he greeted the woman enthusiastically, trying to ignore the amused smirk Lauren was failing to hide and Mortimer’s intensely curious stare.

It wasn’t long after that Eloy found himself trekking through the forest with Lauren and one of the best trainers in the region. Things fell unusually silent as he realised that he had no idea what to say in the presence of such a legend. This naturally meant that Lauren was also quiet on account of her tendency to not start talking much unless spoken to first.

“You two can relax you know,” Nora said with a pleasant laugh “I’m a trainer like you, not royalty.”

Eloy looked across at Lauren, apparently Nora hadn’t noticed that it was only Eloy that was struggling not to explode in a blaze of pure excitement and worship like some sort of bizarre deferential star.

“Sorry, I’ve never been the world’s most sociable. I’m comfortable though, don’t worry,” Lauren replied.

“Right, we’re cool,” Eloy said and even he was aware that it sounded like he was trying to convince himself a lot more than he was trying to convince Nora.

“Well, that’s good to know,” Nora said, once again giving that warm, motherly smile “You should probably let out one of your Pokemon now though. Being relaxed is good but I can hear the pack in the distance now.”
Eloy stopped and listened, sure enough he could hear the faint sounds of the Lillipup and Herdier. He’d been so caught up with his hero worship he hadn’t even noticed, but now that he was paying attention he could tell the Pokemon were getting closer and closer.

Eloy released Deacon from his ball, the Nidoran appearing in a flash. Noticing the sounds of the approaching Lillipup and Herdier, he immediately bristled with his ears perked up, ready for a fight.

“A Nidoran! How cute,” Nora beamed. Deacon looked at Mortimer confusedly, apparently unsure how to react to this doting outburst when what he was expecting was imminent danger. The Duskull merely tilted his skeltonesque head and shrugged.

Nora bent down and scratched between Deacons ears as Mort watched curiously. Deacon chittered, apparently pleased at the treatment.

“Right,” Nora announced, straightening up “I think I’ll go with Khutulun.” The Elite Four member selected the third ball down along her belt, lightly tossing it up as it exploded open with a flare of white light. As she caught the now empty capsule, the light condensed into the solid form of her Pokemon. It was a hulking creature, well over two metres tall with thick skin covered in a layer of thin brown fur, a large and powerful tail and strong limbs ending in three sharp claws. Most unusual however was the pouch on its belly which seemed to contain a second Pokemon, purple but similar in appearance. It looked over Eloy, Lauren and their Pokemon before turning its attention to the sound of the pack, apparently dismissing the four of them as uninteresting.

“Oh wow, your Kangaskhan,” Eloy grinned, gazing up at the large Normal type. He’d seen Nora use Khutulun on television before, he hadn’t really anticipated meeting her in person.

“Any wild Pokemon will have a tough time with her,” Nora said proudly “Did you know that for ages Kangaskhan were a big mystery to people?”

“Yes,” Lauren answered, leaving Eloy to look from her to Nora and back again several times with a confused expression plastered on his face.

“Excellent!” Nora chimed “For the uninitiated though, it’s because the entire species is female and they always have a baby in their pouch. As it turns out they reproduce asexually. The little baby in the pouch is actually a part of the same organism but eventually will split off and become an adult with its own baby already emerging in its pouch. It’s not considered a pre-evolution of Kangaskhan though since it spends its entire life in the pouch before adulthood and doesn’t function separately.”

This was a knowledge bomb for Eloy, but he couldn’t help but look at Nora with a maintained expression of confusion. He noticed a similar expression could be seen on Lauren. It took a moment, but Nora soon cottoned on.
“Oh dear, I did it again,” she proclaimed, smacking her pal to her forehead “I used to be a teacher and sometimes slip back into giving lectures. Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine!” Eloy replied a little too quickly. He didn’t get to say more on the matter because the pack had finally arrived.

From the trees in front of him, a mass of Lillipup and Herdier appeared. There was fewer of them than when they had attacked him before, but still a sizeable enough number. Eloy counted nine of them. All of them started barking viciously and growling.

“I really hate the way they go silent until they’re right on top of you,” Eloy sighed.

“I suppose it’s time to get to work then,” Nora said casually, as though she wasn’t looking at a bunch of murderous canines but rather choosing her breakfast.

The nine Pokemon, five of them Herdier and four Lillipup approached slowly at first but after a few steps they were all sprinting at full speed towards the trio of trainers and their team of Pokemon.

Khutulun strolled forward a few steps with calm confidence as the pack neared them. Apparently ready and willing to teach them a much needed lesson if one were to guess what her irritated expression meant.

“Drain Punch!” Nora instructed. Khutulun raised one of her powerful arms, her clawed hand clenched into a fist and radiating a bright green light. The first Herdier reached Khutulun and was immediately struck by a megaton blow, the Kangaskhan’s glowing green fist colliding with it and sending it flying on impact. The Herdier rocketed through several trees, leaving a trail of green sparkles behind it that floated towards Khutulun and were absorbed into her body. The rampaging Herdier was immediately knocked out.

“Maybe hold back a little there Khutulun,” Nora said, keeping her casual tone “We don’t want to have to go looking for all the ones you faint.’

Impressed, Eloy would have offered an exclamation, but there was no time for that. The rest of the pack was on them now and a pair of Lillipup were rushing Deacon. Being attacked by them yesterday had been terrifying, but with Nora there, now Eloy was energised. This was a chance to prove himself to a member of the Sigia Elite Four.

“Fury Attack, Deacon!” Deacon lunged forward, unleashing a flurry of quick jabs with his horn. He struck one Lillipup twice and the next three times. Both wild Pokemon tumbled before they could inflict an attack. Out the corner of his eye, he saw two more get knocked sprawling by Mortimer’s Dark Pulse and several Herdier hounding Khutulun unable to get near enough to really attack as they tried to avoid meeting the same fate as the first. One apparently wasn’t quick enough, a Drain Punch rocketing it away much like it’s predecessor.

The two Lillipup recovered quickly and rushed Deacon again, this time moving in a straight line. Deacon attacked again with another Fury Attack, striking the first Lillipup twice and sending it tumbling along the ground. The second had learned from it’s first attempt however, it vaulted up and over the first as Deacon struck out with his horn and collided with him from above. Deacon was slammed into the ground, the Lillipup retreating back to its comrade as it got back to its feet.

“Poison Sting, Deacon!” Eloy instructed. This time he would go on the offensive and catch the Lillipup pair off guard.

Deacon obeyed, running forwards as the familiar purple glow appeared at the tip of his horn. The Lillipup backed up as one, avoiding the attack. Then, one darted forward and bit down on Eloy’s Nidoran with a Bite attack. Deacon screeched, shaking off the attacker only for the second to Tackle his side and send him tumbling along the ground. The pair of Lillipup rounded on Eloy himself then, but Deacon was quick to return to his feet. He charged them with another Poison Sting, colliding with the closest and knocking it into the second like he was playing a violent game of billiards.

Eloy took the chance to survey the battlefield once more. Looking around just in time to see a Lillipup attempt to Tackle Mortimer. The Normal type ran straight through Mortimer as if he wasn’t there, the Ghost type being immune to that kind of attack.

“Hit it with Dark Pulse!’ Lauren called. Mortimer whirled around on the spot where he floated and let loose with the attack. The swirling black and purple nexus struck the Lillipup in the back at close range and propelled it across the battlefield. It collapsed in a heap as its partner dove in with its mouth open wide. “Shadow Sneak to avoid it.”

Mortimer phased into the ground, his second attacker running straight over him, allowing him to emerge behind it. As he did so, a Herdier flew right over top of him, showering glittering green sparkles over him. The lights made their way back to Khutulun, the Herdier another victim of her dangerous Drain Punch.

Deacon’s opponents were back on him now, both charging him at once with single-minded bloodlust.

“Duck down and use Poison Sting upward!” Eloy ordered. Deacon crouched low to the ground as the assault reached him, neither Lillipup properly landing the Tackle as their head ended up in the space above the Nidoran. Then, Deacon lunged up with his Poison Sting catapulting one of the Lillipup over his head and making the other stumble back. “Fury Attack!”

Deacon followed up on his first attack with another series of sharp jabs with his horn, bombarding the Lillipup in front of him with strikes before it could regain its bearing. It went rolling along the ground as the last jab struck it. The first was back on its feet now though. It raced for Eloy, but he dove aside. The Lillipup ended up running passed he and Deacon, skidding to a halt by its partner as it returned to its feet yet again.

The Lillipups readied themselves for another charge but suddenly a loud bark echoed out from the forest behind them. The Lillipup pair backed up in the direction of the sound, as did the remaining Lillipup facing Lauren and Mortimer and the two Herdier who had as of yet avoided being decimated by Khutulun and her Drain Punch.

“Well this is an interesting turn of events,” Nora said pleasantly.

From behind the assembled pack came another canine Pokemon. It looked much like the others. It’s body was dominated by thick dark blue fur that greyed as it got closer to its feet. From the mass of blue and grey, it’s brown furred legs and head protruded. From it’s face two long, majestic cream plumes of fur extended well past its body.

The Stoutland barked viciously again.


#19

Interlude Three

“Would you move your ass, Clancy?” Bronwyn said, her voice a low and vicious hiss. The pair of them were deep in the forest between Rosaste Town and Topa Town. They were sweaty and dirty and their limbs ached, but they had a job to do. A Dragonite was trudging along behind them with a hefty bag of equipment hefted over its back, covering the orange dragon’s stumpy wings.

“I’m moving as fast as I can,” Clancy replied with a sigh “Some of us don’t have a Dragonite for a valet. The Dragonite snorted loudly, apparently taking offense at being labelled as such. Clancy ignored it. He was more concerned with his own hefty load.

“Toughen up. We still need a blood sample from the Magby, Elekid and Lillipup lines to finish this shitty expedition off and that’s easier said than done when for some reason Strain Seven is sending everything we jabbed it with fucking mental.”

Bronwyn’s long black hair had come loose of its ponytail and was now sticking to her face and both of them were covered in scrapes and bruises. She was never the nicest woman alive, strictly business at all times, bossy and not great at pleasantries but she was always at her worst out in the field. Especially when being out in the field meant several days in a forest with a rampaging pack of Lillipup, Herdier and Stoutland trying to eat you.

“That and Magby and Elekid are extremely rare to begin with. Don’t forget that!” Clancy replied with mock enthusiasm. Bronwyn glared at him and for a moment he found himself wondering if she’d have her Dragonite kill him. Thankfully for him, she turned around and continued walking with the large Pokemon placidly following behind her.

The pair continued walking in silence for some time from there on. Clancy had no desire to make his coworker any more angry than she already was and Bronwyn just wasn’t sociable at the best of times. That was fine though. Clancy hadn’t gotten involved with the program to make friends. He was in it for the sizeable paycheck. He figured Bronwyn was doing it for similar reasons.

Eventually though, it was Bronwyn who broke the silence.

“Fine, we can rest for a bit.” She made it sound like she was doing him a favour, but Clancy knew her well enough to know that she wouldn’t stop for his sake. There was work to be done. More likely she was looking to rest her own aching limbs. Still, he wasn’t going to complain about a break.

Clancy gladly shrugged off the heavy load on his back and sagged to the ground, slumping against the worn trunk of a tree.

“Be careful, Idiot!” Bronwyn snarled.

“Right, sorry.” Clancy sighed, raising his hands apologetically and rested his head against the wood. His bag contained the samples they had collected so far and while they were held securely in a case it was better safe than sorry.

He reached into the bag and pulled out a plastic wrapper, peeling it aside to reveal the crispy, dry jerky within. He pulled out a strip of the Tauros jerky and with a degree of reluctance bit into the salty meat. It was tough and chewy in his mouth and he couldn’t help but feel uneasy. Clancy supposed it was ironic given his line of work that he still preferred not to eat meat, but in the grand scheme of things he didn’t really like the idea of pokemon suffering when they didn’t have to. Still, when out on lengthy field assignments, the protein rich beef was a smart choice of supply.

“Want some?” he wearily asked.

Bronwyn gave a sharp nod and Clancy tossed her the plastic wrapped jerky. She took a strip and hungrily bit down without reservation. No shock there. Clancy had long since learned that Bronwyn did not share his reservations about meat. He’d made the mistake of mentioning his reluctance once and she’d laughed in his face and spent the next hour or so brutally deriding him and reminding him what he did for a living.

A heavy fluttering of wings distracted Clancy from his reminiscing. A large red bird Pokemon with a grey underside had landed nearby. It was staring at the pair of scientists intently. A look that was becoming progressively more unnerving.

“Am I the only one bothered by our new friend here,” Clacy said, eyeing the Talonflame suspiciously.

“Stop being such a priss, it probably just smells the jerky or something,” Bronwyn replied dismissively “Flying types aren’t able to contract any of or strains right now, we engineered them that way to avoid over-spreading.”

Clancy already knew this, but something wasn’t boding well with this situation. There was something about the look in the bird’s eyes that wasn’t right. If the Normal types were anything to go by, the safeguard in the strain was holding up. If the Talonflame was infected, it would have already tried to fry them. But something was off. The way it looked at them, it was like it was sizing them up. Clancy wasn’t sure how, but he knew that the only reason it hadn’t attacked already was because it was weighing up its chances with Bronwyn’s Dragonite being present.

Apparently, it made up its mind quickly enough. The Talonflame screeched furiously and opened its wings wide. A torrent of fire erupted from its mouth before exploding out in a five-pronged cross.

“Shit!” Clancy swore, scrambling to take cover behind the tree he had been leaning against, reaching out to drag his bag to cover. He saw Bronwyn dive behind her Dragonite, the powerful creature taking the hit for her with a grimace.

That settled it for Clacy, somehow the Talonflame had contracted the Pokerus strain. The safeguard wasn’t working. Talonflame had a reputation for explosive tempers sure, but they wouldn’t risk starting a forest fire that would destroy their habitat. They generally reserved most of their Fire type moves for more open environments.

“This shouldn’t be happening!” Bronwyn yelled as the flame spread across to the trees. In an instant, the woodlands around them were ablaze. The situation was already dire for any humans in the area and the blaze would only continue to expand if left unchecked.

Clancy opened his bag to collect one of his pokeballs, he didn’t get a chance to use it though. A second Fire Blast streaked past him, forcing him to dive away from the bag. The ball slipped from his grip and dropped back into the bag as he did so. The bird didn’t stop there either, it was airborne again now and it unleashed another searing Fire Blast in Bronwyn’s direction. Once more her Dragonite stood strong, taking the attack in place of its master.

“Maybe instead of hiding behind that monster Dragonite of yours, you could stop this thing turning us into piles of ash!” Clancy called out from where he had taken cover behind another tree. Heat was radiating up all around him now. He made a dash for his bag but was diverted by a streaming Flamethrower attack from the Talonflame, once again being forced to dive for cover.

“Would it kill you to fend for yourself?” Bronwyn sneered, well aware that it probably would “Dragonite, Dragon Rush!” A bright blue, dragon-shaped aura exploded to life around the Dragonite as it suddenly soared for the Talonflame. The Talonflame was faster than the Dragonite, but the attack came as a surprise to it and the Dragon Rush aura around Bronwyn’s pokemon was far larger than normal.

The Talonflame shot up, able to avoid the worst of the attack but being struck by the violent aura of the attack. That was enough to do the job, the bird was instantly knocked out and dropped to the ground. Bronwyn’s Dragonite snorted, apparently rather put out by this turn of events.

Clancy scampered back to his bag and reached inside, quickly finding the Pokeball he was looking for. He released his Pokemon from its ball, the familiar white light soon forming into a small dark yellow rodent with a long tail adorned with a lightning bolt.

“Storm, Rain Dance,” Clancy instructed.

“Rai!” The Raichu responded the affirmative, twirling on the spot as its tail billowed behind like a ribbon. Directly above the blaze rain clouds formed in a dark disk and a torrential downpour began to fall on the area, dampening the flames and fighting their spread. Being drenched would only worsen Bronwyn’s mood and Clancy knew he’d cop it, but it was better than being burned alive. Probably.

Clancy looked over to where the fallen Talonflame layed, Bronwyn was trudging through the rapidly muddying ground over to the defeated bird with a pokeball in hand.

“Now we have to take this stupid fucking bird back with us so it can’t incinerate the forest and draw too much attention to us. It’s bad enough that we have a Stoutland and its pack running around savaging people. We have to find out how it got the virus too. Brilliant.”

Ignoring that the fire wasn’t properly dealt with yet and that a heavy rain was pouring down on them, Clancy sunk back into mud and leaned back against the charred tree he had first used for the same purpose. Bronwyn was continuing to complain and snark and he was longing for the assignment to be over.


#20

13: Victorious

Three Lillipup, three Herdier and one Stoutland. While the enemy numbers were down, Eloy wasn’t technically sure that this was an improvement on the situation. Still, he knew he had little to fear with Nora and Khutulun on their side and it wasn’t like he and Lauren were slouches.

The canine Pokemon rushed forward, the Herdier and Lillipup in the lead with the Stoutland pacing himself behind them. The vanguard split off, moving either direction towards Deacon and Eloy or Lauren and Mortimer. The way was clear for the furious Stoutland to charge Khutulun. The Kangaskhan didn’t waver, staring down the opposing Normal type with supreme confidence. Eloy felt for sure they had things covered. Then everything went wrong.

“Watch out!” Nora yelled suddenly. The Herdier and Lillipup had at the last moment closed in on Khutulun instead of attacking the smaller Pokemon. Caught by surprise, the powerful Kangaskhan suddenly found herself with six sets of sharp teeth sinking into her body. The Kangaskhan cried out in pain and thrashed about, trying to shake them loose… and that was the lesser of two concerns.

The Stoutland turned, changing targets. The leader of the pack was now bearing down upon Mortimer and Lauren, his teeth crackling with electricity as he prepared to launch a powerful Thunder Fang.

“Protect, Mortimer!” Lauren instructed. Immediately, Mortimer was engulfed by the green glowing barrier that Eloy had come to be familiar with. The Stoutland collided with the Protect and stumbled back, growling viciously.

The Protect disappeared and the Stoutland made to dive for Mortimer again, but Lauren was as on the ball as always and was already commanding a counter-attack. An eerie blue flame appeared before the Duskull and was fired at the Stoutland, forcing the larger Pokemon to abandon his attack and jump to the side to avoid a crippling burn.

Eloy had watched the unfolding events in shock, but his mind finally caught up. Khutulun had thrown the Lillipup loose and had succeeded in knocking two of them out already. Nora was an Elite Four member and her Pokemon were monstrously strong. Lauren was good, but she was in more need of help.

“Deacon, Poison Sting on the Stoutland!” Eloy instructed. Deacon shot past where Khutulun was still trying to shake off her attackers and ran at the Stoutland from behind as the tip of his horn began to glow purple. He caught the rampaging Stoutland by surprise as it prepared to lunge for Mortimer again.

The Stoutland cried out but it did not falter or fall like its pre-evolved stages may have. Instead, it abandoned its attack on Mortimer and whirled on Deacon, lunging for the Nidoran with razor blade teeth. This time, Lauren and Mortimer came to Deacon’s rescue instead.

“Dark Pulse!” Lauren commanded and an instant later, the swirling Dark Pulse struck the Stoutland and knocked it off balance, causing it to miss the attack and stumble.

“Peck!” Eloy called, capitalising on the advantage. Deacon lunged forwards and struck the unbalanced Stoutland with his horn, succeeding in knocking the larger creature over.

The Stoutland rolled back to its feet and ran for Mortimer only for the green light of the Ghost type’s Protect to explode into being around him again. The Stoutland skidded to a halt before he could collide with the shield again, giving Deacon an opening.

“Deacon, Poison Sting!” Deacon shot forward and jabbed the glimmering tip of his horn into the Stoutland’s undefended side.

The Stoutland growled savagely as the attack hit, taking it and then lashing out with his head. Deacon scurried back but wasn’t quick enough to avoid the strike and was sent rocketing along the ground with a squeal.

“Will-o-Wisp!” Lauren gave the order before the Stoutland could follow up on the attack. Mortimer’s ominous blue fireball struck the Stoutland from behind and for a brief moment its whole body was engulfed in blue fire. Then, the blaze faded, revealing a singed and very angry Stoutland, wincing in pain.

The Stoutland rounded on Mortimer again, running hard for it, seemingly unaware of Deacon returning to his feet and giving chase. It opened its mouth wide, Thunder Fang crackling with dangerous voltage.

“Protect!” For a third time, the shield sprang up around Mortimer, the Ghost type not even flinching as the murderous Stoutland rushed him. This time though, the Stoutland was ready. It skidded around and wheeled suddenly even as Eloy called for another Poison Sting. Eloy cried out for Deacon to retreat but it was too late, the electrified teeth closed down on the Nidoran.

Deacon screamed out as the crushing force of the bite and the shock of the electricity hit him in unison. Eloy had learned that as far as the general power levels of attacks went, Thunder Fang was on the lower-middle part of the spectrum. Seeing it coming from such a powerhouse Pokemon made him inclined to disagree with such a generalisation.

“Deacon!” he shouted, helpless to intervene.

Thankfully, he didn’t need to. Khutulun had succeeded in dislodging all of her attackers now and one of them was hurled into the Stoutland’s side. The larger canine, was knocked sprawling, dropping Deacon to the ground so he could scamper away.

The Herdier that had been used as a projectile shakily got back to its feet, ready to rush Nora’s Kangaskhan again. Out of nowhere though, the Stoutland lunged up off the ground with a savage Take Down and knocked its subordinate flying across the battlefield where it struck the ground and didn’t get back up. The Stoutland howled angrily, wincing from a combination of recoil from the attack and Mortimer’s burn slowly sapping its stamina.

“Dark Pulse!” Lauren took that as her queue. Mortimer attacked again, the churning black and purple blast striking the Stoutland hard. It skidded back several feet before breaking through the attack.

“Fury Attack, Deacon!” Eloy called out and instantly regretted the choice to choose a move that would require his Nidoran to stay within range. That was why he’d been avoiding Double Kick even though the move was much more effective on a Normal type like Stoutland.

It was too late to take it back though, Deacon had given a war cry and rushed in with a battle fervor. Deacon jabbed in with his horn twice in quick succession, each strike eliciting and angered response from the Stoutland. The Stoutland dived for Deacon as he went in for his next strike, but Deacon narrowly managed to dodge under the Stoutland before it could land and then struck again into its side.

The Stoutland whirled around to attack Deacon again but suddenly pulled back, rearing up on its hind legs as a Dark Pulse from Mortimer struck the ground where the front half of his body had just been, spraying debris into the air.

Deacon took this as his chance and shot forwards to strike with his horn again. He drove his head up to stab at the Stoutland’s underbelly even as gravity began to bring the bigger creature back down. White light engulfed Deacon’s horn, the natural weapon glowing brightly and seeming bigger for it was the attack landed and the Stoutland was smashed backward, hitting the ground on his back before tumbling onto his side.

“That was new!” Eloy shouted, surprised by the development.

“Horn Attack, very good!” Nora chimed. Despite the situation, her tone was warm and congratulatory. She seemed legitimately excited for Deacon’s new move, like a teacher celebrating the success of a struggling student. Eloy noted that she was even still wearing the same pleasant smile, even as Khutlun dispatched the one of the Herdier with a Drain Punch during her outburst. Only one Herdier and the Stoutland remained now.

The Stoutland was back on his feet now, and a look of absolute bloodlust distorted his features. It growled savagely, then ran for Deacon.

“Dark Pulse!” Lauren instructed and Mortimer intercepted the attack with his own. The Stoutland whipped around, foaming at the mouth with his malice as bit down on the blast. The attack shatter and exploded in a cloud of dark smoke. The Stoutland didn’t even flinch.

“Horn Attack!” Eloy ordered. Deacon’s horn glowed bright again and he ran at the Stoutland with newfound confidence, injuries forgotten in the thrill of developing this new skill. The Stoutland rounded on Deacon and swatted him aside with ease, sending him skidding along the ground. Then, it turned its attention back on Mortimer, rushing the Duskull again with single-minded rage.

“Protect!” Lauren ordered as the Stoutland leapt for Mortimer, foamy mouth mouth wide open. The Stoutland collided hard with the shining defensive shield. The Protect halted the attempted Crunch but the sheer ferocity of the assault caused the barrier to explode into a shower of green glitter.

The Stoutland’s fangs glowed a vibrant pink and it struck again. This time, his attack was a success and Mortimer was caught in the vice of his mouth before being tossed aside like a ragdoll.

“Mort!” Lauren gasped, shocked. The Stoutland paid her no mind, turning back to Deacon.

The Stoutland barked loud and then started its run forward. As it did so, a blazing aura of purple exploded up around it, streaked with a vibrant orange emanating from the focal point in front of the Stoutlands head.

“Out the way!” Eloy yelled, instantly recognising the attack as Giga Impact, one of the most destructive moves a Pokemon could learn. Deacon was just barely managing to stand back up, his beating finally catching up with him. The Stoutland closed in fast.

In an instant, the Stoutland lunged to close the distance as a huge shadow fell across Deacon. Khutulun leapt forward, the struggling Herdier tucked unceremoniously under one arm and thrust her free hand forward, palm open wide. The Stoutland collided with the Kangaskhan’s palm with an explosive force that Eloy not only saw and heard but felt as a shockwave radiated out from the impact.

Khutulun skidded back several feet, stopping just before she’d have crushed Deacon underfoot. Her confident look was replaced by a strained grimace as her knees flexed against the force of the blow. Then, the onslaught was over and the Kangaskhan’s confidence quickly returned.

“Nicely done, Khutulun,” Nora chirped, still donning her school teacher smile, “You can finish it up now. Dizzy Punch!” Khutulun pulled her hand back from the Stoutland, the canine seemingly frozen with shock at its most devastating attack being halted with such ease and not even trying to escape. The Kangaskhan’s hand closed into a fist as several flickering orbs of yellow light appeared around it.

Khutulun drove her fist down hard onto the Stoutland, smashing it into the ground beneath its feet and knocking it out instantly. Then, she grabbed the remaining Herdier out from under her other arm, and with casual ease, tossed into the trunk of a tree where it too felt to the ground and fainted.

Eloy’s mouth dropped like an anvil. Sure, the Stoutland had taken a fair few hits from Deacon and Mortimer, but it had demonstrated pretty easily how easily it could shake them off. He knew that the Pokemon of an Elite Four member were at an entirely different level, but seeing one in action up close was very different than watching from a distance. Khutulun’s raw power was at an almost incomprehensible scale compared to the likes of Deacon or Mortimer.

“Everyone okay?” Nora asked cheerfully, “You both did very well.”

“Mort and I are fine,” Lauren responded. Mortimer was in her arms happily nuzzled against her chest. He was definitely hurt, but seemed content and not seriously injured.

“You doing okay, Deacon?” Eloy asked his Nidoran.

“Ni!” Deacon replied enthusiastically before promptly fainting on the spot, beaten up and exhausted.

“Deacon!” Eloy started, alarmed, bending down to check his Pokemon over. From what he could tell, the Nidoran hadn’t sustained any truly serious damage although there were small gashes on his back where the Stoutland had bitten down, spikes be damned. “Well, he did take quite a wholloping.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine with some treatment and a bit of a rest. For now though, you can both have one of these.” Nora produced a potion each for Deacon and Mortimer. Eloy and Lauren accepted them gratefully and proceeded to spray their partners and return them to the safety of their Pokeballs.

“We should capture them all before any of them wake up,” Lauren said, looking around at the defeated back. None of them were stirring yet, and it was unlikely that any of them would be after taking hits from a powerhouse like Khutulun, but Nora nodded her agreement.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry, let’s get to work.” She still sounded every bit more like a teacher on a field trip than a fearsome member of the Elite Four. Eloy and Lauren set to work alongside her and soon the pack had been rounded up and the three of them were making their way back to Topa Town.

Team Eloy