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“The Journey Begins”
Eric awoke the next day feeling strange. Had everything that had happened since his birthday been real? Perhaps not only did he not pick up the mirror, but he never left the house. And he never met Estora. And he never fought that Feraligatr, transformed into Doppelganger, or-
Suddenly, Eric noticed the Mirror Core sitting on his desk. Yeah, it was all real. Everything that had happened was perfectly real. But to Eric’s surprise, he wasn’t feeling sad about it. No, quite the contrary. He was feeling very happy and relieved that it all DID happen. The day had come that he’d begin his Pokémon journey.
Eric pulled himself up. His purple hair was very messy due to a night’s sleep, but then again, that wasn’t too much different than normal. Eric got out of bed and stretched. He looked at the end of his bed and saw the clothes his mother had bought for him the day before. Then he looked back at his pajamas. It was time to get changed. But first, breakfast. So Eric left the room, carrying his Mirror Core with him.
He arrived in the kitchen and saw Estora sitting with the rest of his family, eating breakfast. They were talking to her, and getting to know her. Estora had slept in the guest bed, which Fred usually slept in over the night. But Fred had let Estora stay in the guest room and slept on the living room couch, just this one night.
Estora seemed to look different, Eric noticed. And in a way, something about the way she looked was more familiar than yesterday, too. After a moment, he realized it was just that she wasn’t wearing that large purple jacket and small pants anymore. She was wearing some of Eric’s red pajamas. He didn’t make a big deal of it, however, because he was grateful to Estora for giving him this opportunity to have a good Pokémon training career. So he sat down in his seat and began eating his waffles and eggs.
“You have a delightful friend, here,” said John, “She was just telling us about how you saved her from a thief. Is that true, Eric?”
Eric looked up, with a mouth full of scrambled eggs. “Hm? Saved her…” Suddenly, Eric remembered how he became Doppelganger and fought off the guy who tried to steal the Mirror Core, which was currently in his pocket. “Oh, yeah… I did do that, didn’t I…”
Estora was smiling brightly. “He was great. He commanded that Ralts like he had been training it for months.” Everybody loved this, and Eric couldn’t help but laugh, egotistically. The way Estora was uplifting Eric’s sudden reputation with Pokémon to the family made it a sure thing they’d let him go.
* * * * *
After breakfast, Eric and Estora had gotten ready to go. Estora was back in her purple clothes, and Eric had gotten something new on. He was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, and a dark blue pair of jeans. His shoes were black, with some blue in it. He also wore the beanie and backpack that his mother had given him, and the sleeping bag from Lax was strapped to the top of his backpack. And finally, he wore the golden necklace he had gotten from his godfather.
Eric held up the Mirror Core to his necklace. If he wasn’t mistaken, he could somehow connect the two. Sure enough, when he put the end of the necklace on the sphere, it went inside. He hung it around his neck as a complete necklace.
Eric was outside, and so was Estora. They were about to leave. John, Clair, Fred, and Lax had all seen them off to the doorway and were now saying goodbye.
“Snorlax!!” yelled Lax, tears rushing from its eyes, as it hugged both Eric and Estora. It was going to miss the two of them… well, at least Eric.
Eric felt the air blow out of him and said, “Um… I’ll miss ya, Lax.”
“Wait a second, what’s that ball attached to my necklace?” asked Fred, pointing at the Mirror Core. It took everyone’s attention with its shiny colors.
“It’s, uh…” said Eric, trying to think of how he should explain it, “…just a present she gave me.” Eric patted Estora on her shoulder.
So everybody said their goodbyes, and Eric and Estora were off. But before they could get very far, Eric’s neighbors came out of their house, running. The older brother was in his early twenties, and he had shiny orange hair that looked a bit like a bunch of whip cream on his head. And his sister was only nine years old, and she had the same orange hair, except it was like whip cream that trickled down to her back.
“Wait, Eric!” said the boy, who’s name was Sean. Eric watched as he came down to him. Sean continued, “I just wanted to say bye before you left. How could you forget to say bye to us? Clair had to tell us about your journey.”
Eric laughed. He had totally forgotten about telling them he was going. It came up so suddenly that he hadn’t had time to think of that. “Yeah, sorry. I’ll miss you guys.”
“Come back in less than a year to watch me become a trainer!” said the girl, who’s name was Lisa.
“Of course I will,” said Eric, smiling at the girl. “Alright, see’ya guys!” Eric and Estora left them.
“Strange,” said Sean, after Eric had left, “I wonder what made him so eager to go on a journey all of a sudden? Hm.”
At first, Eric and Estora just began walking. Estora was following Eric, but she wasn’t sure where they were going. Finally, she said, “Um… how can we get past those awful Machop?”
Eric looked to his side, where Estora was walking. He had almost forgotten about the Machop. Of course, every resident in the town had an ID, and they could go in and out of the town through the city walls. They could also invite nonresidents, like Fred, through the city walls. Estora could leave the town with Eric, if she had gone in with a temporary pass. But Eric had no idea how Estora got in.
“So… how in the world did you get in the town?” asked Eric.
Estora smiled. “Well, they didn’t let me through the city walls, so I was going to sneak in the town,” she said, still smiling, “But the Machop were chasing me all over the place, so I had Natu peck them off-fighting Pokémon don’t like flying attacks-and I was safe. But then I was stuck out of the town again, so Natu just teleported me in.” Estora stuck her tongue out at Eric, jokingly.
Eric swallowed hard. If she had gotten in Machop Town illegally, then how was Eric supposed to take her back out? Smuggle her through the Walls in his new backpack?
Estora stared at Eric as they walked. His face looked all tense and worried, and she knew that he must have been thinking that the way she got in the town caused a problem. “I can just teleport back out, you know,” said Estora.
Eric stopped worrying and nodded. “Yeah, you should do that.” Eric sighed. He had barely been walking five minutes before a problem seemed to pop up, but luckily, things were okay.
Suddenly, Estora grabbed the Mirror Core from around Eric’s neck, while it still hung on his necklace, and cupped her hands right around the Core, not touching it. It floated between her hands. The Core’s sparkly colors that normally flew around inside it were nonexistent; it was almost like a random glass ball. Eric recognized this as the Core’s way of showing it had no remaining power, because Eric could somehow feel all the psychic energy from yesterday was now gone. It was basically the opposite of the colors moving around crazily, as they had done when the psychic energy was being used for what Eric now knew was ‘Doppelganger’.
Estora began glowing purple, and so did the Core. Before long, it was over, and she put down the Core and looked away.
“What was that about?” asked Eric, as he inspected his Core.
“I was recharging it with my psychic energy,” said Estora, still not looking at Eric, “Remember? I’ve got to do that every day from now on.”
Eric nodded, and they continued their trip. (Heh,) Eric thought, (So I guess I’ll need to travel with her throughout the journey…) Eric began thinking of what kinds of adventures he may have in this journey with Estora.
After about ten more minutes of walking, Eric suddenly said, “You know, Estora. I’m going to call you Esty.”
Estora looked back at Eric, a little surprised. “But my name’s Estora.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Eric, “But I want to call you Esty.” Estora gave Eric a somewhat nasty look, but then sighed. Eric looked away, and smiled. He wanted something special to call her, for some reason. ‘Esty’ would be a nickname only he recognized her by from this time forward. Eric didn’t know it, but after he had looked away from her, Estora also smiled.
After another half an hour of walking down the path, they finally could see the city walls in the distance. So just as they had planned, Estora made her way to the boundaries of the town, where she could already see Machop laying around and fighting, and Eric kept on the path to the Walls.
The large brown walls had indented drawings of Machop on it, and the height of the whole wall was about fifteen feet. Right in front of the wall-inside the boundaries of the town-was a small building, with one room, which you had to go through to enter or exit the town. When Eric arrived at the place, there seemed to be a problem.
He had walked inside the building, and he saw two security officers sitting behind a desk, as they always did. They wore police garments, and they were talking to a boy with spiky, black hair. He was wearing a black t-shirt and khaki pants.
“What do you mean I shouldn’t go through?!” asked the boy. He had his arms on the desk and he was getting impatient.
The officers were looking quite lazy, and one of them piped up, “Can’t you read?” He pointed to a poster on the wall. It read:
The immediate area beyond the Machop Town Walls has recently been terrorized by a powerful Machoke. This Pokémon is wild and crazy, and it will attack anyone who comes near these walls. We advise you not to leave the town until something has been done about this problem. You have been forewarned.
After reading the sign, the black-haired boy asked, “Who’s doing something about the problem, then?”
The two security officers got a little mad at this. One of them grunted and said, “Why should we care? If you want the thing outta the way now, go do something yourself, you punk kid!”
The boy mumbled under his breath in anger. Suddenly, Eric said out loud, “I’ll get rid of the thing.” Everyone looked at him. Eric began walking to the other side of the room to reach the walls.
Suddenly, the other boy put his arm in front of Eric and said, “Hold on. I never said I couldn’t take care of things. Just stick around here and everything’ll be safe in a half hour.” The boy then began walking to the door.
“Oh, I don’t have that much time to spend waiting around,” said Eric, and after hearing the kid growl in anger, Eric said, “I’ll come with you.” He still wanted to take this challenge. The boy didn’t respond and just opened the door. Eric followed.
Behind the door were the humongous walls, which the security officers switched open with controls in the room. They took a few seconds to open, and when they did, the two boys walked through them.
Eric followed the boy a few yards behind him. He had rarely been out of Machop Town, and almost always it had been simply to accompany his parents or his godfather or Sean into Big City. But now, he was alone. Excluding this other boy, that is.
Eric sped up his walk to catch up to the other boy. He wanted to know what he was all about, and if he was a trainer. He was about to touch his shoulder when he suddenly felt something heavy drop on his head, and he fell to the ground, flat on his face.
When he got back up, he saw that it was the Natu from earlier that had practically assaulted him. And not surprisingly, Estora walked from the crowd of trees that surrounded all of Machop Town except the path that came through the City Walls.
After having a hard time pulling the large sleeve of her robe-jacket off of a bush it had gotten tangled in, Estora made her way into the path, which was known as Machop Road, inside and outside the town. She walked up to Eric and said, “Alright, time to go.”
Eric shook his head. “I’ve got a job to do, first. And it’ll help me start to get experience in Pokémon training,” he said. After seeing that Estora had no idea what he was talking about, Eric ran a bit to catch up to the other boy.
The two boys walked together, but the black-haired boy was ignoring Eric. Estora was following from a few feet behind them. “So, what’s your name?” asked Eric, suddenly, smiling.
The black-haired boy didn’t immediately respond, making it seem like he was just going to continue to ignore Eric. But after about thirty seconds, he finally said, “Rocky.”
Eric, a bit startled that Rocky finally answered the question, managed another smile. “Nice to meet you, Rocky. My name’s Eric.” Eric was sure Rocky heard him, even though he didn’t show any sign of doing so. Seeing that Rocky wasn’t in much of a mood to talk, Eric finally left him alone and just walked.
Before long, the two of them reached a block in the road. There was a huge boulder covering the whole path, and a bunch of smaller rocks around it to reinforce the blockade. Sitting on and around many of the smaller rocks were a group of Machop.
Rocky smiled. “Are these the Machoke that guy was talking about? They look harmless!” He quickly pulled a Pokéball from his pocket.
“They’re not harmless, they can really fight,” said Eric, “And besides, these are just ordinary Machop. I’ve never seen a Machoke in person, but I’m sure they’re bigger.”
Rocky stopped smiling at that, but he wasn’t fazed. He speedily threw the Pokéball he had in the air and it released the Pokémon inside. To Eric and Estora’s surprise, a huge, rock-snake formed in front of their eyes. It was composed of a chain of boulders, and at the front was its rock head.
“Onix!” yelled Rocky, as his smile returned, “Get rid of all the small rocks and the Machop on them!” Just as he said this, Onix bellowed with its deep, roaring voice, and gave a few mighty swipes of its tail. It whacked all the smaller rocks out of the way, and the Machop, too. Afterwards, all that was left, besides some leftover pebbles, was the huge boulder.
“Wow, that was nice!” said Eric in admiration. He watched as Rocky walked a little further on the path to pat his Onix on the back of one of its boulders.
“So, now can we get going?” asked Estora. She put her fists on her waists with her elbows sticking out, waiting to hear Eric’s response.
Eric looked back at her and said, “Hold on, Esty. The Machoke didn’t come-”
Suddenly, from out of the trees to the side of Machop Road, something jumped swiftly into the air. It landed on top of the huge boulder, its left knee resting on the rock. It looked like a Machop, but it was a lot taller. It had red stripes along its arms, and wore some sort of black underwear and a power belt. It was apparently very muscle-bound, as it stood up on its feet and flexed its biceps in the sun.
“That must be the Machoke!” said Rocky, gazing up at the Pokémon. Rocky pointed at it, and Onix immediately dove for it. It tried to tackle it with its large head, but Machoke jumped high into the air, dodging the attack. Then, it fell onto Onix’s back, sort of close to its head. “What? No!”
“Machoke! Choke!” said Machoke, as it laughed. Suddenly, it whacked Onix with the side of its hand. After hearing Onix’s roar of pain, Machoke suddenly gave it a barrage of whacks. It kept on going and going, and after a moment, Onix fell to the ground. Machoke continued its assault, however.
“Fighting type attacks are too harsh for Onix,” said Rocky, as he pulled out his Pokéball and returned it. Just then, Eric was about to bring out his own Pokémon, considering it his turn, but suddenly Rocky pulled out a couple more Pokéballs. He threw them into the air simultaneously, and two Pokémon were released.
One was a large, brown rat that stood on its feet. It had big buck teeth. The other was a plant with a skinny stem, roots as feet, two leaves as arms, and a bell flower as a head. The two Pokémon stood next to each other a few feet ahead of Rocky.
“Raticate and Bellsprout,” said Rocky, “Raticate’s normal type won’t help much for the latter part of the fight, but Bellsprout can finish it off.”
Eric began to feel a little annoyed with Rocky. He was spouting out with a little too much information. But he decided to stand back and watch, because Rocky seemed to know what he was doing.
“Raticate, use Super Fang!” Rocky called out. Raticate suddenly jumped to Machoke, its mouth wide open, but Machoke moved out of the way just in time. Raticate bit the hard boulder that was blocking the path, but it made it out of that okay. “Bellsprout, use Wrap to hold it down!”
Bellsprout extended a couple hidden vines and wrapped them around Machoke, restraining it. Of course, Machoke’s strong build and muscles wouldn’t allow for it to go for very long, so it was only a matter of seconds before it broke free. But before it did, Raticate suddenly used its Super Fang attack and bit harshly into Machoke’s shoulder.
“Was that Super Fang?” asked Eric, a bit surprised at the harshness of the attack.
“It cuts Machoke’s health in half, so it should be a breeze finishing it off!” said Rocky. Suddenly, Machoke grabbed Raticate and threw it to the boulder. It then proceeded to punch and kick Raticate, easily defeating it. Rocky returned his Pokémon like it was no problem, and had Bellsprout get ready to finish the battle. “Now Bellsprout, use Vine Whip to hurl Machoke into the air, and then whip it!”
Bellsprout used its Vines to throw Machoke in the air, and then it whipped it back to the ground. After that, it continued to whip Machoke, which covered its head with its arms, trying to block away part of the damage.
Suddenly, ten Machop came from out from the trees. Eight of them surrounded Bellsprout, and the other two grabbed Machoke and hauled it onto the boulder. Then, those two Machop joined the other eight in surrounding Bellsprout.
“Machop! Machop!” yelled one of the Machop. The other joined in with yells of the sort, all showing their anger. Bellsprout, of course, wasn’t interested in fighting all of the Machop all on its own.
“What the heck?” said Rocky, “What ever happened to playing fair?! One-on-one was going fine with me! Isn’t it bad enough I have to face an evolved Pokémon with a Bellsprout?!” Rocky waved his fist at the Machop in anger, but they didn’t care the least bit. The way things were looking, Bellsprout had no chance of winning.
“Bell!” cried Bellsprout, as it watched all the Machop jump at it. All of them, together, beat Bellsprout up harshly. They kept on sticking their fists and feet at it, hitting it over and over again, until Rocky couldn’t take it anymore. He tried to return his Bellsprout, but the Machop were in the way of the bright, red returning beam that shot out of his Pokéball and unfortunately faded after hitting the backs of the Pokémon.
Eric knew this was his time to shine, but just as he decided to finally get in the fray with Ralts, he heard Estora say from behind him, “Help Rocky’s Bellsprout!” Right after that command, Natu flew past Eric and Rocky from between them and immediately pecked a Machop, which fell.
“What’s that?” wondered Rocky, as he watched the small, green bird peck Machop after Machop to the ground.
“Those Machop are a pain, I know,” said Estora, as she walked up in-between Eric and Rocky with a smile, “Now quick, call back your Bellsprout!”
Rocky smiled, and he returned Bellsprout. This time he had no trouble because all the Machop that had been in his way were currently on the ground. Of course, after a while, the Machop got up and began beating up on Natu, and it couldn’t take the pressure.
Estora clenched her fists, hoping that Natu could somehow scare the Machop away, but before long they were all attacking it, and she had no choice but to return it.
“Well, that was my only Pokémon,” said Estora.
“Nice job, though, helping me out,” said Rocky, who was staring at Estora. “But what can we do now? I used up my Pokémon, too.”
Suddenly, both Estora and Rocky heard Eric give a little laugh as he stepped forward. He was about to give his turn a try. As he walked ahead of them, though, Rocky noticed the golden chain around Eric’s neck that ended in the colorful sphere. It peaked his interest.
“Smart of you two to save the best for last,” said Eric, feeling very cocky all of a sudden. He pulled a Pokéball out of his solitary pocket that covered the bottom of the front of his blue sweatshirt, and he threw it out in front of him.
“Ralts!” said Ralts, ready for some action. After the previous day’s fight, where it was able to shine in battle, Ralts now felt that it could go the extra mile and fight any opponent it was called on to defeat.
“Now watch and learn,” said Eric, confidently, “Ralts, use… um, use…” Eric struggled inside himself to remember Ralts’ attacks. What was going on? Why didn’t he remember any of them? He just had a battle yesterday! Sure, in that battle, turning into Doppelganger kind of made him feel different and strange, but how does that mean he could totally forget Ralts’ attacks?!
Suddenly, one of the Machop tripped Ralts to the ground with a powerful swipe of its leg. After falling, Ralts’ confidence in winning began to drop.
“That was a Low Kick attack,” mumbled Eric, “But now how about Ralts’ attacks…”
“What in the world are you waiting for?!” asked Rocky, “Your Pokémon is going to lose before it even starts fighting! Hurry up and use some attack with it!”
Eric nodded, but he couldn’t remember well enough to do so. He did remember using a psychic attack once or twice yesterday, but he couldn’t remember what it was. This must have been the worst situation Eric ever could have gotten himself into.
All the rest of the Machop joined the first one in beating up Ralts, in the same fashion they had used against Bellsprout and Natu. Things were looking very grim, and Ralts couldn’t take the extreme physical assault.
Out of the blue, Rocky ran up to Eric and grabbed him by the shoulders. He shook him hard, saying, “Hey! I’m not the one who’s in trouble, you and your Pokémon are! Why are you just standing around? Hey! Snap out of it! Are you listening-”
Suddenly, Rocky noticed a light. He stopped shaking Eric, who was feeling very hopeless, looking down. There, he saw the sphere from earlier glowing a bright purple. After a while, he saw Eric begin to glow, and he completely let go of him.
After watching Rocky walk back to her from Eric, and seeing Eric glowing, Estora said, “The Mirror Core! I almost forgot! Alright, he’s transforming!”
Rocky looked at Estora, clueless as to what she was talking about, and then looked back at Eric. His head was drooped down, along with his arms. His clothes were all waving hard, as a wind blew from nowhere. His hood was blowing around the most obviously, and the purple hair that came out of the bottom of the back of his beanie stuck up. Rocky was quite shocked at this change.
The Machop, however, were not paying the slightest attention. They were still beating on Ralts, which had less than half of its health left by now.
Eric’s eyes were now a bright purple, rather than blue. Purple, psychic energy was flowing from the Mirror Core, and also from Eric himself. He had finished transforming.
“Doppelganger!” called out Estora, both surprised and happy.
Doppelganger smiled and said, “Only weaklings double and triple team a young Pokémon!” The Machop didn’t seem to care, however. “Ralts! Use Confusion, on all of them!!” said Doppelganger.
Ralts heard, and when it sensed Eric it noticed all the psychic energy and realized it was Doppelganger. Ralts concentrated on the Machop, imagining them all blast away from it, and then it used its psychic power. Just as it imagined, all the Machop were thrown through the air.
Rocky and Estora gasped. They didn’t expect such power to come from the Ralts. But Doppelganger only continued smiling. All the Machop had fallen to the ground, all over the place. They all stood up and felt dazed. Some of them were even at the point of confusion, where they couldn’t stand or think straight. So eventually, all the frightened Machop ran off through the trees.
“Alright, you did it!” said Estora. Rocky smiled, too. But Doppelganger wasn’t celebrating yet, which confused Estora and Rocky at first. But then they noticed why Doppelganger was still in a fighting mood.
Machoke, ready for round two, jumped down from its boulder. It wasn’t at full health, but it was ready to give a good fight. It bended down on its knees and put up its hands. Its fingers on each hand were together in a manner so as it could use Karate Chop attacks.
Ralts stood up, and it was ready to fight to the end of the battle with Doppelganger. It had been heavily bruised, red marks all over its body, but it stood strongly. It watched as Machoke ran towards it, and it braced itself.
Doppelganger waved his arm up and said, “You can’t defeat me and Ralts, Machoke! Now let’s finish this!”