Hello, all – EM1 here.
Okay, so...holy freaking hell...I started writing and thought that this chapter was going to be a short one. It ended up being the longest chapter I’ve ever written thus far – in excess of twenty-eight pages. So...yeah, definitely a three-poster, this one.
WARNING: Travis will probably want to make you hit him in this chapter because of being in that emo funk again...but don't waste your energy. Someone's going to do it for you.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Pokémon. But I do own a couple in this particular series, as they are my own creation. I took the liberty (with the help of some of you, of course) of expanding the Pokédex just a little bit. That’s why Prof. Birch mentions something about there being 525 Pokémon. After the additions, that’s just about what you get. I’ll credit the creator of the Fan Pokémon name-by-name at the end of each chapter in which one is introduced.
With that said, on to Chapter 3!
Chapter 3: Blue Streak
May 18, PA 2013 – Route 102, Hoenn
Katrina’s eyes opened slowly to the flaming colors of a spring sunrise. She sat up, stretching and uttering an almighty yawn. She climbed out of her green sleeping bag and trudged slowly over to the pond near which they had camped, in order to wash up and change. She approached the clean-looking pond of water and lowered her hands into it, feeling the cool of the water washing over them. She gathered a bit of it into her hands and slapped it onto her face. She then wiped her dripping wet face with a towel, drying it off and resurfacing from the cloth with a sigh.
This was their second day out of Oldale Town, on their way to Petalburg City, the location of the first Pokémon Gym out of eight whose badges were required to enter the Emerald League in Evergrande City this August. This was a new journey for them...and yet...
They had run into someone from his past – someone who had not been their ally.
It had been a long time since she had seen him that flustered. But, now that she was older, she understood the burden that he carried. That sword was their greatest blessing – and yet, it was their greatest curse. Metaphorically speaking, it truly was double-edged. As much as it pained him, he had to wield that sword – it was who he was. He didn’t need anybody to tell him that to understand. One could look into his eyes and comprehend it. At least, she could. She didn’t really know about anyone else. He always told her that she was the only one that truly understood him. She was the only one that had been there – in body and in spirit – throughout the entire journey. That’s what he always told her.
Were those just words?
He didn’t just say words. He always...always...spoke his heart. That’s what she loved about him. Even with his mind in the state that it was in, you didn’t have to dig under a whole lot of garbage to know what he was thinking or feeling. Of course she worried about him when he wasn’t at his best – when he was stressed out or frustrated, like he’d been a couple of days ago – but it was better for her that he was the way he was. She’d rather worry because she knew something was wrong than be worried and have to guess at it.
She pulled her shirt over her body and turned, beginning the short walk back to the campsite, where he was most certainly awake by now. This late spring morning was cool, but rather humid. Her feet in their sandals were cold from the morning dew that had accumulated on the grasses of this pathway. She looked around her in this forest path. There were small, bright red creatures slithering down trees here and there. She closed her eyes for a second, attempting to jar her memory. Giving up after a few moments, she pulled out her pink Pokédex and simply pointed it at the creature. Her new Pokédex had a scanner function on it, where information could be gathered about a Pokémon just by pointing at it.
The Pokédex took a snapshot of the red, insect-like creature to save on her database and revealed it to be a Wurmple, the most common Bug-type native to Hoenn. Smiling, Katrina now remembered. She’d heard that Wurmple had two possible evolutionary paths, and that which one it took was essentially up to chance. At the right experience level (which, as it is for the majority of Bug-types, was fairly early), it could evolve into a Silcoon, which would evolve in short order to the aesthetically pleasing Beautifly, who was known for its appearance and its potentially tide-turning ability to absorb energy from an opponent. It could also, however, with theoretically equal chance, evolve into a Cascoon, which then turned into a Dustox, which could, if trained correctly, unleash some rather nasty Psychic-type attacks such as Confusion. She went for her belt – she’d try to catch one...
...Until she realized that her only Pokémon – her Umbreon, Crescent – was not only out of his Pokéball as he was regularly, but currently sleeping back at the camp...wait a second, what was that four-legged shadow walking toward her?
“Crescent?” Katrina called into a slight distance. “Is that you?”
A yawn reverberated back from the foggy light of the forest. Three seconds later, the Moonlight Pokémon came into view.
“<I woke up and realized you weren’t around,>” Crescent said, blinking his crimson eyes sleepily. “<I figured you weren’t around to stretch your legs, so I decided I’d do a little of the same. You headed back to camp?>”
“Yeah,” Katrina said. Then, just remembering what she’d wanted to do, she added, “Good timing, though. I was just looking for you.”
She looked to her left and saw no Wurmple at all.
“Oh...” she groaned in disappointment. “It’s gone.”
“<What’s gone?>” Crescent asked, looking a bit confused.
“Eh...nothing...” Katrina sighed. “C’mon, let’s go back to camp.”
The quiet snoring of a sleeping boy was the only thing that could be heard at the campsite, more than half a mile away. Curled up beside him was a lavender Espeon, deep in sleep next to this boy, who was stretched out in a blue sleeping bag.
A few feet away from them, on the other side of the remains of a campfire, was a pile of possessions – a couple of bags and a sword.
She would have to be quick, but as quiet as possible. There was always the chance that he could wake in the process of her doing this. The other thing that worried her...
Next to the boy’s sleeping bag was another sleeping bag...a green one – and this one was empty. Whoever had occupied this sleeping bag had left and could return and catch her in the act in very short order. She had to be quick. She’d heard about this sword...she’d been silently tailing the pair since Oldale Town, waiting for a chance to make their move. Last night, the Umbreon had stayed up extremely late, making her goal impossible. Today, though, that Umbreon was gone and there was no one to stop her.
She sidled around the ash and wood that had last night been a blazing campfire, making her way slowly to the sword, which was resting in its white scabbard and sitting on top of the pair of one-strap backpacks. She slowly lowered her hands, partially covered by fingerless gloves that extended into a black sleeve that ran all the way up her forearm and then her slender upper arm, revealing only the shoulder. Her fingers were no more than a foot away from touching the legendary weapon...nine inches...six inches...three...
She had it in her grasp. The Legendary and revered Godfire sword – forged in the flames of Ho-oh, the Phoenix. This was a true sacred artifact – not the cult idols that her religion had told her to honor.
She felt a hot light hit her face. Her silver eyes narrowed by an extreme amount as she looked left – a staff whose charm was in the staff of a crescent moon, in the center of which was glowing a white-hot orb...was pointing directly at her face.
“Drop the sword,” a female voice said in a dangerous whisper behind her. “Now.”
With a quick pivot and flick of her wrist, she knocked the staff away from her face and immediately jumped back. Looking up, she got a good look at her assailant’s entire body. The girl standing before her had pink hair and looked to be even younger than she was.
“Are you deaf?” Katrina said, enraged that someone would have the gall to attempt to steal the Sacred Flame while Travis was sleeping and while she was away. “I said, drop it.”
“I knew someone would try to interfere,” the mysterious girl said. Katrina got a good look at her. She couldn’t get a good measure of her years – possibly a decade and a half or more, but she could have possibly passed for younger. She was wearing black fingerless, sleeved gloves that seemed to be detached from her actual outfit, which was essentially a scarlet color and consisted of a very tight tank-like upper garment that tied around the neck instead of having shoulder straps, as well as a tight pair of scarlet pants that appeared to be about the length of girls’ capri pants. These both matched her blood-red hair, which was slightly longer than shoulder length and tied back with a white, makeshift headband that appeared to be nothing more than bandage material wrapped twice around the girl’s forehead. The last noticing feature was that near her right temple, which was where the majority of her fringe hung over her headband, the hair was a silver-white to match her irises.
“...and you still tried it,” Katrina added. “Doesn’t sound too smart to me. Now...drop the sword – or I’ll make you drop it.”
“Stay out of my way,” the girl said blankly. “I don’t want to hurt an innocent girl.”
“I’m not as ‘innocent’ as you think,” Katrina said, brandishing her rod and pointing it directly at the other girl’s head from a distance, her patience finally at an end. “Thordengata!”
An electric-blue bolt of lightning made a beeline from Katrina’s staff straight toward the scarlet-haired girl, who threw the sword down on the ground and jumped high into the air. Katrina was taken aback at the height of her leap, which had to have been ten feet at the very least. It became very clear to her that this girl, whoever she was, was no amateur. However, she had made a very amateur mistake.
“You cannot strike a shadow,” the girl said in nearly a drone.
“It’s a good thing lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, then, isn’t it?” Katrina responded harshly, raising her rod up into the air and pointing the glowing core straight at the girl. “Thordengata!”
Another sizzling thunderbolt zipped out of her staff and shot up into the air, right where the girl was hanging with no time to dodge. With no expression on her face whatsoever, she performed about ten hand signals in quick succession and a lightning bolt shot out of her extended hands, met Katrina’s at the last second, and canceled it out with a small shockwave. Flipping backward in mid-air, the mysterious girl landed on her unshod feet, skidding to a stop.
Katrina had seen more than the average person as far as the supernatural was concerned, but even that experience was not enough to prevent the other girl’s maneuver from catching her off guard just slightly.
“What was that?” she muttered. “I’ve never seen that one before. Might have to pull out some of my new tricks...”
“This power I have...” the girl droned. “Most are not blessed with it.”
“Join the club,” Katrina replied scathingly. Pointing her staff at the mysterious girl, she shouted, “Elbaflir!”
A red-hot ball of flame shot forth from her staff and bulleted toward the red-haired girl, who again countered with a variety of hand signals – producing a blue-colored fireball of her own. The two spheres of flame melded together momentarily and then dissipated, leaving no sign of their former presence.
“Elbaflir–Akvr!” Katrina shouted. This time, five of the same fireballs blasted forth from the core of her rod in very quick succession. The mysterious girl, knowing that she had no time to use the same art five times to counter (which was, of course, what Katrina had been counting on), decided to jump – high in the air and slightly toward Katrina. In mid-air (and in mid-somersault) she yanked out from behind her two diamond-shaped knives with hoops for their handles – ninja kunai. With one sweep of her hand, she sent both – each eight inches long – shooting straight at Katrina. With a relatively quick move of her own out of necessity, Katrina leapt sideways and watched the two knives smash into the ground. A second later, the girl landed and grabbed onto the knives. Katrina saw her for a brief second before she disappeared. Hearing a slight movement behind her, Katrina turned around. The girl was there, in mid-air, prepared to strike with her kunai. She swung once, and Katrina barely blocked. Suddenly gaining a new appreciation for the girl’s fighting style, she thought, She’s been taught to fight as a kunoichi – I can’t believe there are some still around!
She didn’t have much time to dwell on this thought, though – the girl aimed yet another strike at her face that she had to block. Then a third. And then a fourth. The girl did all this while rotating in different directions and yet not allowing either of her feet to touch the dirt. However, she hesitated on the fifth, allowing Katrina to counterattack.
“Take this!” the pink-haired girl shouted, swinging her rod, which was glowing white, into the face of this kunoichi. There was an explosion upon contact, sending the scarlet-haired girl flying backwards. She hit the ground and bounced off rather painfully, bouncing and skidding until she went into an uncontrollable roll and somehow then got her feet back under her and skidded to a stop. She got up – she still had a kunai in each hand – and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, grimacing.
“I was too slow...” she said in a lamenting drone. “Next time...”
She stood and performed, as well, a variety of hand signals, and disappeared in a rush of leaves that seemed to come out of nowhere, leaving the sword and a confused Katrina.
Defusing the rod in her hand, the pink-haired Aurillian descendant muttered, “Who in the world? What’s with everyone trying to take a shot at us nowadays?”
“Hmm...” there was a groaning behind her. She whirled around. The blue-haired boy that had been sleeping was now sitting up in his sleeping bag, stretching his arms wide. Briskly walking over to the sword, she laid it on the bags as it had been just in time to see Travis open his eyes and look at her.
“Now you wake up,” she muttered so that Travis couldn’t hear her.
“Morning,” he sighed, blinking hard in an attempt to get his eyes to focus a bit better than they were doing. “You’re up before me again. What’s going on?”
She could have told him – but, as she’d already fought off the threat, there was no point. Plus, she would much rather spend a day with the new, less serious and more fun Travis than the guarded and slightly paranoid one of two years ago. Moreover, she’d much rather be on a journey with the Pokémon Trainer than with the Swordbearer. So, there was no point telling him.
Instead, she replied with a smile and a brisk clip to her voice, “Nothing new.”
In about an hour, they were on the road again, headed west to Petalburg City, the site of the first Hoenn Gym. On this heavily forested pathway, they had seen – mostly from a distance – several wild Pokémon that they scanned into their Pokédex. Strangely enough, their new Pokédexes were now the topic of their conversation.
“It’s really cool that, whenever you look up the data of that Pokémon next time, it’ll show that Pokémon the exact way you first saw it,” Katrina commented, referencing the scanner feature on their Pokédexes. “Like, that Wurmple on the tree...”
“Why didn’t you catch it?” Travis asked. “A Beautifly would suit you, I think. Pretty but dangerous.”
Katrina smiled. “Well, Crescent got there late.”
“<Not everyone wakes up at the crack of dawn, Katrina,>” Crescent sighed. “<Even Angel slept in this morning. Granted, it was only until quarter after seven, but...>”
“<Yeah, whatever...>” Angel sighed. “<Urgh...this is irritating! We need to find something I can warm up on. I’m getting bored!>”
“<You’ll get your shot,>” Crescent replied. Ever since Angel lost to Matt’s Combusken two days ago, she had been raring for opponents to fight and win. However, the case was that either they simply hadn’t run into anything, or that Travis was attempting to keep Angel safe by not battling. The very thought of the second option upset Angel quite a bit – if he was doing that, it was defeating the purpose, wasn’t it?
“<Easy for you to say! You’ve beaten a Zigzagoon, that floating lily pad thing...>” Angel muttered. True enough, Crescent and Katrina had battled a wild Zigzagoon just a few minutes ago and had beaten it handily. Katrina thought for a moment about catching it, but then decided against it. She had only brought five extra Pokéballs with her and she wasn’t going to waste them, frankly, on a Pokémon that, according to what she’d heard, could be found virtually anywhere.
“<It’s called a Lotad, Angel. A Lotad.>” Crescent found himself, not for the first time, having to tutor Angel on the names of other species of Pokémon that couldn’t be found in Johto.
“<Yeah, a Lotad – whatever,>” Angel said a bit snippily. “<I just want to fight something.>”
“<Looks like you might get your chance,>” Crescent replied. Angel looked in front of her. Doing a double take, she then decided to make her way out in front of Travis’ ankles.
“Hey, what’s that?” Katrina commented. What she, Angel, and Travis were looking at in the road was a Pokémon they had neither seen nor heard of. It was a dark brown, pika-like creature with large ears and a large tail with an even larger, golden flame on that tail. That golden flame was a good match for the creature’s saffron eyes.
“Haven’t seen this one before,” Travis assented. Then, pointing his scanner at the creature, he exclaimed, “This must be one of the new species that Professor Birch was talking about!!”
Startled at Travis’ shout, the creature turned its head toward him, jumped, yelping in surprise, and shot a couple of golden streaks of light from its mouth. Travis jumped toward the left just as those streaks of light hit where he was and exploded into what looked like extremely hot fireworks.
“Whoa!” Travis yelled. “Easy!”
“She’s so cute!” Katrina squealed. Travis looked at her, sweatdropping and appearing to be very confused.
“‘She’?” Travis repeated.
“You weren’t paying attention?” Katrina replied. “Our scanners can identify the gender of an individual Pokémon, too.”
“Well – doesn’t matter,” Travis said. “I’m gonna take a wild guess here and say that this...Pyrika? Is that how it’s pronounced?...this PIE-ree-kuh...is a Fire-type. If I throw Champ into the fire, it could get ugly. I’ve only got one option. Angel, let’s go.”
“<Sure thing,>” Angel replied, stepping out in front of Travis. “<Just don’t zone out on me this time, ‘kay?>”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Travis responded. His wording was ironic, as he’d just had a nightmare early that morning about completely freezing up in an important match at the Emerald Tournament. That had been what had awakened him, as a matter of fact...
“<Watch it!>” Angel yelled, dodging left. Travis, seeing another streak of golden light like the last one, jumped to the right.
“<Pay attention!>” Crescent groaned loudly, having the desired effect – Travis turned back toward the Pyrika and his eyes narrowed.
“Angel, start off with a Quick Attack!” he shouted enthusiastically. Angel turned and looked at him.
“<Quick Attack? What’s that?>” she asked. Everyone face-faulted on the spot. Smiling, she added, “<Sorry, just had to do that for the reaction.>”
She took off toward the Pyrika, who had already started out on a Tackle attack. The two Pokémon made contact a couple of inches off the ground, bounced off each other, and slid to a stop on their respective sides.
“<Be careful! You’re gonna get yourself hurt fooling around like that!>” Crescent shouted warningly.
“<I know what I’m doing,>” Angel spat back.
The Pyrika came hard and fast toward Angel, smashing into her with deceptive force. The lavender Sun Pokémon fell to the ground but immediately rolled to her feet, staring down the coney-like Fire-type Pokémon. Pyrika squealed and shot forth a golden jet of light in a high arc. She had missed Angel badly with her attack – that was the good news. The bad news, though, was the fact that she had missed Angel badly with her attack...and that the exploding jet of saffron light was headed straight for Travis’ head.
Adroitly, Travis fell into a side roll and dodged to the right just as the streak of light exploded right where his head would have been. Pulling out his Pokédex in one move, he muttered, “What the heck is that attack, anyways?! Fireworks – an explosive Fire attack that also blinds the target, lowering accuracy. That’s bad – Angel, use Confusion!”
“<Fine – let’s go!>” Angel shouted. Her gem-like eyes glowed white and a shockwave emanated from the circular jewel on her forehead. This shockwave then proceeded to smash rather mercilessly into Pyrika, who appeared to not have seen it coming. The small mouse hare Pokémon looked straight up at Angel as soon as her own backward momentum had stopped. She raised her mouth straight at Angel and shot forth a cloud of black smoke. This cloud was a lot bigger than they had anticipated, and it engulfed not only Pyrika and Angel, but Travis, Katrina, and Crescent as well.
“<The heck?!>” Crescent shouted. Travis could see Crescent’s rings glowing yellow from where he was standing – but that’s about all he could see.
“Crap – this is a Smokescreen! How am I supposed to hit...” Travis groaned. Angel, meanwhile, was looking to and fro in this thick layer of Stygian smoke. A brown blur entered the cloud from her left, and she turned that way only to be bowled over by Pyrika’s Tackle. Then again, at the speed she’d been moving, that could very well have been a Quick Attack. Either way, it didn’t feel good. Then, the Espeon heard a yell from somewhere semi-distant. “Angel...now would be a good time for a Swift!”
She looked straight ahead of her. The gem core on her head glowed white and began to shoot forth small, star-shaped formations of Megacite – the pure energy that powers attacks such as Mega Punch and Hyper Beam – into the cloud. She shot for a few more seconds. Then, realizing that she was probably failing to hit anything, she stopped. Five seconds later, a creature with a dark brown body came rushing through the cloud and into her very small field of vision. She saw it in her periphery and jumped just as Pyrika would have hit her from the left a second time. However, a straight line of star-shaped energy charges had been chasing Pyrika. She turned around and then felt a burning pain on her back and on the back of her head...
She’d been hit with her own attack. She let out a yelp and rolled over. Now staring down the dark cloud of Smokescreen again, she used Confusion without being ordered, with the hope that the shockwave would blow away a bit of the smoke. Her attack worked, but what she saw behind the veil of black was horrifying.
“ANGEL!” Travis, who could also see what was going on now, shouted immediately. “Fire a Swift attack now or get out of there!!”
Pyrika shot forth the Fireworks attack again – a golden streak of flaming light from her mouth. Angel, heeding Travis’ words, opted for the first choice, firing a star-shaped beam directly at Pyrika’s attack. The two met midway and clashed for supremacy, each momentarily giving up a small bit of ground to the other. Although Angel was holding her ground, it was obvious that she was the more fatigued of the two. Sweat dripped down her lavender face as she attempted to hold her position, which was hard enough. That’s not to mention the fact that she wanted to win outright. A draw was unacceptable. Apparently, Pyrika was thinking the same thing, as another pulse of golden light traveled through the original one, adding more power and finally pushing Angel over the edge.
Her energy to hold the Swift attack gave out and the beam of golden light smashed into her and exploded into a fireworks-like light display, knocking her to the ground. She attempted to stagger to her feet.
“<No...>” she groaned, struggling to stay conscious. “<Can’t...lose...again...>”
She sank to the ground, her energy spent.
“Damn it,” Travis sighed, running over to pick up the Espeon. “Why am I so off...?”
“Mind if I take a shot?” Katrina piped up.
“No – go ahead,” Travis commented, walking over to a large rock next to a tree and seating himself upon it, stroking Angel’s messed-up fur back into place.
“Alright...” Katrina sighed. This would be her chance. She only had one Pokémon, and she could definitely use a second. This Pyrika was pretty powerful, and therefore, would make a fine addition to her team. “Crescent, let’s go!”
Crescent sighed and advanced past Katrina’s ankles into the battle zone. Pyrika stared at him for a moment, understood what his presence meant, and lowered herself into a battle-ready position for a second time.
“<You won’t get lucky twice,>” Crescent growled. He, unlike Angel, had been winning all of his battles, and justifiably felt very sure of himself.
“Quick Attack, Crescent!” Katrina shouted, pointing at the target. Crescent kicked off the ground and became a sable missile, smashing into Pyrika with incredible force and bouncing off again. Landing at his original position, he watched as Pyrika rolled to her feet, her saffron eyes flashing. She opened her mouth and let loose a jet of light, which smashed into Crescent before he could react and promptly exploded, blowing him backwards. Crescent showed a bit of toughness by keeping his feet yet absorbing the full force of Pyrika’s attack. There were a couple of scorch marks on the Umbreon’s face, but that was a moot point as they were pretty much invisible with his pitch-black coat of fur. He looked up, his red eyes narrowing – just to witness a brown blur of fur coming straight at him.
Crescent rolled out of the way and allowed Pyrika, who was using a Quick Attack of her own, to sail straight past him. Pyrika, however, was not to be tricked; she stopped directly in front of Katrina without losing a bit of speed, bounded off in the other direction, and promptly pounded Crescent for all she was worth. Crescent and Pyrika both rolled to their feet simultaneously.
“<She’s good,>” Crescent commented.
“Crescent, use Sand-Attack!” Katrina shouted. Crescent ran straight at Pyrika, who stood her ground and braced for contact. Just as he was about to reach her, however, Crescent changed direction rather quickly, kicking up a copious amount of dust directly into Pyrika’s face. The coney-like Fire-type Pokémon yelped and hiccoughed with the irritation of the dust entering her throat and her eyes. Travis looked up at that point – he had a feeling what was coming next.
“<Hyper Beam?>” Crescent asked, waiting for the call. Katrina, though, shook her head.
“We don’t want to kill her,” she commented. “Instead...use Shadow Ball!”
“<Works for me,>” Crescent commented. Inhaling, he conjured a large ball of energy, the core of which was white, which faded to violet, which then faded to black at its edges. It swelled slightly as black sparks began to crackle and surround it, almost as if Crescent was summoning lightning from hell itself. He fired this ball at Pyrika, who was still shaking dust out of her eyes. With a yelp, Pyrika received the attack as it bowled her over, leaving her on the ground and barely conscious. The golden flame from her prominent, chestnut tail died down to a flicker in her fatigue.
“Should’ve known...” Travis muttered with a sigh.
Katrina pulled a Pokéball off her belt and enlarged it. She reared her hand back and prepared to throw, but took one look at Travis, who was sitting on the rock and attempting to comfort Angel, who had just come to. The Espeon, watching from Travis’ lap, had seen the very end of the battle. When her eyes met with those of Crescent, she managed to deliver him a weak smile. Travis, right then, noticed that Katrina was hesitating. She had the ball out but seemed to be refusing to throw it.
What was she waiting for?
If it had been a Zigzagoon, she probably would have been able to wait about five or ten minutes and she probably would have found another one. But Pyrika didn’t just stray into your path six to ten times every hour – they were extremely rare, and if Katrina let this one escape, there would be a very good chance she would never see another one...let alone a wild one...for a long time. Yet, Katrina didn’t seem to want to throw the ball.
Meanwhile, she stood there with the ball in her hand. It seemed as if she was mere seconds away from releasing it...but something was holding her back. She continued to look at his eyes from where she was standing. That fire that he always had in his eyes when she saw him battle in his first journey – it just didn’t seem to be there anymore. For some reason, it just didn’t seem like his heart was in it. Perhaps she had come to a rather dangerous point in her relationship with him, but she felt nowadays like she didn’t need this as much as he did.
Did she even want to have success as a Trainer here in Hoenn?
There was that small part of her that was still a competitor. But if she somehow got into the tournament without him...which seemed almost bound to happen, the way things were going now...it just wouldn’t feel right.
She wondered what was going so wrong with him lately. He hadn’t won a single battle since he’d set foot in Hoenn. She didn’t want to believe it herself, let alone say it to him, but...maybe the fact was that his mind simply wasn’t ready for a journey. Maybe, as she had thought for a short time, it would never be.
The scars formed from the knives of his dark history ran deep...deep as rivers that drowned you in liquid despair – drowned you before sending you to the surface, half the person you once were.
Half the person he once was...but, at the same time, it wasn’t true.
He had become a better and (if possible) more likable person in the two years since the war ended. He wasn’t quite so serious all the time. He still had issues with his temper from time to time. Whenever he got upset with someone, it was hard to calm him down – especially if they said or did anything that reminded him of the war. Not even the hardiest of men could stay the same after witnessing what he had witnessed, fighting what he had fought...
...and he had been no man. He had been a boy, barely thirteen. A boy with dreams and aspirations for the future. Aspirations that stood the chance of never being fulfilled with him in his present state.
The doctors had told her...the doctors had told everyone...by the time his body healed enough to do any long-term traveling, he would be sixteen. Perhaps it was Travis’ determination to get here more quickly that pushed his body to heal itself. But, if the scars on the mind and the heart don’t heal as quickly as the body, then...
“What’s wrong?” Travis’ voice snapped her out of her twisted musing. She gasped slightly when she realized that he was standing right next to him, with his hand on her shoulder. “You earned it – go on.”
Katrina didn’t respond.
“Go on,” Travis said more firmly this time. “If you’re so worried about catching her in front of me, I’ll turn around.”
Katrina watched as Travis went around behind her and turned his back to her and to Pyrika. Something seemed different about him. She slowly turned around, facing away from him and toward Pyrika. She slowly raised the Pokéball in the air and then threw it at Pyrika, who was starting to struggle to her feet. The ball tapped her on the forehead, hovered away for a second, and then opened, ingesting her in the form of bright red light. The red-and-white sphere hit the ground with a tap. Then, whirring, it shook once...
And then stopped. She walked over slowly to pick up the ball containing her new Pokémon. Now she and Travis had two each. In that category, she and Travis were doing rather well. Speaking of Travis, Katrina now heard a voice behind her.
“Good job,” he said. There was a strange kind of color to his voice – he didn’t sound bitter or jealous, but he definitely wasn’t himself. He turned around back toward her, smiling. “You pulled that one off just right.”
Normally, out of gratitude or at least out of courtesy, Katrina would have thanked him for such a compliment. Today, though, he seemed just a bit cold and distant. She sighed.
“C’mon,” she said. “I looked at the Navigator earlier, and it says that there’s a good place to set up a campsite just past this forest. We’ll stop and have lunch there.”
It was about an hour after this that Katrina finished the last of her sandwich. It had to have been one of the most painful meals that Katrina had been forced to endure in a long while. Travis said nothing to her. He was silent and almost lethargic. Never in their entire two years of being together had Travis and Katrina been face-to-face without saying a word to each other. Presently, Travis wasn’t even sitting across from her. He was in the distance, sitting alone at the very top of the hill, staring out at the sky. She had seen him this contemplative before, but he wasn’t quite so depressed. Not even Angel could snap him out of it. In fact, it seemed like Travis’ depression was worse every time Angel was around. There was tension there. Everyone could feel it – especially Katrina. For her, it was getting harder and harder for her to take.
Groaning, Katrina stood and walked over to where Travis was sitting. She stopped directly on his left. It disturbed her barely when she realized that it took him five seconds to register her presence. He looked like his mind was somewhere else at the moment.
“Something’s up with you,” Katrina didn’t just say – she gave a firm, peremptory statement. “What’s wrong?”
“We might be on the same side for now...” Travis sighed. “But...if we both make it to the Emerald League...”
“When,” Katrina said firmly. “There’s no ‘if’.”
“Speak for yourself,” Travis said bitterly. “At the rate I’m going...”
“You’re just rusty – that’s all,” Katrina said, looking across the skyline as well. “Not to mention you’re going up against Pokémon you’ve never seen before. Hoenn’s a completely different world than what we’re used to. Heck, even the government system is different.”
“Hoenn has a king, right?” Travis asked. He’d heard something about that.
“Yeah – Hoenn’s ruled by a royal family,” Katrina said. “Even has its own knights...”
“I wonder how those knights are...” Travis mused. “I guess it depends on the king, right?”
“I guess so...but you’d hope that, regardless of what the king’s like, a real knight would be strong and virtuous,” Katrina said, a significant smile flickering across her lips like a candle in the wind. “Speaking of kings...”
Travis looked up at her. She stretched and sat down beside him, leaning her head on his shoulder.
“Doesn’t this place remind you of King’s Mound?” she asked.
“King’s Mound?” Travis repeated. Katrina sighed in exasperation, shifting herself over Travis’ leg and into his lap. She leaned into his chest, looking up at him.
“Okay, now I know something’s wrong with you,” she said. “I know you remember where King’s Mound is.”
Travis sighed and his mind went back a couple of years. King’s Mound was on the road from Goldenrod to Ecruteak. It was a hilly grassland known for its beautiful scenic views. More importantly, though...it was the first place that Travis and Katrina had traveled together as a couple. It had been two years...but a long two years, and Travis hardly remembered the place until Katrina brought it back to the front of his mind. For the first time in a day or two, a smile crossed his lips.
“You told me we’d be together forever,” he said nostalgically. “Back then, I thought you were just saying that, but now...”
Katrina looked up at him hopefully.
“Now you actually believe me?” she asked.
“Forever’s a long time,” Travis sighed. “But you’ve been putting up with me for almost two years, so I guess that’s a start.”
Katrina looked up at him. “You’re not as much of a burden as you think you are.”
“I know – I’m worse,” Travis commented with a bitter smile.
“You’re too hard on yourself,” Katrina sighed. “You’ve just gotten here, and you should still be recovering, anyway.”
“Am I not?” Travis muttered. He looked over the field with a resigned sort of smile on his face. Katrina responded with a heavy sigh.
“You’re being a downer,” Katrina commented, looking up at him. “Looks like you need some cheering up.”
“I’m not a d–“ Travis didn’t get to finish his statement, as Katrina laid a kiss on his lips.
“Yes, you are,” Katrina said with a teasing tone in her voice. “You’re depressing.”
She kissed him again.
“Hey!!” Travis’ eyes switched focus from his girlfriend to the bottom of the hill. There, a young boy stood at the bottom of the hill, pointing up at the two teen trainers with his left index finger. “You two are Trainers, aren’t you?!”
“Weren’t we rudely interrupted that time, too?” Katrina asked – although she already knew the answer. Travis saw an opportunity and whispered into Katrina’s ear.
“I’ll take him this time,” he said. Katrina stood up and allowed Travis to do the same. Travis slowly descended the hill and, as his steps took him lower, his eyes got a better look at the challenger. He might have been twelve...might have been. But he was...well, a shrimp. Whereas Travis was just over five and a half feet tall, this kid was a head and a half shorter – five feet tall, at a generously high estimate. He wore a bright red cap, which was fitted on his head backwards. Out from under this cap came messy, black hair that sat upon his eyebrows, which sat in turn upon dark, brown eyes. Under this head was a rather skinny neck. Under this neck was a chest that was covered by a white t-shirt. Below this shirt were a pair of khaki shorts that stopped right above knee level, exposing ashy, scabbed knees and extremely skinny shins.
“My name’s Brian and I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!” the boy shouted. “I just caught a new Pokémon, and I’m looking to try him out!”
“That’s a coincidence,” Travis said, taking a ball off of his belt and enlarging it. “Same here.”
“You show me yours and I’ll show you mine!” Brian shouted, jumping back and running to the foot of a neighboring hill. Travis took two steps back, placing himself at the foot of the hill on which he and Katrina had stopped to have lunch.
“Alright – Champ, let’s go!” Travis yelled, throwing the ball into the air. It burst open, shooting forth an extremely bright, white light toward the ground. This amorphous light took form and faded to reveal a green, gecko-like creature with a bright red belly and a prominent, dark green tail.
“<First-round pick ready to rock!>” Champ shouted, performing a flip for show and imitating a martial-arts stance.
“A Treecko? My brother got a Treecko when he left two years ago,” Brian commented. “I still think we can take you, though. Porcuspine!”
Brian slung his Pokéball into the air. It rose to about ten feet from the ground and dropped, bursting open and shooting forth a white light of its own. This light shrank substantially until it formed into a hedgehog-like creature – brown and barely a foot off of the ground, it that.
“Porcuspine?” Travis muttered, taking out his Pokédex. “Normal-type known for its defense. Lack of speed...we’ll just have to outpace them.”
“Porcuspine’s defense is near impenetrable!!” Brian exclaimed.
“Can you keep up, with Champ, though?” Travis asked. “Use Pound attack!”
The Treecko planted one foot on the ground and took off toward Porcuspine. He closed the distance between them in four steps and on the fifth, he stopped and pivoted on his foot, bringing his tail around to make contact with the Hedgehog Pokémon’s flank. With less than two seconds to react, Porcuspine was far too slow. He took the hit full-force, flying a substantial distance because of his lack of size. Porcuspine hit the ground and rolled to his feet. Squeaking loudly, he scuttled forward, apparently angry enough to blow smoke out of his nostrils.
“Good shot!” Travis shouted.
“<Home team: one; other guys: zip!!>” Champ exclaimed enthusiastically. “<Want some more?>”
“Crap...” Brian muttered. “Porcuspine, use Tackle attack!”
Porcuspine scuttled along the ground again, its many spines standing on end, and rushed Champ. Champ, having the speed advantage, dodges left just as Porcuspine gets there. Porcuspine changed direction and rushed the green Wood Gecko again. Champ dodged a second time by performing a rather fancy flip out of Porcuspine’s path. This, however, caused Champ to stay in the air a second too long, which resulted in Porcuspine catching up with him and delivering a sharp blow to the Treecko, knocking him backward. Getting his feet under him, he skidded to a stop only to be hit a second time by Porcuspine, who was still moving. Champ hit the ground hard and rolled to a stop at Travis’ feet. Staggering to his feet, Champ looked up at Porcuspine with a fire in his eyes.
“<Time-out...>” Champ grunted. “<That didn’t feel good at all...>”
“Not this time,” Travis groaned. “Champ, try another Pound!”
For a second time, Champ took several quick strides toward Porcuspine and began to pivot on his back foot.
“Defense Curl, now!” Brian shouted. As hedgehogs are known to do, Porcuspine curled up into a ball and caused all of the hundreds of little spines on his tiny, brown body to stand erect. As Champ smashed his tail into the minuscule Normal-type, these spines took the full force of the blow, thereby protecting Porcuspine from much of the damage he would have sustained. But it also had another effect.
“<Ouch!>” Champ groaned, favoring his tail. “<Hey, what the heck?!>”
“What happened?!” Travis shouted in shock and worry. He then recounted those last ten seconds in his mind. “Those spines...damn it!”
To add to Travis’ problems, the adrenaline rush that Champ had been feeling for most of his first battle had worn off, and the puncture wounds from the repeated Tackle attacks became very noticeable to him. Champ fell to one knee, in obvious pain and also appearing to be very tired.
“Finish him off!” Brian shouted. “Pin Missile!”
Travis’ eyes went wide. Despite Porcuspine being a Normal-type, Pin Missile, he remembered, was classified as a Bug-type attack. Bug-type moves tended to do very well against pure Grass-types like a Treecko. To make matters worse, Champ couldn’t move – they were screwed.
Champ took the majority of the spines that Porcuspine had fired from his back to his own, bright red belly. Completely out of energy and severely wounded, he teetered backward on his heels and then hit the ground with a thud and a slight kick-up of dust. Katrina, having witnessed the battle from the top of the hill, sighed morosely.
“Good job, Porcuspine!” Brian exclaimed, pumping his fist while the small Hedgehog Pokémon squeaked in celebration. “Hey, you put up a good fight, but it looks like Porcuspine and I outlasted you!”
Travis didn’t bother to say anything, or to even look at Brian as he returned his Pokémon and left. Travis returned Champ to his ball and sighed. Katrina was descending down the hill, but he didn’t hear her or pay any attention to her words of encouragement. Only one thing stood out in his mind –
He had lost, again – and, what was worse, he had lost to a boy that was very obviously a rookie. In fact, Travis wasn’t even sure the boy had been old enough to get his Trainer’s License and participate in the Emerald League.