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Thread: Travels of the Trifecta! (PG-13)

  1. #51
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    This Was Really GOOOD! Great job!!!!!
    My mum's favorite phrase of all times: "Lillian Granger!!!! Get in this room right this moment, or i'll ship you back to England to live with your Great Aunt!........YES! The one with all the cats!!!!!" yeah... i hear that about twice a week.


  2. #52
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    I read all your chapters, and I have to say, SPOT-ON with Paul/Brandon/Reggie personality, and I cannot wait for the new chapters. I myself am a fan of Paul, and I like to read fics about him, and lesser seen characters (Conway), but there seems to be none yet, until I read yours. The way you amplify Brandon's rough personality to a point where he is yelling at people about certain condolences, it is amazing. Just a side note, it seemed to me that Brandons acceptence of Reggie despite his failure against him seemed a bit rushed, regardless of the fact Reggie was in a life-threatening accident. Other than that, nothing really big wrong. I say Bravo!

    PS, I would like to be added to the PM list please.
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  3. #53
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    ♥~ Love the detailed reviews! And yup, you're on the PM List now. As for resolving the Brandon/Reggie conflict too quickly, yeah... I can see how it came off that way. XD I will have to be totally cheap and blame the anime for blindsiding me with unexpectedly following a similar route to me, which necessitated me to resolve the Regigigas book subplot a lot sooner than I initially planned to. By extension, it meant getting a lot of that conflict dealt with pretty early on, sadly.

    But...! Rest assured it's not completely resolved. Reggie in general still has some issues going on (and still has a bit of an uphill battle in terms of training). While the bigger and main conflict undeniably lies within Brandon and Paul, there's still a little bit of tension on the Reggie end of things (which I rather poorly convey with Brandon unable to hug Reggie back and preferring to just scold him for being too soft instead). I've already got a detailed backstory on that... which I'm not sure when it'll come into play, but hopefully it'll reignite the spark there before Reggie has to battle dad!

    Believe you me, that was a plot element I was rather sore about having to resolve so much of so quickly too. Hence, I'm not letting it all go so easily. XD

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  4. #54
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    This is still one of my favorite fics here (heck, it's actually my only favorite . . . XD). You already know how much I'm loving this fic. <3 <3 <3

    The detail, the personalities, the DRAMA, the backstories . . . wow, so perfect. I never really got into the characters that much (only because of my lack of cable and DIAL-UP internet), but I'll admit it - I love the way you write them in this. It's great . . . just great. (Running out of words . . . darn it.) Somehow, I am growing fond of Paul, Conway and most especially Brandon. (I love the more gruff version, although I have yet to watch any of his eps. yet . . . so for behind! GAH.) I think I'll warm up to Reggie yet (although I do like him in the anime too)! Hope things go well for all of them now!

    The banner . . . oh GOD. It's gorgeous. You did a great job with the details and everything (read one of your previous responses about it). Very nice.

    Oh, and can you add me to your PM list? Thanks!

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  5. #55
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    Added! And... you're really going to like it when I start involving Team Galactic as of the end of Chapter 9, if all goes as planned, ahahaha. ♥; I appreciate all the love you're giving and I really hope the anime comes through in complimenting my own schemes rather than trying to tear them apart!

    Reggie potentially being in Snowpoint is something I didn't expect, but I can work that in. I really hope Paul loses against Brandon, 'cause otherwise the subplot I have in mind just won't work as well... I REALLY hope the battle is not an official one, since Paul never once said he ever challenged the Kanto Frontier (and in the story, he officially hasn't), and I wouldn't want my main battle resolved so quickly... they'll probably briefly describe Paul's clash with Candice, and hopefully that'll give me some leeway into how I can play that to my liking if they aren't too specific about it... and oh god, the possibility of Brandon not getting Regigigas after all that... it's really all of the little details that concern me more than the concern of whether or not they'll say Brandon is Paul and Reggie's dad. I guess that's because that's the one that covers all bases, and if that one goes down, everything goes down and this is completely AU. With the smaller details, it gets more complicated. XD Not to mention more annoying.

    It's so up in the air right now, and we've only got about 8 days left to go! And we'll be getting an actual preview soon, too!

    I've added the main characters' (Paul/Brandon/Reggie/Conway/Maylene) party Pokemon at the front page for reference. Whenever Barry joins the main cast, he'll be up there too. Additionally, I've been making my own fanart based on the story. I should make a thread for it here on the forums. I'll link to it when I make it on the front page, but until I actually do so, my deviantArt page (which is linked in my sig) has everything I've done so far.

    Keep an eye out, everyone~! Once I get my hands on DP128 and watch it, I'll be writing Chapter 8 like a wild banshee! ♥

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  6. #56
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    Hey, Shinneth! The preview of DP 128 is on You Tube. I just thought I'd let you know and it has Paul VS Brandon in it. Reggie is also in the episode. Hope the preview helps you!

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  7. #57
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    Ohhhhh believe me, it did. I saw it on Filb.de earlier this morning (full of buffering lag, so I'm gonna get me some screencaps later and go crazy later). It looks like Paul's going to use all 6 Pokemon (with quite a few new ones/reserves) against just... Brandon's three Regis, which is awesome. This is going to make for a very enjoyable adaption chapter, whenever that comes around. The fact that Paul is getting his Icicle Badge after Ash is also pretty freakin' sweet, too. I hope they leave some vagueness there so I can mess around with that.

    And I guess Zoey is officially going to be in the fic, now! I was just gonna have her mentioned, but now that they're actually going to cross paths and go Jerry Springer on us, it looks like Zoey's going to be a guest star in the distant future! And I hear there will be much reminiscing of Kanto from Ash and Reggie, so that's gonna be some good, good fodder for backstory. The theory just seems to be millimeters within reach now...!

    They'll totally never confirm it before next Thursday, so here's hoping it'll still support the fic~! ♥ (Also, whoever helps me out in actually... obtaining the goods via email, IM, PM, or whatever next week gets a lot of extra love from me!)

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  8. #58
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    This story is really amazing. Your work reminds me of that of Erin Hunter. It actually even inspired me. Could you please add me to your PM list?

    I don't use "uber" Pokemon, I don't calculate stat values, I don't use cheating devices, I don't breed my way to perfection, and I don't care about natures. I catch my Pokemon the way they are, and treat them like individuals instead of brainless drones. If you use this philosophy, copy & paste this into your signature (started by Tyranitar)


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  9. #59
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    ...Holy Arceus.

    You have, by far, the greatest grasp of Paul's character I've evr seen. I can hear his voice in my head, see his actions, his expressions...wow. This is a piece of gold in the Pokemon fanbase, and you deserve so much credit...

    And of course, everyone else is totally IC. And if they did something OOC (Like Reggie borrowing Paul's training methods), there was a reason behind it. Conway is cracking me up, Brandon has my interest....This is just gonne get better.

    Um...I'm new, but could you add me to your PM list, please? -blush-

    Update soon!

  10. #60
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    Shinneth, did you watch all of DP128 on You Tube and the preview of DP129 there? I'm sure they'll both help you with the chapter. Also, the chapter will most likely be your best chapter yet! I can't wait!

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  11. #61
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    FlameRose and gleamingxxpidgeot: You're both on the PM List now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Torpoleon View Post
    Shinneth, did you watch all of DP128 on You Tube and the preview of DP129 there? I'm sure they'll both help you with the chapter. Also, the chapter will most likely be your best chapter yet! I can't wait!
    I actually managed to watch DP128 live via Keyhole TV! Yeah, I really couldn't wait for it. I could stand to watch it again in better quality, and I'll probably do that later (and I already screencapped all of the cool stuff that's going on in DP129~ Brandon gets statue-fied?! MADNESS!). What I'm more concerned about is some translations for certain scenes...

    Because as we all know, the theory was not confirmed in DP128 after all. Now personally, I do not think that means that it's completely shut out, as we still have at least one more Brandon episode to plow through, and we're sure to get some Paul backstory once we hit the two-part battle with him and Ash in DP131 and 132 (and guess what: all that gets adapted into the fic!!), so I'm not giving up hope yet. I think everyone who's dismissing it right now is jumping the gun a bit. It's still possible that it totally won't happen, of course, but I was prepared for that ever since I started this fic.

    I'm mostly relieved that Paul got creamed in battle, because that'll allow for a much more interesting subplot I have planned for Paul post-Chapter 11. I'll be trying to find a logical reason for why Reggie would be all the way up in Snowpoint (things like this are why it was a goodthing to put myself on hiatus - I could've really screwed myself over again if I kept going) since apparently that was never actually EXPLAINED, but I'm sure I can work that in. I plan to make the Candice battle interesting, too.

    One oddity I'm finding is that Paul gets to the Snowpoint Gym after Ash does, even though Paul wasn't held up with a Contest, Pokemon Ping-Pong, and other various fillers to slow him down. I plan on using that little loophole to my advantage. Now, of course... the way our fanon family addressed each other ("Jindai-san", "Reiji-kun" and whatnot) that greatly contrasts to how I've had them address each other in the fic... that will be trickier, but I think I can work around that as well. I've spent the past couple of days figuring out how to incorporate the details, both the ones that fit and don't fit in with the fic. Provided 129 doesn't screw things for me, things should still be relatively in the clear.

    I just knew that there would be a lot of small details that would complicate the fic juuuust enough to annoy me. ♥; But it will persevere!

    Since Chapter 8 is surely not dependent on whatever will happen in DP129, I have officially started to write it as of last night! I'm only barely 2k words into the chapter, but yes, I expect this one to be rather huge. I don't think it's going to be the best one yet if only because Chapter 7 was rather massive and epic and will be a hard act to follow, but I plan to make it satisfying for all of you to compensate for the wait!

    Quote Originally Posted by gleamingxxpidgeot
    Your work reminds me of that of Erin Hunter.
    Wow, I really wish I knew who that was. Never got compared to another author before! I'm happy that I was able to inspire you, too! Thank you so much! And mucho gusto to you as well, FlameRose. ♥ All of this greatly warms my heart.

    So yeah! Hiatus is OVER! Can't tell you guys when I'll actually finish Chapter 8 (I want to pace myself this summer since Chapter 11 is the DP118 adaption - the dub of that shouldn't be coming until the second week of August, so I can't start/finish that chapter until I see the dub in order to properly adapt it)... but rest assured I have a lot of pent-up energy and writing drive I've been holding back since April 3rd! It's going to be a wild ride.

    One last thing: Front page has been updated again. I've drawn fanart based on the story if any of you are curious about visual details. Someone was also kind enough to draw a fanart for me! :') Do check that one out and praise Tiamat appropriately! and god forbid if any of you do actually want to draw stuff for this fic, I am ALL for it and you're good to go! I'll be sure to put up whatever any of you make on the first post of this thread!

    Love you guys mucho! Barring me answering questions you guys have, pray my next post here is an actual CHAPTER post~! ♥

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  12. #62
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    I don't think I've read such a fantastic character driven piece since... well, I don't even know. Pokemon Master? Oh well, who knows.

    It's truly refreshing to read fanfics such as this one, especially when the fandom is kind of cluttered with... okay, I'll say it, crap. The way you have characterized each and every player-from the extremely minor characters like Misty to the leads, and I'm especially staring at Paul and Conway-is astonishing and really reveals your ability to get inside a character's head.

    I can't wait to get a glimpse of "Casa Conway." I think Paul might just pull a Reggie and lose his cool if he has to spend another iota of a moment with his new companion.

    And I did squee a little when Reggie gifted Maylene with the Shell Bell necklace. But at first I was a bit like, "pedophilia much?" Well, I guess he's not 18 yet... But glad you had him clear that situation up.

    One more piece of fangirling and then I'm gone, I swear: Gotta love Conway's borderline stalker-obsession for Dawn. He just seems the type to latch on to the first girl who treats him nicely.

    (Add me to the PM list, please and thanks xx)
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  13. #63
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    Lol, I'm re-reading your whole story, it's so much fun to read it! XD


    |LJ| dA|

  14. #64
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    Hey, Shinneth! DP129 will make your fic very great. I can't wait to see Chapter 8. Also, in your fic, you'll make Brandon Reggie and Paul's father, right? Oh and in your fic, Paul so far has every badge except for the Icicle and Beacon badges?

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  15. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torpoleon View Post
    Also, in your fic, you'll make Brandon Reggie and Paul's father, right? Oh and in your fic, Paul so far has every badge except for the Icicle and Beacon badges?
    Well, Brandon already is their father as far as this fic's concerned. That's very well-cemented into this story. As for badges, that should roughly be right. At first I wasn't sure whether or not to say Paul also lacks the Fen Badge since the anime never said he fought and won against Crasher Wake (though he did say he was aiming for that Gym when he was talking to Reggie on the phone during Enter Galactic!). I could use that as a potential loophole to make some filler if I have to wait for the dub to catch up again, but at the same time, I'm not really feeling that writing a Paul/Wake battle will be all that fun.

    So for now we'll just say Paul has six badges, yes. I will indeed be writing the Candice battle probably around Chapter 12 (I'm doing something fun with that; you'll see).

    As for DP129's events... well, that's going to put my Brandon in a pickle, now won't it? I still really would like some straight translations for that and DP128 before I make some solid plans for how to work around those episodes, but I agree 129's going to make for a great adaption chapter as well. It seems unlikely I'll be adapting DP130, but that's just as well. A long stream of adaption chapters in a row just might drive me a little crazy considering the massive Ash/Paul battle that's forthcoming.

    isawthephoto: Belated in saying this, but you're on the PM list. ♥ I added you when I first saw the post, but HOLY MOLY I'm moved by your words! Thank you so much for the review~! You're also the 10th person to be on the PM list! Holy crap lots of people are amped for this, huh?

    Chapter 8's status? 7,229 words. I'm not even close to the Gym Battle segment yet. That means this chapter's gonna be huge. Better prepare yourselves, guys. Like before, I can't give you an approximation of when it'll be done, but "soon" sounds pretty accurate as I've been pacing myself and making sure this chapter lives up to quality standards and doesn't reek of "rushed". And incidentally enough, this chapter takes place during Ancient Family Matters! (after the sleepover segment, that is). So I plan for an interesting cameo later on in the fic that might amuse you. :')

    Alright! Let's all hope for some major progress this weekend! With Brandon and Regigigas out of the way, there's nothing holding me back!

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  16. #66
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    I was wondering... In the anime, Paul didnt prepare for his battle with Brandon and just fights with his pokemon, which were trained for candice gym battle. But in your story Paul already knew he would fight Brandon in snowpoint. Are you just going to ignore that or do you have a new plan for that?


    |LJ| dA|

  17. #67
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    There's a lot I'd like to know about for sure in DP128 and 129 before I solidify things, but I wasn't under the impression that Paul was going to specifically use Electabuzz/Magmar/Ursaring/Lairon/Nidoking/Hariyama for Candice and that he actually chose those specifically for Brandon, considering it seems strange that he'd swap out half his team all of a sudden like that when Torterra/Honchkrow/Weavile/Gliscor had been mainstays on his team since they were introduced/caught. My assumption was that Lairon, Nidoking, and Hariyama were reserves from his previous travels and not necessarily being actively trained, but brought out since Brandon would be an especially tough fight. Unless he explicitly said that he was using that team for Candice, I've gone on the assumption that Paul at least had time to pull out some reserves before he went against Brandon (hopefully someone is looking over Reggie's place while he's gone, so transfers would still be possible).

    As for expecting Brandon, I imagine I can work around that. Paul is expecting to cross paths with Brandon in the future, but he's figuring it would be on the way to Snowpoint City rather than at the city itself. He wouldn't expect Brandon to actually be in the city when he's got an actual lead on Regigigas' whereabouts and would be assuming he's off in some cave or cliff or something.

    In addition to that, Paul's going to be going through quite a bit of trouble before he reaches Snowpoint City (before he reaches Wind Town, even); quite a few problematic and traumatizing events that are also going to play a role in separating Conway from Paul in the future before Paul reaches Wind Town. Either way, the worst of it won't be a factor until Chapter 10, but the beginning of Paul's myriad of problems will be starting with the end of Chapter 8. With everything he's going to go through, it wouldn't be a surprise if his promise to encounter Brandon completely slips his mind. He's shown in the story to have a tendency to be forgetful as it is.

    (And yes, I do sorta have a plan for how to handle the "Jindai-san" and "Reiji-kun" thing since they address each other very differently in the fic, as well as how to dodge a lot of what'll make adapting DP128 tricky in the first place)

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  18. #68
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    (Alright, finally an actual CHAPTER POST! Um, remember how long Chapter 7 was? 8's kinda trumped it by more than... 10k words. That means I estimate this to take around 3-4 posts, much to my dismay. Any scene that seems pointless will prove not to be pointless in the future; over the past 2 months, I planned a lot out for this story, so there's lots of action to come (which won't be Gym Battle-related) within the next couple of chapters! In fact, I speculate the next three or four chapters will involve some sort of competition or conflict... anyway, space is a-wasting, so if you wanna ask me something, I'll answer on another post! Enjoy!)

    It was beyond Paul why he felt such overwhelming apprehension and contempt over something as minor as spending the night at someone else’s house. As a trainer who traversed the entire regions of Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn, he’d already spent the last few years far away from home and therefore had no choice but to spend many nights in unfamiliar places. However, places like Pokémon Centers and hotels were not quite analogous to spending a night at another trainer’s residence; especially if said trainer was Conway.

    Even after having his life saved by the studious freelancer – not to mention being assisted by him numerous times out of the goodness of his own heart after the fact – Paul still found Conway to be a rather shady character. For such an eccentric young man, Paul wondered just what kind of home Conway had and how he lived his everyday life. Even more importantly, Paul wondered if he would be able to last a full night under Conway’s roof and make it through the next morning with his sanity intact.

    Unafraid to stereotype, Paul fully expected Conway’s house to be some sort of dark and filthy hovel filled to the brim with useless junk stacked up against the walls and scattered all over the floor.

    Because of this, Paul was more than a little startled as his companion shoved him through the front door and into the hallway… and as Paul stumbled into Conway’s home, the very first thing he noticed was the sound made as his heels hit the floor: a clear, distinct clack-clack-clack with every step made. It became apparent that the floors of the hallway were made up of large tiles of solid, cream-colored marble.

    Flooring like that didn’t come cheap.

    After registering this, Paul looked up to see that as far as the hallway was concerned, it went against every stereotypical trait associated with the home of a shut-in geek (as Paul would consider Conway). There was nary a crack anywhere as far as he could tell, and the cathedral-style walls allowed for a very high ceiling. Elegant pictures were hung neatly on the walls, nice and evenly, though strangely all of them seemed to depict famous pieces of classical art with no trace of a family portrait anywhere. There were side tables along the walls with expensive-looking vases and small statues sitting upon them, and many plants adorned the corners. A large, ornate chandelier of glass hung over the boys and provided light for the entire area.

    The most notable detail of the hallway was the large, towering grandfather clock against the wall which Paul passed by. Like everything else in the hallway, Paul knew the clock must have been rather pricey as well.

    After he closed the front door, Conway took notice to Paul’s silence and smirked. “So, Paul…” He finally said; amusement present in his tone. “I can’t help but notice that you seem to be at a loss for words.”

    Hearing Conway’s voice snapped Paul back into reality. Unfortunately for Paul, though, he didn’t think to cover up his surprised expression before facing his traveling companion. “You… have a big house,” he muttered. “It wasn’t easy to tell that from the outside.”

    “Ah, yes,” Conway said in agreement, though his smug smile had not yet faded. “Appearances can be deceiving, indeed. But from a logical standpoint, that’s a good thing. Large houses that reflect the same level of beauty and value inside and out are always the ones that attract the burglars, wouldn’t you agree? A house that is rich on the inside and ordinary middle-class on the outside isn’t nearly as susceptible.”

    Reluctantly, Paul nodded. “That’s a strategy worth utilizing. Your parents at least have commendable preservation tactics.” He locked eyes with Conway as he proceeded to cut straight to the chase: “So you’re rich, I take it.”

    To that, Conway simply shrugged. “Eh, I guess you can say that. We’re not nearly the richest family in the city, but maybe for this particular block. I never was big on social status, though. It’s not that big a deal.”

    “Obviously,” Paul said under his breath. “You never came off like a millionaire to me, and if you really are as rich as you seem to be, it’s a wonder why you don’t try to bring that up around the women you pursue. In a shallow society like ours, almost anyone would be willing to deal with your insufferable personality if they knew you were loaded.”

    As talented as Conway was in dealing with Paul’s sour attitude, he couldn’t help but take a little offense to that. “Don’t talk like I’m some kind of playboy, Paul! I only have my eyes on one beautiful young lady at present and I intend to keep it that way. Besides, I’m not one who wants to be used for my monetary value,” he pointed out. “I’d like to win over Dawn with my pure and honest sentiments, and I want her to like me for who I am rather than what I’m worth. When it comes to love, it’s never worth it to take the easy way out.”

    Paul was now regretting spouting off his opinions on this matter, as the last thing he wanted at this point was to hear corny, moralistic preaching from a guy he could barely tolerate. If nothing else, Conway at least was more a fan of logic than blind optimism and faith. So while it wasn’t much, Paul could better stomach a conversation with Conway than with Ash.

    “You’ve got your work cut out for you, then,” Paul responded calmly, apparently not caring for Conway’s resolve to do things the right way. “On your own merits, you’re never going to get what you want because no one likes you for who you are. You realize that, right?”

    Conway sighed as he gently let his carryon bag slide off his shoulder and to the floor. “Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Paul…” Though he sounded depressed and/or exasperated with Paul’s attitude, he quickly smiled to his guest afterwards. “So, how about I show you the rest of the house, hm?”

    Paul blinked, as for a moment he was curious about the disappearance of Conway’s ability to be completely unfazed by his scathing words. Still, he was up for a change of scenery and was ready to get himself comfortable. The sooner he got to bed, the sooner he’d wake up in the morning and be out of this strange place. “If you really want to, I guess…” He said with uncertainty. “It’s quiet in here, though… do your parents go to bed early or what?”

    After briefly looking to the clock, Conway smiled. “Au contraire, they might not even be home from work yet. Guess it wouldn’t hurt to be sure, though. Maybe they’ll take interest in the fact that I’m hosting a sleepover tonight…”

    “Not home yet…?” Paul looked to the clock to see just what time it was: nearly 9:00. “It’s… late. What kinds of jobs require people to work these kinds of hours?”

    “Eh, you could say their occupations are rather demanding,” Conway vaguely noted. “My mom’s a pharmacy technician and my dad works at our city’s fine laboratory. True, most of their coworkers don’t work this late, but my parents are notorious overachievers. I guess you could say all the overtime they’ve put into each week really ‘pays off’, because a lot of that extra money they earn goes into making this place look all ritzy.”

    After hearing that, Paul looked slightly disgusted. “Sounds like they care about their social standing a lot more than you do.”

    “I’ll give you that one,” Conway conceded. “They’d have to hold their reputation in high regard to bury themselves in their work every single day.” He sighed and walked past Paul towards the living room. “Maybe tonight’s different… we’ll see here in a minute.” Conway looked around before suddenly raising his voice. “Franny…! I’m home!”

    Paul couldn’t see it, but he heard a female voice coming from the room Conway had entered.

    “Oh, what a pleasant surprise… not. Didn’t you say you would be gone for a few weeks before you left? One week isn’t considered ‘a few’, Connie.”

    “Would you please stop with that already?!” Conway barked out, clearly agitated. Paul wasn’t sure if he wanted to follow Conway into the living room to see what exactly was going on, but he couldn’t deny that his curiosity had been piqued now. “Even setting aside the fact that you’re seventeen and still calling me names, that’s a girl’s name and you know it! When are you going to realize it stopped being funny after-… well, it wasn’t even funny to begin with! Can you please do me a favor and try to be mature for tonight, at least?”

    “Sounds like more trouble than it’s worth,” the female voice, apparently “Franny’s”, replied. “You still haven’t explained yourself, by the way. I honestly hoped to have at least one more week of freedom from you.”

    Conway grumbled at first, but managed to calm himself enough to give the requested explanation. “Something unexpected came up while I was on the way to Canalave City,” he said. “A strange twist of fate allowed me to reunite with an old friend of mine and I’ve been traveling with him ever since. He comes from Veilstone City too, you see.”

    “Another one of your imaginary friends. I see,” Franny noted, sounding bored and unconvinced with the story.

    After a disgruntled growl, Paul could hear Conway stomping his foot against the living room floor. “He’s completely and totally a nonfictional human being, Franny! He fell ill while we were at Canalave and then there was a family emergency he needed to come back here to take care of, and since he was sick and had nobody else to take care of him, I offered. That’s why I’m home sooner than I expected to be. I guess you’re not buying any of that either, are you?”

    “Not really,” Franny admitted. “Either way, it’s a pity I can’t just kick you out. You’re starting to babble, and you know how much I can’t stand that.”

    To this, Conway sighed. “I just wanted to know if mom and dad happened to be home early for once. They should know that I’m having a guest sleep over for tonight.”

    “Hah!” Franny sounded amused by this. By now, Paul was inching ever-so closer to the doorway leading to the living room so he could see what this young woman was all about and how she could so effortlessly get under Conway’s skin with the simplest of insults. “And Grumpigs can fly. No, they’re not home yet, Connie. And don’t even think about asking me to make supper for you just because you’ve only now come back home.”

    “I know better than to ask you to handle my meals,” Conway said snidely; his eyes narrowing as he glared. “Afflict me with food poisoning once, shame on you. Afflict me with it twice, shame on me.”

    Paul then appeared at the entrance to the living room, finally able to see who Conway was conversing with. Stretched out across a sofa with a book in her hand, Paul spotted a young woman who indeed looked to be about his older brother’s age. Her teal hair (very close to the shade of Conway’s hair, though a bit darker than his) was tied back into a ponytail with a dull blue ribbon. It was her thick, oblong oval-shaped glasses, however, that undeniably marked her as a relative of Conway’s.

    Out of nowhere, Paul suddenly remembered something Conway had said to him while the two were on the ship headed towards the Valor Lakefront:

    “Really, consider yourself lucky, Paul… All I know is… I wouldn’t mind having an older sibling that held as much love and respect for their family as yours does.”

    He never asked Conway what exactly he meant by that incredibly vague statement. But now, it all became very clear to him.

    “So you have a sister,” Paul acknowledged as he walked over to Conway’s side. Conway was slightly startled by this, having briefly forgotten about his guest, but he nodded to Paul while looking slightly uneasy.

    “Y-yes,” Conway confirmed, gesturing towards his sister. “Paul, this is my sister, Franny.” He then glared at his sister. “Franny… this is my real-life guest for tonight, Paul.”

    Upon hearing a new (and unfamiliar) voice entering the conversation, Franny looked up from her book to see that her brother was telling the truth: for the first time ever, Conway had actually brought home a companion he didn’t fabricate from his own imagination. Her book slipped out of her grasp and fell onto her lap as she gaped at the scene. Conway simply couldn’t help but smirk at her shock and surprise. Even without paying much attention, Paul could feel the strong sense of animosity between the two siblings… and to him, he found it a little interesting, as this was nothing like anything he ever felt before, even when he and Reggie had their disagreements.

    “I suppose… there’s a first time for everything,” Franny begrudgingly admitted. “It certainly took you long enough, Connie. What did you do, bribe him?”

    Before Conway could respond, Paul decided to clear things up. “Conway told me nothing about how rich his family is; I had no idea that you all were loaded until I stepped into the house.”

    And “loaded” was an appropriate word for Conway’s family, as even the living room was custom designed to represent the epitome of comfortable modern living. Even more decorations adorned the walls of this room, and of course, no upper-class living room was complete without a fireplace. As far as Paul could see, the house was spick-and-span – virtually flawless. He wondered if they could actually afford a maid to keep this house consistently tidy.

    “Hold on,” Franny interrupted, now scrutinizing Paul. She leaned over and adjusted her glasses to get a better look at Conway’s young companion. “You… look familiar.”

    Paul grunted and rolled his eyes; like he hadn’t heard that line before from a total stranger. “I can’t imagine how,” he said in a sarcastic manner. “Conway, have you told her about me?”

    “Obviously not,” Conway replied. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered introducing you.” He then looked to his sister. “Franny, this is who I battled against in the Tag Battle Tournament that took place in Hearthome City a few months ago.”

    Franny shook her head. “I know that. I was the only one watching that pathetic battle on TV, remember? I knew you were doomed the second you were partnered with a girl.”

    Paul couldn’t help but smirk at this… because he fully agreed with Franny. “It’s true that he wasn’t a very formidable competitor. That girl completely blinded him.”

    By now, Conway’s face was turning red with embarrassment and shame. “It wasn’t a complete shut-out battle, Paul! Stop giving her ammunition against me!” He crossed his arms, now appearing to be grumpy over the ordeal. “We’ve established that Paul’s the guy I battled with on TV. Is that good enough for you, Franny?”

    Franny stared at Paul again, which made him feel a bit uncomfortable this time. “So this is Paul of Veilstone City… he has an older brother who runs the breeding center in our city, correct?”

    “Well… yes,” Paul answered, a little put-off by her observational skills that came even more quickly to her than Conway’s. “Looks like you’ve done your homework.”

    “I have,” Franny curtly responded with a nod. “So you are indeed that Paul… the son of Kanto’s most powerful Frontier Brain.”

    After the frustrating and humiliating ordeals Paul had just gone through with the unexpected reunion with Brandon not more than an hour ago, the last thing he wanted to do was talk about the man who picked him up by the scruff of his neck.

    Conway could sense the anger emanating from Paul just by the mere mention of his father. As he desired to avoid another conflict, he stepped back into the conversation. “You would be right, Franny! But Paul really doesn’t like talking about that particular subject, so how about we just leave it at that, okay…?”

    “Huh…?” Paul was surprised at Conway’s actions. He looked to his slightly-older companion, clearly confused, but Conway simply smiled back at him, albeit uneasily.

    “A touchy subject, I see,” Franny acknowledged. “Well, Connie, you managed to wrangle a real person into our home; a rather status-noteworthy one, at that. Mildly impressive, at least.” She picked up her book and resumed reading it… but it seemed to be rather inappropriate to do so right in the middle of a conversation. At least, Paul thought so. Conway seemed to take offense to it as well, as he glared at Franny again.

    “Just ‘mildly’, huh?” Conway asked, sounding somewhat hurt now. Paul’s curiosity was aroused once more; he’d never heard Conway sound like this before. “N-not that I care what you think or anything, of course! It’s always a waste of time trying to talk to you because nothing’s ever good enough in your eyes!”

    Franny let out an aggravated sigh as she glared intensely at Conway past her book. “You’ve officially hit the limit for today, Connie. You’re talking nonsense now, and you know I can’t stand that. I’d be surprised if mom and dad even realized you’ve come back home early, to be perfectly honest. Just be about your way; spend time with your real-life playmate and leave me be. This conversation is over.”

    To be shut out so efficiently… Paul was a little impressed. He wondered why he couldn’t ward away people like this.

    Conway, however, wasn’t finished yet. “But Franny, you’re not even-”

    “I believe I said the conversation has ended, little brother,” Franny interrupted, speaking loudly over Conway to drown out his voice and bring him to full attention. “Vacate the area; there’s a reason why you have your own room, idiot.”

    Regardless of whether or not Conway considered himself finished… he certainly was now; Franny had decided that for him. By now, he knew how this game was played. He couldn’t hide the upset look on his face, much as he hated to reveal it to Paul. Still, with great restraint, he was able to keep himself from having an emotional outburst and simply whirled around to exit the living room. “Fine! Be that way!”

    He stomped his way back into the hall. Paul briskly followed, not needing to be told to come along. As Conway made his distance from the living room, Paul caught up with Conway. He pretended not to care too much about this debacle, but couldn’t help being curious. “So… what was that all about?”

    Conway then stopped and leaned his back against the wall. After brushing the hair out of his face, he folded his arms and opted to look at the floor rather than directly at Paul. He was reluctant to say anything at first, but then remembered how nosy he’d been about Paul’s family earlier on. Conway just didn’t expect to have karma bite him back this soon.

    “You’re really lucky to have Reggie, Paul,” Conway said; his voice strained and full of envy. “You see why now, don’t you…?”

    “What, just because we don’t fight as much?” Paul asked, slightly offended by the assumption. “It’s not like we don’t fight at all, you know. You just saw us fight today. The reason I have to stay with you tonight is because of us not getting along. All brothers and sisters have their spats; it’s not unnatural. You’re being melodramatic.”

    Conway shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. I know you two don’t have a perfect relationship or anything… but at least you two still love and care about each other. You can’t deny that, Paul.”

    Paul looked a little skeptical about where this was going. Still, he knew Conway was right; there was no point in wasting time trying to deny what they both knew was true. “So what do you mean? Are you saying you don’t love or care about your sister at all?”

    “Why should I?” Conway asked him. “You just saw it; she couldn’t care less about me! Franny only allows maybe five minutes maximum for me to even talk to her every day… and she’s the only one who’s home all day! You’re the first person I’ve ever brought home to spend the night, Paul… and she barely even noticed!”

    Paul shrugged. “So she’s self-absorbed. But unlike me, you actually have parents who can sort this out. Haven’t you tried taking up the matter with them?”

    “I’d be fortunate if they even got my name right whenever they acknowledge me,” Conway complained, now looking at Paul. “Because Franny’s right about that, too; they probably won’t even notice that I’ve returned, much less brought over a guest for tonight. Trying to get them to actually solve an issue for me would require some sort of miracle occurrence.”

    This completely bewildered Paul. “Your parents don’t recognize you? How is that even possible?

    “I wish I had a valid answer for that,” Conway bemoaned. “My best guess is they’re so consumed with their jobs during the day and each other at night that they’ve forgotten to make time for parenting. Makes me wonder how Franny and I survived our infant years, really… they must’ve hired a lot of babysitters. Still, after what I’ve witnessed today, Paul… I almost wish I had a dad like yours.”

    “Excuse me?” Paul wasn’t sure he heard that right, but the initial statement drew an intense glare out of him. “You want a dad like my old man? Are you even listening to yourself?!”

    Conway knew he would have to explain himself for this one… “I mean it, Paul. Brandon actually acknowledges you and Reggie. He clearly thinks about you two a lot… he may be a little stiff and he’s definitely intimidating, but he wants the best for you two and it must be one heck of a sacrifice to force himself to stay in Kanto just to be able to support his family.” He then smiled to Paul. “More than anything, he just seems to have been a little misunderstood. It looks like he at least made a huge breakthrough with Reggie tonight.”

    “Listen, one night does not make up for the seven years that he’s been completely absent in our lives!” Paul shouted back, furious at this point. “Don’t act like you know everything about my family situation, because you have no idea!

    “Neither do you, actually,” Conway pointed out. “A lot of your family issues stem from the fact that your mother died well before her time. All three of you have made that apparent: Reggie wants a Brave Symbol to distinguish himself from her, Brandon has a hard time letting go of her which causes him to run away from the situation, and you don’t even know who she is.”

    Paul growled; he was not looking forward to a whole night of talking about his particular subject. “Look, you can’t compare our families because they’re nothing alike. My brother dotes on me too much while your sister apparently hates your guts; I virtually have no parents and you have both of yours. We’re completely different and you can’t possibly understand me!”

    “I might as well not even have parents,” Conway suddenly said, which intrigued Paul. “Sure, they’re both still alive… and they come home every day, but they’re a total non-presence in this house. They hardly listen to Franny and they completely tune me out. They don’t act like parents at all, you know? They didn’t even watch the Tag Battle Tournament. I reminded them about it constantly, but only Franny watched me on TV. Even then, Franny had nothing but criticism for me even though I was a finalist.”

    Paul turned around, facing away from Conway. “It’s pointless to debate about this; you’re just a rich, spoiled brat who’s starved for attention. I was going to try and stomach spending yet another night with you, Conway, but this is too much. Where’s your phone? I’m getting a hotel room.”

    “W-wait, no!” Conway rushed forward and grabbed Paul by the shoulders. “Look, there’s no need to resort to that! If it’ll get you to stay, we can stay off the family topic for the rest of the night, I swear!”

    It was very hard for Paul to buy this. He wondered why he hadn’t thought to ditch Conway and get a hotel room in the first place; it would’ve been much easier to do so while they were still outside. Paul decided to blame Conway’s nosiness that brought about an engrossing conversation while the two were on the way to his house. But Paul thought that perhaps all hope was not lost yet.

    “Conway, you know as well as I do that I don’t want to be here,” Paul reminded his desperate companion. “I couldn’t care less about your family situation and it would be much more beneficial for all of us if you just let me spend the rest of the night in a hotel in peace.”

    Unfortunately for Paul, Conway refused to let go of him and he continued to look panicked and desperate. “Please, Paul, let me make this up to you! Reggie specifically wanted me to be with you tonight, and if nothing else, I don’t want to disrespect his wishes especially after he just got out of the hospital! Wouldn’t you feel bad disrespecting your big brother’s wishes…?”

    Paul shook his head, for that was an easy question to answer. “He backstabbed me, if you recall. After all the trouble I went through to keep that book out of the old man’s hands, what does Reggie do? He forks it over right to the person I went out of my way to keep that book away from. He’s the disrespectful one.”

    “Oh, Paul…” Conway sighed out, unable to hide his exasperation over the fact that Paul was still being ridiculously self-centered about that particular situation. “I’m sure you two can sort things out in the morning. But for now, you need to relax and get all of this off your mind. I know my family leaves a lot to be desired, but on the positive side, I can tune them out just as easily as they tune me out. You’ll find this house a much better place to relax in than some crummy hotel room.”

    Paul glared at the slightly-older trainer. “And how exactly do you plan to keep me here?”

    “Hm…” The lenses of Conway’s glasses shined as he pondered that briefly. He then smirked. “Just how much money do you have left, Paul?”

    That was actually a good question, and Paul paused himself before giving an answer… because he honestly didn’t know. He’d been journeying for so long since the last time Reggie gave him spending money, and Paul knew he was getting very close to running on empty at this point… especially after all of those lemonades that he purchased on the ship that he needed in order to down his medicine while he was sick.

    Conway continued to smirk as Paul brought out his wallet and fished through it, trying to count what little he had remaining of his own funds.

    “Twenty…” Paul muttered; his eyes focused on the inside of his wallet as he glared. He certainly was running low on money. Conway’s knowing smile told Paul he had no way to reason himself out of this one.

    “Just twenty dollars?” Conway mused, chuckling to himself. “That isn’t even enough money for the cheapest room in Veilstone’s motel,” he pointed out, which Paul was well aware of. Things only got worse when Paul’s stomach grumbled quite loudly out of nowhere. It took a great deal of restraint for Conway not to laugh at that while Paul resisted a blush and covered his stomach with his hands.

    “I almost forgot; we haven’t eaten since we disembarked hours ago at Lake Valor!” Conway exclaimed. “Goodness, no wonder I’m so grumpy. Paul, you can’t stay in a hotel with that little money anyway. You might as well stay here where it’s not only comfortable, but you’ll also have the benefit of a home-cooked meal that’ll completely be on the house. You know you can’t get that even at the totally-free Pokémon Center.”

    Paul sighed; try as he might, it seemed he couldn’t logically get himself out of Conway’s house tonight after all. A cheap, nasty room wouldn’t have put him at ease, and he couldn’t deny that he was borderline-starving. Since he was denied in his own home, it looked like Conway was the only viable option he had.

    “Guess I have no choice,” Paul admitted, much as he hated doing so out loud. “Just try to be a little more bearable than you usually are, alright?”

    “I’ll do my best!” Conway assured. “And once we’ve eaten, you’re more than welcome to use my shower to wash up before we go to bed.”

    Paul shrugged off Conway’s generosity as they both made their way towards the kitchen. “As long as you keep your distance from the bathroom while I’m in there, then-…” He paused. Something didn’t sound right just then. “What do you mean by your shower?”

    For a moment, Conway wasn’t sure what Paul was asking, but then laughed a bit when he realized what his companion meant. “Oh, I guess I didn’t tell you! This house has three bathrooms. My parents have the master bathroom, Franny has her own bathroom, and I’ve got my own as well.”

    Such a thing was well beyond Paul’s imagination: individualized bathrooms for every member of the family. Not that it was a big deal that he and Reggie shared one or anything, and there was certainly no need for more than one in their family anyway… the concept in itself seemed superfluous to the callous trainer.

    Conway took interest to Paul’s shocked expression and broke the silence. “What, is that an alien concept to you or something? Don’t be too jealous, Paul; my bathroom’s the smallest of the three.”

    Paul shook his head, trying to get himself back into reality. “You’re still… ridiculously rich, is all.”

    The pair had entered the kitchen by this point. Conway headed for the refrigerator to see what sort of options they had for dinner. “It’s sort of late to be starting dinner, I know,” Conway admitted to Paul. “But things turn out that way sometimes. Besides, while we’re in here, I might as well start up something for my folks, too. They ought to be coming home soon. Is there anything in particular you feel like having?”

    “Uh…” Paul was uncertain what exactly was the norm for rich-people cuisine. He felt he should ask, first. “Just so we’re clear, you’re not the type who eats, like… caviar and escargot, right?”

    “Man, you sure don’t hesitate to stereotype, do you?” Conway asked him amusedly. “I personally refuse to consider such things legitimate food, so no, I don’t eat it. My family really doesn’t, either, but sometimes we break it out during parties or other social gatherings, since some of mom and dad’s friends partake in it, including Uncle Damon and Aunt Janet.”

    Paul leaned against the counter as he watched Conway search for a decent meal in the fridge. “Your extended family is rich, too?”

    Conway nodded, though he was more focused on finding food than making creepy gestures at Paul as he usually did. “Not much of a stretch, right? Both Uncle Damon and my dad were big on scientific research, so they both have similar jobs, though they don’t work at the same place. Still, they make decent money, which is a good thing, since they’ll be my ticket to ultimate freedom in the near future. So, does beef stir-fry sound good for you, Paul?”

    Paul blinked; Conway certainly had a thing for bringing up an interesting point and then following up with a completely unrelated casual remark, as if he were trying to change the subject before it even got started. “That’ll be fine… but how does your uncle’s occupation equal to your ‘ultimate freedom’, whatever that is?”

    “Oh, right!” Conway recalled, laughing it off as he took the necessary ingredients for the stir-fry out of the fridge and placed them on the counter. “Well, it’s indirectly giving me freedom. See, my uncle, aunt, and cousin all work at the same place. I’m not sure where exactly they work, but they say it’s related to the government, so they’re not at liberty to tell us much about what they do since all of their work involves confidential information. I’ll be getting freedom from Franny soon, since my cousin Sloan is planning to take her on as an intern. When that happens, she’ll finally be out of this house and out of my hair for good.”

    “I see,” Paul murmured, recalling that Franny was indeed the same age as Reggie, and therefore on the verge of becoming an adult herself. He figured this internship would be her way out into the world, on her own, and out of her parents’ house. “So she’s just biding her time until she turns eighteen?”

    Conway shook his head, now beginning the process of chopping up the ingredients to throw into the pan on the stovetop. “Actually, she could be recruited at any time. Sloan says it’s just a matter of when an opening pops up; he said he’d take her in as soon as the time is right. He even said when I’m old enough, he could get me a job over there as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll actually take up the offer. Naturally, I’m rather wary of working with my sister, even though Sloan’s pretty awesome.”

    “So there’s a member of your family you actually like,” Paul noted, watching Conway do all of the work for the dinner. “At least you have that much. No one in my family is likable.”

    “Oh, you don’t know that for sure!” Conway chimed in, looking over to Paul. “Your mom might’ve been a really nice lady. She must have been if Reggie takes after her, at least. Say, would you like to give me a hand here?” He gestured to the dinner he was making. “Stir-fry will probably be enough for us, but as hard as mom and dad work, they’ll probably want a side-dish to go with this.”

    Paul raised an eyebrow at Conway before stepping over to examine his work. “I suppose… what is it you want me to do?”

    “I’m thinking they’ll want a salad along with this, so can you get the vegetables out of the fridge?” Conway requested. “Then it’s really up to you whether you’d like to make the salad or if you’d like to finish up the stir-fry.”

    Paul froze momentarily before making a decision. “… Since you’re already well into that stir-fry, I guess I can… make the salad.” He sounded oddly uncertain about this, however, and Conway was quick to take notice to the hesitating as he watched his guest gather vegetables from the refrigerator, taking special notice to the mildly-confused look on his face.

    “You sure you can do this, Paul?” Conway asked him sincerely. “You look a little tense.”

    The immediate reaction was an intense glare from Paul as he set the vegetables on the counter. “I’m absolutely fine!” After getting a bowl and a knife, he began to slice a cucumber.

    “Um…” Conway was slightly nervous to ask what was suddenly bothering Paul, but felt the need to point something out. “Paul, maybe you should put the lettuce in the bowl first…?”

    It seemed so obvious, yet Paul looked over to the untouched head of lettuce and realized that was probably what he should have started with. “F-fine. Just shut up, Conway.” He began to tear off the lettuce and throw it into the bowl, but again, Conway noticed that Paul was doing so in a manner that was telling him that this was Paul’s first time handling a salad.

    Even though he’d been told to be quiet, Conway just had to ask. “This isn’t your first time, is it?”

    Paul tried to control himself from growling too loudly as he shredded a leaf of lettuce in half. “What are you talking about…?”

    “Well…” Conway continued to monitor Paul’s work as he resumed slicing the cucumber he started on. He could tell for sure this was Paul’s first time slicing a cucumber, as he was improperly handling the knife and making the slices horrifically uneven. “I’m figuring this is your first time making a salad based on how you’re doing it. Did Reggie honestly do all of the cooking at home?”

    Paul grunted as he forced the knife down with both hands gripping the handle to cut another slice (more like a chunk, though) of cucumber before glaring at Conway. “You’re saying I’m doing this wrong, then.”

    “I’d be wrong to say you’re doing it perfectly,” Conway admitted, nervously uttering a laugh. “You needn’t force yourself. I can handle both courses if you’re not comfortable…”

    “Why would this make me uncomfortable?!” Paul snapped back, even though that’s exactly how he felt that very moment. “It’s just cooking! One of the simplest tasks in the world!”

    “And evidently, you can’t cook,” Conway pointed out. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised since you focus all your energies on Pokémon training, but-”

    “Shut up!” Paul said again, now highly aggravated. His eyes were now glued to Conway as he fervently sliced the rest of the cucumber. “Maybe if you weren’t such a so-called ‘perfect’ cook, you wouldn’t be such a crappy trainer, Conway!”

    Conway blinked, confused at the statement. “I never said I was perfect at it… Paul, you really ought to be careful…”

    Paul refused to take his advice, however. “You’re being a condescending prep again! I even said when we first met on the ship to never talk down to-…” He was cut off by a sudden (but controlled) yelp of his own. Conway already figured out what happened before Paul did and proceeded to walk over to him.

    “This is exactly why I said you should be careful,” Conway scolded, now intentionally being condescending. “As hard and fast as you were cutting, it’s a wonder you didn’t slice your finger off.”

    Indeed, Paul’s lack of paying attention earned him quite a nasty cut on his index finger, and it was already bleeding. Paul winced and tried to hide it from Conway, but the blood dripping onto the chopping block gave him away. The only excuse he could give was, “W-well… accidents happen.”

    “This one could have been avoided if you didn’t get all riled up,” Conway noted. “Go ahead and wash it off under the sink; good thing you weren’t handling the meat. I’ll go get a bandage for you.”

    “Really, it’s not…” Paul couldn’t finish his sentence before Conway left the kitchen to get what he needed. “Necessary…” He sighed and went to the sink, running the faucet to clean off his minor injury. Paul knew he was in for a long night.

    Conway was quick to return, ready with a band-aid that was coated with an antibiotic to help keep the cut clean. “Has it stopped bleeding yet?” He asked with mild concern.

    Paul turned off the faucet and shook his head, remaining silent.

    “Must’ve been a deep cut,” Conway figured. “Come on over here; let’s get you patched up.”

    Resistance was futile, Paul knew. Therefore, he obeyed his companion and came to him, allowing said companion to carefully wrap the band-aid around his finger. The cut was completely covered and secure, sure to heal more quickly now. Still, Paul couldn’t deny that he was still in a bit of pain.

    After seeing Paul wince slightly, Conway smiled and brought Paul’s bandaged finger to his lips, giving it a quick kiss. “There! All better!”

    “What the…?!” Paul immediately shuffled backwards, putting serious distance between himself and Conway. This kind of thing seemed like something an odd person like Conway would do, but Paul simply didn’t expect it at the time. “What was that all about?!”

    Conway looked relatively innocent, however, and seemed genuinely bewildered at Paul’s reaction. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? If you get a little cut or something and your mom patches it up, she kisses it to make it better, right?”

    “How should I know?!” Paul hollered. “I don’t remember anything my mother did! You’re the one with parents; why are you asking me?!”

    “My mom never did it for me,” Conway said with a shrug. “But I’ve seen other moms do it with their kids plenty of times… both in TV and real life. Sloan even did it for me a few times.”

    Paul looked a little horrified. “Your cousin does this?”

    “Well, not anymore, obviously,” Conway said with a laugh. “But I always saw Sloan as the big brother I wish I had. He and I shared similar interests, so I got along with him much better than I did with Franny. I’d trade her in for him in a heartbeat. Only problem is the age gap, really…”

    “It figures that the rest of your family would be freaky just like you,” Paul commented. “Just keep it off of me, alright? You’re on thin ice here, Conway.”

    Conway sighed and looked out the window to view the shining moon outside. “A pity I can’t introduce you to Sloan. Ever since he started working for the government, he’s hardly been available for anything.” He apparently took no notice to Paul’s warning. “Come to think of it, I lent him a couple of games and he’s yet to return them to me… surely he’d be done with them by now. He’s the one who showed me the ropes in that specific area.”

    “You know, it’s somehow creepier that you obsess over your cousin compared to how you obsess over that girl,” Paul pointed out. “I think I’ll live without being ‘graced’ by his presence. Now, weren’t we in the middle of making dinner?”

    “Oh, that’s right!” Conway exclaimed, embarrassed that he forgot. “Mom and dad’ll be home any minute now!” He then looked uneasily to Paul, unsure if he wanted his companion to try out cooking again. “Uh, Paul… how about you take a seat at the table and I’ll just finish up here?”

    Paul looked snooty as he understood the meaning behind that suggestion. “Fine by me; I didn’t want to cook, anyway.”

    “Obviously,” Conway concurred as he turned the heat on the stove for the stir-fry and immediately went towards the unfinished salad to pick up where Paul left off. “As much as you travel, Paul, how in the world did you survive if you can’t cook?”

    “It’s called ‘eating out’,” Paul explained drolly. “Look into it.”

    Conway nodded as he chopped the vegetables like a professional; with rapid, consistent slicing maneuvers. “You stock up on junk, basically, and only eat real food when you see Reggie. That’s not very healthy, Paul.”

    “I know how to eat in moderation,” Paul assured, sounding confident with himself. “You’d be able to tell if I was overdoing it, wouldn’t you?”

    “I suppose that’s true…” Conway admitted while mixing the sliced vegetables in with the bowl of lettuce. “Then again, it’s hard to judge your body build since your clothes are so loose-fitting, but considering I got a good look at your build while I was drying those clothes out a few days ago, I know you’re looking pretty good considering your diet.” He pondered something while Paul looked disgusted at Conway’s detailed analysis of his body structure. “Come to think of it, you seemed to be kind of scrawny, as I recall. If you live off fast food and snacks most of the time, it’s no wonder I couldn’t tell.”

    It seemed no matter what topic they were on, Conway always managed to completely offend or disturb Paul once they got in-depth enough. The younger trainer did not like being told that he was too small. “There’s nothing wrong with my weight or how my body looks; will you quit being so judgmental, already?”

    “Ah, irony,” Conway said with a happy sigh. “Saying that like you have room to talk…” His attention turned towards his stir-fry as he began to finish that up now that he had fixed the salad. Paul gaped as Conway effortlessly flipped the contents of the frying pan around to cook it evenly and managed to keep everything in the pan. It looked like such a complicated technique, yet Conway handled it so casually that Paul completely forgot to respond to Conway’s statement.

    Just then, both boys heard a door open from a distance; the front door, to be precise. Conway smiled a little, knowing his parents had returned from work and were just in time to see their son cook dinner for them.

    “Get a couple of plates out for me, would you?” Conway requested, with optimism present in his voice. “I know you can at least handle that.” He gestured upwards. “They’re in that cabinet over there.”

    Paul nodded stiffly as he stood up to retrieve a couple of plates, which were no doubt fine china of the like that Paul had never seen in a residential kitchen before. He was especially careful not to break them as he set the two platters on the table. Without even being told to, he went back to fetch the bowl of salad and put it at the center of the table. Then, Paul noticed something odd about this set-up.

    “How in the world do you fit four people at this dinner table?” Paul asked out loud. “This isn’t nearly big enough… and there are only two chairs, anyway.”

    “Oh?” Conway looked back at Paul while turning off the stove, now done with the main course. “This isn’t really our dinner table, Paul.”

    Now Paul was confused, but ready to move to plates to their appropriate area. He didn’t recall seeing a proper dinner table as he examined the house upon arriving, however. “Well, where is it, then?”

    “We don’t have one,” Conway replied. He casually walked over to fill the two empty plates with stir-fry beef while Paul stared at him, not believing what he was hearing.

    “How can you not have a dinner table?” Paul asked. Before Conway could answer him, however, two adults had entered the kitchen at that moment, attracted by the smell of a well-cooked meal. They were not the ones who initially greeted the children, as Conway’s mother was busy talking on her cell phone while Conway’s father seemed to be immersed in his personal palm pilot. They seemed to be completely oblivious to reality, only brought in by the smell of the stir-fry beef.

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  19. #69
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    Nov 2008
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    “Mom! Dad!” Conway greeted enthusiastically, nodding to them as he finished up preparing their dishes. “Welcome home! You guys hungry…?”

    Conway’s mother’s eyes were not at all focused on the dinner, where she was presently, or her son. Instead, she was still conversing with someone on her phone, but the smell was at least beginning to divert her attention. “My apologies, dear, but I’ll have to put you on hold for the time being… yes, I know it’s inconvenient; I’m very sorry about that, but I promise you it will be brief. What kind of hold music would you like…?”

    “Mom…” Conway whined, though to him, this was nothing out of the ordinary. “Would it kill your client if you just hung up for once? This is kind of a special occasion, you know…”

    Since he never really had friends, it wasn’t every day that Paul would meet an acquaintance’s mother. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he was in company with a mother of any kind. Since he had no real memories of his own late mother, this was somewhat a jarring experience for the emotionally-repressed trainer. It disturbed Paul when he found that he couldn’t take his eyes off her for this very reason.

    It didn’t help that, as far as appearances were concerned, Conway clearly took after his mother. She had the exact same shade of green hair as her son’s, of the same length, and aside from some professional styling, most of it hung straight and loose just as Conway’s did. She certainly looked as rich as she was with all of her jewelry, most notably the necklace that held a large topaz gem in the center. Her yellow business coat and skirt complimented the necklace, but of course, what undoubtedly marked her as Conway’s mother was nothing other than her thick, black-rimmed glasses in the shape of diamond squares.

    “You like that one the best?” Conway’s mother exclaimed with amusement. “What a coincidence; I favor that one as well. I listened to it all the time when I was a little girl…”

    Paul frowned at this, now seeing why Conway would be frustrated at his parents as much as he was. “It’s like we’re invisible. Could she be any ruder?”

    “See what I mean?” Conway mumbled to his companion. He then looked to his father. “Hey, dad. Think you can stop planning your schedule for next month long enough to enjoy a nice dinner with mom? And maybe take notice to our new guest who’ll be staying over for the night?”

    While Conway took after his mother, it seemed Franny took after their father. His hair was deep blue – the color of the sea – and cut rather short, though he had a unique fringe roughly kept at an even length with slightly-longer sideburns. He too kept up the apparent family tradition of wearing glasses – his lenses were in the shape of flattened circles. However, his eyes were blue unlike his wife’s and son’s. Outside of his gold wrist watch, he was more modestly-dressed than his wife and still in his lab coat.

    Conway’s father’s eyes remained glued to his palm pilot after his son attempted to communicate with him. What was also now apparent was that he too was speaking to someone else on the phone; the difference from his wife was that his line was linked to an earpiece that had a small microphone attached to the side. “No, no, I’m afraid I’m booked solid that week, sir. We’ll have to start our research another time; is it possible to preserve the specimen until then…? You think so?”

    Conway heaved out a heavy sigh in reaction to this. “I was hoping the smell of food would at least get those two off the phone… clearly I was asking for too much.”

    Paul simply shook his head and stepped forward. “I think you’re simply too much of a wuss to really try and get their attention,” he said, glaring at both parents. “Watch this.”

    After raising up both hands, Paul closed his eyes and snapped his fingers rather loudly to get Conway’s parents to clam up. “Hey, idiots! Down here!”

    Surprisingly, this worked. Paul spoke loud and clear, well over the voices on both phones, and the sharp tone was more than enough to get their attention. The fact that Conway’s parents realized there was a total stranger in their house now also helped. Upon seeing that this worked, Conway gasped – not only because Paul was successful in getting their attention, but because he was so openly rude and nasty towards his elders for once.

    “Let me… put you on hold now,” Conway’s mother told her client as she immediately did so after saying it. She refocused her attention on the very unfamiliar boy standing in her kitchen.

    “Please… excuse me for a moment,” Conway’s father said apologetically to his colleague on his line, also putting him on hold to stare down at Paul.

    Paul nodded, but still stared indignantly at Conway’s parents. “Now that I have your attention, you should know that Conway’s been trying to get your attention for the past couple of minutes now. He even made dinner for you. Work is over, so it’s high time you stopped acting like employees and started acting like parents now.”

    That was something Conway had wanted to tell his parents for ages, but never quite had to guts to go through with it. Mainly, he thought it wouldn’t be worth it, but somehow, Paul managed to get through to them where he could not. He looked to Paul, clearly grateful for this, but Paul ironically was ignoring him at the moment.

    “Irma, is this one of your friends’ kids…?” Conway’s father asked his wife, scratching his head in confusion.

    Irma slowly shook her head, trying to figure out if she’d actually seen this child before. “Not that I recall, Harold… I believe most of them are older than this.”

    “He’s my friend,” Conway said, stepping forward into the conversation. “We ran into each other at Canalave City and he’s spending the night here if that’s alright with you two.”

    Paul quietly groaned and slumped over in his position, as he still absolutely hated to be considered Conway’s friend. Still, he knew it was best to play along… “It was a rather sudden occurrence; otherwise we would have informed you ahead of time.”

    “Oh, that makes sense!” Irma deduced, though judging by her tone of voice, she sounded rather vacant and/or tired. “And it seems we have a dinner awaiting us, dear!”

    Harold smiled at the sight. “Yes, that’s a relief. It’s been such a busy day; I dreaded the idea of having to make our own dinner.”

    “It all looks so wonderful,” Irma remarked as she approached the table, taking a plate of stir-fry and a bowl of salad for herself. “How thoughtful of Franny to go through the trouble of making it for us.”

    Paul looked aghast at this. He couldn’t believe they credited the wrong person for making their dinner. Conway too was shocked, but also angered that he was being ignored again.

    “Excuse me, but Franny had nothing to do with this dinner!” He shouted. “All she’s done is sit her lazy, unproductive butt on that couch in the living room and maybe read a book or two! I’m the one who made the dinner, and Paul helped me!”

    Even though he really didn’t do very much at all, Paul was surprised to be credited in assisting the dinner. He still looked expectantly at Conway’s parents, seeing to it that they would give proper credit where it’s due.

    “We really appreciate your contributions, Franny,” Harold said, sounding fully appreciative… only still for the wrong person. “Especially since you could be leaving with your cousin at any time; it’s nice to know you’re making the best of your time before you go off to pursue a career. We’re very proud of you.”

    “Delicious as always!” Irma complimented, having already dug in. “What a thoughtful daughter we have.” She smiled and looked to her husband. “It has been a long day… shall we settle ourselves in for the night, dear?”

    Harold nodded. “An excellent suggestion, honey. If we hurry, we’ll still make it in time for the news.”

    Irma nodded back to her husband, quick to get the dinner trays so they could both quickly and conveniently carry off their dinners away from the kitchen. After loading up and getting a couple of drinks and a bottle of salad dressing, the pair scurried off. While Conway sighed, having accepted this as yet another failed attempt to get his parents’ attention and moved on to get plates for himself and Paul, said guest tiptoed away from the kitchen to see where exactly Conway’s parents went.

    He didn’t need to go far to see both had seated themselves on the sofa in the living room, which Franny had since vacated, right in front of the TV. Indeed, they were watching the news and eating their dinner at the same time, and on occasion would make remarks about what they’ve seen. Rich as Conway’s family was, the sofa only seemed to be big enough for two, meaning only one thing.

    “Your family doesn’t eat together?” Paul asked out loud to Conway. “Your parents take up the couch and the television… where exactly do you and your sister eat?”

    His first answer was a silent one, as he turned around to see Conway handing him a tray with his own plate of stir-fry beef and a bowl of salad. Reluctantly, Paul took it, but still looked to his companion, expecting an explanation.

    “We’ll be eating in my room,” Conway finally said while getting his own tray ready. “Franny usually eats in her room, too. So, was there anything in particular you wanted to drink? Partial on what kind of salad dressing you’d like?”

    Paul tried his best not to look or sound weirded out by what he just heard, but the very idea of a full family never eating their meals together was hard for him to accept.

    “Whatever you’re having to drink is fine, I guess,” Paul mumbled. “Not really partial on dressing, either… you wouldn’t happen to have balsamic vinaigrette, would you?”

    “We’ve got pretty much everything under the sun,” Conway bragged as he took out a bottle of the precise dressing Paul asked for, dangling it around. “So yeah, no problem.” After putting a can of soda on his tray and Paul’s, he began to lead the way out. “Ready to go?”

    Paul nodded, and thus the two exited the kitchen and began their walk to Conway’s room. “Are we really eating in your bedroom?” He asked, sounding skeptical. “Honestly, who does that…?”

    To that statement, Conway blinked and looked back at Paul. “You mean you’ve never done it before?”

    “In my own room? No,” Paul answered, sounding offended that his traveling partner would even ask. “Not unless I’m sick and have no choice otherwise. I was under the impression that normal families eat together at the table for every meal. Even Reggie and I stick to that tradition, and we’re not a full family.”

    Conway only shook his head, smiling sadly at that statement. “Well, as you’ve seen, my family is hardly normal… and it’s stretching it to even consider us a family. I can’t recall a time we’ve ever actually eaten together. This is our usual routine.”

    By now, they had reached the door to Conway’s room. Even though most of his previous stereotyping of Conway had been proven wrong at this point, Paul did not hesitate to assume that his nerdy friend would have a disgusting, messy room, which was one reason why he was reluctant to have to eat there.

    However, again the stereotyping proved to not be true, as Conway’s room was shown to be perfectly clean and organized. But then, Paul considered that perhaps it was only this way because Conway had been out of the house for quite some time, therefore not around to mess his own room up. Still, he was glad to be wrong this time and felt a bit more at ease to eat in this room.

    “For a rich family, this is pretty informal of you,” Paul noted, taking a seat at Conway’s desk. The host himself took the only other seat present in the room, which was near his computer. “But… you’ve convinced me; your parents are pretty horrible.”

    “Honestly! How can they just mistake me for Franny like that?!” Conway grumbled as he started eating his dinner. “I don’t even have as much as a feminine voice! That just proves how little they pay attention to me!”

    Paul indulged in his dinner as well, mildly surprised by the fact that the food did indeed taste good; Conway was as talented a cook as he appeared to be. “If you hate them, why do you make them dinner? Shouldn’t this really be the mother’s job, anyway?”

    “I usually don’t,” Conway flatly replied. “Most of the time, we make our own individual dinners here. Franny makes her own, I make my own, and mom and dad make their own. It really has to be that way considering how late my parents come home from work every day; I certainly wouldn’t like to wait this late for dinner every night, would you?”

    “True,” Paul agreed after swallowing another bite of stir-fry. He didn’t feel like complimenting the chef, still. “All this proves is how different we truly are, really. Maybe we should move onto something a little less pointless and depressing.”

    Conway sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I did promise to avoid the family topic from now on, didn’t I? Not much point in going on about it now that you’ve seen firsthand how messed up my family is. Anything in particular you wanted to talk about?”

    For being the one to suggest switching the subject, Paul didn’t like being put on the spot like that; he hadn’t exactly planned another topic or anything. “Not really,” he admitted, choosing then to focus his attention on the food rather than who he was conversing with. “You do realize your Gym Battle with Maylene is tomorrow, though. Instead of trying to make small-talk with me, you should be building up your strategy against her. She’s hardly a challenge, but you’re completely inexperienced with Gym Battles.”

    “Mm, true,” Conway admitted, looking up thoughtfully. “You went against her before, though. Maybe you can give me some pointers?”

    Paul frowned at what Conway was insinuating. “I’m not giving away all of her secrets for your sake; you don’t deserve the easy way out.”

    “I didn’t mean that!” Conway snapped back, feeling offended. “It won’t be any fun if you spoil the surprises she has in store for me. Based on the conversation we all had back at the hospital, though, it sounds like she has a Lucario, which is… a Fighting and Steel-type.”

    “Correct,” Paul affirmed with a nod. “Expect her to hold Lucario off until last. You do at least know she primarily uses Fighting-type Pokémon, right?”

    “Figured as much,” Conway replied. He then got out a notebook and started to jot down notes. “So she specializes in Fighting-types and I should expect Lucario to be her final Pokémon…” He then smiled and looked up to face Paul. “Say, I’ve got an idea…”

    Upon seeing the lenses of his glasses flash paired with that sinister grin on his face, Paul was a little concerned about what Conway had in mind. “Should I ask…?”

    “Well, since you’ve defeated Byron and earned your Mine Badge, you’re set to head for Snowpoint City soon for your next Gym Battle, right?” Conway asked. “Not a lot of trainers go out of their way to reach that one…”

    “Yes; with any luck, I should be on my way there by tomorrow after I see the pathetic spectacle of a battle you and Maylene are sure to put on,” Paul replied, sounding particularly cold at the end of his sentence. Conway continued to pay no mind to his attitude, however.

    Instead, he nodded in understanding of what Paul had told him. “So you’re going to need to build yourself a strategy for your next Gym Battle as well, and we both know that’s going to be centered around combating Ice-type Pokémon.”

    Paul looked suspicious about Conway’s intentions, now. “What exactly are you getting at…?”

    “Let’s help build each others’ strategies!” Conway proposed. “I may not have experience in battling Gym Leaders, but I’ve invested years into formulating effective battling strategies, so it wouldn’t hurt you to at least consider some of my ideas.”

    The egotistical Paul was very reluctant to let anyone other than himself have a say in his battle plans. But after thinking it over quickly, he realized it was either this or going back to complaining about their parents and siblings… or even worse: total, awkward silence.

    With a begrudging sigh, Paul bowed his head and conceded. “Fine; do you have another notebook?”

    “Go ahead and take this one since I’ve already written Maylene-related stuff on it,” Conway offered, tossing his notebook to Paul. Though slightly startled by the throw, Paul caught it while Conway pulled out another notebook for himself to write in. “So, then! Whose strategy shall we work on first?”

    “Unless I’m mistaken, they do four-on-four battles over at Snowpoint Gym,” Paul said, though he wasn’t completely sure. “Mine will probably take longer to go through. We’ll start with yours.”

    Conway nodded and relaxed, ready to answer any question Paul could toss his way. “I suppose the first thing we need to do is establish what Pokémon I will be using for this Gym Battle.”

    “Right,” Paul affirmed, beginning to write into the notebook. “Slowking’s typing would be good against Maylene’s Pokémon, so I assume you’re using it?”

    “Without a doubt,” Conway said casually, taking a bite of salad. “I’ll also use Heracross…”

    “Not a bad choice, either,” Paul noted, writing down Heracross as Conway’s second member. “What will be your last Pokémon, then?”

    Conway looked up at his ceiling and pondered. “Well, Castform would be a poor choice type-wise, not to mention it’s a recent capture, therefore inexperienced… and I’m training it for Contests anyway, should I participate in any… guess it’ll have to be Aggron.”

    To that, Paul had to gape at Conway for his decision. “That’s an even worse choice for-…” Then he paused. “You have an Aggron…?”

    “Of course I do,” Conway said, expecting Paul to have known already. “I used it during the Tag Battle Tournament while Dawn and I were moving up the ranks… you didn’t notice?”

    “Why would I?” Paul asked defensively. “I couldn’t have cared less about your performance there, Conway. I only paid attention to you when you became my opponent, which was only during the finals in which you used Heracross.”

    Conway huffed in aggravation in response to that. “Sorry. I forgot you were a self-centered egomaniac for a second, there. Thanks for reminding me. Why do you care that I have an Aggron, anyway?”

    Paul thought it over a moment before answering the question; naturally, he was interested Conway’s Aggron because he himself owned a Pokémon of Aggron’s evolutionary line: Lairon. It had been ages since he used it and obviously never got around to fully evolving it; it was one of those things Paul had meant to accomplish but simply kept putting it off in favor of pursuing Pokémon that were already strong and fully-evolved right out of the gate. He had caught the Lairon as an Aron during his travels in Hoenn, which was the first region he traveled through and competed in the League Conference. Back then, he was younger and a bit more naïve… his views on Pokémon training were a little different all those years ago.

    Thinking it over, Paul decided not to share any more of his past with Conway than he already had. “Don’t misunderstand; I don’t care. I just didn’t expect someone like you to own something like an Aggron.”

    “I like their versatility,” Conway noted, smirking. “Plus, it was so cute when I caught it as an Aron. It certainly took a while to completely evolve it… they wouldn’t be your type of Pokémon since you’re far too impatient, Paul, but it was well worth it when we reached our goal.”

    Now Paul was just angry; not only to know that Conway succeeded in something where he failed, but to be told to his face why exactly he failed, even if Conway didn’t know of Paul’s Lairon to begin with. “Oh, shut it. Regardless of versatility, Aggron’s a terrible choice to use against Maylene. You really should pick something else.”

    “The double-weakness will be tricky to work around, but I think Aggron can get the job done,” Conway said confidently. “Besides, I don’t really have any other Pokémon that have the battle experience required for handling a Gym Battle. You really don’t have room to talk, you know. All of the Pokémon that you used against Byron had a disadvantage of some kind against his team, and you managed to prevail despite the odds being stacked against you.”

    “That’s because I’m a veteran and clearly know what I’m doing,” Paul argued. “I can afford to make it challenging for myself; you, on the other hand, can’t. But I suppose there’s no changing your mind about this.”

    To this, Conway smiled and shook his head. “Not really, so you’d better go ahead and add Aggron to the list.”

    Paul sighed and did so, adding its dual-typing of Steel/Rock beside its name, just as he wrote Water/Psychic next to Slowking’s name, as well as Bug/Fighting next to Heracross. Since he was keeping this a challenge for Conway, Paul only kept it in his head that Maylene’s team consisted of Machoke – a pure Fighting-type Pokémon – a Meditite; Fighting and Psychic, and Lucario; Fighting and Steel. What he did add were side-notes about the effectiveness of Fighting-type moves against each of Conway’s Pokémon: Slowking resisted them well, as did Heracross, but underlined that Aggron was double-weak to the type.

    “Alright, I’ve got your team written down,” Paul confirmed, looking up to Conway. “Are you sending them out in a specific order?”

    This took a bit more time for Conway to decide on. “Well, I am allowed to substitute,” he acknowledged. “That may complicate things a bit. I think I’ll lull Maylene into a false sense of security by sending Aggron out first, since it isn’t likely to last long, anyway.”

    Nodding in agreement, Paul listed Aggron as the one to be sent out in the first round. “That’s making the best of your poor decision, at least. Barring substitutions, are you planning to specifically hold one of the other two back for last?”

    “Slowking’s my strongest player, no doubt,” Conway said. “If Maylene is to save her Lucario for last, I will do the same with my Slowking.”

    “If you say so…” Paul made a note that Slowking would be the final Pokémon sent out. “So that’s all established. What’s left would be… their known moves, and how to utilize them.” He sighed, tiring of this already.

    Noticing Paul’s discontent look, Conway smiled at him. “I can list them out and you’ll figure out what to use and how to use them, since I’ll be doing the same for you. That’ll take a while, so how about you give me your information on your Gym Battle, so we can both do the strategizing together?”

    Reluctantly, Paul nodded slightly as he realized that would be the best route to go. “Alright, then… we’ll move on to my strategy.”

    Before preparing his round of questions, Conway looked out his window to see a beautiful night sky outside. It was a perfect night, considering the weather conditions. “Feeling a little stuffy, Paul?” He asked rather suddenly.

    “A… little, I guess,” Paul responded, yet again disturbed by Conway’s ability to read his expressions and correctly predict what he was thinking that very moment. “Why?”

    After hearing the confirmation, Conway pulled open a drawer at his computer station and took out a couple of flashlights. “How about we get some fresh air and hang out at the backyard for a while as we write out our strategy suggestions?”

    It was a strange offer, Paul thought, but he figured he might prefer the outdoors to this creepy and deceptively huge house of his companion’s, if only for a while. “I suppose I can deal with that.”

    “Then follow me!” Conway told him while opening the window. Paul’s eyes widened as he watched Conway actually climb out his window and jump onto a nearby tree branch; one that was large and thick enough to support his weight. Taking his notebook and pen with him, Paul rushed to the window to see Conway perfectly stable on the tree, now grabbing a rope.

    “A-are you crazy or something?!” Paul shouted out. “That’s how you want to go outside?!”

    Conway paused before he was about to take off on the rope. “It’s either this or going back out through the living room, which means crossing by my parents again. I think seeing them one more time tonight’s going to make me hurl, and I’d rather not lose my dinner on their account. Would you?”

    The idea of having to see Conway’s parents did anger Paul, if only because their bad parenting reminded him of his own father, whom he despised. He rolled his eyes as he gave Conway an answer. “I hate it when you’re right…”

    “No need to worry!” Conway called out, which riled up Paul even more for having to hear Dawn’s catchphrase for the umpteenth time today. “You can handle this! Haven’t you ever climbed a tree before?”

    “Of course I have,” Paul retorted, though it had been a while since he tried. “I’m just not very keen on jumping out a window three stories above the ground, that’s all.”

    Much to Paul’s displeasure, Conway gave him an encouraging smile. “I promise, it’s rather safe! This tree is as sturdy as a boulder! I’ve done this for years; even four year-olds can do this!”

    Naturally, after hearing that remark, Paul automatically started climbing out the window. It made Conway feel good to know exactly how to get Paul to do whatever he wanted; he was just rather amused how susceptible Paul was to childish taunting.

    Paul clearly hesitated, but managed to jump and land on the tree branch successfully. After wobbling a bit, Paul chose to cling and crawl on the branch rather than walk over it like Conway did, which prompted the latter to laugh. “You seem to be rusty, Paul!”

    “Shut. Up.” Paul growled, gritting his teeth as he crawled his way to Conway’s position, where he finally deemed it safe enough to stand up. “Now what?”

    “Obviously, we’re descending via this rope,” Conway said, eyeing said rope that he still held onto. “Just watch and learn!”

    Like a king of the jungle, Conway latched onto the rope and swung on it full-force. Paul gaped as he witnessed his companion swing and jump from his position, which was still rather high off the ground, and still managed to land on his feet with pure grace. Unseen to Paul, Conway winced a bit at the pain of the initial landing, but quickly turned around to face the younger trainer and grinned. “See? It’s easy!”

    “They should put you in a cage and send you to the zoo,” Paul coldly remarked. “You’re totally reckless; I am not doing that.”

    Amused with Paul’s apparent nervousness, Conway looked slyly to his guest. “So how are you going to get down from the tree, Paul?”

    Paul grabbed the rope and hopped onto it. Rather than swinging and performing a suicide jump, he chose to simply climb down the rope until he was low enough to let go and comfortably land on the ground. Putting his hands on his hips, Paul frowned at Conway. “Like a normal person would. Can we get back to strategizing, now?”

    Unimpressed, Conway sighed and turned on his flashlight and tossed the other one to Paul, who quickly caught it. “Fine, be boring about it.” He looked to a small hill covered with grass that incidentally was perfect for stargazing. “Let’s sit over there.”

    The two made their way to that area and sat down on the grass and opened their notebooks back up to the appropriate page; the flashlights obviously enabled the boys to be able to see what they were writing while being surrounded by the natural darkness of the late night.

    “So we’ve established which Pokémon you’re using against Maylene and what order they will be sent out,” Paul reviewed. “And we’ll write out the more detailed strategies after you inquire about my choices for my eventual Gym Battle.”

    Conway nodded in agreement. “That would be correct, so let’s get this underway. You’re challenging the Snowpoint Gym, which specializes in Ice-type Pokémon… shocker,” he added sarcastically. “According to the news and my resources, the Gym Leader is an adorable young lady named Candice, who is a teacher at the Trainers’ School in Snowpoint City.”

    “Great,” Paul muttered, rolling his eyes once more. “Another girl to deal with…”

    “Ah-ah, no need for misogynist remarks,” Conway scolded. “I’m sure Candice is a very likable girl. Now, we have no idea what any of her Pokémon are, but we do know that she should primarily have Ice Pokémon, or at least partially Ice… that makes things tricky. And apparently she has four of them, so we’ll need four candidates for your battle, Paul.” The young freelancer looked up and locked eyes with Paul. “Have you decided that, yet?”

    Paul nodded, as if he’d decided this a long time ago. “Most of my team proved to have a commendable degree of endurance against Byron’s Pokémon. Ice-types are typically fragile compared to Steel-types, so overcoming the odds should be even easier for them this time around, and there are some who I’ve not yet tested true endurance on.”

    “Meaning you’re purposely choosing the wrong Pokémon to fight with again, I presume,” Conway figured with a groan. “Way to put the workload on me, Paul.”

    “Deal with it,” Paul heartlessly remarked. “I plan to use Ursaring, Honchkrow, Gliscor, and Torterra.”

    Conway immediately looked freaked out, but shook it off to write down Paul’s choices, though he still looked worried. “Ursaring… just a Normal-type, but fine, since I saw it had Fighting-type moves…”

    Paul nodded. “Ursaring failed to defeat any of Byron’s Pokémon, so I have it on notice. It’d better perform well this time around.”

    “Way to put the pressure on,” Conway mumbled as he wrote down the second choice. “Honchkrow… Dark and Flying-typed. Uh, Paul, that’s going to be a problem.”

    However, Paul remained firm. “It did well against Bronzor, but fainted instantly when it was hit by Steelix’s Ice Fang. It failed to overcome its weakness, so we’re going to try it again.”

    “To be fair, Honchkrow was really weakened by Bronzor before it took that Ice Fang attack,” Conway pointed out. “You should consider that.”

    “I am,” Paul said. “With Ice-type Pokémon, I’ll see for sure if it can handle the type disadvantage at full strength.”

    Conway sighed, continuing to write. “As long as we’re clear on that… so you next said… Gliscor?! Paul, you hypocrite! It’s a Ground and Flying-type; that means it’s got a double-weakness to Ice! And here you were criticizing me for using Aggron against Maylene!”

    In response to that, Paul huffed in annoyance. “I have a right to criticize you because you have no prior experience with Gym Battles, so you’re a complete idiot for intentionally using the wrong Pokémon for your first battle. Compared to me, you’re nothing; I have three regions’ worth of prior experience, plus all of the Gyms I conquered in Sinnoh so far. If I’m using a Pokémon with a double-weakness, I wouldn’t do so without a plan.”

    “This handicap is rather hard to plan around, you know,” Conway complained. “And you said your last choice was Torterra! Grass and Ground! That’s another double-weakness to Ice, Paul!”

    “So?” Paul asked, even more annoyed now. “Torterra’s my strongest Pokémon with near-impenetrable defense. It can handle a double-weakness, no problem.”

    After Conway finished writing down Torterra on the roster list, he sighed and looked at Paul again. “Okay, Paul? I know you want to give yourself a little extra challenge here since you’ve convinced yourself that you’re better than everyone else in this region… but believe me when I say there is a difference between a making-it-harder-on-yourself approach and an absolutely, positively retarded approach to a strategy.” His eyes narrowed. “Guess which one yours is right now.”

    “I never said I was better than everyone in Sinnoh,” Paul said with a grumble. “Don’t put words in my mouth. The only retarded person amongst the two of us is you, if you can’t make a good strategy with the choices I’ve made. If you’re incapable of doing so, then I’ll just make it myself and you can be on your own against Maylene.”

    Flailing a bit at the suggestion, Conway wailed at the fact that he was out of line (in Paul’s eyes) and suddenly looked apologetic. “Alright, alright, fine! I’m sorry; I’ll write your strategy! I’ll do my best, I promise!”

    Paul smirked at this, though in the back of his mind he was a bit disturbed that Conway was so desperate to make amends with him… almost as if he was dependent on his company or something. Still, the thought remained in the back of his mind as he got back to the strategy talk. “Alright, then. You said you’re going to lull Maylene into a false sense of security by sending out Aggron first, correct?”

    “Y-yes, I did,” Conway said, somewhat uneasy. “What about it?”

    “I’ll do the same with Candice,” Paul decided. “Make a note that I’m going to send out Honchkrow first.”

    “Ah, very well…” Conway was still uncertain of what Paul had up his sleeve, but made a note that Honchkrow would be the first Pokémon sent out. “Honchkrow was your first choice last time, though.”

    Paul nodded, remembering that detail very well. “It isn’t without reason that I send Honchkrow out first. Not only will it fool Candice and make her overconfident, but Honchkrow is the fastest of my four choices. Therefore, it has the greatest chance to dodge any attack Candice will throw at it.”

    “Hm… good point,” Conway said, understanding Paul’s point of view now. “Do you want to reserve any of them for last specifically?”

    “Torterra,” Paul simply said, closing his eyes. “Last line of defense and the one that can blow any Pokémon away with its power. It’s as simple as that.”

    Conway simply shrugged and jotted down that note. “You’ll need a heck of a lot of luck to pull this off… that’s all I’ve got to say.”

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
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  20. #70
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    “We’ve established both of our rosters,” Paul confirmed, ignoring Conway’s remark. “So now it’s down to moves and strategy.”

    “Indeed,” Conway concurred. “To make a strategy, I’ll need to know the moves you plan on implementing for each Pok&#233;mon, and you’ll need the same information from me regarding my team.”

    “Ah, let’s see…” Paul looked up, trying to recall each of his Pok&#233;mon’s moves and which ones to use against Candice. “You’ve seen a few of Honchkrow’s moves already, and I plan to stick with those.”

    Conway blinked, forgetting the Gym Battle he had witnessed a few days ago for a moment. “Oh, right! Your Honchkrow knows Sky Attack, Shadow Ball, Dark Pulse, and Aerial Ace. You’re sticking with those, then…?”

    “It can use Night Slash as well,” Paul told him. “I’m not sure if I want to include that in my strategy… if you can find a way, though, go for it.”

    “Gotcha,” Conway assured, writing all of the attacks down. “Unless I’m mistaken, Honchkrow’s only ability is Super Luck. I’ll just write that down for reference. Now let’s see… I saw Ursaring’s moves as well: Hammer Arm, Secret Power, and Focus Blast.”

    Paul nodded. “Right, and I’m sticking with those moves. Put down Headbutt as well.”

    “Guess that wouldn’t have been very useful against Byron,” Conway assumed as he wrote down Ursaring’s moves. “And its ability?”

    “Guts,” Paul replied quickly. “I’m hoping there won’t be another situation where it’s completely frozen and helpless again.”

    With that, Ursaring’s statistics were complete. “It’s going to be risky, and like I said, you’re going to need a lot of luck,” Conway warned. “Ursaring’s done… guess you’re giving Weavile a break now.”

    Not wanting to seem overly nice in front of his companion, Paul shrugged. “It did win me the Mine Badge, and I’m likely going to need it to assist me on the way to Snowpoint City as it is.”

    That meant Paul intended to take the difficult, more treacherous route to Snowpoint City. Conway had a bad feeling about that, but shook it off for the time being. “Alright, so tell me about Gliscor; moves and ability.”

    “Its ability is Hyper Cutter,” Paul replied. “And I think it’ll go with Guillotine, X-Scissor, Screech… and Steel Wing.”

    “Good call,” Conway complimented as he wrote what was dictated. “Steel Wing will at least seriously damage Candice’s Pok&#233;mon.”

    “It’d better,” Paul grumbled. “Torterra… I may have to consider some extra training for it on the way up to Snowpoint City. Only one of its moves will be useful, and it comes with a price.”

    Conway adjusted his glasses before looking up at Paul, slightly curious about his vague words. “Well, obviously its ability is Overgrow… what does Torterra have right now?”

    Looking sharply to Conway, Paul reluctantly told him. “Frenzy Plant, Giga Drain, Leaf Storm, and Hyper Beam.”

    “Ooh,” Conway said, wincing. “Yeah… I remember seeing that during the Tag Battle Tournament when you and Ash were against Brock and Holly. It has a powerful Leaf Storm to be able to take down a Poison Pok&#233;mon like Croagunk, but when Hyper Beam is fired off, the user can’t move for a while. You can’t afford to be a sitting duck against Candice’s Pok&#233;mon.”

    Hearing this amused the young trainer. “So you were watching that battle…”

    “I watched every battle that you and Ash had,” Conway casually informed. “As did Dawn, Brock, and Holly. We all figured you two had no chance of winning, considering the how dysfunctional you and Ash were.”

    “And yet we won,” Paul noted, though didn’t sound particularly proud of it. “Still, I wouldn’t overestimate the power of Torterra’s Leaf Storm… that Croagunk wasn’t all that impressive to me. I won’t be able to overcome Candice with Hyper Beam alone.”

    Conway couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you kidding? Brock’s Croagunk was awesome!” But then he narrowed his eyes. “Not that there’s any point in debating this, because we both know it’ll go nowhere… we should think about a new move or two for your Torterra to learn.”

    “Well, you’re the one writing my strategy,” Paul pointed out. “What would you suggest?”

    Conway looked up to the stars, going through the possible options for Torterra in his mind. “Hm… well, Ice-type Pok&#233;mon are weak to Fire, Fighting, Steel, and Rock moves, assuming they don’t have a dual typing that negates the weakness. Torterra can’t learn any Fire-type moves, so that’s out…”

    Paul raised an eyebrow at his companion. “What type do you think would be best of the remaining three, then?”

    “Between Steel, Fighting, and Rock?” Conway wondered about that. “Well, let’s go about this logically. Odds are low that Candice has a pure Ice-type in her team considering so few of those known actually exist. I believe Snover and Abomasnow are rather common in northern Sinnoh, and they’re partially Grass-typed. Since they’re common in her area, odds are Candice might have one of the two. Pity Torterra can’t learn any Fire moves since they’re double-weak to that type, but…”

    Grumbling, Paul decided to lie down on the grass in an attempt to relax himself. “Let’s not go into the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ nonsense, okay?”

    “Aha, right,” Conway nervously laughed. “Well, a dual Grass/Ice type means it doesn’t negate any of the three choices. So I guess it’s not the best example to use… easily, though, the most common dual-type involving Ice would be with Water.”

    Though he was still lying on his back, Paul raised his head up a bit to look at Conway. “You think she’ll have one?”

    “There’s no way to know for certain,” Conway admitted. “Water will negate the Steel weakness, but it will still do some damage. The other two are not negated. Going by convenience again, Sneasel can be found on the way up to Snowpoint. As you know, Sneasel is Dark and Ice.”

    “I know very well,” Paul said flatly. “And it has a double-weakness to Fighting-type moves.”

    Conway smirked at Paul, thinking of his Weavile just then. “Indeed. It’s also weak to the other two types, but not as severely. Since it’s local, there’s a good chance Candice has one.”

    “Maybe I should consider teaching Torterra a Fighting-type move, then,” Paul mused. “What other Ice-types can be found in Sinnoh, again?”

    “Well…” Conway thought for a moment. “Snorunt can be found there, but it’s pure Ice. Candice might have one of those, or one of its split evolutions. Glalie is also purely Ice, but Froslass is partially a Ghost-type.”

    Paul frowned upon hearing that. “Meaning a Fighting-type move won’t work on it at all…”

    “That it won’t,” Conway affirmed. “Rock and Steel moves will still hurt it, though. Dark-type moves are also super-effective, though, and I know Torterra is capable of learning Crunch. Might be something to consider.”

    “Maybe,” Paul said, now concerned about how increasingly difficult his choice had become. “Anything else to possibly expect from the Gym Leader?”

    Conway was furiously writing down everything about their conversation in regards to what Candice could possibly have on a separate page. He paused after hearing Paul’s question. “Uh, gee… pretty sure there’s something else…”

    Suddenly, Paul remembered something. “Hang on, there’s something I remember about the last time I saw those losers,” he told Conway, which highly intrigued the latter. “Now what was it…?”

    “Something related to what we’re talking about?” Conway asked, sounding just the slightest bit excited. “How interesting...”

    Then, it came to him. However, Paul was not that happy about it, as he knew mentioning it would cause Conway to derail the conversation. He decided to be discreet about it. “I saw them training one day,” he said cautiously, eyeing the eager Conway. “I’m pretty sure I saw a Swinub amongst them. I hadn’t seen it with any of them before then, meaning it must have been a recent capture.”

    The moonlight reflected against the lenses of Conway’s glasses, making them flash as Conway quietly laughed to himself. “Do you know whose it was, by any chance…?”

    Oh, how Paul hated it when Conway did that. “I didn’t pay much attention to them, so no,” he lied. “But focus back on the topic, Conway: that Swinub must have been caught in this region, and isn’t it partially an Ice-type?”

    Needless to say, Conway was let down by Paul’s dismissal of the potential topic of Dawn, but went back to his duties regardless. “It is,” he confirmed. “The other type being Ground. So you’re insinuating that Candice may own something of the Swinub evolutionary line since it can be caught in Sinnoh?”

    “I’d say it’s possible,” Paul figured as his gaze returned to the stars in the sky. “So what would be useful in that scenario?”

    After a moment of thought, Conway figured it out. “Unfortunately, it has no double-weakness. It’s still susceptible to Fighting and Steel, however. Rock-type moves are only neutral.”

    “This is going to be a nightmare of a decision,” Paul complained. “Anything else I should be aware of?”

    “Uh…” Conway smiled awkwardly. “I doubt Candice would have one, but there are Delibird in northern Sinnoh. “They’re double-weak to Rock moves and still weak to Steel. Fighting would be neutral, but like I said, it isn’t… a particularly powerful Pok&#233;mon in any sense of the word, so I doubt a Gym Leader would own one.”

    Paul just sighed in exasperation. “Is that it, then?”

    As Conway crossed out Delibird as a possibility, he checked through his memory banks yet again. “If Candice ever had an Eevee, she could have evolved it by the Ice Rock and gotten herself a Glaceon, but that’s a pure Ice-type. Uh… only other thing she could realistically have is a Smoochum or a Jynx. Ice and Psychic.”

    “If that were the case, I would hope it’s a Jynx,” Paul said, grumbling. “Smoochum would be pathetic against anything regardless of type advantages.”

    “Don’t say that!” Conway cried out defensively. “Smoochum’s adorable! I’d love to have one of my own!”

    “I bet you would,” Paul muttered under his breath. “Stop your whining and do your strategizing.”

    Conway pouted, but did as he was told. “Hmph… well, it’s weak to both Rock and Steel. Fighting is neutral… but it’s also weak to Dark-type moves, so again, Crunch is something to consider.”

    “And that’s it,” Paul noted. “So, tally them up. See what types would cover the most Pok&#233;mon so I can decide on a new move or two to teach Torterra.”

    “Just be patient, alright?” Conway requested. “Things like this take time… try admiring the scenery. Time flies when you do that; believe me.”

    Paul fixated his gaze on the galaxy above them once more. “Sure… whatever you say.” He didn’t want to admit it out loud, but it was a beautiful night. The stars shining distantly in space before him were at least comforting… though it was beyond him why it was like that.

    After a while, Conway was finished with his work. “Okay! This is really up to you in the end, Paul, as the numbers can be interpreted in different ways, but…”

    “Just get to the point,” Paul cut in, interrupting his companion. “We’ve deliberated over this long enough.”

    “Okay! Sheesh,” Conway muttered, frowning. “Factoring in Rock, Steel, Fighting, and Dark types versus every known dual-typed Pok&#233;mon with Ice, plus the pure Ice-type Pok&#233;mon, only Rock and Fighting will deal four times the damage over a neutral attack. This is for Ice/Flying and Dark/Ice respectively, but mind you that Ice/Flying represents only Delibird, which we’ve established is unlikely for Candice to use in a serious battle.”

    Paul nodded in understanding of this. “So if I want to deal major damage, Fighting is my only option, and that’s only if she has Sneasel or Weavile.”

    “The odds of that are relatively high, however,” Conway pointed out. “So keep that in mind. Alright, onto the not-as-severe weaknesses… Steel has the most with eight: pure Ice, Grass/Ice, Dark/Ice, Ice/Ghost, Ice/Ground, Ice/Flying, and Ice/Psychic. Rock is next, covering six areas: Ice, Grass/Ice, Ice/Water, Dark/Ice, Ice/Ghost, and Ice/Psychic. Fighting has four: Ice, Grass/Ice, Ice/Water, and Ice/Ground. Dark’s only super-effective with two of them: Ice/Ghost and Ice/Psychic.”

    “Hm…” Paul disapproved of what he considered earlier. “Perhaps I won’t have Torterra use Crunch after all, then. I think it will definitely be learning a Steel-type move, though. It covers a lot of ground, and the only Pok&#233;mon set to fight that has a move of that type is Gliscor at present.”

    Conway nodded as he continued looking through the list he made. “I agree; you should equip more than one Pok&#233;mon with a Steel move. We’ll get around to choosing that in a minute. You said you wanted Torterra to learn another type of move, too?”

    “Might as well,” Paul said. “As a whole, the Grass-type moves will be utterly useless no matter how powerful they are. Torterra will have enough problems with its typing alone; it’ll need something to balance out that handicap. Dark doesn’t cover enough ground, and Honchkrow covers that department well enough, anyway.”

    “Ah, yes!” Conway exclaimed. “Thanks for bringing that up; we ought to consider your other Pok&#233;mon’s moves before we decide between Rock and Fighting.”

    “Well, Ursaring has two Fighting-type moves,” Paul noted. “None of the other three have a Rock-type move.”

    After re-examining his list, Conway smiled. “Since Rock covers more ground than Fighting anyway, I believe the choice is clear.”

    Paul closed his eyes, thankful to finally be past this now. “So… one Steel-type move and one Rock-type move for Torterra to master.”

    “That’ll narrow down our options considerably,” Conway pointed out optimistically. “So let me make a few suggestions for your Steel move… feasible ones would be Iron Head and Iron Tail. Personally, considering Torterra’s mobility –or lack thereof – Iron Head would probably suit it better.”

    Paul nodded, seeing this as a perfectly logical deduction. “That makes sense. Iron Head it is, then.”

    Deep down inside, it warmed Conway’s heart to see Paul take his suggestions seriously. He was seeing this as something as a breakthrough, though no doubt Paul saw this as practically nothing. “Excellent! So now it’s just down to Rock moves. We’ve got Rock Tomb, Stone Edge, and Rock Slide. There’s also Stealth Rock, which doesn’t directly injure the foe, but injures every Pok&#233;mon that Candice brings in after it’s set.”

    “Considering I’m using Torterra last and Candice won’t be allowed to make substitutions, I doubt it’ll be useful,” Paul said, waving his hand dismissively. “Next.”

    Conway blushed a bit in embarrassment, but tried to brush it off by responding casually. “Ah… touch&#233;. Well, then, Rock Tomb is the weakest of the remaining three, but can lower your opponent’s speed and possibly make it flinch. Rock Slide is a bit more powerful, though best used in double battles since it can hit both opponents. It’s a little more reliable and can make the opponent flinch. Stone Edge is the strongest of the three – a little less-reliable than Rock Slide, and it won’t make the opponent flinch, but it’s got a good chance of landing critical hits.”

    “Stone Edge,” Paul decided quickly. “I want to take her Pok&#233;mon out quickly. A critical Stone Edge will do the job where the others can’t.”

    It was somewhat off-putting to hear Paul make a decision in haste, but Conway shrugged and wrote it down. “That’ll do it, then. Now it’s your turn to interview me.” With a cheesy grin, he promised, “I’ll make sure we breeze by that one since you’re looking a little tired.”

    Paul grumbled as he sat up, tiredly grabbing his notebook and pen and turned his flashlight on so he could see what he would be writing. “You’d better make this quick. I’m not going to pamper you in the least… let’s start with Aggron.” He glared upon remembering how stupid he found it of Conway to use Aggron against Maylene… but couldn’t deny that he was just the tiniest bit envious of Conway simply having an Aggron to begin with.

    “Its ability is Rock Head. Of course, my Aggron has Iron Defense,” Conway began, though he was quickly cut off by Paul as he scribbled down the move.

    “Yeah, it’s going to need it,” Paul retorted, sounding somewhat angry. This confused Conway, but he chose to ignore it for now.

    “I don’t expect Aggron to last for long, even with Iron Defense, so I’d like for it to leave a lasting effect on Maylene’s team even after it’s been defeated,” Conway explained, smirking all the while. This just annoyed Paul, however.

    “So, how do you plan on doing that?” He asked, sounding skeptical.

    The lenses of Conway’s glasses flashed just then. “Thunder Wave. Seemingly harmless, but sure to cause paralysis, which I’m sure she won’t like one bit.” As he chuckled to himself, Paul blinked and stared at Conway’s moment of creepiness before jotting down the move on his notebook.

    “I’d like to hope you’re actually planning on attacking with Aggron,” Paul criticized, giving Conway his look of disapproval. “Even if it won’t last long on the field, you ought to take advantage of the power it has.”

    “Why wouldn’t I do that?” Conway rhetorically asked Paul. “That’s why I taught it Outrage.”

    “Outrage?!” Paul definitely knew the power behind that move. “I… guess you know the price that comes from using it…”

    Conway nodded a few times, still casual. “It’ll become confused after a while. I expect by then Maylene will have figured out how to bring it down, though, so I might as well go out with a bang, right?”

    “I… suppose…” Paul uneasily concurred, still in mild disbelief that Conway had an Aggron that knew Outrage, of all things. “Anything else…?”

    “Counter,” Conway simply said. “So in case Maylene has something devastating and Aggron’s still standing, it can return the favor with twice the power.”

    “Well… you’re certainly making the best out of your weakest player,” Paul commented as he finished writing. “I can’t complain.”

    Conway just gave his guest a sly look. “And you thought I didn’t know what I was doing.”

    Paul frowned and pointed at Conway, perhaps being too defensive about his own position. “We’ll see about that tomorrow! I still fully expect a trainwreck of a Gym Battle between you two. It’ll be a miracle if Reggie gets anything out of watching you losers make fools of yourselves.”

    Surprised by the outburst, Conway leaned back away from Paul and couldn’t help but stare. “What’s with the attitude all of a sudden, huh…? How about we just keep going?”

    Indeed, Paul had another incident of randomly blowing up at someone for no good reason. He sighed and slumped, while Conway took that as a sign that he had calmed down and went back to his usual position. “Ready to hear about Heracross?” He asked.

    “You remember I did fight your Heracross back at Hearthome City, right?” Paul reminded him, though Conway smirked back after being asked that.

    “I would never forget that,” Conway insisted. “But you don’t strike me as someone who would bother to remember my Heracross’ moves.”

    He had a point there, and Paul knew it. Self-centered as he tended to be, and since he especially didn’t like Conway, he shoved all but his name and face out of his memory after the Tag Battle Tournament was behind him.

    Taking the silence as an affirmation to this assumption, Conway decided to go ahead and refresh Paul’s memory. “It’s alright; I expected you’d forget. Megahorn, Revenge…” He then smiled evilly as he said the next one in a devious tone. “Feint…”

    Paul took notice to that, looked up to see the cocky, teasing look on Conway’s face and remembered why he put so much emphasis on listing that move. “Brag all you want about how you shattered my defense strategy,” he said, scowling as he recalled the moment his Heracross broke through his then-Elekid’s Protect barrier. “In the end, I still beat you.”

    “Yes, yes, I know,” Conway muttered. “Let me have a little fun, alright? Geez. Aerial Ace is the other move that I didn’t get to show off before you defeated me, and its ability is Swarm. Did I go too fast for you?”

    After a couple of seconds, Paul stopped writing and shook his head. “Not at all. Continue with Slowking.”

    “Ah, indeed… my Slowking. Its ability is Own Tempo, and I think its current move set should be acceptable for going against Maylene… so, that would be Safeguard, Protect, Psychic, and Water Pulse.”

    “You sure do like your annoying status and defense moves,” Paul remarked as he quickly wrote down Slowking’s statistics. “Whatever gets you the win, I guess. We’ll see if you can make that happen for once.”

    Conway merely smiled at him. “I trust you fully and completely to lay out an effective strategy for me. I’ll be doing the same for you.”

    The compliments were starting to get to Paul, in a way. He mumbled something unintelligible before turning over to a fresh page. “In the end, it’s all up to you,” he said tiredly. “Let’s just hurry and get through this.”

    Over the next several minutes, the boys silently worked on each others’ in-depth strategies as far as they could go without spoiling or knowing their opponents’ team (depending on the case). Surprisingly, at the same time, both looked up to say they were finished, but paused after realizing they were inadvertently speaking in unison. Paul especially felt awkward afterwards, but then he frowned. “How can you be done so quickly? You had more Pok&#233;mon to make strategies for than I had to.”

    “You forget… I am a strategizing genius,” Conway reminded him, letting out a smirk that honestly creeped Paul out. “Worry not, as I did not rush. It was tricky to formulate a surefire way to win given your choices, but I think you’ll find this is literally the best you can do with so many disadvantages weighing you down.”

    Paul could feel himself twitch in reaction to Conway’s attitude. “You sound confident about that,” he noted while taking Conway’s notebook. “I’ll review it eventually before I challenge Candice.”

    Meanwhile, Conway received his notebook and looked rather eager to read Paul’s ideas, knowing they would surely be educated given that he’d battled Maylene already. “And I’ll have to review what you’ve put down pretty soon, given how soon my Gym Battle is. First, though…” He yawned and laid his back against the grass, opting to stargaze like Paul had earlier. “I’d like to take a break, and you’re welcome to join me if you want. That was all pretty exhausting, don’t you think?”

    “I guess,” Paul murmured, following suit and lying on the grass once more himself. Interestingly enough, both boys grew silent as they relaxed side-by-side in the backyard and stared at the sky. Neither pair of eyes ever strayed from the stars, but deep within, Paul, at the most random time, he thought, finally felt mildly content. He wasn’t sure how or why, but it truly relaxed him to stargaze, even with someone like Conway at his side.

    That was the scariest part to him. Paul never minded stargazing in the past, but it never made him feel quite this comfortable. He didn’t want to consider that the cause of his warm, safe feelings was due to Conway’s presence. Paul was pretty sure he still hated Conway, just like he hated the rest of the world. But that “pretty sure” was once a certainty; how in the world did it get downgraded…?

    After briefly checking, Paul was relieved to know Conway’s eyes weren’t wandering for once; he really was resting. Still, he felt his face and especially his cheeks grow warm, prompting the young, normally-callous trainer to fear that he was blushing. Nonetheless, Paul was determined to deny any part of him that suggested that, perhaps, he was beginning to see Conway as a friend.

    He knew he’d sooner die than admit it out loud.

    Ironically, Conway felt a little concerned; he actually doubted his friendship with Paul now. He’d been less-tolerant to Paul’s nasty personality now than he had been in previous days. It didn’t feel right to dismiss it as Conway finally losing his patience with the young man, for he did feel that they were growing closer. But something had been bothering him ever since they went to the hospital earlier in the day…

    It worried Conway even more when he thought he figured it out: Reggie. Conway hoped to bond with Paul since both had obvious sibling rivalry problems and dissatisfaction (not to mention a lack of closeness) with their parents. He was certain that was the key to getting Paul to open up. And while it was true to a degree, meeting Reggie and Brandon… but especially Reggie, opened Conway’s eyes to a terrible realization.

    When it came to equivalents, it was Paul who was the Franny of his family; not Reggie. It was beginning to make Conway a little nauseous just thinking about it, as he never could stand his sister. He really didn’t want to start comparing Paul to her, but it was just too easy. It explained why Conway was quicker to lose his patience with Paul now that it became apparent. Worst of all, Conway feared he would stop liking Paul if he couldn’t put an end to the associations with his sister.

    From now on, he would have to make an extra effort to endure Paul’s personality while continuing to be courteous with him. While he had his doubts, Conway decided that he would do his best to resolve this association issue… even if tomorrow would be their last day together. For all they’d been through together, Conway would hate their partnership to end on a bad note.

    The conflicting thoughts of the two trainers pressed on silently throughout the night as they were taken in by the starry night.


    Not far away, however, Reggie was having problems of his own. After a hearty dinner and knowing a Gym Battle was imminent the next day, he and Maylene retired to bed relatively early. With Paul gone, Reggie insisted that Maylene sleep in his bed. While hesitant, knowing she and Paul weren’t exactly on civil terms, she took up the offer and slept soundly through the night.

    For Reggie, his night was going the opposite way: he could only stay half-asleep at best, as strange dreams plagued him for hours, and after a while, his struggles to sleep resulted in him being afflicted with night sweats. He had to change his night shirt three times overall, but it was beginning to look futile as the sweat soaked his sheets and pillow in addition to his clothes.

    Often, he would wake up and look at himself in the mirror, just to be sure nothing immediate and serious was happening to him, but all he saw was his weary reflection. Knowing Paul’s bedroom was close to his own, Reggie tried his best to keep quiet for Maylene’s sake. But as the hours pressed on, it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay silent as he continued to stand up and walk to the drawer to put on a fresh shirt, look at himself in the mirror, and return to bed, only to toss and turn until he soaked another shirt of his, repeating the process.

    The creaky wooden floors did nothing to aid his stealth; after so many times, Maylene indeed was picking up on it after a while.

    Reggie couldn’t begin to describe the visions flashing within his subconscious, but none were pleasant. Much of it involved visions of wintery weather, blood on the snow, and loud and unpleasant noises, followed by flashes of his brother and father. It all went in-and-out too quickly for Reggie to figure out what was going on, but it frightened and confused him.

    Eventually, though, it stopped. Reggie ceased his movements in bed and briefly felt at ease. It had taken him almost the entire night to conquer this, but finally, he could…

    “Reggie…”

    It was that voice. The voice Reggie vowed to never forget, especially after his brother had forgotten so quickly and his father refused to acknowledge it…

    “You can’t ignore this any longer, dear.”

    Reggie’s panicked voice slipped out a bit as his eyes snapped open, but he could see that he still remained in his bedroom with no one else present.

    “Close your eyes, Reggie. You won’t see me, otherwise.”

    He was wide awake, yet he still heard his mother’s voice in his head. He knew this couldn’t possibly be normal, and he must be in the midst of going insane. But against his better judgment… Reggie closed his eyes.

    He could see his mother now, only this time she appeared with her hair tied back as she normally wore it while she was alive, and in casual clothing. Andrea’s spirit looked exactly as she did before her death.

    “M-mom…?” Reggie felt a sense of familiarity with this scenario. While he was able to remember the incident that nearly killed him, his near-death experience and his first awakening with his violent outburst never came to mind, as if they never happened. Due to that, he was again unfamiliar with this unnatural encounter in spite of his senses. “What are you-… are you really… mom…?”

    Andrea’s apparent spirit maintained a constant serious and somber expression. “Yes… and no. I am composed of your memories of me… and your ideal views, as I am contained within your subconscious mind.”

    It had been seven years since he last saw his mother. Reggie was breathing hard and deeply, sweating again, but managed to keep his eyes closed. “Is… is it you? Are you putting these awful images in my head…?!”

    “It’s hard to explain in a way that would make sense,” Andrea’s spirit admitted. “I am not even real… but your recent near-death experience seems to have created me, and in addition, you are now bearing witness to events that have not yet happened…”

    “Not yet…?” Reggie echoed, sounding worried. “Are you saying they will happen?”

    Andrea’s spirit only shook her head apologetically. “I am only a creation of your mind; your ideal image of your mother. I’m afraid I cannot tell you more than what I already have. Except that… I love you…”

    Though the idea of seeing his mother in his dreams made Reggie skeptical, he couldn’t help but become emotional after hearing that. “I-I… I love you too, mom… so much… a-and so does dad, and Paul!”

    Being told that made Andrea’s spirit smile, though in a sad way. Behind her, a solid image of a mortally wounded Paul in the snow flashed by briefly, but stayed long enough for Reggie to catch it and all the important details. His reaction was to gasp, but was quick to ask, “Th-that was Paul just now, wasn’t it…?! Is… is that going to happen to him?!”

    Inconveniently, Andrea’s spirit began to fade away. “Protect your brother, Reggie… I fear for him…”

    “Why?!” Reggie cried out, completely desperate. “What is there to fear?! What am I protecting him from?!”

    “I fear... he will not handle his limitations as well as I did,” Andrea’s spirit whispered to her oldest son. “Since I am unable to do anything, it is up to you to keep him safe.”

    “His… limitations…” Reggie was afraid to think about what that meant, but continued to cry out for his mother, who was barely visible at this point. “Wait, mom!! Don’t leave…!”

    “Be the good big brother I know you are… and protect him. I love you both…”

    She then disappeared. Reggie called for her in despair, but to no avail. He then heard a sudden noise and was jolted awake, abruptly sitting upward on his bed and panting heavily. “Mom…?!”

    “… Oh no… Reggie…” It was Maylene who was at the door, looking very worried as d&#233;j&#224; vu hit her. “Not again…” She quietly muttered.

    “M-Maylene,” Reggie breathed out, now looking embarrassed for how he looked and how he obviously must have scared her. “Sorry… I guess I woke you up.”

    Though she didn’t want to come off as rude, Maylene had no choice but to nod to Reggie, confirming his suspicions. “You look like you just went through the wringer, Reggie. Are you feeling okay?” She wasn’t sure what she’d do in the event that Reggie went ballistic again, but there seemed to be no indication that he would do so this time… yet.

    The last thing Reggie wanted to do was burden Maylene with his crazy imagination. “Y-yeah, everything’s fine. Just having a few weird dreams, is all.” He looked out the window to see that night had passed and daybreak was right around the corner. “Oh… I didn’t realize…”

    Maylene nodded, unconvinced that Reggie was actually okay. She knew she was right to suspect that he wasn’t completely cured of all his problems yet. “Yeah, it’s almost morning. It looks like you didn’t get much sleep at all… want me to make you something to help? It’s still early enough to get some sleep in,” she offered.

    “That… won’t be necessary,” Reggie politely declined, getting out of bed and feeling at his nightshirt, which was, of course, damp with his own perspiration. “There’s something I wanted to do this morning, anyway. I might as well stay up…” He went to his drawer to pull out the clothes he’d wear for the day before looking to Maylene again, giving her a sincere smile. “You can go back to bed, though. You’ll need as much rest as you can get for your Gym Battle later today.”

    While Reggie’s antics did disturb Maylene for much of the night, she was able to get in a significantly greater amount of sleep than he did. She smiled back at him, shaking her head. “No, I’m fine; really. If you don’t mind, I’d like to go with you, Reggie.”

    This was a surprise for Reggie. “You… you do?”

    “If it’s okay, that is,” Maylene shyly added. “If it’s not, I’ll stay put…” However, she was intent on keeping an eye on Reggie as much as possible, especially after that recent outburst.

    Thankfully for Maylene, Reggie nodded to her in approval. “Sure, you can come with me. Just let me get dressed first, okay?”

    “Ditto for me!” Maylene said, sounding enthusiastic. “And of course… your mother’s necklace, too.” She immediately blushed upon mentioning it; it seemed that it would be her default reaction to the gift she was given last night.

    After they both got into their regular outfits, Reggie and Maylene set out for a destination unknown to Maylene. It seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary, though, as the two mainly used the sidewalks lining the roads of Veilstone City.

    As it was the crack of dawn, the city was dead quiet for the most part and a thick fog permeated the area. Reggie was still able to navigate with ease, but was otherwise completely silent during his walk with Maylene. The Gym Leader herself was at a loss for words the entire time, while her subconscious waged war with itself whether to deliberate over Reggie’s issues or to make a note of how handsome he looked just at that moment, even with the lack of sleep apparent on his face. Added with the fact that they were walking together in rather close proximity and that Maylene was wearing his mother’s engagement necklace, it really did almost feel as if they were a couple, even if Reggie made it clear that it was purely platonic.

    Silently, Maylene cursed herself for even having such thoughts about Reggie. She felt she should know better than to look at a young man nearly four years older than her that way, but it was astoundingly hard to resist at this point. At the very least, Maylene could admit to herself that she had a tiny crush on Reggie for a while… but promised herself to not let it get out of control.

    Being entrusted with his breeding center while he would be away, however, was what re-ignited the spark. All the events that followed only strengthened her passions, culminating in receiving the necklace, which essentially overloaded her circuits and made her too excited to even speak in coherent sentences, much less control her bodily functions (mainly her blushing).

    She tried to convince herself that she would be capable of waiting four years before confronting him with the matter if he didn’t find someone else by then. More than anything, Maylene didn’t want to trouble Reggie any more than he already was due to his family matters. For an active, passionate fighter like Maylene, though… her feelings proved to be difficult to conceal. She hoped to be able to have it remain a secret until she would be ready. But for now, Maylene found the best way to keep her mind off her feelings for Reggie was to focus on her Gym Battle with Conway. It was all meant to inspire Reggie, of course, but at least it was an extremely platonic move.

    Before she knew it, Maylene found herself in the Veilstone Cemetery with Reggie. She remembered the conversation she had with Reggie last night about Brandon’s strange actions and knew Reggie must have wanted to check if he was right about his suspicions.

    Soon enough, the pair approached the tombstone that was designated Andrea’s. A modest memorial, at best, but it was the best the family could manage at the time.

    Reggie smiled, as his suspicions were confirmed: fresh magnolia flowers were left at the base of the grave, proving that Brandon had visited before leaving Veilstone City.

    “He was here, alright,” Reggie finally said, kneeling down to get a close look at the flowers. Maylene remained at his side and chose to bend over instead to inspect the gift Brandon left for his late wife. “I just knew he would be.”

    “They’re beautiful,” Maylene remarked in an admiring tone. “You said he’d leave four of them specifically, right…?”

    Reggie nodded and picked each individual flower up, one-by-one. “Four to represent every member of our family, of course. One that represents mom herself, naturally… apparently these were her favorite flowers.”

    Maylene blinked, noticing something about the flowers. “They all seem a little different, though… why is that?”

    To that question, Reggie smirked. “Dad likes to be thorough with his representation of the family. The most beautiful flower – this one – ” He specifically held out the one he just picked up for Maylene to see more closely. “… It represents mom.”

    “Understandable,” Maylene commented, giggling a little. “And the others?”

    “Well…” Reggie picked up the next one, holding it up with the flower that represented Andrea. “This worn-and-torn one… that’s dad. It stood the test the time, braved the elements, and still remains healthy and strong.”

    Just as she adored Reggie, Maylene was beginning to love to learn about his family and the history behind it. “If it weren’t a fact that he’s so talented and tough, I’d say he has a huge ego,” she remarked, smirking.

    “Heh…” Reggie had to agree. “He’s definitely earned his bragging rights. Now this one…” He picked up the third flower: fully bloomed, but fragile and delicate, yet softer to the touch than the other two. “This one’s me. Dad would likely say the reason for that is because I’ve gone all soft on him and Paul, I’m sure.”

    “They can say whatever they want, but I like you the way you are,” Maylene assured. “You’re every bit as beautiful as your mom’s flower…” She then flailed a bit after realizing what she just said. “Your flower, that is…!”

    Reggie laughed at Maylene’s antics, genuinely feeling comforted by her sentiments. “I understood what you meant. Thank you, Maylene.”

    “Thank you for being a wonderful person,” Maylene insisted. “So that little flower over there is Paul?”

    Reggie picked up the fourth magnolia and grinned. “Correct. It’s the youngest flower, and it hasn’t quite fully bloomed yet, if you look closely… clearly, dad sees Paul as a late bloomer… and I’m sure when he blooms, he’ll impress us all.” The grin faded a little after Reggie honestly thought about what he said. “With any luck, I guess…”

    “Hey!” Maylene pointed down at the base of the tombstone. “There’s another one!”

    “Huh…?” This intrigued and surprised Reggie at the same time. He looked down and indeed saw a fifth magnolia sitting there. As he gently set the other four down, Reggie picked up the new one and examined it, full of curiosity. “Unbelievable… there is a fifth…”

    Maylene looked concerned. “Could he have miscounted?”

    “That isn’t like him,” Reggie said, continuing to examine the flower. “Somehow… I think he did this intentionally.”

    “But… that doesn’t make sense,” Maylene pointed out. “There are four people in your family. Who else would it be for?”

    “It’s… tough,” Reggie remarked as he analyzed the flower’s unique features. “Sturdy… it’s a lot like mom’s, too. Especially beautiful…”

    Maylene crossed her arms, intent on figuring out this mystery. “Ooh… if only he were still here so we could ask him! He’s probably long gone on Mt. Coronet now…”

    “Likely,” Reggie concurred, but now sounded like he figured it out. “I think I know who this represents now. It is related to my mother…”

    However, Maylene wasn’t following. “Your mom had a relative close to the family or something?”

    “I mean that,” Reggie said in a deadpan tone, pointing directly at the necklace Maylene wore.

    “The necklace…?” Maylene looked down at it and automatically blushed, but the blush deepened when she realized what Reggie meant. “Hang on… you’re saying that flower is me?!”

    Reggie sighed, still holding the flower. “Sheesh, my dad… honestly. Once he’s decided on something, he won’t change his mind. Sorry about this, Maylene…”

    “O-oh, no need to apologize!” The young Gym Leader assured, waving her hand dismissively. “It’s really flattering that Brandon thinks so highly of me… especially since he’s addressing me by name and everything now,” she added with a laugh. “Don’t worry about it, Reggie.”

    “Glad you’re taking the misunderstanding well,” Reggie said, sounding mildly relieved, but something still seemed to be on his mind. Regardless, he arranged the four flowers back as they were originally placed on his mother’s grave and offered the fifth flower to Maylene. “I’m absolutely certain he meant for this to be you, so why don’t you go ahead and take it?”

    It took immeasurable amounts of willpower for Maylene to resist the types of responses her hormones would dictate her to do. “Y-you’re sure…? I-I mean, maybe you should put it back with the others…”

    Reggie shook his head, but gently smiled at Maylene. “Nah; it shouldn’t be there under false pretenses. My dad has a tendency to jump the gun a lot… he’s not perfect. Still, I think this flower would look much prettier on you, don’t you think?”

    There was no way Maylene could hold back on blushing now. She almost shied away from Reggie as he stood up, still holding the magnolia flower out for her to accept. He seemed to sense her tension, eerily enough, which prompted him to take action instead before Maylene had the courage to take the flower herself. Reggie carefully arranged it so that the flower became a hair accessory for Maylene, in the manner that a bow or ribbon would. In less than 24 hours, Reggie had given Maylene two special gifts that she would undoubtedly treasure forever.

    It was too much; Maylene’s heart was ready to burst out of her ribcage and she was redder than a Tamato Berry. Her feet felt as if they were planted to the ground, so Maylene’s reaction to Reggie’s offering was a small, excited cry before embracing him with both arms.

    “Oh, thank you…!” She cried out before burying her face into his chest and holding him tightly against her own body. Needless to say, Reggie didn’t expect such an extreme reaction, but he was very calm about it, letting Maylene vent out anything she wanted to say or do without stopping her.

    With adoring eyes and a satisfied smile, Maylene looked up to her unrequited crush… no, she was certain it was love now, with an equally loving gesture. “You’re the best, Reggie,” she gushed.

    “You… really give me way too much credit,” Reggie humbly said, unsure of what to do at this moment. He hadn’t seen this side of Maylene before, and while it didn’t necessarily make him feel uncomfortable… it did leave him feeling awkward. In the back of his mind, he was trying to figure out what was going through Brandon’s mind when he left that fifth flower behind. He had no idea when he’d even get the opportunity to ask him that, now.

    “No way,” Maylene said defiantly. “You’re beyond underrated! At least they’re getting better about it now, but all those years you went unappreciated…!”

    “What’s passed is past,” Reggie calmly told her. He was just then realizing the compromising position they were in; their bodies being firmly pressed together, that is. “We’ll work towards a brighter tomorrow together, Maylene; I promise. So, uh…” He looked around nervously. “It’s probably close to breakfast time for the Pok&#233;mon back at my place,” he pointed out. “And for us, too. How about we make a great big breakfast so we can keep your energy up by the time you battle Conway…?”

    “Oh…!” Just then, common sense snapped back into Maylene and she immediately let go of Reggie, stepping back a bit. “Reggie, I’m so sorry! That was so out of line for me, and…!”

    She then noticed that even though she had released her hold on Reggie… Reggie still maintained a grip on one of her hands. Maylene was surprised that Reggie had done that, and looked up at the young man she fell for and saw the handsomest smile on his face that she’d ever seen.

    Reggie, still holding her hand, maintained eye contact with her as he began to walk back home. “Shall we…?”

    These mixed signals were driving Maylene insane, but she maintained control of herself to calmly smile back at him and nod, and then follow along. “Let’s go!”

    The two exited the Cemetery and made their way back home hand-in-hand.

    And even though Reggie looked mature and confident about what he was doing… deep within the back of his mind, he was beginning to worry about his actions. Everything was happening so spontaneously, apparently beyond both Reggie and Maylene’s control. He again thought of Brandon and his insinuations… he felt he had an idea of what his father was trying to tell him with that fifth magnolia.

    Added with the hallucinations of his mother and apparently something endangering Paul’s life in the near future, Reggie was surprised he was taking this so well now. He didn’t think that, perhaps, Maylene’s affections for him were filling a void and easing the prior tensions, knowing he wouldn’t be handling them alone anymore.

    That was one thing Reggie knew for certain: with Maylene around, he no longer felt lonely.


    Later on that morning, Conway was awakened by a ringing phone. He figured his parents had already gone off to work by now, and his lazy sister certainly wouldn’t answer the phone, so he slid down from the top bunk (Paul insisted on taking the bottom last night, feeling his host would be less apt to be creepy around him from above than below, where he could more easily freak him out), grabbed his glasses and put them on, and rushed over to the phone.

    “Ah- hello…?” Conway said after picking it up, sounding a little out of breath.

    “Good morning, sir,” a young lady’s voice greeted him. “May I ask if Conway is available…?”

    “Uh…” Conway immediately looked worried, as he never got telephone calls meant for himself. “S-speaking,” he muttered cautiously.

    “Ah, Conway!” The lady sounded pleased. “Excellent. I’m calling on behalf of the Canalave City Library in regards to some books you checked out a few days ago.”

    Now, Conway was terrified. He knew this had to be about the Regigigas book he had now given to Brandon, meaning it was certain not to return to the library anytime soon. “I-I’m really sorry about the Regigigas book, if that’s what this is about!” He wailed. “I checked it out for a friend and I had no idea at the time that he never intended to allow it to come back! Then Pyramid King Brandon came by and took it, and he’ll be keeping it way beyond its due date for sure… I-I’m sure this all just sounds like a load of crock, doesn’t it?”

    “Not at all,” the lady casually said. “We’re actually calling to apologize to you, for it was our fault that Pyramid King Brandon was able to track you down in the first place. One of our patrons accidentally broke the code of honor while being interrogated by that man and gave out all of your information. We understand that the Frontier Brain is using that particular book for a good cause, so please don’t worry about returning it by its due date.”

    It almost sounded too good to be true. Relieved beyond belief, Conway sunk down into his computer chair while holding the phone, looking stunned. “S-so you’re… you’re not going to punish me…?”

    There was a chipper-sounding giggle on the other end of the phone. “Of course not! What happened was certainly beyond your control, so we aren’t blaming you at all. In fact, to express how sorry we are that such misfortune befell you, we’re allowing you to keep the other books you checked out that same night, free of charge.”

    “O-oh my…” Conway was speechless. “I… I don’t know what to say… I-I mean, the other books I checked out are also pretty rare…”

    “Rare, but replaceable,” the lady amended. “Please, accept our apology. We’ll be sure that a situation like this will not happen again.”

    To Conway, this was like a dream come true. His troubles with the library were plaguing him in the back of his mind every day after Paul informed him of his intentions, and the anxiety increased tenfold after Brandon took the book away to parts unknown in Sinnoh. In fact, this was something Conway had been holding against Paul and hadn’t quite forgiven him for yet.

    Still, he smiled and sounded immensely grateful. “I-it’s okay, really! I mean, you had to deal with Brandon just like I did… I know firsthand how scary that guy can be. I don’t blame you for cracking. He’s a guy who won’t stop until he gets what he wants… but I know he’s putting that book to good use and he’ll take care of it for sure.”

    “Good to know,” the lady said, sounding relieved. “Well, enjoy your books, Conway. Despite what has happened, I hope we will do business with you again soon.”

    “Oh, you can count on it!” Conway assured, sounding confident. “No other library’s been cool enough to give me free books! Thank you, really…”

    “Thank you for accepting our apology. Have a good day, Conway.”
    Last edited by Shinneth; 5th June 2009 at 10:29 PM.

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

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  21. #71
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    “You too!” Conway said in kind. He then hung up the phone and sighed happily, looking as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Due to the Regigigas ordeal and the strategizing from last night, Conway was afraid he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the books he’d checked out for himself, but now he could take his time and read them whenever he wanted. That was certainly a fantastic way to start the day.

    Conway looked to a nearby clock, seeing that it was an hour and a half before noon; no need to go back to sleep. He fondly looked to the still-sleeping Paul in his bed before smirking. “Hey, Paul! Are you gonna sleep the whole day away again? You’re not sick anymore, so you can’t use that as an excuse!”

    That was a voice loud enough to jolt Paul out of his slumber. Immediately, he growled and looked over to the cheery, wide-awake Conway. “What time is it?” He asked expectantly.

    “About 10:30,” Conway reported. “We ought to be getting up and preparing ourselves for what’s ahead today.”

    He was reluctant, but Paul forced himself to sit up from the bed, though he slumped over and clearly would have preferred another hour or two of sleep right now. “Fine…”

    “You never did get washed up last night,” Conway pointed out. “How about you get that out of the way now while I make breakfast? It’ll at least wake you up.”

    Paul narrowed his eyes at Conway as he was reminded of what he failed to do last night. “If you recall, Conway, I didn’t take a shower last night because our little ‘break’ ended up putting both of us to sleep in your backyard for a good deal of the night.”

    “Aha, yeah…” Conway was a little embarrassed that he let himself fall asleep outside for so long, but at least Paul was guilty of the same thing… plus, Conway had been the one to wake up first, realize what had happened, and awaken Paul so they could both retire to actual beds. “Sorry about that. At least we didn’t spend the entire night outside, right?”

    It was a good thing this was the last day he would have to deal with Conway, Paul thought. After watching the Gym Battle, which he expected to be full of nothing but total and utter failure, Paul decided he would immediately be on his way to Snowpoint City and hopefully make it across a few towns before having to turn in for the night. He would make it clear to Conway that their partnership would end as of today, and finally he would have his peaceful solitude back. Best of all, he would no wonder have to worry about coming to like that guy and tolerate his company. It was honestly hard to stomach; the idea of Conway of all people making him soft.

    “Honestly, you should be above that kind of thing,” Paul criticized, but decided to ease off on him from there, considering he would soon be free of his elder companion. “I expect whatever you plan on making is good enough to make up for that. Now, where’s your bathroom?”

    Conway blinked, expecting more insults to come out of his mouth, but blankly pointed out his doorway. “Just take a left after you leave this room and go down the hallway. It’ll be the first door you come across on the right. I was going to ask if you wanted anything in particular for breakfast, though…”

    “Whatever you make, I’m sure I’ll be fine with it,” Paul assured, trying to sound as neutral as possible in tone. He didn’t want to give Conway the idea that he was thrilled with dinner last night, though Paul couldn’t deny to himself that Conway’s cooking was very exceptional for his age; almost on par with Reggie’s. “Make whatever you want and I’ll come down to eat when I get dressed. Since you insist on waking up this early, I expect we’ll be heading to my house after we’re done eating.”

    Conway laughed a bit, feeling awkward just then. “No preference, huh? Alright, sure… we can head off after breakfast if you want.”

    Paul paused before gathering his belongings and exiting Conway’s bedroom. “I expect you’ll be reading through the strategy plan I made, considering you had no time to do so last night.” He tried his best to sound neutral about that as well… Paul really didn’t want Conway to think he cared that much about having his ideas considered. He just… obviously wanted to make sure he could give Conway ideas that would make the Gym Battle slightly less horrible than he expected it to be. Of course.

    “I’ll be reviewing it thoroughly while we eat!” Conway assured him. While Paul was brought up to understand that it was rude to eat at the table… he remembered Conway’s family went against practically every aspect representing that of a normal one. Knowing that now, Paul honestly couldn’t be surprised at the oddities any longer.

    “I won’t run into your family on the way to your bathroom, will I?” Paul asked Conway, sounding paranoid. It relieved him a bit when Conway happily shook his head.

    “Nah, mom and dad left for work hours ago. Franny should still be in bed, considering I’ve never once seen her up before noon for as long as I can remember,” he explained. “She’s terribly lazy, you see.”

    Paul nodded and looked away. “Good. Make sure you have something ready by the time I come to the kitchen.” With that, he opened Conway’s door and promptly left in search of the bathroom. Conway was the slightest bit put-off by Paul’s nastiness, but decided morning grumpiness must have had something to do with it.

    After giving Paul a chance to make some distance, Conway stood up and made his way for the kitchen. “Terribly impatient as always… at least I see now where he gets it from,” Conway mused, chuckling to himself.




    Things were decidedly awkward between Reggie and Maylene after returning from the Cemetery. The two barely spoke at all throughout breakfast and separated after their meal, with Maylene training outside in the backyard with Lucario to warm up for her Gym Battle and Reggie tending to the Pokémon, though he minded his still-injured hand and worked as lightly as he could while still getting the job done. No doubt the Pokémon were happy to see their caretaker back so soon, though it pained Reggie knowing he would have to be about his way again in order to train in preparation for his battle with his father. At least this time, Reggie knew he could train at his own pace and not have to worry about being dragged off to battle before he was ready. He would still have to find a more effective way of training that wasn’t as lenient as his yet not as brutal as his brother’s, but he trusted Maylene and Conway to give him some inspiration that would ultimately help him find out what his optimal method of training would be.

    Reggie smirked to himself as he heard minor explosions from his backyard, knowing Lucario wasn’t giving Maylene an easy time out there. He knew they would both put their best effort forward for his sake, and it was nice to feel so highly-valued. Though he tried his best, Reggie failed to hold back a yawn as his body reminded him that he got virtually no sleep at all last night. He tried his best to keep moving, hoping the adrenaline would keep him going (and it did), but even taking a short moment of a break brought his fatigue back to the fore. In all honesty, he hoped this wouldn’t become an issue when he would have to sit down and watch the Gym Battle.

    As he stepped out of the house via the front door in order to pick up the newspaper he’d forgotten about until just then, he looked ahead toward the streets to see his little brother and Maylene’s challenger headed towards the his direction in the distance. At first, seeing Paul made Reggie freeze up as abrupt memories of the nightmares he had last night returned with a vengeance. He remembered hearing his late mother’s voice warning him about Paul’s wellbeing for some reason, and he recalled the horrific visuals perfectly.

    Still… dreams were dreams. Reggie had to remember he’d just gotten out of the hospital; perhaps these were merely remnants of the psychosis, or side-effects from the treatment he received. Either way, he didn’t want to darken the mood by bringing any of this up to either Conway or Maylene, and especially not Paul. Instead, he did what he did best: smile in spite of his inner conflict and looked to the backyard where Maylene and Lucario continued to intensively train.

    “Maylene…!” Reggie called out, which quickly got her attention. “Your challenger’s arrived!”

    “As has the referee,” said another voice, decidedly male. Reggie turned around to see Connally, the Black Belt patron of Veilstone Gym, coming his way from the side.

    Reggie smirked, pleased to see all was going well in a timely fashion. “Connally! Good timing!” He greeted. “Nice to see you again. And really, thanks for helping out around here while Maylene was looking after me at the hospital. I appreciate it.”

    “It was my pleasure,” Connally assured. “A change of scenery was beneficial for me as well, considering how much work we’ve put into redesigning the Gym.”

    “I bet,” Reggie said with a laugh. “How close are you guys to finishing up the renovations?”

    Connally shook his head. “It’ll still be a while yet. We’re immensely grateful for you allowing our Gym Leader to use your backyard as a temporary replacement in the meantime.”

    “Anytime,” Reggie humbly dismissed. “It’s an honor to be able to help you guys out.”

    “Oh, Connally…!” Maylene shouted as she ran over to where Reggie and her pupil were, with Lucario not far behind her. “Good; you’re here! Looks like we can start the Gym Battle sooner than I expected.”

    “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Maylene,” Connally assured. “You’re well-missed at the Gym even though we’re in the midst of renovating it. Regardless, we’re pleased you found a way to work around this setback and-…” He paused as he noticed a Shell Bell necklace around her neck and a peculiar magnolia in her hair. After eyeing Reggie for a split-second, he smiled knowingly. “It certainly seems you’ve settled in well and made yourself at home.”

    Maylene blinked, not getting the meaning behind what he said. “Huh…?” Reggie just looked awkward meanwhile as Conway and Paul finally arrived and joined them. Their presence shattered the current conversation.

    “Glad you made it, Conway,” Reggie said, walking over to the boys. “I can’t wait to see your battle.” He then looked over to Paul. “So, did you have a fun time spending the night with him?”

    “I don’t think it’s possible for me to ‘have fun’, especially with Conway around,” Paul complained bitterly. He was still sour at his brother for making him spend the night there in the first place. “He’s so rich, it’s actually painful. His personal bathroom alone is so loaded; you’d think it belonged to a girl.”

    Conway simply huffed at that remark. “There’s no shame in taking pride in your appearance, Paul. It isn’t feminine in the least and it’s what the girls like in their men.”

    “Calling you a man is like calling a Magikarp a Magmortar,” Paul countered.

    “Brandon was right,” Maylene cut in, smiling. “You two really are like an old married couple.” Unable to resist and believing it to be true, Reggie and Connally started laughing. Conway just shied away and blushed while Paul glared furiously at Maylene and the others.

    His fists shook a little and Paul looked like he was about to blow up at Maylene, but calmed himself at the last second, though he still looked heavily displeased with his company. “Not that anything you say matters, Maylene…” He said lowly. “But maybe you should go ahead and get your Gym Battle underway. After I watch you and Conway make even bigger fools of yourselves, I’m leaving right away for Snowpoint City. By myself,” he clarified, looking right at the still-humbled Conway, who nodded in understanding.

    The second Paul mentioned Snowpoint City, the terrible image Reggie had dreamt about suddenly made sense. It coincided perfectly with what his “mother” was warning him about. He looked shocked for a moment, but settled into a very serious look, which no one else took notice to.

    “In that case, let’s get started!” Maylene announced. “You ready to go, Conway?”

    “Ah- of course!” Conway replied, sounding a little nervous. “Let’s begin!” He had read through Paul’s strategy and was ready to put it to good use with his own little flair.

    Everyone approached the backyard and took their positions: Reggie and Paul sat on a couple of crates set out to serve as seats for the two. Conway and Maylene faced each other from a long distance across the lawn. In the distance between them stood Connally, naturally some bit away from what would normally be a designated field, although there were no lines to define such a thing. It was terribly informal for a Gym Battle, but still legal regardless.

    “Our Veilstone City Gym Battle shall now commence!” Connally shouted out loud. “To my left is the challenger, Veilstone City’s own… Conway!”

    Conway smirked, already bringing out his first Pokéball. “Present,” he calmly announced.

    Connally looked the other way. “And to my right is the Veilstone City Gym Leader, Maylene!”

    Maylene returned the smug look, also taking out her first Pokéball. “Ready when you are…!”

    As the brothers watched, Paul finally noticed something. “Why is Maylene wearing a flower in her hair…?” He asked, staring at her confusedly.

    Reggie laughed nervously at Paul while carefully handling their mother’s necklace, which Maylene entrusted to him for safekeeping while she went off to do battle. “Uh, she just found it while training out here this morning,” he lied, hoping Paul would buy it. “She thought it was cute, so she decided to wear it…”

    “Magnolias don’t naturally grow around here,” Paul told him, evidently not buying the lie. Reggie could at least take solace in the fact that Paul would never be able to guess where they were actually from, considering he never knew what his mother’s favorite flower was and wouldn’t in a million years guess that Brandon would have left that flower, amongst others, at her final resting place.

    “Someone might’ve dropped it…?” Reggie suggested, sounding like he was obviously caught in his lie.

    “In our backyard?” Paul asked, finding that possibility hard to believe.

    Reggie’s lack of sleep was severely impairing his judgment. He decided to just keep quiet for now before he inadvertently blew his own cover. When Paul realized that Reggie had given up on the conversation, he disapprovingly crossed his arms and grumbled to himself.

    “For this battle, both the challenger and the Gym Leader will use three Pokémon each!” Connally continued. “The victor will be determined when either side’s three Pokémon are all defeated! Only the challenger may substitute Pokémon during the battle!” He looked to Conway just then. “The battle shall commence when the challenger makes the first move!”

    The lenses of Conway’s glasses gleamed in the sunlight as the wearer of them looked eager about this. “Just the way I wanted it. Alright, then!” He pressed the button on his Pokéball and tossed it out to the field. “Come forth, Aggron!”

    With a mighty roar, the Iron Head Pokémon indeed came forth and landed on the field with a thunderous thud, given its extremely heavy weight of nearly eight-hundred pounds. While it stood tall and ominously, everyone but Paul couldn’t help but gape at Conway’s first choice for battle.

    “Aggron…?” Maylene muttered to herself. “But isn’t Aggron…?”

    “Why’s he sending out a Pokémon that has a double-weakness to Maylene’s specialty type?” Reggie inquired, trying to figure out the logic behind this.

    Paul merely shrugged. “I told him it was a stupid idea, but I couldn’t talk him out of it.”

    As Conway looked on deviously with his first choice, Maylene began to show her determined gesture. “He isn’t a naïve kind of guy,” she noted (still to herself). “Obviously, he’s got some kind of trick up his sleeve…” She then spoke out loudly so everyone could hear her. “Interesting first choice, Conway! Now, let me respond…!” The young Gym Leader enlarged her Pokéball and sent out her first Pokémon. “Come on out, Machoke!”

    Though significantly smaller, the Superpower Pokémon came out with full confidence, posing on the field as it eyed the opponent.

    With the first two Pokémon now on the field, Connally threw his arms up. “Now, battle begin…!”

    “Pure Fighting,” Conway acknowledged, looking skeptical. “Guess I may not be able to prolong this first round very well after all… we’ll just have to see how well you can take Machoke’s hits, Aggron!” He then pointed dramatically to his Pokémon. “Let’s prepare for the onslaught with Iron Defense!”

    A subtle blue aura covered the entirety of Aggron’s body as it bulked up its defensive capabilities, expecting a full frontal attack from Maylene and Machoke.

    “Let’s see how big of a dent we can make, Machoke!” Maylene shouted. “Go for it with Cross Chop!”

    With a more intense glow on only its arms, Machoke formed a cross and rushed at Aggron to crash against its steely body with the force of both arms at once. Aggron roared out in pain in spite of its attempts to boost its defense, but was able to hang on. Nonetheless, Machoke had inflicted significant damage to its opponent.

    “Your endurance is admirable, Aggron!” Conway complimented. “Let’s enhance it! Iron Defense again!”

    As the blue glow intensified on Aggron, Maylene was confused. “He isn’t attacking even though Machoke’s so close now…?” She began to look serious, as she was completely unsure if Conway didn’t know what he was doing or if he was leading her into a giant trap. Nonetheless, it was still her move. “If he won’t do anything, let’s show him we mean business, Machoke!” She shouted out. “Use Focus Punch!”

    With a fist burning with a blinding white light, Machoke, still in close proximity to Aggron (who stood still, doing nothing but preparing for the next blow), hit its target dead-on with a devastating blow. This was forceful enough to send the extremely large and heavy Pokémon skidding back a few feet. Aggron could no longer stand sturdy; it was struggling to even remain standing at all, but still managed to do so and remain in the game. It was on borrowed time now, though, and Conway knew it was time to act now.

    “You’re going to regret using such a powerful move, Maylene,” Conway warned. “Aggron, it’s time to retaliate! Counter!”

    “N-no!!” Maylene cried out. “Machoke, get out of there…!!”

    Machoke tried, though was slightly tired out from forcing a beast of nearly eight-hundred pounds back several feet. It was met with a rampaging Aggron, glowing reddish-orange with anger and throwing out its own Focus Punch – except this one was exceptionally more powerful and fearsome.

    A single punch from Aggron sent Machoke flying back to its side of the field at blinding speed. Maylene gasped as Machoke zoomed past her and hit a boulder in the distance, making it practically explode. Due to how far it was sent out, no one knew if Machoke was able to continue battling or not. Maylene was almost too afraid to go over there and find out. Both Reggie and Paul were staring at the scene wide-eyed, as it was rare to see such raw power thrown out on the battlefield. Conway was especially impressed with the results.

    “Guess we don’t know our own strength…” Conway figured, sounding awed. “Focus Punch’s power doubled would be massive, though… and that’s what Counter’s all about.”

    Reggie looked to Paul, just realizing something. “You know, Paul… you could’ve had something like this if you were just a little more patient.”

    Paul grumbled and refused to look at Reggie, instead preferring to concentrate on the battle. “Don’t remind me.”

    “You know you still could…” Reggie innocently reminded. “Lairon’s missed you.”

    “Lairon needs to stop being so emotional,” Paul rebutted. “That’s one reason of many why I left it with you in the first place. If it wants to be an Aggron like Conway’s, it needs to stop being so soft.”

    “Wait…! I can see something!!” Maylene cried out, pointing to the distance. Indeed, everyone was witness to a severely battered and bruised Machoke hobbling its way back to the battling site. All those present were amazed to see Machoke still conscious and able to walk a good distance on its own after taking such a terrible blow. “Machoke, you’re alright…!”

    Connally nodded at this. “Machoke is still able to battle, meaning this match continues!”

    Maylene looked to Machoke worriedly. “Machoke, can you really…?”

    In spite of its weak state, Machoke turned to Maylene and nodded, posed and ready to continue the fight. Conway now looked serious, and was mildly disappointed that such a devastating blow did not end the battle.

    “The move is yours, Maylene,” Conway offered. “I insist.”

    “Try to be careful, Machoke,” Maylene uttered to her Pokémon before refocusing her attention to her opponents. “Alright, then! Machoke, let’s take up the offer and bring along a Brick Break!”

    What Maylene didn’t know was that Conway was familiar with this move’s execution thanks to watching Weavile spam the move during Paul’s battle with Byron. So while Machoke tiredly ran and jumped at Aggron, prepared to karate-chop the Iron Head Pokémon, Conway was quick to act.

    “Counter with Thunder Wave!” Conway commanded.

    A weak electric charge generated from Aggron’s claw. Just as Machoke’s hand was about to make contact with Aggron, the opponent interfered with its own. The charge passed from Aggron to Machoke and, as a result, Machoke was completely immersed within a static discharge. Aggron took some damage from the Brick Break attack, though only through the hand, and it wasn’t enough to fell the much larger creature.

    Machoke, meanwhile, was dealing with a nasty case of paralysis.

    Maylene was beginning to doubt her chances of winning this particular match, but remembered that it was her self-doubt that put her into her slump and depression in the first place all those months ago before Dawn aided her. Now Reggie was the one immersed in self-doubt and needed inspiration in order to get his head in the game. She simply cared too much for him to let him down now.

    “You can do it, Machoke!!” She hollered. “Break through it and use Focus Punch! With all the strength you have left…!”

    Conway was taken by surprise when Machoke was actually able to overcome the paralysis handicap and charge right for Aggron. Before he could even shout the command for Outrage, Machoke landed a critical hit right at the center of Aggron’s chest. Skidding back even further than before, it was finally too much for Aggron to take. After a moment or two of twitching from the sting of the punch, Aggron fell to the ground, officially knocked out.

    “Gah…!” Conway cried out. “Aggron!”

    “Aggron is unable to battle!” Connally announced, making it official. “Machoke is the winner!”

    Paul couldn’t help but smile a little as he witnessed Conway’s anguish over his fallen Aggron. Begrudgingly, though, he had to admit… “He lasted much longer than I thought he would with Aggron. Still, obviously it’s not as great as you made it out to be, Reggie. Maybe I was right not to waste my time.”

    “It wouldn’t… waste time…” Reggie murmured, suddenly having slumped over with his eyelids feeling heavy. “Against… odds…”

    As Paul was unaware of Reggie’s sleeping troubles from the previous night, he grew a little concerned when he saw his older brother on the verge of passing out. “Reggie…?” Though his brother remained awake, there was no response.

    Meanwhile, Conway sighed and returned Aggron to its Pokéball. “All things considered, Aggron, you did a really good job. Too bad you couldn’t Outrage that Machoke… but I think you really made a difference.” He put Aggron’s Pokéball away and took out his next one. “We won’t let your sacrifice go to waste, Aggron!”

    “I was right to suspect you were leading me into a trap!” Maylene called out to him. “I must commend you for making good use of a Pokémon that’s doubly weak to mine; I thought this wouldn’t last long at all, but you really had me worried that I might lose for a second there!”

    Conway grinned while acknowledging the compliments. “You’re much too kind.” Again, his glasses gleamed against the sunlight. “Your Machoke’s about out of gas itself, though. Now it’s time for me to get serious…” The next Pokéball was thrown out, revealing Conway’s next Pokémon. “Come forth, Heracross…!“

    As Heracross came to the field, fully prepared for battle, Paul scoffed over at the peanut gallery. “Really, Conway… you don’t consider a double-powered Focus Punch serious?” He shook his head, expecting Reggie to retort in Conway’s defense, yet still heard nothing. This was becoming a bit unsettling for him.

    “Hm…” Maylene smirked, liking the idea of this match-up. “Bug and Fighting, huh? Now this makes a lot more sense!”

    “Let’s see who fights best then, shall we?” Conway offered her. Maylene silently nodded in response. “The lady’s ready to start round two, Heracross,” Conway confirmed to his Pokémon. Heracross looked back and nodded to its trainer. “Let’s go, then! Aerial Ace!”

    “Don’t let Heracross get started!” Maylene shouted, not willing to let Machoke be hit by the super-effective move that would lay a guaranteed hit for Heracross. “Seismic Toss!”

    Just as Heracross was about to ascend straight into the air, both it and its trainer were shocked to see Machoke reach Heracross first, wrapping its arms around the Single Horn Pokémon and weighing it down, making it therefore unable to initiate Aerial Ace. With ease, Machoke held up Heracross with both arms and jumped up high, spinning as it did so. Once it reached a certain altitude, it threw Heracross even higher up before descending, leaving Heracross helpless as it was forcefully sent up several hundred feet above ground. Machoke landed well before Heracross even started to fall. When it did so, however, the rate at which it fell was very quickly, dropping like a rock.

    Conway looked nervous, uncertain that Heracross would even be able to hear him, but frowned… as he did have an idea. He knew he would have to wait until Heracross was in hearing range, though, meaning it might be too late for Heracross to even recover by the time it would be able to hear its trainer’s command.

    Nonetheless, Conway carefully watched his Pokémon plummet towards the ground, waiting until he knew Heracross would be able to heed the call. “You’re airborne, Heracross!” He shouted. “Try Aerial Ace again before you hit the ground!”

    Heracross wearily looked towards its trainer, only barely registering the command before crashing into the ground, making a crater as it did so. Conway’s uneasiness increased tenfold upon seeing his plan fail, and now his self-doubt was starting to kick in.

    In disapproval, Paul shook his head. “Typical. I should’ve figured his Heracross isn’t good enough for my strategy. Conway’s never looked this pathetic before.”

    “Ah! Heracross!” Conway shouted in relief, seeing Heracross weakly stand up after such a fall. “You’re alright…!” Even though his plan had failed, there was another way he could turn this completely around on Machoke, and this was something Conway was certain would work out. “Get ready and use Revenge!”

    “What…?!” Maylene was fearful for another situation like Aggron and Counter, knowing Revenge worked in a similar way, though to a lesser degree. “No way…! Machoke, cut it off and use Brick Break!”

    Machoke’s hand glowed again to do so, but Heracross was simply too fast as it flew in, horn-first, to strike its opponent. Nearly speared, as it were, Machoke was brutally thrown back with amazing power and fell before Maylene, now finally knocked out. As an initial reaction, Maylene cried out. “Oh no…!”

    “Machoke is unable to battle!” Connally yelled out. “Heracross is the winner!”

    “Hah! No way!” Conway gasped out in relief, having accomplished his first victory within the Gym Battle challenge. It was far from over, but he was ecstatic, as he was beginning to doubt he’d be incapable of taking any of Maylene’s Pokémon out if they were going to be as tough as Machoke.

    Maylene smiled down at Machoke before returning it to its Pokéball. “You stuck it out for a long time… I really appreciate that, Machoke. Rest well, my friend.” With Machoke returned, Maylene got her second Pokéball ready to throw at a moment’s notice. “Is it me, or am I detecting a pattern here, Conway?” She asked her challenger, smirking.

    Conway only shrugged, however. “They do say the best offense is a good defense… but if moves like Revenge and Counter are anything to go by, I imagine the reverse is true as well.”

    Meanwhile, Paul bitterly refused to take Maylene’s initial victory as a sign of improvement, regardless of how much better she fared against Conway compared to himself. “What’s wrong, Reggie? You’re not going to brag about how ‘great’ she is?” Ever since Conway’s remark last night in regards to Reggie giving the young Gym Leader their mother’s Shell Bell, Paul had been paranoid that his nerdy companion might actually be right in the assumption that there was more between those two than mere friendship. It didn’t help that he’d already witnessed on several occasions how accurate Conway’s observations were most of the time.

    Still, there was no response from his brother. “What’s with you today?” Paul asked, put off with the silence. When his question was met with even more silence, Paul decided enough was enough. He leaned over and waved his hand in front of Reggie’s face, hoping to get his attention. However, Reggie did not react. Paul then noticed his eyes were practically closed now, and after a disapproving grunt, he loudly brought his hands together while they were still in his brother’s face. “Reggie!”

    With the loud clapping noise that came from Paul’s hands colliding, Reggie’s eyes snapped open. The elder brother wailed at the suddenness of the sound and freaked out when he saw a pair of hands mere inches from his face. Completely unaware of his surroundings, Reggie scooted back away… only to fall off the crate he sat upon and flat on his back. Paul flinched momentarily at the harsh landing, but quickly looked unsympathetic for what happened.

    “They’re battling for your stupid sake, you know!” Paul scolded, standing over him. “How are you going to be inspired if you sleep through the whole thing?!”

    Maylene heard Paul’s shouting just before she was about to send out her next Pokémon. She paused before the ball escaped her hand and looked over to where Paul and Reggie were. Conway was also disturbed by the sudden loudness and did the same as his opponent. Both were rather displeased to see Paul standing over a fallen Reggie as he harshly criticized him.

    “Hey, what’s going on over there?!” Maylene called out, sounding angry that Paul would be so insensitive. “For goodness’ sake, Paul! Could you be more heartless?!”

    It just infuriated Paul to be wrongly accused by someone he couldn’t stand. He glared over in her direction. “He’s practically sleeping through this Gym Battle! You know, the battle you two are having right now that’s supposed to help him?!”

    “Sleeping?” Conway inquired, notably curious about the situation. “But it’s still early in the afternoon… how could Reggie be tired?”

    “Oh no…” Maylene muttered, hoping this kind of thing wouldn’t happen… at least not now, of all times. Still, she remained firm. “Paul, he hardly got any sleep last night! Lay off him, already!”

    Paul’s anger didn’t fade, for he assumed the worst possible incident (in his mind) for why that would be the case. “That so, huh?” He glared even more furiously down at Reggie, who was still shocked that he was on the verge of passing out at such a time as this. It was then that Paul noticed his mother’s Shell Bell had slid off onto the ground after Reggie fell. Thankfully, it was in no way harmed, but Paul honestly didn’t care for the condition of the necklace. Paul picked it up, grasping the string of pearls tightly before holding it over his brother. “Now why would that ever be the case, Reggie?! You’ve never said anything about having insomnia. Surely it wouldn’t have a thing to do with why you kicked me out last night, would it?!”

    Instead of denying the false accusation or even giving Paul an answer, Reggie’s immediate reaction was to abruptly sit up and snatch the necklace away from his careless younger brother. “G-give that back…! Before you break it!!” Since Paul did not expect this, Reggie succeeded.

    This reaction did not help matters in the least, however. “Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?” Paul assumed, turning away from Reggie. “You disgust me. I don’t even want to stick around to see how this ends, now.” He was about to walk away, but nearly tripped after Reggie, who was still on the ground, grabbed the fabric of his pants. Had Paul not caught himself in time, that would have been a humiliating spectacle. In response, he growled and looked back at his brother. “Will you let go?! I’m not interested in your excuses!”

    “No, you’re going to listen to me!” Reggie shouted back, now equally as enraged as Paul. “It’s true I shouldn’t have fallen asleep, but you’re totally out of line again! We’re gonna have to have a little talk after this battle is over, because there’s a lot I need to get off my chest before you run off to Snowpoint City!” Indeed, seeing his mother’s Shell Bell reminded Reggie of why exactly he couldn’t sleep last night. Much as he wanted to stop Paul from going to Snowpoint City altogether and find some other Gym to earn his next badge at, Reggie knew it was never easy to change his brother’s mind on anything once he decided on a specific course of action. But despite that, the odds didn’t stop Reggie from wanting to try.

    “I have a feeling I’ve already guessed what you’re going to tell me,” Paul said, lowly growling. “And I’d rather not have to think about it more than I already have, because I already feel like kicking you as hard as I can.”

    Even for quarrelling brothers, Reggie found that to be unbelievably brutal. “You have no idea what you’re even saying, you know!”

    “No, I’m pretty sure I want to kick you around for a few hours,” Paul rebutted. “Especially since society etiquette prevents me from doing it to girls.” Obviously, he meant Maylene, and Reggie knew it. Of course, he jumped to her defense as he stood up and towered over his little brother.

    “Leave Maylene out of this!” Reggie furiously insisted. “Obviously, nothing I said to you last night sunk in! That’s the only way I can see how you’d be acting like a complete brat over nothing!”

    Despite the height difference, Paul didn’t hesitate to glare up at Reggie. “Prove me wrong then, liar! Oh, wait. That’s right… you can’t. I’m just supposed to take your word for it like I always have to. I can’t imagine what else you’ve been lying to me about!”

    While the two growled at each other, finally some intervention came in the form of Maylene, who grabbed Reggie by his hair to pull him away from Paul, and Conway, who snagged one of Paul’s arms and yanked him away from Reggie.

    “Honestly, you two,” Maylene scolded. “You’re not solving a thing by senselessly yelling at each other!” She expected this sort of behavior out of Paul, but not Reggie. Seeing him mirror his younger brother’s attitude was only bringing back bad memories for her; specifically when Reggie went ballistic during his first day in the hospital. She was afraid this was going to eventually resurface, and now that fear was confirmed. He hadn’t actually resorted to physical violence at this point, but the look on Reggie’s face certainly made it look like he wanted to damage Paul just as much as Paul wanted to damage him.

    “Seriously, Paul, grow up,” Conway urged, not at all impressed with Paul’s behavior, either. “You’re jumping to conclusions way too fast, and if you don’t want to stay and watch the Gym Battle for your brother’s sake, then at least watch it for my sake, please? Or better yet, your strategy’s?”

    Paul easily freed himself from Conway’s grasp, but stayed put. “Whichever way the wind blows, you’re both still pathetic losers. This is a waste of my time.”

    “Actually, you’ll technically be a loser if I lose as well,” Conway pointed out, but Paul only rolled his eyes.

    “And how do you figure that?”

    “I’m under your strategy,” Conway reminded. “True, I’m putting my own spin on it, but this is largely influenced by you. And seeing as you’ve already won against Maylene, it’ll reflect poorly on you if your strategy can’t beat out hers.”

    As Conway smirked, having defeated Paul in yet another battle of logic, the latter huffed in frustration and went back to his seat. “Fine. See if you can impress me, then, because so far you’re proving to be every bit the amateur I figured you’d be.”

    “Well, gee… it is my first Gym Battle; cut me a little slack,” Conway said in his own defense. “I think I’ll be able to concentrate better if I know you and your brother can get through this without killing each other, though.”

    “As will I, Reggie,” Maylene concurred, making sure Reggie wasn’t forgotten in this equation. “For goodness’ sake, separate if you two can’t sit together and be civil.”

    Reggie was still glaring at Paul, but he heeded Maylene’s words. “Fine; I’ll just move, then. But I’m still going to speak with you privately after this is over and before you leave, Paul.” He tried to pick his crate up, but was so angry that he’d forgotten that his hand was still broken… and therefore, trying to use it to lift anything only resulted in a great deal of pain. He sharply pulled back and groaned, regretting that he could be angry enough to actually forget that. In response to this, Paul sighed in exasperation and stood up.

    “For the love of-… I’ll just move,” he said, picking up his crate. He passed by Reggie (who was still reeling in pain) and set the crate back on the ground a few yards away from his brother’s. Paul sat back down and quickly looked impatient. “Alright, issue resolved. Can you two finish up now?”

    Reggie followed suit, taking a seat, but couldn’t quite get himself to calm down. He knew exactly what he was being accused of, and he hated how Paul refused to see it any other way than his own. Seeing the two separated and no longer feuding, however, Conway and Maylene looked to each other with uncertainty.

    “Guess we’ll just have to trust them,” Conway figured. “Whatever the case, Reggie’s certainly awake now, so hopefully he’ll be paying attention to us rather than Paul.”

    Maylene nodded after briefly looking back to Reggie. “Yeah… let’s do our best to get his mind off this. I guess I still need to send out my next Pokémon.”

    “Indeed,” Conway affirmed while walking his way back to his side of the field, where Heracross stood by. “Let’s make this one count!”

    Maylene smiled nervously at her opponent as she returned to her side of the field and looked apologetically to Connally. “Sorry about the hold-up…”

    “No need to apologize,” Connally assured. “It takes great courage to step into these disputes and nullify them. Now, let’s start the third match!”

    “Right!” Maylene refocused on the battlefield and finally threw her next Pokéball. “Let’s do this, Meditite!”

    The next match was underway, and Conway was pleasantly surprised to see that his next match was against a dual-typed Pokémon of Fighting and Psychic. “How amusing… you’re certain you’re going with that one?”

    “You’d be mistaken to underestimate Meditite,” Maylene warned. “You’re dealing with pure power.”

    “I’ll be the judge of that!” Conway responded. “Heracross, go over there and give Meditite a little taste of Megahorn!”

    Heracross was quick to follow orders as its horn powered up, signified with a bright glow surrounding the horn. As it inched closer and closer to Meditite, Maylene was ready for it.

    “Meditite, use Detect!” She instructed. Meditite’s dark eyes turned green, ready to dodge the powerful move with ease. However, seeing this move made Conway smirk. He loved ruining any trainer’s defense plan with his own cunning.

    “Cancel that, Heracross!” He said quickly. “Use Feint!”

    With its horn still glowing, Heracross heeded the call and switched plans; for every dodge Meditite made, Heracross met it with a successful hit until it had done enough damage to send Meditite flying back to the ground nearby Maylene.

    Maylene looked deeply concerned. “Unbelievable… his Heracross knows Feint. Conway’s like… a genius when it comes to countering maneuvers.” She gestured to Meditite, urging it to get ready to attack. “We’re not giving up that easily! Meditite, use Confusion!”

    Again, Meditite’s eyes glowed as it concentrated. Suddenly, Heracross was consumed in a purple aura and couldn’t move.

    “D-dah…!! No good!” Conway cried out, completely unsure of how to handle this situation. He never considered a Psychic-type being a possibility amongst his opponents and the strategy Paul had written for him had no methods of evading them… not with Heracross, at least.

    “Don’t hold back!” Maylene encouraged her Pokémon. “Drag it across the ground until it says ‘uncle’!”

    Meditite smiled and proceeded to do so, using its power to forcefully drag Heracross all over the field, which consequently meant she was accidentally ruining a huge chunk of Reggie’s backyard, but that hadn’t occurred to her at the time. She would come to regret it later. But for now, her strategy did a bang-up job on Heracross, who was still able to battle, yet battered and fragile at this point.

    Conway clearly looked nervous about what to do from here. As Heracross struggled to get up, Maylene was preparing for another attack already.

    “I think it’s high time to end this,” Maylene announced with confidence. “Meditite, use Drain Punch!”

    All Conway could do was shout out what came to mind, as the strategy was no longer useful to go by. “Heracross, dodge and use Aerial Ace!!”

    Meditite’s fist emanated with green-colored energy as it thrust its fist straight toward Heracross in hopes of landing a hit. Heracross flew up at the last second, however, gaining some distance at first to charge up, and in a blinding light, flew at Meditite with all its might. It was a direct hit, and Meditite did not have the strength to fully endure the super-effective blow.

    It fell to the ground with a thud, clearly incapacitated.

    “N-no way…” Conway muttered. “I totally pulled that out of nowhere… I actually managed to improvise!”

    “Meditite is unable to battle!” Connally announced. “Heracross is the winner!”

    Maylene took the loss in stride, knowing it still wasn’t over yet. Though she was left with only one Pokémon, she knew her final choice would give Conway a hard time. She was satisfied to have been able to significantly damage Heracross as well. “Good job, Meditite,” she quietly said while returning Meditite to its Pokéball. “You were great out there… so you earned a rest.”

    Deep down, Paul was mildly impressed because he had purposely made the strategy for Conway lacking, mainly due to not going in-depth with what types Maylene would possibly have compared to the detailed deliberation over what Candice might have. Still, he wanted to see if Conway could improvise (given that he failed to miserably at the Tag Battle Tournament; that blunder cost him the win) and he succeeded in doing so this time.

    Still, he hid his true feelings with a stone-cold, emotionless expression. “So he knows how to work around setbacks after all…” He muttered, hoping no one would hear his remarks. “Too bad it doesn’t change anything.”

    “I have to say, Conway, this has been a wild ride!” Maylene told her challenger. “You’ve got a really unique style, you know? I think that’s the kind of thing Reggie needs for inspiration; thinking out of the box! You’re doing great in representing how to do that.”

    Conway humbly bowed. “Well, don’t forget to credit yourself. You’re working every bit as hard as I am to inspire Reggie, and I have to say you’re quite an ace battler.” Then, he smirked in his traditional creepy manner. “I do believe we’re nearing the end, however. We’ll need to make this count.”

    After blushing briefly, Maylene nodded in agreement and brought out her final Pokéball. “This may be my last Pokémon, but you probably already know that it’s common knowledge amongst Gym Leaders and the top-notch trainers that you should always save the best for last!”

    “Indeed,” Conway agreed. “I look forward to this climax. If you would, now…?”

    Maylene formed her hands into fists, ready to sync up with her partner whenever necessary. “With pleasure! Lucario, it’s up to you, now…!” She threw the Pokéball and the Aura Pokémon burst out, landing on the field and ready to test Conway’s skills.

    With his hands on his hips, Conway tilted his head and smirked at his final opponent. “Well, at least I expected this. I believe I will recall Heracross at this time! Heracross, return!”

    As this was allowed, Conway returned Heracross to its ball. “I appreciate all your efforts, Heracross,” Conway said. “But now it’s time I returned the favor. She’s showed me her best… so I’ll show her mine.” He took out his final Pokéball, activated it, and threw it to the field. “Come forth, Slowking!”
    Last edited by Shinneth; 5th June 2009 at 11:04 PM.

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

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  22. #72
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    Conway’s Royal Pokémon entered the battlefield, looking relatively calm compared to the rest of Conway’s team.

    “A Slowking…” Maylene acknowledged, knowing its typing, but never saw it with Conway before. She was surprised that this was his signature Pokémon. “I see. Well, Lucario, I think we can handle this!” She made a motion of gathering energy and throwing it forward, as Lucario would soon do as well. “Now! Aura Sphere!”

    Lucario gathered a concentrated ball of aura between its paws and growled before firing it out straight towards Slowking.

    However, Conway was not worried. “Ah, yes. A surefire hit… unless…” He smirked and looked to Slowking. “Use Protect!”

    Slowking laughed heartily as it enveloped itself in a sphere of colorful light. Aura Sphere smashed against it and dissolved the barrier, but Slowking remained completely unharmed.

    “Drat! He even has Protect?!” Maylene muttered in frustration. She was loving the battle, but was getting overly-anxious when her hits either never connected or made an effect on Conway’s Pokémon half the time due to the trainer’s scheming. “He’s definitely not going easy on me, either…”

    Lucario grunted at Maylene, hating every moment of self-doubt she’s ever had. Maylene was quick to shake herself out of it. “Alright, I know Protect is less likely to work the more he tries to use it, so this should be only a one-time ordeal. Lucario, go ahead and use Bone Rush!”

    The Aura Pokémon used its energy-manipulation abilities to form a very long bone suited for battle. Lucario rushed towards Slowking and proceeded to freely smack Slowking with the bone, which it was indeed susceptible to.

    “Slowking, you can take it!” Conway assured his partner. “Wait for the right time…”

    Slowking was feeling the pain, as Lucario was particularly ruthless with its fury, but as a bulky type, it was specially suited to excel in defense, and therefore was able to take every blow.

    “Keep going!” Maylene urged, desperate to get her best hits in now before Slowking would react. “Force Palm!”

    After the Bone Rush onslaught, since Lucario was in close proximity to Slowking, it was easily able to grab the large pink Pokémon and release a giant burst of energy, which effectively knocked the Royal Pokémon back a few feet.

    Though it nearly tripped on the now-ruined terrain, Slowking maintained balance and stood firm after the attack had done its job. Lucario huffed a bit, mildly exhausted for going all-out on Slowking, which was pretty much required considering Slowking’s size and girth.

    “What a rush,” Conway remarked. “Your Lucario certainly has a mean streak, Maylene.”

    “We’re just really into the art of mortal combat!” Maylene replied, posing with her own fighting stance. “So watch out! Here comes Metal Claw!” As she swiped with her right hand, so did Lucario as its claws glowed and enlarged into blade-like extensions, intending to leave a mark on Slowking.

    Conway thrust his fist forward, following the trend. “You’ll regret coming at me haphazardly! Slowking, slow it down with Water Pulse!”

    Slowking formed a large ball of water between its hands, eyed its foe carefully as it came ever-so closer with the vicious fangs. On its own, it knew the best time to release the attack and did so, with the ball bursting out into a fearsome wave that came straight towards Lucario. As it was in mid-attack, it had no way of dodging.

    The force of the water knocked Lucario back and canceled the attack. It coughed a bit, having been submerged in a great deal of water unprepared, but stood back up on the saturated soil and glared deeply into its opponent’s eyes.

    Maylene was beginning to look intense, and really into the battle now. “We’re not done yet, Conway! Lucario, Bone Rush! Let’s go!”

    Once more, the bone made of pure energy was formed and Lucario wasted no time in wailing at Slowking with its temporary weapon. Conway gasped when Lucario managed to land a rather critical hit by jabbing the end of the bone right into the gut of Slowking. A move like that knocked the wind out of it.

    “S-Slowking…” Conway muttered in fear. Though the moves were not highly effective due to the typing, the force put behind them by Maylene’s Lucario were rather devastating. “P-Protect…!”

    Much to his horror, Slowking tried and failed to put its shield up.

    “Now’s your chance!” Maylene pointed out. “Force Palm!!”

    Lucario grabbed Slowking again and blasted it back with a massive burst of energy. As Slowking skidded against the mud that was made as a result of the massive Water Pulse, Conway was horrified to see a flash of electricity stun his signature Pokémon, signifying that it had been paralyzed. It saddened him to see that his own paralyzing strategy failed and was now turned against him, but he tried not to dwell on that for too long.

    “We can’t let that handicap ruin our chances!” Conway notified his Pokémon. “You aren’t totally helpless! Please… Protect again!”

    “Lucario!” Maylene shouted, showing the movements of the move her Pokémon was about to do. “Aura Sphere…!!”

    The Aura Pokémon was more than happy to comply. A ball of said Aura slammed into Slowking before it even had a chance to try and protect itself. It was now looking notably worried as it twitched and stuttered.

    “Crap, I should have remembered!” Conway cursed himself. “Force Palm does have a good chance of paralyzing opponents… why didn’t I use Safeguard?! I wouldn’t be in this predicament now if I had only-”

    “Conway, stop your moping!” Paul shouted out, surprisingly. “You’re going to lose on account of your pathetic sensitivity, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself!”

    Harsh as he was, the insult snapped Conway out of it. “Paul’s right… I can’t dwell on past mistakes.”

    “Let’s give it another Aura Sphere, Lucario!” Maylene called out, and her Pokémon complied. Slowking took yet another blow of concentrated Aura, and even though it wasn’t particularly effective considering the typing, Slowking was getting worn down quickly just on Lucario’s own fierceness.

    “Alright, time for action,” Conway decided. “I know you’re not in a good condition right now, Slowking… but please try to concentrate! Use Psychic against Lucario and beat it to the ground!”

    Slowking nodded to Conway shakily before closing its eyes and concentrating. Meanwhile, another Aura Sphere was about to head straight for it. Suddenly, the Aura Sphere was enveloped in an intense blue light and stopped in midair. Maylene and Lucario were surprised at this, and certainly didn’t expect that Aura Sphere would be coming right back to the one who created it. It crashed into Lucario; absolutely devastating considering Lucario was weak to its own Fighting type.

    “So that’s all, huh?” Conway mused. “Using your own moves against you seems to be the key!”

    “No way!” Maylene shouted. “I can’t believe you… w-well, it’s not going to happen again! Lucario, I think Slowking needs another Force Palm!”

    “I think you know what to do, Slowking,” Conway said with pure confidence. “Just wait for the right time…”

    Slowking smirked as it waited for Lucario to come and grab it again. Once it made contact, it used Psychic again just as Lucario was releasing energy. The force of the move still shoved Slowking back some way, but the brunt of the force went right back to Lucario for another immensely effective blow. It was shot back the other way and slid across the mud.

    By now, both opponents were battered, bruised, and tired. The trainers knew the end was nigh.

    “This is it,” Maylene acknowledged. “Lucario’s running on empty… I have to make this count.” She looked up, focused on Lucario, and posed in another battle stance. “Lucario, this is your time to shine! Smack Slowking head-on with Bone Rush, and we should be done here!”

    “We’re also going all-out!” Conway announced. “Break out of that paralysis and body-rush Lucario while using Water Pulse! With your size, we shall certainly prevail!”

    After a moment of silence, both Pokémon proceeded to follow their trainers’ instructions. Lucario snarled and growled as loudly as it could while making its way towards Slowking, prepared to knock it out with a concussion-inducing Bone Rush blow.

    Slowking miraculously broke out of its paralysis just then and followed Conway’s lead. It “ran” as fast as it could (which was pitiful compared to Lucario’s speed), while building up the more intense Water Pulse it ever conjured. When the two forces met, both critical blows were successful.

    After a loud explosion due to the collision of the titans, it could be briefly seen that Lucario bashed Slowking directly in the forehead with its Bone Rush attack while Slowking nailed Lucario in the jaw with its fists, containing the essence of Water Pulse.

    A massive splash of water later, the aftermath was viewable to all who were present.

    After the collision, Slowking’s massive body fell right on top of Lucario. With the dynamics considered, it was no surprised that Lucario was knocked out.

    However… Slowking was also unconscious, which prompted gasps from a few people. It was made apparent when it was not moving off Lucario, looking just as lifeless as its opponent.

    “Whoa…” Maylene breathed out. “That was…”

    “Intense…” Conway quietly finished.

    “Both Lucario and Slowking are unable to battle!” Connally determined. “Therefore, this match is a draw! However, the Gym Leader no longer has any usable Pokémon while the challenger still has one. That means ultimate victory goes to Conway of Veilstone City…!!”

    After hearing that, Conway fell to his knees. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. Maylene laughed a bit at this reaction, figuring this was typical of a trainer who just won his first Gym Battle ever. However, she also slumped; very well exhausted from that brawl.

    “You did well, Conway…” She complimented. “I can say, in all honesty, I’ve never had a challenger like you before. It’s a wonder why you don’t do this more often… your potential is amazing.”

    Conway looked so happy, he could almost cry. “You… you really mean it…?”

    “Don’t get too excited,” Paul interrupted, standing up from the crate now. “All Gym Leaders more-or-less say the same thing to every trainer who wins. It really doesn’t mean anything; it’s just common courtesy.”

    Maylene frowned, but didn’t have the energy to do any more than that now. “Paul! That is so not true! I praise all individual trainers differently!”

    “Maylene…” Paul began, uncertain of how to finish his sentence, but then came up with something. “You’re as much of a liar as my brother is. So please don’t speak.”

    “Actually, I’d like you to stop speaking until we get back inside the house,” Reggie scolded, suddenly right next to Paul. He promptly grabbed Paul by the arm and looked to the others, looking much friendlier than before... as he usually was. “Maylene, Conway… that was an excellent battle. You both have given me a lot of ideas to consider trying out, because… wow. You two were awesome!”

    “A win-win situation!” Conway cheered. “I get my Gym Badge, and your inspiration is revived! It really worked…!”

    Reggie smiled and nodded to Conway. “It sure did. I can’t wait to start training again.”

    “Oh, that’s right…!” Maylene cried out with a gasp. “I’ve got to present your Gym Badge..!”

    Connally suddenly showed up next to Maylene, presenting the case containing the badge. “I planned that ahead of time,” he said. “Do your duty with honor, Maylene.”

    “Oh, thank you so much, Connally!” Maylene thanked graciously, accepting the case. “I’ll do my very best!” She promised, saluting to her pupil before approaching Conway. Everyone gathered around as it was made official…

    “Conway, I can’t thank you enough for giving me such a thrilling battle,” Maylene began. “All of your hard work paid off, and in recognition of that and your accomplishments, I would like to present you the Cobble Badge.” She opened up the case, revealing a single Cobble Badge sitting in the middle.

    Conway carefully stared at it for a bit before taking it out of the case and admiring it by examining it even closer. Judging from the look on his face, it seemed part of him still couldn’t believe that all of this was real.

    “You earned it,” Maylene assured, smiling to him. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

    “My first Gym Badge…” Conway whispered. “I… I thought I’d never…” Then he smiled and held it up, now fully in a celebratory manner. “But I did! I just secured myself a Cobble Badge…!” He even posed in a dramatic manner.

    Out of nowhere, Conway’s Pokémon joined in on the celebration. “Slow-king-slow…!” “Hera!!” “Arrrggh!”

    … And then they all promptly collapsed, as they were still battered and exhausted.

    “Wh-what the heck?!” Conway cried out. “How did you all get out of your Pokéballs?!” He pulled all three out. “Return, all of you! Geez!”

    Everyone (minus Paul) laughed out loud at the incident as all of Conway’s Pokémon were returned. After putting his Pokéballs back where they belonged, Conway looked to Maylene and grinned. “Eheh… believe you me, but I’m going to treasure this for the rest of my life! The first Gym Badge earned is a milestone that no other could take away! You’ve made a real mark on my life, Maylene, and for that, I thank you.”

    “That’s why I love being a Gym Leader,” Maylene said. “It feels alright to even lose now, because I’ve made a huge difference in a trainer’s life in doing so.”

    “You’re amazing, Maylene,” Reggie cut in; the compliment, of course, made her blush. “Now that the Gym Battle’s behind us, let’s rest for a moment back at the house before we decide where to go from here.”

    Everyone… except Paul, again, nodded in agreement.




    It was now late afternoon, turning into evening. While Maylene and Conway relaxed, Paul went straight to his room and shut the door. Reggie was about to address his issue with Paul, when all of a sudden he heard a familiar noise; his video phone was ringing.

    “I’ll get it…!” He assured to the others, running back down the stairs en route to the phone as quickly as he could. When Reggie answered the call, he was surprised to see a familiar face on the screen. “Roark…?!”

    “Reggie!” Roark greeted, looking much more chipper than he usually was. “Good thing I caught you! Dad said you might not even be here.”

    Reggie laughed awkwardly, as he hadn’t heard from Roark in months (usually due to the long distance between them, and both of their jobs eating up much of their free time). However, Roark was a childhood friend of his, which wasn’t unnatural considering how close Brandon and Byron were. Roark was a few years older than Reggie, so he was one of the few Reggie could truly look up to and admire after his father left for Kanto. He truly wished he would have been able to battle him at the Oreburgh Gym, but back when Reggie originally traversed Sinnoh, he was only ten years old. Roark wasn’t much older and wasn’t even close to becoming Gym Leader material himself; it was actually Byron whom Reggie faced and defeated at the Oreburgh Gym.

    “It’s been a while, Roark,” Reggie admitted. “We’re both kept so busy these days…”

    “I know, right?” Roark said in agreement. “It’s been a rough road for both of us, but I think things are finally gonna get better from now on!”

    This surprised Reggie. Usually Roark was not in the least bit optimistic about their everyday lives ever improving. “What’s with the sudden optimism, huh?”

    “Something amazing happened today!” Roark enthusiastically informed him. “I went to Canalave City because my mom and dad’s anniversary is soon, you know? I wanted to get dad back home so they could actually celebrate it together. Naturally, we kinda erupted into a fight again…”

    “That always seems to happen,” Reggie noted, sighing. He could sympathize with Roark in that department. “I wish you guys would come to an understanding…”

    “That’s the thing!” Roark interrupted. “W-we actually made up! It took the help of a few kids, too, but… I realized that dad’s cared about me and mom all along. Dad still keeps that Sunkern Leaf fossil that I found as a kid… he even said it’s more important than any other fossil in his collection.”

    Even if Reggie still had issues with his family, it elated him to hear that Roark had fixed his own. “You don’t say! Well, congratulations, Roark! I’m really happy for you guys. So he’s going to spend some time with you and your mom at Oreburgh City, right?”

    Roark happily nodded. “Just as soon as we get through his scheduled Gym Battle tomorrow. One of the kids who helped us work through our problems is on his own journey right now… I actually met him once when he was just starting out in Sinnoh. He’s a Kanto kid, but he’s got quite the Pikachu on him. Things worked out so well that dad’s even letting me referee the match!”

    “Hm…” The details about the “kid” were very familiar to Reggie. “A boy from Kanto, you said? With a Pikachu? I think I may know that kid.”

    Roark blinked, not expecting to hear that. “You do…?”

    “Ash Ketchum, right?” Reggie guessed. “And I assume Brock and Dawn are still with him.”

    It surprised Roark that Reggie was correct in his guess, and even knew the names of the ones traveling with Ash. “Whoa, you’re right! How’d you meet this guy, Reggie?”

    “He came by this place when he first arrived in Veilstone City to battle against Maylene,” Reggie told him. “And it was sort of a surprise for me, too, because it turns out he’s a rival of my brother’s… even if he doesn’t like to admit it,” he added with a laugh. “But it’s certainly saying something when your dad’s even letting you referee his Gym Battle! Ash and his friends seem to be little miracle-workers, because they even helped out Maylene when she was having confidence issues and managed to help us chase out this gang of crooks named Team Galactic when they cut out the power in Veilstone City and tried to steal the meteorites.”

    This visibly impressed Roark. “Yeah, I heard about that incident in the news… but I had no idea you were involved in saving your own city! Guess you’ve still got it,” he remarked with a wink, knowing very well how talented a battler Reggie once was.

    “Well, obviously I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their help, as well as Maylene’s and Officer Jenny’s,” Reggie humbly pointed out. “But please, honestly? I’ve gotten rusty.”

    “That’s what happens if you stop battling for a long time, I guess,” Roark figured. “Even if your family’s had trouble accepting it, it’s good you’re secure in your path in life. Speaking of, I’m actually aware of Paul and Ash’s rivalry. They both battled me for the Coal Badge roughly around the same time, and I could tell there was tension!”

    Reggie was amused; he wasn’t aware the rivalry had been going on that long, mostly because Paul refused to talk much about Ash. “Is that so? I hope he wasn’t too nasty around you…”

    “Nah, compared to how I remember Paul when he was really little, he was pretty tame with me,” Roark assured. “I made sure to give him a hard time in the battle. Oh yeah, dad told me that Paul actually just recently battled him! He was so impressed by Paul’s abilities that he decided to take a few days off to train at Iron Island!” The Gym Leader then suddenly looked doubtful. “Unless he was just using that as an excuse to go fossil-digging… he’s done that before.”

    This made Reggie laugh quite audibly. “Your dad hasn’t changed a bit! How unbelievable… and he gets away with it every time.”

    Roark smirked at that remark, but then looked curious. “Dad also told me that he met your dad a few days ago, Reggie. What’s up with that, huh…? He hasn’t been in Sinnoh in… how long, now?”

    “Seven years,” Reggie recalled. “He wouldn’t come back to Sinnoh without a reason. He’s looking for a legendary Pokémon that we believe is native to this region. But don’t worry,” he assured. “He did actually come and visit me… and Paul, too.”

    “That’s awesome, Reggie!” Roark cried out. “I can’t begin to imagine how much of a surprise that was. Did you guys make up, too?”

    Reggie smiled awkwardly as he tried to think of how to answer that. Were things between him and Brandon completely resolved now? He remembered last night that Brandon, while notably nicer than he’s usually known to be, couldn’t return the hug his son spontaneously gave him before they parted. Instead, he was called “soft”… and that wasn’t the first time. And there was still the matter of the Brave Symbol… Reggie knew that until he could earn that Symbol, this matter could not be completely resolved. Even if it seemed that Reggie was on better terms with his father now, Reggie knew that didn’t mean that Brandon wouldn’t be cold, distant, and tough on him if they were to interact again.

    “We… kind of sorted a few things out,” Reggie said, very uneasy now. “I think he’ll at least make more of an effort to make contact with me, but… until I get a Brave Symbol, I really don’t think a full breakthrough is possible.”

    “Harsh…” Roark remarked, fully sympathetic. “That’s not even possible for you now. So you’re saying never…?”

    Reggie shook his head. “I’m going to try again, after all this time. He personally issued me a challenge… and once he finds the Pokémon he’s looking for and I’ve built myself back up to my former glory, we’re going to battle.”

    “So that’s why dad said you might not be here!” Roark realized. “You’d be out training! Why aren’t you now?”

    “I’m sort of in… a slump, you might say,” Reggie explained. “But I just watched an amazing battle, and I think I’m a bit inspired again. So I’ll be resuming my training very soon.”

    That put Roark at ease. “Best of luck, then! Man, I really wish I could see it… you know, it’d be like old times when I watched a bunch of your Gym Battles in Sinnoh, plus the League.”

    “You know… if you can find the time to take a break, you’re more than welcome to see it,” Reggie offered. “Granted, it’ll probably be in Kanto, but I’d let you know when it’s time.”

    “You mean it?!” Roark was ecstatic. “Sure, I’m all for that! If dad can take breaks all the time to dig up fossils, then for sure I can take time off just this once to watch your battle! I’m sure you can do it this time.”

    Reggie laughed at that. “If you’re not as bad about it as your dad, I’m sure you can have some time off. Thanks, though. I’ll really appreciate your support… I’m going to need whatever I can get.”

    Roark nodded in agreement. “I fully believe in you, Reggie, but your dad’s beyond tough. I’m gonna give you all the moral support I can offer!”

    “I’ll really look forward to seeing you again, too,” Reggie pointed out. “It really has been too long. Still… it’s great you finally patched things up with your dad. I can’t imagine how good you’re feeling right now.”

    “It’s indescribable,” Roark admitted. “Really, I can’t… put it in words. But I’m going to really look forward to see you experience that feeling too, after you defeat your dad! I can feel your time’s coming.”

    Reggie had already gotten a taste of that feeling last night when Brandon entrusted him with Andrea’s Shell Bell necklace. He was moved in a way he’d never been before… and he craved for more of that feeling. Earning the Brave Symbol would bless him with that feeling for the rest of his life; Reggie knew it. He could see last night’s events as an aid for him… for as he was sampled that warm feeling when Brandon was actually acting like a father for the first time in years, Reggie was hungry for even more validation. Being hungry for those everlasting sentiments, Reggie was much more driven to compete than before.

    “I think I can feel it too,” Reggie agreed. “Thanks for giving me a call… I mean, if you and your family can make amends, then I know… it’s possible with mine.”

    “Don’t just say ‘possible’, Reggie!” Roark ordered, pointing at him. “It’s inevitable!

    Reggie smirked at that. “Alright, then! Inevitable. I appreciate this, Roark. Thanks for telling me about this… and you make sure things stay peaceful among you all. It’s so great you managed to get through to your dad.”

    Interestingly, Reggie could’ve sworn that he saw Roark wipe away a tear, but it was so quick and brief that he wasn’t certain. “Thanks, Reggie… you were always pulling for me. I think I’d better go and catch up some more with my old man, now.”

    “You’d better,” Reggie concurred. “I’ll see you around, okay?”

    Roark grinned. “You just let me know when it’s time for you to battle your dad, and I’ll be right on my way to the Battle Pyramid!”

    “I’ll be sure to do that,” Reggie promised. “Goodbye, and good luck.”

    “Same to you, Reggie! Seeya.” And both of them ended their call right then.

    Reggie sighed, though not particularly in a happy way after his friend disappeared from the screen. He slumped and tried not to frown… because while he truly was happy that Roark and Byron reunited as father and son again… he was jealous of that as well. Reggie didn’t want to tell Roark that little detail, though; he found it petty. Still, he couldn’t help how he felt, and Reggie hated that he couldn’t change his feelings on the matter.

    As Reggie walked off and quietly made his way up the stairs, he realized he felt alone again, though in a different way now. He and Roark were miserable while having issues with their fathers… but they were at least miserable together. Reggie couldn’t see a trace of misery lingering on Roark in the least as they conversed. It was like nothing Reggie had ever seen before. But now Reggie was facing his misery alone; he couldn’t count Paul, because Paul apparently couldn’t care less if Brandon fell off a cliff.

    Perhaps Paul was miserable in a different way, but it certainly wasn’t because he missed his father (or mother).

    In a short while, Reggie faced Paul’s bedroom, where the door was still shut. He prayed it wasn’t locked, because he knew it would take at least half an hour of negotiating before he would be able to convince Paul to unlock the door. He carefully put his hand on the knob and turned it… and the door opened, much to Reggie’s relief. After sighing that out, he entered the room to see Paul standing by his window and staring outside of it, as if he couldn’t wait to get out.

    “Well… you didn’t lock the door this time,” Reggie began, sounding casual. “That must be a good sign.”

    “You let Maylene have my room,” Paul noted. He’d been able to tell since he clearly saw that his bed had been used and a few of Maylene’s belongings were still present within the room.

    Reggie frowned… but at least Paul was cutting straight to the chase. “I told you how it was last night, Paul. I was very clear about that. I’d swear on my life that it remains true today, but I’m sure you still wouldn’t believe me. But yes, I let Maylene use your room by sole virtue of the fact that you have the only other bed in the house, and I’m not going to force her to sleep on the couch when you have a perfectly usable bed that you weren’t occupying.”

    “Because you sent me to Conway’s,” Paul explained. “Never do that again, Reggie.”

    “We’ll see,” Reggie vaguely replied, sitting on Paul’s bed now. “I really am sorry for falling asleep during the Gym Battle… I know how badly you want to get out of here and head for Snowpoint City, so I tried to tough it out… because, you know, I really didn’t get any sleep last night.”

    Paul still wouldn’t look at his brother. “You never said why you couldn’t sleep,” he reminded Reggie. “That isn’t like you. But if I were you, I’d start talking right now.”

    Reggie sighed, looking apprehensive about this. “The problem is… you wouldn’t believe me if I told the truth. And honestly, Paul… I’d like it if you chose some place other than Snowpoint City to earn your next Gym Badge.”

    This intrigued Paul; enough to make him turn around to face Reggie. “What’s wrong with Snowpoint City? We’ve established a week ago that I can handle myself perfectly fine on the way there.”

    “I know,” Reggie said. “And I was perfectly fine with that until last night… I started having nightmares terrible enough to keep me up all night. It was all centered around you, Paul.” Initially, Reggie didn’t want to burden Paul with the fact that he had these premonitions at all. But he realized there may be no to other way to prevent him from going to Snowpoint City, and after the explosion between the brothers that happened during the Gym Battle, Reggie was more than ready to lay on a little tough love.

    But naturally, Paul looked skeptical. “Nightmares, you say.”

    Reggie had no time for his brother’s negativity, however. “When you get images in your head of your brother lying dead in the snow with blood everywhere, then yeah! Naturally I’m going to start reconsidering my feelings on you going where there’s a lot of snow, get it? You know what really got me to change my mind, though?”

    Paul rolled his eyes, completely unfazed by what his brother said. “I can’t imagine what.”

    “Hearing our mother speak to me in my head,” Reggie let out. “Even when I was wide awake, I could hear her. She said a lot of vague stuff, but one thing she kept saying is that I have to protect you!”

    That made Paul double-take. Normally he would have dismissed that along with the horrific nightmare images, but he remembered Maylene talking about how Reggie was hallucinating visions of his mother as he recovered from the lightning strike. Paul figured that wouldn’t be unusual for someone who narrowly escaped certain death, but having it become an issue now, five days later?

    Reggie ignored Paul’s lack of reply. “I can’t begin to explain how or why that happened… it’s never happened before…” Paul especially took notice to that; it confirmed that Reggie didn’t remember a thing about his first recovery. “But I know it was our mother trying to warn me that something bad will happen to you if you go to Snowpoint City. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that’s by forbidding you to go there.”

    Paul was trying to get a handle on the situation, though. “You… said you ‘heard’ our mother again?”

    Reggie blinked. “Again? I just said it never happened before.”

    Mentally, Paul cursed himself for letting that “again” slip out; now he had no choice but to explain himself. “Actually… it has. You just don’t remember it… I don’t know why, but maybe that lightning strike screwed with your memory or something,” he guessed, sighing.

    “Then what does this…” Reggie was looking scared now. “What does this mean? If she really came to me twice, then…”

    Paul helplessly shrugged and walked over to his brother. “I don’t know; I wasn’t even there when it happened the first time. Only Maylene was. We figured it was a near-death experience the first time, so… evidently, that’s not the case if she came to you again after you’ve fully recovered five days later.”

    “Then either this is for real, or I’m slowly going insane,” Reggie fearfully acknowledged. “Paul, I’m scared… but either way, I think we should listen to what I’m being told.”

    “Don’t be so gullible,” Paul criticized. “Did she explicitly say ‘Don’t let Paul go to Snowpoint City’?”

    Reggie shook his head, knowing his brother was using this loophole to his advantage. “She just said for me to protect you. That you have limitations, or… something. The image of you in the snow was before she started talking to me…”

    “Limitations?” Paul scoffed. “Okay, there’s no way this is for real. I think you really are just going insane, Reggie. You were under a ton of pressure and you realize you practically snapped while training your Pokémon, and that was before you even got hit by lightning. Maybe you’ve been going insane all along and the lightning just sped that up.”

    Reggie frowned; he had a feeling he would lose this battle. “You’re going to Snowpoint City no matter what I say, aren’t you?”

    “Pretty much,” Paul casually confessed. “You can’t stop me.”

    “I have ways,” Reggie darkly said, which disturbed Paul a little. “I guess I can let you go… only on one condition.”

    Paul figured this would be no big deal; he knew his brother to be lenient. That’s how he was always able to walk all over him even though he was younger. “Sure, bring it on. What’s the condition?”

    “That you take Conway with you,” Reggie decided. There was a moment of silence as this sunk into Paul’s head.

    “What?!” Paul practically exploded. “I’m just finally now getting rid of that cretin by the end of today, and you want him to follow me to Snowpoint City?!”

    “I was told, explicitly, to protect you,” Reggie reminded him. “Obviously, I won’t be able to do that in person. The next best thing I can do is give you a traveling companion. So if you do end up in a life-threatening situation on the way to Snowpoint City, Conway will at least be there to help you and prevent the disaster that I just saw in my dream.”

    Paul couldn’t bear to listen to this; it was a nightmare come true for him. “What do you expect Conway to do?! He’s an amateur; a loser! If I get into trouble, you can’t honestly expect him to save me!”

    “I just watched him battle today, Paul,” Reggie noted. “With the Pokémon he has, I think he’s very capable of taking care of you. He took care of you while you were sick in Canalave City, right?”

    Paul just stared at his feet. “Yes…” He lowly grumbled. “But I didn’t ask him to.”

    “Well, the other thing is… I can’t come with you, and no one other than Conway will want to come with you,” Reggie stated. “You’re so keen on making enemies with everyone you meet, so that leaves Conway as your only option. I’m not going to let you go to Snowpoint City alone.”

    At this point, Paul was furious; he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He was determined to reach Snowpoint City no matter what, but… he was so determined to do it without Conway. As Paul was angrily defeated, Reggie smiled at his brother and stood up.

    “Guess you’re out of arguments,” Reggie figured, making his way to the door. “You’d better pack up whatever you can; it’s a very long journey to Snowpoint. I’m going to let Conway know that he’s coming with you.”

    Paul growled a low and angry “Fantastic,” added with sarcasm as he began to gather up his belongings.

    Meanwhile, Reggie explained to Conway what had been decided, and after a while Paul came down, fully ready to leave.

    “Paul, I can’t believe it!” Conway shouted with joy. “We get to be travel-buddies! Oh, this is great! I was dying for an excuse to get out of my house and this’ll be perfect! I can’t wait to-”

    Paul calmly put his hand over Conway’s mouth, effectively shutting it. “Just shut up and get your things. If you need to bring something along from home, let’s hurry up and get that accomplished so we can get out of here before the sun goes down.”

    Maylene happily waved farewell to the pair. “Have a safe journey, you guys!”

    Reggie smiled and nodded, looking at least partially satisfied that he potentially dodged a bullet there. “Give us a call anytime, okay? We’ll be waiting to hear from you both!”

    “We will!” Conway assured with a wave as he and Paul began to set off. “Thanks for everything! We’ll call soon…!”

    “Get a move on, already!” Paul complained, having walked ahead of Conway. “I won’t accept you holding us back with your nonsense.”

    “Ah…!” Conway panicked as he ran to catch up with Paul. “No worries, Paul. I can match your pace whenever necessary.”

    Paul just sighed… this was not going the way he wanted at all. And the issues between him and his family were growing out of control by this point... he was ready to separate himself from Veilstone City for a long, long time.




    Within a few days, Paul and Conway managed to travel quite a good distance from Veilstone City. They came out of a cave after passing through their sixth town and were met with gusty winds and a significantly colder temperature.

    There, Paul and Conway were faced with the ominous Route 216: the only way to Snowpoint City. The interesting thing about Route 216 was that the roads forked off in many ways; some were more treacherous and snow-filled than others. Paul smirked as he looked up the route he was about to conquer. Conway, however, hugged himself and shivered. His outfit was in no way suited for wintery weather; in a t-shirt, pants that didn’t even reach his ankles, and sandals, Conway knew he’d be an instant popsicle if he tried to get through the snow.

    “S-so, according to the map, there are alternate roads within Route 216 that aren’t as bad as this,” Conway reported, sounding somewhat-intimidated. “I propose we take the road furthest to the right; the snowy parts are brief and it’s a pretty solid road with no mountain-climbing to do. I believe that’s the way pretty much every trainer takes.”

    However, Paul shook his head, still smirking. “Tell me which road’s the worst to take.”

    “Uh…” Conway checked the map and bit his lip. “That’d be the one in the middle. Incidentally enough, it’s the quickest way to Snowpoint City… but no one ever takes it since you’re in the heart of the storm over there…” He looked up the route, gulped, and went back to the map. “Um, we did watch the news for the weather report at the last town we stopped in… I believe Rhonda said a massive blizzard is pounding this area and all of Mt. Coronet right now. I propose we wait-”

    “We’re taking the middle road,” Paul decided. “And we’re going to do it right now. I’m not losing time over a little bit of snow.”

    Conway yelped at the idea of it. “That’s the thing, Paul! It isn’t a ‘little bit’ of snow; It’s a ton of snow! And that road is practically a deathtrap! Surely you aren’t serious…!”

    “Remember when we talked about free will?” Paul reminded Conway of that conversation they had many days ago in Canalave City. “Well, you can’t make me not take this road, Conway. The decision is final; we’re going with the middle road.”

    “You would use that logic against me, wouldn’t you…” Conway muttered. “Fine. But at the very least, we should head back to the last town we were at and get ourselves bundled up. I didn’t expect we’d go the hard route, so I didn’t bring my winter clothes…”

    Paul just shook his head; the smirk never faded. “Too bad for you, then. You’re either going to tough it out or turn around and go home, because I don’t need extra clothing.”

    Conway went over and examined Paul’s coat, pinching the fabric (and annoying Paul in the process) to judge its thickness. “Ah… no, Paul, this won’t be enough. Rhonda said the temperatures are going below zero in the night, and this coat is not below-zero material. You won’t freeze to death as quickly as I would, but it’s an inevitability. You don’t have gloves or anything that would protect your head… that’s where eighty percent of your body heat is, by the way…”

    “Spare me your trivia and your babbling,” Paul coldly ordered. “I am taking this road right now with the clothes I have on and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. You’re either with me or without me.”

    “Paul,” Conway pleaded, now completely serious. “With all the elements in play here, you’re going to get yourself killed out there. Reggie said I needed to keep an eye on you, so I am. And as your advisor, I-”

    “Zip it,” Paul said sharply, placing a hand over his mouth. He had to do this numerous times to shut Conway up over the last few days. “There is no way I won’t make it out of there alive. I can do it with these clothes, my ungloved bare hands, and no extra help from you. You’d just be a liability.”

    Just then, Conway narrowed his eyes and grabbed Paul’s hand, removing it from his mouth. “Wanna make a bet on that?”

    Paul looked at Conway curiously. “Make a bet on what?”

    “What you just said,” Conway responded. “That you can make it through the hardest path on Route 216, with the clothes you’ve got right now, with the severe weather conditions in play, and you can do so without any help.”

    To that, Paul only rolled his eyes. “What’s the point of making a bet on that?”

    On cue, the lenses of Conway’s glasses shined brightly with the light. “Because I’m about to make an offer you can’t refuse.”

    Paul crossed his arms and looked doubtful about this, yet curious. “What kind of offer?”

    “If you can make it through the hardest road on Route 216 without dying or requiring help, I will cease to be your travelling companion. That means you can continue with your journey in solitude, which I’m sure you’re just dying for.”

    At this point, Paul didn’t care how creepy it was that Conway could practically read his mind; he looked almost excited about the prospect. “So you’re saying if I own up to what I claimed, I won’t have to put up with you anymore?”

    “Precisely,” Conway affirmed, though now it was his turn to be smug. “You’ll have proved yourself to be a young man of pure independence. Now, since this is a bet, I have to say there is a consequence if you are to fail your task.”

    “And what’s that?” Paul asked, looking ready to take on any challenge.

    With a cheesy grin, Conway pointed to himself. “Provided we can get you out of there alive, you will owe me a favor of my choosing.”

    Paul didn’t know what to make of that… “You’re saying I’ll have to do something for you if I can’t make the trip?”

    “Right again!” Conway praised, applauding. “I have not yet decided what exactly that favor will be, or when I will call upon you to fulfill it, but I’ll certainly think of something while you’re out there killing yourself. Another condition is that I get to stay with you and follow you around as long as I wish to.”

    Paul rolled his eyes, not at all impressed with his partner’s tactics. “As long as the favor’s not something beyond my comfort zone, you’re on.”

    “I will select the favor very carefully,” Conway promised. “But worry not of that. You’re convinced you’ll win the bet, correct?”

    “Of course I am!” Paul shouted at him.

    “Then, no need to worry!” Conway sung out, which just flat-out irritated Paul. He heard that phrase far too many times already.

    Paul gestured to the route he was about to take. “When I make it, I’ll call you from Snowpoint City to confirm I held up my end of the bargain.”

    Conway nodded. “Then I’ll stay at the last town and await your call… or to be conveniently close enough to save your life… whichever way the ‘wind’ blows,” he said with a smirk, referring to the intense winds they were dealing with now.

    “Well, try not to be too torn up when I make you look like a complete idiot,” Paul advised, beginning to walk off towards his destination. “If I’m generous, I might send you a postcard from Snowpoint City… you know, and say ‘wish you weren’t here’.”

    To that, Conway shrugged. “Well, I wouldn’t be there, anyway… ah, all the same, I’ll take that statement as your famous last words.” He waved goodbye to Paul, while the latter just groaned and turned away and continued to walk off until he could no longer be seen. Conway then returned to the cave the pair originally came out from and took out two Pokéballs. “We’ll just see who the idiot is between the two of us…”

    Tossing them simultaneously, Conway released Slowking and Castform. Both of them were mildly confused about what was going on, but Conway raised his hands to silence them.

    “Paul’s out on a suicide mission, guys,” Conway informed, sounding completely serious. “I can’t follow him because I don’t have the proper clothing, so I want you two to keep tabs on him for me. I know you guys can at least withstand a blizzard.”

    Slowking confidently nodded, while Castform cheerfully concurred.

    “Slowking, you’ll need to keep your distance since you stick out like a sore thumb,” Conway instructed. “I’ll be trusting you to mentally relay Paul’s status to me so I’ll know when to come rescue him.”

    “Slow-slow-king,” Slowking said, saluting.

    Conway then looked to Castform. “Castform, I know you can change the way you appear during certain weather patterns, including winter storms. You’ll blend in with the background more easily, so you’ll be following Paul closely so you can monitor his status directly, and then relay it to Slowking, who’ll relay it to me. Think you can do that?”

    “Caaaaast!” Castform assured, getting up close in Conway’s face, which made him laugh a bit.

    “Okay, okay! You can have a treat before you go,” Conway conceded, pulling out a pink Poffin. “Now, I’ll expect results, because Paul’s life rests in the hands of you two!” He tossed the Poffin to Castform, who caught it with its mouth and quickly devoured it, enjoying its sweet taste.

    Conway went out of the cave with his Pokémon following. He pointed straight towards the impending doom that was Route 216. “Paul took the middle road, so that’s where you’ll be heading.”

    Slowking and Castform gave a final nod to Paul as Conway signaled them to leave. “Now, get moving before he gets too far ahead of you…!”

    Both Pokémon ran off and eventually disappeared into the distance while Conway looked on. He sighed, hoping he did the right thing by playing it out this way.

    “This is rather risky,” Conway admitted to himself, looking worried. “Guess that comes with the thrill of adventure…”

    He looked to the sky as the gusty winds blew all around him. He smirked, enjoying the rush.

    “Bring it on, then!” Conway shouted out loud to no one in particular… except perhaps nature itself. “Nothing you throw at me could ever compare to what my sister throws at me back home…!”

    As time would go on, Conway would live to regret those words in the near future.

    ( TBC )

    Travels of the Trifecta! - Chronicles of an estranged family!

    LJ | dA | Bulbagarden | ff.net

    Diamond: 2749 - 7749 - 1840
    SoulSilver: 2364 - 7834 - 3761

  23. #73
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    Where do I begin...

    OK, first of all, that was a MONSTER to get through. I started around 7:30, and it's almost 9:00 now! I'm not complaining, but...Wow. I can see why you can take a while to update.

    Secondly, can I slap Franny and Conway's parents? Please? Just.. how big of jerks they were disgusted me beyond belief. And dude! How could they get Conway confused with Franny?! I think that just shows they really don't care about their kids that much. Actually, I love how you made them- dislikeable HUMANS. They sounded very real to me, which a lot of authors fail miserably at.

    Speaking of those characters, Paul's way of getting their attention was HILARIOUS. "Hey, idiots!" So something he would do.

    ROFL at Conway describing Paul as "scrawny". I dunno why, it just amuses me to no end.

    The scene in the backyard was interesting... Even though all those strategies went right over my head, loved how both boys were trying to help eachother out. Also, loved the irony that while Paul is seemingly getting closer to Conway, Conway feels like he's pulling away from Paul.

    Oooh, Reggie's nightmare/dream/vision/what the heck it is was interesting. Something tells me Andrea is right about Paul being in danger...

    Awwww at the magnolias! Just... love how Brandon put meaning into each flower, from Paul being a late bloomer to himself being able to survive the harsher conditions. And..am I allowed to think it's CUTE he put one in for Maylene as well? (What is the shipping called?!)

    That battle was FUN. Kudos to Conway for using startegy and not just recklessely going in with it. The arguement between Paul and Reggie was well played-out, and I'm VERY glad it was broken up. And yay for emotional Conway getting a badge!

    Hmm, Reggie/Paul talk was fun. LOL at Reggie's condition, and Paul's way of shutting Conway up. Also-Rorak appearance AND mention of Ash? Is it my birthday?

    Uh oh at the Snowpoint thing... WHY am I fearing so much that the Paul-all-bloody-in-the-snow thing may come true? -Gulps- But LOL at their bets. Something tells me Conway's task for Paul will be fun.

    Either way, I loved the chapter!

    ~FlameRose

    (P.S-And Conway kissing Paul's injured finger made me squee.)


    I claimed Skarmory!

    If you think the Sinnoh saga has been the best saga of the whole show, copy and paste this into your signature! (started by FlameRose)

  24. #74

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    Yaaaaaay!

    Now how did you finish that before I could even come close to finishing a fic that's probably going to be at most four pages long?

    I can't wait for the bet to be fulfilled, or for a certain relative to show up.


    Some minor things though--some of the dialogue sounded unnatural for the characters saying them. Would Paul really mention his comfort zone?
    The world's greatest collector as drawn by Yoru Ryu
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  25. #75
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    A great, long chapter!

    “I know better than to ask you to handle my meals,” Conway said snidely; his eyes narrowing as he glared. “Afflict me with food poisoning once, shame on you. Afflict me with it twice, shame on me.”
    He sounds a little too experienced with his sisters' culinary skills (or lack thereof) for my comfort.

    Paul shrugged off Conway’s generosity as they both made their way towards the kitchen. “As long as you keep your distance from the bathroom while I’m in there, then-…” He paused. Something didn’t sound right just then. “What do you mean by your shower?”
    Paul wants him.

    After seeing Paul wince slightly, Conway smiled and brought Paul’s bandaged finger to his lips, giving it a quick kiss. “There! All better!”
    HAHAHA. Conway = love.

    “I suppose that’s true…” Conway admitted while mixing the sliced vegetables in with the bowl of lettuce. “Then again, it’s hard to judge your body build since your clothes are so loose-fitting, but considering I got a good look at your build while I was drying those clothes out a few days ago, I know you’re looking pretty good considering your diet.” He pondered something while Paul looked disgusted at Conway’s detailed analysis of his body structure. “Come to think of it, you seemed to be kind of scrawny, as I recall. If you live off fast food and snacks most of the time, it’s no wonder I couldn’t tell.”
    Okay, so you're seriously making me a) crack ship Paul/Conway (and I'm a hardcore Ikari fan) and b) fangirl Conway.

    After raising up both hands, Paul closed his eyes and snapped his fingers rather loudly to get Conway’s parents to clam up. “Hey, idiots! Down here!”
    I cringed at this, but in a good way. Paul would do this.

    Paul nodded, but still stared indignantly at Conway’s parents. “Now that I have your attention, you should know that Conway’s been trying to get your attention for the past couple of minutes now. He even made dinner for you. Work is over, so it’s high time you stopped acting like employees and started acting like parents now.”
    Daaaammn.

    Paul indulged in his dinner as well, mildly surprised by the fact that the food did indeed taste good; Conway was as talented a cook as he appeared to be. “If you hate them, why do you make them dinner? Shouldn’t this really be the mother’s job, anyway?”
    As a feminist, I resent this, Paulie.

    The moonlight reflected against the lenses of Conway’s glasses, making them flash as Conway quietly laughed to himself. “Do you know whose it was, by any chance…?”
    Why do I find Conway so sexy in this?

    After briefly checking, Paul was relieved to know Conway’s eyes weren’t wandering for once; he really was resting. Still, he felt his face and especially his cheeks grow warm, prompting the young, normally-callous trainer to fear that he was blushing. Nonetheless, Paul was determined to deny any part of him that suggested that, perhaps, he was beginning to see Conway as a friend.
    Awww...


    “They can say whatever they want, but I like you the way you are,” Maylene assured. “You’re every bit as beautiful as your mom’s flower…” She then flailed a bit after realizing what she just said. “Your flower, that is…!”
    Hahahhaa. Awkward...

    Conway simply huffed at that remark. “There’s no shame in taking pride in your appearance, Paul. It isn’t feminine in the least and it’s what the girls like in their men.”
    So yeah, this is 100% true.

    Reggie looked to Paul, just realizing something. “You know, Paul… you could’ve had something like this if you were just a little more patient.”

    Paul grumbled and refused to look at Reggie, instead preferring to concentrate on the battle. “Don’t remind me.”
    That's what you get for being an ass, Paul.

    “Oh no…” Maylene muttered, hoping this kind of thing wouldn’t happen… at least not now, of all times. Still, she remained firm. “Paul, he hardly got any sleep last night! Lay off him, already!”

    Paul’s anger didn’t fade, for he assumed the worst possible incident (in his mind) for why that would be the case.
    Paul needs to get his head out of the gutter. I've noticed that a bit, in this chapter.

    Paul rolled his eyes, not at all impressed with his partner’s tactics. “As long as the favor’s not something beyond my comfort zone, you’re on.”
    Hmm... like right here. Paul, he's not going to ask for sexual favors!!! Or at least, from you... I could hazard a guess that a certain blunette in a certain hero's group might be involved. (The ikarishipper in me squees at the possibilities, though this doesn't really seem like a Paul shipping fic, which is perfectly wonderful.)

    All in all, a wonderful, keeping-Cate-up-way-too-late chapter. Can't wait for the next! And I hope Paul makes it out alive, but I really hope that he loses his bet with Conway.
    Where do you go when you're lonely?
    Where do you go when you're blue?
    Where do you go when you're lonely?
    I'll follow you when the stars go blue.




    xx CATE

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