Title: Lost and Found
Pairing: HoennChampionShipping (Steven Stone/May)
Summary: Finding herself lost in Victory Road, May begins to panic before she encounters the mysterious Steven; who offers to help her through the infamous caves. And yet even as May has been lost and found, something new blossoms in her very heart for her new companion...
Note: This is the one-shot that I wrote for Arleon for the Shippers Secret Santa. So, I hope you enjoy this…
“Why? Why now? Why here? And how?! How did I manage to get myself lost, and in Victory Road of all places?!” A brown-haired girl named May exclaimed in frustration as she made her way down one the paths of the cavernous maze of the infamous Victory Road.
She kept on looking at the map she held in her hands, hoping to find her way again. She’d been wandering around Victory Road for what seemed like hours now, hoping to get back on the right course, and she wasn’t having much luck. And the map she had been reading wasn't helping her much at all. And she had bought this thing from some vendor stating it was 100% accurate! Accurate my eye, May thought.
Victory Road itself was a cavernous maze, but it wasn't like a maze on paper, oh no; there were ascents and descents to take into thought as well; altitude was a factor when finding the way out. And this freaking.... Map didn't seem to care, as far as May could tell! But to make such an obstacle this frustrating was natural, she supposed. After all, it was the final landmark before the Hoenn League; for that was where she was headed, to compete for the title of Champion, and she knew she would pass with flying colors. After bypassing this cursed maze, of course; she knew this place for its infamy, but this was ridiculous.
Yes, the life of a Trainer was hard, but there was a fine line between, 'difficult to traverse' and, 'frustrating beyond all reason,' in May's opinion. She let out a sigh, which echoed back and forth through the expansive caverns around her. Slopes, boulders, passages... There were even lakes and waterfalls, from the sound of it. This place had it all... And it was becoming annoying. May raised the map to her eyes once more as she had done dozens of times already without walking much at all. It either looked the same or a path that seemed straight just wasn't in actuality! In fact, May thought, I might as well just take a random path and follow it myself -- it'd be better than just hanging around here, at least!
Very nearly crumpling up her map (she didn't believe she could be blamed, really) and roughly pushing it into one of her pockets, she looked left and right. There were around four paths here as it was, and two of them just had 'dead end' written all over them even from here. That and even the useless map had indicated they weren't the way to go. She locked onto a path with a slightly upward slope. It looked tempting enough, and she had no better ideas anyway. Head held high and shoulders firm, she marched straight down her designated path, her frustration with being lost showing even in her actions. She was not one to take such things lightly, especially with the assistance of a map that was 'accurate'. As she walked, she took in her surroundings, the sights and sounds alike. She heard chirps, the beating of light wings and even some distant echoing footsteps as she walked. All from Pokemon too; the wonder of the creatures never ceased to amaze her, and taking shelter in a place like this was impressive indeed. She also noted the stark beauty of the caves; such areas could be astounding sights. And with the addition of flowing water here, Victory Road was indeed astounding.
After walking this path for maybe half an hour, May hadn't reached any obstacles or dead ends, and split paths she had ignored, but... She couldn't help but feeling uneasy. Was this a stupid thing to do, randomly choosing a path to follow in the most infamous obstacle en route to the Hoenn League? These thoughts lead to fear pulsing through her. And now.... She felt more lost than at any other point during her journey through Victory Road. Darkness seemed thicker across the caverns, and the height of the area made her feel insignificant. And now there seemed a million ways to go, with all but one leading to nothing. No, she thought faintly, this can't be right, I can't be lost... Not like this... But even as she thought that, she knew it was wrong. Following her sheer instinct on this manner after being frustrated with being lost initially was foolish, this was being lost. Rather frantically, she reached into her pocked and pulled out the map, smoothening it out as best as she could. She walked on, now keeping her eyes locked onto the map. She would make choices as she read, no matter how hard.
May had now been walking down the same path for around half an hour more, except with her nose practically buried in her map all the while, wrinkles still saturating it because of her frustrated way of crumpling it before. But this seemed to be working now, actually: every turn noted to take was one she took in reality without even looking up, this boosting her morale considerably. She kept walking, kept walking, forcing her thoughts to focus on: I can do this, I'll get through; I can do this, I'll get through! And it seemed to be working. Her confidence rose ever further. It went on like this, her practically blind trek through Victory Road with a map guiding her every step quite literally. That is, until: Crash! May suddenly found herself falling backwards after colliding with something in front. Or someone, as she heard a male, "Oof!" even as she reached the cold, stone floor herself. It wasn't as much painful as surprising, as her stomach and jumped into her throat on collision.
Slowly, groaning a little, she arose to face whomever she had bumped into. She saw a handsome male trying to get to his feet much as she was; he had silver hair and nearly identically colored eyes. He seemed to be around 30, quite an able adult, and his black attire suggested he wasn't just anyone either. Only then did May stop examining his features and realized she had just bumped into this man. "O-oh gosh, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, sir; I wasn't watching, are you OK?!"
All this spilled out rather quick, and the man returned the words with a steady smile, replying, "The Hoenn League, I see; so you're trying to go straight through Victory Road," Steven said, his brow furrowing as he observed May. She wondered what was on his mind and bent down to retrieve her map if only to escape that gaze. She looked at it, trying to recall where she had been before bumping into Steven... "Excuse me," Steven interrupted, looking over May at the map. "But... Well, here," He reached out, took the map from May, rotated it 90 degrees to the left and placed it back in her hands. "That's how it should be, you were... Ahem, holding it the wrong way," he said awkwardly.
And May, frankly, could have slapped herself. "The wrong way?!" She exclaimed by accident; she had only wanted to think that, but the nature of her error was just too ridiculous. She then quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment.
Steven was smiling awkwardly as it is, but seemed to notice this was rather unsettling for May, as he said, "Don't worry about it, please, it happens. These maps are designed rather foolishly, plainly speaking."
May managed to chuckle, albeit rather mirthlessly. "I noticed."
Steven assumed a serious expression once more. "If indeed you're intent was to pass right through here to the Hoenn League, May, you are indeed lost," The younger girl's expression fazed a little at this. "I was afraid of that," she said, before looking up at him again. "S-surely you'll-?" Her voice broke slightly. Steven's eyes widened at this.
"Hey hey, May-" He grasped her arm gently, "It's OK, I'll help you, it would be rude of me to do otherwise." His tone of voice was softer now, he now seemed to understand how hard she was taking this whole prospect. So close, yet so far from the glory of the Pokemon League; it must have been frustrating, he realized. "I'll help you find your way out, May, whatever it takes; I promise you."
May's breathing slowed, for out of trauma, it had been rapid for the time after May's voice had broken; all of her emotion had just come crashing upon her. "I'll guide you out May, really, I know this place with or without a map, no matter how accurate." He smiled at her as she looked up, looking into her slightly watery eyes.
Her next action was one he was not expecting though: She nearly collapsed, falling forward as her legs seemed to give out beneath her. Steven caught her by her shoulders and hoisted her up slightly, now simply holding her close. This wasn't sadness, this was relief, he knew; she was simply this relieved to have someone helping her out of such a situation. He held her close, not too tightly, until she finally stabilized herself, her eyes now glistening with happiness as she looked up at Steven. "T-thank you... Thank you so much, I can't tell you how much it means, I'll-" She bowed her head in respect, "I'll pay you back for this one day no matter what."
Steven continued to smile, "May, that's not necessary, really; this is my pleasure to help out someone in need, and I can see how faithful you are to your dream."
He's so kind, so gentle and so generous, May thought blissfully, what have I done do be this lucky to find someone like Steven in such a bad situation as I was? Her feelings had been inverted since her spell of trauma after which she had once again begun following her map. All that flowed through her now was joy, gratitude, and affec- No, no! May told herself privately, I'm not that grateful.... I think.
"So," Steven said brightly, in a tone loud enough that it echoed throughout Victory Road, "Allow me to guide you through this gauntlet May, because between ourselves, that's very much what it is; a treacherous obstacle. I'm very impressed with you even coming her because of how young you are, even professional Trainers can be seen to fear this place." May felt ever more heartened, her eyes glowing.
"R-really?" She said. "Of course," Steven replied, "this is hardly an easy place to get through, as you've realized already. But come now," He took a few steps back down the path May had come from, beckoning to her with a hand, "let's get you out of here." Without question, May followed.
Time passed smoothly from then on as far as May was concerned, who was now walking alongside and a little behind Steven. Her gratitude had not yet ceased to rise, she felt... It was hard to explain, she felt warm, she felt comfortable around Steven; an aura of certainty of all that was happening was surrounding her. It was unexplainable, yes, but it felt very good indeed. They were now walking around a more spacious area of Victory Road, one which May alone had certainly never come close to finding herself. Steven had been walking at a steady pace this whole time, which May had no trouble keeping up with of course, but then Steven started to slow a little. May looked up at him with a slightly furrowed brow, wondering what was on his mind.
"Don't worry about a thing, May, this is merely an area with higher Pokemon activity," Steven spoke up suddenly, answering May's look of puzzlement. He looked down at her, smiling gently. "Keeping this slower pace should be enough in general to ward off the suspicion of any-" Before he could continue, he was cut off by the sound of shattering stone -- right ahead of them. A cloud of dust had arisen, blocking the path ahead and now, Steven stopped in his tracks, May being sure to do the same, lingering behind a little. "--invasion." Steven finished his previous sentence. With that, the cloud of dust was pierced by an onrushing snake of steel; a Steelix, no doubt about it. Silent and calm, Steven withdrew a red and white orb from his belt -- a Poke Ball, and expanded, "Aggron, we need you!" Steven shouted, and as he did so, the large horned steel Pokemon Aggron appeared, strength apparent with how it stood. Without needing a command, it firmly planted its feet and held its hands out against the onrushing Steelix, who didn't move. Steelix collided with Aggron head-on, and to May's amazement, the Pokemon was not only unfazed, but shoved it backwards as well. That was power. Steelix reeled back and fell, visibly stricken. But not beaten, apparently, as it rose to full intimidating height once more, but this time acting more cautiously. Steven was having none of it: "Aggron, we don't have time for games; Hyper Beam at full power, end this now!" Without question, Aggron formed an orange sphere of energy in its open mouth and fired a massive, devastating beam at the helpless Steelix. The sturdy Pokemon didn't move, thinking it could withstand this blast. It could not. The Hyper Beam literally flung Steelix back several meters before it finally crashed into a wall of stone which didn't break. And May could tell, it crashed into it hard. Steelix didn't move again -- it had clearly fainted. From just one Hyper Beam.
Amazing, was all May could think Even in battle, Steven was calm, was coordinated... And he was bold, so very bold, having Aggron withstand Steelix's charge first of all, and then immediately using a Hyper Beam; a powerful but risky move to use. It was extraordinary, he was without a doubt a Trainer in his own league. And he had just used his skills to defend May...
"Are you alright, May? I'm sorry, I really wasn't expecting that," Steven said as he extended a hand for May to take. She never realized until now she had fallen down in the midst of the chaos of the battle between Steelix and Aggron. A little embarrassed, May took his hand and rose to her feet.
After completely on her feet, May acted on impulse and leaned forward even more, wrapping her arms around Steven for a very brief moment before pulling back, and stuttering, "U-um, well... That was really impressive, and well... You saved me; if I had managed to come this way alone, I wouldn't know what to do, and some Pokemon might have... A-anyway, thank you, Steven." She was crimson, she must have been. Steven just smiled, warm and calm as ever. "It's always my pleasure, May, I'm inclined to do all that it takes to help you through this." May smiled back, and with this, Steven beckoned her forward once more, placing a hand around her shoulders gently before walking on. May's butterflies in her stomach would take some time to subdue now, she expected, pleasant for them both, actually. So now, they had opted to stop for a little while to regain any lost stamina. Steven had his own travel rations with him in a small knapsack which they were now sharing, still talking about each other's journeys, their lives, their dreams; it was fantastic, as far as May was concerned. He was fantastic....
"So, May, I haven't asked you yet," Steven broke into her thoughts. And those thoughts being about the man before her, she found herself turning unwillingly red. Steven either didn't notice or didn't mind as he continued: "What kind of Pokemon do you have to challenge the Hoenn League, may I ask?"
"O-oh!" May exclaimed with a bit of glee, she would love this opportunity to get an expert's opinion on her Pokemon, seeing as how skilled he was himself. "Well I've chosen a mix of strategies, if you know what I mean, so I have grace, then I also have power. An example would be Glaceon and Arcanine, I have both of them with me right now." Even as she said it, she withdrew a Poke Ball from her belt and tossed into the air. The ice blue evolution of Eevee appeared. "Glace!" It spoke in a voice as smooth as ice, as it paced around its Trainer as well as her new companion. Steven gazed at the Pokemon with wonder. "Amazing, how beautiful, I've never seen a Glaceon." He reached out and stroked its head gently, and Glaceon seemed to have no qualms about this. Not many people earned the trust of her Glaceon so quickly, May had learned. Steven WAS special. "They can also hold their own in battle considerably."
Steven turned to look at May with that smile which never lost its charm. "You've raised this one very well indeed, it's graceful and strong at the same time. With other Pokemon like Arcanine, you'll definitely have more than a fighting chance at the League. And believe me," He leaned close in a mock-conspiratorial whisper, "I've seen my share of powerful Trainers." He chuckled a little, as did May, before the latter recalled Glaceon into its Poke Ball once more. May looked up and around at the ceiling of Victory Road, so high above. She wanted to say something, to express how close she had gotten to Steven in so little time and how grateful she was for all his help and... Just how admirable and amazing of a person he was...
"Steven," May's mouth worked by itself. As soon as she spoke she wished she hadn't, but she just couldn't stop now. She was captivated by his silver eyes. "I-I... Just wanted to say, I mean... I was a total stranger who just bumped into you," She laughed a little at this, her confidence growing, "literally. And you helped me, and you have helped me, and you've been so kind, caring and generous, you're amazing in battle, you really are," May didn't care how red she might have been, she was going to finish, "So I want you to know that I would never ever forget you when we have to part ways on exiting Victory Road. I would never, and I could never. Not someone so... So amazing." She looked down, her anticipation of Steven's reaction somewhat of a fear.
"May," Steven's voice was now as soft as silk, but May's head shot up immediately when he spoke. His expression showed that of one who had been touched more deeply than any smile could express; he was speechless. Gently, he reached out and took one of May's hands and raised it to his lips, kissing it softly. "Thank you." He simply said, too shy himself to meet May's gaze, who was now red as a ruby without a doubt.
"W-well..." Steven spoke, shifting his sitting stance as if he was about to rise, "Shall we head out then, my dear?" He smiled softly. May returned it with one of her own. "Yes," she said, "let's."
"Finally...." That was all May could manage to say now. It was done. She was out. They were out. And all thanks to the man who stood before her: Steven, he had done more than he perhaps realized himself. May was so grateful now as she lay on the ground with her hands and knees on the grass out of sheer relief. This was it, she was there. It was now a mere walk to get to the Hoenn League itself. "Thank you so much, Steven, I can never thank you enough for what you've done, it might not mean much to others in the same case, but it means everything to me."
Steven smiled at her, sitting down on the grass beside her. "It was my pleasure, May, and it always will be if I'm ever needed again." He began to rise, "But I'm afraid I have to be going now, May, I'm needed elsewhere. But we'll see each other soon, I know it." He gave her a knowing smile which somewhat puzzled May. "I very much look forward to battling you with in the Hoenn League." With that, and a small wink, he turned off and headed away.
May was too confused by what had just happened to follow where Steven went with her eyes. What did he mean? See her soon? Battle her in the League? Her, battle someone so amazing? In the Hoenn League? Why would he be headed there, with skills like that, he could well have conquered the League dozens of times... Wait… She wondered... Could he possibly have done that...? But it didn't matter, she supposed.
Lying back on the grass, she looked up into the blue sky for the first time in hours. She just knew that she had met someone she could never forget, someone amazing in any way... And someone who just may have touched her more deeply than even she herself realized at the time. But feelings would be revealed later, even for those unknowing.
For now, May thought as her eyes snapped open, the Hoenn League awaited.