Notes: I based the trainer character from Alder. I liked his backstory, so it should be kept in mind, just so that I could make this relevant to the theme. In addition, I switched a few facts around, so it can be inconsistent with canon, but it won't be anything too major. Hope you enjoy!

Lost in a Dismal Flame

You caught me on a windy Thursday afternoon in Nacrene City. I was in the garbage looking for something to eat when you passed by with a girl in your arm. She shrieked as soon as I stumbled out and clung onto your arm even tighter. But you grinned and tossed out a poke ball, which sent out a larvesta. Back then, I was alone and scared, so I had no idea what to do. The larvesta shot out tiny embers that glowed in the dark alley. Trembling, I shut my eyes as you called out another command . . .

Three successive hits knocked me down. Through squinted eyes, I saw you throw another poke ball, except that one was empty.

After that, a sudden calm engulfed me. A cool darkness helped me relax and I drifted off to rest.

My eyes were blinded as you released me. I was outside again. A warm, grassy plain expanded all around me, accented with trees in the distance. I had never been outside the city before. There were flowers swaying with the wind coupled with fluffy, white clouds that drifted over the sun’s rays to allow a few moments of shade. Slowly, I began to relax.

Reality hit me when you patted my head. I jerked away immediately, but your face was expressionless. You held out your hand and let me nibble at the berries. You told me you were a trainer, but I must have looked confused, because you carefully explained what a trainer was. I nodded absentmindedly, as if I could understand. All I really cared about was the food. The berries crushed in my teeth, and I licked the sweet juice off my lips.

Then you asked me if I wanted to go with you to see many places and battle other pokemon. I didn’t like the idea of battling, but those berries were trapped in the back of my mind. I couldn’t let them go. I nodded, and you patted my head again.

After that I was known as Sarin. For the first time, I had a name.

You pressured me to be stronger — you forced me to train. Lifting weights and smashing boulders with my fists . . . My knuckles bled, but you pushed me forward. Every night my body ached as you put me back into my ball. It became a process, a vicious cycle.

Then one day, you forced me to battle again. I felt sore and could barely move the whole time, so I fainted in a matter of seconds. As I lay on the grass, I hoped I could rest for a while and go back to eating berries with the sun shining on me. It was all I asked for.

Instead, you yelled at me. I wasn’t strong enough, you said. You threw your arms up in the air and eventually kicked my gut. I wheezed, I coughed, and you returned me, putting me out of my misery.

When I came out again, you had a squared piece of log laid out.

“Carry it,” you said. You were much calmer than before, but I was still afraid. You could have done anything you wanted.

I carefully approached the wood and lifted it over my shoulder, quickly falling down from the added weight. From the corner of my eye, I saw you shake your head and walk away. It ached to see you go, even if it was for a little while. I wanted to make you proud so that I could show you I was worth something.

I carried that log everywhere just so you would notice me. Of course, I got overlooked as soon as your other pokemon began to evolve: Rigel into an escavalier and Naos into an accelgor.

Disappointment was all I saw — the way you talked to me, hinting at me evolving as well. And because I knew you wanted it so much, I wanted to evolve too. Surely it would have made you happy. That is the point of training, you once told me. Training is to get stronger, and evolution is a step up in strength.

It would be a while, though.

We traveled through Unova and went out to Nimbasa City. Little time was spent on resting and relaxing. Strength became our desire and our only goal. Because of that, we quickly ran to the gym to get a badge and leave for the next town. When we got there, an elderly lady sat at one end of the battlefield.

You challenged her to a single battle and chose me to participate. I was nervous then; I had never been in a gym battle before. I walked onto the field, lugging my log around. A galvantula faced me from the other side with its long legs methodically moving towards me. That was my chance to prove to you I was worth something. I had to show you how strong I was.

“Low Kick,” you said silently, but I heard you and rushed towards the spider, sliding on the last few steps to knock it down. It tumbled and groaned, but got up without a fuss. I glanced back at you, but you had a blank expression on your face. I turned back to the battle where the galvantula shot out an Electroweb, sparking as it soared through the air.

You didn’t say anything, so I tried diving out of the way, but the web caught my foot and electricity flowed through my body. I dropped on the floor, smoke curling from the edges of my fur. But I couldn’t give up, not in a battle this important. Struggling, I shook the web off and got up to my feet and breathed heavily. My vision was blurred, and I barely made out the shapes of the battlefield.

“Again!” I heard the woman shout. Another web shot at me, except that time it wrapped around my body. I was trapped.

I don’t know how long I stood there, shocked until I nearly fainted, but there was something you said I never forgot: “Pathetic.”

I let you down. It was disgusting how I let all that hard work go to waste. After all that I had been through, I was as weak as I was when I was caught back in the alley.

The woman sighed and began to return her galvantula, but you said, “Wait.” Your voice was impatient as if you were ordering me to get up.

But I couldn’t find the strength or energy within me. I needed to evolve. Right then and there. I pulled myself up so I could crawl, and my body did the rest.

I was glowing — like how Rigel and Naos were — and the change was evident. I got taller while my arms grew longer and more muscular. Relief replaced the pain. My head stopped throbbing from the electricity, so I could finally stand and faced my opponent again.

“Perfect,” you said and quickly added, “Sarin, use Rock Slide.”

With my newfound strength, I easily smashed the battlefield’s floor and sent debris flying. The galvantula was too slow to evade and took the brunt of the attack, skidding across the field to the opposite wall. When the dust cleared it had already fainted.

I sighed, letting the adrenaline fade. You patted my back and walked past me to collect your badge. I tagged along and held a big, tired grin on my face. Winning battles made you happy, and winning meant I had to get stronger. I hoped I could evolve again soon.

The gym leader frowned as she held out a badge. Evidently, she wasn’t satisfied that she lost. “You know, there are a lot of people in this world.”

“So?” you asked impatiently. You looked like you’d grab the badge from her hand and leave.

“Some people may not agree with how you go about doing things.” And she carefully added, “This means you could get hurt.”

“Are you going to keep wasting my time? I need to get to other gyms,” you said.

“I’m sure. But how do you train your pokemon? Your gurdurr is afraid of you.”

You glared at her. “Don’t tell me how to train my pokemon. We’re getting stronger. Isn’t that the point of training?”

“Becoming stronger doesn’t mean abusing your pokemon. Your gurdurr came in here bruised and tired. You were lucky to win this battle.”

Again, you gave her an icy stare. “Luck had nothing to do with it. We trained that way, and it’s worked so far.”

“But do you really love your pokemon?” she pressed.

With that, you snatched the badge and ran off, me close behind. “Stupid woman,” you mumbled as I got sent back to my poke ball.

That only made you work harder. Consequently, I trained endlessly. But what she said had truth: I became constantly fatigued. There must have been more to battling besides training. I couldn’t think of what, though.

And there was little time for thinking when we were on the road. We were all about power, and it was a never-ending upward climb. Still, our progress was evident once again when even your larvesta finally evolved into a volcarona. I, too, evolved. I was strengthened once more. My mind grew accustomed to battling as easily as eating and sleeping. Without it, I wasn’t sure what I would do.

Secretly that scared me, but back then, I wasn’t aware of it. It seemed that the day you caught me was the first time I began to live. I had a purpose in battling, and I got good at it too. Rarely did I lose, and you took pride in that. I began to understand what it meant to be happy.

Yet, after my battles, I’d fumble around with dizziness. But I wouldn’t let that stop me. We had a goal: to get to the top of the Pokemon League. My worries aside, we took our first steps into the league — your first battle in an official tournament.

If you were anxious, you didn’t show it. We sprinted through the preliminaries without a hitch. None from our team had even lost a match. Then the real battling began.

I had battled almost every day for that past week, as many other members of the team had done, and the serious trainers were revealed here.

We battled against elite pokemon every day, and you still made us train. Even one day of rest would contaminate us, you said.

I hung on to every word. As such, I trained and trained until my body felt like a giant bruise. Cuts opened because of all the strain and pressure. I had to put that aside and worry about that after that one final battle.

We made it to the finals. This was your first time, and you were so close to getting a championship. Only one trainer stood in our way.

I was the last pokemon you sent out that day. The finals would end with a one-on-one, me pitted against an emboar who was panting heavily. I had the slight advantage, but I wasn’t sure how long my body could hold out.

The crowd was silent as you called out, “Sarin, use Bulk Up.”

“Flame Charge!” the other trainer said. Immediately, the emboar rushed at me as a fiery comet. It nearly hit me until I blocked most of the attack with my concrete slabs, which were burnt on one side. The emboar snorted before it pushed away, stomping on the ground. I retaliated by releasing a Mach Punch, narrowly missing it. In turn, it slammed me down and fired embers from its pudgy snout.

My vision blurred, and I felt burnt skin. Blood trickled down my side as dirt flew into my wounds.

Pain is weakness leaving my body. Concentrate. Get back to the battle.

I shrugged off the attack and got up swinging. One of my concrete slabs smashed into the emboar’s face, cracking where it connected. The pig nearly fell over, but I grabbed its neck. There was a look in its eyes of pity or defeat. I couldn’t tell. All I knew was that I had to win, because this meant everything for you and me.

Ignoring my headache, I hit it again and again. Slabs of cement flew off as it squealed for me to stop. And then it collapsed in a heap of dust, unmoving. I blinked at it a few times before it hit me: I won. I got what you wanted, and when I looked back, you smiled at me. I think that was all I needed.

The crowd went silent when I fell too.

---

I woke up in a hospital bed. The room was white, yet dark because the curtains were pulled over. You were sitting next to me, waiting. You didn’t face me when you said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I stirred slightly. A deathly monitor beeped, causing my head to hurt again.

“You were ill. You had a sickness. They said it could have been cured if they figured out earlier.” Your hands were in your fiery hair, and you slowly looked up to face me. “It would have been a simple operation. You would be just like you always were.”

I couldn’t find anything to say, to do anything comforting. There was only this last defeat, my struggle with life. I found it hard to move, but I tried reaching my arm out to you.

You met me halfway with your palm in mine. We touched for the last time. It was a signal of the end of our journey, the path for strength. We made it to the top.

A single note played from the monitor.