“What’d you say?” Kylo asked, snarling. His Houndoom snarled next to him, picking up on the tension between Kylo and the trainer across from him. He slammed his hand on the tea table, rattling the cups. “You want to say that again?”
Armitage glared at the spill of tea on the table and sighed. He did so hate people with short tempers (they reminded him too much of himself). “I said it’s uncanny how many trainers resemble their partners. You look like as much of a mutt as your Houndoom.”
Kylo felt himself bristling. All he wanted to do was to buy a few antidotes, and he had to deal with this? Kylo pointed at the door of the Pokémon Center. “You want to take this outside, or what?”
“That would be a mistake,” Armitage said, eyeing the Houndoom. The Fire Typing might post a bit of an issue, but he still felt confident it would fall to his team. The man’s entire black ensemble and (probably dyed) black hair hinted that anything else he had wouldn’t be a threat either. “I’d hate to embarrass you.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem,” Kylo said. He gripped his fist, feeling his pulse under his fingertips as he glared. He saw that look at his Houndoom. People were always looking down on his Dark Types in any situation that didn’t involve a Psychic. Kylo was more than happy to prove this guy wrong. “Heal your team and let’s get this on with.”
“If you insist,” Armitage said. He shrugged and finished wiping up the spilled tea. The other trainer thought he was being imposing, but clearly the man needed a lesson in manners. Armitage was more than happy to beat it into him. He’d had plenty of practice over the years. “I’ll meet you outside.”
Neither of them had a clue this battle would change their lives.
Kylo waited in the small clearing a few yards from Pokémon Center, arms crossed. Houndoom sat by his side, glaring at the front door harder than he was while they waited. He patted the pup on the head and calmed himself. “Don’t worry, buddy. We’ll show him just what we can do.”
Armitage wasn’t surprised to see the other man glowering already when he left the building. He supposed introductions were in order, placing a hand over his chest. “I’m Armitage Hux, and you are?”
Houndoom got to all fours, snarling openly. His tail swished back and forth and Kylo understood the pup’s desire to attack. He petted Houndoom’s head to calm him. His partner blew a small burst of fire, making their introduction just a touch better. “Kylo Ren.”
“Fitting name for a Dark Type user,” Armitage said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes at the dramatic display. He smirked, holding his three Poké Balls up between his fingers. “I have three Pokémon on me. You?”
“Three on three is fine,” Kylo said. Houndoom glanced at him, ears back. Kylo hardened his expression, steadfastly ignoring his partner’s attempt to guilt him. “Works for me.”
“That fourth ball on your belt says otherwise,” Armitage said. Three Luxury Balls (of course this guy had made sure he had black Poké Balls), and one regular red and white that had Armitage curious. “I don’t need your pity. If I’ll fight using my three against a full team of six, I’ll fight your four.”
“Fine,” Kylo said, dropping his shoulders. This was fine. He’d destroy this guy’s entire team without needing to use that fourth one. “Three on four.”
“Wonderful,” Armitage said. He clipped his Poké Balls back to his belt, save one, and held it up. “Shall we begin?”
“Let’s do this,” Kylo said. He grabbed the first ball on his slot and threw it up, releasing his heaviest hitter. “Let’s teach him to fear the dark, Zoroark!”
With a flash, Zoroark hit the field, red fur ruffled and claws extended. It swished its tail, more than eager to go. Kylo smiled, crossing his arms. His Zoroark was near undefeated, and his highest level Pokémon, despite being a fairly new addition to the team.
“Did you think that up yourself?” Armitage said. He held his ball up, and pulled his arm back. With a quick flick of the wrist he sent it flying. “Why don’t we beat that drama right out of you.”
Gallade hit the ground, striking a pose as it landed. Armitage grinned. His Fighting Types would be more than happy to teach this Dark Type fanatic a lesson with grace and poise.
“You were right before about Trainers and their Pokémon,” Kylo said, counting to ten in his head. He could handle this. Gallade was only part Fighting and Dark was strong against Physic. Zoroark could take it down no problem if they played this carefully. “Your Gallade looks as full of himself as you are.”
“Less quips, more battling,” Armitage said. This was a battle, and there was no room for distraction. Armitage shouted, “Gallade, use Low Sweep!”
“Move!” Kylo yelled, but Zoroark was just a fraction too slow. The hit made contact and his Pokémon hit the ground. Houndoom winced and growled, but stayed next to Kylo. He gripped his fist. It was a tough hit, but Zoroark wasn’t down yet. “Taunt, Zoroark!”
The Zoroark grinned, making a lewd gesture across the field and Gallade fell for it. Enraged, he tore across the field at the Zoroark, attempting to Low Sweep it again. Armitage bit the side of his nail. “Even if he’s stuck using one move, it doesn’t change it’s effectiveness!”
“Maybe, but we’re not done!” Kylo yelled, “Use Foul Play, Zoroark!”
Zoroark dashed forward smacking into Gallade with a roar, surrounded by a flaming, purple aura. Armitage almost growled like the other man’s Houndoom, watching his Gallade hit the ground. The High Attack Stats he and his Gallade had worked so hard for had just been used against him. What a tricky, rotten move. Armitage recalled his fainted Gallade and hissed, “Well played.”
“I told you we had it covered,” Kylo said. His Zoroark wasn’t looking too great, though. Those kicks had taken more out of him than Kylo liked. And to make things worse, he had forgotten to buy potions in his anger at the red head. Kylo promised he wouldn’t let that happen again. “You doing okay, buddy?”
Zoroark gave him a thumb’s up and turned back toward the challenger.
“I suppose I deserve that for taking pity on you with my one Psychic type. I won’t be making that mistake again,” Armitage said. He grabbed the next ball and threw out his fighter. “Mienshao! Let’s end him!”
Another Fighting Type. Kylo breathed out heavily through his nose. That was just his luck. Not only was the trainer annoying, but he specialized in the Dark Type’s biggest weakness.
“Force Palm, Mienshao,” Armitage said.
The speed of the attacking Mienshao was too much for Zoroark. He took the Force Palm straight to the chest, and was knocked out before Kylo could even think of recalling him to trade.
“That’s one to one,” Armitage said as the other man recalled his Zoroark with a glare. “Next?”
Houndoom barked, fire gathering at his mouth. Looks like Kylo’s favorite wanted to get in the ring, and Kylo wasn’t going to stand in his way. “Go on, Houndoom. You’re up!”
“Like it’ll help,” Armitage said. “That Fire Typing won’t save him. Use Swift, Mienshao.”
A flurry of stars smacked into Houndoom’s side. But Kylo’s faithful friend shook off the hit. Kylo threw his hand out. “Return with Fire Fang, Houndoom!”
The attack hit true, his Houndoom biting the edge of Mienshao’s sleeve-like arm. The Fighting Type winced and shook off his dog, but still felt the hit of the flames. However, it didn’t change the super effectiveness of Mienshao’s Force Palm straight to the side of Houndoom’s neck.
“One hit, K.O.,” Armitage said, biting his lip to keep from smiling too widely at the other man’s downcast face. “How embarrassing.”
“Your Mienshao still took a lot of damage,” Kylo said. He threw out his final Luxury Ball. “Finish it off, Absol! Use Toxic!”
Mienshao was unable to dodge the immediate spray of purple fluid, drenched. Heavily poisoned, Armitage could practically see his health wasting away, and there was no antidote in sight in his bag. A foolish mistake he would not be repeating in the future. Preparation was everything.
But if he was fast enough, it wouldn’t matter. Armitage yelled, “Force Palm, Mienshao!”
“Night Slash, Absol!”
Kylo yelled “Yeah!” when his Absol proved to be the faster one, smacking into the Mienshao hard. The critical hit was plain as day, and Kylo just knew it was in revenge for his fallen companions. “That’s my girl!”
Absol flipped her head, the white fur ruffling.
Armitage recalled Mienshao and gritted his teeth together. This was supposed to be easy. Dark types were weak to Fighting types. But if he wanted to play hard ball, than fine, Armitage would play hard ball.
“Heracross! Eliminate that Absol!” Armitage said. Heracross landed on the field, shaking itself off. It was his least elegant Pokémon, but it would certainly get the job done here and now. He threw his hand out. “Megahorn!”
“Dodge it, Absol!” Kylo yelled. A Bug-Fighting Type was a Dark Type user’s nightmare. That four time weakness was brutal, and an instant loss if it was hit. If they wanted any chance to win, Absol needed to dodge and get a Toxic in. “You can do it!”
Absol could not.
She cried out from the hit, stumbling for a few feet before fainting. Kylo recalled her, hand trembling. He had been so sure his Team could handle it, no matter what they were up against. Kylo knew Fighting Types would always come up, but to be defeated so easily? It barely mattered he took out three of the other man’s Pokémon when he had one that could Party Wipe Kylo from the beginning.
“Now that’s a face I like,” Armitage said, realizing he meant it in more ways than one. When he wasn’t glaring, it was a rather nice face to look at. The pout did wonders for showing off his features. He was interesting, and this was the most fun Armitage had had in a battle in ages. Who knew? “Come on, let’s see that last one. Show me the power of the darkness you’re so proud of.”
Kylo tugged the last Poké Ball of his belt and gripped his hand tightly around the ball. He met the other man’s eyes and felt every inch of him burning with anger and shame. This Pokémon was a guaranteed win for him, but as far as Kylo was concerned, he lost this match. “You should have agreed to the three on three.”
“I’m trembling,” Armitage said. The other man looked like he was holding back a scream or tears, and either was good in Armitage’s book. “Come on, let’s get this on with and you can accept your loss with grace.”
“Use Hurricane,” Kylo said, throwing the ball into the field.
“Hurricane?” Armitage asked, his back straightening. It would be just his luck that idiot would ruin his good mood a Mukrow or something up his sleeve—
Pigeotto flew from the ball with a loud caw, flapping its wings hard, stirring up the ground and everything around it. It K.O.’d Armitage’s Heracross with the same speed and ferocity that Heracross had taken out Absol. The bird fluffed out its feathers while Heracross remained passed out, very proud of itself.
“Looks like it’s your win,” Armitage said. He glared at his Poké Ball after recalling Heracross and put a hand on his hip. Now that was even more interesting. The man had an ace like that up his sleeve the entire time; Armitage was impressed. “I must admit, you got me. Holding that Flying Type in reserve was a smart move considering Fighting is your greatest weakness, and I had no clue you even had it.”
Kylo grunted. Pigeotto turned to look at him, proud and feathers fluffed. He sighed and recalled the Flying Type, mumbling “Good job.”
Armitage dropped his shoulders. For a man who’d just gotten one over on him, he didn’t exactly look happy. Armitage was curious despite himself. But first things were first. He pulled out his wallet, puling out a few bills.
“Keep your money,” Kylo said, walking past him toward the Pokémon Center. He wanted to heal his team and get away from this lousy fight. “I don’t want it.”
He didn’t deserve it.
Armitage scoffed, heading into the Center after him. It was because he had his own Team to heal, of course, not because he was curious about what that had been about. What trainer turned down their only form of income?
Stopping the man on his way out of the Center and dragging him to a restaurant, on the other hand, was completely done out of the need to satisfy his curiosity about the fight.
“What are you doing, Hux?” Kylo asked, petting Houndoom under the table. The other man had his arms crossed with two cups of tea between them. “Was this really necessary?”
“There was something off about that battle and I want to know what it was,” Armitage said.
Kylo slumped in his seat. “And you think I’ll share with you, why?”
“You came to lunch when I offered, so why not believe you’ll be cooperative with conversation?”
“Exactly,” Armitage said. He threaded his fingers together and leaned on the table. Ren looked tired, slumped in his seat. Again, a far cry from someone who had won the fight. Winners should be more proud than that, even if Armitage was irked that he had lost. “After thinking about it, I put two and two together and figured whatever was throwing you off was that last Pokémon of yours, the Pigeotto. Care to share?”
“It’s rather personal,” Kylo said. He kicked Hux from under the table, narrowing his eyes. Houndoom snickered and Kylo pushed his head down to be less obvious with his amusement. “Maybe I don’t want to.”
“Is it really that bad?” Hux asked, chin in his hand. “I still think having a Flying Type on a Dark Team is rather smart, though I was expecting a Murkrow from you instead.”
“Haven’t run into one of those yet,” Kylo said, looking to the side. Houndoom snorted and rolled his eyes. The traitor. Hux noticed, of course, and his mouth twitched in a smile, silently calling Kylo out on his lie. Kylo sighed and slumped in his chair. “Look, I don’t like Flying Types, okay? That was my dad’s thing, and I made it very clear I didn’t want to follow in his Flying Type footsteps when I left home.”
Armitage picked up his tea, sipping it. “Yet you still have a Pigeotto on your team?”
“He was my starter,” Kylo said. He narrowed his eyes, daring Hux to say something. “Okay? My dad bred him for me as a surprise when I told him I wanted to be a trainer.”
“That’s rather sweet,” Armitage said. He closed his eyes and hummed. He had no idea where his own starter ended up. Armitage had traded the little Snivy long ago for his Mienfoo. He wondered if he’d have been more attached to the little Grass Type if it had been hand picked by his parents instead of a token gift from the local professor. “I’m still at a loss for the animosity you seem to have for the thing.”
“I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I’m a Dark Type trainer,” Kylo said. He sat straighter in his seat, leaning across the table. “I want to be a pure Dark Type trainer, because there’s something about it that just calls to me like my Grandfather before me. He was a Dark Type Master and I’d do anything to follow in his footsteps. I’m fine if I have Pigeotto as a companion, but if he’s winning battles for me, than I’m failing in my speciality. I should be prepared for any opponent, Type weakness or not.”
Armitage threw an arm over the back of his seat. He thought “How Adorable” even as he said “How ambitious.”
Kylo narrowed his eyes; Houndoom growled. “There’s no shame in that.”
“You know, when I first met you I had your Houndoom pegged as your starter,” Armitage said. He smiled at the waitress as she brought them their food. She put an extra plate on the floor for said mutt and it gave up growling at Armitage in favor of treats. “Having him out and about so much.”
“He was the first Pokémon I caught on my own.” Kylo tugged over his plate of food, looking fondly at his Houndoom. “I sort of wish I’d seen him as a pup though, because he’d already evolved by the time I found him.”
“I’m impressed you beat a fully evolved Houndoom with a Pidgey, assuming he hadn’t evolved yet.” Armitage smiled to himself, picturing a younger version of the man in front of him shaking as he took on a Fire dog with a small bird. “I bet that was quite the battle.”
“I wish!” Kylo laughed, rubbing under his nose. Houndoom barked, and Hux shoved him lightly with the side of his foot. “I just got lucky.”
“I tripped and tossed a Luxury Ball at him by accident,” Kylo said, scratching Houndoom’s head while he ate. “Apparently it was nice in there, because he sure didn’t break out after it hit him.”
“But I bet he didn’t do a thing you said for a while.”
“Let’s just say I was using Burn Heals more on myself than my Pokémon.”
Armitage snickered, and before he knew it they were both laughing. That wasn’t how he was expecting this lunch to go, but he wasn’t complaining in the slightest. They finished their food in amused silence, the conversation lulling to a comfortable quiet.
Until Kylo felt the need to break it. “Why Fighting Types?”
“I was a very slight child who was bullied,” Armitage admitted. He smirked a bit and sipped into his cup, remembering quite a few happy memories. “Mienfoo was more than happy to Focus Punch them for me.”
Kylo whistled. “You two get caught?”
“Of course not,” Armitage said. He tapped the side of his temple and smiled. “I’m the brains, they’re the brawn. We make a perfect Team.”
“Until your Fighting Bug meets a bird,” Kylo said, smiling a bit to himself.
“I think I remember hearing something about being ashamed the bird won your battle for you?”
“Momentarily forgotten for the sake of a barb.”
“Fair enough,” Armitage said. He smiled and crossed his ankles under the table. “This lunch has turned out more pleasant than I imagined it would. You can be rather good company when you put your mind to it.”
“Back at you,” Kylo said. “Which is impressive for a guy who introduced himself with an insult.”
“I thought it was a compliment, unless you’re calling your Houndoom ugly.”
“Where are you headed after this?” Kylo asked, finishing off the rest of his plate. He felt full, and he was feeling much better about the earlier battle, despite it all. “On a journey, or do you live around here?”
“Mostly wandering,” Armitage said. When he was young, he had dreams like many others to be the Champion of the League. As an adult, he realized that poor soul spent all his time Battling against challengers, and Hux had no desire to waste his life that way. Battling was a hobby for him, not a career. However, he’d still yet to find anything he could do outside of being a trainer. He was almost envious of the man clearly aiming to be a Gym Leader. “I’ve collected a few badges for the posterity, but I have no real interest in the League. How about yourself?”
Kylo leaned over the table, excited to share his plans with someone. “I’m on my way to the harbor to catch a boat to Alola.”
“Well that’s quite a bit away,” Armitage admitted, thinking of the brochures he’d seen advertising the tropical paradise. “Planning on playing tourist?”
Kylo shook his head, though he couldn’t blame Hux for making that assumption. “The Alola Islands have a lot of regional variants that are Dark Types. It seems like the best place to look to expand my line up.”
“Variants?” Armitage asked. He struggled to remember if he had covered any of that in his schooling, but found that he could not. Curious, he asked,“Such as?”
“I know that Meowth and Rattata both have Dark Type variants, as well as Grimer and Muk,” Kylo said, feeling the grin. The second he’d seen pictures of a Dark Type Meowth, he knew he had to have one (no matter how much Houndoom fussed about a cat on the Team). That Muk had been something special, too, with all of those colors. “I could really use a poison type on my Team.”
“Well, at least you’re doing something about all that ambition you have,” Armitage said. He felt oddly enamored and calm, and he had a desire to keep that feeling running for as long as possible. He pushed his empty plate to the middle of the table. There seemed to be only one way to do that, since he’d singled in on the source. “I think I’ll go with you.”
“What?” Kylo asked. Houndoom looked up at the same time, and he was sure their faces matched in disbelief.
“I have nothing better to do and I’ve always wanted to vacation there,” Armitage said. He placed his share of the money on the table and stood, stretching his arms over his head. “Why not?”
Kylo paid his half as well, scrambling out of his chair to follow Hux as he left the restaurant. The man had a determined look in his eyes that scared him a little. “We just met.”
“So we did.” Armitage said, looking over his shoulder. He had been wrong before; Kylo’s face looked the best when it was dumbfounded and curious. Much better than angry or near tears. He wondered how many other expressions he could make that face make before this trip was out. Armitage felt the grin split his face.“You’re interesting, and I’m bored. Why shouldn’t I take advantage of this opportunity?”
“We’re going to drive each other crazy,” Kylo said, staring openly at the man. Houndoom nodded in agreement. The man looked too cunning; almost more like one of Kylo’s Dark Types than his own Fighting brand. He swallowed, a little terrified at how excited he felt at that concept. Kylo matched the other man’s grin. “You know that, right?”
Armitage held his hands out and turned on his heel to walk backwards. “That’s what makes it interesting.”
Kylo found he couldn’t argue with that.