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Orbs of Red and Blue

Chapter Text

Golden eyes opened slowly as a rather short-looking teen stirred among the assorted goods of the moving van. A light brown hand carded through short, simply cut hair. Gupta sighed a little, stretching his light build from where he had been sitting on the floor of the van. His black t-shirt rode up a little. The stiffness in his legs also made him regret wearing jeans. Moving like this was such a chore. He brushed a hand cautiously over his left ear. At least his earring wasn’t pulling too much.
Gupta blinked as the van came to an abrupt stop, the boxes packed in around him shaking a little.
‘This has got to breach some law somewhere,’ he thought to himself. It certainly wasn’t safe.
Gupta and his mother were moving to the small town of Littleroot in the region of Hoenn. His mother was going to be a gym leader in nearby Petalburg City, and Gupta… Well, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Hopefully enrol in the local high school and live a peaceful life. At the moment, he was sitting on the floor of the movers’ van taking them to their new home. His mother was in the front with the movers, but he was stuck in the back with their boxes of stuff. Seriously, there had to be some laws broken by this.

The shaking of the boxes stopped, and the door of the van opened. Gupta got to his feet and departed the vehicle. Outside, he could see a small row of houses, spaced far apart, stretching off into the distance. The town he had moved to was definitely peaceful and idyllic. Greenery was everywhere, and the people just seemed to be completely friendly. It was nothing like the city Gupta had moved from. He wasn’t sure he enjoyed it much. As he jumped down from the bed of the van, he noticed his mother standing only a short distance away, outside the house the van had pulled up alongside. Her slight form was obscured by the white dress she wore; only her shoulder length, straight black hair defined her. As she turned around, Gupta noticed that despite the lack of usual jewellery (she wasn’t wearing a single bracelet, although she did have her earrings in as usual), she had still applied her usual eyeshadow/eyeliner combination, making her brown eyes appear piercing and fierce. The exact image expected of her as a Gym Leader.
“Gupta, there you are. Sorry about being stuck with the things in the movers’ van…” She stated, approaching him. “I was just taking a look around the inside of the house, it looks good so far.” She smiled a little in approval.
Gupta nodded. “That’s nice mama,” he replied, “It was tough being stuck in the van though. Are you sure that’s not illegal?”
His mother shook her head. “Gupta, it’ll build fortitude.” She replied. “And it was only for a few hours, so I’m sure it won’t matter too much… Anyway, how do you like this place? It’s Littleroot town, our new home…” She looked the street over, breathing in deeply. “It’s certainly… Different from where we used to live… The air’s cleaner at least…”
Gupta looked back towards her. “Different… Yeah, that’s how I’d describe it.”
“It’s going to be a little hard to get used to, I know,” she continued, sensing his feelings about the move, “but sometimes, you have to do things like this. Make a leap, even if it seems like a strange thing to do. And work is work… Hopefully, we’ll get used to this place, and it’ll turn out a blessing… Or something.”
Gupta nodded. “Something like that,” he agreed.

Behind them, the movers were sending out Machoke and Machamp from Pokeballs, and the muscle-bound Pokémon were busying themselves with picking up heavy boxes and moving them inside the house.
“It shouldn’t take long to get everything moved in now,” Gupta’s mother decided, moving a little closer to her son. “You should go in there in a minute and have a look around. See how everything is. Especially check that your room is how you want it.”
“Okay mama.” Gupta nodded, heading into the house. Amazingly, the movers and their Pokémon were working incredibly fast, already unpacking and wiring up the various appliances that made up the kitchen-diner and the living room that comprised the ground floor of the house. Largely ignoring them, Gupta made his way upstairs to see how the rest of the house looked. He found himself in a small corridor, containing only three doors, which he assumed lead to a bathroom and two bedrooms. He had no idea which door led where though. Sighing, he decided he’d have to try all the doors and work it out. The door at the end of the room led to, perhaps predictably, a shower, so he tried the door to his right. Sticking his neck around the door, he saw a king-size, ornate bed in a rather ancient style, a wardrobe that matched the décor of the rest of the room well, and a pile of boxes, none of which looked like they belonged to him at all. So not his room. He turned around, facing the door across the corridor. So, it had to be that one. He strode up to the door and opened it.

Inside, he found a room larger than what he was accustomed to. A large rug stood in the middle of the room, simple, blue, and in Gupta’s eyes, boring. He would have to see if he could get that changed. The rest of the floor was wooden, and the walls were a mute white. Not that Gupta minded about that too much. To one side of the room there was a small double bed which was new and had just been assembled for the first time. Gupta walked over to it and stroked the bare mattress, looking over the plain bleached wood design. On the other side of the room there was a worn sofa that contrasted with the new aspect of everything else. Gupta was nothing if not sentimental though, and did not want to change it. Next to the sofa there was a small TV with a games console underneath. Gupta didn’t play many video games, but a distant relative had bought the console one birthday, and he found it was appealing to others his age, so kept it around to give himself and others something to do. The only other furniture in the room was a desk pressed against the same wall as the door, with a computer and notebook placed on it, a small bleached wooden wardrobe pushed against the wall closest to his bed, and a clock screwed into the wall next to the desk. There was no furniture pressed against the wall with the window in it (there weren’t even any curtains yet), but Gupta walked up to the window anyway, checking the frames, watching the view over the rest of the small town. From his window he could see the movers’ van, a few rows of houses, and a large complex that took up most of the rest of the view. He couldn’t fathom what it could be. A ranch? A farm? Away from the complex, back towards the periphery of his view, there was a small school, situated at the edge of the town. Overall, it looked much as Gupta had first assumed.

“It looks pretty good up here,” his mother noted, coming into the room. “Seems like the movers sorted everything in here quickly. I did ask them to handle the upstairs first, although we will have to deal with the curtains and bed sheets ourselves.”
Gupta agreed. “It does look nice up here mama.”
The woman nodded. “Did you check everything is where it should be? I unpacked some of your smaller things while I was checking this room out, but your clothes are still in the boxes in my room, and I didn’t quite finish with everything on your desk before I came down to see you,” she pointed to a box placed next to the desk.
“It’s okay,” Gupta interjected. “I can unpack the rest of the things.”
“I’ll be downstairs if you need me then,” she replied, turning towards the door again. “Oh, and don’t forget to set the clock,” she added before leaving.
Gupta nodded, moving towards the clock on the wall. It was newly bought… And stopped at midnight, as if waiting for someone to set it. But didn’t the people who worked in the shops that sold such clocks usually set them before selling them? Gupta wasn’t sure why this clock was any different. Still, he pulled out the tape at the back and set the clock to the correct time before moving onto his desk, unpacking his things and placing them either on the desk or in the drawers. While he was doing this, he also looked at his computer, which had two new menu options to it he didn’t remember adding: Item storage and mailbox. He assumed one had something to do with e-mail, but he had no idea how a computer could store items, or why he would need something like that.
“This region seems to have its own oddities,” he assumed to himself, moving on to flip over the notebook laid out on the desk. It had been blank before he had packed it away to move, but now two lines of text were written in it. The first read ‘open the menu with start’ and the second read ‘record your progress with save’. Gupta had absolutely no idea what the text was going on about. He knew nothing of any menu, or the ability to start or save anything. Confused, he decided to head downstairs, where he saw his mother finishing unpacking the cutlery and cooking utensils.

“Are you finished looking over your room? I think it’s bigger than your old one, but I’m not sure,” she commented, before he’d even announced his presence. However quiet Gupta was his mother’s hearing was better. “We’re nearly done down here too. Moving Pokémon can be really convenient sometimes.”
Gupta nodded noncommittally. “My room seems fine… there are some strange words written in the notebook though. Do you know where they came from?” he asked.
“As far as I was aware, the notebook was blank,” she continued, looking up at him. “That does seem strange…” she thought for a minute. “Anyway, if there’s nothing else wrong, I think I can handle the rest of the move by myself… Why don’t you go introduce yourself to the neighbours? I think there’s even a famous Pokémon professor living in this town,” she suggested.
“A professor?” Gupta blinked. Was that what the compound visible from his window was? A Pokémon lab? “Okay then, I’ll take a look around,” he agreed, waving goodbye to his mother before leaving the house. Outside, the movers’ van was still there, so Gupta decided to move off down the street, trying his hardest to be civil to people… However hard he found it sometimes. He really wasn’t a people person…

Chapter Text

Gupta trudged down the street, shaking his head a little. All morning he had gone to and fro between everyone at home in the street he had moved into, introducing himself to the strangers he had found. Finally, there was only one house left. The neighbours from across the road hadn’t been in when he had first set out, but when he had returned home, his mother had told him that someone had arrived at the house not long ago. He had figured that he’d better introduce himself to this other person too; no need to seem impolite after all, and news likely travelled fast in a place this small. Still, as he walked up to the house to knock on the door, he had to admit that he was glad there was nobody else he had to talk to. Hopefully he could go home after this and sort out his room. He knocked on the door and waited for some middle aged guy to answer. Surprisingly, there was no such person within the house; instead, a boy of a similar age to him opened the door and stared at him, an accommodating smile on his face. The other teen was tall, with green eyes and olive skin. He was a little more heavily built than Gupta, with light muscle showing beneath the loose green shirt and tan shorts he was wearing. His dark brown hair was slightly messy and ended in a double curl at the base of his neck. Overall, the boy appeared friendly.
“Hey there!” the teen greeted. “Prof. Batsaikhan’s out at the moment, but I can take a message for him if ya’d like…” He trailed off, looking Gupta over. “I have to admit though, I’ve never seen yer before.”
“It won’t be necessary, but thanks,” Gupta cut in. “My name’s Gupta, I just moved in over the road, and just… Wanted to introduce myself.” Man, did Gupta think he sounded awkward. The boy in the house seemed not to care though.
“Ah, right, it’s good to meet ya then Gupta,” the smile on the teen’s face seemed to grow larger if anything. “I’m Sadik. My older cousin’s the professor of Pokémon around here, so people always seem to come to our house to ask questions… Anyway, hope to see ya around, we’ll probably even be in the same class at school.” He grinned, giving off an aura of friendliness.
“Okay, sure. I’ll see you later then,” Gupta waved, awkwardly heading back towards his house. The other teen seemed nice enough, but Gupta was always a little cold around new people, so Sadik’s outright warmth and friendliness towards a total stranger was baffling to him. He figured he had better just head home to finish moving in. He could always try to make friends later.

When he arrived home though, his mother was insistent that he head over to the town’s Pokémon lab.
“You really should meet the professor, I’ve heard great things about him,” she explained simply, leaving Gupta to walk the streets of the small town again. In truth, he had no idea how to get to the lab, and despite the town’s small size he was still lost fairly quickly. Luckily for the teen, he soon met Sadik again, completely by accident.
“Hey, if it isn’t Guppie again!” He greeted, causing Gupta to cringe a little inside. Had he really found a nickname for him already…? “Are ya still introducing yerself to people?” He continued.
“Hello Sadik,” he greeted back, rather deadpan. “I’m still looking around, although I appear to be lost… I can’t find the Pokémon lab anywhere...”
“Ah. Okay, ya really wanna go that way.” Sadik grabbed Gupta’s shoulders and spun him around until he was facing the one road he hadn’t gone down yet. ‘Perfect, it had to be that one’ Gupta thought to himself.
“Although,” Sadik continued, “If yer looking for my cousin, ya might wanna check the grassland outside of town if he’s not in his lab-which he often isn’t- cos he likes to research the Pokémon living out there.”
“Alright, thanks.” Gupta nodded in affirmation, walking off down the path Sadik had told him led to the Pokémon lab. The road was shorter than he had expected- Gupta reasoned that the town was clearly just that small- and before long at all, he had made it to the building surrounded by paddocks that he assumed to be the Pokémon lab. As he peered through the door though, he noticed the inside to be empty. Rows of benches covered with paperwork and a collection of various large, complicated looking machines were all that were to be found inside the lab. A quick check around the outside revealed to Gupta only a few minor researchers feeding the gathered Pokémon, and so the teen headed back up the road he had come down, carrying on past the street his house was on until he reached the edge of town.

Before him, he could see a small woodland area, full of knee-high grass as well as more trodden down areas that were used by people to walk between this town and the next. If Sadik was right, the professor was here. As Gupta walked towards the first grassy area, he heard a cry come from somewhere close to him.
“Gah… Somebody help!”
Hurrying towards the sound, Gupta soon caught sight of someone being chased around by some kind of small dog-like Pokémon… A Poochyena as far as he could tell. The man being chased had long, black, braided hair that was tied back in a ponytail, glasses perched on his nose and a pissed off expression. Brown eyes were wide with fear and shock. He wasn’t as tall as Sadik, but he was hardly exceptionally short either; definitely taller than Gupta at least. As far as the teen could tell, this was probably the professor, if the lab coat thrown around his shoulders was anything to go by. As he stepped closer, the prof noticed him.
“You over there… There’s a Pokeball in my bag. Help, okay?” He requested as Gupta got closer.
“Why can’t he run over here to get it himself…?” Gupta wondered out loud. The man was surely keeping a fast enough pace to escape the chasing Pokémon, at least long enough to get back to his bag which was abandoned in the grass close to Gupta. No answer was fore coming though, so he took a few steps towards the bag and delved in, picking the first Pokeball he found inside.
‘Now what do I do?’ He pondered, unsure of how exactly trainers released Pokémon to battle. The Poochyena was still chasing the professor though, so he did the first thing that came to mind and threw the ball at the enemy.
“Mudkip!” Cried the emerging Pokémon, and the Poochyena instantly took notice, turning and chasing after its new foe.
“Okay, what now?” Gupta wasn’t really sure how to react. He knew he had to fight, but knew nothing of what this Pokémon was capable of. The Poochyena rammed into Mudkip and it slammed back in retaliation.
‘So I guess it knows tackle at least…’ Gupta noted.
“Okay Mudkip… Tackle?” Damn, talking to a Pokémon like this was embarrassing and sounded all strange… What if it didn’t even listen to him? Luckily for Gupta, Mudkip launched a quick tackle at the foe, forcing the Poochyena to the ground. It reacted by growling deeply, and Mudkip looked just a little afraid.
“…Just tackle again.” Gupta sighed, his colder nature coming through. Somehow, Mudkip got the message, throwing itself at the Poochyena and pushing it back against a tree. Defeated, the wild Pokémon stalked off.
“Mud…Kip!” The professor’s Pokémon celebrated, jumping from foot to foot.

“Ah, that was pretty good for a young man… Especially someone who seemed to have no prior experience with Pokémon training,” the professor congratulated, walking back towards Gupta and Mudkip.
“Thanks? But I didn’t really do anything…” Gupta was really unsure as to how this worked. After all, Mudkip probably could have done it all by itself.
“Don’t be silly. Mudkip had faith in you, and your strong stance and refusal to give up prevented him from becoming afraid and running away,” the professor explained.
“’Him?’ How can you tell?” Gupta was a little confused. There was nothing to mark Mudkip out as either male or female.
“Mudkip is an animal Pokémon, as opposed to one more mineral in nature. They reproduce sexually, so of course there are males and females,” the professor offered by way of explanation. “Anyway, that’s enough for now. Let’s go back to the lab,” he decided, already walking back in the direction of the town, picking up his bag along the way, Mudkip following behind him.
“Uhh…” Gupta blinked, left behind afterwards. He was still holding Mudkip’s Pokeball…

Since he was still holding the Pokeball belonging to the Pokémon he had borrowed before, Gupta headed back towards the Pokémon lab, where he found the professor deep in discussion with one of the other researchers, Mudkip standing at their feet, looking between them and smiling in a spaced-out kind of way. As he entered the lab, the professor turned to acknowledge him.
“Ah, you’re the kid from before. You made it,” he smiled a little. “What you did before was a great help… And you seem to me to have the makings of a great trainer.”
“How can you tell that? You only watched one battle, and it’s not like Mudkip couldn’t have done it himself…” Gupta muttered, but nobody paid any attention.
“Yep, I’m sure you could be a Pokémon master… And Mudkip seems to like you. So I’ve decided to let you keep him.” The professor nodded in finality.
“Professor Batsaikhan? Are you sure?” The researcher asked, astounded.
“Of course. Still, you’ll need some training… And I should probably ask for your name,” the professor mused.
“I’m Gupta. I just moved here,” Gupta explained, a little overwhelmed as to what was happening.
“Ah, that’ll explain why I’ve never seen you before… Anyway, my cousin’ll show you the ropes… He recently got his own Pokémon you see. He’s about your age actually, so you two should be able to learn from each other easily.” The professor dismissed, his mind entirely made up. He crouched down to Mudkip’s level. “Mudkip, I want you to go with Gupta,” he ordered the Pokémon, who looked between the professor and Gupta, tilted his head, and waddled calmly over to Gupta’s side.
“Mud…Kip!” He barked in affirmation, seemingly cheerful.
“Alright then. Sadik should be training on route 103,” the professor continued. “If you can defeat him in battle and then return here, I’ll give you a little something.”
Gupta nodded. He didn’t really mind about any reward, but it seemed like that was what everyone wanted him to do. “Okay,” he agreed. At least it would give him an excuse to visit the next town over? He vaguely remembered his mother saying route 103 was the other side of Oldale town, a short walk away from Littleroot. He looked down to Mudkip, who was now sitting at his feet. “Let’s go,” he told the Pokémon, turning around to leave the lab. Mudkip stared after him for a moment before getting up and following.
“Thanks again,” he nodded to the professor as he opened the door, Mudkip walking into the back of his legs since he hadn’t been paying attention. As Gupta left the lab he had to make sure that he didn’t close the door on the dopey Pokémon. He sighed. This was going to be a long trip.

Chapter Text

As Gupta walked back up the road towards the rest of town, Mudkip skipping along behind him, he noticed his mother was standing outside his house, cleaning the area in front of the door.
“Gupta,” she waved as he got close. “Have you introduced yourself to everyone now?”
The teen nodded. “Have you finished unpacking everything yet?” He came to stand a few feet away from her, Mudkip again walking into his legs before sitting at his feet behind him.
“More or less… I finished hanging the curtains and other things like that too. So other than a few minor details, we’re pretty much finished with the move,” she confirmed, looking pleased with the fact.
“Mudkip?” Mudkip queried, looking around Gupta’s legs. It was at this point that Gupta’s mother noticed the Pokémon, and the Pokeball that Gupta still held in one hand.
“A Mudkip? Did the professor give you a Pokémon?” She asked, not missing a thing.
“He did. I’m not exactly sure why. I found him being chased by a Poochyena, picked up a Pokeball and sent out Mudkip. He then defeated it and now the professor thinks I’m some prodigy or something,” Gupta confirmed, shrugging. He really had no idea what was going on…
“I see…” His mother crouched down to Mudkip’s level. “He seems to like you though…” She noted.
“I’m not sure he doesn’t just like everyone,” Gupta deadpanned.
“Hmm...” His mother reached out her hand to Mudkip, and he walked over to her happily, sniffing her hand before leaning into it, nuzzling.
“See?” Gupta tilted his head.
“He’s just young… He wants to be loved,” she decided, before looking back to her son. “Although… He has followed you all the way here. And you’re still clutching that pokeball… Do you have any idea what you’re doing?”
“Well… No. I thought that was obvious,” Gupta replied, again deadpan.
“Right…” She breathed, “Do you need me to teach you then?”
Gupta nodded, at least a little glad that someone was finally trying to tell him what was going on.
“Okay, it’s pretty simple. If you press the button on the ball there, you can return Mudkip to the Pokeball. Then you just put it in your pocket and walk around with it. It’s that simple,” she instructed.
“…It’s a little big to just fit in a pocket,” Gupta replied.
“If you hold the button down, it’ll shrink,” his mother shook her head. “You can try it now if you want.”

Gupta looked over to Mudkip, who had spaced out while they were talking and was now watching the Beautiflies some distance away. “Mudkip,” he called and the Pokémon turned to him and waddled back.
“Rest now,” he told the Pokémon, holding the Pokeball in front of his face and pressing the button. Mudkip was returned to the capsule, and he then shrunk the ball before stuffing it into his pocket.
“There,” his mother nodded in finality.
“Okay. So now I have to go find the professor’s cousin on route 103 and defeat his Pokémon” Gupta mused, changing the subject.
“Do you know what kind of Pokémon he has?” She asked.
“No clue,” Gupta retorted.
“Well, it’ll probably be either a Torchic or a Treecko. So plan accordingly,” she advised.
“Thanks. Not that I know anything about either of those Pokémon,” Gupta shrugged.
“Well, they are rare. But bear this in mind. Mudkip will learn mud slap when it gets just a little bit stronger. That could help you a lot,” she pointed out.
“Alright mama, thanks. I’ll head off to route 103 now.” Gupta waved as he began to walk towards the road out of town.
“Good luck with your battle,” she called after him as he left.

Gupta had been walking for less than an hour when Oldale town came into view. For the most part, he had been able to stay out of the tall grass in which Pokémon lived, but as the settlement drew up in the distance, the teen reached a ledge that he couldn’t quite climb up. The only way around involved walking straight through the tall grass.
“This is really badly designed… What do the people without Pokémon do?” He wondered aloud. “Come to think of it… how do vehicles get past this?” As he looked around though, he saw no other way ahead. So he stepped into the tall grass. Immediately, a Zigzagoon jumped out at him. Gupta jumped back, but the Pokémon seemed intent on challenging him.
‘I don’t have any other Pokeballs so I can’t try to catch it… So I’ll have to battle it,’ Gupta planned mentally, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the Pokeball containing Mudkip before throwing it.
“Mudkip?” The Pokémon tilted his head to the side confused as soon as he appeared, before looking back towards Gupta and smiling.
“Mudkip, that way,” Gupta pointed at the Zigzagoon. “Use tackle”
“Mud!” Mudkip barked in affirmation, running with determination towards the other Pokémon before slamming into it. Zigzagoon growled warily at him, but Mudkip appeared to have learned to take such intimidation in his stride, looking back at Gupta for reassurance for only a second before seeing his trainer’s nod and going on to tackle the Pokémon again, shoving Zigzagoon back several feet. The Pokémon dug in with its feet and stopped itself from sliding, before throwing itself back at Mudkip.
“Kip!” He cried, falling back and bouncing on the grass, appearing to whine a little.
“Mudkip, get up and tackle again,” Gupta commanded, causing the Pokémon to turn back towards him before nodding.
“Mud…Kip,” he agreed, charging at the Zigzagoon and tackling it with full force. The Pokémon fell back and collapsed, breathing heavily before fleeing.
“Mud-kip!” Mudkip chimed happily, looking back towards Gupta.
“Okay, good,” Gupta agreed, kneeling down to his Pokémon’s level. “Now back into the…” Mudkip jumped on him before he could press the button on the Pokeball to return him. The Pokémon eagerly began licking Gupta’s face while wagging his tail fin in happiness.
“Mud…Kip! Mudkip!” He chimed in excitement.
“I guess you really enjoy being out of the Pokeball…” Gupta mused.
“Mudkip!” Mudkip agreed.
“I don’t know how much of the region you’ve already seen… So I suppose this is a new experience for the both of us,” he continued, standing up while holding onto his Pokémon, who nuzzled into his arms contentedly. Mudkip nodded, smiling goofily.
“Okay, let’s carry on then,” he decided, walking off with Mudkip still in his arms. He continued walking through the grass as Mudkip leant on his forearm and gazed around at the scenery, spacing out again.

Gupta was nearly out of the grass when he stepped on the tail of a Wurmple by accident. The Pokémon reared up at him, causing the teen to jump back in surprise. The bug seemed very riled up and angry at him. Deciding he’d better defend himself, he leaned down and opened his arms, trying to let Mudkip down onto the ground. As he felt himself slipping, Mudkip gripped onto Gupta’s arms, frowning and struggling.
“Mud…Kip! Mudkip…” He whined, seemingly not wanting to be put down.
“Mudkip, I need you to fight the wild Pokémon over there.” Gupta sighed, prying Mudkip onto the grass. The Pokémon looked dejected for a moment before looking in the direction Gupta was staring, noticing the Wurmple. He then looked between the wild Pokémon and his trainer for a few seconds before finally getting the point.
“Muuudkip,” he nodded in affirmation.
The wild Wurmple ran at Mudkip, tackling it, and Mudkip enthusiastically tackled back. The Wurmple staggered a little before jumping back towards Mudkip and jabbing it with the horn on its head. Mudkip fell backwards, clearly upset.
“Kip!” He squealed, screwing his eyes shut. Gupta frowned. Mudkip really seemed to be hurting…
As he stepped up towards Mudkip with the view to picking him up and running as fast as he could out of there, Mudkip took a defiant leap towards the Wurmple and slammed into it full force. Wurmple jumped back and appeared to be getting ready to ram Mudkip with its horn again when Mudkip stopped, looked at the ground beneath him and began digging. As Wurmple charged at him, Mudkip gripped some of the dirt he’d dug with his front paws and slapped Wurmple with it. Discouraged, the Wurmple ran off.
“Mud slap… He literally slapped it… With mud?” Gupta queried out loud, a little confused as to what exactly just happened. The people who came up with these names sure were inventive. His attention was quickly drawn back towards Mudkip, who quickly ran back to him after the Wurmple ran off and nuzzled into his legs, his face telling the teen that he was still suffering. Gritting his teeth, Gupta picked up the small Pokémon and walked as fast as he could towards Oldale town. He’d tried to run, but somehow… He couldn’t.

He was lucky not to be far from the town at all. When Gupta arrived, he was met by a strange man who seemed all too friendly.
“Are you a beginning trainer? I’ve never seen you before! All trainers need potions,” he grinned cheerfully, shoving some sort of bottle into his hand.
“Er… Thanks?” Gupta was more than a little confused. What exactly was a potion? He had heard the word used to describe a lot of different things.
“You’re welcome! Although the Pokémon Centre is just there, so it’s probably more convenient to take your little guy there and save it for later,” the man continued, completely unperturbed.
“Um… Okay. Thanks.” Gupta waved awkwardly at the man (which was very hard with a Mudkip in his arms), before walking swiftly towards the Pokémon Centre. The building was easily the largest in town, with a huge red roof and clear signage, so it wasn’t like it was hard to miss.
“Welcome to the Pokémon Centre! We restore your Pokémon to full health. Would you like to rest your Pokémon?” The woman behind the desk spouted without pause as soon as he walked up to her.
“Rest? I think Mudkip might need more than rest,” Gupta stated, deadpan.
“It does look poisoned.” The woman admitted. “We can fix that. Just pass it over.”
Gupta stopped in his tracks, not trusting the woman one bit. “How do I know you won’t steal him?” He asked. It was a little silly; he could see almost the entire Centre from where he was standing, except for a small intensive care area at the very back. Where would the woman go with Mudkip even if she did take him?”
“I appreciate your concern… Not all trainers are so wary and slow to trust. But I’m a criminal record checked nurse, so it’s fine,” the nurse reassured.
“Okay…” Gupta handed Mudkip to the lady.
“And the Pokeball,” she continued. Gupta stared at her a little, but handed it to her anyway. She returned Mudkip to the ball.
“Okay, let me take your Pokémon for a few seconds,” she stated, placing the Pokeball in some sort of machine and starting it. Gupta wasn’t sure how such a thing could have healing properties. If Mudkip could talk, he would have asked him about it.
“Okay, all done! Your Pokémon has been healed,” the woman stated with a smile, handing the Pokeball back to Gupta.
“Thanks,” the teen nodded.
“Please come again,” the nurse replied in parting.
As he turned away from the desk to walk from the building, Gupta noticed a pile of forms on a table next to one of the walls. ‘Pokémon League registration’ was written on a sign next to them, that had been folded to stand up and was clearly visible. Not really caring about that sort of thing, Gupta walked calmly from the area.

Once out of the Pokémon Centre, Gupta began to look around for the road that would lead to route 103. To start off with he walked towards the centre of town, where he found a helpful signpost that pointed him in the right direction. This place was far easier to navigate than Littleroot in that respect. As he walked along the correct road, he caught sight of another building. This one was smaller than the Pokémon Centre, being about the size of a house in all, and had a blue roof. Curious, the teen stepped inside the building to look around. He found that it was some sort of shop. Various people were browsing the shelves, looking at an array of items that Gupta couldn’t identify. At the counter, someone was arguing with the clerk. Gupta listened in.
“What do you mean you don’t have any Pokeball for sale? This is meant to be a Pokemart!” The trainer yelled at the salesman, who looked rather sheepish.
“The delivery truck got delayed… It’s not like any of us planned this,” he answered back calmly. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but for the moment any of you trainers who wanted to catch Pokémon are out of luck.”
Gupta walked over to one of the shelves while digesting the information. So shops like these were where you got Pokeball… And other things too. He still couldn’t tell what many things were, but among the items for sale Gupta spotted various food and treat items for Pokémon, potions that looked like the one he had been given earlier, toys, and even what appeared to be… Some sort of harness. The shop did seem to have things which could be useful later, so Gupta made sure to make a mental note of it before he left. The conversation between the clerk and the trainer inside the Pokemart had been interesting in a way, showing just how reliant on Pokeball some trainers seemed to be. Were they really catching that many Pokémon? Gupta didn’t really care whether the shop was out of Pokeball or not. He wasn’t bothered about catching Pokémon anyway.

The mid-afternoon sun beat down on Gupta as he made his way along the road he still followed. By now he was definitely on route 103, and he was hoping to run into Sadik soon. He hadn’t sent Mudkip back out of the Pokeball since he had been returned to it in the Pokémon Centre. For the most part, this was because he had had no reason to; he hadn’t come across any more wild Pokémon, and this was something he was glad of. He had even made it through another patch of tall grass ten minutes ago with no problems. Soon he turned a corner and reached a grassy plain with a river ahead of him. There didn’t seem to be anywhere else to go. As Gupta surveyed the area, he saw a figure standing away from him, looking down into the water. As he drew closer to the other boy, Sadik turned around to face him.

Chapter Text

“Heya Guppie! How are ya?” Sadik smiled over at Gupta as soon as they were face to face.
“I’m fine,” Gupta replied, wanting to keep it short. “I was told to come here and battle you.”
“Ah, don’t act so serious about it! This is just meant to be a bit of fun, so lighten up, will ya?” Sadik laughed a little at Gupta’s uptight words and deadpan expression.
“You see Pokémon as just… Fun?” Gupta queried, unable to work out Sadik’s reasoning.
“Nah, not just fun… Ya make it sound like they’re just playthings. Adventuring is fun. Pokémon are friends. Either way, yer too serious about this.” The other teen clarified.
“Oh. Well, anyway…” Gupta continued, pulling Mudkip’s Pokeball out of his pocket. “We should get down to it.”
“Sure.” Sadik flashed an accommodating grin as he reached into his own pocket, pulling out a Pokeball of his own.
Gupta took a deep breath to prepare himself for the fight before throwing the Pokeball at the grass in front of him.
“Mud?” Mudkip queried, a little confused as to where he was.
“We’re battling again Mudkip,” Gupta offered by way of explanation.
“Kip?” Mudkip looked around, trying to figure out where the other Pokémon was.
“Heh, I like that little guy, he’s cute,” Sadik commented, releasing his own Pokémon.
“Come out Ateş, we’re gonna battle now!” He declared.
“Tor-Chic!” Sang Ateş, shaking his head from side to side a little. The action caused his head plume to swing around.
Mudkip heard the voice of another Pokémon and turned to face Ateş.
“Kip!” He seemed to reply, focusing on his target.
“Alright Ateş, scratch ‘em!” Sadik called, and his Pokémon began charging towards Mudkip.
“Tackle,” Gupta replied, causing Mudkip to run forwards with all his might… Straight into an upraised claw.
“Muuud,” Mudkip whined, shaking his whole body in discomfort. Ateş was sent rolling backwards from Mudkip’s attack, but soon picked himself up again.
“Tor!” He smiled, jumping in the air a little, appearing as though he was having fun.
“Mudkip, tackle him again,” Gupta continued, trying to press the fight on.
“Scratch again,” Sadik reiterated to his own Pokémon at about the same time.
Some confusion arose as Mudkip appeared to stop for a moment, unsure as to how to decipher the conflicting statements. Eventually, he began running back towards Ateş… Only to begin trying to scratch the Pokémon with his front paws. He earned another claw to the face for his trouble.
“No Mudkip, you can’t use scratch.” Gupta sighed, wondering how Mudkip could be so easily confused. He clearly wasn’t Sadik! Didn’t Mudkip know not to follow the orders of other trainers? As he looked back towards his Pokémon, Gupta noted that Mudkip seemed to be in pain. His body was now riddled with scratches.
Sadik chucked a little, and his Torchic followed suit. “Okay Ateş, let’s wrap this up. Use scratch one more time.”
Gupta gritted his teeth as Ateş began advancing on Mudkip again. He couldn’t lose… Then he remembered what his mother had said. “Mudkip… Use mud slap,” he commanded. Mudkip nodded, smiling goofily, and began digging again. Some of the mud kicked up by the digging hit Ateş square in the face. The Torchic panicked a little as he tried to wipe the mud from his eyes with his wings, to little effect.
“Stay calm Ateş!” Sadik assured, as Mudkip continued digging down, coating his paws in the mud of the hole he was digging.
“Mudkip!” He squealed as he leapt from the hole, slapping Ateş around the face with the mud a few times.
“Chic!” Ateş cried, falling back.
“Keep going,” Gupta encouraged, as Mudkip continued to slap the Torchic, Ateş stumbling a little before falling flat on his face.

“Mud?” Mudkip stood over Ateş, who seemed to have collapsed. He poked the fainted Pokémon before jumping to signal his victory. “Mudkip!” He cheered, smiling.
“That was good work,” Gupta nodded. “Now come back to… Mudkip?” He noticed Mudkip now moving towards Sadik. The teen looked just as perplexed.
“Hey there little guy, what’re ya up to…Bleh!” Sadik staggered backwards a little as Mudkip flung some mud off of his paws and into Sadik’s face.
"Mudkip... The battle is over. We don't need to fight Sadik as well." Gupta sighed. Clearly, this Pokémon did not understand trainer battles. Sadik was still being covered in mud. Gupta hoped he wasn't too upset. He actually didn't mind Sadik, out of all the people he had met so far.
Mudkip looked over to Gupta and smiled lazily.
"Mudkip!" The dopey Pokémon celebrated as Torchic laid face down on the ground, too exhausted to get up. Sadik scraped the mud off of his face before looking over to Gupta and smiling.
"Sorry Sadik," Gupta apologised, sighing a little at Mudkip’s actions.
"It’s no problem, really! Little guy just got carried away, that's all..." Sadik grinned, picking his Torchic up off the ground and holding it in his arms. "That was good Guppie, yer pretty skilled for a beginning trainer, although I bet I won’t lose the next time.”
“Thanks, but didn’t Mudkip do most of the work?” Gupta questioned, walking over to where Mudkip was jumping up and down and scooping the Pokémon up.
“Well, I guess so… he’s an enthusiastic little guy, huh?” Sadik continued regardless, still smiling. “Anyway, how ‘bout we walk back to my cousin’s lab together? My Pokémon’s all tuckered out, so I’m not so sure about goin’ in the tall grass, and besides, it’s more fun that way.”
“Do you consider your life with Pokémon to be about fun?” Gupta asked, walking to where Sadik was as Mudkip began staring at some Taillow up in a tree.
“Of course! Me and Ateş both,” Sadik confidently declared.
“Tor…Chic!” Ateş confirmed weakly from where he was cradled in Sadik’s arms.
“Well, you do make sense at least,” Gupta admitted. “Alright then,” he agreed, as he began walking back towards Oldale town, Sadik grinning and following him.

When the two teens arrived in Oldale town, Sadik handed Ateş to the lady in the Pokémon centre while Gupta took the opportunity to look around a bit more. Mudkip seemed as curious as he was, admiring the ceiling with a cheerful smile on his face.
The walls of the Pokémon centre were neutrally coloured, while the floor seemed to be made of faux tile linoleum. In the middle was the healing station complete with the lady from before, her machine and the intensive care area, all of which took up a large portion of the space. To the left of that there was an area with tables, couches and a TV that seemed to be switched off at the front of the centre and a changing area with cubicles towards the back. In the middle of the left hand side there was an escalator going up to another floor. To the right of the healing station there was a bookcase, some stools and tables, and a high counter pushed against a wall in the front, an escalator going downwards in the middle and a bank of multiple videophones that Gupta reasoned likely worked via satellite in the back. There were strange devices next to these machines. Wondering what they were, Gupta walked up to one of the phones, switching it on only to find himself face to face with a menu. Pokémon Storage (Someone’s PC), Item Storage (Gupta’s PC), Check Pokedex (Professor’s PC), and Video Call were the 4 options on the screen. Gupta was a little alarmed that it was that easy to just log into his home computer. What if someone else managed to get in? He also had no idea what a Pokedex was.
“Somethin’ interestin’ over there Guppie?” Sadik asked from his place at the healing station.
“The computers here are strange…” Gupta replied, heading back to Sadik.
“Are they? I never noticed. Guess it’s all the techy stuff they run off of. I met a guy once who knew all about that sort of thing. All we need to know is how convenient it is,” he stated.
“How is this sort of thing convenient?” Gupta pondered out loud.
“Well, ya can store stuff ya don’t need in the PC… Pokémon, items, mail… And then come back for it later. And ya can always get in touch with people when you need to,” the taller teen explained.
“I see…” It still made little sense to Gupta, but he decided to let it drop.
“Anyway, have ya registered yerself as a trainer yet?” Sadik queried, looking over towards one of the tables on the left side of the centre which still contained the registration forms from before. “Ya just write yer details on those forms and scan it into one of the computers, and you get a trainer card printed, and ya can enter the League too.”
“I don’t really have plans to travel too much,” Gupta admitted. “I was hoping for this to just be one journey I went on to get used to the area.”
“Really? Ya sure?” Sadik responded, clearly not convinced. “Ya don’t have to worry about school or anything, ya know. We can always come back to it.”
“We? You mean you’re going to go?” Gupta answered, catching onto Sadik’s use of words.
“’Course I am! Just as soon as I sort things out back home, I’m outta here,” Sadik smiled again. “I’ve always wanted to see what was out there. Go on an adventure… Ya should come with us Guppie. It’d be fun, and I could use a good rival like ya to keep me on my toes. Besides, ya little Mudkip there really likes ya. I bet he’d be up for the adventurin’ too.”
“I’ll think about it,” Gupta responded noncommittally. He really wasn’t sure about this… After all, this little excursion was already enough adventure in his opinion.

“So, where’re ya from? Since ya just moved here and all…” Sadik questioned as he walked back down route 101 towards Littleroot with Gupta. Ateş was perched on the teen’s head, seemingly playing with the human’s hair with his beak, while Mudkip still lolled about in Gupta’s arms, now staring at some Hoppip drifting in the evening breeze. He still wore the same dopey grin.
“I come from Goldenrod City,” Gupta stated, looking forwards. “The Pokémon there are completely different to the ones here. Most of them I recognise from reading I did before I arrived. Some I don’t,” he added, making conversation.
“Really? Ya come from somewhere so huge?” Sadik sounded awed in his reply. “I bet this takes some getting used to, huh?” he motioned to the greenery around them.
“It’s not like I wasn’t expecting it,” Gupta shrugged in response.
“Huh. Still, must be strange. I guess livin’ in a place like that, ya had no need to get so up close and personal with Pokémon if ya didn’t want to,” the other teen assumed.
“Not all that much, other than my mother’s Pokémon,” Gupta confirmed.
“I’ve lived here all my life. So I’m used to seein’ all the Pokémon around here,” Sadik told his newfound friend. “I guess it’s partly why I want to see the rest of the region at least. It gets boring here.”
“This isn’t what I’m used to,” Gupta admitted, “but it is nice, in its own way.”
“Yeah…” Sadik trailed off as he looked towards the houses in the distance. “Well, we’re nearly back to the lab… Should be my last night in this town, if that.”
Gupta stated at Sadik, wondering how he had managed to build such a rapport with the teen so quickly. Already they seemed to be talking fairly easily… He put it down to Sadik being so friendly all the time. As he looked down to Mudkip in his arms, he was left to ponder what it was he really wanted to do.

When Sadik and Gupta walked into the Pokémon lab together, it was almost dark, and the professor seemed to be preparing to go home for the day. Gupta waited close to the door, not wanting to intrude on anything scientific that might be going on, but Sadik walked straight in and straight up to Batsaikhan.
“Hey ‘cuz! That was a great battle me and Guppie had earlier, ya should have seen it!” He confidently stated, slapping the professor on the back.
“I’m sure it must have been… However, I was busy at the time conducting experiments on the optimum food for Pokémon kept on farms, so I couldn’t leave the lab,” the professor sighed.
“Yeah, well, Guppie really did well out there. Beat me fair and square and all.” Sadik continued. “Which is why I feel he should really become a proper trainer and travel around and beat gyms and everythin’.”
“Ah, of course, yes, it would be of help to me too,” Batsaikhan remembered. “You see, we need to do a census on the distributions of Pokémon… And for that, we need some young, mobile people such as yourselves to travel around the region with Pokedexes like these…” The professor motioned to some devices on a table in the middle of the lab, “to discover where exactly the Pokémon all are. They do record automatically, but it’s not good scientific practice to send just one person out alone, however many devices you give them… I’d far prefer it if the both of you would take part in this,” he rambled.
“Okay, cuz, I get it, I’ll help with yer survey,” Sadik confirmed. “What about you Guppie? Would ya like a taste of adventure?”
Gupta looked between the two cousins, unable to fathom how he got himself into this situation. Trying to find some guidance, he looked down at Mudkip. The creature looked back up at him with brainless enthusiasm, and barked happily.
“Mudkip!”
Gupta sighed. That response could literally mean anything.
“Alright,” he finally decided, perhaps a little reluctantly.
“Cool, I guess this makes us rivals or somethin’.” Sadik chuckled a little, Ateş trying to mimic but actually just chirping cutely. “So I’ll see you on the road then… Or the battlefield.”
“Hopefully the two of you won’t battle too hard… I’d hate for Pokémon to get hurt… Or the two of you.” Batsaikhan looked Sadik up and down. He hadn’t missed the mud. “Some Pokémon have far more dangerous things in their arsenals than dirt. Anyway, I’ll give one of these devices to each of you.” The professor brought out two Pokedexes, handing one to Sadik, before taking the walk down the lab to hand the other to Gupta, who was still standing close to the door. “And while you’re at it, you can have some Pokeballs too… In case you find something out there you want to keep,” he added, delving into his lab coat pocket and bringing out 10 Pokeballs. He gave 5 to Gupta before walking back to Sadik and giving him the other 5.
“Awesome,” Sadik grinned. Gupta shoved the Pokeballs into the pocket Mudkip’s Pokeball wasn’t in, hoping he didn’t get the two mixed up in the future. He was still holding the Pokedex. That didn’t fit in a pocket at all. Couldn’t they have made the devices smaller?
“Well, I suppose all that’s left to say is good luck to you both. You can reach me by video link anytime you want, as long as I’m not on fieldwork.” The professor finalised.
“Right,” Sadik stated. “Time to get this adventure started!” He walked back to the door before walking past Gupta to the outside. “See ya later Guppie!” He waved as he took off running up the road.
“But it’s almost dark…” Gupta stared after him. Would he really get that far before nightfall?

Gupta must have looked quite a sight when he returned home that evening, with his pockets stuffed full of Pokeballs and a Mudkip balanced on top of the Pokedex he had been given, both things held awkwardly in his arms.
“The professor does seem to love giving you things,” his mother commented, moving forwards to pick up Mudkip.
“I didn’t ask for this.” Gupta shook his head.
“But are you going to go along with it anyway? Because that’s what really matters,” she stated, lifting Mudkip into her own arms. The Pokémon snuggled into her.
“What’s the harm in a little travelling?” Gupta answered back.
“Good choice,” his mother smiled, before looking towards Mudkip. “All the food I have is far more suited to ground types… Which this one won’t be unless he evolves… But for now, it should do,” she assessed, placing Mudkip back on the ground. He immediately ran back to Gupta. “As for your abundance of items, I have an old rucksack upstairs that should be able to carry all that and more. You can borrow it for your trip.”
“Thanks mama,” Gupta acknowledged, “I’ll be back from travelling before too long.”
“Take your time out there,” she shot back. “It’d be better for you to see some of the world while you’re still young.” She smiled. “I’m glad you decided to do this. I’m hopeful you’ll be quite the trainer someday.”
Gupta just nodded, heading towards the stairs with a view to packing his things up, while his mother began to work on dinner. Mudkip appeared perplexed by the stairs, attempting to jump from step to step after Gupta with a pout on his face, finding the journey difficult. The only way for the small Pokémon to navigate the stairs was to lean his front paws on the stair above and then pull himself up. This took so long that by the time he had reached the next floor, Gupta was already in his room, and Mudkip had to run to keep up with his trainer.

By the time Mudkip had joined him, Gupta had found the bag in question and was back in his room. Or at least, what he assumed had to be the bag in question. It seemed unnaturally small for something that was meant to be able to hold everything he needed, appearing no larger than the average school backpack. Deciding to test it, the teen began by stuffing a sleeping bag and his Pokedex into the bag. Both items fit into the rucksack easily, so Gupta took the bag and ventured downstairs to find matches and a few basic cooking utensils. He was able to fit these things into the bag as well. Mudkip had spaced out while Gupta was shoving the first few things into his bag, so continued to sit on the floor for a few moments before running back towards the stairs. Confused as to how exactly a small bag could hold all of those things and still appear to have room left in it, Gupta walked back upstairs, almost tripping over Mudkip along the way, to his room where he also placed his spare Pokeballs, his notebook and a pen into the bag. Once this was done, the teenager tested the weight of the bag and still found it light and easy to carry. Definitely completely lost by this point, he shook his head in disbelief.
“What kind of bag is this even?” He asked out loud. Mudkip stared at the bag in question intently, seemingly looking for answers.

After Gupta and Mudkip had both been fed (the latter thankfully taking to the taste of the ground Pokémon food without too much fuss), Gupta finished packing the last of the supplies he would need for an extended journey (food for himself and some for his Pokémon), as Mudkip watched him, smiling.
‘What a strange day,’ he thought to himself. Only hours ago, he had been moving into this house, intending to stay for the foreseeable future. Now, he was setting out on a journey that would take him a long way away, without even having time to get used to his new hometown. Shaking his head at the pace of events, the teen moved to put the rucksack down by the door, getting ready for bed as he did so. As the human went about preparing for sleep, Mudkip followed him back and forth, getting confused as an errant sock hit him in the face in the process. The Pokémon stopped for a moment to investigate the strange article, but upon realising it could not be eaten, he soon decided Gupta was more interesting. When his trainer got into bed ready to go to sleep, Mudkip tried to follow, jumping at the mattress repeatedly. When several attempts saw him slide back down to the floor, he whined in annoyance. Gupta, irritated by the noise, picked Mudkip up and placed him on the empty side of the bed before rolling over and going to sleep. Mudkip tried to sniff Gupta and poked him a few times; but when it was clear his trainer wasn’t in the mood to talk, he instead investigated the duvet beneath him, getting comfortable on the bed before drifting off to sleep, curled up beside the teen.

Chapter Text

Fairly early the next morning, Mudkip awoke and crawled over to Gupta, poking his trainer a few times, wanting the teen to get up and play with him. When Gupta still refused to budge, the Pokémon jumped onto his legs, beginning to leap up and down until the sleepy teenager finally picked up the Mudkip to make him stop, sitting up slightly as he reached up to grab the dopey thing.
“Mudkip!” Mudkip cheered at seeing Gupta awake, seemingly not finding a single problem with his actions. Gupta sighed, looking over to the clock, to find it was 6AM. Great.
“Are you going to wake me up this early every morning from now on?” He asked, not really expecting much of a response.
“Kip?” Mudkip questioned, turning his head to the side in confusion.
“Never mind,” the human answered, annoyed still at being woken up and at how hard it was to get through to his spacey companion.
“Mud…” Mudkip frowned at Gupta’s apparent bad mood, trying to nuzzle into Gupta’s hands where he was being held.
“…Let’s just get up.” The human decided, getting out of bed and putting Mudkip down on the ground before making the bed silently while Mudkip watched mindlessly. When he was finished, the trainer moved to get dressed, while Mudkip stayed in the same spot, his eyes fixed on the bed. He seemed to have spaced out again. Gupta noticed this once he had changed into his clothes for the day- green cargo trousers and a buttoned green shirt- and moved back towards his Pokémon, poking him gently until he responded with a bark.
“You’re the one who didn’t want to sleep,” he argued, smiling a little.

Gupta had packed up his nightwear and sorted out some clothes to take with him by the time his mother had woken up. Smelling food being cooked downstairs, he and Mudkip began to walk towards the kitchen, Gupta fiddling with his earring along the way and Mudkip staring at the walls.
“Are the two of you ready to go yet?” She asked as soon as she caught sight of her son.
“More or less I suppose,” Gupta replied.
“That’s good. We’ll leave as soon as possible then,” she added, plating up some breakfast for her and the teenager before getting out some food for Mudkip.
“Okay,” Gupta agreed, moving the plates to the table while Mudkip sniffed the air before walking over to where Cleo was feeding him.
“It’s an interesting new start,” she stated, coming back to the table and sitting down with Gupta. He nodded as they began to eat. Silence reigned for most of the rest of the meal, punctuated only with Mudkip chortling a little.

Once breakfast was finished and the last few things packed away, Gupta shouldered his bag and headed downstairs with Mudkip, ready to leave. He found his mother there, wearing the same dress as yesterday, but this time with a set of bracelets adorning her arms and a necklace that shone in the sun coming through the nearby window. She was wearing feathered, hanging earrings and in the light she looked positively regal.
“Ready?” She checked, moving towards the door.
“Ready.” He confirmed, pulling Mudkip up into his arms as he prepared to head out on his journey.

Once they had gotten out of the door, Gupta’s mother locked up the house and began walking with him towards Oldale town. She had work to get to after all. She kept a fast pace the teenager found it difficult to keep up with. He was still finding it difficult to run. Mudkip also seemed to notice the quicker travel, whining occasionally as he lost sight of whatever it was he kept staring at in the haste of the humans.
“I can walk with you as far as Petalburg City,” she informed as they kept walking, over halfway to Oldale town despite no more than ten minutes having passed. “But from then on, I have to stay with the gym. You meanwhile, should head through the Petalburg Woods and towards Rustboro City. The Gym Leader there also teaches at the local trainer school, so she’s used to dealing with new trainers.” She looked up, remembering as much as she could about the girl Gupta was to face. “She… Can be a little frosty from what I remember reading. And she hardly ever smiles. But everyone who really knows her swears there’s a heart of gold in there somewhere.”
“Really…” Gupta mused. He supposed his mother probably knew best. She’d done a lot of research on the area before moving, after all, and her position as Gym Leader meant she read up a lot on the official trainers in the Pokémon League, including Gym Leaders and the Elite Four. He still wasn’t so sure about battling gyms though.
“I know I’m travelling around… But do I have to battle the Gym Leaders?” He asked.
“Well, why wouldn’t you? Filling the Pokedex is the main aim of your travels, obviously, but it doesn’t hurt to test your strength while you’re at it. And to get to some places where certain Pokémon live, you’ll need to use Hidden Moves. Those require you to have a certain number of Gym Badges you know. So it’s for the best.” His mother answered effortlessly.
“Well, alright then.” The teen nodded. She was right, it wouldn’t hurt…

When they got to Oldale town no more than fifteen minutes later, Gupta’s mother marched him straight towards the Pokémon Centre to apply for entry to the League. While he tried to fill out the necessary paperwork (which wasn’t easy with a Mudkip still in his arms), his mother was pulled into conversation with passing trainers… And the nurse from yesterday.
“I know I’ve seen you somewhere before…” The nurse pondered, thinking.
“Aren’t you the new Gym Leader in Petalburg or something?” Asked a female trainer sitting on one of the stools.
“Yes.” Cleo confirmed.
“Ohh, right, that was it,” the nurse agreed. “Cleopatra Hassan, new Gym Leader of Petalburg City. It’s nice to meet you.” She smiled warmly.
“Wow, an actual Gym Leader just walking around… I suppose you’re on the way to the gym right now?” The trainer idolised.
“That’s right.” Cleo replied aloofly.
“You don’t have any Pokémon with you right now though… So what are you in the Pokémon Centre for?” The nurse queried. “Not that I think you’re a nuisance or anything.” She quickly added, not wanting to appear rude.
By this point, Gupta had finished writing in the information on the forms, and had gone over to one of the computers to print a Trainer Card, making sure to avoid the conversation in the middle of the room.
“…Just waiting for my son.” Cleo shrugged, not really finding it that big of a deal.
“No way! You have a child who’s a trainer too?” The other trainer jumped up, seemingly excited. “I have to battle him! Where is he anyway?”
Gupta heard the commotion and sighed. What was that girl’s deal anyway? He noticed the machine was done printing his trainer card, so he pocketed it and walked back over to his mother, figuring he’d rather get this over with.
“Ah, Gupta. You’re finished?” She smiled as soon as he got close, alerting everyone else to his presence and to exactly who he was. Suddenly, trainers all around the centre who had just been sitting down before got up and walked over, trying to get a look at him and his mother.
“Really? He’s the son of a Gym Leader?” One trainer asked his friend quizzically.
“He doesn’t exactly look the part, does he? Especially not with just a starter Pokémon like that.” She shot back.
“Aww, he’s really cute!” Ogled the trainer from before.
“Oh, you’re the kid from yesterday! I totally see the family resemblance now that you mention it,” the nurse butted in, still smiling. “Wow, it’s not every day you get the family of a Gym Leader in here!”
“…Can we go?” Gupta asked, looking up at Cleo pleadingly. She nodded.
“We’re in a little of a rush, so we’ll be leaving now,” she voiced, parting the crowd to get herself and Gupta out of the situation.

Outside, Gupta felt like he could finally breathe. He didn’t like large groups of people. Just when he thought he was safe, a hand clapped him on the back and he jumped a foot in the air, expecting more pestering.
“Heh… I saw the commotion you two made in there… I had no idea ya were a Gym Leader’s kid Guppie. No wonder yer so strong for a beginner.” Sadik chucked easily, Ateş joining in from where he was sitting on his trainer’s shoulder.
“Sadik.” Gupta acknowledged, still not sure about the nickname, “What are you doing here? I thought you left yesterday.”
“Yeah well… It got dark really quick, and I realised I’d forgot to bring supplies in my haste.” Sadik sighed a little. “So, after returning and getting chewed out by cuz, I prepared properly, and left again dawn this morning. I was just chillin’ in the Centre over there when the two of yer walked in.”
“Right.” Gupta found himself smiling a little. Sadik sure could be eccentric.
“I don’t think we’ve met before…?” Cleo cut in curiously.
“Oh, right, I guess not.” The cocky teen appeared to straighten up a little if anything. “Well, my name’s Sadik. Prof. Batsaikhan’s my cousin, so I’m helpin’ with the dex project too. And I’ve already met Guppie a lot of times along the line so far. It’s good to know I’ve got such a rival to spar with.” His usual grin returned towards the end of his sentence.
“And your Torchic? He is your starter Pokémon?” She assumed.
“Ateş,” Sadik corrected, “But yeah.”
“I see.” She smiled. “It’s nice to meet you Sadik. I’m glad Gupta’s making friends so quickly.”
“Heh, likewise.” Sadik grinned.
Gupta sighed. Did he not get a say in any of this? He wasn’t sure he quite considered Sadik a friend yet.

“So, the two of you heading to Petalburg?” Sadik guessed.
“Of course. I don’t have my Pokémon with me since I had them sent straight to the Gym when we moved in. So Gupta’s escorting me there.” Cleo confirmed.
“Cool. Mind if I tag along? We’re all heading the same way after all,” Sadik requested.
“I see no reason why not.” Cleo shrugged.
“Great! So, guess we can help each other out for a little, eh?” Sadik assumed, turning to Gupta.

Before he had a chance to reply, the group heard a scream coming from the middle of town. Cleo instantly took off in the direction of the noise, and Sadik followed, seemingly trying to play the hero. Gupta thought such an idea was stupid, but he couldn’t leave his mother in danger, and so he walked as quickly as he could over to where the commotion was.

Towards the middle of Oldale town stood some old ruins of a sort. Legend once stated that there was a connection between the ruins and Pokémon that had lived since ancient times. Gupta, while he had an appreciation for old cultures, had been in a hurry the last time he had passed through the town, and so hadn’t stopped to even acknowledge the ruins. Now, two figures stood before the old monuments, each chipping a different mural away from the stone walls.
“Hey!” Cried a townswoman. “What are you doing? That’s Ancient History you’re destroying!”
The figures didn’t even look up from their work, not caring for the civilian outrage.
“Stop.” Cleo seethed. “Now.”
Her voice sounded terrifying in its intensity, causing the figures to look momentarily at her. When they realised who she was, they turned to face her.

Both members of the duo had dark brown skin and eyes and medium brown hair, but there the similarities ended. The female was wearing a blue and white striped sleeveless crop top that went from her neck to just above her navel, blue bands around her upper arms and black gloves on her hands, and cut off brown shorts with the same blue and white stripy tights, going down to black boots with a blue design laid over them. Her long hair had been pulled up into a high ponytail, and a black bandanna with a white symbol of some sort on it had been wrapped over the top.

The male was tall and looked strongly-built, and had some sort of red bodysuit that covered him for the most part, with three-quarter length red trousers and a red hoodie with a black ‘M’ on the front and two black horns on the hood over the top. He wore red gloves over his hands and red boots on his feet. There appeared to be a circle cut out of the boots, through which the bodysuit showed. Under the hood, the man’s eyes were hard behind the glasses that covered them, and a glimpse of his buzzcut hair could be seen. Gupta wasn’t sure whether he wanted to mess with either figure.

“You have something you want to say?” The male asked, looking Cleo up and down, and looking a little more confident when he noticed the lack of Pokeballs or pockets to hide them in.
“…Leave. Now.” Cleo repeated, still trying to intimidate the two.
“You and whose army?” The female asked, turning slightly to start chipping away at the wall again.
“Our army!” Sadik stepped in, face fierce. “Chic!” Ateş chirped in affirmation.
“Confident, kid. Think you can stop me?” The male stepped forwards, taking two Pokeballs from his pockets. The female turned fully and continued chipping away at the mural on the wall.
“Aren’t ya gonna help him at all?” Sadik asked, confused.
“Why? He’s no friend of mine. Did you honestly think we were working together?” She shot back, returning to her work. Sadik gritted his teeth, but the male with the Pokémon was currently a bigger problem. He needed to get past him before he could stop the female.
“Alright, yeah, I’ll stop ya.” He replied confidently.
“Try if you dare.” The male brushed off Sadik’s claims nonchalantly, tossing both Pokeballs at the ground.

“Shinx!” Cried one of the Pokémon emerging.
“Leo!” called the Litleo springing from the other ball.
Mudkip struggled from Gupta’s arms, landing on the ground and dashing forwards to face the Pokémon. Ateş jumped from Sadik’s shoulder to do the same.
“Kokolo, Work Up!” The male commanded. The Litleo seemed to begin growling to itself, getting itself into a kind of rage.
“It’s building power,” Cleo advised. “You don’t want it to get too strong.”
“Right. Mudkip, Mud Slap,” Gupta told his Pokémon.
“Leo, Tackle,” the man shouted just afterwards.
This time, Mudkip looked backwards and forwards between the various Pokémon and trainers. He had never seen four Pokémon in a battle before. Confused, and somehow getting the idea he was to fight them all, he charged towards Ateş.
“Wrong way Mudkip!” Gupta yelled, too late to prevent Mudkip being slammed into by Leo. He fell back against the ground.
“Ateş, Ember on that Shinx!” Sadik instructed, causing Ateş to leap in and breathe small spits of flame at Leo, making the Shinx leap back and cry out. “Ya have to make clear which Pokémon yer want yer little guy to hit.” He added to Gupta.
“Okay then… Mudkip, Mud Slap the Shinx,” he specified, hoping that Mudkip got it right this time. Luckily for Gupta, the Pokémon finally understood what it was being told to do, digging at the ground to cover its paws with mud before running over to Leo and slapping it.
“Shi…” Leo whined, falling backwards against the ground before standing slowly.
“Kokolo, Tackle that Mudkip. Leo, Tackle the Torchic,” the mysterious man ordered. Kokolo charged and tackled Mudkip, who attempted to slap the Litleo with his mud-coated paws in response, but caused little damage and was sent flying. Leo slammed into Ateş.
“Ateş, use Scratch now!” Sadik yelled, and Ateş flung a claw into the face of the attacking Shinx. Leo staggered back as Mudkip slammed back into the ground, clearly hurting.
“Mudkip…” Gupta grimaced. His Pokémon did not look good… “Mud Slap the Litleo.”
Mudkip looked towards Gupta and nodded, freshly coating his paws in mud before leaping back over to Kokolo and slapping it around the face.
“Li.” Kokolo growled, sliding backwards a few feet.
“Leo, use Tackle on the Torchic again,” the man reiterated.
“Dodge and then use Ember on that Shinx Ateş!” Sadik guided. Ateş managed to hurl himself out of the way just in time to avoid being hit, and retaliated with more flickers of flame. These collided fully with Leo, who staggered backwards before collapsing onto his front, exhausted. The man cursed quietly to himself.
“Kokolo, Tackle the Torchic.” He commanded. Kokolo raced forwards to get revenge, slamming Ateş hard.
“Chic…” Ateş complained, appearing hurt.
“Mudkip, Mud Slap the Litleo again,” Gupta repeated. Mudkip jumped after Kokolo and slapped a paw into the Litleo’s torso. Kokolo appeared a little discouraged, but it didn’t fall down.
“Kokolo, finish off Torchic.” The shady man decided. The Litleo tackled Ateş with full force, pushing him back into part of the ruins. Both murals were already weakened from the chipping away of the two strange people and so cracked and fell from the wall. Ateş lay slumped at the ruins’ base, unmoving.

“Hmm. Not bad.” The woman commented, bending down to pick up the mural fragment she’d been chipping away at the whole time. “Guess you do have your uses. Just don’t you dare try to get in our way in future.” She glared at the hooded man as she spoke, before grabbing the fragment and running from the scene.
“Hey!” Gupta called after her, trying to step away from the scene to chase her down.
“There’s no running from a trainer battle Gupta,” his mother chipped in. “You need to finish this.”
“Ateş…” Sadik called, trying to rouse his Pokémon.
“You kids shouldn’t play with fire.” The man jeered. “You just end up burned.”
Gupta found himself feeling angry. Who did this man think he was? His eyes hardened in intensity until he looked as fierce as his mother. Mudkip picked up on this and tensed, ready to strike.
“Shut up,” he hissed. “Mudkip, Mud Slap that damn Litleo.”
“Kip.” Mudkip nodded, digging again to coat his paws properly in the mud, looking determined. Kokolo looked back towards Mudkip questioningly, before the Pokémon leapt from the whole and punted the Litleo into the same wall as Ateş. It didn’t get up.
“Mud…Kip…” Mudkip panted, hoping he had done well enough, and looking towards Gupta for support.
“Geh... How did I ever lose to a kid like you?” The man mused, returning his two fainted Pokémon to their Pokeballs as Sadik ran over to Ateş and gathered him into his arms. “No matter…” He continued, walking over to the fallen piece of mural and picking it up. “You still won’t stop me.” Before he’d even finished talking, he took off running.
“Wait!” Gupta yelled, trying to run after him… But again, he couldn’t.
“It would really help if I could run…” He complained to himself.
“Hmm…” Cleo thought, as Mudkip walked towards Gupta, stopping a few centimetres from his feet and standing on his hind legs, whining softly in a request to be picked up. Gupta sighed and took the Pokémon into his arms.
“We’d better take our guys back to the Pokémon Centre,” Sadik decided.
“Yeah,” Gupta agreed, beginning to walk with the other trainer as Cleo remained behind, looking after them.
“Hmm…”

Gupta and Sadik were mobbed by other young trainers as soon as they got back to the Centre, and ended up having to wade through the crowds to get to the counter.
“Wow, you two sure seem to be the heroes of the town after standing up to those weirdoes,” the nurse commented as they both handed their Pokémon over. She returned them to their Pokeballs and got to work.
“We didn’t manage to stop them though,” Gupta sighed.
“But you tried. You took action. That alone shows more courage than half of these people,” she continued. “People admire stuff like that.”
“Do you have any idea who those people were?” Sadik asked.
“I’ve never seen either of them before,” she stated. “They just turned up out of the blue. Who knows why they did it?”
“They seem to have wanted to do something with them pictures on the ruins.” Sadik theorised.
“But… What would they want with pictures?” Gupta wondered.
“Who knows?” Sadik shrugged.
“At least they’re gone, right? Let’s focus on that.” The nurse urged, handing the two healed Pokémon back to their trainers, now safely stowed inside their Pokeballs.

As Sadik and Gupta walked away from the counter, the crowd gathered around them again, asking questions left right and centre.
“Weren’t you both afraid to take on such an imposing guy?” One boy asked.
“Who do you think those people even were?” Asked another young trainer.
“Wow, you really are a Gym Leader’s kid! You’re tough as anything!” A young woman admired.
“Do you guys have girlfriends?” Somebody shouted from towards the back of the crowd.
“… No more questions.” Gupta deadpanned, pushing his way through the crowd and exiting the centre, wanting to find his mother. On the other hand, Sadik remained behind for a few moments, giving some quick answers. No, they were more angry than afraid. No, he had no idea who those people were. No, he was pretty sure neither of them had… Wait.
“It’s none of yer business anyway.” He stated, raising an eyebrow.

Outside, Gupta had found his mother again. She was standing outside the Pokemart holding a bag of some sort.
“I was just thinking… Of some other things you would need.” She offered by way of an explanation, handing Gupta the bag.
“Thanks.” He nodded, opening it up. Inside was some water Pokémon food and a pair of trainers.
“…Shoes?” He asked, tilting his head.
“Running Shoes.” She corrected. “You were complaining about walking everywhere.”
“Okay.” Gupta accepted, finding it a little weird. He put the food away in his bag before putting the shoes onto his feet, swapping them for his other shoes which he put into his bag along with the food.
“Give them a try,” his mother urged.
“Yeah, go on,” Sadik commented as he approached the two from the direction of the Pokémon Centre.
Gupta nodded, backing up a few paces before starting to run… And managing the action with no effort.
“What?! How did this not work before?” Gupta fumed, frustration getting the better of him. “Ugh. Perfect. Just perfect.”

Chapter Text

The early afternoon sun beat down upon the group of Gupta, his mother, and Sadik as they headed out onto Route 102. For the first few minutes, they passed only trees and a small pond on their right hand side. Then tall grass began to sprout up either side of the path. In one such patch of grass stood a trainer. Sadik smiled at the sight.
“Seein’ as ya don’t seem to have the hang of trainer battles yet, I’ll go first, eh? Show ya the ropes.” Sadik suggested, walking towards the trainer. Gupta sighed. He wasn’t the one who needed the guidance…
“Walkin’ direct in front of a trainer or making eye contact with ‘em’s kinda a code for meaning ya wanna battle.” Sadik continued, walking up to the trainer in the grass and staring them down. Gupta nodded, filing the information away, also noticing that the trainers on the Route seemed deliberately stood so that people would have to pass by them to get ahead.
“I’m Calvin.” The boy standing in front of Sadik stated. Gupta had to look at the kid twice. He couldn’t be older than ten!
“Hey, I’m Sadik.” Said trainer greeted. “Let’s have a good battle, Calvin.”
“Heh.” Calvin smiled. “Go Zigzagoon!” He shouted, sending out his Pokémon.
“Let’s go Ateş!” Sadik called, throwing his Pokeball into the space between the trainers.
“Chic!” Ateş roared, as the Zigzagoon tensed ready for battle.
“Zigzagoon, use Tackle!” The Youngster called.
“Ateş, Ember!” Sadik responded, and the Torchic breathed fire at the Zigzagoon just before it slammed into him.
“Zigzagoon, Tail Whip!” The trainer called, and the Pokémon nodded, taking a few steps back and wagging its tail playfully.
“Uhh…” Sadik raised an eyebrow. “Ateş, Ember again.”
“Chic!” Ateş agreed, breathing fire at the Zigzagoon again. The Pokémon reared up and cried out before collapsing.
“Ah, nuts. You’re really good.” The trainer complimented. “Guess you deserve this then.” He reached into his pocket, took out some coins and handed them to Sadik, who pocketed them with a nod of thanks. “Anyway, I have to go heal my Pokémon. Bye!” He yelled, beginning to run towards the Oldale Town Pokémon Centre.

“…You get money for fighting in these things?” Gupta asked, walking up to Sadik.
“Yep.” Sadik confirmed. “Ya give prize money if you lose, and you get money if you win.”
“…You owe me money then.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Oh, right. Yeah. Of course.” Sadik laughed a little. “We’ll sort it out at the next town, kay?”
“…Right. Whatever.” Gupta decided. “Do these trainers stand deliberately in the path so people have to battle them to advance?” He asked.
“…Well yeah.” Sadik stated. “Isn’t that obvious?”
“I’m not sure why I’m even surprised.” Gupta admitted.

Immediately after the battle against the Youngster, Sadik went running off down the path, claiming he was going to fight other trainers on the Route. As Gupta walked after him (he really didn’t see the need to run at this point), he noticed Sadik duck behind a line of trees, passing through tall grass deliberately to avoid a trainer stood at the edge of it. Despite Sadik running only a couple of feet behind the trainer’s back, he didn’t turn. Sadik continued to run through the tall grass, reaching the edge of the trees and beginning to run upwards, out of the grass.
“Ya can avoid trainers by runnin’ behind them like that,” he shouted back, before walking at a normal pace upwards into some tall grass that covered the path a few hundred metres ahead of Gupta. “I’ll take tha trainer over here,” he explained. “Ya can take the one back there.”
“That would be a good idea,” Cleo agreed. “You’ll want to get some experience against other trainers. Mudkip could use the practice too.”
“Alright…” Gupta gave in, walking forwards until he was in front of the trainer. The Bug Catcher leapt towards him.
“Caught you! You have to battle me now!” He decided, walking forwards to close the gap between him and Gupta. The teen noticed that this boy also looked little older than 10. Where were all these kids getting Pokémon from?
“I’m Rick by the way,” The Bug Catcher stated. “What’re you called?”
“Gupta.” Said teen replied curtly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out Mudkip’s Pokeball.
“Okay then, let’s have a great battle!” Rick declared, pulling one Pokeball out of his bag. “Go Wurmple!”
Gupta stared at the Wurmple that emerged from the Pokeball before sending out Mudkip.
“Mud?” Mudkip asked, looking around at his surroundings before seeing the Wurmple and getting the idea. “Mud!”
“Okay Mudkip, use Tackle.” Gupta declared.
“Wurmple! Tackle!” Rick yelled. Mudkip ran and slammed into the Wurmple, and it pushed back with some force. In the end, Wurmple came off worse.
“Wurmple! Don’t give up! Use Tackle!” Rick repeated.
“Tackle again Mudkip.” Gupta commanded. Mudkip was able to move faster than the Wurmple and tackled it before it could react. The Pokémon collapsed instantly.
“Ah!” Rick leapt back, before returning his Pokémon to its Pokeball. “Don’t think I’m done yet though! Go Wurmple!” He called as he threw another Pokeball at the ground.
“Wurmple!” Cried the second of the Bug Catcher’s Pokémon.
“….Mudkip. Tackle it.” Gupta reiterated. Mudkip looked confused at the fact that there was a second Pokémon for only a moment before running towards the Wurmple eagerly.
“Wurmple, Tackle that Mudkip!” Rick commanded his Pokémon. Mudkip slammed Wurmple before Wurmple pushed Mudkip back. Mudkip panted a little before picking himself up and returning to form.
“Tackle again Wurmple.” The boy asked his Pokémon. Wurmple smacked into Mudkip.
“Tackle it back,” Gupta encouraged, causing Mudkip to surge forwards, hitting the Wurmple into a tree. The Pokémon laid still.
“Aww, you’re too good.” Rick decided. “Guess I’ll have to keep practicing.” He reached into his pocket as he spoke and took out some money which he handed to Gupta. At the same time, he returned his second Wurmple to its Pokeball and placed it back into his bag. Mudkip stared after the Pokémon with a spaced out look on his face.
“Um, thanks.” The teen responded.
“Okay, I’ll heal my team now. Bye!” He waved as he left.

“That was really good.” Cleo commented, walking up to Gupta as Mudkip turned around, noticed his trainer, and wandered back over.
“Yeah?” Gupta asked, picking up his Pokémon.
“Of course. I’m proud of Mudkip too. He handled that pretty well.” She continued. “I think you should heal him before you go on though.”
“I should?” Gupta replied. “Mudkip doesn’t look too injured…”
“There’s still a long way to go on this Route.” She explained. “If you get into another battle, Mudkip might end up very hurt. You want him at full strength.” She stopped and mused. “Sadik is actually very lucky he hasn’t come across any wild Pokémon. Running is meant to bring them out.”
“Ah.” Gupta noted, taking his bag off so he could rummage through it for the potion he was sure he still had, juggling Mudkip in his arms as he did. When he found the bottle, he took it out, closing up his bag and putting it back on his back before wondering what to do with it.
“Do you need some help?” His mother asked, stroking Mudkip slightly as she drew closer.
“Uhh… Yeah.” Gupta agreed.
“Right.” She nodded, taking the bottle from Gupta. “Just spray it over him.” She guided, treating Mudkip with the potion.
“Kiiip,” Mudkip sang as he felt his wounds getting healed.
“Okay.” She noted once she was done, pocketing the used potion.
“Yeah. Let’s go find Sadik.” Gupta suggested, walking off with Mudkip in his arms.

When they found Sadik, he had walked north, past the tall grass covering the path and up a grassy hill, and was busy battling another Youngster’s Taillow. Just as they drew near, Ateş scratched the Taillow in the face and it fell down unconscious.
“Wow, you’re really good.” Complimented the defeated trainer. “That’s my 5th loss today, you know? I guess I need a lot more practice.”
“Try battlin’ some wild Pokémon for a while. You’ll get there, I’m sure of it.” Sadik encouraged.
“Okay, sure,” the boy smiled as he handed some money to Sadik. Meanwhile both trainers returned their Pokémon to their Pokeballs. “Well, I’ll be off to heal my Pokémon. Bye, thanks for the battle!”
“Nice guy…” Sadik mused as he left. “I think his name was Allen?”
“You went off suddenly.” Gupta commented as he walked over.
“Ah. Yeah, guess I did.” Sadik grinned. “I just wanted to do some battlin’, but I didn’t want ya ta miss out on the experience ya needed.”
“Right.” Gupta accepted.
“Hmm…” Cleo mused, walking past the two teens and to the right of the T-junction they now stood at. Following her, the pair saw a patch of clear soil in which berry bushes were growing. Cleo walked over to the bushes, picked the berries that were on them, and planted a few of the picked berries in the ground.
“The plants will wilt and die now that they’re harvested.” She explained. “But we want to leave something behind for other trainers to find.” She handed some of the berries to each of the boys.
“Thanks!” Sadik smiled.
“…Are you sure you’re allowed to take those?” Gupta asked, sceptically.
“Yes.” His mother answered. “They’re Oran and Pecha berries. Oran berries can be fed to Pokémon to heal their wounds, and Pecha cure poison.” She taught.
“Cool!” Sadik decided.
“Okay.” Gupta stopped to put the berries in his bag. “Should we move on now?”
“Yeah.” Sadik turned around and looked towards the left path of the T-junction. “There’s one more trainer I can see. How about you battle her?”
“Okay,” Gupta shrugged. He supposed it was fair, seeing as he’d only battled one other trainer on the Route already.
“Great! I’ll just watch or somethin’ then.” Sadik suggested, staying a few steps behind Gupta as he walked towards the young trainer. She was looking around the area, seemingly searching for opponents; a marked difference from the other trainers on the Route who had all stood in one spot and stared straight ahead. As Gupta got closer to her, she actually turned to face him.

“Are you going to battle me?” She asked, hand moving to her pocket where Gupta assumed her Pokeballs were. He took a moment to think, noting that although she looked slightly older than the boys on the Route, she was still far younger than Gupta- certainly no older than twelve.
“Yeah, I’ll battle you.” He answered finally; a little guilty for the fact that she was clearly a child. It didn’t feel right to take money from such young trainers!
“Okay,” she nodded. “Go Zigzagoon!”
“Zi?” The emerging Pokémon queried. As far as Gupta could tell, it didn’t appear to have been caught long ago.
“Okay Mudkip, let’s go.” Gupta instructed, setting the dopey Pokémon down on the ground. Mudkip glanced over at the Zigzagoon inquisitively.
“Muuud.”
“I’m Tiana by the way.” The Lass smiled a little as she spoke.
“Gupta.” The teen responded.
“Nice to meet you.” She responded. “Okay Zigzagoon, use Tackle.”
“Tackle Mudkip,” Gupta ordered. Mudkip was slammed by the Zigzagoon, but was able to respond with a tackle of his own.
“Tackle again!” The Lass shouted to her Pokémon.
“Mud Slap.” Gupta commanded. Mudkip was tackled while he was still coating his paws with mud. He leapt up and slapped the Zigzagoon who fell against the ground, fainted.
“Ah…” The girl grimaced as she returned her Pokémon to its Pokeball. “Okay, go Zigzagoon!” She threw another Pokeball at the ground and another Zigzagoon emerged.
“The trainers here seem to like having many of the same Pokémon,” Gupta commented.
“Everyone but the guy I fought just now.” Sadik responded.
“Zigzagoon, Tackle!” Tiana yelled.
“Mudkip, Tackle.” Gupta said at the same time. Since the commands were the same, Mudkip had no issues with getting things mixed up, and took a tackle from Zigzagoon before tackling back.
“Tackle again Zigzagoon.” Tiana encouraged.
“Don’t give up Mudkip, Tackle.” Gupta told his Pokémon. Mudkip looked back to him and nodded, taking a tackle to the body while he was distracted. He turned around and slammed the Zigzagoon into a tree, where it fainted.
“Oh no… You’re too good.” The girl commented, returning her Pokémon to its Pokeball. Mudkip smiled and began staring at seeds flying in the air. “Maybe I need to catch some more Pokémon.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out some coins she handed to Gupta. “Anyway, I’d better heal my team. Good thing I’m only a few minutes from Petalburg. See you!” She smiled and waved as she ran off down the path.

“Heh, that was good.” Sadik complimented as he walked the few steps to close the gap between him and Gupta. “Yer getting better as a trainer.”
“Thanks.” Gupta responded. “Are we really only a few minutes from Petalburg though?”
“Yep.” Cleo confirmed, walking up to her son. “We made good time, considering the interruptions we’ve had…”
“Yeah.” Sadik agreed. “There’s just one thing I’ve gotta do first.” He turned away from the group as he began to walk south, reaching a ledge that led down into a patch of tall grass. Beyond the grass was a line of dense trees. Gupta wondered what Sadik was doing as the teen leapt over the ledge and landed in the grass, before he noticed the potion laying on the ground in the middle of the area. Mudkip followed him and Cleo as they walked to the edge of the ledge, and nearly jumped off before Gupta caught him, placing him back on the ground.
“I’ve no idea who leaves stuff like this layin’ around,” Sadik started as he walked over to the potion and picked it up. “But we’d better not let it go to waste. Finders keepers, eh?” He smirked as he put it into his bag.
“Is he allowed to do that?” Gupta asked his mother.
“…Nothing saying he can’t.” She replied. “People shouldn’t leave stuff lying around.”
“Huh.” Gupta stared at Sadik as he began to walk back towards the ledge, moving towards the side where there was a small ramp. Before he could reach the relative safety of the short grass where Gupta and his mother were standing, a Poochyena leapt out of the taller grass at him. The teen leapt back, hand moving to his Pokeball to send out Ateş.
“Chic!” Ateş sang as he was released.
“Okay Ateş, use Ember on it!” Sadik decided. Ateş looked towards him and nodded, before breathing fire at the Poochyena. The Pokémon charged Ateş, getting continuously hurt by the fire as it did. Sadik looked impressed by the Pokémon’s endurance. Eventually it made its way to Ateş and tackled him to the ground. The Torchic picked himself up quickly.
“Hmm…” Sadik mused, hand moving towards his bag in thought. Gupta wondered what he was considering. After a few seconds the teen’s face set in determination. He picked a Pokeball out of his bag and threw it at the Poochyena. The Pokémon could only stare at the ball as it opened and drew it inside. The ball then fell to the ground where it shook a couple of times. Gupta watched the scene, wondering how it would play out. He had never actually seen someone try to catch a Pokémon before.
“Come on…” Sadik whispered, as the ball shook one final time before clicking slightly.
“All right!” Sadik cheered, walking over to the ball and picking it up. “Guess we caught a new friend, eh buddy?”
“Tor! Chic!” Agreed Ateş.
“Okay then,” he smiled, picking Ateş up and placing him on his shoulders before walking back to Gupta and Cleo a few metres away. “Should we go now?” He asked them.
“Okay.” Cleo nodded, beginning to walk. Sadik, Gupta and Mudkip followed her.

A few minutes later, the group arrived in Petalburg City. Gupta knew this because the grass of Route 102 gave way for an actual road. Gupta had seen the buildings of the city in the distance, but the change from nature to town still happened suddenly and unexpectedly, so he wasn’t sure what to think originally. As he looked around he noticed the houses and realised he had to have reached the city. From where he stood, he could just about see the Pokémon Centre. Cleo smiled as she realised they had arrived, while Sadik grinned and picked up the pace, wanting to reach the Pokémon Centre quickly.
“…The Centre will still be there in another few minutes.” Gupta stated, deadpan.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. But I wanna make sure my team’s all healed up.” Sadik answered.
“Gupta… I should get to the Gym and check everything’s okay.” Cleo decided, coming up beside Gupta as he walked faster to keep up with Sadik. Mudkip whined as he was forced to run to keep pace. “I’ll see you once you’re done healing your team, okay?” She smiled reassuringly at the boys before walking even faster than both of them, heading off down the road towards the Gym. Gupta was left staring after her, and almost walked past the Pokémon Centre.
“Hey, it’s this way!” Sadik pointed out, grabbing his arm to pull him towards the door. Gupta looked over to Sadik, not really reacting to the hold. He was used to being physically close to people, to the point he didn’t even notice it when he got within touching distance of them most of the time.
“Yer acting as spaced out as yer Mudkip.” Sadik continued. As if on cue, Mudkip ran into Gupta’s legs as Sadik spoke, not noticing that they’d stopped.
“Oh. Right.” Gupta shrugged as he picked up Mudkip and walked into the Centre.

“Hey, welcome to our Pokémon Centre!” The lady behind the desk smiled as Sadik and Gupta walked in.
“Are you the same nurse as the one in Oldale?” Gupta asked, a little weirded out by how similar the women looked.
“Nope, she’s my sister,” the nurse explained. “Do you have Pokémon you’d like to rest?”
“The nurses in this region are all relatives of one another somehow.” Sadik elaborated as he returned Ateş to his Pokeball and handed both of his Pokémon over to the nurse. “Some of ‘em are more distantly related than others.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded sceptically as he handed Mudkip over.

While the two teens waited for their Pokémon to be healed, they were approached by Tiana, who was also resting in the Centre.
“Hey, you’re the guys from before.” She acknowledged as she walked up to them.
“Yeah. Hi.” Gupta responded.
“You know…” She mused, looking a little sheepish. “I’ve been hearing people talking while I’ve been sat here. They said the woman with you guys was the new Gym Leader.”
Gupta sighed. Not this again. “Yeah.” He confirmed. “She’s my mother if you were wondering.” He added, perhaps unwisely.
“No way! You’re a Gym Leader’s son? No wonder I lost!” She exclaimed.
“…Everyone seems to say that like it means something.” Gupta thought out loud. He really had no idea why people expected him to be strong just because his mother was; he was a beginning trainer too after all!
“Well, yeah. Can’t prove it isn’t in the blood after all.” Sadik commented.
“…Can’t prove that it is.” Gupta shot back.
“Heh, Touché.” Sadik admitted.
“Yeah, well, I’m still using it as an excuse.” Tiana giggled a little to herself. “Anyway, I have training to do. See you around!”
“Bye!” Sadik waved after her as she left. “Heh, nice girl.” He mused.

“Uh, your Pokémon are healed now.” The nurse interrupted.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded as he took Mudkip back, immediately letting him out of the Pokeball he had been placed in. He looked around before sniffing at the floor.
“Hey, thanks.” Sadik grinned as he took his Pokémon back, sending them both out of their Pokeballs and looking them over, especially his new Poochyena.
“Heh…” He smirked as he picked the Pokémon up, flipping it over for some reason. Gupta wasn’t sure the Pokémon was too happy.
“She’s real strong.” Sadik commented. Gupta instantly stopped his thoughts on the matter. Oh.
“Pretty good endurance too. And she seems like the sensible, reliable type. Think I’ll name her Asena.” He continued.
“Okay.” Gupta shrugged. Mudkip walked over to the new arrival, sniffing her before smiling goofily. If the confused look was anything to go by, Asena wasn’t sure what to make of him. Ateş walked up to her and jumped her unexpectedly, trying to play. She really didn’t take kindly to it, kicking the Torchic away.
“Hey, no fightin’!” Sadik stepped in, separating his Pokémon. “Play nice!”
Gupta stared. Asena was far more serious than Ateş or Mudkip. She wasn’t any stronger than them though. Gupta had thought that maturity came with experience with Pokémon. Seems he was wrong.
‘Great,’ he thought to himself. ‘Mudkip’s probably not getting any better anytime soon then.’

“Heh, guess she just has a serious nature.” Sadik suggested, placing Ateş on his head to prevent the Torchic bothering Asena again. She sat at Sadik’s feet, looking a little indignant at being captured, but deciding against trying to escape.
“Nature?” Gupta queried.
“Yeah. Pokémon have different natures. They’re kinda like personalities, in a broad sense. And they affect how they fight and what they like to do. There’re loads of different ones.” Sadik explained.
“Right.” Gupta nodded. Guess that explained Mudkip… Maybe? He looked down at Mudkip, who had wandered back over to the desk in the middle of the Centre and was trying to lick it. Who was he kidding? Nothing quite explained Mudkip.

Chapter Text

Gupta became curious about the Pokedex after Sadik’s rambling about natures, so while the other teen wandered over to the Pokemart, he sat at one of the tables of the Pokémon Centre and decided to test the device. Mudkip noticed him walking off and chased after him, running into the table leg before sitting at Gupta’s feet. He looked at the bulky device, wondering how it worked, and figured out it had a lid he had to lift up. As he did this, it turned on. The screen displayed two bars on the top and bottom. One of the bars had a Pokeball symbol and the number ‘1’ next to it along with a black circle and the number ‘6’, and a red box within the bar with ‘by number’ written in it. The second bar had a shut-down button, a ‘search/sort’ button and a third button Gupta didn’t know how to use. In the middle-left of the screen there was a dial covered with pictures of various Pokémon he’d seen in some sort of order. Multiple question marks filled in gaps in this order, while on the middle-right there was a scrolling list of Pokémon names that appeared to be in the same order as the pictures, again with question marks filling in places. As Gupta turned the dial to its beginning, he found the list started with a Pokémon he hadn’t seen before. A pointer led from the list to the dial and identified the Pokémon as Treecko. Gupta pressed the portrait of the Pokémon and another screen full of data came up.
‘Treecko, the Wood Gecko Pokémon,’ the display read. ‘Height 1ft 8in, weight 11lbs. Treecko has hooks on its feet that enable it to walk on walls and ceilings. Treecko never panics under any situation.’
“Huh,” Gupta mused out loud, pressing a ‘back’ button that had appeared and scrolling the dial down to the next Pokémon displayed on the screen- which happened to be Torchic.
‘Torchic, the Chick Pokémon. Height 1ft 4in, weight 5.5lbs. Torchic has a place inside its body where it keeps a perpetual flame burning. It likes to stay close to its trainer and will react to threats by spitting fireballs.’ The display read.

“And it feels really warm if ya hug it.” Sadik added, appearing out of nowhere to sit next to Gupta. Mudkip jumped up upon seeing the other teen before leaning over from his place at Gupta's feet to sniff at his shoes.
“Huh?” Said teen questioned, having no idea what he was going on about.
“’Cuz filled in some of those descriptions himself… For the starter Pokémon he keeps in the lab and that. But ya can edit them yerself to add stuff ya learn about the Pokémon ya meet, and yer expected to write yer own about the Pokémon further away from home.” He explained.
“I see.” Gupta nodded.
“So like,” Sadik continued. “For Asena for instance. I made my own description of Poochyena. He opened his own Pokedex and read off what he had written. “Poochyena, the Bite Pokémon. This Pokémon is an omnivore and can eat anything. It chases after its prey until it becomes exhausted and its amazing sense of smell means this Pokémon will never lose track of its foes.”
“…So you mean you exaggerated everything?” Gupta summed up, deadpan.
“Nah, it’s not exaggerated; Asena can really do that stuff!” Sadik replied. “Anyway, I got ya some stuff.” He handed Gupta a bag of some kind.
“What’s in here?” He asked, looking the package over.
“Ah, you know… Just some potions. Ya said I owed ya money.” Sadik explained.
“…So you bought me potions?” The teen assumed.
“Yeah. Since ya used yers on Route 102. Figured ya’d want a replacement.” Sadik explained.
“…Oh.” Gupta replied. It made sense… Sort of.
“Well, if we’re done here, I’m gonna get out to Route 104 and do some trainin’ fer Asena. I don’t want her to be behind compared to Ateş after all,” Sadik decided. “See ya later Guppie!” He waved as he ran back out of the Pokémon Centre.
“Right…” Gupta looked down to his Pokedex, scrolled down to Mudkip, and read the description before editing it.
‘Mudkip, the Mud Fish Pokémon. Height 1ft 4in, weight 1st 2.8lbs. This Pokémon sleeps in the Mud at the bottom of rivers and breathes using the gills on its cheeks. When in trouble, it can unleash power strong enough to crush boulders. Its head fin enables it to sense what’s around it without the need for its eyes. This Pokémon is also remarkably stupid and spaces out easily.’ The new description read. Gupta checked his addition over before putting away his Pokedex, picking up Mudkip (who was still sitting at his feet, staring around the area), and walking out of the Pokémon Centre, heading towards the gym.

When Gupta entered the gym, he found his mother already in conversation with Sadik.
“I said your best bet was to head to Rustboro and have your first Gym Battle there,” she explained to him. “You could learn things at the Trainer’s School there too.”
“Don’t ya have a team to use against beginning trainers though? I heard Gym Leaders have to tailor their strength to match however many badges a trainer has.” Sadik argued.
“I thought you were training?” Gupta asked him, walking up behind the Turk.
“I was, but then I decided to come here and test it out,” he answered cockily.
“…My weakest team’s designed for somebody with one badge already. The League expected everyone coming to challenge me to have already defeated Rustboro’s Leader at least.” Cleo stated. “So unless you want me to wipe the floor with you, come back later.”
“Well, if that’s the way it is…” Sadik nodded. “I’ll just beat the Rustboro Leader and come back then.”
“That’s a good idea,” she assured.
“Okay then, I’ll be going,” Sadik turned to Gupta. “I’ll see ya later.” He waved before running out of the Gym and heading towards Route 104.

“…You don’t battle beginning trainers?” Gupta asked, walking closer to his mother. Mudkip looked between her and Gupta and chortled in happiness at being surrounded by people he knew.
“The League thought it best to encourage trainers to attend the Trainer’s School where possible… So Gym Leaders within a couple days’ travelling distance of Rustboro don’t have teams tailored to trainers without any badges.” She explained. “That includes me and the Leaders of Mauville City and Dewford Town. Trainers beginning their journey further afield than that can battle their local Gym Leaders for their first badge. I hear the Contest Hall in Lilycove City carries out performances explaining the basics to trainers from there, but I’m not sure what trainers from other towns do.”
“So you know the Gym Leaders from Dewford and Mauville?” Gupta assumed.
“I know of all the Gym Leaders.” She replied. “But wouldn’t it be cheating if I told you everything about them?”
“… I suppose.” Gupta accepted. “Should I come back when I have a badge too then?”
“No.” She replied curtly. “I want you to come back when you have four badges. I want us to have a proper battle. And I want to see you grow stronger.”
“…You want me to defeat four other Gym Leaders?” Gupta reiterated.
“Yes. Defeat the Leaders of Rustboro City, Dewford Town, Mauville City and Lavaridge Town. Then return. We can have a true battle then.” She foretold.
“Alright…” Gupta agreed. “Can you at least give me a warning of what I’m going to have to deal with?”
“Hmm…” She pondered before answering. “I told you before about Rustboro’s Leader. She hardly ever smiles, but she’s not a bad person. She mostly uses rock-type Pokémon. The Leader of Dewford’s quite energetic and friendly apparently… He uses water-type Pokémon, and I think I remember hearing he gives all his Pokémon names. Mauville’s leader’s meant to be scary in appearance, but underneath he’s actually really childish. He uses steel-types. He’s strange though. The trainers in that Gym are odd too.” She paused for a moment. “And Lavaridge… Their Leader is young. I heard she left Dewford Gym and struck out on her own, but her brother’s still a Gym Trainer there. I don’t know much else about her though.”
“Okay, I’ll remember that. Thanks.” Gupta nodded.
“Good luck,” she expressed. “I want to battle you remember.”

Just as Gupta was about to turn and leave the Gym, the door opened and he looked around to come face to face with a boy about his age. An odd double curl of hair stood up at the top of his head. At the time, he was wearing beige cargo trousers and a loose white t-shirt along with simple brown boots. He had a tired smile on his face as he walked towards the duo in the Gym. Mudkip looked around, wondering what was going on, before he saw the boy. He watched the new arrival closely.
“Hello… I would like to borrow a Pokémon, please.” The teen requested, voice slow and sleepy.
“Borrow… A Pokémon?” Gupta parroted, confused.
“You’re Herakles, aren’t you?” Cleo assumed, seemingly expecting the visitor.
“That’s right. I am Herakles Karpouzi.” He confirmed.
“I was told you would be coming,” she continued, holding out a Pokeball to the boy, who took it with thanks before pocketing it. She then turned back to Gupta.
“This is Herakles. He’s moving away and wants to catch a Pokémon to take with him. Could you go with him and help him?” She requested.
“Why me?” Gupta asked.
“You haven’t caught any Pokémon yet… It would be good for you to watch some more Pokémon being caught. As well as that, I can’t really leave the Gym, and Herakles hasn’t left the City before… We don’t want him getting lost.” She explained.
“You don’t have a map?” Gupta turned to Herakles incredulously.
“No… Nothing like that. Although it would be nice to go out with someone… I’m not sure about being out on a Route with wild Pokémon without any of my own. If I were to fall asleep…” Herakles fretted (or at least, Gupta thought he might be fretting, although he still looked mostly sleepy).
“Why would you fall asleep?” Gupta questioned. Couldn’t Herakles just drink some strong coffee if he was that tired?
“I can’t help it… I can’t stop myself…” The boy tried to explain.
“Gupta, just take him with you,” Cleo cut in. “Herakles, this is my son Gupta. You boys go catch Pokémon and then come back here, right?”
Herakles nodded. “Right.” He turned to Gupta. “Let’s go…” He began to walk, and Gupta looked back towards his mother once before following, still unsure as to what was going on.

“You’re moving?” Gupta checked, wanting to break the silence that had descended on the pair as they walked towards Route 102. Mudkip was looking contently up at the sky, still in Gupta’s arms.
“Yes… I am moving to a place called Verdanturf Town. It is so I can live my life with less stress… And have more of a chance of exercise. It cannot replace medication… But such lifestyle choices might help me manage my condition… That would be very nice. Although I will miss my mama… I’m going to be staying with my cousin instead.” Herakles rambled.
“Condition?” Gupta reiterated, confused. Suddenly, he felt a little bad for making assumptions about Herakles before.
“Yes… I am tired all of the time. I do not sleep properly. So even when I sleep all of the time, I am still sleep deprived. Sometimes I get insomnia too. And it means I can fall asleep without meaning to. I am not sure why this happens… But I was told it was a medical condition.” Herakles explained, seemingly not minding Gupta’s curiosity.
“And you can’t control it?” Gupta asked.
“I am trying to control it. But I cannot cure it. It is just a matter of learning to live with it. It’s why I’m doing this.” Herakles continued, patience still holding.
“I see… And you want to catch a Pokémon before you go away?” Gupta repeated from earlier. In light of the new information, Herakles's request to catch a Pokémon made far more sense.
“Right.” Herakles confirmed. “So I can have a friend to keep me company while I’m away… And so I can go walking and get exercise without worrying about wild Pokémon.”
“Okay.” Gupta looked down to the path and noticed the road was coming to an end. “We’re almost there.”
“Good,” Herakles nodded, continuing to walk.

A few minutes later, the two teens reached Route 102, and walked towards the patch of tall grass Tiana was still patrolling.
“Hey there!” She waved at Gupta. “Got a new friend?”
“I’m catching a Pokémon…” Herakles offered by way of explanation. “You seem to be training…”
“Uh, yeah.” She smiled. “That’s right.” She looked the boys up and down. “Well, I won’t keep you. Good luck!” She smiled and walked back into the grass.
“…Do we go in there too?” Herakles guessed, placing a foot into the grass.
“…That’s the general idea, yes.” Gupta confirmed.
Herakles nodded, stepping fully into the grass and wandering around a bit. A rustling was heard in the grass and Herakles turned to see a Skitty chasing its own tail.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen one of those before…” Gupta mused.
“Kip…” Mudkip agreed.
“It’s so cute…” Herakles gushed, reaching into his pocket to send out the Pokémon he had borrowed.
“Shre?” The Sandshrew questioned as it was sent out. Gupta remembered seeing this Pokémon before: he was pretty sure it was one his mother trained.
“Okay, um…” Herakles wasn’t sure what to do next.
“Get it to use Scratch.” Gupta advised, while Mudkip just stared at the battle.
“Okay… Sandshrew, Scratch.” Herakles commanded.
“Sa!” Sandshrew agreed, charging the Skitty, which still hadn’t realised there were trainers and Pokémon around. It was sent flying back.
“Should I use a Pokeball on it?” Herakles turned to Gupta for advice.
“Well…” Gupta wasn’t sure either. Sadik had made catching Pokémon look so easy. “Give it a try.” He nodded.
“Okay.” Herakles reached into his pocket again and pulled out an empty Pokeball (where he had gotten it from and how he hadn’t mixed it up with the occupied one, Gupta didn’t know), before throwing it at the Skitty. The device opened and drew the Skitty inside. Both teenagers held their breaths and stared at the capture ball as it shook a few times before clicking. Mudkip stared at the ball, wondering where the Pokémon had gone.
“…Is that it?” Herakles checked.
“That’s it.” Gupta assured.
“Good.” Herakles picked up the Pokeball before walking out of the tall grass and slumping against a tree. “I’m tired…” He admitted as he fell asleep. Gupta stared, unsure of what to do, before deciding Herakles needed the rest and sitting next to him, settling Mudkip on his lap.

Mudkip had seemed content to sit for a few minutes with Gupta, but he quickly grew bored and began fidgeting. Gupta wasn’t sure what had happened to his Pokémon- he was usually far lazier than this.
“Kip…” Mudkip stared at Gupta determinedly.
“What’s wrong?” Gupta sighed at his Pokémon.
“Kip!” Mudkip declared, opening his mouth.
“What?” Gupta shrugged, unsure as to what Mudkip was getting at.
“Mudkip! Mud-kip!” The Pokémon insisted. Gupta became a little concerned he would wake Herakles.
“Shh,” he insisted, pressing a finger to Mudkip’s open mouth. “Herakles is sleeping.”
“Mudkip!” Mudkip cheered as he blasted water out of his mouth, the spray knocking Gupta over. Mudkip slid off his lap and onto the ground.
“Mudkip?” Gupta questioned. He looked over himself to find he was soaked. He looked to his Pokémon to find him walking towards Herakles with a cheerful look on his face. “Mudkip, don’t,” he pleaded.
Unfortunately, Mudkip didn’t understand what Gupta was so annoyed about, and proceeded to spit water all over Herakles as well.
“Huh?” Herakles jumped as he was shocked awake. “What?!” He looked over to Mudkip. “Oh… Hello.” He smiled sleepily and moved over to stroke the Pokémon.
“Herakles…” Gupta started, getting up and moving over to the boy, feeling guilty for what had happened.
“Your Mudkip… He knows Water Gun.” Herakles stated, seemingly not caring for being woken up at all. Gupta could only stare at him. What was with this guy?

“Oh, you two are back.” Cleo smiled as she saw her son and Herakles enter the Gym, both of them soaking wet. “Did you catch something?”
Herakles nodded. “Thank you… It’s so cute.” He smiled as he handed the Pokeball back to Cleo.
“What did he catch?” She asked Gupta.
“I’m not sure.” Her son admitted.
“It was a Skitty… I love kittens, I really do.” Herakles answered for him.
“Oh, that was good then.” Cleo conversed. “I’m glad it worked out.”
“Me too. Gupta’s Mudkip learned Water Gun as well.” Herakles revealed.
“That is good.” Cleo looked to Mudkip, who had dozed off in Gupta’s arms. “He’s growing stronger all the time.” She looked up to the boys. “Anyway,” she continued. “Gupta, you should get moving. If you start now you should be able to make it to Rustboro by nightfall. As for Herakles… Your mother was asking after you. You should get home.”
“Okay…” Herakles turned to Gupta. “It was nice to meet you. I hope we’ll meet again… Goodbye for now.” He smiled and waved at the two in the Gym before turning and leaving, still not caring for his sodden clothes.
“I should go too then.” Gupta added, turning to leave. “Goodbye mama. I’ll be back.”
“Good. Just don’t keep me waiting too long. I look forwards to being able to battle you.” She insisted, moving to hug her son. “Safe travels Gupta.”
He returned the hug for a moment (with one arm, because Mudkip was still being held in the other), before pulling away and walking from the building, turning to nod at her as he left. At least as he walked along the path leading to the edge of Petalburg City the mid-afternoon sun was shining bright enough to dry him off.

Chapter Text

Gupta- Mudkip, level 10

Gupta walked only a few more minutes before coming to a fork in the road. One path led down to the beach and along the coast, while the other led through a patch of tall grass along the cliff, and appeared to rejoin with the coast road on the horizon. Gupta looked down onto the beach and saw at least a couple of trainers waiting along it, almost certainly for people not willing to risk the grass. He decided to take the cliff path.

As though cursed by some divine being to have the worst luck ever (or perhaps due to having too much animal magnetism), a wild Pokémon leapt out at Gupta the moment he set foot into the grass. Or rather, a wild Pokémon swooped down on him the moment he set foot into the grass. The Taillow bounced off of his head before settling onto the grass before him, issuing a challenge.
“Low! Taillow!” It chirped. Gupta couldn't help but feel it was proud of itself. Mudkip noticed the noise and looked up at Gupta questioningly before realising the Taillow was there and had just attacked his Trainer.
“Kiiiip,” he hissed.
“Okay then, if you want to fight, let's fight.” Gupta decided, setting Mudkip down to face the Pokémon.
“Kip.” Mudkip nodded in determination.
“Low!” Taillow cried, racing towards Mudkip with alarming speed and pecking him in the face. The slow Pokémon had absolutely no time to react, but Gupta reasoned even a fairly speedy Pokémon would have struggled. This bird Pokémon was fast!
“Mudkip, use Water Gun on it!” Gupta decided.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, spewing water at the Pokémon. It appeared to be quick enough to evade the spray at first, but it eventually got caught up and hit with one of Mudkip's persistent shots of water, falling to the ground.
“Okay, that should just about do it...” Gupta mused, thinking the battle won. Just as he was reaching down to pick Mudkip back up, the Pokémon appeared again, looking thoroughly annoyed.
“Low!” It protested, shaking the water from its feathers.
“You wanted a challenge.” Gupta stated. “And you got one.”
“Tail...” Growled the soaked Pokémon, who swept back in to Peck Mudkip again.
“Kiiiiip.” Mudkip complained.
“Alright, use Water Gun again!” Gupta commanded, as the Pokémon swept around for another hit.
“Mud!” Mudkip agreed, spewing more water at the bird and knocking it out of mid-air. It fell back to the ground, where it struggled to get back to its feet.
“Mudkip... “ Mudkip mused, staring at the downed Pokémon.
“That should do it this time.” Gupta stated, continuing to move through the grass and turning back to Mudkip when he noticed the Pokémon not moving to catch up with him. “Are you coming, Mudkip?” He asked, clarifying the fact that he was leaving.

Mudkip kept staring at the Pokémon. After a moment, he looked to Gupta with an unreadable look on his face.
“Kip.” He emphasised, walking over to the downed Pokémon.
“What are you doing now?” His trainer questioned.
“Mud...” Mudkip replied, moving right over to the downed bird and licking it.
“Mudkip?” Gupta questioned. The Pokémon looked to the dopey thing as if it was mad before looking up to Gupta with respect in its eyes.
“Kip. Mud.” Mudkip tried to explain, trying to drag the bird Pokémon to its feet in order to carry it over to Gupta. “Mud.”
Gupta wasn't entirely sure what had gotten into Mudkip. Maybe the poor thing had actually cracked?
“Kip?” Mudkip pleaded, looking from the bird Pokémon to Gupta and back again.
“Um...” Gupta tried to figure out what exactly his Pokémon was getting at. Eventually he was left with only one conclusion.
“Do you think we should take it with us?” He assumed.
“Kip! Mudkip!” Mudkip confirmed, jumping up and down. The Pokémon looked at him as if he were mad. It was probably wondering how it lost to such a thing.
“Well... Okay.” The human relented, picking a Pokeball from his bag and looking at it. So, did he just throw it at the downed bird?
“Here goes...” He mused aloud, pressing the button on the ball to inflate it before throwing it in the general direction of the Pokémon. It was a good thing that the device didn't need that accurate a throw, as it bounced on the grass a few metres away from the Pokémon before opening and drawing it inside. Mudkip looked towards the Pokeball surprised as the Pokémon disappeared into the ball, despite the fact that he had seemingly wanted this to happen. When the ball hit the ground again, it started to roll, and Mudkip continued to stare at it, tail fin wagging a little and face lit up in excitement. Finally, the ball came to a stop and clicked. Seemingly disappointed it was no longer moving, Mudkip trotted over to the ball and batted it with his paws a little.
“Don't. There's a Pokémon in there.” Gupta chided, striding over to his dopey starter and picking the newly caught Pokemon's ball up.
“Well, there's two of you now.” He mused aloud.
“Kip!” Mudkip barked in enthusiasm. Gupta sighed and pocketed his new catch before picking up Mudkip and walking back towards Petalburg. It really wouldn't do to leave the new addition injured.

Nobody else bugged Gupta while he was in the Pokémon Centre, and he noticed nobody he recognised other than the nurse, so while he was waiting for his Pokémon to be healed he got out his Pokedex and began looking up his new Pokémon.
He found that its name was Taillow and that it was classified as the tiny swallow Pokémon, but the rest of the information was blank. He realised he'd have to fill it in himself. Great.

Since the first thing on the list to fill was the height and weight of his new catch, Gupta decided to speak to the nurse while getting his Pokémon back. Perhaps she knew, or at least had some scales he could use.
“You want to know the specifics of your Taillow?” She summed up.
“Right.” Gupta confirmed.
“Well...” She stalled as she handed Gupta's two Pokeballs back to him. “The Pokémon Centre service does keep notes on each Pokémon they see... Just let me see if I can find the record...” She mused as she dug around on her desk.
Gupta looked at her bemusedly. How had she lost the file? She must have only created it a few minutes ago!
“Oh, here it is!” The nurse cheered to herself as she picked up Taillow's file. “Okay, so your Taillow... Is female, weighs 5.1 lbs and is about a foot tall. That's more or less completely standard for this species.” She stated.
“Interesting...” Gupta noted. “How many Pokémon exactly are standard for their species?”
“Oh, most of them,” she shrugged off.
Gupta stood there for a moment wondering how that was possible. Surely Pokémon grew just like people did? And surely there would be at least some variation?
“That doesn't mean they aren't all special,” the nurse continued, smiling. “Was that what you wanted to know?”
“Yes, thank you.” Gupta nodded to the nurse, who waved back at him, before deciding to head back to Route 104.

The same choice between the beach path and the cliff full of wild Pokémon awaited Gupta once he arrived on the Route. Wanting to do something a little different this time, he took the stairs down to the coast path. Almost immediately he came face to face with a girl, and braced himself for battle.
“Oh no,” she assured as she saw him and his expression. “I'm not a Trainer, and I don't want to battle you. But you're right, if two Trainers lock eyes, they battle.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, moving past her and onto the beach. As he walked he noted that it seemed emptier than it had been earlier. Perhaps some of the trainers from before had gone home? As he wondered over this he wandered aimlessly, and ended up falling straight into the path of an actual trainer.
“Got you!” He yelled as soon as he was aware of Gupta. “Now you have to battle!”
“Okay, fine.” Gupta shrugged, prepared for this by now.
“Okay, I'm Billy and I'm going to destroy you!” The Youngster asserted. “Go Seedot!”
Gupta raised an eyebrow at the emerging Pokémon. It appeared to be an acorn with a face. He realised he didn't have long to question it.
“Okay, Taillow, let's see what you can do.” He called, throwing his new Pokemon's Pokeball.
“Tail!” Cried Taillow as it emerged.
“See,” growled the Seedot.
“Okay Seedot, use Harden!” The young trainer commanded. The Pokémon nodded and appeared to try to draw into itself.
“Okay Taillow, use...” Gupta stopped and realised he had no idea what Taillow could do. He thought back to his battle against the bird and remembered she had jabbed Mudkip with her beak.
“Okay, use... Peck?” He guessed, hoping it would work. Taillow looked back at him and gave him a look that implied he was guessing right, before sweeping back around to charge at the Seedot with beak stretched outwards. As it connected, Gupta saw the enemy Pokémon cringe in discomfort. It really didn't seem to like that.
“Peck again.” He encouraged.
“Seedot, Bide!” The Youngster instructed. The acorn like Pokémon nodded, and closed its eyes. Gupta wasn't really sure what it was doing, but Taillow looked a little cautious of it. It gave the Pokémon a wide berth before swooping around to Peck it again.
“Don't give up!” The young trainer commanded his Pokémon. Gupta couldn't help but wonder what the kid was going on about. Don't give up doing what? As far as he was aware the Seedot was doing nothing but stand still... And pretend to be an acorn perhaps.
“Okay Taillow, peck it one more time.” He commanded, hoping Taillow was strong enough to defeat the Seedot by itself.
“Low!” Taillow nodded as she fluttered in for the KO.
“Okay now!” The trainer shouted as Taillow was moving in. The bird's eyes widened, and Gupta realised what it had been cautious about as the tiny acorn moved forwards with full power, slamming into Taillow and knocking her out of the air. As she hit the ground, Taillow managed to dig her beak into the attacking Pokémon. Once she had a good grip, she used Seedot as an anchor to roll until she was upright again with the acorn beneath her. The Seedot didn't try to get up after the move, although Taillow herself also looked very tired.
“Oh no. Return Seedot,” the trainer grumbled, recalling the Pokémon to its Pokeball. Gupta looked his Pokémon over and decided she needed to rest.
“You come back too Taillow.” He mused as he recalled her. She looked back to him and nodded respectfully as she disappeared back into the ball.

“Okay, you may have won that battle, but I will win the war!” The kid mused. “Go Taillow!” He yelled, sending out a bird of his own.
“Okay Mudkip, your turn,” Gupta replied, sending out the dopey starter.
“Kip?” Mudkip questioned as he noticed he was back out of the Pokeball. It took him a few seconds to look around and notice the Taillow opposite him.
“Kiiiip.” He chortled in realisation. Gupta only hoped he hadn't mistaken this Taillow for their teammate.
“Okay Mudkip, Water Gun.” He directed.
“Taillow, Quick Attack!” The Youngster shouted. Quick as a flash, the Taillow swung around and slammed into Mudkip, who staggered backwards before launching a defiant Water Gun towards the Pokémon. It connected, but didn't quite knock Taillow down. Gupta stared and wondered if his Taillow could do that.
“Okay Mudkip, Water Gun again,” he continued regardless, wanting to win this battle.
“Peck Taillow!” Billy decided.
“Mud.” Mudkip stated as he tried to dodge the incoming Taillow. He ended up hit square on, being just too slow for the task. “Muuud....”
“Don't let it get to you.” Gupta advised. Mudkip looked back at him and nodded before launching another Water Gun straight into the face of the Taillow. The Pokémon still remained flying, but appeared fairly injured. Gupta reasoned that resilience was a trait of the species as a whole.
“Quick Attack again Taillow!” Billy repeated, throwing his hand out excitedly as he spoke. Again, Gupta found Mudkip being slammed before he could really react.
“Just Water Gun!” He told the water-type. Mudkip responded to this easily, stepping back only a little before firing another jet of water at the Taillow. This time it worked, as the Pokémon fell to the ground and didn't move again.
“Aw man.” Billy whined as he recalled his second Pokémon to its Pokeball. “Guess you won after all... Here.” He reached into his pocket and brought out more small coins which he handed to Gupta.
“Anyway,” he continued before Gupta had a chance to react. “I'd better be getting home now. Bye!” He smiled and waved before running off towards Petalburg.

Gupta was left staring after him. He looked down at Mudkip, who appeared to be trying to figure out what had just happened. He thought of his Taillow and how tired she looked. He decided he'd have to go back to the Pokémon Centre.

The nurse had mused something about the trainers on the beach and going home in the evening when Gupta had brought his Pokémon back to her, but he hadn't paid any attention. Instead, he'd been planning his walk back through Route 104. As he got to the beach again he noticed it was almost empty, with only one other person standing right at the other end of the beach. He decided to set off towards that person. He had no desire to speak to them, but the beach was otherwise empty, and he couldn't say the same for the cliff path and the Pokémon that lurked on it.

As he walked, Gupta became aware of a house in the distance. As he got closer, he could see that the house was built on the cliff above the other end of the beach, with a pier stretching out of the cliff at the side of the house and into the water. A small yacht type boat was moored at the pier. Gupta wondered who lived there. After all, they could afford a yacht.

While he was pondering this, Gupta walked past the other person on the beach. The young boy stood facing away from Gupta, staring into the sea. Gupta looked around at him and he spoke, causing the teen to jump in surprise.
“The sea... I wonder what it's like at the bottom of the sea?” He murmured, seemingly lost in thought. Gupta stared at him for a moment but got no other sound from the boy and assumed he was talking to himself. Feeling a little awkward, the teen decided to just climb the stairs to the cliff.

Once he had reached the top of the stairs, Gupta found himself staring straight at the house on the cliff. The first thing he noticed was that the door had been left open. Alarmed, the teen moved towards the door to inspect the house. He peered through the opening but found the entire ground floor to be devoid of life. There was a table and a single chair, a few cabinets full of food and other random things and little else. The ground floor was also the only floor. Gupta reasoned that somebody had left in a hurry and left the door open in their haste... Then again, the lack of things also suggested the person didn't have much worth stealing anyway... Whoever they were. The situation on the inside of the house didn't suggest the owner had the money to run a boat like the one outside... But then, maybe they just didn't care for possessions? It was possible the boat was the only thing the person cared about enough to not want stolen. It wasn't unreasonable the keys were with that person if that were the case.
'But then why leave the house in such a rush?' Gupta mused to himself.

The thinking was making his head hurt, so Gupta instead decided he didn't really care as long as there was a high chance the house wouldn't be burgled. Strange things seemed to be the norm in this region. As he leant away from the door to the house and began to walk back onto the path to Rustboro he noticed a strange sign planted in the ground next to the house.
'Mr Machado's Cottage' was written on it.
Gupta really had to think at that, wondering how this Machado guy was famous enough to warrant having a sign with his name on it outside of his house. Did everyone need to know who the cottage belonged to? Deciding he didn't care about that either, Gupta walked off down the path to Rustboro, noticing he had now navigated around the tall grass successfully. Just as he was about to turn his back on the way he had come entirely, he noticed a boy running towards him. Oh no.

“Hey, I can't believe I missed you earlier!” He cried as he ran towards the teen. “I've been standing here all day handing out advice to new trainers and I didn't see you before!”
“Um... Why?” Gupta questioned.
“Because somebody needs to tell all the new trainers what to do! Anyway, today's tip is to always weaken a wild Pokémon before you catch it. Try burning it, paralysing it, or inflicting poison for extra effectiveness.” The boy rambled.
“Did you get that from a book?” Gupta dead-panned.
“Yep, it's my adventure handbook,” the boy smiled at his own words.
“Thanks, but I already have it covered,” the teen stated, holding up his two Pokeballs as proof.
“Wow! You have to be some kind of prodigy or something!” The child enthused.
“No... I just already knew how to catch Pokémon.” Gupta insisted.
“Oh. Well, okay then. I guess I'll see you around.” The boy grinned for good measure before running off through the grass again. Gupta wondered how he could be so cheerful. And how he could manage to run that far through the grass without encountering any Pokémon. Also, if he knew so much about Pokémon, why wasn't he trying to battle like everyone else on the Route?

After that very strange encounter, Gupta once more began his walk towards the Petalburg Woods and Rustboro City. Along the way he encountered yet another young person wandering aimlessly around in circles. At least this girl appeared to be picking flowers instead of doing actually nothing. As he drew close, she picked herself up to speak to him.
“Did you know Mr Machado lives at the seaside cottage over there?” She asked.
“Well, yes.” Gupta nodded. It was written on the sign...
“He was once a mighty sailor you know. He was never afraid of the sea no matter how rough it got.” She continued unperturbed.
“Okay,” Gupta accepted, continuing to walk past her without another word. Even more strangely, she didn't seem to notice this and just carried on picking flowers.

After a few more minutes, Gupta found some more cleared soil in which berry plants were growing. He picked the berries, not really knowing which they were or what they were for, and planted a few of the berries he had picked in return, wondering how they could possibly grow quickly enough for other trainers to be able to use them. He also wondered how they would grow with no water; the soil was dry despite being close to the sea and Gupta had no way to water it. Deciding it wasn't his problem, he moved on.

Gupta was almost to the woods when he finally came face to face with another actual trainer. The boy had been looking around himself boredly when he noticed the teen, and almost immediately came running towards him.
“Oh finally. Someone's here. I'm bored you see.” He stated.
“Too bad for you,” Gupta shot back.
“But, now you're here. So we have to battle.” The boy carried on.
“Okay,” Gupta shrugged, hand moving into his pocket to pick a Pokémon out.
“Okay Zigzagoon, let's go!” The Rich Boy called, throwing a Pokeball at the ground in front of him.
“Goon!” Cried the emerging Pokémon.
“Okay Taillow,” Gupta responded, throwing Taillow's Pokeball in response.
“Low!” Taillow called as it came out of the ball.

“Taillow, Peck!” Gupta commanded, knowing in theory that Taillow could learn Quick Attack but wanting to wait to try that until a moment when it didn't matter.
“Low!” Taillow responded, flying up into the air and then down towards the Zigzagoon. It managed to send the Pokémon flying quite a distance as it connected.
“Zigzagoon, Tackle!” The boy replied, causing the raccoon to charge back forwards and hit against Taillow in retaliation. She staggered a little, but still appeared determined.
“Peck again Taillow!” Gupta encouraged.
“Use Tackle again!” The Rich child ordered.
“Goon,” Zigzagoon growled as it ran towards Taillow.
“Tail!” Taillow roared as it met the challenge head on, getting a strong Peck into the opponent but receiving some damage from Tackle in response. As the two Pokémon leapt away from each other, both appeared damaged. Gupta remembered how fast Taillow was, and knew he could win if he acted now.
“Taillow, Peck!” He told his Pokémon. Taillow nodded and swooped back towards Zigzagoon.
“Tackle!” The boy cried, but it was too late. Zigzagoon was hit first, and before anyone but Taillow could react the small Pokémon collapsed to the ground.
“Geh, it looks like you won.” The Rich Boy conceded as he returned his Pokémon to its ball.
“Low.” Taillow nodded in celebration before flying down to land in front of Gupta.
“That was good,” the teen told his Pokémon as he returned it to the ball.
“I suppose you deserve this then. Just a small amount of prize, simple change, you understand.” The child continued, holding out some sort of note to Gupta. He took the money, looked at it, and had to resist the urge to laugh. This was nearly a month's worth of pocket money. He didn't want to think about how filthy rich the child had to be to consider this 'change'.
“Anyway, I'd probably better be off... Mama does worry when I'm late returning. Good day.” The boy nodded once before walking off back towards Petalburg.
“Okay.” Gupta mused to himself as he looked down at the money he'd received. As he went to put it away he remembered how tired Taillow had looked and decided to head back to the Pokémon Centre. Again.

“You really have been here a lot today,” the nurse shrugged to herself as she took care of Gupta's Pokémon.
“I've been in a lot of battles,” the teen replied.
“That is true... Are you still going to head for Rustboro today?” She questioned.
“That is the plan.” Gupta confirmed.
“Well you'd better get a move on if that's true.” She advised. “It really isn't long until sunset. If you go now you could make it, but if anything else holds you up even a little you'll be walking there in the dark.”
“I'll keep that in mind. Thanks,” Gupta responded, as the nurse handed his Pokémon back to him.
“Okay then. Good luck.” She smiled.

As he wandered back towards Petalburg Woods Gupta noticed the first red rays of sunset shining over the sea and decided to pick up the pace. As he did so he put away his Pokedex, newly filled in after his eventful few hours.

'Taillow, the tiny swallow Pokémon. Height 1ft, weight 5.1lbs. Taillow is very courageous despite its size. This Pokémon will remain defiant against most odds... But I bet it gives up when it gets hungry.' The Pokedex entry read.

Chapter Text

Petalburg Woods was a quiet place. Or at least, it was on the late afternoon day when Gupta walked into it. Only the slightest rustling of leaves was audible to him as he began to walk through the forest. A few steps from the entrance, he became aware of a straight path running through the woods to the exit on the horizon. The path appeared to have no trainers or obstacles of any kind... Except for the numerous ledges along it, that prevented anyone entering from Gupta's side from just walking straight through. Instead, the only path viable for the teen to take winded around trees and through patches of tall grass, taking a meandering route to the same destination. Gupta sighed. Just perfect.

Deciding he had no choice, the boy set off towards the first patch of grass, noticing a sign stapled to a tree as he did so.
'Trainer Tips: Any Pokémon that appears even once in a battle is awarded EXP Points. To raise a weak Pokémon, put it at the left of the team list. As soon as a battle starts, switch it out. It will earn EXP Points without being exposed to any harm.' The sign read. Gupta stared at the sign, wondering what the team list was and what the importance was of having a Pokémon on the left of it. Then he wandered off into the grass.

Almost immediately after he set foot into the grass, Gupta found himself challenged by yet another trainer.
“I'm Lyle and I'm going to destroy you!” The Bug Catcher stated confidently.
“Gupta. And I doubt it.” The teenager shot back coldly, still wondering what kids were doing with Pokémon.
“That's what you think! Go Wurmple!” He shouted, throwing a Pokeball into the grass and releasing the Pokémon inside in the process.
“Urmple?” It questioned.
“Okay,” Gupta mused, deciding which Pokémon he wanted to use and getting its Pokeball ready. “Go Taillow.”
“Tail,” Taillow chirped as she appeared from the Pokeball and began to look around. She almost instantly spotted the opposing Pokémon, and understood what she had to do.
“Alright Taillow, use Peck,” Gupta decided. Taillow swooped forwards and pecked the bug Pokémon, knocking it to the ground. It didn't get up. Gupta couldn't help but feel that the Wurmple had been especially weak.
“Aww, you're really strong,” the boy complained, returning his Pokémon to its ball. “Good thing I have more where that came from!” He called, throwing a second Pokeball that brought forth a second Wurmple.
“He has two of those?” Gupta mused aloud. Taillow looked almost as confused as he was.
“Wurmple, use String Shot!” The Bug Catcher commanded his Pokémon.
“Peck again Taillow,” Gupta directed. Taillow connected with the Wurmple first but this Wurmple stayed conscious, and proceeded to spit sticky threads at Taillow that gummed up her wings. She ended up having to land, and looked thoroughly annoyed at the fact.
“Peck it Taillow,” Gupta advised. Taillow looked back at him as if to suggest she had been wanting to do just that, and hopped towards the Wurmple at speed, pecking it again before it could do anything. This time, the Pokémon fainted.
“Wow, you really are good,” the trainer complimented. “Too bad you'll lose eventually though. You'll get caught up in the string and then we'll beat you! Go Wurmple!” He shouted, letting loose a third Pokémon. Gupta stared at it in disbelief. How could he have another Wurmple...?

Several minutes and three more Wurmple later, Taillow sat on the ground trying to preen her feathers from half a dozen String Shots, the trainer was defeated, and Gupta was wondering if the kid knew even the first thing about battle strategy.
“Well, I suppose that's what happens when I focus too much on just catching Pokémon and not training them...” The Bug Catcher mused as he handed over some prize money. “I only just got this team from the wild, and I'm out of Pokeballs too. Time to call it a day.” He decided, waving at Gupta. “Goodbye!”

Gupta stared after him before walking over to his Taillow. Her wings were still stuck with the string from the Wurmples.
“Annoying, isn't it?” He empathised, trying to help get rid of the tacky substance. As he worked, he came up with an idea.
“Hey Taillow... Can you use Quick Attack?” He queried, thinking it would be good to try now that it was safe. Taillow looked at him for a moment and broke her wings free, before seemingly deciding to try it, swooping up into the air and charging towards a tree as fast as she could. Unfortunately, although she was fast, she was not fast enough, and it was obvious that no attack could come from the speeds she was reaching. She also crashed into the tree. Gupta managed to catch her as she fell.
“Maybe you need to be a little stronger...” He mused, checking her over for any injuries.

As he did this, the teen became aware of somebody shouting. Deciding to investigate, he placed Taillow onto his shoulder to rest, and walked a few hundred metres uphill to the end of the tall grass, at which point the path veered to the right. He took the now clear path, noticing he had climbed uphill enough to pass the first of the ledges, and then wound back around to the left, until he was heading North again. It was here that he caught a glimpse of the trouble in the distance.

A young man with glasses and rather unruly brown hair was standing against a tree, being harassed by a strange figure who looked oddly familiar. In front of the young man was a Pokémon Gupta didn't recognise- a blue four-legged Pokémon with a long nose and ears. It appeared to be suffering badly.
“Don't hurt Toto like that,” the young guy fumed, clearly annoyed at the figure who Gupta assumed had to be an attacker.
“Well give over those goods then. If you do that then I won't have to.” The woman threatened, and Gupta realised why she had seemed so familiar. She was the same strange woman who had been tearing pieces off of the Oldale Town ruins earlier in the day.
“Give over the goods...?” The man frowned a little (something which looked completely unnatural on his face for some reason), before his eyes hardened. “I can't do that.” He shook his head. “You can't threaten me like that,”
“Well, I suppose something bad will have to happen then... You know how Pokémon can get...” The woman smirked.
Gupta stood and stared at the exchange in shock. Where were the police? Did nobody else care that this was happening? It was then that Gupta noticed the Poochyena at the woman's feet. The Pokémon growled at the man. The teen knew that those Pokémon were renowned for chasing their opponents until they won (even if Sadik tended to over-exaggerate Asena), and decided he had no choice but to step in.

“...You already defeated his Pokémon. Just take his money and go,” Gupta spoke up as he walked towards the pair, seemingly sounding like just another trainer. The woman and man both turned to the teen; he looked surprised to see someone, while her face lit up in recognition.
“You... You're the kid from Oldale,” she noticed. “This isn't just some trainer battle. This man has something that I need.”
“So you're going to threaten him to gain it?” Gupta glared her down. “You shouldn't be using Pokémon as tools to do your dirty work.” He wondered why exactly he was lecturing on ethics, but he supposed it was true. It was cowardly and cruel to the Pokémon, and it seemed there was nobody other than Gupta to do anything about it.
“Don't tell me what to do,” she huffed. “Poochyena, get him first!”
“Why did I have a feeling this was going to happen...?” Gupta wondered to himself, before deciding it was better to just take care of the Poochyena. Taillow still looked as though she was recovering from crashing into the tree, and in fact appeared to have fallen asleep, so he decided to use Mudkip.
“Kip?” The Pokémon questioned as he was sent out.
“We have to fight,” Gupta tried to explain as the Poochyena reached them, and stared Mudkip down while waiting for orders.
“Just Tackle!” The female commanded.
“Water Gun Mudkip!” Gupta responded. Mudkip nodded at Gupta, but failed to notice the Poochyena running towards him. He was sent flying back before he responded with a Water Gun in the direction of the Pokémon.
“Okay Mudkip, use Tackle,” Gupta directed.
“Sand Attack Poochyena,” the woman responded. This time, Mudkip ran forwards towards the Poochyena only to be hit in the face with some dirt. He began to panic a little and broke off his charge... But tripped over and barrelled into Poochyena anyway with his excess momentum, sending both Pokémon flying.
“Kiiiip!” He complained, landing onto his back.

Poochyena fell to the ground after the attack and didn't get up. Mudkip rolled back onto his front and stared at it curiously, before looking to Gupta and smiling.
“Damn, you're tough for a kid,” the mysterious woman cursed, returning her fainted Pokémon to the Pokeball. “Still, if you think that's the only thing I can throw at you, you're mistaken.” She threw a second Pokeball as she spoke, and released a Pokémon that Gupta didn't recognise.
“Purrloin!” Purrloin growled.
“Mud.” Mudkip answered back.
“Purrloin, Scratch that Pokémon!” The figure demanded.
“Water Gun Mudkip,” Gupta guided.
Purrloin charged towards Mudkip, who took a Scratch to the face before he had time to react, and then responded by spitting water towards the cat-like creature. It was forced back by the jet, and began to panic a little.
“Purr...” It complained to its trainer.
“Just Scratch again,” she shot back, clearly annoyed.
“...Water Gun again,” Gupta stated, deadpan.
The Pokémon belonging to the strange woman ran up to Mudkip and scratched him yet again, but Mudkip retaliated with a spray of water that knocked the Purrloin back against a tree. It didn't try to move again.

“Damn! How could I lose to a kid like you?” The figure seethed, returning her Pokémon to its Pokeball. “Guess I have no choice but to use my own force then.” She turned to the man she had been harassing before, who for whatever reason had been watching the battle instead of doing the sensible thing and running away. “You're going to hand over those goods right now, or you'll have my fist to answer to!”

The man, who before had looked worried, was now confident. He clearly didn't fancy this woman's chances without her Pokémon. “Try me.” He stated defiantly. The woman seemed to hiss in annoyance at his bravado, but it was soon shown to be down to more than simple words. When she tried to aim a punch at the man, attempting to take him down herself, he blocked her effortlessly, and managed to spin her around and onto the ground with a finesse Gupta rarely saw in a person.
“You see, without your Pokémon to bully me, I'm more than capable of taking care of myself,” the man stated, standing over the figure. “Still... I suppose I can let you go... So long as you abandon your plans for stealing these goods.”
“Huh. We have many plans. Many different operations going on... Plenty that have nothing to do with you. In fact, there's a team on its way to Rustboro right now...” The female replied cryptically.
“If you can do so well without me, go.” He demanded, leaning away from the woman.
“...Fine.” She spat, springing to her feet. “You haven't seen the last of Team Aqua,” she insisted, before turning tail and running from the scene.

“Tail?” Taillow chirped from Gupta's shoulder, waking up from her nap and appearing refreshed.
“...Mud.” Mudkip huffed, glad it was all over.
“Thank you for helping me,” the previously harassed man spoke up, a wide grin appearing on his face as he walked over to where Gupta was. The teen couldn't help but feel like the smile looked completely natural for the man's face.
“It's no problem,” Gupta stated. “Although, you looked like you could handle it.”
“I couldn't handle Pokémon like that. I can't fight such powerful beings myself,” he insisted. “The only protection I have out here is Toto, and he looks far too tired to fight.” He looked back towards the blue Pokémon from before, who was still unconscious on the ground. Mudkip followed his gaze and began walking towards the downed Pokémon.
“...Why didn't you return him to the Pokeball if he's so tired?” Gupta queried.
“I never got the time. And I don't like to keep him in the ball unless I have to. He doesn't like it.” The man replied. Meanwhile, Mudkip reached the strange Pokémon and began to poke it.
“Mudkip, leave the poor Pokémon alone,” Gupta sighed. His starter looked towards him and yawned.
“I suppose I'll have to return him to the ball now though... He's too heavy to carry by myself,” the guy continued, walking over to his Pokémon and picking a Pokeball out of his pocket before returning the Pokémon to the ball. Gupta noticed that the ball was black with some kind of pattern on it.
“Anyway, I should thank you for helping us,” the man smiled again, reaching back into his pocket and pulling out a different kind of Pokeball, with blue and red markings on it. “This is a Great Ball. We make them at my company, so I'll let you have one for free.”
“Thanks,” Gupta replied, taking the item.
“I'm Kasem by the way. You look like a nice kid, so you should come by and visit the corporation sometime,” the employee decided.
“I could,” Gupta stated non-committally.
“Well, I'd better get moving. I'm meant to be handing these goods to someone... See you around!” Kasem waved as he headed off in the direction of Petalburg City. Gupta wondered if he was going to be alright. And also what he had been doing in this part of the forest when he could just have walked down the ledges.
“Kip.” Mudkip called randomly, walking over to Gupta and sitting at his feet.
“We need to go too.” His trainer replied, picking up the dopey Pokémon and making his way further down the winding path.

Gupta had almost made it to the end of the forest when another trainer ran up to him wanting to battle.
“Hey, it's a good thing I didn't go home, huh?” He laughed to himself. “Finally, some training!”
“You don't like training with wild Pokémon?” Gupta assumed.
“It's boring. But you look interesting!” The kid smirked. “I'm James, and I'd really like to try and beat you.”
“You can try.” Gupta responded.
“Okay then, go Nincada!” James shouted excitedly, throwing a Pokeball and sending out another Pokémon Gupta didn't know a lot about.
“Nin.” The Pokémon looked back to its trainer and nodded as it emerged.
“Right.” Gupta weighed up his options. He supposed that Mudkip had to be tired after the fight with the strange woman, so chose to use Taillow.
“You fight Taillow,” he told the Pokémon.
“Low!” Taillow chirped in affirmation, flying from Gupta's shoulder to the forest floor.
“Kiiip...” Mudkip complained, struggling in Gupta's arms.
“You can fight next time,” the trainer promised.
“If you're done talking,” James whined. “Nincada, use Leech Life!”
“Peck Taillow,” Gupta responded.
Taillow swooped in, getting the edge on the opponent's Pokémon, who took the hit straight on. However, while Taillow still remained in contact with the Nincada, the Nincada leant up and bit Taillow on the neck.
“Low?” She questioned, wondering what it was trying to do before shaking it off with ease. The Pokémon fell to the ground and appeared to not be able to find Taillow, if its frantic looks around the area were anything to go by.
“...That didn't look very effective.” Gupta commented.
“Oh nuts! Yeah, Bug types are weak to Flying...” James mused. “Okay then Nincada, use Scratch!”
“Peck again Taillow.” Gupta repeated.
Taillow swept forwards to Peck again, and Nincada felt the air moving as the bird approached, turning around to stick its claws out and landing a Scratch on Taillow's face as Taillow used Peck on it in turn. Taillow shrugged the wound off, not losing face at all.
“Wow, your Pokémon are tough,” the Bug Catcher commented.
“Taillow, use Peck and finish this,” Gupta finalised.
“Scratch Nincada!” James shouted to his Pokémon. But he was too late to act, as Taillow's swiftness brought Nincada down before it could hear its trainer's command.
“Oh drat... You won I guess. I really need to pay attention in school,” James laughed to himself as he returned his Pokémon to the ball.
“You go to the Trainers' School?” Gupta inferred.
“Yeah, but I'm just starting out. I need more practice.” The kid decided. “Anyway, you won so you can have this.” He pulled out a few random coins and handed them to Gupta. “Well, my parents will kill me if I don't get home. I wish I was grown up like you and could go where I want. See ya!” He smiled and waved as he left. Taillow swooped around and landed back on Gupta's shoulder.
“Low.” She smiled to herself.
“He thinks I'm grown up?” Gupta shook his head. He wasn't that old...

Gupta didn't see anyone else on his walk through the woods, and only a few hundred metres down the road from where he had met James, he turned a corner and saw light streaming out of an exit to the forest a few hundred metres more in front of him. The light looked red, and Gupta assumed the day was coming to an end rapidly. He hadn't exactly made it through without any hold-ups, which blew his plan a little out of the water. Perhaps if nothing else happened he could still make it to Rustboro.
As he walked towards the exit, Gupta saw a second sign.
'Trainer Tips: In addition to Hit Points [HP], Pokémon have Power Points [PP] that are used to make moves during battle. If a Pokémon runs out of PP, it must be taken to a Pokémon Centre.' The sign read. The teenager wasn't exactly sure what the second sign was going on about either. He'd never heard of Power Points... But then, he didn't know what Hit Points were either. He shrugged it off as he walked through the exit into the outside world, with Mudkip in his arms and Taillow perched on his shoulder.

Chapter Text

When he emerged from the forest, Gupta took a moment to look around. The sun was now setting in the late afternoon sky, casting long rays across the whole area. Soon, it would get dark. But Gupta wasn't in Rustboro City yet. He could see buildings on the far horizon, but before he could reach them, he still had to traverse the rest of what he assumed was Route 104. Where Gupta was, the path split and continued in two directions; one clearly led only a few hundred metres to a shop of some kind, and the other wound itself around two more trainers and then onto a bridge that passed over a lake. At the edge of this bridge, a short road began and ran into Rustboro City.

At a glance, the path leading straight to the city was the obvious choice, considering the fact that Gupta was running out of time to get to Rustboro. However, Mudkip disagreed with his assertion, struggling in Gupta's arms until he put the Pokémon down. Once he was on the ground, Mudkip started to walk calmly towards the flower shop.
“Mudkip, no. We don't have time to take a detour.” Gupta insisted.
“Mud.” Mudkip barked back as he continued to walk.
“Tail.” Taillow huffed disdainfully, clearly not caring for Mudkip's apparent foolishness. Gupta just sighed and decided to humour him.

As he got closer to the flower shop, Gupta became able to see another patch of soil on which berry plants were growing. He walked up to the patch to see if he could pick the berries there, but found that the plants were still growing, and hadn't even got any flowers yet.
“Some guy came by a few hours earlier and picked the berries there.” A voice behind him explained. Gupta turned around to see a boy looking back at him.
“A few hours? They really grow that quickly?” He asked, surprised.
“Yeah. Amazing, isn't it?” He shrugged. “Anyway, I have way too many of these, so here.” He tossed some sort of disc in Gupta's direction.
“What is this?” He questioned. He hadn't ever seen the device before. It certainly wasn't a CD or a DVD or similar... Or was it? It did look similar.
“That's a TM, or Technical Machine.” The boy explained. “They used to break after every use, so I bought boxes of them, but I didn't realise that they recently made them suitable for multiple uses. So I ended up with a dozen, and I don't need that many. So keep it.”
“Thanks but... What does it do?” Gupta queried, slipping his bag off of his back so he could put the disc away. Somehow, there was a pocket that was just the right size.
“It teaches Pokémon new moves.” The boy explained. “That one teaches Bullet Seed.”
“Okay. Thanks again.” Gupta repeated, as he re-shouldered his bag and started to look around for Mudkip. He saw him wandering into the flower shop, seemingly mesmerised by how nice it looked. He sighed and walked after the dopey thing.

The inside of the flower shop was colourful, to say the least. The walls were painted a cheery yellow, the floor was made of patterned brown wood, and the space in between was filled to the brim with flowers of all kinds. Behind the counter, a woman sat counting up the day's takings, while two younger women stood at the back of the shop talking animatedly with a familiar face. Mudkip smiled when he saw Sadik, walking right up to the trainer.
“Kip!” He greeted.
“Ah, hey Mudkip,” Sadik smiled, reaching down to stroke the starter, who rolled onto his back contentedly. “And where's your trainer, eh?”
“Over here.” Gupta stated, walking towards Sadik and Mudkip.
“Heh, hey Guppie!” He smiled, waving over to Gupta, before noticing Taillow. “Oh wow, did ya catch a new Pokémon? Cool!” He walked over to Gupta and spoke to Taillow, still sat on his shoulder. Mudkip frowned at the loss of affection before noticing Gupta, rolling back onto his front, and trotting over to his trainer.
“I'm Sadik, nice to meet ya.” Sadik grinned.
Taillow looked as if she didn't know quite what to make of Sadik. Mudkip sat at Gupta's feet and smiled.
“Did ya name it yet?” Sadik asked, changing the subject.
“No.” Gupta shrugged.
“Oh. Well, never mind, it didn't ever seem to be a thing for ya anyway...” He muttered.

“Do you know this person?” One of the shop girls asked, getting Sadik's attention.
“Yeah, this is the friend I was tellin' ya about.” He answered.
“That's great!” She enthused, while Gupta stood around and wondered how he could count as such a good friend that Sadik was talking about him despite only knowing the teen for two days.
“You should have one of these too,” the other girl insisted, holding out something to Gupta.
“Yeah!” Sadik encouraged. “That's a Wailmer Pail Guppie, it'll let ya water berry plants ya see along yer travels. And that makes them grow better.”
“Okay, why not?” Gupta agreed, accepting the tool from the girl. Mudkip stared at it, seemingly unhappy for whatever reason. He appeared to slip into thought.
“Oh! And you should have some berries too.” The first girl smiled, handing Gupta some more berries. He wasn't sure exactly what type they were.
“Heh, now we can do some gardening. Great huh?” Sadik enthused.
“Something like that.” Gupta accepted. He supposed it was good to help nature...

Suddenly, there was a rustling in the flower display in the middle of the room, causing all three shop girls to look towards the display in clear frustration.
“What? Not again!” The woman behind the counter complained.
“What?” Sadik asked, looking to the girls he had been talking to.
“We've had some... Issues with a grass-type Pokémon hanging around here.” One told Sadik. “It's been sneaking into the flower displays and disguising itself as a plant, and then it takes a drink from the water meant for the flowers!”
“And then, whenever customers like you come here, it wakes up and jumps out at them! Some people have been really scared!” The second girl moaned.
As if on cue, the flowers at the front of the display parted and a Pokémon waddled out, smiling amicably at Sadik and Gupta.
“Saur.” The Bulbasaur chirped happily. “Saur!” It jumped up and down before running over to the pair. “Bulba! Saur!”
“You don't have to deal with it if you don't want to...” The woman who had been behind the counter assured. “We can throw it out.”
“Although it'll be back tomorrow.” The second shop girl pointed out.
“Ah, no need to do that, I'm sure it means no harm,” Sadik decided, crouching down to the Pokemon's level. “Hey,” he started. “You sure seem to love people, don't you?”
“Saur!” Bulbasaur agreed. Mudkip snapped out of his thoughts upon hearing the conversation, and looked around Gupta to watch the Bulbasaur.
“I don't care if it loves people. It scares away the customers.” The oldest of the trio sighed.
“Kip!” Mudkip whined at the harsh tone, running from behind Gupta to stand next to the Pokémon, and looking between the humans with a pleading look on his face. “Mud...Kip!”
Sadik looked from Mudkip to the Bulbasaur with an unreadable expression.
“What if I take it?” He answered finally. “The little thing'll be able to meet lots of people by travelling with me, and yer customers won't have to be bugged by rustling flowers and eager Pokémon all the time.”
“Kip!” Mudkip barked in affirmation, wagging his tail fin a little and looking to Gupta as if he thought the plan was the best in the world.
“Hmm...” The flower shop woman considered. “I suppose if you don't mind... It would be the best solution.” She decided.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered.
“Great!” Sadik smiled, picking up the Bulbasaur. “Now you can come see the world with me,” he stated.
“Saur!” Bulbasaur accepted, smiling at Sadik.

“Okay then, now it's time to meet everyone else,” Sadik insisted, setting his new Bulbasaur down on the pathway in front of the flower shop.
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, running up to the Bulbasaur, having followed the humans out of the flower shop on foot.
“That's Mudkip.” Sadik began. “He's actually Guppie's Pokémon, but hopefully yer'll see enough of him.”
“Mud! Kip!” Mudkip cheered.
“Guppie's this guy,” Sadik explained, pointing to Gupta. “And this is his Taillow.”
“Low.” Taillow chirped, introducing herself with a nod. Sadik smiled before getting his two filled Pokeballs out of his bag and letting out the Pokémon inside.
“Chic!” Ates chirped as he emerged into the air and looked around.
“Yeh?” Asena barked, quickly surveying the area before sitting down calmly.
“This is Ates and Asena,” Sadik introduced, pointing to the two Pokémon. Ates followed his trainer's gaze to the Bulbasaur and and smiled at the sight of a new Pokémon, running up to Bulbasaur and head-butting it playfully and gently. When Bulbasaur reacted by smiling and licking Ates, the Torchic appeared to be very happy, despite the moisture. Not wanting to be left out, Mudkip sidled up and licked Bulbasaur who nuzzled back. When Ates noticed Mudkip, he chirped out a greeting, and the three Pokémon seemed to fall into conversation with each other, while Taillow and Asena looked on, not wanting to get involved.
“Yena.” Asena shook her head, not understanding the other Pokémon.
“Tail.” Taillow agreed.

“Okay then, let's get you a Pokeball.” Sadik decided, walking up to the Bulbasaur.
“Saur?” Bulbasaur questioned, looking at Sadik closely as he pulled out an empty Pokeball and showed it to the Pokémon.
“I mean really, ya could just jump right in.” He suggested.
Bulbasaur looked interested in the device, and walked right up to it before pressing its face against the button while trying to sniff the ball. The Pokémon was drawn inside the ball, which flashed a few times before clicking. Mudkip and Ates both stared after the Pokémon as it was captured, looking a little upset their playtime had been interrupted.
“That was easy.” Gupta commented.
“Yeah. I suppose it didn't resist at all,” Sadik argued, before getting out his Pokedex to scan the ball containing the new Pokémon.
“Huh?” He murmured upon seeing the screen.
“What's wrong?” Gupta asked.
“It says there's no data.” Sadik answered. “I'll have to ask cuz about it next time we get to a Pokémon centre. It is weird though.”
“Yeah.” Gupta nodded.

Meanwhile, Mudkip had shaken off the disappointment of not being able to play more and had wandered over to the berry plants that were still growing to the side of the path. He had seen Gupta get a watering vessel of some sort, but thought that his own idea was far better.
“Kip!” He shouted to get the attention of the humans, who turned towards him and wandered over.
“What is it Mudkip?” Gupta enquired.
“Mud! Kip!” Mudkip exclaimed as he sprayed a Water Gun into the air. The water fell onto the plants... And onto Gupta, Sadik and the other Pokémon. Taillow ruffled her feathers in annoyance, and Ates looked particularly upset. Asena didn't seem to care.
“Mudkip, no. We have watering cans for a reason.” Gupta scolded.
“Kip...” Mudkip whined, running up to Gupta and pressing into his legs in apology.
“Aww, I'm sure he meant no harm.” Sadik stated.
“Chic.” Ates agreed, walking up to Mudkip and attempting to pat him on the head with his wing. Mudkip smiled again.
“Anyway,” Sadik continued, picking Ates up and putting him on his shoulder. “We should get moving. The sun's settin' already.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed, beginning to walk. Sadik followed, with Asena keeping easy pace with her trainer, and Mudkip ran along behind, not realising they were beginning to move, as usual.

It had been genuinely late when Gupta and Sadik had started again their walk towards Rustboro: the flower shop closed just after they left,and most of the Trainers on the Route had gone home, leading to a quiet walk. Sadik kept commenting on the things they saw to try to keep it interesting.
“Guess we have to cross that bridge now.” He pointed out after a few minutes of walking, once they had reached the lake.
“Chic...” Ates complained, not liking the idea of water.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, jumping in.
“Mudkip, get out of the water.” Gupta sighed. Mudkip just started swimming towards the other side, leaving everyone else to walk along the bridge.

Midway across the lake, the bridge turned a sheer 90 degrees and continued horizontally for a few metres before turning back to the vertical and continuing to the opposite shore. On the horizontal stretch, two little girls were still standing despite the late hour.
“Aha! Trainers!” The first yelled upon spotting Sadik and Gupta, smiling to herself.
“Okay!” The second cheered. “We get to battle you!”
“Twins huh...” Sadik mused, noticing the near complete similarity between the two girls. “Wanna take 'em two on two?” He asked, looking to Gupta.
“Whatever.” He agreed.
“Alright.” Sadik stepped up to the girls. “I'm Sadik and this is Gupta. We'll take ya on.”
“Cool,” The first of the girls giggled. “I'm Mia and this is Gina.”
Gupta walked up to the twins, looking them over in surprise. They were perhaps... Six? Seven? What were they doing out so late without their parents?

“Ready? Go Seedot!” The first twin shouted, throwing a Pokeball at the wood of the bridge.
“Go Lotad!” The second twin echoed.
“See?” Seedot questioned.
“Tad!” Lotad reassured, looking towards its teammate.
“Taillow.” Gupta decided, looking to his Pokémon who nodded at him before swooping down to land on the board-walk. Mudkip continued to swim towards the shore, not noticing his trainer had stopped.
“Asena, this looks like something you can handle.” Sadik chose. Asena padded forwards to face the Pokémon.
“Seedot, Harden! Lotad, Absorb on the Poochyena!” The girls shouted in unison.
“Taillow, Peck on Seedot,” Gupta told his Pokémon. Taillow nodded and swooped forwards to Peck Seedot, which reacted by curling into itself. Meanwhile, Asena was caught by the Lotad, which latched onto her and began to drain her energy.
“Tackle to get it off!” Sadik commanded. Asena rolled and shook to dislodge the Lotad and then slammed into it once it had come loose.
“Tad...” Lotad whined as it was slammed into the lake.

As Sadik focused on the battle, a small flash covered his bag for a moment, before the Bulbasaur poked its head out curiously, wondering how it got in a bag.

“Lotad, Absorb again!” The twins shouted. “Seedot, use Bide!”
“Geh...” Sadik muttered, turning to Gupta. “When Lotad uses Absorb, it recovers energy by sapping it from the other Pokémon. And Bide allows Pokémon to store energy from attacks and then release it all back at the enemy at once.” As he spoke, Lotad climbed out of the water.
“Right.” Gupta acknowledged. “Taillow, Peck Lotad.”
“Tail!” Taillow chirped, swooping in and pecking at Lotad before it could attempt to sap Asena's strength.
“Asena, Tackle it!” Sadik declared. Asena leapt towards the Lotad, and also managed to beat it to the punch, hitting Lotad and sending it back into the water before it could attack. The Pokémon was able to float on the surface of the water, but appeared too tired to do anything else.
“Return Lotad.” One of the twins sighed. Seedot kept trying to store energy.
“Peck again Taillow.” Gupta repeated.
“Tackle one last time Asena!” Sadik followed. Both Pokémon did as directed, and executed a double attack on Seedot before the Pokémon could unleash its meagre amount of stored energy, sending it flying down the board-walk in the process. It landed fairly hard, and appeared to be unconscious.
“Aww, you guys were too strong.” One of the twins complained, as the other returned her Pokémon to the ball.
“Yeah. But it was still fun.” She giggled.
“You can have this.” The girls chorused in unison, each holding out a few coins. Sadik took the money from the girls and handed some of it to Gupta, who couldn't help but feel awkward.
“Anyway, we'd better go home.” The first twin stated.
“We don't want our parents to be mad.” The second agreed.
“Bye!” They called together, waving as they ran towards Rustboro.

As Gupta continued to stand there awkwardly, Mudkip reached the far shore of the lake, and looked around to find his trainer on the bridge still.
“Kip!” He called back to Gupta, sitting on the grass and pouting.
“We'd better move.” Sadik commented. “It'll be dark real soon too.”
Gupta nodded and began to walk with Sadik towards the edge of the lake. As he moved, Taillow and Asena followed, looking towards each other with respect. Bulbasaur ducked down into Sadik's bag, smelling food. Nobody noticed it.

By the time they had reached dry land, Mudkip had already wandered off to the East of the bridge, and was sniffing at some berry plants. Sadik walked up and picked the berries before planting some so new plants would grow. Mudkip eagerly started watering them and Sadik made sure to get away quickly, handing some berries to Gupta.
“Those ones'll restore the PP of your Pokemon's moves.” He explained. Once again, Gupta wondered what he was talking about.
“And then those ones there heal Paralysis.” Sadik continued.
“...You know a lot.” Gupta stated.
“Heh. Guess it comes from helpin' my cuz out all the time.” He shrugged.

As he took his bag off of his shoulders to put the berries away, Bulbasaur leapt out, landing on the grass and beginning to look around. It noticed Mudkip watering the plants still and decided to walk over to say hello. As it did so, it slipped on some wet grass and fell into the lake. Immediately, the Pokémon began to struggle, not being able to swim. Asena noticed this, and began to race towards the ailing Pokémon.
“Asena?” Sadik questioned, following his Pokémon with his eyes until he noticed the scene with the drowning Pokémon.
“Damnit! How'd it get there?” He questioned. Mudkip heard the commotion, stopped watering the flowers and turned around. He noticed the struggling Bulbasaur, and frowned heavily. A few seconds passed before he appeared to realise something.
“Kip! Mudkip!” He yelled, running towards the lake and leaping in just as Asena jumped into the water and began paddling towards Bulbasaur. They both reached it at the same time, and Asena held one leg in her jaw, Mudkip another as they towed the Pokémon towards the edge of the lake. Sadik reached down and scooped all three up once they were close enough.
“How did you even get out of the Pokeball?” He asked the Bulbasaur. “Guess I'll have to keep an eye on ya.”
“Saur...” Bulbasaur whined, clearly not liking being wet.
“Kip...” Mudkip pouted, nuzzling the Pokémon. Asena rolled her eyes.
“Thanks.” Sadik smiled at Asena, petting her a little before putting all three Pokémon down. “And Mudkip too.”
“Kip!” Mudkip barked.

As the group began to walk back towards the proper path, the sun now very low in the sky and darkness beginning to set in, Sadik noticed a trainer sat on the bank of the lake, fishing rod in hand.
“Wonder if he wants to battle.” He mused. “He'd probably have water Pokémon, which would be good for this one.” He looked towards Bulbasaur, who was staring back at him, Asena now walking on the Pokemon's other side to stop it falling back in the lake.
Gupta stared at the man. He was far older than any other trainer he had seen so far. In fact, he was older even than Sadik or Gupta, and perhaps even older than his mother. It was hard to tell, as the growing darkness shrouded the man's features, and his back was turned anyway.
“Hey!” Sadik called, trying to get the man's attention.
“Hm?” He questioned, turning around. “Ah. Hello. I assume you want to battle me.” He smiled.
“Right.” Sadik confirmed.
“That's nice. I wanted to try my team out anyway.” The man agreed. “My name's Ivan by the way. Anyway, go Magikarp!”
“Karp!” Magikarp floundered.
“Okay Bulbasaur.” Sadik chose.
“Saur!” Bulbasaur smiled, walking up to the Pokémon... then past the Pokémon... Then up to the trainer. Ivan laughed as Bulbasaur tried to lick him.
“Not very well trained is it?” He commented.
“Ugh, here Bulbasaur! We need to battle!” Sadik complained.
“Saur!” Bulbasaur understood, moving back to stand in front of Sadik. “Saur!”
“Bulbasaur looks young enough to only know Tackle at the moment, so I'll stick with that and hope his Pokémon aren't strong.” Sadik theorised to himself.
“Magikarp, Splash!” The fisherman commanded. The fish Pokémon splashed around uselessly.
“Bulbasaur, Tackle!” Sadik advised. The Pokémon charged forwards and slammed the opponent.
“Heh, you're strong, but we're tougher!” Ivan declared. “Splash again Magikarp!”

Gupta sighed to himself as he watched the fish continue to flop about hopelessly. Was that all that thing could do? How was this meant to even count as an attack, let alone a strong one? He wondered if maybe the man's strategy was to tire out Bulbasaur before using his next Pokémon to wipe it out.

Twenty minutes of splashing around and three Magikarp later, the fisherman was defeated, Bulbasaur was unscratched, and Gupta couldn't believe what he had just seen.
“Wow, you're tough. But we almost had you.” Ivan insisted. “You can have this prize money... But I'll beat you one day.”
“Okay, sure.” Sadik accepted, trying his hardest not to look amused.
“Saur!” Bulbasaur celebrated.

Darkness had fallen by the time Sadik and Gupta got moving again. Asena appeared not to mind, staring out into the blackness as if she was used to it. Taillow had fallen asleep on Gupta's shoulder. Bulbasaur looked curious as to whether anything would appear, and continued to look around, often following Asena's gaze as if trying to figure out what she was staring at. Mudkip was scared.
“Kiiippp...” He whined, leaning into Gupta's legs. He sighed and bent down to pick his Pokémon up.
“Heh, it's pretty dark eh?” Sadik commented.
“We spent too much time. It got dark.” Gupta seconded.
“Yeah, but it was fun. And we got a Pokémon out of it.” Sadik pointed out.
“You did.” Gupta corrected.
“Whatever, we're almost there.” Sadik shrugged. As if on cue, the pair set foot onto the actual paved road that led into Rustboro. As they continued to walk, houses became visible in the distance, their lit windows like a beacon to guide the travellers in.
“Now we just need to find a Pokémon Centre for the night.” Sadik decided. “We can sleep there.”
“Oh.” Gupta observed.

As the pair made their way into Rustboro proper, street-lights began to line the road they were walking along. Mudkip relaxed visibly. The first thought that came to Gupta's mind was of how large the city was; the lights of houses spread in every direction, save for the one they had come from, for as far as he could see. To their left, Gupta saw some sort of apartment complex. Immediately ahead of them, Gupta saw a Pokemart, still open despite the late hour. As they drew near to it, he noticed a sign on the side of the path.
'Rustboro City- The city probing the integration of nature and science' it read.
“All the towns have signs like that.” Sadik told him. “Have you not noticed before?”
“No.” Gupta mused. He'd have to check when he went back to Petalburg next.
The path swerved to the right, and Gupta and Sadik followed it, passing a large house that Gupta couldn't help but feel could be significant somehow. A little way up the road, essentially upwards of the Pokemart, the Pokémon Centre stood. There was a house to the left of it, and some sort of complex with a fountain and buildings to the right of it, but the need for rest overtook the group, and neither Sadik nor Gupta had any desire to explore.

“Good Evening! Welcome to the Pokémon Centre!” The woman behind the counter greeted as they walked in. “Would you like to rest your Pokémon?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Sadik agreed, returning Asena to her Pokeball with little fuss and handing over both her and Ates's Pokeballs before turning to Bulbasaur.
“You too.” He insisted, returning it to the ball.
“Okay, I'll heal them right away.” The nurse said with a smile, before turning to Gupta.
“And you?”
Gupta nodded, returning Mudkip and Taillow to their Pokeballs.
“Okay, give me a few seconds.” The nurse asked, firing up the machine in the back of the centre.
“Do the two of you have anywhere to stay?” She asked, making conversation.
“Nope.” Sadik admitted.
“Really? Where are you from?” She asked.
“Littleroot Town.” Sadik responded.
“Oh, really? Come to challenge the Gym, right?” She assumed.
“Yeah, the Leader in Petalburg doesn't challenge new trainers.” Sadik filled in.
“That's right. It's because of the school in this city, right?” The nurse guessed. “You probably already know that Littleroot's too far away to be reached tonight, so you can stay here if you want. There are rooms upstairs.” She stopped to think. “Although, we are a little busy. So I hope you two don't mind sharing a room.”
“Not at all! Sleep is sleep.” Sadik assured.
“Okay, that's good.” The nurse smiled, taking the Pokémon out of the machine and handing them back to their trainers. “Here.” She handed Sadik some sort of key. “It should open one of the rooms upstairs.”
“Thanks.” Sadik smiled at the woman, before turning towards the escalator. “Should we?”
Gupta nodded and walked towards the escalator. Sadik was about to follow when the nurse spoke again.
“Oh, and congratulations on catching a female Bulbasaur, they're really rare these days,” she commented, before turning to her desk and fiddling with some things.
“Huh,” Sadik commented as he made his way towards the escalator.

Upstairs, a corridor with a row of doors greeted Sadik and Gupta. The walls were still neutrally coloured, and the floor was still linoleum. Sadik moved to walk ahead of Gupta and carried on down the row, trying to match the numbers on the doors to the number on the key he had been given. Once they had found the correct door, Sadik opened it and they went inside.

The walls of this room were also a neutral white, although the floor was wooden this time around. The room itself was incredibly small, and comprised only of a bunk-bed against the right wall, a desk against the wall opposite the door and a partition along half of the left wall that created an alcove which had a shower in it. The rest of the left wall was taken up by the window. Sadik appeared not to care for the lack of space, tossing his bag onto the floor and releasing his Pokémon from their balls (which had still been in his hands after being given back to him), before leaping up onto the top bunk.
“Well, might as well get some rest.” He commented. Gupta nodded, sending out his own Pokémon before placing his bag at the foot of the bed gently and climbing onto the bottom bunk. Mudkip looked up at him and whined, and Gupta sighed, picking up his Pokémon and placing it onto the bed. Like the night before, Mudkip smiled before curling up and sleeping on the duvet. Taillow decided to fly up onto the desk where she curled up and roosted. Ates and Bulbasaur looked up at Sadik in dismay, while Asena curled up at the foot of the bed, not caring about where she slept.
“Hmm.” Sadik thought to himself, stripping off his clothes and throwing them to the floor (causing Bulbasaur to have to dodge a flying shirt, something she didn't look happy about). “We need a name for Bulbasaur.” He swooped down onto the floor to pick Ates and Bulbasaur up (and Gupta didn't find it all that impressive, especially with the lack of clothes), and then climbed back up, settling under the covers and placing his Pokémon on top of the duvet. Ates jumped onto the pillow before settling for sleep, while Bulbasaur sat on Sadik's chest and watched him.
“I suppose... Lale would be good.” He decided.
“Bulba!” Lale agreed.
Gupta noted the name, but didn't pay much attention to Sadik other than that, as he leaned back over to get his bag, and started rummaging around for his pyjamas so he could get to sleep himself.
“Heh, I dunno about rare as such. But I know I've never seen whatever kind of Pokémon yer are before.” Sadik continued, as Gupta got changed calmly before folding his clothes and placing them on the floor next to his bag before settling down for sleep.
“We can ask your cousin about it by videophone tomorrow or something.” He suggested, feeling tired.
“Somethin' like that.” Sadik shrugged, laying fully flat. Lale settled down herself, closing her eyes, but still having one more thing to say before she slept.
“Bulba...Saur.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Gupta was awoken early by Taillow singing at the sun as it peeked in through the curtains. He sat up groggily to find Mudkip sprawled over his feet, watching him curiously. He decided to get moving, and climbed out of bed to get dressed. As he pulled on a T-shirt, he turned back towards the bed and saw that Sadik was still sleeping, Lale still on his chest and Ates having fallen from the pillow onto the mattress. Asena was waking up, uncurling from her place on the floor and yawning a little. Things appeared to be largely peaceful.

Then Mudkip decided he was bored.
“Kiiip!” He whined, jumping around on the bed.
“What?” Gupta asked.
“Kip...” Mudkip repeated, jumping down onto the floor and wandering up to Gupta, nuzzling his legs. “Mud-kip!”
“We can get moving later. Once Sadik wakes up.” His trainer promised.
Mudkip smiled easily, moving over to the foot of the bed again and looking up at the sleeping Sadik. Gupta guessed what he was going to do.
“Mudkip, no.” He warned.
Mudkip didn't even look at him before spitting water up at Sadik.

Said trainer sat up spluttering, while Ates got hit with some of the spray and began to panic, running around over the mattress in distress. Lale felt the spray run down her face and began licking it.
“Mudkip.” Gupta scolded. “No.”
“Kip?” Mudkip replied, turning his head to the side innocently.
“Ugh, I really hope he won't do that every morning,” Sadik complained, getting out of bed and rummaging in his bag for a towel so he could dry his face and get dressed.
“Saur,” Lale shrugged, clearly not minding. Ates shook the water from his feathers and decided payback was in order.
“Chic!” He protested, using Ember back at Mudkip before jumping from the top of the bed to attempt to body slam the Pokémon from above. Mudkip was hit straight on by both attacks, but did little more than laugh, wiggle out from underneath Ates, and walk away. The Torchic chased him, and it soon turned into a game.
“They get on so well,” Sadik commented, pulling on a shirt and picking Lale up from her place on the bed. Asena looked over to Ates and Mudkip and appeared to roll her eyes. Taillow stopped singing to stare at what was going on before fluttering over to Gupta and landing on his shoulder.
“I suppose,” the smaller teen relented.

“Okay, so it's as simple as asking 'cuz what exactly went wrong with his Pokedex thing so that it didn't register Lale.” Sadik summarised later on, after the two trainers had gathered their Pokémon and their things and headed downstairs to use the videophones.
“Something like that,” Gupta agreed.
“Right then, guess we'll have to try it.” Sadik decided, inputting a number into the machine. A few lights blinked, and the screen turned on. After a few more seconds, Batsaikhan's face appeared on the monitor.
“Ah, Sadik,” He greeted upon seeing his younger cousin. “Something to report?”
“Just this,” Sadik shrugged, holding up Lale.
“Where in the name of Arceus did you find that Bulbasaur?” The professor explained. “They're not native to Hoenn!”
“Flower shop,” Sadik described. “They hated her because she kept upsetting the customers. Don't see why.”
“Hmm...” Batsaikhan thought for a moment. “I suppose... She could have snuck in with a shipment of flowers from another region. That would have explained how she got there in the first place.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever works for ya.” Sadik hurried. “But problem is, she don't show up in the Pokedex.”
“Right. That would be because it's a regional Pokedex, not a national one. I'd have to upgrade it to have data on Pokémon native to Kanto. For now, I'd write some details down on paper if I were you.” The professor suggested.
“Fine by me cuz. Now if ya excuse me, I gotta battle this Gym Leader,” Sadik finished.
“Very well. Call again if anything happens,” Batsaikhan accepted, hanging up.
“To the Gym!” Sadik grinned, walking off with Lale still under his arm.
Gupta looked after him and wondered if he should have spoken to the professor at all. Maybe he had wanted to rate their Pokedexes too or something? Sadik had hurried the man to let them go a little too quickly to tell.

Upon stepping out into the daytime Rustboro City, the first thing that struck Gupta was the number of people. He was used to seeing crowds (you didn't grow up in Goldenrod without learning to deal with them), but the city had seemed dead before, and he was surprised at the sheer numbers of people, many of them children. Looking from side to side from the perspective of the Pokémon centre, he noticed the Trainer's School, and remembered that beginning trainers were expected to go there. He supposed many of the children were attending that school, and so began walking towards the building to investigate.

Inside the Pokémon Trainer's School, many young kids and their Pokémon sat at tables, discussing strategies, swapping items and challenging each other to battles. As Gupta walked in, he noticed Sadik standing at the front of the school building, next to a blackboard on the far wall. Ates had been let out of his Pokeball and was chasing some other Pokémon around, while Lale was sitting on one of the desks, seemingly holding her own in a conversation with two human girls... Somehow. Sadik himself was arguing with someone who was apparently sat at the teacher's desk. Gupta had assumed it to be another young girl at first, but then she stood up, and it became obvious to the teenager that she was a grown woman.

She was tall enough to pass as an adult for one, although she had nothing on Sadik in terms of height. Her hair was done in a low ponytail that reached almost down to her waist, and she was wearing a green dress that had been slit almost all of the way up to her hip to make it at least slightly practical. He noted she was wearing some sort of white garment over her legs, leaving very little skin on show overall. The other important thing he noticed about her was her sour expression. In fact, she looked like the kind of person who couldn't physically smile even if they wanted to. And in that moment, it appeared she didn't want to smile.

“Look, my cuz is the professor in Littleroot Town, I've had the lecture a thousand times or more... Just get on with it and let me battle the Gym Leader already!” Sadik complained. Gupta walked up to him.
“What's going on?” He asked.
“Guppie, she says we can't battle the Gym Leader until we sit in on one of her lectures!” Sadik pouted.
“We don't let just any rookies challenge the Gym,” the woman sighed. Gupta noted that she appeared very serious. He remembered his mother's words.
“I suppose you don't want to waste your time with people who can't even control Pokémon.” He assumed.
“Right,” she nodded.
“Huh? You mean... She's the Leader?” Sadik gasped. “I was expecting someone...”
“Older? Taller? Male?” She guessed, getting more annoyed by the second. “I've heard it all before. Many have bravado like you and fall before they get anywhere near me.”
“Er...” Sadik looked down.
“We'll just sit and listen,” Gupta finished for him, diplomatically pulling Sadik out of the way and into a chair before he could dig himself into a hole. Ates noticed Gupta and walked over for a hug, while Lale seemed content in her present position being fussed over. The teenager picked up Sadik's Pokémon and ruffled his feathers a little while the Gym Leader cleared her throat and began talking.

“Basics of Pokémon battling,” she announced, causing multiple students to turn to the front and fall silent. Lale was confused as to why she was no longer being spoken to, and decided to try to get the attention of the one person left talking.
“The most important thing to remember is to keep an eye on your Pokemon's hit points. Don't let them hit zero, or they'll be unable to battle. If you lose all your Pokémon out there, you'll black out and lose some of the money you're carrying.”
“Why?” Gupta wondered aloud.
“Nobody knows. It's creepy,” Sadik answered. As they spoke, Lale jumped down onto the floor from the desk she had been perched on and began to walk towards the speaker.
“Next are statuses.” The woman continued, not noticing. “I made sure to make notes on the different statuses and how to cure them on the board.” She waved to the whiteboard. “Don't let your Pokémon linger with a status condition; it will only hurt it.”
Several of the students looked to each other and around the room. Others were taking notes, while more still were whispering to each other. Other than the teacher, Sadik and Gupta were easily the oldest in the room.

“Now, can anyone tell me who a Pokémon Trainer is?” The Gym Leader asked.
“Someone who catches, raises, and battles with Pokémon.” Sadik sighed, clearly bored.
“Right.” The woman nodded. “And that makes you all trainers. Trainers have a responsibility to be good to their Pokémon.”
Some of the younger trainers in the room looked down to their bags, seemingly contemplating the Pokémon inside.
“And that means taking care of them, from when you first catch them for as long as you're together.” She continued.
“How many Pokémon can I catch?” Asked one of the girls in the front.
“You can only carry six Pokémon with you. The rest will go to a computer storage system. There's space in the computer for hundreds more than that.”
“What happens inside the computer?” Asked a boy sitting near the back.
“Pokémon Professors normally put the Pokémon on their land.” Sadik shouted out. “So they end up looked after.” Several children looked at him, wondering how he knew. “Just please, don't do something like catching thirty Tauros. And no more Magikarp.” He added to himself.
“Right. So be kind to any professors you meet.” The woman decided. “That's just catching Pokémon though. Most trainers want to battle and be the best they can be, or take part in contests. It doesn't matter which you choose. But if you want to battle, your ultimate goal will be the eight Gym Leaders scattered around Hoenn.”
“Like miss Hue!” One of the children pointed out.
“...Yes. Like me.” Said woman accepted. “Now, when fighting a Gym Leader... AH!” She jumped, looking down to her leg to find Lale resting her front paws against her ankle, trying to say hello. She reached down and picked the Bulbasaur up. “Whose is this?” She questioned.
Sadik raised his hand. “Sorry about her.” He apologised. Gupta felt a little bit of second hand embarrassment, and looked down to his lap to find Ates asleep there.
“It can't be helped. She looks very young.” Hue replied, handing Lale back to Sadik. The Bulbasaur snuggled into his arms. “ You really need to keep an eye on her.”
“Sure thing.” Sadik nodded.
“Anyway, that more or less covers everything. Any people with questions can come see me at the front.” She finished.

Half of the students packed their stuff up and ran out of the door, possibly to go and practice. Gupta looked around after only a minute to see just five kids left in the room. One was scribbling notes furiously, two were sat together and the other two were loitering around. Picking up Ates, he decided to get up and walk over to the whiteboard, the Torchic now sleeping in his arms, and passed by the two loitering kids as he did so. Without warning, they both started speaking to him.
“You know, Pokémon can hold items. But they can't do anything with man made items like potions,” the boy described.
“Okay,” Gupta nodded, trying to walk past. The girl then spoke up.
“Pokémon can be confused by certain moves, and then they might attack themselves. But when they leave battle, they will return to normal.” She rambled.
“...” Gupta just walked away. He wasn't even sure how a Pokémon could attack itself, and he certainly didn't know why people kept trying to talk to him like that. It was as if they were trying to explain everything there was to know about Pokémon to him... For some reason.

As he got closer to the front of the classroom, the two boys sitting close together turned around to look at him.
“We're trading Pokémon,” one stated.
“Good for you,” Gupta brushed off, not wanting to be caught in any more conversations. He carried on to the whiteboard and looked it over. It was nearly completely full with information. He gave it a skim read, and found that a lot of the status conditions were very similar- for example, both poison and burn caused a Pokémon to lose health, although burn also caused a drop in attack (whatever that meant). Being paralysed meant a chance of not being able to attack, while being frozen or asleep meant being completely unable to attack. Both freezing and sleep had a chance of going away on their own, but the others would not. The way to heal each condition was also obvious.

Deciding he'd spent enough time on the whiteboard, Gupta looked back around to see Sadik arguing with Hue again.
“What do you mean we still can't battle?!” He exclaimed.
“Any self respecting Gym Leader knows not to fight without their Gym Trainers to back them up. Both of mine are not at the Gym at the moment.” She replied cooly.
“Fine, I just gotta find 'em then.” Sadik huffed, turning around to look at Gupta.
“Oh, good, ya got Ates still,” he noticed, reaching out for his Pokémon. Gupta wondered where Lale had gone, until he felt her rubbing her face into his leg. He handed Ates to Sadik and reached down to pet Lale.
“I'm gonna go find these Gym Trainers of hers. Ya can come too,” Sadik suggested, beginning to walk towards the door. Gupta moved as if to follow him, but he was stopped by Hue calling him back.
“Wait. Take this.” She offered, handing him some sort of claw. “It's a Quick Claw. It might let a Pokémon go first if you give it to them,” she explained.
“Thanks,” Gupta nodded, exiting the school while wondering exactly why she had given him something like that.

“Okay, so I guess if we split up and look in different houses together?” Sadik planned as soon as they were both outside, Lale now following her trainer and Ates having woken up and perched on Sadik's shoulders.
“Different houses? We're going to walk in on people?” Gupta mused.
“Yep! Didn't ya know? People around here really don't care if people walk right into their houses. Ya can talk to all kinds of people.” Sadik told. “Anyway, I'll take the area to the east of the Pokémon Centre over there, so see ya later!” He waved as he walked off, and Ates turned around and waved too.

Sighing, Gupta decided he'd better at least try to find the Gym Trainers. He noticed a track to the side of the Trainer's School and decided to follow it. He came across a house, but he didn't really feel right about going in. Wanting to stall, he decided to check on his Pokémon.
“Low.” Taillow chirped, fluttering up onto his shoulder as she was let out.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered upon seeing Gupta, before walking up to the door of the house.
“Mudkip...” Gupta sighed. Mudkip pushed the door open with his head.
“Aww, cute!” Sang a little girl inside the house. Gupta stuck his head through the door and reached out a hand to retrieve Mudkip.
“Sorry,” he apologised. “We're looking for the Gym Trainers. Apparently they're not in the Gym.”
“Oh, right, of course,” the girl's mother smiled. “Not to worry. They work for the Devon Corporation during the day. So try looking around on Devon property.”
“Um, okay, thanks.” Gupta replied, feeling awkward again. He left as quickly as he could.

Gupta couldn't see anything belonging to Devon even after backtracking to the Trainer's School, so he decided to head in the only direction he hadn't yet ventured in, heading north, with Mudkip following along behind him and Taillow on his shoulder. After a few minutes, two more buildings came into view. One was a small yellow building with various signs attached to it pointing it out as the Pokémon Gym. The other was tall and ornate, with the appearance of a cathedral or similar building. Gupta walked up to the gate and stared at the sign.
'Devon Corporation- “For all your living needs, we make it all,”' the sign read. Realising this was probably the best place to look, the teenager walked inside.

“Hello, and welcome to the Devon Corporation, proud producers of items and medicine that enhance your life.” The receptionist rattled off almost as soon as he stepped in through the door, voice the kind of cheery that came through years of practice and smile just a little too bright.
“I'm looking for the Rustboro Gym's Trainers.” Gupta explained. “Kip!” Mudkip agreed, walking into the building behind Gupta. And then walking into Gupta, who picked him up before he could do anything else.
“Ah, a challenger? Okay.” The girl shrugged, stepping out from behind the counter and shouting further into the building.
“Someone take over for me!”
“You're a Gym Trainer?” Gupta assumed.
“Yep! Anyway, we'd better find my brother too,” the girl added. “He's still loafing around at home, I think.”
“Oh.” Gupta replied curtly, feeling a little awkward.
“My name's Mei by the way,” the girl carried on, beginning to walk back towards the exit.
“Gupta.” Said teen responded.

Mei had taken him all of the way back to the entrance of the city and into the apartment building he had seen yesterday, and Gupta was already feeling a little annoyed by the distance and the two flights of stairs he had had to climb to get this far. The boy he had found lazing on the sofa in the top floor apartment of the building was not helping matters.
“So like, you want to battle or something, right?” He assumed. “I suppose I can do that. I mean, it's not like I couldn't do it...”
“...Can you get to the point?” Gupta requested, feeling that the other teenager was adding unnecessary length.
“Well I suppose. I'll be over in a few minutes.” The boy decided, getting up and moving into another room.
“Sorry about Li.” Mei sighed. “He's like that.”
Gupta would be lying if he'd said he didn't mind, so he didn't. He only nodded, glad his traipse around the city was over.

Mei had told him to head back outside and wait for a while until she and her brother were ready to head down to the Gym, so Gupta went back to the Trainer's School to wait for Sadik. He saw the crowds gathered around the School before he even got close.
“Wow, he's really cool!” One kid commented.
Since most of the gathered crowd were small children, Gupta was able to see over their heads, to regard Sadik and Lale battling (and beating) a Youngster.
“Aww, nuts.” The child sighed.
“Chic!” Ates cheered, sitting on the sign for the school.
“Kip!” Mudkip waved at the fellow starter. Ates smiled.
“Another win in the bag, eh?” The teenager boasted.
“Indeed. In fact, at this rate the Gym should be no problem for you,” commented an older teen who was standing next to Sadik. Gupta found himself staring. Who was that guy? He'd never seen him before.

The man was a similar height to Gupta, but had straight black hair and the darkest coloured eyes the boy had ever seen. Sadik turned to the man and smiled easily, making Gupta believe that they had to be friends... But then, didn't Sadik make friends quickly? Had he met the man in the city just a short while ago? He certainly looked as though he could be related to the two teenagers he'd just been talking to. Overall, Gupta was confused.

As he pondered over who the other teenager was, Sadik noticed him.
“Guppie! Hey!” He greeted, reaching out a hand to pull him through the crowd.
“...You've been battling the whole time?” Gupta dead-panned.
“Well... Yeah, actually.” Sadik laughed a little. “Funny story is, I got into a battle with a kid after the first place I checked out. And then he wanted me to battle his friend, who wanted me to fight his brother, and it spiralled from there.” He looked up and pointed to the crowd. “Before I knew it, I was an attraction.”
“Right. I found the Gym Trainers.” Gupta filled in.
“Great!” Sadik cheered, before turning to the man. “See I told ya he was good!” Gupta just stared straight ahead.
“Ah, it seems like me you don't really do small talk.” The man guessed.
“Is there a point to this?” Gupta asked.
“Yeah!” Sadik protested. “This is my friend Kiku, the one I was tellin' ya about.”
“You told me about him...?” Gupta queried.
“Yeah, he's the one who knew all the stuff about computers in Pokémon centres.” Sadik clarified.
“Oh, okay.” Gupta accepted, roughly remembering that conversation.
“It is good to meet you.” Kiku bowed in greeting. “I am Kiku Honda. I was visiting family here when I saw Sadik and decided to stop to catch up.”
“Gupta.” The teen responded. “I came here to challenge the Gym.”
“Kip!” Mudkip greeted, wanting to be in on the introductions. Taillow stayed quiet, but alert.
“Ah, then good luck to you both,” Kiku enthused politely. “I suppose I can give you one of these too.” He pulled a disc out of his bag and handed it to Gupta. “That is a Hidden Machine, or HM. It will teach Cut to a Pokémon. But to use it properly, you need the Rustboro Gym Badge.” He explained.
“Oh. Thanks.” Gupta responded, putting the disc away. He wasn't really sure how Gym badges effected anything...
“Anyway, I must take my leave. Good luck.” Kiku bowed again before leaving.

“So, guess it's off to the Gym then?” Sadik assumed.
“Do you think you're ready?” Gupta asked, beginning to walk with the man.
“All the training those kids helped me with's got my team ready to go!” Sadik assured.
“Fair enough.” Gupta accepted.

As he walked up to the door of the Gym with Sadik, Gupta noticed the same teenagers from before. Mei smiled as he walked closer.
“You're here finally,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, you were like, caught up with Kiku for too long.” Li complained. Gupta decided they had to be related if he knew his name.
“We're here now!” Sadik exclaimed. “Let me challenge this Gym.”
“Whatever.” Li shrugged, walking inside.
“Good luck!” Mei added, following him.
“So, me first?” Sadik asked, practically bouncing on his heels.
“I suppose so.” Gupta allowed.
“Cool! Ya could always go and ask cuz some more things or show him your Pokedex or whatever while you wait.” Sadik suggested, heading towards the Gym.
“I guess...” Gupta mused to himself.
“Kip.” Mudkip agreed.

Chapter Text

Instead of the professor, Gupta decided to video call his mother once he got back to the Pokémon Centre. He sat at one of the videophones in the back, Mudkip sitting on his lap, and dialled up the number for the Petalburg Gym.
“Gupta? Is everything okay?” Cleo asked as soon as she caught sight of her son. “Did you challenge the Gym yet?”
“Sadik’s doing that at the moment.” Gupta admitted. “So I’m waiting around.”
“Right.” She nodded. “And are you prepared?”
“I think Mudkip is strong enough,” the teenager answered.
“Don’t forget to use potions.” His mother advised. “Mudkip may be strong, but I doubt even he could take on a Gym full of trainers by himself.”
“Right. I’ll be careful.” The son promised.
“Good.” Cleo smiled. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Do me proud.”

Gupta ended up waiting for only an hour or so before Sadik returned. The teen seemed jubilant as he walked through the doors of the Pokémon Centre and passed his team to the nurse to be healed.
“I take it you won then?” The smaller teen assumed, walking up to Sadik. Mudkip trotted along behind him.
“Heh, yeah. Lale really cleaned up.” Sadik shrugged. “Not sure what I’ll do now though. Maybe rest up a little.”
“You can do that. I’m going to battle the Gym.” Gupta replied, turning around and beginning to leave.
“Sure thing. Good luck Guppie!” Sadik called after him.
“Kip!” Mudkip barked, wagging his tail fin.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded as he left the Centre.

A few minutes later, Gupta was stood outside the Gym, Mudkip at his heels. Deciding it was time to get on with it already, the teen walked in.
The inside of Rustboro Gym was covered in rocks. Rocks lined the walls, the floors were made of stone, and the path from the entrance to a raised platform Gupta assumed held the Gym Leader was obscured by rocks. The path itself was wide where Gupta stood, seemingly consisting of an entranceway with two stone pillars either side and slightly forwards of the entrance, which then narrowed a few metres ahead to a tight track obscured by the rocks. Overall, it looked like an obstacle course. Other than that, the Gym looked pretty straightforward.

“Kiiip…” Mudkip marvelled, in awe of the setup for some reason.
“Come on.” Gupta guided the Pokémon, beginning to walk towards the narrowing of the path.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Came a voice from next to him. Gupta found himself looking down at Mudkip accusingly. The starter Pokémon stared back at him blankly.
“I’m over here dumbass.” Came the voice again. Gupta turned in the direction of the voice, and saw for the first time a young man leaning up against one of the stone pillars, a book in one hand.

The figure appeared to be in his late teens, and had long, dark, plaited hair that almost reached his waist and brown eyes that appeared rather serious and bored. Gupta reasoned that explained the book as well. Despite his expression, the teen looked like a quiet sort of person, which Gupta figured out was why he hadn’t noticed him before.

“If you’re taking on the Gym, you’d better know what you’re in for.” The figure continued. “Most challengers just get wiped out.” He closed the book and leaned heavily on the pillar. “This Gym uses rock types. Water, ground, and fighting, as well as grass will shut them down. The guy who came in before you tried to muscle his way through without thinking about types. He struggled.”
Gupta found himself sighing a little. That sure sounded like Sadik.
“Anyway, if you’ve got that, go on.” The older teen continued, waving in the direction of the narrowed track.
“Right.” Gupta replied simply, heading on his way.
“Kip!” Mudkip cried in excitement as they began their Gym Challenge proper.

Despite being rather narrow and winding, Gupta found that the path through the rocks was not especially complicated, as it had few branches, leaving little chance to get lost within the ‘maze’. When he finally did find a fork in the path, Gupta thought for only a moment before taking the path to the right. Suspiciously, the area widened again.

“Welcome.” Li stated flatly once Gupta had walked a few more metres. The teen turned around to find the Gym Trainer leaning against the wall of the dilated space.
“I suppose I have to battle you now.” Gupta assumed.
“Right.” Li nodded. “I’ll just use this one.” He continued, throwing a Pokeball at the ground.
“Arr!” Cried the emerging Aron.
“Okay Mudkip.” Gupta indicated.
“Kip!” Mudkip barked as he trotted forwards to face the enemy.
“Okay then Aron, use Headbutt,” the Gym Trainer commanded.
“Water Gun Mudkip,” Gupta responded. The Gym Pokémon began running towards Mudkip, who shot a jet of water into its face before it managed to reach him. Gupta raised an eyebrow, not used to Mudkip attacking first. A few seconds later, the Aron barrelled into Mudkip. Gupta’s Pokémon took the hit easily.
“Okay Aron, use Mud Slap!” Li decided.
“Use Mud Slap too Mudkip.” Gupta parroted.
“Kip?” Mudkip responded, a little confused that both Pokémon were being asked to do the same thing. He looked around to see Aron already digging, and set about doing the same. Mudkip, clearly faster than the other Pokémon, emerged from the hole first and raced into the Aron, slapping it in the face as it was still trying to coat its feet in the mud. The Gym Pokémon was badly damaged by the hit, and fell over unconscious before it could carry out its attack.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered.
“Looks like you won.” Li pointed out. “That means you can continue your challenge.”
“Right,” Gupta nodded, walking forwards along the path. Mudkip stared up at Li for a moment, seeming to wonder if he needed to fight the Trainer too, before he noticed Gupta walking off and ran to follow him.

A few hundred metres ahead of where Li had ambushed them, the path narrowed again. Other than that, the situation remained the same as it had been before the Gym Trainer had been battled. Mudkip didn’t even appear that fazed by the fight. Before long, Gupta and his Pokémon reached another fork in the road. This time, he went left. He knew what was coming when he saw the space widen once again.
“I wonder… Are you trying to battle us deliberately? Or is it just coincidence?” Mei asked, standing ahead of Gupta.
“I suppose just chance.” Gupta retorted.
“Well then,” the girl smiled. “Let’s see how that chance treats you.” She took out a Pokeball and sent out her own Pokémon.
“Corsola!” It cheered.
“You’re here to challenge Hue, so you gotta go through me first! And even despite me, Hue’s really strong. You think you have what it takes?” The Gym Trainer continued.
“We’ll see.” Gupta replied.
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, leaping forwards into the battle.
“You’re gonna use a water type like Mudkip against Corsola?” The girl assumed. “Interesting choice. The last guy had a Bulbasaur who kept running up to me instead of fighting.”
Gupta nodded. That sounded like Lale. He looked over the opposing Pokémon, thinking it looked familiar. As he studied it, he realised he’d seen Corsola back in Johto, under the ownership of trainers. The Pokémon was part water type as well as being rock. So Water Gun wasn’t an effective move to use.

“It was cute. But anyway.” The Gym Trainer continued, getting down to business. “Corsola, use Tackle!”
“Mud Slap Mudkip!” Gupta responded. Mudkip nodded and began digging while Corsola ran at him. Gupta was again surprised when Mudkip was able to fully coat his paws in the mud and jump out to slap Corsola just before it was able to reach him.
“Alright Corsola, use Bubble next!” Mei shouted.
“Mud Slap again.” Gupta repeated.
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, jumping back into the hole and getting ready to hit Corsola again as Corsola ran up to the lip of the hole and blew bubbles down at Mudkip. The starter blinked a little, seemingly annoyed more than anything, before a determined look passed over his face and he sprang at Corsola, knocking it over and slapping it in the face. He fell on top of the rock type and sniffed it a little. It didn’t move and he smiled before sliding onto the floor.
“Aww, guess you won.” Mei sighed, returning her Pokémon to the ball. Mudkip stared after it. “You’re pretty good.” Gupta nodded.
“Kip!” Mudkip grinned, running back to Gupta and pressing into his legs. The trainer leaned down to pick his Pokémon up.
“You should go on and fight Hue.” The girl decided. “She’s a lot nicer than she looks. Recently I’ve been teaching her to smile more, since she hardly ever does. Kasem’s been helping too.” Gupta raised an eyebrow, remembering the man from the day before in the woods. Was he connected to the Gym Leader? He did suppose Mei and Li worked for Devon, so probably knew him.
“She nearly has it down, even if it looks a little awkward.” The young woman giggled a little. “Anyway, you should go ahead.” She stood to the side to let Gupta pass. The trainer continued down the path with Mudkip in his arms, ready in his mind to face the Gym Leader.

A few minutes later, the different paths from before merged into one, and a staircase came into view, leading up to the podium Gupta saw from the entrance. It was the end of the maze. Remembering his mother’s words, he placed Mudkip down on the floor for a moment and reached into his bag for a potion, ignoring his starter’s confused whining. When he began to use the medicine on Mudkip, the Pokémon looked up at his trainer and pouted, clearly not liking it, before the potion took effect and soothed the starter to no end. Once he was done, the human picked the Pokémon back up and walked up the stairs towards the Gym Leader.

“So you made it?” Hue stated the moment Gupta stepped up the stairs. “Seems you know what you’re doing.” She turned around to face him. “In which case, show me.”
“Fine,” Gupta agreed, placing Mudkip down on the floor.
“Come on Aron,” she called, throwing a Pokeball at the ground to send out her first Pokémon.
“Kip?” Mudkip asked, surprised to see another Aron.
“Aron.” Aron barked.
“Aron, use Iron Claw,” the Gym Leader commanded.
“Mud Slap Mudkip,” Gupta responded, remembering what worked on that Pokémon.
Mudkip looked back to Gupta and nodded before beginning to coat his paws in mud. Aron leapt towards Mudkip but the starter Pokémon was faster and attacked the Gym Pokémon before it clawed Mudkip in the face.
“Kiiip,” he whined.
“Water Gun,” Gupta insisted. Mudkip continued to whine, but managed to launch a jet of water into the Aron, which was blasted back into the wall by the hit and fell unconscious.
“Kip!” Mudkip celebrated, leaping from foot to foot.

“Not bad.” Hue nodded. “But Gym regulations require leaders to use at least three Pokémon each. There’s a long battle to go as yet.” She pulled out her second Pokémon. “Go on Larvitar.”
“Larvi.” The small Pokémon chirped. Gupta looked the Pokémon over. It was also from Johto, and he knew it was part ground type. He assumed that Water Gun was his best bet.
“Bite Larvitar,” Hue instructed.
“Water Gun Mudkip,” Gupta relayed. Mudkip looked back at Gupta for a moment and smiled, and was bitten by the speedy Gym Pokémon before he turned back around.
“Kiiiiiip! Mudkip!” He squealed, looking to the rock type gnawing at his shoulder. He decided to dislodge it with a spray of water which he aimed at the Pokémon’s face. Larvitar was pushed backwards several hundred feet, and shook itself to get rid of the extra water, although it appeared pained.
“Bite again Larvitar,” the Gym Leader repeated.
“Water Gun again,” Gupta followed.
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, ready to race towards the Pokémon this time. Unfortunately, Larvitar was still faster, and bit down on Mudkip slightly before the Pokémon was able to fire it off of him and into the ground with more water. This time, the Larvitar didn’t get up again, but Mudkip didn’t celebrate, looking far too tired for that.

“Do you have any other Pokémon? That Mudkip is enthusiastic… But it looks tired.” Hue commented, returning Larvitar and sending out her third Pokémon.
“Lil,” Lileep growled. Gupta stared. He had definitely never seen that one before.
“Mud.” Mudkip shot back in warning.
“Acid Lileep,” Hue yelled immediately.
“Water Gun Mudkip,” Gupta responded.
This time, Mudkip was fast enough to jet water into the ancient Pokémon before it could attack. But weak as it was, Lileep’s Acid attack was too much for Mudkip, who cried out upon being hit before falling to the ground. Lileep shrugged off the water, appearing fatigued already.
“It’s a grass type… How was it injured so quickly?” Hue mused, looking over to the downed Mudkip. “Unless… I completely forgot about its Torrent.”
Gupta stared ahead at Mudkip, not caring for the ramblings of the Gym Leader. He returned Mudkip to his Pokeball with a heavy heart. He didn’t like to see his Pokémon being hurt.
“Okay then Taillow,” he sighed, sending out his other Pokémon.
“Low,” Taillow shivered, ready for the fight.
“Quick Attack Taillow,” Gupta decided, wanting to finish the fight quickly. Taillow charged the Pokémon, but it didn’t appear hurt at all. Gupta remembered it was rock type and knew he would have to try something else.
“Constrict Lileep,” the Gym Leader commanded.
“Lee,” Lileep cried, sending out vines that wrapped around Taillow and squeezed her.
“Tail,” she complained.
“Peck Taillow,” Gupta insisted. Taillow struggled a little, trying to free herself from the vines, eventually using her beak to break out before flying towards the source of the constriction and pecking at Lileep intently. The Pokémon tried to avoid the attack but failed, and fell backwards after a few seconds, apparently giving up the fight.

“Hmm. I guess that’s that,” Hue nodded, returning her final Pokémon to its Pokeball. Taillow swooped around to land on Gupta’s shoulder. “You have proven yourself worthy of this badge.” As she spoke, she reached into her pocket and brought out a small case which she opened. She took an object from the case and passed it to Gupta, who studied it intently. He’d never held a Gym Badge before.
“And at this Gym, we give out these to successful challengers,” she continued, passing a disc to Gupta. “It’s the TM for Rock Tomb. It can be taught to many rock type Pokémon, so it’s a good thing for a skilled trainer to have.”
“Thank you.” Gupta accepted, putting the TM into the pocket in his bag and pinning his badge to its strap for the moment before returning Taillow to her Pokeball.
“Gaining a Gym Badge is step one.” Hue continued. “There are seven other Gyms you must defeat if you want to challenge the Elite Four.”
“Right,” Gupta nodded. He wasn’t exactly sure about going that far, but part of him felt as though he had no choice.
“I wish you luck,” the Gym Leader finished, bowing. Gupta nodded and turned to leave.
“Oh,” Hue remembered, causing Gupta to look back. “And…” The woman continued. “Thanks for helping my cousin out yesterday. That guy… He’s always so cheerful, and yet he seems to get into trouble all of the time. Normally he can take care of himself though, so it’s not like he’s a pushover. He must have just gotten unlucky. So it’s good that you were there.” She blushed a little and looked down.
“No problem.” Gupta replied, before turning to head back through the maze.

“Hey, so you won?” The man at the entrance commented from his spot leaning against the pillar. “Good for you, although it means I have to now add your name to the sign.” He sighed. “Is it that hard?” Gupta asked.
“Well, you have to make the words and stick them on… Fun.” He rolled his eyes, the sarcasm evident. “But it has to be done.” He accepted, straightening up and putting his book down on the top of the pillar.
“Good luck then.” Gupta responded as he left the Gym. The man stared after him, appearing to be lost in thought.
“That guy looks rather interesting. Something tells me he’ll go far.”

Chapter Text

Gupta walked out of the Gym into the early afternoon sun, feeling buoyed by his recent victory. The first thing he knew he had to do was return to the Pokémon Centre and heal Mudkip. While he walked back, he noted how quiet things seemed. For whatever reason, all of the trainers and especially children who had been out in force earlier had disappeared. The teenager continued to wonder why as he wandered back into the Pokémon Centre.

Immediately, Gupta noticed that there was a lack of Sadik. The other teen had disappeared as well, and Gupta couldn’t help but feel the loss. Did he really leave without even saying goodbye?
“Are you looking for your friend?” The girl behind the counter ventured. “Because he went to look around Devon for some reason. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, do you want to rest your Pokémon?” She smiled.
“Okay,” Gupta nodded, handing his Pokeballs over and leaving the girl to deal with things. While he waited, he heard some sort of commotion outside. It caught his interest and he decided that he would investigate once he had gotten his Pokémon back.
“There’s a lot of noise out there, isn’t there?” The nurse commented, walking back to the counter from the healing machine.
“I’ll go look,” Gupta stated, taking back his Pokémon before turning towards the door.
“Be careful,” the girl warned.
Gupta just walked on.

“Stop! Thief!” Sadik yelled, chasing through the streets of Rustboro. The figure in front of him didn’t even turn around as they raced ahead, pushing people over and jumping over benches and bins as they tried to escape. As Gupta walked out of the Pokémon Centre, Sadik passed him, heading towards the North of town. The trainer followed.

“Hey, you’re that kid from before!” Came a voice from behind Gupta. The teenager looked around to find Kasem running up to him from the same direction Sadik had emerged from.
“Right,” Gupta nodded.
“It’s good to see you,” the man smiled.
“What are you doing?” The teenager asked.
“Well this sounds embarrassing… But I was robbed of some important parts. I was supposed to be taking them to the port but…” Kasem laughed nervously.
“And Sadik’s chasing the thief?” Gupta assumed.
“Oh, is he a friend of yours? Yeah, he seems really decent. He certainly wasn’t going to let that strange woman from before get away with it,” Kasem commented.
“The same woman?” Gupta wondered. Did this Team Aqua the woman had claimed to be a part of before only have a few members or something?
“Seemed to be.” Kasem shrugged. “And we’ve been chasing her together.”
“Alright. Let’s catch up to Sadik then.” Gupta decided. Kasem nodded and they took off running.

Gupta lost the Devon employee while racing through the city, and eventually reached the Northern edge with nobody alongside him and no clue of where to go. There were two paths that stretched out from where he was standing. One led north and seemed to be marked with ledges and short grass that probably held no Pokémon. The other led east and past some sort of sign before winding into another overgrown area.
“I’d go east.” Commented a random man standing in the corner, surveying the area. “I saw a guy chasing some woman from here into Route 116. I’m assuming you’re following.”
“Why would you assume this?” Gupta puzzled.
“You just look like the type of guy to be a hero. And the heroes of this world are always doing crazy stupid things like following after troublemakers and such.” The man replied.
Gupta stared at him. “Okay.” He replied, looking at the man as though he was mad, before travelling east.

Gupta’s walk along Route 116 was relatively quiet. He had been fairly confident that there would be trainers on the route, but travelling through the grassland, he came across nobody. If anything, it made him surer that he was heading in the right direction. Sadik had probably cleaned out all of the trainers while chasing the woman from before.

This led to Gupta making quick time along the route, travelling onwards until a large rock face came into view. Alongside the craggy surface, there was a small hut that stood only a storey tall and appeared to have been built in a hurry. A small group of people were gathered around it, apparently arguing with each other. Gupta expected to have to battle them, but as he grew closer, they turned around to speak to him without drawing any Pokémon out.
“Hey kid! It’s way too dangerous to go in the tunnel right now. Just go on home,” one of the men instructed. He was wearing a high-vis jacket and a hardhat, and Gupta guessed he was a workman.
“Yeah. Some lady went in there with another kid in hot pursuit. But the tunnel’s full of Pokémon that are sensitive to noise, and they could cause an Uproar if those two cause any trouble.” A second man corresponded.
“Can’t you go in after them?” Gupta suggested.
“We don’t want to risk making things worse by all going in to deal with it. It’s the reason we all fled from the tunnel when it first happened.” A third workman shrugged.
“And why the tunnel project’s so behind schedule. We’ve had to go incredibly slowly to avoid upsetting the Pokémon.” The first man finished.
“Well, I’ll go in after them then,” Gupta decided.
“It’s dangerous though!” The second man argued.
“Then I’ll be careful.” The teenager retorted.
“You’re going in? A kid like you?” Came a voice from behind Gupta. The teen turned around to see a stocky man with brown hair and eyes staring him down.
“I am.” Gupta responded.
“If you’re certain. Can you look for my Pokémon in there? He got caught up in all of the commotion and trapped in the tunnel while we were walking. And I ain’t sure about going back with those crazy people who came by earlier.” The man requested.
“I can try,” Gupta agreed, turning towards the rock face, and noticing an opening. He assumed that was the tunnel’s entrance.
“Good luck,” the man wished sincerely.

The inside of the tunnel was gloomy. Gupta found he could see without too much trouble, but the light level was dimmed and the walls appeared to be dripping with rainwater. As he took one step after another, the teenager became aware of a shuffling sound. He looked around restlessly, trying to find the source of the noise, but could see nothing. He decided to carry on walking into the cave. After a few hundred metres, the tunnel curved sharply, and Gupta followed the turn, unable to see ahead until he got around the curve. Ahead of him, there was a wall of rock where the tunnel had clearly not yet been completed. Pressed up against the rock was the same woman he had fought in the woods yesterday. She was staring down Sadik with an icy gaze. Gupta ran up to them.

“Great. I run into a dead end and now I’m stuck with a useless Pokémon.” She cursed.
“Gull?” The Wingull stuck behind her crowed.
“Give back what ya stole, the briefcase and the Wingull both!” Sadik commanded.
“Make me!” She yelled.
Gupta heard a murmuring within the tunnel, and wondered again what kind of Pokémon lived there.
“Fine,” Sadik responded, getting out a Pokeball and preparing to fight. Suddenly there was a flash, and Lale appeared.
“Huh? Lale, not now!” Sadik pleaded.
“Saur!” Lale grinned, running up to the strange woman and jumping at her heels, wanting to play.
“Lale, she’s not our friend!” Sadik insisted.
“Ahh! Stupid thing,” the woman huffed, trying to kick Lale away.
“Ateş, come on!” Sadik called, sending Ateş out of his Pokeball.
“Chic!” Ateş chirped, running forwards to help Lale. He noticed the Wingull behind the woman, and tried motioning for it to follow him. At this moment, the woman looked up from the Pokémon at her feet and noticed Gupta.

“That kid from before!” She recognised. “Poochyena, deal with him!”
Gupta gritted his teeth as the Pokémon ran at him, emerging from the Pokeball and leaping at the trainer. Lale looked up and frowned. Ateş tried running towards the Poochyena, the Wingull deciding to take the opportunity to fly upwards and swoop onto Sadik’s head. Gupta reached for a Pokeball and threw it.
“Tail!” Taillow cried as she was freed. Immediately she looked towards the Poochyena and spread her wings in warning.
“Don’t be intimidated Poochyena! Tackle!” The woman snarled.
“Peck Taillow!” Gupta responded. Taillow swooped in and pecked at the Poochyena, and was able to dodge the counter attack attempted by the opposing Pokémon.
“Geh… Alright Poochyena, Tackle again!” The woman sighed.
“Quick Attack Taillow!” Gupta replied. Taillow charged towards the Poochyena as fast as she could, and was able to strike before the opponent could even react. Poochyena fell to the ground, unmoving.

“What? Now I lose to you again?” The woman shook her head. “Purrloin, get revenge!” She commanded, throwing a Pokeball at the ground next to where Sadik was standing. Sadik stepped in.
“Lale, Tackle!” He commanded.
“Saur!” Lale nodded, charging into the Purrloin as it emerged from the ball.
“Lion,” Purrloin growled back.
“Scratch!” The strange woman shouted.
The Pokémon reared up and Scratched at Lale before beginning to run back towards Taillow.
“Chic!” Ateş cheered for his teammate.
“Use Vine Whip Lale,” Sadik strategized.
Lale nodded, sending out vines to trip the Purrlion, which fell onto the ground and struggled to stand.
“Tackle again,” Sadik finished.
“Scratch that Bulbasaur.” The woman decided. Lale and Purrlion ran towards each other, Lale appearing determined and Purrloin growling to itself. When they collided, they tussled together for a moment before Lale pressed Purrloin into the ground. It didn’t try to get up again.

“Chic!” Ateş celebrated.
“Saur!” Lale replied, walking up to Ateş and pressing her front paw against one of his wings.
“How… How did I lose twice?” The woman asked herself, aghast. “This just isn’t my day!”
“Guess that’s what happens when ya fall the wrong side of the law,” Sadik shrugged.
“What do you know? Children like you don’t understand what Team Aqua is fighting for! What we plan to do! We’re not petty criminals stealing for the sake of stealing. We’re appropriating the resources we need to make a better world!”
“Appropriating, huh? Guess ya look like a pirate and talk like one too,” Sadik commented.
“Shut up. You want this briefcase so bad? Take it. We can reach our goals without it.” She scoffed, throwing the case to the ground.
“It’s a start. But I don’t know if we can just let ya go,” Sadik glared.
“Too bad!” The woman retorted, running at full speed into Sadik, knocking him over, and pushing Gupta to the side as she fled the scene.
“Well that was weird.” Sadik stated, getting to his feet. “Wonder what she was goin’ on about anyway.”
“It doesn’t matter. We got the case and the Pokémon.” Gupta replied.
“Right,” Sadik smiled.
“Chic!” Ateş cheered.
“Saur!” Lale agreed.
Taillow nodded and flitted up onto Gupta’s shoulder.
“Gull?” Wingull questioned, flying over onto Gupta’s other shoulder.
“Heh, yer popular today Guppie,” Sadik smirked, picking up the dropped briefcase. “Anyway, let’s go.”
The other teen nodded and they began to walk out of the cave, when a Pokémon walked into their path, looking up at them nervously.

“Smur?” Whismur whimpered.
“Is that the sensitive Pokémon?” Gupta assumed.
“Yeah, Whismur. They’re usually quiet, but when distressed they can make huge amounts of noise.” Sadik confirmed.
“Let’s not annoy them,” Gupta chose.
“Yeah. Let’s just leave.” Sadik seconded, stepping gently around the Pokémon and heading for the exit, Gupta following. Lale stopped to sniff the Pokémon, but Ateş pulled her out of the way before she could scare the Whismur.
“Whis?” The Pokémon questioned, turning its head to the side.

“Hey, Lombre?” The stocky man from before asked.
“Bre?” His Pokémon responded.
“Do you think we should go looking for Wingull?” He queried. “The strange woman came running out of the cave after all.”
“No need, we saved yer Pokémon,” Sadik assured, stepping out of the cave and up to the man.
“Right,” Gupta confirmed.
“Gull!” Wingull chirped, flying back to its trainer.
“You really found him…” The man shook his head. “Thanks. Name’s Carlos. Carlos Machado. I sail boats.”
“You’re the one with a house on Route 104.” Gupta commented.
“Right,” Carlos nodded. “And hey, you guys helped me out. So if you ever need me to help you, I’d be welcome to.”
“Thanks,” Sadik smiled. Gupta nodded.
“Well, we should be heading back anyway, but thanks again.” Carlos smiled. “Come on Lombre, Wingull.”
“Gull!” Wingull chirped.
“Bre.” Lombre agreed.
Carlos waved back at the teenagers as he and his Pokémon walked off into the grassland of Route 116.
“He’s nice,” Sadik decided. Gupta stared after the man, wondering whether his offer of help would be useful in the future. He had a feeling that it might.

When Gupta and Sadik returned to Rustboro City, briefcase still in Sadik’s hand, Kasem ran up to them, panting with lack of breath.
“There you are! I was looking everywhere… The briefcase! You found it!” He smiled instantly. “You have no idea how important getting that back was!”
“No problem,” Sadik smirked, handing the object over.
“No, really. I need to thank you properly…” He hummed for a moment. “Let me take you back to our company headquarters at least.” He decided.
“You mean to Devon?” Gupta deadpanned.
“Yeah, come on.” Kasem enthused, leading the teens down the few hundred metres it took to reach the Devon Corporation building. As they walked, Gupta noticed a sign with some sort of writing on it that had been crossed out with red paint. He wondered to himself what it meant.

“Mei, I need you to let these people up. They’re almost the heroes of the company or something,” Kasem insisted, leaning on the counter of the Devon reception.
“Up? You mean, let them see the president?” Mei repeated.
“Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be okay with it,” Kasem shrugged.
“Let me check he’s not in a meeting,” Mei replied, tapping away at a computer for a few moments before looking over to Sadik and Gupta. “Hey, it’s our Gym Challengers from before.” She smiled.
“Yeah!” Sadik grinned. “Good to see ya again!”
“And you. You two seem to be really proactive,” Mei commented, before looking to her computer and reading the reply. “Okay, boss’s free. You can go up, but you’ll have to return your Pokémon to their Pokeballs.”
“Kay.” Sadik agreed, returning Ateş and Lale (who had been sniffing at some flowers in the corner). Gupta did the same to Taillow, who was still on his shoulder.
“Okay then, let’s go.” Kasem smiled. “Thanks Mei.” He added as he walked towards the stairs, Gupta and Sadik following.

The second floor of Devon was a mess of computers. Row after row of desks stood from one end of the floor to the other, and behind each was a figure working away at something.
“We mostly make new Pokeballs at Devon,” Kasem narrated, walking down the rows. “But recently, we started on other projects too. Reproducing dreams of Pokémon… Reviving fossils… Speaking to Pokémon in their language… And in each one, we’re making progress. Although some of those things are further along in development than others.” He admitted.
Gupta nodded, looking around at the people behind the desks. He noticed a shaven bald man who appeared rather humble, a man who looked significantly older than many of the others and more workers besides, all working hard at whichever project they had been assigned to. Overall, the scale of the operation was vast.
“Of course, this floor is where the design happens. We have our factories elsewhere.” Kasem stated, walking towards some stairs at the other end of the floor. “But I digress. Our president is up there. Please go up.”
Gupta nodded at the man, and walked up the stairs himself, Sadik following.

The president’s office was well furnished. Everything looked expensive. Each wall was plastered with cases containing rare stones and in the middle of the room there was a large sofa and a table which had a glass top- revealing that the middle had been filled with rare stones. At the end nearest the stairs there was a small desk and a computer which Gupta assumed belonged to some sort of secretary. At the other there was a much grander desk and a large chair, the back of which was facing Sadik and Gupta. Kasem followed them up the stairs and ushered them towards the ornate desk. As they got close, the chair spun around, and they came face to face with the president of Devon.

The first thing that struck Gupta was the man’s height. He looked to Gupta to be shorter than Sadik (although admittedly taller than the teen himself). It was something he hadn’t quite been expecting from a man held in such high esteem. As Gupta looked the president over he noticed how long his hair was (long and brown, pulled back into some sort of ponytail), and he noticed how wise his amber eyes looked to be. Then he noticed the man was eating some sort of snack. He looked back at Gupta, swallowed the last of his food, and spoke.
“So you two were the ones who recovered the case?” He assumed.
“Right.” Sadik nodded.
“Ah, good. That was important. Thank you for that.” He smiled. “I should give you something in return, hm?” He rustled around in his desk and brought out two devices. “Here you go. Pokenav devices. These ones have a prototype call function. It would be nice to have young trainers like you trial them.”
“Hey, thanks!” Sadik grinned, taking one of the machines. Gupta hesitantly took the other.
“Thank you.” He concurred.
“You look rather serious. I like you.” The president decided. “I want to give you something to do. You will do it, yes?”
“It depends on what it is.” Gupta answered warily.
“You’re a trainer, correct? So you’ll be going to Dewford Town to challenge the Gym there. My brother is over there investigating some ruins. Take this to him.” The man held out a letter which Gupta took, still watching the man. “And since you’re so reliable, take care of the case.” He nodded and Kasem brought the briefcase from before forwards and handed it to Gupta with barely a word.
“What am I meant to do with this?” Gupta asked flatly.
“Take it to Slateport City. To the shipyard there. It should be on your way if you’re taking the route around the region most trainers do.” He commented.
“Alright, fine.” Gupta agreed.
“Glad you agree.” The president smiled. “I’m happy to have a trainer like you around. I shall be sure to reward you when you return. In the meantime, if you get lost, call me. I’m registered in the phone. Yao Wang.” Gupta looked over to Sadik and saw the teen straining not to laugh. He rolled his eyes. “So any problems, just ask.” Yao continued.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded. “I’ll bear that in mind.”
“Good luck,” Yao finished.
“Alright.” Sadik stretched a little. “Let’s get going.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed.

 

It was mid-afternoon by the time Sadik and Gupta had exited the Devon building.
“Guess we need to heal our Pokémon and then head back along Route 104.” Sadik planned. “We should be able to make it back to Petalburg by sunset. It’s easier going this way. Then we can go for Dewford the next morning. Although I might challenge yer mum first.” He smirked. “Although, now that I think of it, we need to cross the sea to get to Dewford. Guess that sailor guy’s gonna be useful after all, huh?” He shrugged. “Funny how it works out like that.”
Gupta meanwhile was beginning to wonder if it was something other than coincidence.

Chapter Text

Sadik had run off the moment his Pokémon had been healed, leaving Gupta standing in the Pokémon Centre with only two Pokeballs in his hands and nobody by his side. The teenager soon decided to take off after the other Trainer, and left the Pokémon Centre, readying himself to leave Rustboro City for good. He looked back around at the sprawling mess of buildings before turning to Route 104 and setting out on his journey back to Petalburg.
Route 104 was busier than it was the last time Gupta had travelled it. As he walked back down the path onto the boardwalk, he spotted the twins from before in battle with another passing trainer. As he passed them by he made sure not to disturb the Pokémon that were trying their hardest in the battle and clearly having fun while doing so. It took no more than ten minutes to make it back to the other side of the lake, at which point the forest ahead became the defining feature of the skyline. The entrance to the woods was still several minutes’ walk away, not far from where the flower shop was. As far as Gupta was aware, there was no other way of getting into the woods from Rustboro’s side.

As the teenager walked off of the boardwalk and onto the path that would lead him back into the woods, he passed into the eye line of a trainer.
“Found you! Now you have to battle me!” She called, pulling a Pokeball out of her pocket.
“Go Shroomish!”
“Shroom.” The Pokémon grunted, blinking as it emerged into the light.
“Alright Taillow.” Gupta decided, releasing his bird Pokémon.
“Taillow!” Taillow chirped.
“Shroomish, Absorb!” The Lass trainer commanded.
“Peck Taillow.” Gupta replied. Taillow swooped in and pecked at the Shroomish, which appeared to be greatly injured by the attack. Shroomish responded by trying to drain Taillow’s energy by latching onto it, but Taillow brushed it off easily and the attack seemed to do almost nothing to Taillow.
“Oh no, I forgot that grass type attacks are really weak on flying Pokémon.” The girl sighed. “Shroomish, use Tackle instead.”
“Quick Attack Taillow.” Gupta advised. Taillow nodded and swooped around before charging back at the Shroomish and striking it straight on. The opposing Pokémon fainted and fell over before it could attack.
“Rats... Guess I have to send out Lotad.” The girl commented, returning Shroomish to its Pokeball and sending out her second Pokémon.
“Lotad!” The Pokémon yelled happily.
“Okay Taillow, use Peck again.” Gupta stated.
“Low.” Taillow concurred, flying in towards the new Pokémon and knocking it out with one fell swoop before the trainer even had time to give it a command.
“Just like that?” The Lass commiserated. “I was beaten so easily… You’re a tough trainer.”
“I suppose so.” Gupta considered, returning Taillow to her Pokeball.
“You should take this then.” The Lass continued, holding out some money to the teenager. “And I need to heal my team. See you!” She remained smiling despite her loss and walked off back towards Rustboro. Gupta stared after her for a while. The children who trained Pokémon all seemed bizarrely bubbly and optimistic…

A few minutes of concentrated walking had Gupta almost at the entrance to the woods, but there was still one more trainer standing in his way. She appeared to be a rich young woman with expensive looking clothes, a lace parasol and too much time on her hands, and when she caught sight of Gupta she smiled to herself.
“Well, hello there trainer. Would you care for a battle?” She asked.
“Does it matter? I don’t have a choice.” Gupta commented.
“The polite thing to do is ask.” The Lady replied. “Now, Zigzagoon, come out and fight.” She threw her Pokeball at the ground.
“Zi.” The emerging Pokémon roared.
“Go Mudkip.” Gupta shrugged, letting out his starter.
“Kip?” Mudkip questioned.
“Zigzagoon, use Tackle.” The Lady directed.
“Mudkip, Tackle.” Gupta replied.
“Kip?” Mudkip looked back at his trainer, confused that the same command was being issued to both Pokémon again. Zigzagoon slammed into him while he was questioning it, and he slammed back, getting the idea of what he was meant to do.
“Tackle again Zigzagoon.” The Lady suggested.
“Water Gun Mudkip,” Gupta commanded. Zigzagoon slammed into Mudkip again but Mudkip responded with a jet of water which pushed it off and slammed it into the ground. It didn’t try to move again.
“Mud. Kip!” Mudkip cheered, jumping up and down.
“Well drat. I lost. I suppose you deserve this then.” She held out some money and Mudkip leapt up and caught it before bringing it over to Gupta (who wondered why the Pokémon had bothered). “And I will be taking my leave. Good day.” She continued before turning towards Rustboro and walking off.
Gupta stared down at Mudkip for a moment before shrugging and walking towards Petalburg Woods.

Going back through the woods was far easier than when Gupta had traversed the area the first time. Coming from Rustboro City, the ledges ran the correct way to be simply jumped down without any need to take detours through the tall grass at the sides of the woods. For this reason, it took Gupta only a few minutes to get back to the entrance. But just as he was about to leave, he heard a shout coming from behind him, and turned around to find Sadik staring up at a tree, accompanied by a Pokémon Gupta didn’t recognise.
“Well, it’s great that ya got it up there, but I dunno how we’re meant to get it back down.” The trainer commented.
“Ken.” The Pokémon with him sighed.
“Kip?” Mudkip asked, running up to see if he could help. Sadik noticed him.
“Hey there Mudkip! Your trainer around here anywhere?” He responded.
“I’m here.” Gupta announced, walking up to Sadik.
“Great to see ya Guppie!” Sadik smiled. “Me and Ateş were just having some trouble with our ball. See he kicked it up into this tree and now we can’t get it down.” He laughed a little.
“Ken.” The Pokémon next to Sadik agreed.
“Ateş…?” Gupta questioned.
“Yep. This little guy evolved.” Sadik grinned.
“Mud?” Mudkip queried, walking up to Ateş.
“Ken.” Ateş nodded, patting Mudkip on the head with one of his wings.
“He evolved already. So this is what Torchic evolves into…” Gupta mused, looking over Ateş. “Sure is.” Sadik confirmed. “Combusken, the Young Fowl Pokémon. Combusken battles with intense flames and devastatingly strong kicks. Its cry is very loud and distracting and it can dole out ten kicks a second.”
“That’s what you wrote in your Pokedex?” Gupta checked.
“Yeah. I mean it’s all true, look what happened to the ball!” Sadik protested.
“Kip.” Mudkip concurred, looking up at the tree. Gupta followed Mudkip’s gaze and was just able to see the object lodged in the higher branches.
“So we need to get it down.” Gupta assumed.
“Right.” Sadik agreed. “Got any ideas?”
“Yes.” Gupta decided, sending out Taillow.
“Low.” She chirped.
“Taillow. Fly up and get the ball back.” Gupta instructed, pointing up to the tree.
“Low! Taillow!” Taillow accepted, swooping up to the top of the tree and slamming into the branches, causing the ball to fall to the ground. Ateş walked over and picked it up.
“Ken.” He smiled.
“Tail.” Taillow shrugged.
“Great Guppie, thanks.” Sadik grinned. “As ya can probably tell, we finished our training, so we’re gonna go challenge Petalburg Gym. Ya go talk to the sailor guy, and we’ll meet at the Pokémon Centre in an hour or so.”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, waving at Sadik before turning back around and walking from the woods, Taillow flying after him and Mudkip following after staring at Ateş for a few seconds.

It only took a few more minutes for Gupta to make it back to the house on the cliff on Route 104. After checking the sign to make sure this was definitely the right house (not that there were any other houses to get it confused with), Gupta walked into the cottage, the sun of the late afternoon shining onto him.

Inside, Carlos Machado sat eating ice cream, with the Lombre Gupta had seen before sitting beside him and the Wingull he had rescued perched on his head. At first he didn’t notice the teenager, but after Gupta moved further into the house, he was spotted. It didn’t help that Mudkip ran head first up to the table and began to stare at the man’s Pokémon. And the ice cream.
“Hey, if it isn’t the kid from yesterday!” He greeted. “What can I do for you?”
“I have a letter I need to give to someone in Dewford Town.” Gupta explained. “And no way of crossing the sea.”
Mudkip smiled lazily at the Lombre in the room, which smiled happily back at him.
“Ah, is that so? Well, just leave it to me then.” Carlos deduced, smiling. “I can get you over to Dewford in almost no time at all.”
“Thank you.” Gupta replied.
“Of course, it’s getting sort of late. Offer’s still open if you wanna come back tomorrow.” The man mentioned. Gupta remembered that Sadik was still in the Pokémon Gym and might not be out for a while.
“That sounds best.” He admitted.
“Great, then I’ll see ya tomorrow.” Carlos agreed, turning back to his ice cream.
“Okay. Come on Mudkip.” Gupta called, standing still until Mudkip looked back to him before turning around and leaving the cottage. The Pokémon ran after him, not wanting to be left behind.

Gupta returned to Petalburg City after leaving the cottage, and decided to wait in the Pokémon Centre as he and Sadik had planned. When he first got there, he handed his Pokémon over to be healed (Mudkip in particular seemed upset at being put back into the Pokeball). The girl behind the counter decided to strike up conversation as she worked.
“You know that friend of yours?” She began. “The one who caught the Poochyena yesterday?”
“Sadik?” Gupta guessed.
“Well, he’s been in here a lot. I think he keeps getting floored by the Gym Leader.” She commented.
“Right.” Gupta sighed. So Sadik was having trouble.
“Hey, I could use some help!” Came a voice from behind Gupta, as Sadik ran into the Centre that moment.
“You lost again?” The nurse assumed. “Alright. Hang on a moment.” She gave Gupta’s healed Pokémon back to him before taking Sadik’s injured ones.
“Yeah.” Sadik admitted, before turning to Gupta. “Yer mum’s tough.”
“Good.” Gupta replied.
“Tough enough that I think I’ll try Dewford’s Gym Leader before comin’ back again.” Sadik continued. “So, ready to go?”
“Mr. Machado says we’ll go in the morning.” The smaller teen revealed.
“So we’ll stay here tonight then.” Sadik suggested. “We ain’t far from home, but even that walk is time we don’t wanna lose from our trip. And it feels more like an adventure anyway.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded.

At least another hour later, as Gupta and Sadik were sitting at one of the tables feeding their Pokémon, Cleo walked into the Pokémon Centre and straight up to her son.
“You won in Rustboro.” She assumed.
“Right.” Gupta confirmed.
“Then go to Dewford tomorrow and win there.” She told him. “And good luck.”
“Thanks mama.” Gupta nodded. Sadik looked over at him and smiled encouragingly. Mudkip looked up from his food and grinned lazily. Taillow continued eating, but appeared definitively confident.
It appeared as though everyone had high hopes about the trip to Dewford.

Chapter Text

Gupta woke early the next morning to find Taillow sitting on his head. He brushed the bird aside as he sat up and looked to the floor, where Mudkip was staring at him.
“Good morning.” He greeted his Pokémon.
“Tail.” Taillow nodded, preening her feathers.
“Kip.” Mudkip replied, blinking. Gupta stared at Mudkip. Mudkip stared at Gupta. Just as the human was about to break eye contact to get up and dressed, Lale wandered over and head-butted Mudkip.
“Saur!” She greeted.
“Mudkip. Mud.” Mudkip whined, shaking his head.
“You two play nice.” The trainer warned, stumbling to his feet and staring at the bunk above him. Why wasn't Sadik already awake?
“Kip?” Mudkip questioned, looking up at the sleeping form of Sadik.
Gupta stared at Sadik for a moment before looking down to see Lale head-butting his legs. Beside her, Asena was sitting patiently, not caring for whatever her trainer was doing in that moment. Gupta looked around for Ates and found him sitting in the corner, prodding at his ball with one of the claws on his feet.
Mudkip smiled and barked happily, and Gupta turned back to his starter, getting a horrible feeling for what was about to happen.
“Mudkip, no. Not again.” He warned.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, using Water Gun on Sadik.

“Well, at least we can say for sure this little guy's gonna make a great alarm clock from now on,” Sadik laughed, drying his hair with a towel once he had dragged himself out of bed. “And as if that wasn't enough, he's a shower as well!”
“I wouldn't use a Pokemon's attack as a shower. I doubt the water is clean.” Gupta commented.
“He'll still wake ya up though.” Sadik argued.
“Please don't encourage him to keep doing that...” Gupta sighed.
“Anyway,” the taller teen moved on. “Today we head out to Dewford town.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed.
“Sounds good. I can't wait to fight that other Gym Leader.” Sadik smirked. “And I wanna take a look around as well too.”
“I have to deliver that letter.” The shorter trainer added.
“Yeah, of course ya do, but ya gotta take in the other things as well.” Sadik pointed out. “So get yerself ready and we'll head out already!” He grinned in Gupta's general direction before shrugging on a shirt and leaving the room. Asena stared after him, but didn't move.
“Saur?” Lale cried, trying to follow him but charging into the door. Gupta stared at the Bulbasaur as she whined in defeat, sitting next to the door sadly. Seconds later the door opened again, and Asena calmly walked through it and into the corridor. Lale looked up in hope and trotted over to the opening before slotting herself through it.
“Come on Ates.” Sadik called, causing his starter to break out of his thoughts with the ball and shuffle to his feet, kicking the ball along with him as he made his way to the corridor.
Gupta stared after the Pokémon, wondering how Sadik had ended up with a team like that.

“Hey, if it ain't the kids from before!” Carlos greeted as he spotted Gupta and Sadik walking towards his house later that morning from his position, sat outside his house. “I heard everything yesterday, so just tell me when you wanna get moving.”
“As soon as ya can's good to me.” Sadik insisted. “Right Guppie?”
“He's rather eager to get to Dewford.” Gupta apologised.
“Hey, it's cool. Might as well go now, yeah?” The stocky man suggested.
“Great!” Sadik grinned.
“Alright then! Just get yourselves over to the boat and we'll go.” Carlos decided, walking over to the pier and beginning to work on the ropes tying the small boat to the board-walk.
“Sure.” Sadik nodded, beginning to walk along the pier and up to the boat.
Gupta stayed standing on firm ground, looking back towards Petalburg. Once he left, coming back would take a long time...
“Come on Guppie!” Sadik called, stopping in place as he looked back towards the other trainer.
“Right.” Said teenager agreed, turning away and walking further from home than he'd ever planned to go before.

A few minutes later, the boat was un-moored and the voyage to Dewford Town began. Cautiously, Gupta let Taillow and Mudkip out of their Pokeballs. The former hopped up onto the railing of the boat and leant into the waves, feeling the wind, while the latter jumped onto the seats and sat besides Gupta happily.
“How long's it gonna take to get there anyway?” Sadik thought out loud, lounging over another area of the seating. Asena had curled herself up by his feet while Lale sat on his lap, looking around at the moving scenery eagerly. The trainer kept a hand firmly around her front legs to stop her running off.
“Ah, no more than a couple of hours. It's an easy trip to make when you think about it.” Carlos commented. “But it's good to get out. Wingull likes to feel the wind as well.”
“Gull!” Wingull agreed from where it was sat on the roof of the control room.
“Sounds good. I can't wait to arrive.” Sadik smiled.
“Ken!” Ates seconded, pacing around the ship.
“Ya might wanna look around a little. Take in the scenery.” Carlos advised.
Gupta stared over the edge of the ship, trying to see what the man was going on about.

Around them, the teal water appeared still and calm. On the east side of the boat, an imposing cliff rose up sheerly a few hundred metres away from their position, while on the west, a scattering of jagged rocks littered the sea for as far as Gupta could see. In the middle of the collection there seemed to be an island of some sort, but as far as the trainer could tell there was nothing but a large rock formation there. In addition, the island itself looked almost impossible to get to.
“They say there's meant to be a cave in that formation, but nobody can get it open.” Sadik commented. “It's just some old legend if ya ask me though.”
“A cave...” Gupta repeated to himself, wondering whether the legend could actually be true.
Out on the water, the rocks continued to spring up to the east and the west, and more islands became visible within the area. These got larger and larger, until a large island became visible to the south.
“That Dewford?” Sadik guessed.
“Sure is. There's no place to dock there though. We need to go to the town.” Carlos admitted, steering the boat around until it was facing east and racing off through the water. The boat then skirted along the coast of the large island, passing through a channel between it and the rocks to the north. Gupta noticed a large cave on the island, and wondered whether there was an entrance and if it would be important.

As the boat continued to move along the coastline of the island, Gupta became aware of trainers standing along the beach that stretched out before the cave. Anglers tried their luck at catching new Pokémon or tested out their teams against each other, while travellers fought on the sand, making the most of the morning, and swimmers tried to dodge the water Pokémon as they began their day's training.
“Looks lively.” Sadik commented. “I'll be sure ta try it all out. After my Gym battle, of course.”
“You're that confident you'll win?” Gupta assumed. “Don't you at least want to train first?”
“Nah, my team's ready.” Sadik grinned. “This one'll be in the bag fer sure.”
“Well, you sure sound confident.” Carlos commented. “You'll get the chance to test that too. We're just about ready to dock at the port.”
Gupta looked over in the direction of the island to see a small town nestled in between the trees and the shoreline. There appeared to be little about the place that was remarkable: the teenager couldn't even see evidence of a store on the island, even if there was a Pokémon Gym.
“Doesn't look like much, huh?” Sadik commented.
“Kip.” Mudkip nodded.
“Whether it's what you guys were expecting or not, this is still Dewford Town.” Carlos commented, steering the boat towards a board-walk jutting out of the sand and throwing a rope over one of the pegs. “That guy'll be here somewhere. Probably in that cave we saw before. Anyway, I'll be waiting here for ya.”
Gupta sighed. He just knew that was going to be important...

“Well, I'm gonna go challenge the Gym before anythin' else. Ya get that letter business done first. Then ya get yer own shot at the Leader.” Sadik suggested.
“Of course. Good luck.” Gupta agreed, walking towards the edge of town.
“Good luck to ya too!” Sadik smirked, striding off towards the town's Gym.

As Gupta travelled towards the edge of the town, he caught sight of a large building that appeared to hold some significance to the people who lived in Dewford. A large group of kids gathered around it, talking among themselves. Gupta tried to just walk past them, but one of the group noticed him and ran up to start a conversation.
“Hey you!” He exclaimed, blond hair swaying a little as he enthusiastically pointed in Gupta's' direction. “Are you a traveller? Can you tell me something?” He stared pleadingly at Gupta with cerulean blue eyes, but all the teenager noticed was the child's eyebrows.

“What?” Gupta sighed, not in the mood for talking to random children. Why had this kid picked him out to speak to anyway?”
“Even across the sea where you come from... Is snow popular?” The child asked.
“Snow?” Gupta stared at the kid. He'd never seen any snow. He did have a rough idea of what it was though.
“Because... My parents were saying it snows where they were born. So I told everyone, and now they really want to see the snow! It's as though snow is the most happening thing on the island!”
“Really?” Gupta dead-panned.
“Yeah! It's the coolest thing ever!” The child insisted.
“... I think sand is nicer. Not that I care.” The teenager countered.
“Uh, sand...?” The kid blinked, thinking about it.
“Hey Peter! There's a challenger!” Came a voice from the other side of town.
“Challenger?” Gupta queried.
“Oh, I help out at the Gym. It's kinda a family business. Come by and battle sometime, you look strong!” Peter smiled. “Nice to meet you!” He waved as he ran back in the direction of the voice. Gupta stared for a moment, shrugged, and moved on, heading for the edge of town.

Behind him, a little girl stared confusedly at her plush Snorunt and looked towards the sand beneath her.
“...Beach?”

A few hundred metres ahead of where Gupta had met the excited child, the teenager reached the edge of the town, and pressed onwards onto the land portion of Route 106. Most of the trainers who had been battling when he had passed through the area on the boat mere minutes before were resting in the shade of the trees in the distance, or else were focussed on fishing or swimming, so for over half an hour the teenager travelled without having to battle anyone at all. Unfortunately, just before reaching the cave one of the fishermen turned around and noticed Gupta.

“Hey, if it isn't a travelling kid! Here to visit Granite Cave?” The man assumed, walking over to the teenager.
“Something like that.” Gupta replied.
“Great! Well, you know what has to happen now right?” The fisherman checked.
“...Now we battle.” Gupta declared.
“Good you understand.” The man smirked. “Go Magikarp!”
“Karp.” Magikarp flailed.
“Taillow, take care of it.” Gupta responded, sending out his Pokémon. With a little luck, this Pokémon wouldn't be as bad as the other Magikarp he had met.
“Magikarp, splash!” The fisherman commanded.
Gupta sighed. This was getting stupid.

Even after the first Magikarp had been taken care of, Gupta still had to battle a second. Once that Pokémon had also been defeated, the teenager was getting bored and was beginning to hope it was over.
“Okay, time for my last Pokémon. Go Tentacool!” The trainer announced.
“Tentacool.” The Pokémon replied, slumping in a pile in the sand.
“...What is that?” Gupta dead-panned.
“Tentacool, Constrict!” The fisherman commanded.
“Taillow, use Peck!” Gupta suggested.
“Low.” Taillow nodded, swooping around and hitting the Tentacool straight on. The blob of Pokémon retaliated by reaching up with its tentacles and gripping onto Taillow, attempting to crush her.
“Taillow, use Peck again.” Gupta advised, frowning at the development.
“Poison Sting Tentacool.” The man guided. Tentacool shot a barb of some kind in Taillow's direction, but she swung within the hold of the opposing Pokémon enough to avoid the attack, and responded with a swooping peck that caused the Tentacool to let go of her and fall limp on the floor.
“Heh, well you're something special, aren't you? Took down all my Pokémon like it was nothing.” The fisherman mused. “You deserve this prize, and to go about your way. Good luck.”
“Um, thanks.” Gupta nodded, taking the money and returning Taillow to her Pokeball (she had landed to preen her feathers and looked up at him indignantly as she disappeared into the device).
“Sure thing. Enjoy your little adventure.” The man smiled.
Gupta nodded at him, and looked towards the cave only a few metres ahead of him. Inside this cave, he hoped he would find the man he needed to deliver the letter to. Little did he know, he would also find knowledge that foreshadowed what was to come...

Chapter Text

The inside of Granite Cave was gloomy and damp. The smell of seawater lingered in the air. Gupta walked the first few metres without much incident, but secretly he hoped the entire time that things wouldn't get worse.
“Hey kid!” Yelled a hiker just on the inside of the entrance to the cave. “It gets real dark in there. And I mean dark. Seriously, take this!” He threw a disc at Gupta.
“What does it do?” The teenager questioned.
“That HM teaches Flash to your Pokémon. It'll let them light up the darkness of the cave for you. Although you need the Gym Badge from this town to use it...” The man explained.
“Why do I need a badge to teach my Pokémon a move?” Gupta wondered aloud.
“It's not the teaching. It's to use it outside of battle.” The man replied.
“...Which is the only time something like this would be useful.” Gupta assumed. “And the difference between a TM and a HM is...?”
“Oh, it's hard to get your Pokémon to forget HM moves. And they all need Gym Badges to be used outside of battle.” The man detailed.
“I don't have time to battle the Gym Leader here. I'd better just keep on going.” Gupta summarised, turning away from the man and walking further into Granite Cave.
“If that's the way it has to be, at least keep that HM with you!” The man shouted after him. “I can't go home until I give so many away...”

The path ahead of Gupta remained dimly lit enough that the teenager could see. As he continued to walk, he noticed rustling noises coming from the ceiling. Despite this, he made it all the way to what appeared to be a ladder heading down before he was swooped on from above.
“Zubat!” The Pokémon cried.
“Oh.” Gupta looked up at the bat, shrugged, and sent out Taillow.
“Low!” Taillow called.
“Peck.” Gupta pointed in the direction of the bat. Taillow swooped in and attacked it.
“Zu!” The Zubat screeched, trying to latch onto Taillow. Taillow shrugged it off and followed up with another Peck and the Zubat fell to the ground, unmoving.
“That's it.” Gupta stated, returning Taillow to her Pokeball and continuing down the ladder.

The lower floor of Granite Cave was dark. This was clearly what the hiker had warned about. Gupta managed to make his way along by feeling the wall as he walked, but all the time he had the feeling he was being watched.
“Zubat!” The Zubat waiting above him shrieked, flying down and bouncing off his head.
“Another...?” Gupta stared at the bat in disbelief as it picked itself up. He decided to walk off before it noticed where he was.

Ten minutes later, Gupta was still on the first basement floor of Granite Cave. He had so far avoided another five Zubats. The creatures weren't that hard to walk away from, he had found, but their abundance was becoming annoying. As he escaped from yet another of the persistent things, Gupta's hand met a steep sand slope that rose up above him. Even in the blackness of the cave, Gupta could see that there was no way up. He therefore kept following the same wall on the same level as before. He only got a few more metres before another Zubat bounced off of his head. Gupta was becoming convinced it was the same one.
“Mudkip.” He sighed, throwing his starter's Pokeball onto the ground. “Water Gun.”
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, spraying water up at the Zubat, which in turn attempted to fly in and latch onto Mudkip, just as it did to Taillow. Mudkip whined as the Pokémon sank its fangs into him.
“Tackle.” Gupta pressed.
“Mud. Mudkip!” Mudkip roared, ramming the Zubat into a wall. The Pokémon slid down to the bottom and remained still.
“Kip! Mudkip mud!” Mudkip celebrated, before walking back over to Gupta.
“Good.” Gupta nodded. “Come on now.” He began walking back along the wall, Mudkip following him happily.

Several minutes later, Gupta reached a wider area of the cave, where another ladder downwards was situated. As he parted from the wall and prepared to descend further, he tripped and fell onto the ground. Mudkip ran up to him concernedly.
“I'm alright.” Gupta assured.
“Ron!” The Aron he had tripped over complained.
“Mudkip.” Gupta called. “Mud Slap.”
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, remembering the Aron from the Rustboro Gym and how easily that move had defeated them. He began to dig, coating his paws in mud, as the Aron charged towards him. Just before it could strike, Mudkip leapt from the hole, smacking the Aron in the face. The Pokémon took a step back, seemingly winded, and then charged him again.
“Mud Slap again Mudkip.” Gupta repeated.
“Mud!” Mudkip relayed, jumping back to avoid being charged before slapping the Aron again with his still coated paws. Aron fell back and didn't try to attack again.
“Kip!” Mudkip huffed.
“Come on.” Gupta beckoned, scooping Mudkip up and holding his Pokémon as he descended the ladder.

The lowest floor of Granite Cave was darker still, and incredibly damp. The smell of seawater permeated even this low, and if anything it was more concentrated at the lower levels. Gupta set Mudkip down and started walking. His starter followed, appearing completely at home.
“Do you know where you're going?” Gupta asked his Pokémon casually.
“Kip!” Mudkip nodded.
“Really?” Gupta stared at Mudkip in disbelief.
“Kip! Mudkip!” Mudkip jumped up and down, and began walking off at a quicker pace than before. Gupta tried his best to hurry up and keep Mudkip in his sight.

It wasn't long before they were attacked by another Zubat. Before Gupta could dodge it, three more appeared. Worse, Mudkip had already gone on ahead.
“Mudkip, Water Gun!” He shouted into the darkness, hoping his Pokémon could hear. As the Zubat began to swarm him, the teenager quickened his pace, trying to get away. As he ran he tripped and fell over another Aron, who also turned on him angrily. Gupta threw his hands up to shield himself from the Pokemon's wrath, cursing his luck...
And then a blast of water knocked the Aron over. Mudkip ran up to his trainer's side, growling at the gathered Pokémon before firing off another Water Gun to keep the myriad of Zubats at bay.
“Thank you Mudkip.” Gupta breathed a sigh of relief.
“Kip.” Mudkip replied, waiting for his trainer to stand before walking a little in the direction of the way ahead, jumping, and walking further. Gupta followed.

After a few more minutes of walking, Gupta reached a staircase of some kind carved into the rock. Mudkip huffed and began to climb the stairs, but he kept falling down, apparently too short to make it all the way up. Gupta reached down to pick his Pokémon up with a fond smile on his face. Mudkip could be stupid, but he was sure good at coming through for him when he needed to.
“Kip!” Mudkip chortled, cuddling into Gupta's side as the trainer carried him to the top of the stairs before setting him down again. The two of them had climbed to the top of the ridge, from which they could see the way they had come- sort of. Mudkip began walking ahead, and Gupta followed, more of the way they had come and the way they were going becoming visible to him as he walked. Mudkip kept alert, firing off the occasional Water Gun to dispel Pokémon Gupta couldn't even see in the shadows. He'd be done for without Pokémon to protect him.

Gupta was beginning to get bored by the time Mudkip reached the first of the ladders heading up. The Pokémon smiled and jumped in pride at himself. Gupta wondered if perhaps their travels through the cave were almost over. He picked Mudkip up and climbed the ladder. As he reached the second rung, something else fell on him.
“Sabeleye!” The Pokémon hissed.
“Mudkip, Water Gun.” Gupta stepped back, dropping Mudkip who fired off a jet of water that struck the Pokémon head on.
“Eye?” Sabeleye grinned, leaping towards Mudkip with its claws outstretched and raking down his face.
“Kiiiip!” Mudkip whined.
“Tackle.” Gupta commanded. Mudkip leapt towards Sabeleye... And carried on right through.
“Kip?” Mudkip panicked.
“What?” Gupta stared at the Sabeleye, surprised at what had happened.
“Sabeleye.” Sabeleye leered, causing Mudkip to shrink backwards in fear.
“Water Gun Mudkip.” Gupta encouraged. “It's okay.”
“Kip.” Mudkip accepted, jetting more water at the Pokémon. The Sabeleye remained grinning, but fell backwards onto the ground. Gupta hurried to Mudkip, picked him up, and climbed up the ladder as fast as he could.

Once reaching the top of the ladder, Gupta found himself on a plateau above the first basement floor of the cave. He looked out over the distance he had travelled, and then surveyed the area he was in. The next ladder was straight ahead of him. He stepped forwards...
“Zubat!” The Zubat screamed, flying down at Gupta and Mudkip.
“Kip!” Mudkip roared, struggling his way out of Gupta's arms and sending a Water Gun up at the Zubat. Gupta blinked. He didn't even need to tell Mudkip what moves to use. He supposed the Pokémon was that used to Zubat by now.
“Bat!” Zubat swooped in, trying to latch onto Mudkip, but Mudkip charged at it, knocking it back and into a wall.
“That's that.” Gupta finalised, picking up Mudkip and heading for the other ladder.

After climbing that ladder, Gupta and Mudkip re-emerged on the first floor of the cave. Gupta blinked against even the force of the dim light, unused to being able to see so far ahead. As he placed Mudkip down to rub his eyes, his Pokémon smiled and skipped off along the ledge they were standing on. Gupta ran to catch up with him. As far as he could see, they had climbed around and up onto a higher part of the cave. He could see the hiker from before down below. Hopefully at the end of the ridge they would find the man they were looking for. Gupta hadn't seen another trainer so far.

Ahead of Gupta and Mudkip, the path took a sharp left. As trainer and Pokémon reached the turn, a Pokémon sauntered out in front of them.
“Maku.” Makuhita growled.
“Kip.” Mudkip warned.
“Mudkip, Water Gun.” Gupta commanded.
Mudkip opened his mouth to spray water... And nothing happened. The Pokémon looked to his trainer in distress, and was hit with Makuhita's Tackle moments later.
“Mudkip, Tackle back.” Gupta defaulted.
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, springing into the air and knocking Makuhita down.
“Hita.” Makuhita hummed, getting up and standing in one place, appearing to concentrate its energy.
“Tackle once more Mudkip.” Gupta guided. Mudkip leapt forwards and knocked Makuhita down, but still appeared upset.
“Come on.” Gupta called, trying to cheer Mudkip up. “I don't think we have far to go.”

Sure enough, the two of them reached a hole in the cave wall just a few minutes later. Mudkip looked to Gupta. Gupta looked to Mudkip. Taillow burst out of her Pokeball and settled on Gupta's shoulder. Gupta walked into the room.

The inside of the room was plastered with murals in some ancient language Gupta had never seen before. The ceiling was vast- far higher than anywhere else in the cave. At one end, a huge mural swept across the entirety of the wall. A young man stood in front of this large mural. Although he was taller than Gupta- taller than almost anyone he'd met so far save for Sadik- he was still clearly a teenager, no more than two years or so older than Gupta. He had short black hair that appeared messy (and had one hair curl that stood out as if it had a will of its own), and was dressed in some jeans, a loose shirt and a jacket. Gupta couldn't see his face, but he assumed the other teenager was probably the colloquial, friendly type.

The boy sensed Gupta's presence in that moment, and turned around to regard him.
“A trainer...” He mused. “Great! I was hoping I'd see someone new!” He turned back towards the mural on the wall. “Take a look at this! I'd heard it's good, but wow. These must be those super ancient Pokémon from thousands of years ago... Who'da thought they'd still be depicted in stone here, huh?”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, stepping closer.
“Anyway, we haven't even met before right? I'm Yong Soo, what about you?”
“Gupta.” The teenager replied.
“Gupta. Huh. So what brings you here?” Yong Soo's face was contemplative. “You don't look like the kind of guy who goes and looks at murals for fun.”
“Right. I was told to deliver something to the brother of the Devon Corporation's head.” Gupta explained.
“Yao sent you on an errand? How like him.” Yong Soo laughed to himself. “Great, okay. I'm your guy.”
“Really?” Gupta checked. “You're the guy who wants the letter?”
“Oh, a letter? Neat,” Yong Soo smiled. “Yep, I sure am.” He confirmed.
“Okay then. I'll leave this with you.” Gupta stated, handing over the letter.
“Sure thing.” The other teenager grinned. He was reminding Gupta of Sadik already. “I'm sure Yao's gonna give you something in return, but take this too.” He handed Gupta another disc. “This TM contains Steel Wing. You might want to teach it to your Taillow or something.” He shrugged. “Anyway, I'm gonna head out. Nice meeting you!” He waved at Gupta and disappeared through the hole in the wall, back out into the main cave.

“Low.” Taillow ruffled her feathers and stared after Yong Soo.
“That's it.” Gupta declared. “We should go now...”
“Kiiip.” Mudkip stared in awe at the mural in front of him. Gupta decided to see what was so great about it. As he looked towards the mural and studied it for the first time, he saw why Mudkip was so interested.

The mural was huge, spanning the entirety of the wall it was situated on. To the left of the mural, a large lizard-like Pokémon was situated. The Pokémon was roaring into the air, breathing fire as it did so, and around it were several stylised volcanoes in the process of erupting. The beast's arms had Ω symbols placed on them. Meanwhile, an orca-like creature stretched over the right of the mural, appearing to call up to the sky. Rain was pouring down and a massive wave rose up behind the Pokémon, which had α symbols on its fins. In the middle of the mural, figures that appeared to be people cowered without relief from the Pokemon's rage. Above them, a third Pokémon appeared to be descending, this one in the form of a dragon, standing defiant over the humans, stance almost protective...

“Kiiip.” Mudkip repeated, still taking in the massive scene before them.
“How did the people thousands of years ago get the idea for this?” Gupta wondered aloud.
“Low...” Taillow chirped.
“Anyway.” The trainer continued. “We should get moving. We're finished here.”
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed.
“Tail!” Taillow concurred.

Gupta exited the small cavern and noticed a series of ledges beside him. He could see that jumping down the ledges would get him safely back to the entrance of the cave. As the trainer began to move, he heard a rustling above him, and looked up to see yet another Zubat. Mudkip tried to spit water at it, but he couldn't get an attack to materialise and appeared distressed. Gupta picked his starter up, checked Taillow was still on his shoulder, and ran from the Pokémon as fast as he could. He didn't look up until he was back out of the cave.

Route 106 was still lit by the sunlight of the afternoon when Gupta emerged back onto it. He began travelling back towards Dewford, hoping no other trainers would want to battle with him. As luck would have it, everyone else he saw along the way were busy with their own battles, be it with trainers or wild Pokémon. The fishermen were still engrossed in their sport. Nobody seemed to notice Gupta.

When he arrived back in Dewford Town half an hour or so later, things were buzzing. Children appeared to be gathered around the same spot as before, now building sand castles and holding mock battles with ground-type Pokémon. Gupta stared at them, confused as to what they were doing.
“What's going on?” He asked a random girl standing at the edge of the group.
“It's the sand! It's like the beach around us suddenly became the best thing ever! It's the new hot topic around town.” She explained.
“Why?” Gupta queried.
“I heard someone did some research and there's a new ground-type Gym Leader in the region. And we all thought it was really neat! I wanna be just like her!” The child giggled.
Gupta stared at her. Weren't these people freaking out about snow earlier in the day? They sure were impressionable...
“Hey, you know you look kind of like that Gym Leader.” Someone else in the group mentioned.
“No comment.” Gupta insisted, beginning to walk away.
“Hey, wait a sec! Do you know her? Tell us everything!” The person pressed, trying to follow Gupta. The teen lost the persistent fan by ducking into the Pokémon Centre. He needed to get Mudkip seen to anyway.

“You seem to have a following around here.” The nurse commented as Gupta walked in. “I suppose it must have something to do with your relation to that new Gym Leader... But as well as that, the people here are always catching onto new and trendy things.”
“I noticed.” Gupta stated, approaching the counter. “And I get it a lot.”
“I see.” The nurse nodded. “Anyway, what brings you here?”
“Mudkip.” Gupta held the offending Pokémon up. “He can't seem to use Water Gun anymore.”
“I see...” The nurse hummed. “He might be out of Power Points for that move.”
“Power Points...” Gupta parroted. He vaguely remembered seeing something about that in Petalburg Woods.
“Right. It's like the energy Pokémon use for their moves. I'll restore it for you now.” The woman smiled. “Would you like to rest Taillow too?”
“Okay.” Gupta agreed, returning both Pokémon to their Pokeballs and handing them over to the nurse.
“I'll be a few minutes, so please be patient.” She guided, turning to her machine and firing it up. Gupta was left to look around the Pokémon Centre, which looked as ordinary as any other, anywhere.

Gupta had just collected his Pokémon and hadn't even stepped away from the counter when Sadik barged into the Centre, running up to the nurse with a worried look on his face.
“Can ya heal these little guys?” He requested, handing his Pokeballs over to the nurse.
“Right away.” She replied.
“What happened?” Gupta questioned.
“I won... Barely. That was too close... I shoulda trained more.” Sadik described.
“Right.” Gupta nodded. “Well, I took care of the letter. We can go now.”
“Wait! We sure can't! Ya need to challenge the Gym too!” Sadik scowled.
“I don't need to.” Gupta insisted.
“Sure ya do! Ya gotta get 4 Gym Badges to challenge ya mum right?” Sadik argued. “Come on, I'll show ya the way.” He grabbed Gupta by the hand and all but dragged him from the Pokémon Centre.

“What about your Pokémon Sadik?” Gupta warned, not entirely comfortable with the situation.
“Don't worry about it. Nothing's gonna attack me while I'm still in the town, and I'll rush straight back to pick 'em up.” Sadik shrugged off. “Anyway, we need to focus on yer Gym Battle. Gym Leader uses water-types. Kinda a friendly guy. But to get to him, ya gotta go through his Gym Trainers. And those guys... Not so friendly.” Sadik shrugged. “Or at least, some of 'em aren't.”
“Great.” Gupta snarked.
“Well, good luck!” Sadik grinned, pushing Gupta into the Gym's door before he could react.

Chapter Text

The inside of the Gym was cold. Gupta was stood on a plateau containing only the Gym's statues and a vending machine. There was a doorway directly opposite him that he couldn't see through. To the right of that doorway, a familiar man stood.
“So you made it. I knew you'd come.” The man from the Rustboro Gym commented.
“How did you get here?” Gupta asked.
“I pulled a few strings. Moved myself around. Every Gym has people who stand here and talk to the challengers. But I have a feeling you'll be good to watch.”
“So you followed me here.” The teenager assumed.
“Something like that.” The man shrugged. “Anyway. The Gym here uses water types. Don't go in there with fire. Grass is okay. You can't see in there at the moment because it's so dark. There are a number of switches in there that turn on the lights. But trainers guard the switches. Beat the trainers, turn on the switches, and you'll light the path to their leader. Got all that?”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, walking towards the door. The man nodded at Gupta as he opened the door and walked through.

Beyond the door, it was dark, damp, and definitely cold. It reminded Gupta of the inside of Granite Cave. Just as he had there, the trainer felt his way along the wall beside him using his hands. Just like in Granite Cave, the wall appeared to be made of rock. Down below him, Gupta could hear the sound of water flowing. He focused on taking one step after another, a little concerned that the ledge he was on wasn't too wide. After less than a minute of walking, the teenager became aware of a wider area ahead of him, lit dimly by torches. As though drawn towards the light, Gupta stepped forwards...

“Got you!” A voice came from the side, and Gupta looked around to see the child he had spoken to earlier in the day- Peter if he recalled correctly- standing on one side of the arena.
“You're a Gym Trainer here.” Gupta stated.
“Right, and now you have to battle me, it's the rules!” The kid proclaimed excitedly.
“Here, on a platform that appears to be several feet above a river?” Gupta checked.
“Oh, don't worry, dad put up safety ropes.” Peter shrugged, pointing towards the edge. In the gloom of the torches, Gupta could just about make out a safety barrier. “Now, let's go! Go Wingull!”
“Gull!” Wingull chirped, ready for battle.
“Okay. You fight it Taillow.” Gupta decided, sending out Taillow.
“Low.” She responded.
“Water Gun Wingull!” Peter commanded his Pokémon.
“Peck Taillow.” Gupta replied. Taillow swooped in and pecked at the Wingull before it shot her away with a blast of water.
“Wingull, Wing Attack!” Peter decided.
“Peck again Taillow.” Gupta repeated. Taillow swooped in to attack the Wingull again and was slapped with the Pokemon's wings until she was dislodged.
“Use Water Gun!” Peter continued.
“Peck once more Taillow.” Gupta finished. Taillow beat Wingull to the punch and knocked it out of the sky.

“Well, I guess you won.” Peter pointed out. “You should hit this switch. Then you can go ahead easier.” He pointed to a switch next to where he was standing, just visible in the dim light.
“Right.” Gupta agreed, wandering over to the switch and flicking it. The level of light in the room increased a little, allowing Gupta to make out the walls of the Gym. They were definitely rock. He walked over to the safety ropes and tried to look down but couldn't see the source of the sound of water. At least he could see the path ahead, however dimly lit it was. Taillow settled onto his shoulder as he thought about it.
“Good luck.” Peter smiled. “You'll have to fight my dad before you get to the end.”
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, beginning to walk off down the path.

Gupta walked for several more minutes along the path carved into the rock wall of the Gym, seeing almost nothing asides from the walls and the safety ropes. Taillow sat on his shoulder, flapping her wings in a deliberate motion. Gupta deduced she was trying to remember the attack that Wingull had used in their last battle. He left her to it.

The next platform Gupta found himself on was more brightly lit than the last. It appeared to have small halogen lamps burning at the corners. Gupta knew to look for the switch, and he turned his head from left to right, looking in all the corners until he found it. And the man standing beside it.
“Hey, looks like you're the second challenger today. How's your challenge going?” He greeted. Gupta stared at the man. His violet eyes appeared gentle on the surface, but underneath there was determination. Some others could have missed this hidden undercurrent, but Gupta knew how to read people.
“I'm Tino by the way.” The trainer introduced himself. “Care to battle us?”
“I have no choice.” Gupta reminded the man. “Come on Taillow.”
“Ah, if that's the way you want it.” The man shook aside his blond hair as he laughed to himself. “I'll start with Lotad then!”
“Lotad.” The emerging Pokémon sung.
“Okay Taillow, use Peck.” Gupta started.
“Lotad, Absorb.” Tino decided. Taillow pecked the Pokémon rapidly, and it responded by attempting to sap its strength. Taillow appeared worn out from the attack. Gupta reasoned she hadn't recovered from the last battle.
“Use Peck again Taillow.” Gupta suggested, trying to make sure things were finished up as quickly as possible.
“Astonish Lotad.” Tino guided. Taillow beat the opposing Pokémon to the punch and it fell down, unmoving. Taillow landed on the ground, clearly tired.

“I'd switch that Pokémon out if I were you.” Tino advised, returning Lotad to the Pokeball. “It doesn't look like it can take much more.”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed. “Come on Taillow.” He returned his Pokémon to the ball and sent out Mudkip.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered.
“Okay then. Your turn Delibird!” Tino called, sending out his second Pokémon.
“Bird?” Delibird questioned, seemingly wondering where it was.
“Mudkip, Mud Slap.” Gupta commanded, resorting to his usual tactic.
“Present Delibird.” Tino commanded, smiling for some reason. Mudkip tried slinging Mud at the Delibird, but it seemed to do nothing at all as the bird took to the air and threw a box of some kind at Mudkip. It bounced off two metres to the side and blew up.
“It's flying type.” Gupta realised a little late. “Okay Mudkip, Tackle!”
“Kip!” Mudkip agreed, leaping into the air and slamming into the Delibird.
“Present again Delibird.” Tino retried. The Delibird tried to throw another box at Mudkip but this also missed.
“Tackle it once more.” Gupta declared.
“Kip!” Mudkip roared, slamming Delibird again.
“Present.” Tino repeated. The Delibird threw a third box, and this one hit straight on. Mudkip fell backwards, whining.
“Mudkip.” Gupta looked to his Pokémon.
“Kiiiip.” Mudkip cried, getting slowly to his feet. Gupta could see a faint blue aura surrounding the Pokémon.
“Water Gun.” The teenager commanded. Mudkip torrented a jet of water at the Delibird which knocked it into one of the walls. It didn't try to get up.
“Wow. I really keep underestimating abilities like Torrent.” Tino laughed, returning his Pokémon to the ball. “But I'd go back to the Pokémon centre before you continue. The guy after me... He'd wipe you out in the state you're in.”
“I can go back?” Gupta questioned. “Won't I lose progress?”
“No, we'll wait.” Tino leaned back. “I'll tell you about the way ahead when you return.”
“Okay, thanks.” Gupta nodded, picking up Mudkip and leaving the area.

“What happened?! Ya lose or somethin'?” Sadik fretted, watching as Gupta dragged Mudkip into the Pokémon Centre.
“No, I'm only halfway through. They advised me to rest Mudkip.” Gupta explained, walking straight up to the counter and leaving his Pokémon with the nurse.
“So ya beat the tall scary guy yet?” Sadik checked.
“...Tall scary guy?” Gupta stared at Sadik. He hadn't met anyone that fit that description yet. And if Sadik found the man tall and scary...
“Yeah. He's probably who you're gonna fight next then.” Sadik smirked, picking Gupta's Pokeballs from the counter and handing them back to him. “Anyway, good luck with that.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, turning around and waving a little to Sadik as he left again.

“Back for more?” The man at the entrance assumed. “You're halfway through already. Have fun with the rest.”
“Right.” Gupta acknowledged, walking back into the Gym.

“Well, I see you made it back alright.” Tino commented as Gupta walked up to him. “Let's flip the switch.”
Gupta nodded as he walked past Tino to the wall and did just that. Instantly the room brightened again, to the point where it had the intensity and colour of an early sunrise. Walking forwards, Gupta could finally make out the shape of a running stream below. He could also see that the path bent downwards, heading down the slope of the cliff towards the river.
“Down there, there's a sauna. It's pretty cool.” Tino described. “This Gym was modelled after the area we used to live in, which is why it looks so nature-like. Anyway, ahead you'll have to fight two more trainers and then the Gym Leader. Good luck!” He waved to Gupta as the teen set about his journey downwards.

The path was steep and Gupta stumbled several times. It took longer than he had hoped to reach the bottom of the cliff, and by the time he reached the clearing at the bottom he was tired. Ahead of him, there was another wide area, this time lit with brighter gas lamps. Gupta saw the switch almost immediately. And the man guarding it.

Clearly, this was what Sadik had meant by 'tall scary guy'. The man standing before Gupta was well over 6 feet in height, and towered over everyone the teenager had met so far on his journey. His eyes were aqua blue and appeared cold behind the man's glasses, yet deep underneath Gupta thought he detected a warm heart. As he regarded the stern looking man, he took several steps towards Gupta, until he was looking right down on him.
“I'm Berwald.” He stated. “Let's battle.” He stepped back slightly and sent out his first Pokémon.
“Duck!” Ducklett smiled at Gupta.
“Okay, go Taillow.” Gupta decided.
“Low!” Taillow growled, settling on the ground and staring at Ducklett.
“Ducklett, Water Gun.” Berwald ordered his Pokémon.
“Taillow, Peck.” Gupta responded. Ducklett spurted water into Taillow's face, but rather than swoop in to Peck, she arched around and slapped Ducklett with her wings. The Pokémon looked to her annoyed.
“Okay then.” Gupta figured he might as well go along with his Pokémon. “Wing Attack then.”
“Water Pulse.” Berwald chose. Ducklett sent out a swirling pattern of water that smacked into Taillow. She responded by slapping Ducklett with her wings again. The Pokémon smiled at her before falling over backwards.

“Okay Ducklett. Good.” Berwald returned one Pokémon and sent out another. “Chinchou, Bubble.”
Gupta stared at the new Pokémon. He could practically see the electricity sparkling from its antenna. He considered sending out Mudkip. He remembered it wouldn't be ground-type until it evolved. Things didn't look good.
“Taillow, Wing Attack.” He repeated. As far as he remembered, Chinchou didn't have any abilities that could harm Tallow...
The Bubbles struck Taillow in the face, but she responded with a strike from her wings. Chinchou looked annoyed at the attack.
“Wing Attack again.” Gupta repeated.
“Thunder Wave.” Berwald commanded. Chinchou charged up electricity with its antennae, and struck Taillow straight on. She managed to hit Chinchou first, yet fell to the ground, clearly suffering.
“Taillow, can you fight?” Gupta checked. Taillow picked herself up, still twitching from the electricity. Gupta wasn't sure how well she was going to pull any of her moves off...
“Water Gun.” Berwald continued.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta decided. Taillow struggled to get moving, but eventually managed to rush Chinchou, attacking the Pokémon before it could hit her with water. The Chinchou fainted on impact. Taillow fell back to the ground.

“Hmm.” Berwald mused, returning Chinchou to the Pokeball. “You have anything for Paralysis?”
Gupta thought about it for a second. He remembered Sadik had said something about berries that cured Paralysis back before they got to Rustboro. He searched around in his bag and pulled out the correct cure.
“Cheri Berries.” The tall man nodded. Gupta picked up Taillow and fed her one of the berries. Almost instantly she recovered, fluttering up onto his shoulder and nuzzling into his neck.
“That's good.” A hint of a smile graced Berwald's face as he visibly relaxed. Gupta walked over to the switch and hit it. The area lit up even further, illuminating the features of the Gym. The path from where he was standing wound itself around the side of the river, heading towards what appeared to be a waterfall at the edge of the Gym. It was as though a pleasant morning had broken out across the Gym floor.
“Keep going.” Berwald advised as Gupta turned around to walk onwards.

Several minutes more brought Gupta within striking distance of the waterfall. As he climbed a small outcropping of rock to reach the feature itself, he noticed floodlights straight ahead of him. As he walked past them they switched on, flooding the area with bright light. Ahead of him on the path was the last of the Gym Trainers.

The man's indigo eyes were dull and betrayed no emotion. As he walked forwards, Gupta found himself staring at the curl on the side of the trainer's blond hair, which appeared to not even be attached to his head. When the man got close to him, he sent out his Pokémon with no introduction.
“Wailll.” Wailmer bellowed. Gupta stared at the Pokémon. It was certainly... Large.
“Okay Taillow.” Gupta nodded to his Pokémon, which flew into the air from his shoulder.
“Water Gun.” The man commanded his Pokémon.
“Wing Attack.” Gupta told Taillow. Taillow darted up and hit the large Pokémon in the face before it responded with a jet of water aimed at Taillow.
“Again.” Gupta encouraged.
“Rollout.” The man changed tactics. The large Pokémon, already in the shape of a ball, rolled itself towards Taillow. Taillow struck it with her wings, but was then hit by the rolling Pokémon. She appeared to severely dislike the attack.
“Once more.” Gupta continued. Taillow nodded, flying around to catch up with the Wailmer as it rolled back for another hit. She hit it first and dodged out of the way as it rolled forwards and came to a stop.

“Return Wailmer.” The man spoke, readying his second Pokémon. “Go Seel.”
“Seel! Seel!” The emerging Pokémon clapped.
“Rest Taillow.” Gupta decided, returning her to the Pokeball. “Go Mudkip.”
“Kip!” Mudkip declared.
“Seel, Icy Wind.” The Gym Trainer chose.
“Mud Slap.” Gupta commanded. Mudkip charged the Pokémon, getting his paws covered in the mud of the arena on the way, before leaping up and hitting the Pokémon with the mud. Seel responded with a flurry of ice that Mudkip shrugged off.
“Headbutt.” The man changed his order.
“Mud Slap.” Gupta repeated. Mudkip charged the Seel again, hitting it before it could get its attack off. It fell down defeated.

“You won. Go fight the Leader.” The Gym Trainer summed up, returning his Seel to its Pokeball.
“Okay. Come on Mudkip.” Gupta finished, walking up to the switch and hitting it. The light in the area increased to that of the height of midday. From this angle Gupta could see an opening in the rock behind the waterfall. He knew where he had to go. He looked around to see Mudkip staring down at his reflection in the water of the waterfall's pool.
“Mudkip!” He called, beginning to walk off. Mudkip looked up and whined at Gupta, running to catch up.

The inside of the rock opening was a damp cave filled with light (there wasn't much of a ceiling to block it out). Water streamed down the walls and pooled in the middle. Mudkip tried to run into the water, and Gupta had to hold the starter Pokémon back. A man stood at the very back of the opening, a smile on his face.
“Hey there! Glad you made it.” He stepped away from the wall a little. “Welcome to the Dewford Gym.” He stretched a hand out to Gupta who took it, not sure of what this guy was up to.
“Do we battle now?” He asked.
“Sure, that's normally what we do here.” The man laughed. “I'm Matthias. Good luck beating me.”
Gupta couldn't help but feel the Gym Leader was a little full of himself. Matthias was tall- a similar height to Sadik- and he had blond hair that was completely wild. He smirked at Gupta as he released his first Pokémon.
“Okay Ariel!” He grinned.
“Poreon!” The Vaporeon called back to him. Gupta realised that Matthias nicknamed his Pokémon.
“Okay Taillow.” Gupta ordered, sending his Pokémon out of the ball. Mudkip pouted at being left out, and then began looking idly around the scene.
“Tackle Ariel.” The trainer commanded.
“Wing Attack.” Gupta retorted. Taillow hit into the Pokémon with her wings but was pushed back with a Tackle.
“Again Taillow.” Gupta assured.
“Water Gun.” The Gym Leader decided. Taillow struck the Pokémon again but was hit square on with a jet of water. She began to pant a little.
“Once more Taillow.” Gupta encouraged. Taillow swept around and hit Vaporeon from the front, sending it flying backwards. The Pokémon stayed down.
“Okay Ariel, good job!” The Gym Leader reassured his Pokémon, returning it to the ball. Taillow looked to Gupta, clearly tired but in no mood to give up. Her eyes glinted with determination.

“Kraken, let's see you fight!” The Gym Trainer introduced, sending out his second Pokémon.
“Tentacool.” The Pokémon narrowed its eyes at Taillow.
“Okay Taillow, Wing Attack again.” Gupta decided.
“Poison Spikes!” His opponent declared. Tentacool sent a barrage of spikes into the air (where they came from, Gupta didn't want to think about), and was then slammed into by Taillow.
“Now use Constrict.” The Gym Leader commanded.
“Wing Attack.” Gupta replicated. Taillow again hit the Pokémon with her wings but was snatched by its tentacles before she could escape.
“Acid.” The Gym leader told his Pokémon.
“Peck yourself free.” Gupta suggested. Taillow managed to Peck Tentacool hard enough that the Pokémon let her go. She swung around to attack again and it fell down before it could attack in return.

“Heh, you're doing well. But you can't last forever with one Pokémon.” Matthias commented, returning his Tentacool to the Pokeball.
“I don't plan to.” Gupta replied.
“Good.” Matthias grinned. “You know, there was a trainer in here before you. Tried to fight me with fire. He had a Poochyena that picked up most of the slack, but his fire-type didn't last a second. And he had a third Pokémon to help him. I hope you have something good.” He shrugged as he threw his last Pokeball. “Because Selkie's gonna shut down your Taillow.”
“Spheal!” The last Pokémon grinned, rolling around on the floor of the arena.
“Wing Attack.” Gupta duplicated his earlier commands.
“Ice Ball Selkie!” The Gym Leader requested. Taillow managed to score a hit on the Pokémon before it let off its attack. A ball of ice flew through the air and struck Taillow, knocking her down. She tried to get up but fell back to the floor.

“Rest Taillow.” Gupta decided, returning his Pokémon to her Pokeball. “Okay Mudkip.” He called to his Pokémon. Mudkip looked up from his position drinking out of the puddle in the middle of the cavern and trotted over. As he walked into the path of the Spheal, he tripped over the spikes on the floor, and appeared distressed at the wound.
“Okay Mudkip, Mud Slap.” Gupta resolved.
“Kip!” Mudkip jumped into the air before digging into the mud on the floor of the arena, running up to the Spheal and hitting it square in the face.
“Spheal!” Spheal rolled around until it was back on its feet and threw another Ice Ball at Mudkip.
“It wasn't even told to do that...” Gupta mused out loud.
“It's a multi-turn move. Selkie'll keep doing that until she misses.” Matthias explained.
“Fine. Mudkip, Tackle!” Gupta communicated. Mudkip appeared distracted for a second, but nodded and charged at the Spheal. Selkie responded with a larger ball of ice that hit Mudkip straight on.
“Kip.” He shrugged, throwing the dust from the ice off. Gupta reasoned that the balls of ice would only get larger. Mudkip appeared visibly hurt by something that clearly wasn't the ice.
“Tackle again.” The teenager imitated himself, hoping that either Selkie would miss or Mudkip would defeat her before the Ice Ball became too powerful. However, Mudkip seemed to disobey his command, instead curling into a ball in front of Selkie.

“Mudkip, what...?” Gupta stepped back. Selkie hit him with an even larger ball of ice than before. Mudkip didn't move, not even to flinch. Gupta was becoming worried for his Pokémon.
“Mudkip.” He called out, hoping to snap Mudkip out of it.
“Kiiip.” He replied, his tone suggesting he was focusing hard.
“Spheal!” Selkie called, throwing a huge ball of ice at Mudkip. Mudkip shivered a little, before rolling towards Selkie, still curled into a ball. Gupta had no idea what his Pokémon was planning. Mudkip waited a moment once he had reached the opponent, and then unfurled himself rapidly, striking Selkie with astonishing power. The Spheal was sent flying several metres into the air, and collapsed upon hitting the ground.
“That...” Matthias mused as he returned her to her Pokeball. “Was a pretty good Bide.”

“Well, guess you beat me after all. You're pretty good for a beginning trainer without any evolved Pokémon.” Matthias smiled, walking up to Gupta. “And that means you deserve this Rain Badge.” He offered the object out to Gupta, who took it and pinned it to his bag strap, much as he had his first badge.
“Now any kind of Pokémon you get traded to you by someone else'll obey you up to level 30.” The Gym Leader explained. “You can also use Flash outside of battle.”
“I wouldn't need to do that.” Gupta commented. He had survived well enough without Flash.
“Well, anyway, have this too. It's just something I give out to trainers.” Matthias took out a disc and passed it to Gupta. “It's the TM for Water Pulse. Just in case you wanted to teach it to your little Mudkip.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded.
“Anyway, good luck with your journey!” The Gym Leader smiled and waved as Gupta picked up Mudkip and left.

“Pretty bright in here now isn't it?” The man at the entrance commented as Gupta walked back out of the main room of the Gym. “Well done with that. You know, something tells me you're going to go far.” He leaned against the pillar of the Gym. “I'll see you around.”
“Fine.” Gupta answered, leaving the Gym so he could find Sadik. It made no difference to him what anyone else wanted to do.

“So, ya won then?” Sadik assumed, leaning against the counter of the Pokémon Centre as Gupta healed his team.
“I did.” Gupta confirmed.
“Great, and not a moment too soon!” Sadik smirked. “If we go now we'll make Slateport while we still have light.”
“You want to go already?” Gupta questioned.
“Sure do. Come on, we can talk about it all on the boat.” Sadik strode off at quite a pace, leaving Gupta to grab his Pokeballs and run to catch up.

As Carlos unmoored the boat and set sail for Slateport City, Gupta recorded another entry in his Pokedex.
“Zubat remains quietly unmoving in a dark spot during the bright daylight hours. This causes them to swarm in caves in large numbers. This Pokemon is highly annoying and persistent and should be avoided at all costs.”

Chapter Text

As the boat continued along Route 107, Gupta returned to looking out over the waves, watching the trainers swimming with their Pokémon. On the deck of the boat, Mudkip skipped around happily, feeling at home on the water. Ates ran in circles around the circumference of the boat, full of unbridled energy. Taillow and Asena rested together at the front edge of the vessel. Sadik sat next to Gupta, looking over at the scenery.
“Where's Lale?” Gupta noticed.
“She's in her Pokeball.” Sadik explained. “She's bein' too hyper, so I thought a nap would be good for her.”
As Sadik spoke, there was a flash of light and the sound of a Pokeball being opened. Lale looked around and jumped up at Sadik when she saw him, clearly wanting some attention.
“Saur! Bulbasaur!” She called.
“Lale, ya need to take a rest at least.” Sadik nagged, picking her up properly.
“Saur.” She chirped, settling into his arms.

“Kip?” Mudkip questioned, seeing that Lale was getting affection. He crawled over to Gupta and began pawing at his legs.
“Kip... Mudkip...” He whined.
“Alright.” Gupta sighed, gathering his Pokémon into his arms.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, leaning up to Gupta's face and licking him roughly.
“Saur!” Lale agreed, crawling over in Sadik's lap to lick Mudkip in turn. Mudkip turned around to bark at her and they began playing together, soon jumping onto the floor and running around.
“She is so energetic.” Sadik mused.
“Wonder if they'll ever change?” Gupta queried.
“Probably not.” Sadik answered.

Before too long, Route 107 became Route 108, and an object became visible in the distance. Both Sadik and Gupta picked up on it, and leaned over the edge of the boat to get a better look. Even their Pokémon stopped their activities to stare at the structure.
“That? That's a boat that's been marooned there for who knows how long.” Carlos explained as he guided the boat past the wreck. “It got left there since the Pokémon enjoy it, and now it's sort of a habitat for the little guys.”
“Interesting.” Sadik smirked. “Quite the place.”
“How long until we reach Slateport?” Gupta asked.
“Not long at all now. And looks like we still have the light with us.” Carlos smiled, noting the afternoon sun that showed little sign of fading.
“Good. We gotta at least explore the city before we go to bed.” Sadik decided.
Gupta looked back to the sunken wreck of the abandoned ship. Other than that structure, there was nothing remarkable about Route 108- just a few rocks pointing up out of the otherwise clear sea.

Half an hour later, Route 109 was reached. Sandbanks became visible alongside the rocks, and to the left of the boat, a wide beach began and stretched out before them.
“We're here.” Carlos announced, guiding the boat through the sandbanks to a short jetty by the shore. “Head up the beach. Then you'll reach Slateport.”
“Right.” Sadik nodded.
“Chic!” Ates agreed. Gupta stared at him.
“I thought Ates was a Combusken now.” He noted.
“Right. Guess he musta been confused.” Sadik shrugged. “It's not been that long since he evolved after all, and who knows how long he spent as a Torchic before that.”
“I suppose so.” Gupta accepted.
“Kip!” Mudkip cheered, leaping out of the boat and onto the jetty. Lale followed, and Sadik and Ates moved to follow her. Asena stared after them as if they were insane.

As Gupta followed down the board-walk and onto the beach, following Mudkip and with Taillow following him, he noticed Sadik already in battle with a Sailor on the left side of the beach. Remembering that Slateport was at the top of the beach, he began walking in that direction. Only seconds into his walk, he was interrupted by a hyper child.
“Wow! You look like a strong trainer! Battle me!” He demanded, standing before Gupta. Gupta looked down at the kid. He was hardly half his height, and he appeared to be clinging to an inflatable water ring as if it was the most important thing he owned.
“Go Zigzagoon!” The boy threw his Pokeball at the ground, sending out his only Pokémon.
“Goon!” Zigzagoon chirped.
“Mud!” Mudkip chipped in, trotting into the battle before Gupta could even call him.

“Okay Zigzagoon, use Headbutt!” The tuber commanded.
“Water Gun Mudkip.” Gupta responded. Mudkip was slammed into by the Zigzagoon and responded with a forceful jet of water.
“Use Headbutt again Zigzagoon,” the child repeated. Gupta remembered the move Mudkip had used against the Gym Leader a few hours ago.
“Use Bide Mudkip.” He decided.
“Kip!” Mudkip curled into a ball and took the Headbutt of the Zigzagoon head on.
“Headbutt once more!” The young trainer foolishly decided. Mudkip absorbed the new attack, looking back to Gupta within his curled position with a look of determination on his face. Gupta felt proud of his Pokémon. He noted that Mudkip looked strangely competent, as though ready for... Something.
“Hang on Mudkip.” He encouraged.
“Kip!” Mudkip unleashed his power against the Zigzagoon, knocking it backwards with great force. The Pokémon fell backwards, clearly winded.
“Okay Zigzagoon, Headbutt!” The trainer finished.
“Water Gun.” Gupta finalised.
“Kip!” Mudkip chased forwards, jetting water to attack the Zigzagoon. He was hit by the Headbutt, but remained standing. The Zigzagoon fell over and fainted after being hit by Mudkip's attack.

“Wow, you really are good. You should try to win at the seashore house!” The child congratulated.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, looking towards his Pokémon, who was jumping up and down in the middle of the sand.
“Mud-kip!” Mudkip celebrated. Sadik wandered over, his Pokémon nowhere to be seen. Gupta guessed they had been returned to their Pokeballs.
“Hey, looks like ya won too. Was gonna hit up that seashore house in a sec, if ya wanna come with.” He suggested.
“Okay.” Gupta agreed. He looked back to Mudkip in order to call his Pokémon over, and found he was practically glowing with his success. In fact, he was glowing. Midway through one of his jumps, Mudkip turned completely white with the shine, and Gupta almost had to look away.
“What's happening?” Gupta asked.
“Low!” Taillow chirped, settling on Gupta's shoulder and watching the scene.
“Ya didn't know? Ya mean ya've never heard of Pokémon evolution?” Sadik stared at Gupta as if he was on fire. “I thought ya were a Gym Leader's kid.”
“I've heard of it. But I've never actually seen one evolve before.” Gupta responded.
“Well, there ya go. Ya little guy's evolvin'.” Sadik smirked.

Mudkip began to change shape as the white glow got more and more intense. He landed on the ground and appeared to rear up onto his hind legs. He grew taller, and the fin on his tail appeared to split into two. When the bright light from the evolution disappeared, the Pokémon before Gupta was almost unrecognisable.
“Marshtomp!” His Pokémon cheered.
“Marshtomp?” Gupta questioned.
“Taillow!” Taillow acknowledged.
“Yep. The evolved form of Mudkip. Cute little guy huh? And he's a ground type to boot!” Sadik smirked.
“Marsh!” Marshtomp smiled, picking up a hunk of mud with his now free arms and throwing it at Gupta's face.
“Heh, he wants to show off.” Sadik suggested.
“Mudki... I mean Marshtomp, no.” Gupta scolded, dodging the mud.
“Tomp.” Marshtomp whined.

“Anyway, should we check out this seaside house?” Sadik continued, looking towards a hut standing on the shoreline that Gupta assumed was the place.
“Marshtomp!” The newly evolved Pokémon agreed, running towards the seaside house... Or perhaps just to the seaside. Marshtomp cheered to himself as he jumped up and down on the wet sand of the shoreline.
“Aww, he sure does like the mud.” Sadik commented.
“Maybe we shouldn't disturb him.” Gupta advised.
“Right. I'll go in there and check that place out then. You stay here with yer Pokémon.” Sadik waved and disappeared into the building, leaving Gupta with Marshtomp. Taillow stared after Sadik as he left, but still stayed put on Gupta's shoulder.

“Are you still the same Pokémon?” Gupta mused out loud, crouching down to get a better look at Marshtomp. His Pokémon smiled up at him, giving the same goofy grin as he always had.
“Guess so.” Gupta nodded, picking Marshtomp up. He was heavier for sure, but still so small- he barely reached Gupta's hip in terms of height.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp barked, nuzzling Gupta as he was picked up.
“Tail.” Taillow chirped, looking Marshtomp over from her perch on Gupta's shoulder.
“Marsh.” Marshtomp seconded, patting Taillow on the head with his arm. Gupta smiled a little. In reality, nothing much had changed about his Pokémon.

Gupta ended up sitting on the beach waiting for Sadik for almost half an hour. The sun was setting and the trainers began to head back to their homes. Taillow flew around for a while, surveying the new area in which she found herself, before she roosted back on Gupta's shoulder and watched as Marshtomp continued to play in the surf. Eventually, Sadik emerged from the seashore house, his Pokémon out of their Pokeballs again. Ates spotted Marshtomp and trotted over to say hello.
“Combusken?” He greeted, suspecting Marshtomp was the same Pokémon he knew.
“Marshtomp.” Marshtomp nodded.
“Busken!” Ates cheered, drawing Marshtomp into a hug.
“Tomp.” Marshtomp smiled.
“Saur?” Lale sidled up to Marshtomp, butting heads with him. Gupta noticed that the two Pokémon now looked each other straight in the eye.
“Marsh.” Marshtomp greeted Lale.
“Yena.” Asena huffed, sitting next to Sadik.

“Anyway.” Sadik changed the subject, walking up to Gupta. “I got a six-pack of soda pop in there, so ya can have some.” He handed a couple of drinks to Gupta, who slipped them into his bag with thanks. “And while it's still light, we might as well take in the city a little.”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, standing up. “Let's go.”
He began to walk off, with Sadik and his Pokémon trailing behind him. Marshtomp didn't seem to notice, and ran to catch up the minute he realised they were really leaving.

The sun was almost entirely set by the time Sadik and Gupta made their way into Slateport City, but Sadik seemed adamant that they should explore.
“We've never been this far away from home before- either of us. Let's make the most of it.” He enthused.

Slateport was large- larger than any of the other cities Gupta had visited in Hoenn. To the West of the city, there was a large sprawling market. The traders were packing up for the day, but Sadik still insisted they walk along it and take in the scale of the wares for sale. To the north of the market, there were buildings that looked rather important, and in the severe north, a spacious hall of some kind towered over the usual houses.
“Let's go see what they all are.” Sadik suggested.

The inside of the first important looking building was stuffed full of trainers arguing over their favourite Pokémon while an old looking man stood in the middle like some sort of judge. Sadik and Gupta only looked around the door before backing out of there.
“The sign says 'Pokémon fan club'.” Gupta read.
“It looks lively in there.” Sadik pointed out.
“Ken...” Ates agreed.

The second building contained a man sat at a table, who was busy rating the nickname another trainer had given to his Pokémon. Sadik scoffed at the idea.
“Who cares what anyone else thinks about the names ya gave yer own Pokémon?” He pointed out.
“Saur!” Lale added. Gupta stared in the direction of the man, hoping he couldn't hear them.

The largest of the buildings was closed by the time they reached it, but the sign on the entrance pointed to it being a contest hall.
“Contest?” Gupta queried. “What kind of contest would that be?”
“No idea.” Sadik shrugged. “But I am interested. We should check back tomorrow.”

The Eastern side of the city contained a ferry port, a shipyard, and a museum of some kind. When Gupta walked to the front of the ferry port, he noticed a sign that said the ship due to run from it was still under construction.
“You mean they don't even have one boat yet? What good's a port without a boat?” Sadik asked out loud.
“If the information board is anything to go by...” Gupta observed. “A lot of scientific research teams base their vessels here. Not just boats, but submarines and other equipment as well.”
“Huh. Scientific equipment? Would be weird if someone ever tried to steal that stuff, just sayin'.” Sadik pointed out. “I mean, this place doesn't look very secure.”
“Yena.” Asena contributed.

The shipyard was well and truly closed, but at least Gupta was safe in the knowledge he now knew where to go tomorrow. The two teens continued on to the museum. The sign outside told them that it was the Oceanic Museum and that it was dedicated to the sea, but there was no sign of life inside.
“Guess there's lots we can see and do tomorrow.” Sadik foretold.

The only other thing worth noting in the city was the lighthouse. Gupta could see it from the museum's door, and noticed that its lights were shining brightly against the darkness of the coming night. It reminded him that he had better get to the Pokémon Centre for the night.

Gupta had just gotten out of the shower when the Pokenav given to him two days before began to ring on his bed. Hair still dripping, the teen raced over to the devise, curious as to what was happening.
“Gupta.” His mother's voice called to him. “How are you getting on? I heard you beat the Gym Leader in Dewford.”
“Mama...” Gupta stared at the Pokenav. “How did you get my number?”
“Matthias told me.” Cleo brushed off.
“And how did he get it?” Gupta stared incredulously at the wall. How did everyone know his number all of a sudden?
“Yong Soo told him. And Yong Soo knows because he works for Devon.” Cleo beat her son to the punch. “And if you're wondering how we all have call functions on these Pokenavs when they're meant to still be being trialled, that's because the Gym Leaders are testing them too. Along with a few other people connected to Devon.”
“Right.” Gupta sighed. “Anyway, I did win in Dewford. And Mudkip evolved.” He looked over to Marshtomp, who was passing a ball around with Ates in a corner of the room.
“How wonderful.” His mother purred. “Another ground type, hmm?”
“I suppose so.” Gupta accepted.
“Good luck. I hope to be able to fight with you soon.” She finished, hanging up the line.
“That was it?” Gupta stared at the Pokenav for a moment before putting it down on the bed and taking out his Pokedex. He set it to the page for Marshtomp and began to record a new entry.

'Marshtomp, the Mud Fish Pokémon. Marshtomp's sturdy legs enable it to retain its footing, even in the muddiest of areas. This Pokémon loves to play in the mud on beaches. It retains its dopey disposition from before its evolution from Mudkip.'

Chapter Text

A deafening cacophony of Ates, Taillow and Lale woke Gupta from his sleep early the next morning. He rolled over blearily and glared at the Pokémon in question. Asena looked to them with a face that screamed 'I told you so'.
“Saur...” Lale pouted, appearing the most put out of the group. Taillow turned to preening her feathers and Ates wandered up to Gupta. Lale followed, still with a downcast look on her face. Gupta wondered where Marshtomp was.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, using Water Gun on Sadik.
It was as if nothing had changed.

“So, first of all, guess we need to check out that shipyard and deliver that case, right? We can always go to the other places later.” Sadik suggested as he walked with Gupta from the Pokémon Centre.
“Right. I don't really want to keep it around any longer.” Gupta motioned to the case stuffed into his bag.
“Then let's go!” Sadik enthused, striding off at a pace that had Gupta running to keep up.

In the daylight, the shipyard was a hub of activity. Sadik walked through the door confidently but then stared awkwardly at the mass of people hurrying about. The teenagers were stood in a corridor filled with metal girders and people who seemed to be hard at work. To the right of the area, a cordon line stretched across an entrance to another area Gupta couldn’t see into from where he was standing. Towards the back of the area, next to the stairs, there was a table with some workmen stood around it, pondering over something.
“So, any idea where we're goin' with this exactly?” He asked, looking around for some sort of receptionist or other official person who would talk to them.
“You know I don't. You were there when I got this.” Gupta complained.
“Huh? Who are you?” Voiced one of the workmen.
“We were asked to bring some parts from Rustboro here.” Gupta explained.
“Ah. You’ll need to speak to Toris about those.” The worker commented.
“Toris?” Gupta repeated.
“Right. Mr. Laurinaitis is one of the main engineers here.” The worker explained. “He requested that stuff. I’d go talk to him.”
“Fine. Where is he?” Gupta accepted, glancing towards the back of the building to try to see if the man in question was there.
“He stepped out for a while. I think he might have gone to the museum.” The worker described.
“We’ll look there then.” Gupta decided, turning around and getting ready to leave the place.
“Yeah, I’d do that.” The worker advised, turning back to his work.
“Okay, should we go?” Sadik checked, turning to face Gupta.
“Of course.” Gupta shrugged, already walking out the door.

The Oceanic Museum was clearly open and bustling, that much was clear before Gupta and Sadik even got close. A huge line of people extended from the entrance of the museum. At first, Gupta thought there was nothing remarkable about the line. But as he got closer, he noticed something peculiar. All of the people in the line were dressed identically, in the same stripy shirts and brown shorts as those worn by the woman they had confronted two days ago. Gupta had a bad feeling about the group. Team Aqua, wasn’t it?
“What should we do?” Sadik voiced as they drew nearer to the line of people.
“Join the back?” The teenager suggested.
“Ya think they’d just let us in?” Sadik stared.
“Probably.” Gupta admitted. It wasn’t like they had any other choice.

By the time the line had dwindled enough for Sadik and Gupta to be near the front, it was already close to midday. Stepping through the doors of the museum, Gupta became aware of an admissions desk. However, the women manning it appeared to be waving people through. Gupta decided to slip through without even talking to the women.
“Are you the last in your group?” One of them asked as he passed by.
“Huh? Well actually…” Sadik began.
“Yes.” Gupta cut him off, dragging him away.

“What was that about?” Sadik asked as he was led away by Gupta.
“There’s an admissions charge. But they must charge groups differently, and they assumed us to be with them.” Gupta explained.
“We can’t just not pay to get in.” Sadik complained.
“We have more important things to worry about.” Gupta insisted, looking around the museum. The exhibits on water quality and the properties of the sea did not interest the teenager at all, but the oddly dressed people milling about between them definitely did. They didn’t even appear to notice Gupta and Sadik though.
“I don’t know why they’re here… But it feels suspicious.” Gupta commented.
“Right. Let’s find that guy and leave.” Sadik decided.

The first floor of the museum yielded nothing out of the ordinary, and the people there didn’t even acknowledge Gupta and Sadik, so they carried onto the second floor. Amongst the displays and dioramas of ships that spanned the exhibition area, they noticed a young, timid looking man, studying a model ship with a worried expression on his face. His brown hair framed his face, and as he looked towards the sound of the teenagers approaching, his green eyes appeared apprehensive.
“Who are you?” He asked, seemingly withdrawing into himself.
“We’re delivering a case from Rustboro.” Gupta explained curtly.
“Really? Yao sent you? Oh good.” The man sighed in relief. “I’m Toris. Toris Laurinaitis. I’m meant to be working in the shipyard, but I came here to study the models of already made boats while waiting for those parts you carry. And I heard a commotion downstairs…”
“Yeah, there’s some weirdos in pirate outfits down there.” Sadik filled in.
“They call themselves Team Aqua.” Gupta added.
“Really?” Toris stepped back. “Do you think we should leave?”
“It’s a little late for that, I’m afraid.” Came a voice from behind the group. Gupta turned around to see the same woman from before staring determinedly at them.
“You.” Sadik growled.
“Great, the brats from before. I lost that case because of you. And now, you’ve delivered it back to us. All’s well that ends well.” She smirked at Gupta. “Hand it over.”
“As if.” Gupta glared her down.
“Hit me with the bravado all you like kid. You can’t defeat me and my teammates already here. Not all of us. We’ll just take the case by force!” She declared, bringing out her Pokeballs.
“Sadik, get the police.” Gupta commanded, turning to his travel companion.
“What? No way! I gotta stay and help!” Sadik complained.
“Get help. Now.” The shorter teen fixed Sadik with an icy stare.
“Right. Okay.” Sadik backed away, running from the scene.

“Huh. As if that can help you. Purrloin, take that case.” The woman demanded, sending out a familiar Pokémon.
“Purr.” Purrloin threatened.
“Okay Marshtomp, use Mud Shot.” Gupta decided, throwing Marshtomp’s Pokeball at the ground.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, spitting mud at the opposing Pokémon (where it had come from was something Gupta didn’t want to know).
“Purrloin, Fury Swipes!” The woman ordered.
“Loin!” Purrloin growled, charging towards Marshtomp. It was hit square in the face by the mud, but kept advancing, and clawed multiple times at Marshtomp’s face.
“Tomp.” He whined.
“Tackle it off.” Gupta decided.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed, tackling the Purrloin to the ground. The opponent’s Pokémon gave up the fight.
“Argh, no way. I won’t lose to you again!” The woman sneered, returning her Pokémon to its ball and sending out her second.
“Yena.” Poochyena growled.
“Okay Poochyena, use Bite.” The woman commanded.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta responded.
Poochyena moved quickly, running to bite Marshtomp, but was pushed away by a jet of water from Marshtomp.
“Tackle.” The woman decided.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta replied.
Marshtomp dodged the Poochyena’s attack and hurled Mud at the opposing Pokémon. Poochyena didn’t stand up to the attack. The woman took a step back, not able to believe what she was seeing.
“How…? How can I keep losing to you like this?”

“Having trouble?” A figure behind the woman asked. Gupta looked up and saw a man in the same brown shorts and stripy shirt as the rest of the group who had invaded the museum advancing on them. He looked confident and amused as he squared up to Gupta. As the teen looked him over, he realised he couldn’t see the man’s hairline under his bandana.
“Just some brat getting in our way.” The woman explained.
“Really? A kid like this?” The man laughed. “Let me deal with him.”
“If you wish. Get that case.” The woman nodded.
“What now?” Toris asked behind Gupta.
“Do you have any Pokémon at all?” Gupta checked.
“No. Not one.” Toris shook his head.
“Great…” Gupta looked to Marshtomp. At least he appeared to be feeling alright.

“Okay Poochyena, take that case back!” The man declared. A second Poochyena emerged and roared in Marshtomp’s direction.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp retorted, spitting mud at the enemy before Gupta even had time to react. The human stared at his Pokémon in surprise. For something so dopey, Marshtomp could sure strike swiftly sometimes.
“Poochyena, Bite!” The attacking man ordered his Pokémon.
“Yena.” The Pokémon acknowledged, latching onto Marshtomp and biting down.
“Marshtomp, Water Gun.” Gupta suggested.
“Tackle Poochyena.” The man barked.
Poochyena dropped Marshtomp from its teeth in order to kick it in the face, and Marshtomp shot it into a wall with his attack. Poochyena tried to struggle to its feet but fell down again, exhausted.

“Drat, this kid’s tough.” The man seethed, returning the Poochyena to its Pokeball. “But we’re not finished yet! Go Clamperl!”
“Clamperl.” The Pokémon called.
Gupta looked the Pokémon over. It appeared to be some sort of water type. It was in the form of a large shell from which a creature of some kind peered out. It generally seemed like a defensive type.
“Okay Marshtomp, use Tackle.” He defaulted.
“Water Gun Clamperl.” The man decided.
Marshtomp ran full speed into the Clamperl, hitting into the Pokémon while it was still moving, sluggish as it was. Gupta reasoned that the Pokémon was even slower than Marshtomp. Clamperl eventually reacted to the attack by attempting to throw Marshtomp off with water. Marshtomp shrugged off the attack.
“Okay Clamperl, use Clamp.” The man changed tactic.
“Mud Shot Marshtomp.” Gupta offered.
Marshtomp sprayed the opposing Pokémon with mud and left it clearly hurting. The Clamperl retaliated by latching onto Marshtomp and biting down hard, closing its shell around his leg. Marshtomp panicked and tried to throw off the Pokémon.
“Clamp lasts for several turns. So don’t even try to get rid of my Clamperl.” The man boasted.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta repeated.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed, fighting through the pain to shoot more mud into Clamperl’s face. The Pokémon was thrown off and hit the ground, falling back with its shell wide open. It didn’t manage to recover.

“Geh! How tough is this kid anyway?!” The man exclaimed, stepping back.
“He’s a thorn in our side… At this rate, we’ll get in trouble if we can’t get that case.” The woman concurred.
“What is it? What’s taking you all so long?” A third voice chimed. Gupta looked over the two people he had battled and came face to face with a woman who had more of an air of authority to her than the others. Her honey eyes seemed to be laughing as she approached. She wore a casual light blue dress, the colour of which was interrupted By two bands of black and a band of darker blue that ran around her waist. Hung from a gold chain there was the same symbol on the bandannas of the other members of the team. Her arms were covered with a navy coat, the sleeves of which frayed halfway down her arms and which only dropped to her navel in length. The edges of the coat were framed in white. Her boots were the same shade of blue as her dress, with white lines running down the sides and circling in the middle of her feet. The only thing about her that didn’t fit in with the other members of the group was the bright red ribbons that tied her dark hair into pigtails.
“Oh, Michelle!” The woman he had fought first gasped. “It’s this bratty kid. He’s slowing us down in our mission.”
“A kid? Let me deal with him!” The newcomer insisted, stepping forwards. “We don’t exactly have that much time to lose after all.”
“As you wish.” The man shrugged, letting the new woman through.

“I hope you’re ready to lose!” Michelle exclaimed, sending out her first Pokémon.
“Feebas.” The Pokémon stared ahead at Gupta and Marshtomp. Gupta stared back. This Pokémon looked almost like a painted Magikarp.
“Feebas, use Tackle!” Michelle ordered.
“Tackle Marshtomp.” Gupta requested. Feebas charged into Marshtomp, who responded with a tackle that sent the Feebas flying. It was knocked out instantly.

“Hey, not too bad. Can you keep it up?” The woman complimented, sending out her next Pokémon.
“Wingull!” The Pokémon chirped.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp growled.
“Wing Attack Wingull!” Michelle decided.
“Tackle.” Gupta repeated. Marshtomp was struck by Wingull and responded with an attack of his own. He appeared to be getting fatigued.
“Use Supersonic.” Michelle changed her strategy.
“Tackle again.” Gupta stayed course. Marshtomp dodged the odd sound waves being emitted by Wingull, and jumped up to knock it out of the sky. The Pokémon fell to the ground.

“Well, you might just be as tough as they say. But I’m not giving up so easily!” Michelle expressed, bringing forth her final Pokémon.
“Alomomola.” It introduced itself.
Gupta stared. He’d definitely never seen that one before. He was also confused as to how it stood up, seeing as it was a fish.
“Alomomola, use Water Sport.” Michelle started. The Pokémon sprayed water like rain around the arena. Gupta wasn’t sure what the point was.
“Mud Shot.” He suggested. Marshtomp happily obliged, throwing mud at his target.
“Okay, now use Hydro Pump!” Michelle demanded. The opponent sent out a strong burst of water that knocked Marshtomp over. He tried to get up, but fell back to the ground.

“Okay Marshtomp, come back.” Gupta accepted, returning Marshtomp to its Pokeball and sending out Taillow.
“Use Wing Attack.” He stated instantly.
“Tail!” Taillow chirped, taking off into the air.
“Should have known you’d have another Pokémon.” Michelle mused. “Alright Alomomola, use Hydro Pump again.”
Taillow flew in to strike the enemy Pokémon and was able to dodge the attack that came in return.
“Wing Attack again Taillow.” Gupta responded.
“Pound.” Michelle tried. Taillow swooped in and struck the Pokémon again and took an attack in response. Gupta stared at the opposing Pokémon. How much health did it have?
“Quick Attack Taillow.” Gupta finished. The Alomomola was sent flying into a display case before Michelle had even announced her attack. She stared at Gupta for a good second, thoroughly shocked. Taillow landed on Gupta’s shoulder smugly.

“Huh? And what, may I ask, is happening here? Don’t tell me you all lost to this child here.”
The voice resounded throughout the floor of the museum, and when Gupta looked over Michelle’s shoulder, he caught sight of another new face. This man appeared to have more of an authority to than even Michelle commanded.

Green eyes looked sharply towards Gupta, sizing him up. As the man stepped forwards, his blond hair swayed slightly under the blue bandanna he was wearing, emblazoned with a white symbol that matched that the others in the group wore. The same sigil appeared on the navy coat the man wore, the collar of which stood up while the ends frayed around the man’s knees. The coat was undone, showing off the gold spyglass he wore on a chain around his neck. The tattered ends of his coat wrapped awkwardly around his black trousers as he walked towards Michelle. Blue boots made a resounding sound on the floor of the museum that spoke of the man’s confident walk. In short, he looked like a pirate.

“Well, what do we have here? It appears you all can’t even deal with a mere child! What are you all, ten?” He remarked, looking accusingly around at the rest of his apparent team. The man turned to Gupta and studied his face intently.
“Well, you do seem to have a fierce look on you, that’s for certain. So maybe you’re a little more than the usual brats that mess with us. But still, I’m not about to let some punk of a child get in my way!” He huffed and leaned over slightly. “So listen here kid! Name’s Arthur Kirkland, and I’m the leader of Team Aqua!”
“Leader?” Gupta gave the man the once over. He seemed a little too rough to be leader of anything in his opinion.
“Right, I’m leading things around here! And you’d better listen up!” Arthur continued. “The ocean all around us is a vast resource that humans, Pokémon and all other life depends on! Yet humans like us had to go and ruin it with our pollution, and that just ain’t on, right? Now, I don’t want beef with you, but I’m not about to go and let the Pokémon suffer for our actions, and I like the sea and all. So us in Team Aqua are gonna return everything to its unspoiled beginnings.” He took a deep breath after his rant, and Gupta wondered whether this was the prelude to a fight. He wasn’t sure he was ready to take on the leader of an organisation like this.

“Well,” Arthur decided. “You look like an innocent enough scamp, so I’m gonna go easy on you today. And add to that, I’m a gentleman at heart, see? You won against my lads, and even against Michelle… So I’ll let you off. Keep the case. But the next time we meet, I ain’t gonna let you walk away. So you’d do best never to cross us again, you got that?”
Gupta stepped back as Arthur turned to the other members of Team Aqua.
“Hear that? We’re moving out for today!” He waved in the direction of the exit, and most of the group began filing out.
“You’re going easy on him? Wow. You’re getting soft.” Michelle teased.
“You wanna fight him again love, be my guest.” Arthur dismissed, walking off without so much as another look back.
“Not today.” Michelle replied, turning to leave.

“Wow, thanks. You handled that like a hero.” Toris thanked Gupta, visibly relaxing.
“It’s fine. Take the case and get to the shipyard.” Gupta answered, handing the object over.
“You have no idea how bad it would have been had those guys gotten this!” Toris explained. “It contains parts for the submarine I’ve been working on. Without it, I wouldn’t ever have finished.”
“That important?” Gupta guessed.
“So important.” Toris smiled. “And now I can finish my research. Thank you. Seriously.”
“Don’t mention it.” Gupta insisted. He didn’t exactly want a fuss…

“Guppie! Are ya okay? What was all that about?” Sadik buzzed, running back into the room.
“Police, Sadik.” Gupta reminded.
“Don’t worry, they’re outside. Seems those weird guys got away though. So, did ya beat ‘em?” Sadik continued.
“He was a real hero.” Toris confirmed.
“Heh, great! That’ll make a good story for the news crew.” Sadik laughed.
“…News crew?”

In the end, everyone wanted to know what had happened. The police, the press… Gupta tried to tell the events in as much detail as possible. But the information didn’t seem to do much good. Sadik commented that the police seemed inept. At least the reporters seemed to be pleased with what they’d uncovered.

“... I was wondering who could have defeated Team Aqua. It’s you then.”
Gupta turned to the sound of the voice to find one of the Gym Trainers from Rustboro leaning against the outside wall of the museum.
“Weren’t you in Rustboro?” Gupta checked.
“I like, might have been.” The boy- Gupta remembered his name was Li- shrugged. “Anyway, you’re tougher than you look. It’s interesting.” He pushed himself away from the wall and began walking away from the scene. “I think we’ll see you again.”
Gupta was left staring after him, wondering what he meant by that.

“So I checked with the people in that cool lookin’ place at the North.” Sadik volunteered later, once he had met up with Gupta again. “They do Pokémon contests. It looks interestin’, but I can’t do it here. Apparently newbies gotta debut over in Verdanturf Town.”
“So are we going?” Gupta assumed.
“To Mauville.” Sadik filled in. “Down Route 110. ‘Course, there’s a cycling road that cuts the time in half, but we got no bikes, so… It’s the low road for us. But hey, it’s not even noon yet. Wanna head off?”
“Might as well.” Gupta nodded, setting off with Sadik along the path leading out of Slateport City.

Chapter Text

Route 110 consisted of two roads that stretched off into the horizon. One wound its way around grass and cris-crossed an inlet of the sea several times before reaching its destination, and the second raised itself up on large metal poles and formed a relatively straight path. The only snag was that the second path was the Cycling Road. Without bikes, Gupta and Sadik were forced onto the slower low road.

Sadik seemed to be taking it all in his stride, running off into the tall grass almost straight away. Gupta wasn’t so interested in meeting new Pokémon, and instead carried on walking along the road by himself. It wasn’t long before he was spotted by a trainer standing around by the side of the road.

“Oh, what an adorable young trainer! I wonder what kinds of Pokémon you have.” She cooed. Gupta stared at her and sent out Marshtomp. The woman appeared to be at least into her thirties and looked as though her entire life was Pokémon.
“Come on out Minun!” She declared, sending out her Pokémon.
“Mai mai!” Minun cried.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp roared.
“Use Mud Shot Marshtomp.” Gupta started.
“Spark Minun!” The woman responded. Minun leapt at Marshtomp, covered in electricity, but caused no damage to Marshtomp, who responded with a jet of mud which caused Minun to fly across the road. It got shakily to its feet and ate a berry that it had clasped in its hand before barking back at Marshtomp.
“Okay Minun, use Growl.” The woman decided.
“Mud Shot again.” Gupta repeated. Minun tried to intimidate Marshtomp with its cry, but was shot backwards by more mud and didn’t get up after being knocked down.

“Marsh. Tomp!” Marshtomp celebrated, jumping from foot to foot while waving his arms around.
“Don’t worry Minun, you did great out there.” The middle-aged woman reassured her Pokémon. “Okay Plusle, let’s go!” She sent out her second Pokémon.
“Pla!” Plusle cheered.
“Right Plusle, use Quick Attack.” The woman suggested.
“Mud Shot Marshtomp.” Gupta replied. Plusle darted forwards and hit into Marshtomp, who responded with a shot of mud which hit the opposing Plusle hard. It rolled onto the floor and kept travelling into a tree. After it had come to a stop, it appeared to be fainted.

“What a strong young man you are! Such an amazing Pokémon…” The woman mused, hurrying over to her Plusle and returning it to the Pokeball.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered, running up to the lady.
“Hello there dear! Aren’t you a cute little thing!” She enthused, petting Marshtomp on the head.
“Tomp.” Marshtomp smiled.
“Give this to your trainer, okay?” The woman continued, giving a small amount of money to Marshtomp, who smiled and ran back to Gupta, shoving it up at him insistently while the woman giggled to herself and walked off in the direction of Slateport.
“We should carry on.” Gupta considered, continuing along Route 110 with Marshtomp skipping along behind him.

A few minutes down the road, there was a severe right hand bend which caused the path to extend out into the sea. On the left, there was a track that led back into some trees (Gupta wasn’t sure where it went, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t the right way for him to go). Straight ahead, a house stood defiant against the nature surrounding it. Gupta wanted to pass by the house without any fuss, but Marshtomp jumped up and caught the handle as they walked past, and opened the door. Curious, the Pokémon walked inside. Gupta looked behind him and noticed that Marshtomp was missing. With a sigh he followed his Pokémon inside.

Marshtomp was looking around the interior of the house with an unreadable expression on his face when Gupta entered. As far as the human was aware, the space was empty. There was a table in the middle of the room with cushions acting as chairs, and bookcases and other furniture around the sides of the room. But there were no signs of anything living in the room. As Gupta stepped forwards, he noticed a piece of paper left on the table.
‘You’re being watched.’ It read.
Gupta immediately looked around the room for a second time, but noticed nothing. Marshtomp continued to survey his surroundings with a strange expression on his face.
“Marsh…” He considered, walking around, before sniffing at the table in the centre of the room. He suddenly became excited about something.
“Marsh! Marshtomp!” He leapt up and down, pointing under the table.
“What?” Gupta frowned, crouching to look under the table in an attempt to calm his Pokémon down. He didn’t think there was anything there either… But then he spotted a small wisp of hair. He reached out towards the object, and before he knew it a small boy leapt out from under the table. Gupta jumped back in surprise. How had the kid managed to hide so well under there?

The boy had scraggy hair and two really prominent teeth and grinned at Gupta as he stood up to his full height (which wasn’t all that tall).
“You found us… You’re really good!” The boy complimented.
“Marshtomp.” Marshtomp pouted, crawling under the table.
“Us?” Gupta picked up on.
“You shouldn’t tell people there are two of us. He’d never have figured it out.” Came a second voice from under the table. Gupta looked on amazed as a grown man was dragged out by Marshtomp. “Not that your Pokémon wouldn’t have noticed. He’s a sharp one.” He added. The man was taller than the boy, with brown hair and amber eyes. He was dressed truly strangely, the small hat perched on his head probably the best example of his style.

“How did you get under there?” Gupta questioned.
“Big brother is really good at magic.” The small boy responded.
“Heh. Anyway, now you’re here, and you found us, we might as well say it.” The man smirked. “Welcome to the Trick House. I’m Valeriu, the Trick Master.”
“Trick house?” Gupta queried.
“Yep! We lay out tricks for people here. And we use magic to make it extra special!” The boy confirmed.
“Since you’re here, you might as well give it a try. Try to find us again! We’ll be in the room at the back of the maze behind the scroll over there.” Valeriu challenged, before grinning widely at Gupta (and showing off a pointed, fang like tooth), and disappearing into thin air. When Gupta looked back around, the boy had vanished too.
“Marsh.” Marshtomp huffed, lifting the scroll against the wall to reveal a passage underneath.
“Alright.” Gupta relented.

Behind the scroll there was an expansive maze of walls that twisted around in a confusing pattern. Marshtomp immediately took off running down one of the paths, and Gupta followed him as well as he could. The maze ran left and then right, and then carried on for several metres. Eventually, Gupta caught up with Marshtomp, who was sniffing at a trainer stood along the path.

“Oh wow, another trainer.” The young girl breathed a sigh of relief. “I finally meet someone else in here.”
“You want to battle me don’t you?” Gupta assumed.
“Of course! Okay Oddish!” She called, sending out her only Pokémon. Gupta couldn’t help but feel that it looked like a weed.
“Taillow, handle this.” He announced, bringing Taillow out of the ball.
“Tail.” Taillow agreed.
“Marsh.” Marshtomp complained.
“Come back over here Marshtomp.” Gupta insisted, folding his arms.
“Marsh…” Marshtomp whined, trotting back to his trainer.
“Alright Oddish, use Sweet Scent!” The young trainer commanded.
“Wing Attack Taillow.” Gupta responded. Taillow swept in with a strike from her wings and the Oddish retaliated with some kind of perfume that seemed to catch Taillow off guard.
“Wing Attack again.” The teenager reassured. Taillow was quick enough to get a hit in before the other trainer even gave her move, and the Oddish was knocked out.

“Oh. I guess I have a lot to learn still. I’m still a new trainer, and I get confused over which moves to use…” She giggled to herself.
“Taillow.” Taillow chirped, coming in to land on Gupta’s shoulder and putting on an expression that implied she was pleased with herself.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp smiled, walking back up to the girl and trying to hug her leg.
“Your Pokémon are so well trained though… Thanks for showing me how a real trainer battles.” The girl mused, handing some money to Marshtomp and smiling as the Pokémon ran back to his trainer.
“It’s no problem.” Gupta nodded. Seconds later, Marshtomp took off again. “Well, I suppose I should go.” The teenager continued, following his Pokémon, with Taillow still on his shoulder.

Marshtomp sent Gupta through several more twists and two more trainers before they finally discovered a scroll lying on the ground. Marshtomp became very enthusiastic about the scroll, sniffing around it happily. Gupta crouched down and stared at it. He saw that it was a phrase which he decided it would be a good idea to memorise (if Marshtomp’s enthusiasm was telling him anything).
“Trick Master is wonderful…’” He read. “What odd words. He must be full of himself.” He shrugged, got slowly to his feet, and began looking around for the door. After all, that was what they had been looking for all along, right?
“Marsh!” Marshtomp jumped into the air and began running. Gupta took to following him.

Several more minutes of following Marshtomp around the maze found Gupta standing next to a mysterious door. When he tried to push on it, it didn’t budge at all.
“Password?” A voice from nowhere commanded. Marshtomp looked towards Gupta meaningfully.
“Um…” Gupta thought for a moment, and remembered the words from earlier. It was worth a try… “Trick Master is wonderful?”
“Very good. You have reached the back of the Trick House.” The voice boomed. “You may proceed.” The door before them opened suddenly.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, moving through the opening that had formed. Gupta followed him.

“Well look at that. You made it to the end. That’s interesting.” Valeriu commented, sitting calmly at the table in the middle of the room.
“Tail.” Taillow nodded, as though it were expected. Valeriu continued to speak.
“Yeah, I’d say you and your Marshtomp are really fun. Not many manage to do what you’ve done today.” He smirked. “I’ll give you a prize since you did so well! This TM teaches Taunt.” He threw a disc at Gupta, who caught it easily.
“In future, I’ll come up with even more fantastic tricks. So hopefully you’ll be back again.” Valeriu smiled, standing up. “Until then…” Suddenly he vanished into thin air.
“Yeah, you guys are fun! We’ll see you around!” His little brother cheered, clapping his hands before vanishing in a puff of smoke.
“What happened there?” Gupta pondered to himself.
“Tail.” Taillow shrugged calmly.
“Tomp…?” Marshtomp questioned, looking around. He eventually noticed a tunnel at the end of the room, and pushed Gupta into it gently.

When Gupta and Marshtomp emerged from the tunnel, they were somehow outside the Trick House. Looking behind them, they found that the tunnel had disappeared.
“Was that… Real magic?” Gupta questioned.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered.

Gupta saw no sign of Sadik in the immediate vicinity, so he took off walking along the road that stretched over the sea, with Marshtomp by his side and Taillow on his shoulder. A few more minutes’ walk saw them at the extreme edge of the peninsula. Ahead of them, the road ran parallel to the coast for a while before turning back towards the shore. As Gupta began to walk along the parallel area of the road, he heard a voice behind him.

“Guppie! There ya are!” Sadik yelled, running up to him. “Where’ve ya been?”
“I was in the Trick House…” Gupta tried to explain.
“Really? I just couldn’t figure out what that place was about.” Sadik shrugged. “Anyway, I’ve been trainin’ my team hard. How about a battle to show off how much we’ve both improved?”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered.
“Low!” Taillow agreed.

“Well then, let’s see how well ya manage this! Let’s go Ateş!” He called, throwing his Pokeball at the ground.
“Busken!” Ateş cheered.
“Alright Marshtomp.” Gupta nodded towards Marshtomp.
“Ateş, use Double Kick!” Sadik declared.
“Use Mud Shot Marshtomp.” Gupta suggested. Ateş ran forwards with a lopsided grin on his face, flipped onto his hands, and launched both feet at Marshtomp, who took both kicks to the face like a pro and responded with a shot of mud which Ateş seemed deeply irritated by.
“Use Scratch Ateş!” Sadik decided.
“Mud Shot again Marshtomp.” Gupta repeated. Ateş raked down Marshtomp’s face and Marshtomp retorted with more mud. Ateş appeared to be deeply tired.
“Okay Ateş, let’s try using Ember!” Sadik smirked.
“Water Gun?” Gupta guessed. He wasn’t sure what Sadik was planning. Wasn’t Ember an attack that wouldn’t affect Marshtomp very well?
Ateş attacked with a roaring jet of fire that knocked Marshtomp back quite a lot. Marshtomp retaliated with a great torrent of water. Ateş was unable to stand up to the stream, and fell backwards against the ground.

“Okay Ateş, ya did yer best.” Sadik reassured his Pokémon, returning it to its Pokeball. “Then that means it’s yer turn Asena!”
“Yena!” Asena roared. Gupta stared. Asena looked entirely different!
Her size had more than doubled and her fur colours had largely inverted. Her fur had become even more ragged and her claws and teeth were sharper. Yet she still had the same no nonsense look and a white tip to her tail that was far more noticeable now that her fur was largely black.
“Like it? Asena evolved earlier today!” Sadik boasted. “She’s so much stronger now. Think ya can beat her?”
“Okay Marshtomp, try Water Gun again.” Gupta stood his ground.
“Bite Asena!” Sadik guided.
Marshtomp tried to jet water at Asena but she was too fast, and leapt to the side before biting down hard on Marshtomp, who jumped back and collapsed.

“Don’t worry Marshtomp.” Gupta consoled, returning his starter to the Pokeball. “Okay Taillow. It’s up to you.”
“Low!” Taillow stepped up to the challenge, taking off from Gupta’s shoulder and hovering in the air.
“Okay Taillow, use Wing Attack.” Gupta encouraged.
“Bite again Asena.” Sadik responded. Taillow darted in to strike Asena, and managed to dodge the attack the Pokémon sent at her in return.
“Low!” She cried.
“Go again Taillow.” Gupta told his Pokémon.
“You too Asena.” Sadik agreed.
Again Taillow darted in and struck the opponent. But this time, she was clipped by Asena as she tried to dodge, and a few of her wing feathers were pulled out.
“Don’t be discouraged.” Gupta assured her.
“Keep going Asena!” Sadik cheered his Pokémon on. “Now Tackle!”
“Yena.” Asena huffed, charging at Taillow.
“Wing Attack.” Gupta carried on. Taillow still managed to strike Asena, but she was hit hard by the counter-attack. She picked herself back up and put on a brave face, but she was beginning to breathe hard with the effort of fighting.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta insisted. Taillow jumped back up and knocked Asena down before any more commands could be given.
“Low!” She chirped, trying to catch her breath so she could keep going.

“Heh. Shouldn’t have expected any less from ya.” Sadik accepted, returning Asena to her Pokeball. “Guess I have no choice but to use…”
Lale burst from her Pokeball before Sadik could call her out, excited at the prospect of battle. When she saw Gupta and Taillow, she immediately made a bee-line for them, childish grin on her face.
“Saur!” She cheered.
“Ah, Lale, no, we’re fighin’ right now!” Sadik tried to get her attention, but it was all in vain as Lale ran up to Gupta and head-butted his legs in greeting.
“Hello Lale.” Gupta nodded, petting the Pokémon on the head.
“Okay Lale, let’s get goin! Use Take Down!” Sadik focused his Pokémon’s attention back where it was meant to be.
“Wing Attack Taillow.” Gupta stuck to his usual tactic. Taillow managed to attack Lale before she even got up much speed with her charge. The Bulbasaur whined, tripped on the grass, and faceplanted the ground.
“Lale… Geh.” Sadik laughed. “Well, guess that move’s still new on ya. Let’s try Vine Whip!”
“Wing Attack again.” Gupta repeated, gaining confidence now that was aware of two things: that Lale hadn’t evolved yet and that she was still the same as ever personality wise.
Taillow smirked as she dropped on Lale from the air, slashing Lale with her wings. The Pokémon cried out, sending up vines in response that looked incredibly powerful. Gupta wondered what was going on. Lale shouldn’t have been that strong…

Taillow barely withstood the attack, and Gupta felt that he had been a little too assured of his own victory. Lale looked pleased with herself, but greatly tired. She had clearly lost the enthusiasm for the battle.
“Just a little more Lale! Try Leech Seed!” Sadik guided his Pokémon.
“Finish this with Quick Attack.” Gupta assessed. Taillow was on Lale in a flash, knocking her back. She wobbled and nearly fell into the water at the sides of the path before fainting onto her front.
“…Wow. That’s powerful Guppie. Ya only have two Pokémon and all.” Sadik congratulated him.

“Since you’re the cousin of a professor, perhaps you know…” Gupta started, as they were walking along the rest of Mauville City in the light of the setting sun, Sadik having healed Taillow so that she could continue to protect them from wild Pokémon along the way. “What happened to Lale and Ateş back there?”
“Same thing that happened to yer little Marshtomp.” Sadik explained. “Their abilities came into play.”
“Abilities?” Gupta questioned. He’d heard of those, but he didn’t really know what they did.
“Yeah. All Pokémon have abilities, but I bet ya knew that at least. So I’ll explain what our Pokémon’s abilities are and what they do. Fer starters, Lale, Ateş and Marshtomp all have similar abilities. Those would be Overgrow, Blaze and Torrent.”
“Torrent…” Gupta remembered hearing that before. “When I fought the Gym Leader in Rustboro… She mentioned Torrent before.”
“Not surprisin’.” Sadik shrugged. “Yer little guy uses it a lot more than ya probably thought. See, when those three get all weak and tired like that, the power of their grass, fire, and water moves increases. It lets ‘em use those real powerful moves like ya saw.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded.
“Far as I can tell, Taillow’s ability’s probably Guts. That raises her attack whenever she has a status condition.” Sadik continued.
“It fits her.” Gupta decided, looking towards where Taillow was perched on his shoulder, looking around for trouble.
“Sure does.” Sadik smiled. “And Asena’s ability’s Quick Feet. That one raises her speed whenever she gets a status condition. So lots of our guys have similar abilities like that.”
“Is that common?” Gupta considered.
“I guess a lot of abilities are similar.” Sadik agreed.

After another hour of walking, Mauville City came into view. As Sadik stopped to harvest some berries growing by the side of the road, Gupta asked him another question.
“Did you come up with a Pokedex entry for Asena now she evolved?” He asked.
“Sure!” Sadik replied. “Wanna read it?”
“Okay.” Gupta took the Pokedex Sadik shoved in his direction when he answered and flipped it open, scrolling until he found Mightyena.
‘Mightyena gives obvious signals when it is preparing to attack. It starts to growl deeply and then flattens its body. The Pokémon obeys only those trainers that it recognizes to possess superior skill.’
Gupta scoffed. It was just like Sadik to flatter himself.

Chapter Text

Mauville City was decently sized and stood at a crossroads in the centre of Hoenn. Alongside the usual item shop and Pokémon Centre, there were many houses, a Bike Shop, and a building that appeared to be a casino along with the Pokémon Gym. Sadik was taking the scene in with awe.
“I’m gonna go look around!” He exclaimed. “I’ll meet ya at the Pokémon Centre in an hour or so, kay?” He planned, waving at Gupta before disappearing into the city.
Gupta stared after him. He didn’t really care for the sights, and he had no desire to barge into people’s houses. He headed towards the Pokemart instead, with a view to picking up at least a couple more potions while he was in the area.

While he was in the shop, Gupta noticed that there were now super potions for sale. He realised he hadn’t seen any such items on sale before, and wondered how it was that some places sold different items to others, and why that would be the case. He also found himself wondering how these potions were different from the regular ones. While he pondered, the others in the store discussed items to be used for stat enhancements in the heat of battle. Gupta didn’t really care for things like that, but he supposed it was something some trainers cared about.

Gupta left the Pokemart after a while, and decided to head over to the Pokémon Centre to wait for Sadik. The Pokémon Centre in this particular city was far busier than others he had been to, and Gupta found the atmosphere constricting as he handed his Pokémon over to the woman behind the desk and went over to the PCs to call home.
“So I made it to Mauville.” He summarised upon seeing his mother’s face.
“I can tell. That place is always so busy. It’s because it’s a crossroads.” She explained.
“Right.” Gupta nodded.
“Anyway. The Gym Leader for this city can be rather intimidating. Both he and the Gym Trainers in his Gym are rather odd. But they’re nice people deep down.” His mother detailed.
“You told me before.” Gupta reminded her. “But thanks.”
“You’ll do fine.” She assured him. “Just try not to be thrown off by his scariness. Don’t get distracted by the Game Corner either.”
“Game Corner?” Gupta repeated.
“The Game Corner’s pretty popular, but it can get addictive. People get lost in there for days.” Cleo explained. “It’s owned and run by the Devon Corporation, but the Gym Trainers from Mauville also work there. If you want to get to know your opponents, maybe you should visit.”
“Wait. Devon runs it?” Gupta checked.
“Yes. Devon run a lot of the attractions and sights around the Hoenn region.” Cleo clarified. “And Devon employees can normally be found in these places.”
“So they’re everywhere.” Gupta summed up.
“Everywhere.” Cleo agreed. “Anyway, good luck in your battle. And call the Professor. He wants to know how your Pokedex is coming along.”
Gupta sighed. Was that all the Professor ever wanted to talk about?

Sadik entered the Pokémon Centre just as Gupta was finishing his conversation with Batsaikhan.
“Your Pokedex is coming along alright.” The Professor appraised. “And unlike Sadik, you’ve managed to get this far without finding any Pokémon that shouldn’t be in this region. So you’re acting just as expected. Keep up the good work.”
“What was that?” Sadik did a double-take and advanced on the PC as Gupta hung up the line.
“Nothing much.” The smaller teenager shrugged. “Did you take a good look around?”
“Sure did.” Sadik smirked. “I got loads of great stuff too. Hang on a sec.” He turned to the desk and handed his Pokémon over the counter before turning back to Gupta and rummaging in his bag.
“Have you been asking strangers for free things…?” Gupta assumed.
“Hey, it’s part of being an adventurer!” Sadik defended himself. “Anyway, I managed to score some HMs for Rock Smash from a guy in a house near here who’s just givin’ ‘em out for whatever reason. And I explained to this bike shop guy how far we’ve come to get here, and he gave us some free folding bikes.”
“Bikes. Seriously?” Gupta stared at Sadik as if he was on fire.
“Yep! I already decided I want the really fast one, so you can have the one that does all the cool tricks.” Sadik continued, bringing up some folded out bikes. “So, what’d ya think?”
“…You can always do the talking to salespeople from now on.” Gupta reasoned.

“I got something else too.” Sadik admitted once they had put away their new items and collected their Pokémon. “A lady in a house near here gave me a coin case for the Game Corner.”
“Mama told me that the Gym Trainers from Mauville work there. She said we should go if we want to find out about them.” Gupta relayed.
“Guess that settles it then! To the Game Corner we go!” Sadik enthused, grabbing Gupta and dragging him from the Pokémon Centre. Gupta sighed. He supposed he had better get used to this sort of thing…

The outside of the Game Corner was flashy and inviting, with neon signs lighting up the gloom of the dusk around them. The inside was completely wild with colours and lights that almost made Gupta feel dizzy. Dozens of people sat at slot machines at one end of the area, while at the other still more people crowded around roulette tables, shouting and gesturing in excitement at the advancing game.

Gupta looked straight down the middle of the building, staring at the counter at the far end. Two women stood behind the counter, and although they looked rather different from each other Gupta couldn’t help but feel that they were related.

The taller of the women (and also the oldest, if Gupta had to guess) had short blonde hair and a warm smile. Gupta tried to focus on her face and those shining blue eyes and not on her… Assets (he suspected the tight black suit was meant to draw attention to that area of her).

The shorter of the women glared daggers into his face as the taller smiled at him. Her hair was longer, reaching partway down her back, yet her hair was also blonde, and her eyes blue (even if the shade was a little darker). She wore a little black dress and a bored expression.

Sadik advanced on the women easily, striking up conversation with the taller one at least and chatting away happily as Gupta looked around the area and couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t belong in such a place. Trying to find somewhere he could sit down for a while at least, the teen’s eyes scoured the room. When he saw the black hair of a man who seemed familiar, he crept closer with curiosity. Sure enough, Kiku was there in the corner of the Game Corner, speaking to another young man who Gupta didn’t know.

This man had short brown hair and gold eyes, and a face that reminded Gupta of Yao for some reason. Rectangular glasses framed the man’s face, and yet rather than looking strict as perhaps would have been expected, he instead had a serene expression. He also wore a black suit, which made Gupta believe that he had to be working there as well. As he pondered the new man, Kiku noticed him and waved him over.

“Good evening. Gupta, wasn’t it?” He greeted, bowing slightly.
“That’s me.” Gupta nodded.
“Someone you know Kiku?” The man beside Kiku asked.
“I suppose you could call him a friend of a friend.” The older teen confirmed.
“Oh. Well in that case, stay a while and have some fun.” The man smiled invitingly.

“Kiku? Hey! What’re ya doin’ here?” Sadik exclaimed, walking up to his friend.
“I was checking up on the Game Corner here.” Kiku explained. “Yao asked me to.”
“Ya sure ya have the time to be doin’ stuff like that?” Sadik asked knowingly. Gupta found himself wondering what else Kiku was meant to be doing exactly.
“Things are quiet at work at the moment.” Kiku assured him. “And my family’s assets are of course my concern as well.”
“When ya put it like that…” Sadik smiled. “I’ll let ya get on with it. And Guppie and I can stay here and enjoy ourselves, eh?”
“Stay here as long as you want.” The man beside Kiku enthused.

“Thanks, sure will!” Sadik smirked, taking Gupta aside and walking off into the Game Corner. “So, ya know those ladies on the counter? They’re definitely the Gym Trainers for this city. Sisters. Yekaterina and Natalya. That’s not the interesting point though. See, they’re the oldest and youngest child. The middle one, their brother, now he’s the Gym Leader.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded.
“Anyway, I got ta talkin’ to them and all. They seem nice enough. And this place looks like fun. So I’m gonna stay here and try my luck on a few things.” Sadik continued.
“You mean gamble your money away.” Gupta corrected him.
“Hey, I plan ta win!” Sadik huffed. “Anyway, ya can stay here if ya want, but ya seem a little tired, so maybe it’s best if ya head on back to the Pokémon Centre and wait for me there.”
“I’ll do just that.” Gupta confirmed. “See you back at the Centre then.” He waved to Sadik as he turned and left the area.

Gupta walked back towards the Pokémon Centre in near darkness. People were milling around the Game Corner and the various shops in the City, but the rest of the settlement was largely deserted. So Gupta became confused when he noticed somebody outside the Pokémon Gym. As he drew closer to the building, he noticed Herakles was stood outside it, along with a boy he didn’t know.

The boy had very dark brown hair and his arms were folded over his grey shirt as he stared on at Herakles, who stared back with just as much determination.
“Look. We’ve all seen how much stronger you’ve become. But a Pokémon Gym this early on is a bad idea. I’d give it months before you’re ready for that.” The man argued, standing firm.
“I’m sure I can win.” Herakles shot back. “Just let me prove it.” He noticed Gupta by chance as he spoke. “Gupta? Is that you?”
“Hello Herakles.” Gupta nodded, stepping a little closer.
“Who?” The man asked.
“This is Gupta.” Herakles explained. “He got his first Pokémon only the day before me. And he’s made it this far with his journey, all the way from Littleroot Town, already.”
“Something like that.” Gupta seconded.
“And if I beat him… That proves I’m strong enough.” Herakles finished.
“Huh?” Gupta did a double-take.
“Well Gupta? Battle me…?” Herakles requested, standing up fully and looking over at Gupta.
“Alright.” Gupta nodded, sending out Marshtomp.

“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cried.
“Okay Skitty.” Herakles sent out his only Pokémon.
“Meow.” Skitty purred.
“Skitty, use Double Slap.” Herakles started.
“Marshtomp, Tackle.” Gupta replied.
Marshtomp charged the Skitty and sent it flying before the Pokémon had time to react. Gupta was amazed that Marshtomp was faster. Skitty came back with multiple slaps to Marshtomp’s face that sent him reeling back.
“Don’t give up.” Gupta advised. “Tackle again.”
“Sing Skitty.” Herakles attempted.
Skitty tried to sing an engaging lullaby, but Marshtomp wasn’t buying it, and hit Skitty back into the wall of the Gym. Skitty struggled to get to its feet.
“Skitty, Double Slap.” Herakles tried again, getting a little desperate.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta finished.
Marshtomp shot down Skitty before it could respond.

“…You won.” Herakles yawned, returning Skitty to its Pokeball. “I guess… I still have training to do.”
“It’s not so bad.” Gupta insisted. “If you had more Pokémon, you’d do fine.”
“That sounds good… I’ll try to make some new friends…” Herakles nodded sleepily, before turning to the boy with him. “For now… Let’s go home.”
Gupta couldn’t help but feel bad as he watched Herakles fade into the distance along with the boy he assumed was his cousin.
“Marshtomp?” Marshtomp questioned.

Gupta heard Sadik coming before he saw him. More specifically, Gupta heard Lale coming before he saw Sadik.
The Bulbasaur headbutted the room door and scratched at it, whining, while Sadik appeared to still be hurrying down the corridor. Marshtomp jumped at the door handle, caught it and pulled the door open, and fell from the handle just as Lale was running into the room. The two collided in a mess on the floor (a mess neither seemed content to leave).
“Heh, we’re back.” Sadik confirmed, stepping into the room with Ates walking behind him.
“I can see.” Gupta observed, referencing the Pokémon smiling happily from their place on the floor.
“We had a lot of fun.” Sadik continued, setting his things down in one corner of the room. “And you?”
Gupta couldn’t help but think of Herakles again. All throughout the night, he wondered how the boy was doing.

Chapter Text

When Gupta awoke the next morning, Sadik had already left to challenge the Gym, leaving Gupta in the room alone and Marshtomp without anyone to wake up. He used Water Gun on Gupta instead.

When the teenager reached the downstairs lobby of the Pokémon Centre, ready to head towards the Gym, he spotted Sadik by the counter, getting his Pokémon healed.
“How did it go?” He asked his fellow trainer.
“Heh. It was a piece of cake. Although Lale managed to get beaten up quite hard. I hadn’t even meant to send her out, she just… Appeared.” Sadik described.
“That sounds annoying. At least Marshtomp’s pretty good at not doing that.” Gupta considered.
“Ya got that right. I can deal with a shower every mornin’.” Sadik laughed. “Anyway, good luck in yer battle. I’ll just be hangin’ around here for a while if ya need anythin’.”
“Got it.” Gupta nodded, turning for the door.
“So you made it here too.” The man by the door commented as soon as Gupta entered.
“I did.” Gupta confirmed.
“This Gym uses mainly steel types. The leader looks scary. His sisters can look kind of scary. That other guy is scary too. And the Gym uses machinery to create a kind of maze. You’ll need to hit switches and pull levers to move the doors around.”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, walking forwards.

The inside of the Gym was set out like a factory, with steel girders creating the floor in the area and thick metal walls fencing off most of the Gym. A system of cogs and pulleys was visible sticking out of the walls and running along the ceiling, and as he examined the area Gupta found that they were indeed connected to heavy doors that appeared to slide open and closed using the mechanism. In front of him was the first lever, and as Gupta pulled on it, the door to his left opened.
“Well, looks like I’m behind this door.” The younger of the two sisters smirked.

“You’re Natalya, aren’t you?” Gupta remembered.
“You learn quick. Not everyone catches our names.” Natalya complimented him, even if her expression wasn’t all that warm. “If you want to get through to our dearest brother, you’ll have to get through me and my sister first.”
“Naturally.” Gupta shrugged. “Okay Marshtomp.” He called, sending out his trusty starter.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered as he emerged, before looking up at Natalya, shivering at her intense gaze, and trying to hide behind Gupta.
“I need you to battle.” He reminded his Pokémon.
“Go on Mawile!” The woman declared, sending out her own Pokémon.
The Pokémon that appeared before Gupta merely laughed, while the jaw emerging from the back of its head turned to face Gupta and Marshtomp and opened wide. Marshtomp whined in fear.
“Marshtomp, we can fight this.” Gupta insisted, trying to pry his Pokémon from his leg. Hesitantly, Marshtomp trotted forwards to face Mawile.

“Okay Mawile, Play Rough.” Natalya commanded.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta told Marshtomp.
Marshtomp just edged in before Mawile could attack with a jet of mud to the face, but the next second he was set upon by the vicious Pokémon.
“Mud Shot again.” He repeated, not wanting to let up.
“Iron Head.” Natalya changed her tactics. This time, Mawile attacked first, slamming into Marshtomp, who responded with his attack which knocked the opposition out. Marshtomp whined in slight pain.

“Huh. You’re not bad I see. Still, let’s see how you handle this.” Natalya huffed, sending out her second Pokémon.
“Dur.” Durant hissed.
“Marshtomp, Mud Shot again.” Gupta continued.
“Fury Cutter Durant.” Natalya cut in. Before Gupta or Marshtomp could react, the Pokémon was attacking Marshtomp with a flurry of pincers. Marshtomp hit back with mud to the face, but it didn’t seem to work as well on Durant as it had on Mawile and Marshtomp was getting tired.
“Water Gun.” Gupta tried, wanting to make some headway.
“Fury Cutter.” Natalya repeated herself. Durant cut into Marshtomp again, this time doing even greater damage before it was dislodged by a powerful torrent of water that knocked the opposing Pokémon out. Marshtomp stood panting in the aftermath.

“Ugh. I always forget about those pesky abilities of the starter Pokémon.” The woman cursed upon her loss. “I suppose you get to move on then.”
Gupta nodded at her, and looked behind where she was standing to see the path that lay ahead. After stopping to heal Marshtomp, he continued on his way.

It was a good thing Marshtomp remained out of his Pokeball, because the path that continued on past Natalya soon split into several tracks that wound around themselves in a maze. Just like he had in the trick house, Marshtomp acted as a guide, sensing the correct way and leading his trainer down it until pulling a lever at the end of one of the corridors and waltzing right up to the next Gym Trainer.

“Oh! A Marshtomp…” She considered, crouching down to pet Marshtomp on the head.
“You don’t need to fuss him like that.” Gupta insisted, walking up to the trainer.
“It’s no problem though.” The trainer insisted, petting Marshtomp a little more before getting up to her feet (it appeared to Gupta as though she found this difficult, if the way she had a hand pressed to her back was anything to go by).
“You were the older sister, weren’t you?” He guessed.
“That’s right. I’m Yekaterina.” Said woman confirmed, smiling a little. “I guess you came to battle us then.”
“We did.” Gupta confirmed.
“Marsh!” Marshtomp roared playfully.

“Okay then.” Yekaterina agreed. “Wormadam, let’s try our best.”
“Worm.” Wormadam called, looking decidedly friendlier than the other Pokémon Gupta had faced so far.
“Wormadam, Tackle.” The opposing trainer began.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta defaulted to.
This time, Marshtomp moved faster than the opposing Pokémon, but Wormadam appeared to be unfazed by the attack, and responded by hitting back at Marshtomp, who also appeared barely hurt.
“Again Wormadam.” The Gym Trainer encouraged.
“You too Marshtomp.” Gupta responded.
The Pokémon clashed for a second time, and this time Wormadam fell backwards a little, seemingly winded.
“Okay Marshtomp, finish this with Water Gun.” Gupta decided.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp answered, swamping the opponent with water and finishing the battle.

“That would be my second loss today… It’s getting a little discouraging.” Yekaterina sniffed.
“Oh, uh…” Gupta wasn’t sure what to do about her welling eyes and saddened expression.
“Marsh?” Marshtomp waddled forwards and hugged the opposing trainer.
“Thank you… You’re sweet, just like that little Bulbasaur from earlier…” She mused, before turning to Gupta. “You haven’t long to go now. Keep it up.”
“Right. Thanks.” Gupta acknowledged her, beginning to head down the new path he had noticed off to her side. Marshtomp soon ran to catch up with him.

Gupta had to climb up and over the walls using some scaffolding in order to get to the next battle. Marshtomp failed to jump onto the structure, and had to be carried up on his trainer’s shoulders. A tall cloaked man stood on a large rotating cog that spanned the floor in front of a large imposing door at the other end of the scaffold. He didn’t speak as Gupta approached him and instead simply sent out his first Pokémon.
“Bronzor.” The Pokémon chimed.
Gupta noticed the Pokémon was floating in the air and assumed that Mud Shot wouldn’t be a good move to use on it.
“Marshtomp, use Water Gun.” He instead decided.
“Marsh?” Marshtomp questioned, before shaking his head at his trainer and using Mud Shot instead.
Amazingly, the attack did major damage to the opposing Pokémon (how Marshtomp managed to hit it at all, Gupta would never know), and even though it responded by tackling Marshtomp head on, it appeared to be tired already.
“Mud Shot again Marshtomp.” Gupta repeated. Marshtomp nodded at Gupta and shot mud into the enemy’s face. It fell down without moving.

Gupta looked up at the man facing off against him, expecting him to say something. Without a word, he sent out his second Pokémon.
“Riol.” Riolu called.
“Marshtomp, use Water Gun this time.” Gupta tried to advise his Pokémon, not wanting Marshtomp to run out of uses of Mud Shot before the Gym Leader.
Riolu charged forwards and attacked with a powerful shock wave emanating from its hands that almost brought Marshtomp down. Marshtomp responded with a torrent of water that knocked Riolu out in one.

The man before Gupta still didn’t talk, instead simply stepping aside and leaning against the wall. Gupta decided to take Marshtomp back to the Pokémon Centre before he continued.

There was no sign of Sadik when Gupta returned to the Pokémon Centre, and he assumed the teenager had to be out training somewhere. It didn’t take long to heal his Pokémon fully, and then Gupta was back on his way into the Gym.

Gupta soon reached the large looming door he had stood in front of previously. As he walked forwards, the door opened to reveal a second room at the back of the Gym.
Turning cogs spanned the length of the walls, while the steel girders from before returned as the flooring. Stood in the middle of the space, looking at Gupta curiously, a huge behemoth of a man stood.

The teenager could see how others could think of Ivan as intimidating. It was hard to stare down over 6 foot of tousled blond hair and piercing violet eyes without losing your cool, especially when you were as short as Gupta. The trainer put his own lack of response down to his experience with his mother’s own scare tactics. As Gupta drew closer though, Ivan smiled.
“Aha, I know you!” He cheered. “You’re the son of the new Gym Leader!”
“I am.” Gupta confirmed, stopping still before Ivan. “This matters because…?”
“I get to fight a Gym Leader’s kid.” Ivan continued. “And after my battle earlier today too… It’s not often that me and my Pokémon get to play twice in one day!”
“Right.” Gupta accepted. Well, that was one reason to be cheerful…
“Maybe if I fight with all my strength against an opponent like you… I’ll be able to thoroughly destroy someone really strong…” The Gym Leader added, his voice suddenly becoming incredibly dark in tone. “Let’s try it, hm Klefki?”
“Ki!” The fairy Pokémon concurred, jingling its keys threateningly at Gupta, who had to resist the urge to laugh at the tiny thing.

“Okay Marshtomp, let’s get this over with.” He replied, sending out Marshtomp.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cried, looking from Gupta to Klefki to Ivan… And then back to Gupta with a worried look on his face.
“It’ll be fine.” Gupta reassured his Pokémon (for the second time in a day).
“Ah! Ground Pokémon! That’s just like your mother uses, isn’t it?” Ivan guessed, cheerful demeanour returning.
“Marshtomp, Mud Shot.” Gupta responded, not one for small talk.
“Okay Klefki, use Spikes.” Ivan commanded. Klefki beat Marshtomp to the attack, and threw pointed barbs around his feet. Marshtomp himself appeared unhurt, and responded by hitting Klefki straight on with mud.
“Klefki, use Fairy Wind.” Ivan continued.
“Marshtomp, Mud Shot again.” Gupta repeated. Klefki stirred up a strange sparkling wind that struck Marshtomp, but appeared to do little damage. Marshtomp countered with his own attack that knocked Klefki out.

“Very fast of you! The last challenger here tried to attack Klefki with fighting moves. It took him quite a bit longer to take it down.” Ivan applauded Gupta. The trainer wondered if he was being sarcastic or not.
“Anyway, let’s see how you do against my second Pokémon. Go Metang!” The Gym Leader carried on.
The emerging Pokémon hummed in recognition.
“Metang, use Metal Claw.” Ivan told his Pokémon.
“Marshtomp, Mud Shot.” Gupta repeated to his. Marshtomp just barely got the edge against the opponent, hitting it with the mud before Metang ripped into Marshtomp with its claws. Like before, Marshtomp seemed hardly hurt at all.
“Metang, use Confusion.” Ivan changed tactics for the second move.
“Mud Shot again.” Gupta confirmed, not swaying in the slightest. Marshtomp again got the hit in just before Metang, but appeared more injured by this move than by the last.
“Metang, now use Take Down.” Ivan decided, using a different move again.
“Mud Shot.” Gupta stuck to the usual strategy. This time, Metang inched in before Marshtomp, slamming into him hard. The next second, the Pokémon fell down of its own accord, before Marshtomp got a chance to move. Gupta remembered that Take Down was a move that caused damage to the user, and wondered if Ivan had realised he would be defeating his own Pokémon with the move.

“You look confused. Wondering if I knew that would happen?” Ivan guessed, returning Metang to the Pokeball. “Of course that was on purpose. I wanted to weaken your Pokémon before you had to deal with my third.” He giggled to himself. “Let’s see how you handle this.”
“Magnezone.” The Pokémon chimed.
Gupta stared. Something about this was all off. That Magnezone had to be stronger than any of Ivan’s other Pokémon by far! Why would he even use such a Pokémon in such a low level battle, unless there was something else going on below board?

“Surprised? Maybe you were underestimating the power of a Gym Leader.” Ivan responded before Gupta had even spoken. The teenager began to wonder whether this particular Gym Leader was capable of reading minds, or whether he simply had a knack for reading the unreadable. Most people would not be able to determine Gupta’s expression so easily.
“I’m having trouble telling if this is power or cheating.” Gupta shot back.
“You’ll be working that out soon.” Ivan assured. “Magnet Bomb Magnezone.”
“Mud Shot.” Gupta tried. The Pokémon appeared to be floating, so he wasn’t sure the attack would work, but still…
Both attacks collided at around the same time, Marshtomp largely shrugging off the attack despite its imposing looks, while Magnezone staggered backwards heavily. As Gupta looked over to Marshtomp, he couldn’t help but notice how worn out his Pokémon was beginning to look, despite the low amounts of damage caused by the attacks he’d been hit by most recently.
“Marshtomp, Mud Shot again.” He suggested.
“Mirror Shot.” Ivan responded.
Once again, the two attacks hit at roughly the same time, and Magnezone appeared deeply hurt by only the two attacks it had suffered so far. However, Marshtomp fell back upon taking this newest attack, and after staggering around for a few seconds, he fell over and failed to get up again.

“Okay Marshtomp. That’s enough.” Gupta conceded, returning his Pokémon to its Pokeball. “You have to win this Taillow.”
“Low!” Taillow cried, more than up to the challenge.
“A Flying type negates the point of Spikes…” Ivan mused. “But it leaves you wide open for my Pokémon’s strongest attacks. Magenezone, Zap Cannon.”
“Quick Attack Taillow.” Gupta cut in, hoping that one hit would be enough to defeat the Magnezone.
Taillow attacked first, slamming into Magnezone, who withstood the attack barely and turned towards Taillow, firing a powerful blast of electricity in her direction. Taillow steeled herself and swooped upwards and out of the way, avoiding the attack by the narrowest of margins.
“Go again Magnezone.” Ivan insisted.
“One more time Taillow.” Gupta encouraged.
Taillow once more attacked first, and this hit did turn out to be enough to send Magnezone to the ground. Gupta breathed a sigh of relief. That was close.

 

“Ah, you’re strong. Very strong. And strong trainers get badges right?” Ivan considered. “In that case, I’ll give you the Dynamo Badge.” He passed the object over to Gupta, who accepted it and pinned it to the strap of his bag.
“And as well as that, I’ll give you the TM for Flash Cannon. It wasn’t a move I used in our battle today, but it’s a fun one to learn.” He handed the TM over as well, and Gupta placed it into his bag while Taillow watched on, a wary look on her face. Gupta felt he could relate; something about Ivan was definitely a little off.

When Gupta emerged from the Gym into the sunny Mauville afternoon, he found Sadik walking along the path to the Pokémon Centre, on his way to heal his own Pokémon. Gupta walked behind him the entire way, and Sadik only noticed him once they were already inside.

“So how’d yer Gym Battle go?” He asked while their Pokémon were being fixed up.
“Well I won.” Gupta stated. “Not that it was easy. I’m sure there’s cheating going on.”
“Yeah, that last Pokémon of Ivan’s just ain’t fair. Not that I had no problems before that.” Sadik sighed. “Everyone seemed exasperated with Lale and well… Ateş’s fighting moves didn’t do so much against Ivan’s team in particular. And those spikes? Hell for switchin’ yer little guys out. Guess Taillow wouldn’t have suffered it though.”
“Really?” Gupta questioned, amazed. “This morning you said it had been ‘a piece of cake’.”
“Yeah, well I won didn’t I? I got over the problems and yeah… It was easy in the end really. Just reminded me I can’t slack off. Gotta train for these battles, eh?” Sadik shrugged off, grinning at Gupta. The teenager was able to see through the veneer, and spot the worry still boiling under the surface.
“It’ll be okay. They just need a little more training.” Sadik assured.
Gupta hoped that he was right.

Chapter Text

Once their Pokémon had been healed, Sadik turned back towards the entrance to the Pokémon Centre.
“I’ve taken out most of the Trainers on Route 117 already, but there’s Verdanturf Town beyond that… It seems like an okay place to check out, huh?” He suggested.
Gupta remembered that name as the place where Herakles was staying… And where contest debuts happened.
“You want to enter a contest?” He assumed.
“Heh, well… Why not?” Sadik tried to play it down.
“Why not…” Gupta echoed. Maybe they could visit Herakles again as well- the defeated look he had worn after his loss yesterday still weighed on Gupta’s mind. “Okay, let’s go.” He nodded, starting towards the door. Sadik grinned and ran after him.

Route 117 was indeed devoid of trainers who hadn’t already been defeated by Sadik. The teenager stalked the Route with pride as he pointed out places of interest to Gupta.
“And over there’s the Day Care. I think they can take care of Pokémon for ya, and they might grow stronger too. I’ve heard rumours of Pokémon eggs being found at the Day Care too.”
“Eggs?” Gupta stared at Sadik. “You mean, the Pokémon left at the Day Care are breeding?”
“Maybe. No one knows fer sure. After all, it’s kinda rude to stand around watching to see whether that’s what they’re doin’.” Sadik shrugged.
“True.” Gupta relented. He certainly didn’t want to think about it too much.
“Anyway, I guess sometime we could always try it out…” Sadik shrugged. “Besides that, there’s not a lot here. Few flowers. One pair of trainers I thought we could take together.”
“A pair?” Gupta echoed. He supposed Sadik meant like those twins they had fought once before.
“Sure.” Sadik brightened. “Right this way.”

The two girls were older than the twins Gupta and Sadik had fought on Route 104, that much was certain. They appeared to be both around the age of 11 or 12, with one looking experienced and confident and the other appearing unsure and shy.
“Heh. Wanna battle us?” Sadik asked the girls, strutting up to them.
“Uh. I guess I could.” The more timid of the girls replied.
“Sure! We’ll take you on.” The other one insisted.
“Heh. Fine then Asena, ya handle this.” Sadik accepted, sending out his Pokémon.
“Come on Taillow.” Gupta decided, letting Taillow out of her Pokeball.
Asena stood beside Sadik, body tensed for battle, while Taillow flew up into the sky and hovered in readiness.
“Okay then Zigzagoon and Makuhita!” The confident trainer exclaimed, as her and her partner’s Pokémon got sent out.
“Well Asena.” Sadik smirked. “Use Rock Smash on that Zigzagoon.”
“Wing Attack on the Makuhita.” Gupta chose.
“Arm Thrust on the Mightyena Makuhita.” The older of the two girls commanded.
“Sand Attack on Mightyena Zigzagoon.” The younger chimed in.

Taillow struck first, hitting into Makuhita hard enough to send the Pokémon flying. Gupta noticed that Taillow’s attacks seemed far more accurate than they had ever been before. Asena moved second, and struck Zigzagoon with a raised paw. The Pokémon responded by kicking up dust and throwing it into Taillow’s face. She began fluttering around, trying to get the sand out of her eyes. Moving sluggishly, the Makuhita hit last, slapping Asena multiple times in quick succession. Asena winced but stood firm.
“Try gettin’ Taillow to use Aerial Ace now.” Sadik suggested. “It’ll get around the accuracy issue.”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded. “Taillow, Aerial Ace on the Makuhita.”
“Asena, Rock Smash on the Zigzagoon.” Sadik repeated from earlier.
Taillow knocked Makuhita out before the first of the girls could even announce her attack. The second girl faltered in her commands, and Asena had taken out Zigzagoon by the time she had corrected herself.

“Oh. Seems like we couldn’t win.” The older of the two girls commented, before turning to her teammate. “First things first, we need to heal our Pokémon up.”
“Okay.” The younger girl nodded, turning to Sadik and Gupta and bowing her head.
“Thanks for battling us.” She uttered, before running off in the direction of Mauville City.
“They’ll get stronger.” Sadik assessed. “They just need to train a little more.”
“Yena.” Asena agreed, sitting down at Sadik’s feet. Taillow swooped in to land on her head. The two Pokémon looked at each other with appreciable respect.
“They probably will.” Gupta concurred, raising his arm in invitation for Taillow to fly onto his shoulder. “Anyway, shall we get moving?”
“Sure thing.” Sadik nodded, beginning to walk away from Mauville’s buildings. “Verdanturf’s really close by I hear. It shouldn’t take long.”
Gupta nodded and started walking alongside Sadik, Taillow choosing to rest on his shoulder while Asena followed them closely.

Verdanturf Town was less than an hour’s walk away, and no other trainers bothered them on their way towards the settlement (Sadik’s training had been very thorough in that regard).
The town was incredibly small, containing only a few houses along with the usual Pokémon Centre and Pokemart. Taillow fluttered her feathers in the gentle breeze that blew in from the mountains. The one thing of note that set the town apart was the large building to the west, which Gupta assumed was the Contest Hall.
“That contest thing looked kinda interesting in Slateport, huh? But they said I gotta start off here. How about it? Ya wanna try it with me?” Sadik proposed, looking in the direction of the aforementioned building.
“I suppose there’s no reason why not to.” Gupta considered. “How long does it take?”
“Eh, not all that long. And there should be a contest held tonight, so we can carry on our little adventure come morning.” Sadik grinned.
“And until then…?” Gupta asked.

“You can’t be serious about trying to get through!” A voice from behind them called.
“Look, we can’t keep importing supplies from Rustboro by ship through Slateport! It’s such a waste of time and resources. Finishing the tunnel is the best option.” A second mystery person argued.
“But how will you dig through without any advanced tools?” The first voice responded.
“Hmm…” Sadik eavesdropped without even meaning to, and turned around to regard the people behind them as he came to a solution. “I’ve got somethin’ that might help…”

The inside of Rusturf Tunnel was as dark as Gupta remembered. Taillow stayed close to Gupta’s head, sheltering on his shoulder as he walked. There were still no Pokémon around, save for the quiet whispering of the Whismur that they had met in the cave before. Gupta wasn’t sure why he was going with Sadik to the blockage in the tunnel. In the end, he guessed he had nothing better to do.

“Over here.” One of the people from before motioned, pointing to where the tunnel was not yet complete. Since the last time Gupta and Sadik had stepped into the tunnel, some progress had been made, as the rock wall had clearly been chipped away at, and had fallen through entirely in places.
“We’ve been slowly trying to chip the rock away with conventional tools.” The second person explained. “But progress is slow. It’ll take weeks to finish the tunnel at this rate.”
“No problem.” Sadik decided, turning to Asena, who had been following them all this way without a word. “Asena, Rock Smash the wall to pieces!”
“Yena!” Asena cried, punching into the wall with her paws. It shook a little before crumbling into pieces.
“You did it!” The first voice cheered.
“All we need to do now is move these small rock pieces out of the way. That was amazing!” The second continued.
“Heh.” Sadik glowed in the compliments, ruffling Asena’s fur. The Pokémon had a contented look on her face.

Gupta and Sadik emerged from the tunnel minutes later, as the people of Verdanturf ran around excitedly, finishing the preparations for the connection of the crossing to Rustboro. Asena yawned in the heat of the afternoon, as Sadik stretched lazily. Taillow had focused her gaze on a figure standing at the other end of the meadow in the middle of town. When Gupta looked in the same direction as his Pokémon, he noticed Herakles staring back at him. The other boy smiled as he locked eyes with Gupta, walking forwards, which helped the teen feel more at ease about the other trainer’s earlier disheartened mood.

“Gupta… Did you finish the tunnel?” He asked, reaching Gupta and Sadik.
“Hey, that was all me! And Asena of course.” Sadik complained, stepping forwards.
“You’re… Very loud.” Herakles stated bluntly, before turning to Asena. “Still, your Pokémon… She’s very well trained.”
“Uh, thanks, I guess…” Sadik tried to make sense of the mixture of insult and compliment. “Anyway, ya some friend of Guppie’s?”
“I’ve met Gupta several times. He helped me catch my first Pokémon, and he’s a strong trainer.” Herakles detailed. “I’m… Hoping one day to be as strong as him. I’ll go on my own adventure too someday. Just being free to travel as I want and see the world with my own eyes… That’s what I’m looking forwards to.”
“Heh. That sounds like Guppie alright. Still… Ya sound as though he’s your rival. But he’s mine. Don’t forget that.” Sadik frowned. Gupta stared at his friend. Jealousy? Sadik was usually so friendly to everyone… Clearly, he and Herakles had gotten off to a seriously bad start.
“He can have more than one rival you know…” Herakles pointed out.
“You don’t need to argue like this. It’s not that important.” Gupta sighed.

“Anyway… Why are you here Gupta? There isn’t a Pokémon Gym around here…” Herakles inquired, changing the subject.
“I was just checking out this town before moving on. It is good to see you though.” Gupta replied.
“Heh. But we were gonna enter a contest while we were here and all.” Sadik bragged.
“Oh. Really? Well good luck then…” Herakles smiled in Gupta’s direction. “I’ll be thinking of you…” He broke off speaking, yawning heavily.
“How are things… Health wise?” Gupta ventured.
“I feel a lot better since I came here.” Herakles smiled all the brighter as he spoke. “It’s still not perfect… But I wasn’t expecting that. I feel already as though I can live a mostly normal life finally though. It’s good…”
“I’m glad.” Gupta nodded.
“I had better take a nap soon. Good luck with your contest though. I’ll see you around Gupta…” Herakles finished, waving to Gupta and Sadik before walking back in the direction of his cousin’s house. Gupta waved back, while Sadik just stared. Gupta assumed they really didn’t like each other much.

There was still some time to go before the contest was due to begin, so Sadik and Gupta stopped by the Pokémon Centre to restore their Pokémon’s health. Sadik took the chance to call his cousin to tell him about his upcoming contest appearance. Batsaikhan decided he wanted to review the duo’s Pokedexes while they were both around.
“Sadik, I’m still surprised at the number of Pokémon you’ve managed to encounter. And then there’s your Bulbasaur… I wonder if you have some sort of gift for finding Pokémon that don’t even belong in this region.” He commented.
“Heh, it’s not like I’ve done anythin’ special. I encountered a lot of ‘em while training.” Sadik shrugged.
“Meanwhile… Gupta’s Pokedex seems far more usual. It tells me that you haven’t been going too far out of your way with this. Regardless, the two of you are just starting out still. It will certainly be interesting seeing how these Pokedexes develop over time.” The professor assessed.
“Sure, I’ll keep working then.” Sadik grinned. Gupta nodded.

The atmosphere in the contest hall was charged with emotion as Gupta and Sadik entered. The lobby was full of both hopeful contestants and excited spectators. Gupta felt a little overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, but Sadik moved through it towards the counter with ease, and Gupta was able to follow him without much difficulty.
“Can I help you?” The woman at the counter asked.
“We wanna enter the contest.” Sadik smiled at her, throwing his arm around Gupta.
“Okay, sure thing. Have you ever done this before?” She continued.
“Nope. Both of us are doin’ this for the first time.” Sadik announced.
“Okay. Have you heard of feeding Pokeblocks to your Pokémon to increase their condition?” The lady suggested.
“Condition?” Sadik echoed.
“Right. Condition helps a Pokémon to look its best in a contest and boosts your chances of winning. You make Pokeblocks from berries and can use them to help you win. But it’s not something you have to do to enter. Just something to think about.”
“Sure.” Sadik nodded.
“Anyway, if you’ll show me your trainer cards for a moment I’ll enter you. Can I ask which Pokémon you plan to enter?” The receptionist requested.
“I’m sendin’ in Lale.” Sadik decided, handing over his card. “Who are ya enterin’ Guppie?”
“Marshtomp.” Gupta chose, showing his trainer card to the woman.
“Right! All done. The contest will begin soon, so please make your way towards the green room.” The woman instructed.
“Okay then. Ya ready for this?” Sadik checked.
“Alright. Let’s go.” Gupta agreed.

Chapter Text

Gupta sat in the green room, waiting for the contest to begin. Sadik had been with him until a few minutes ago, but the other teen had since stepped out, saying there was something he wanted to look at. Just as Gupta was starting to wonder where he had gone, Sadik returned.

“Hey Guppie! Look what I managed to get!” He showed off, sitting back by Gupta’s side. He showed Gupta a stick like object with a Pokeball shaped head.
“…What is it?” The smaller teen asked, not getting the point.
“This is a holder for those Pokeblock things! I managed to make a few while I was at it. I’m gonna give ‘em to Lale and see what it does.” Sadik explained, grinning.
“Okay then.” Gupta nodded.
“Right!” Sadik pulled out Lale’s Pokeball. “Let’s go Lale!”
“Saur!” Lale called as she emerged. Gupta stared. Lale was… Different.
She had grown significantly in size, and the plant on her back had developed and opened. He could see for the first time that the flower contained within was a tulip. He certainly hadn’t been expecting the change in the Pokémon.
“Like it? Lale sure looks unique compared to other Ivysaur, huh?” Sadik pointed out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pokémon like that before.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Well, that’s Lale for ya.” Sadik laughed, holding out the stick like device to Lale and shaking it. A small pink cube emerged, and Lale sniffed at it before devouring it heartily.
“Is that it?” Gupta asked.
“I think so? Guess we just get into the contest now and hope for the best.” Sadik assumed.
Lale smiled.

A few seconds later, the call went out for the contestants to enter the hall, and Sadik and Gupta filed into the contest arena (Lale having been returned to her Pokeball). Upon taking his place on the stage, ready for the start of the contest, Gupta looked around to determine who else was taking part. He saw two other young men standing with him and Sadik. One was largely obscured by Sadik, making it difficult for him to determine his exact appearance, but the second was well within his view. This man had ruffled, wavy hair and the beginnings of a beard. Gupta assumed he was older than the other young men in the competition.

People continued to file in as the MC (a person with shoulder length brown hair that Gupta didn’t feel like paying much attention to) announced the start of the contest, and its type and rank. ‘Cuteness contest Normal rank’ appeared on screens around the hall seconds later. Then, one by one, the contestants were called to send out their Pokémon and begin their appeals. For whatever reason, Gupta found himself as the last in line.

One of the other contestants sent out a Zigzagoon, and the other sent out a Seedot. When it was Sadik’s turn to display his Pokémon, he sent out Lale with a smile.
“Show ‘em yer best!” He encouraged his Pokémon.
“Saur?” Lale questioned upon emerging from the Pokeball, before nuzzling against Sadik’s legs, extending a vine to wrap around Gupta’s wrist, then promptly walking into the barrier at the edge of the stage trying to say hello to the audience. The entire contest hall cooed.
“Geh, Lale…” Sadik began, before being cut off by the cries of observing people.
“That is so definitely cute.”
“That Ivysaur is adorable!”
“Guess that sort of thing is liked here?” Gupta assumed.
“Guess so. Contests are sure different to battles.” Sadik laughed.

Once Lale had been persuaded back to Sadik’s side, it was Gupta’s turn to present.
“Alright Marshtomp.” He called to his Pokémon as he sent it out, hoping Marshtomp wouldn’t be as embarrassing as Lale had been.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered at his freedom before turning around and holding his arms up in front of Gupta as though expecting a hug. “Tomp! Marshtomp!” Completely missing the point of contests, he then proceeded to attempt to use Water Gun on a bespectacled old man at the other end of the stage (who turned out to be the judge).
“The appeals haven’t begun yet…” The MC chided the Pokémon, herding Marshtomp back towards Gupta. The audience giggled in good nature, and overall Marshtomp’s introduction seemed to go down well.

After that, it was time for the appeals, and Sadik was up first (Gupta was unable to understand how the ordering worked, but was at least a little relieved to be second and not last).
“Alright Lale, use Growl.” He suggested, already looking confident.
“Saur!” Lale let off a cute sounding noise which seemed to please the audience and judge. Gupta wondered what made a growl so special. Contests and battles sure were different…
“Water Gun.” He told Marshtomp, still not treating the situation any differently.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cried, jetting water over the stage. The performance seemed to be well received.
The Seedot began its appeals by using Harden in front of the judge (a move which didn’t seem to go down so well). The Zigzagoon used Tail Whip (which went down a lot better).

The next turn, it was Gupta who was moving first (for reasons he didn’t entirely understand).
“Okay, use Mud Shot.” Gupta advised.
Marshtomp let out an attack that took the form of a ball of mud. But it didn’t look like Mud Shot.
“Seems yer Pokémon learned Mud Bomb without telling ya.” Sadik pointed out. This wasn’t exactly news to Gupta, seeing as his Pokémon never actually told him anything. Regardless, the move went down well again.
“Alright Lale, use Sleep Powder.” Sadik called, going second this time.
“Saur!” Lale smiled, releasing spores over everything. Marshtomp seemed greatly irritated.
“Ooh. Nice jamming technique.” The judge complimented.
“Jamming?” Gupta questioned.
“No idea.” Sadik shrugged.
The Zigzagoon used Growl, exciting the audience a little. Seedot used Bide (something the crowd seemed less enthused about).

The third round, the Zigzagoon was moving first (Gupta had started to think that perhaps the highest scoring Pokémon from the last round moved first the next round, but he wasn’t sure). The Pokémon used Sand Attack, and the crowd cheered yet again, seemingly thinking that the move was a classic example of cute.
Sadik was second in line yet again, and he seemed completely into the swing of contests by this point.
“Lale, use Growl again.” He commanded. Lale fluttered her eyes as she let off a roar. The crowd went wild. Gupta almost had to cover his ears from the noise. Marshtomp smiled and clapped along.
“Alright Marshtomp.” He sighed as the crowd died down. “Water Gun.”
The move also went down fairly well, although the crowd never quite reached the heights it had from before. The teenager was actually thankful for that.
The Seedot was last yet again, and tried to use Bide for the second time in a row. The crowd booed harshly, and the judge looked annoyed. Gupta made a note not to use Water Gun next round.

The fourth round, Lale was moving first, and Sadik decided to try something else.
“Use Leech Seed.” He told his Pokémon. Lale seemed happy at the choice of mood.
Marshtomp was second in the queue, and let off another Mud Bomb, already appearing used to the new move and as happy to use it as he was Water Gun. Gupta hoped this wouldn’t lead to Marshtomp waking them up by throwing mud at them. Lale seemed annoyed at the move, and Gupta realised it had struck her while she was still standing in the middle of the stage from her appeal.
“Sorry Lale.” He apologised.
“It’s okay.” Sadik brushed it off.
The Zigzagoon used Tail Whip thirdly, and the Seedot finished up by using Nature Power (a move that seemed to be lacking from its full potential somehow).

There was an air of finality about the next round of appeals. Gupta was second in the line, and Sadik was last. The Zigzagoon finished its performance by using Sand Attack to some applause. Marshtomp let off an impressive Water Gun (the audience seemed at least a little enamoured with Marshtomp in general). The Seedot used Growth for its final move (something that generally seemed like it would have been better being used earlier on in the contest). Finally, it was Sadik’s turn.
“Take Down Lale.” He smirked.
“Ivy. Saur!” Lale cheered, running full pelt into the barrier at the edge of the stage. It wasn’t the type of thing that seemed cute at all, and the audience looked on in confusion. But the judge seemed at least a little impressed with Lale. Before Gupta was able to question what was going on, the end of appeals was called.

The MC and the judge conferred for a moment, before announcing that the contestants would be named in order of last to first. Quite obviously, the trainer with the Seedot was in fourth place (a comment was made about how a different category of contest would be far better suited to the Pokémon). The Zigzagoon that had entered came third, and the judge encouraged the trainer to work just a little more on its condition, confident that the Pokémon was capable of winning in future. Marshtomp was somehow named second (which was even stranger seeing as Gupta didn’t really have any clue as to what he was doing). Even more bizarrely, Lale was named as the winner.
“Saur! Ivysaur!” She cheered. Marshtomp applauded and smiled toothily. Sadik was brought up to the front of the stage, and grinned as he looked around at the cheering crowd. Lale head-butted his legs and roared into the air. The commotion continued for a few minutes before the contestants returned to the green room.

“Looks like that condition stuff matters.” Sadik guessed, petting Lale once they were back in the green room.
“Maybe. I still don’t know what that was about.” Gupta shrugged.
“Hey, I think I’m gettin’ the hang of it.” Sadik chipped in. “Like, ya gotta use moves that fit the contest. And if ya don’t, it might not go down well, depending. And ya can’t use moves twice. And then… Pokémon can interfere with each other while appearing. I think that’s what jamming is.”
“You sure figured it out quickly.” Gupta pointed out.
“Yeah, well… I liked all that. I wouldn’t mind competin’ again. So I’m gonna learn as much as I can.” Sadik confessed.
“Fair enough.” Gupta accepted. “I think I’ll stick to battling though.”
“Yeah. It’s not like I’m gonna stop tryin’ to get through the Gyms either.” Sadik conversed. “Anyway, we should head out, yeah?”
Gupta nodded, and Sadik returned Lale to her Pokeball before they exited the green room.

As they made their way towards the exit of the contest hall, a call from someone behind them had Sadik turning back around.
“Uh, hi. Do you have a minute?” The voice requested.
“Eh?” Sadik looked around, his eyes soon settling on a young girl standing some distance away from them.

The girl facing them was short, with amber eyes and curly brown hair that had been pulled into a side ponytail. She was wearing brown shorts, a white crop top, and a pink smock. A large red flower was visible in her hair. The size of her eyebrows instantly reminded Gupta of Arthur, which put him on edge. Did this girl have something to do with Team Aqua?
Sadik seemed a lot less unnerved. “Hey there!” He smiled, walking up to the girl. “What can I do fer ya?”
“I just wanted to show you this.” The girl offered forwards a tan sketchbook. “Your Pokémon performed well. So I drew it in all its glory.”
“Really now?” Sadik looked over the picture, and Gupta leaned in to view what had been drawn. The girl’s sketch depicted Lale roaring towards the sky, the leaves of the plant on her back flopping over her head and vines stretching into the air.
“This is pretty good.” Sadik complimented. “You draw often?”
The girl nodded. “I travel around following the contests. If you ever enter another one, I’ll come watch. Your Pokémon was really fun to draw.”
“Awesome!” Sadik agreed. “So, ya got a name?”
“I’m Sophie Kirkland.” The girl introduced herself.
“Kirkland?” Gupta voiced suspiciously. “Like Arthur then?”
“Oh no, you met my cousin.” Sophie sighed. “Don’t worry. I’m nothing like him.”
“Glad to hear it.” Gupta nodded.
“Don’t worry about him.” Sadik assured her. “Just keep focusing on yer drawing.”
“I will.” Sophie agreed. “Well, I’ll be going now. Hope to see you again.” She waved and made her exit from the area.

“Well she was nice.” Sadik smiled, standing around in the growing twilight. “Anyway, I’m probably gonna do some training around here before I go onto Route 111. What are ya gonna do?”
Gupta thought for a moment. The tunnel was now completed, and he had completed the errands Yao had set…
“I’m going to go back to Rustboro.” The trainer announced. “I should report back to the people in Devon.”
“Okay.” Sadik smiled warmly. “Guess we part ways for now, huh?”
“Guess so.” Gupta agreed. “Goodbye Sadik. See you soon.” He turned and began walking towards the tunnel.
“Bye.” Sadik called after him, still standing in the fresh air and calm grassland of Verdanturf.

Chapter Text

Gupta emerged from the tunnel and walked out into the air of Route 116. The trainers that usually lined the route were packing up and heading home. The darkness that was creeping up on the scenery created an odd sense of calm. Gupta set a course for Rustboro City and began his journey back to the offices of the Devon Corporation, in order to report in on the success of the deliveries he had been tasked with.

By the time Gupta made it to Rustboro, it was already late in the evening. The street lights were blinking into life as the teenager walked down the streets of the City. Despite the late hour, there were still employees in the Devon building, and Gupta was able to get through to see Yao without any issues. The man smiled upon seeing that the trainer had returned.
“Good to see you! I take it things went well?” Yao greeted, leaning over his desk with interest.
“Things went well.” Gupta summed up. “I delivered both items.”
“And so quickly! You were a great help.” Yao praised. “And I heard about the issues at the Slateport Museum. You handled everything really well. And I think you deserve a little reward for all that.” He took out a strange grey item with yellow prongs on it. It looked rather like a crown. Gupta took the object and looked it over.
“And this is…?” He inquired.
“An EXP Share.” Yao explained. “If you switch it on, all of the Pokémon in your party will get more experienced from battles, regardless of whether they fought or not. It’s a new device that we developed here. You should try it out sometime.”
“I’ll bear that in mind.” Gupta stated.
“Still, while you’re here…” Yao grinned wolfishly. “There is perhaps one or two things you could do for me, hm?”

Gupta left the building ten minutes later with a list of errands as long as his arm and the distinct feeling that he was being manipulated. By this point of the evening, it was completely dark, and Gupta was considering returning to the Pokémon Centre and handling the list of tasks in the morning. Just as he was about to trudge back towards the centre of the city, a voice spoke up behind him.
“If it isn’t Gupta. It is good to see you again.”
Gupta turned around, and found that Kiku had appeared in the space behind him and was striking up conversation. “Kiku. Hello.” He replied.
“I see Yao is keeping you busy.” The older teen commented, pointing towards the record of tasks that Gupta still held.
“He is.” Gupta agreed.
“Still, it is getting very late. You couldn’t possibly complete all of those tasks before nightfall.” Kiku commented. “Perhaps you should rest for the night and carry on in the morning.”
“I was planning to.” Gupta explained. “I was about to go to the Pokémon Centre.”
“Oh. There is not a need to travel so far.” Kiku offered. “I have a house not too far away. You can stay over the night if you want.”
“You don’t have to go to that trouble.” Gupta insisted.
“It is no trouble.” Kiku countered. “Please do not feel as though you would be any inconvenience.”

And so it was that Gupta found himself sitting in the kitchen of Kiku’s home in Rustboro, stirring hot chocolate and sitting in a comfortable silence with the other teen for several minutes before Kiku spoke again.
“I folded the sofa into a bed. There are more blankets in the cupboard if you need them.” He instructed.
“Thank you.” Gupta nodded. “I take it you live alone?”
“I do.” Kiku revealed.
“You can afford to live apart from your family?” Gupta raised an eyebrow. How did Kiku have that much money?
“I suppose you could say my job pays well.” Kiku alluded.
“Right.” It made sense. Sadik had referenced Kiku having a job before as well. “What do you do?”
“Ah, I really should not say.” Kiku shrugged him off. “And it is late. We can always talk more tomorrow.”
As the older teen got to his feet and wandered off into the house he left Gupta feeling even more confused than before.

Morning saw Gupta traipsing around Rustboro City, Kiku helpfully showing him around the various streets and in the direction of the people and things that Yao had listed. It seemed as though the tasks he had been given were little more than simple office lackey work, and he wondered what Yao had to think of him to shove all of this on his shoulders.
“He trusts you to get things done.” Kiku advised. “It is something he values a lot.”

For the entirety of the morning, the two teenagers walked backwards and forwards over the city, delivering messages, taking parcels, delivering random objects that appeared to Gupta to serve no purpose. When all of the tasks had finally been achieved, Gupta felt thoroughly exhausted.

“Thanks for handling that! I’ll go tell Yao what a good job you did!” Mei smiled, taking the final delivered part from Gupta and dancing off in the direction of Devon’s main building.
“Well, all of that is over now.” Kiku pointed out. “What is it that you plan to do now?”
“I’ll head back to Mauville and continue my journey.” Gupta told him.
“To Route 111? Is that where Sadik is right now?” Kiku asked, his eyes showing just a hint more of interest.
“I’m not sure. Sadik was training on Route 117 the last time I saw him.” Gupta filled in.
“I see.” Kiku listened.
“Is there something you need to see Sadik about?” Gupta inquired.
“I suppose I do owe him a battle, technically speaking. I said that I would check on how his Pokémon were growing, at least.” Kiku admitted.
“You’re a trainer?” Gupta asked, picking up on the implications of the words.
“Yes.” Kiku confirmed. “Although… I did leave my strongest Pokémon at my workplace. So I only have a few with me right about now. I hope Sadik does not mind when I see him again.”
Again, Gupta found himself wondering where exactly Kiku worked. Nothing he was finding out about the teen fit together in a way that made sense to his mind.
“Anyway.” Kiku continued. “Since you are done with the errands, and we are heading towards the same destination anyway, shall we both head out for that newly connected tunnel to Verdanturf?”
“We can go, yes.” Gupta affirmed, turning towards the main road out of the city. “If you’re ready.”
“Of course I am.” Kiku assured him. “We should set off at once.”

All along the road out of the city, along Route 116, and through the Rusturf Tunnel, Gupta and Kiku walked in relative silence, neither engaging in small talk or pointless chatter. Gupta found the silence refreshing. He was really starting to like Kiku.

At the Pokémon Centre in Verdanturf, Gupta stopped to rest his Pokémon after a few battles in the tunnel had left them slightly wounded and without some of their PP. Kiku took a look around the town before reporting back. The settlement was devoid of Sadik. It didn’t seem to worry Kiku at all, even if Gupta was left wondering where it was that the other teenager could have gotten to.

It was still quite early in the afternoon when Gupta and Kiku began to walk along Route 117 back in the direction of Mauville City. Kiku surveyed the entire area, as though he hadn’t walked the road in a while. Gupta wondered idly how Kiku got back to Rustboro so quickly if that were the case, but he didn’t want to pry and disrupt the comfortable quiet that had settled over them again. It wasn’t an important thing anyway. That tranquillity lasted for the two of them all the way back to the Mauville Pokémon Centre. Upon entering the Pokémon Centre there to check for Sadik, the teens found a note taped to one of the videophones.

‘Hey Guppie, I’m sure ya found this note ok. I already smashed those rocks up to the north and went up to Route 111. Come catch up with me! –Sadik’

“Route 111 then?” Gupta assumed, turning to Kiku. The teen nodded, and seemed about to say something, when a sudden ring permeated the air. Kiku’s hand flew into his pocket, and he was talking to someone on a Pokenav before Gupta could react.
“Hmm… Is that so? It cannot be helped. I will be there immediately.” He spoke, before turning to Gupta. “Something has come up at work… Please apologise to Sadik on my behalf. Hopefully the next time we meet I shall not be so interrupted…” He apologised, bowed deeply, and exited the building, all within the space of a few seconds. Gupta again wondered what Kiku did that was so important, but he put it to the back of his mind for the time being.

Gupta walked out of the Pokémon Centre to find Kiku was already long gone. As he turned towards the road to the north, ready to set out after Sadik, he found himself nearly walking into Li, who had been standing only a short distance away.
“My brother seems to like, be totally sweet on you. Guess he can see the potential in you like I can.” He commented, without even greeting Gupta.
“Your brother?” Gupta echoed.
“Kiku. Like, duh. He’s a part of the Devon family like all of us are.” Li elaborated. “Even if his usual work is outside of our stuff.”
“How many of you are there?” Gupta asked aloud.
“Like, the six of us are siblings. Me, Mei, Yong Soo, Kyung Soo, Yao and Kiku. You’ve met us all. Hue and Kasem are our cousins, and then we totally have other cousins all over watching the company.” Li rambled. “You didn’t know all that?”
“Consider me enlightened.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Huh. I like that attitude. Yao likes you too. And Kiku. And probably Yong Soo, from what I can tell. So like, expect Yao to call if he has something he needs doing because he always does that with people he likes. And expect Yong Soo to call when he’s excited about stuff. Which is basically all the time. And Kiku will probably call if there’s something he wants to tell you. Which will happen like never but you know…” Li shrugged. “And maybe I’ll call. Who knows. We all have your Pokenav number. And I’m sure I’ll see you around.” He turned with another shrug and started walking away.
“Uh…” Gupta wondered whether he should be worried about the implications of Li’s ramblings. He was gone before the teen could say anything.

Chapter Text

Route 111 began with a gentle curve around a small lake, and then continued as a more or less straight road for as far as Gupta could see. Gupta walked for almost twenty minutes before he reached a small house built next to the lake. A family of four were allowing their Pokémon rest out on the grass and in the water of the surroundings. The Pokémon seemed beaten up, and Gupta assumed that they had all been battling recently. The people seemed busy, and Gupta didn’t particularly want to interact with them unless he had to, so he walked on by.

A few minutes’ walk to the north, a narrow pass of rock rose up into view. The shattered pieces of rock that Gupta found lying broken on the ground were proof that the path ahead had been opened only recently. The trainer climbed carefully over the shattered fragments and carried on his walk up the route. Unfortunately, Gupta wasn’t able to get much further before he was stopped by a pair of trainers.

“Would you look at that?” The female of the duo mused. “Looks like we’ve found the second strong trainer in one day.”
“Huh?” Gupta murmured, turning to the strange couple.
“Let’s see just how strong you are, hey?” The woman continued, taking out a Pokeball. Noticing the man beside the woman was doing the same, Gupta sent out both of his Pokémon.
“Marsh?” Marshtomp questioned, before turning to the trainers and roaring.
“Low.” Taillow chirped, landing on the ground and fluffing her feathers, ready for battle.
“Ooh, look at that pep!” The woman complimented. “Let’s see just how tough you are. Go Whismur!”
“Let’s do this Magnemite!” The man beside her called, sending out his own Pokémon. As the four Pokémon faced off against each other, a click was heard, and Gupta looked up to see the man had a camera and was filming the battle as it evolved. He hoped that Marshtomp didn’t do anything too stupid on film.

“Alright Marshtomp, use Mud Bomb on the Magnemite. Taillow, Aerial Ace on Whismur.” Gupta commanded, setting out the plan for his Pokémon.
“Magnemite, Spark on Taillow.” The man ordered.
“Astonish on Marshtomp Whismur.” The woman followed.
Taillow swept in and struck the Whismur with blinding speed while Marshtomp launched mud at the Magnemite, hurting it greatly. Magnemite responded with a spark of electricity that sent Taillow plummeting to the ground. She was able to get up fairly quickly, but looked on annoyed. Marshtomp was hit with a slap from the Whismur, but barely noticed or cared about the attack.
“Let’s try the same again.” Gupta advised his Pokémon.
“Spark again Magnemite.” The man repeated.
“Supersonic Whismur.” The woman announced.
Taillow was able to hit the Whismur before it had a chance to attack. When she struck, Gupta noticed that it was with far more power than usual. This ultra-strong attack was enough to knock the opposing Pokémon down. Taillow landed on the floor, confident in her victory. Marshtomp stopped to cheer for a moment before striking the Magnemite with mud. It barely held on after the attack, and responded with another jolt of electricity that hit Taillow and almost knocked her down.
“Quick Attack Taillow.” Gupta decided, deducing that that single attack would be enough to finish the fight.
Taillow struck with blinding speed and knocked out the Magnemite before it had the chance to knock her down again.

In the aftermath of the fight, Marshtomp continued to cheer, and wandered over to the filming couple, grinning at them widely. Taillow worked to catch her breath, settling down on the ground. Gupta started to walk forwards to heal her when she began to shine and was enveloped in white.
“Again…” The trainer commented, as Taillow evolved, her form changing before his eyes.
“Swellow!” She called once it was done.
“A Pokémon evolution caught on camera! This is going to make some great TV.” The female trainer commented, looking towards the newly evolved Pokémon.
“Low!” Swellow called to Gupta, trying to fly back and land on his shoulder. She had grown significantly in size, and it was hard for her to fit, so Gupta lifted his arm so she could shuffle along it and took to healing her injuries with the supplies from his bag. Marshtomp seemed content in trying to talk to the trainers they had been battling.
“Marsh. Tomp. Marshtomp!” He smiled, leaping up and down.
“What an energetic Pokémon!” The woman commented to her co-worker, who was still holding the camera. “And an amazing battle. Could we get a comment from the trainer on their spectacular win?” She turned to Gupta as if expecting something.
“What he said.” Gupta snarked, pointing to Marshtomp.
“A mysterious trainer who lets his Pokémon talk for him!” The woman considered. “What an interesting match!”
“After the talkative one who came by earlier, it’s a nice change in a way.” The man commented, shutting off the camera.
“That was good. We have plenty of good footage now.” The woman decided, turning to Gupta. “Thanks for that battle. It’ll probably air on TV sometime. So be sure to watch us, okay?” She smiled brightly before waltzing off back in the direction of Mauville, the man with the camera following her.

In the aftermath of the battle, Gupta finished healing up Swellow, before turning his attention to Marshtomp. His starter seemed more preoccupied with watching his teammate’s new form, staring at Swellow in awe. Giving up on waiting for Marshtomp to do anything, Gupta grabbed him by the arm and began dragging him along the path.

Further north along the road, the path split into two. One path continued up northwards, and the other curved off to the west. Most of the gathered trainers were healing their Pokémon and resting against the grass on the sides of the road, and Gupta assumed they weren’t up for a fight. But as he made his way towards the northern leading path, he was stopped by the one trainer who was ready for battle.
“Aha! A trainer! Let’s battle!” The child exclaimed. Gupta looked the kid over. He looked like a boy scout, and he couldn’t have been much older than 10. This didn’t seem to bother the child in the slightest.
“Alright Sandshrew, let’s go!” The boy chirped, sending out his Pokémon.
“Shrew!” Sandshrew agreed.

Gupta was well acquainted with Sandshrew. His mother trained several for the Gym after all.
“Marshtomp, you fight this one.” He decided, letting go of Marshtomp’s arm.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp acknowledged, charging forwards. Taillow jumped down to the ground to watch.
“Alright Sandshrew, use Swift!” The trainer announced.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta replied.
Marshtomp managed to hit the Sandshrew first for major damage. The Pokémon responded by firing a beam of stars that Marshtomp was unable to dodge. He shrugged the attack off with ease though.
“Go again Sandshrew!” The boy insisted.
“Once more Marshtomp.” Gupta answered calmly.
Predictably, Marshtomp struck Sandshrew down before it could move.

“Awww. I guess that’s what happens when you use Pokémon with a type disadvantage.” The child sighed.
“Tomp.” Marshtomp considered, walking over to the boy and trying to comfort him.
“But still, you’re a really strong trainer. And that’s not bad.” The child looked up. “So thanks for battling me. I’m going to go heal my Pokémon now.” He turned back towards Mauville and appeared energised as he left.
“Tomp?” Marshtomp questioned after him.

Gupta tried afterwards to walk further north, leaving the dirt track entirely and finding his feet started to hit sand. Before his eyes, the valley he had been travelling in turned into a wide desert. As Gupta rounded the rocks that enclosed his path, and entered the expanse of the desert proper, he was blasted in the face by the stream of a sandstorm. Marshtomp was completely unfazed by the surroundings, but Swellow suffered greatly trying to battle against the sand. The trainer tried to fight on regardless, but despite his struggles, he was unable to advance and had to retreat to the grassy path of before.

“How does such a desert appear out of nowhere?” Gupta wondered to himself as he stood back in the valley of Route 111. As far as he was aware, deserts weren’t usually surrounded by such lush greenery. Despite the strange circumstances surrounding the position of the desert, the fact still remained that getting through the sandstorm was impossible for the time being. Gupta knew he had no choice but to take the path to the west. As he turned to face it, he became aware of a large mountain rising up in the distance. His course set, Gupta headed off in the direction of the mountain.

The path he ended up on was craggy, and carried on straight until reaching a staggered set of ledges. At this point, the path twisted north, and seemed to climb steeply up onto a ledge at the base of the mountain. Gupta passed yet more defeated trainers as he walked for around an hour. As he reached the point where the path started to climb, he met yet another trainer ready to fight.
“Cool, another trainer.” The young girl commented. “Wanna have a battle? I bet it’ll be fun.”
“Fun?” Gupta questioned.
“Yeah!” The child giggled to herself. “Okay Gulpin, let’s have fun with this!”
“Gul.” The Poison Pokémon called as it emerged.
Gupta hadn’t seen the opposing Pokémon before, and had no idea what to expect from it. He decided to use his newly evolved Pokémon to test out her strength.
“Okay Swellow.” Gupta announced, turning to his bird Pokémon.
“Low.” Swellow agreed, bounding into battle.
“Tomp.” Marshtomp whined, not liking being made to stay on the side-lines.

“Okay Gulpin, use Sludge.” The girl started.
“Use Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta decided.
Swellow swept up into the air and then back down to strike the Pokémon. It didn’t seem to hurt the opposition very much, and the Gulpin responded with a ball of what appeared to be sewerage. It struck Swellow head on, and she reacted with disgust.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta advised.
“Poison Gas.” The girl changed tactic.
Swellow hit the opponent again, this time seeming to tire the Gulpin out quite a lot. Gulpin responded by spewing a purple haze over the battlefield. Swellow breathed it in without meaning to, and almost immediately seemed to be suffering with the effects of poison.
“Don’t give up Swellow. Quick Attack.” Gupta advised.
“Pound!” The girl told her Pokémon. The attack came to nothing as Swellow defeated Gulpin before it could strike.

“Hey, you won. Told you it would be fun.” The girl smiled.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp agreed, dancing around on the spot.
“Fun?” Gupta pondered.
“We all tried our best. Isn’t it fun?” The girl argued.
“I suppose it was… Exciting.” Gupta conceded.
“Yeah. It’s the best.” The child giggled. “I’ll see you later. Thanks for this.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp waved.
Gupta turned to Swellow, who had gone quiet and was perched on the ground, suffering from the poison. Gupta got some curing berries out of his bag and made sure to feed them to Swellow before he continued on.

Gupta climbed for almost half an hour before he found Sadik again. The teenager was standing with two hikers at the far end of the ledge Gupta had reached, and was arguing with some other people standing further away still. As Gupta drew close, he noticed that the second group of people were wearing strange red hoodies and were blocking the path to what appeared to be a cable car up the mountain. Gupta recognised one of the men as the same one who had defaced the mural back in Oldale Town several days before. The second man joining him was unknown to Gupta. Sadik appeared enraged at both men, and neither of the hikers looked pleased either.

“What are ya even tryin’ to say? Why can’t we just get on up that mountain already?” He fumed.
“It’s just the orders we have. We’re not to let anyone through.” The unknown man replied. Aside from the same strange uniform that the mural desecrator wore, the man had shaggy light brown hair that shielded one of his green eyes from view and a generally calm demeanour that showed through even when he was outright arguing with Sadik.
“Well what do ya want us to do then? How’re we meant to get to Lavaridge?” Sadik continued.
“Dunno.” The man shrugged. “Try again later maybe?”
“Fine.” Sadik seethed. “I’ll go on ta Fallarbor then. But ya’d better be gone when I get back, ya hear?” He turned around, not even looking at Gupta, before storming past him and off to the west. Gupta looked from the hikers who were still trying to get through to the strange men holding them back, and made the decision to follow Sadik.

Following the ridge along to the west, Gupta discovered a small cave. Assuming that this was the way Sadik would have gone, and with the desert impassable and the cable car blocked by the men, Gupta moved forwards and made his way into the cave.

‘Swellow, the Swallow Pokémon. Swellow has grown significantly in size from Taillow, but it remains as determined as ever. This Pokémon dives at a steep angle as soon as it spots its prey. The hapless prey is tightly grasped by Swellow’s clawed feet, preventing escape.’

Chapter Text

The inside of the cave was stiflingly hot. Jets of steam spouted from the ground as Gupta began to walk through the passage of rock. The trainer was thankful that he was resistant to heat. Swellow also seemed to be weathering the conditions well, following along behind Gupta without complaint. Marshtomp, on the other hand, whined with discomfort. Gupta considered returning his Pokémon to the ball, but his starter Pokémon appeared rather reluctant to the idea.

Gupta could only assume that the heat inside the cave was due to it being close to a deposit of magma in the nearby rock. This was the first clue that alerted the trainer to the possibility that Mt. Chimney was in fact a volcano. As Gupta walked onwards, he filed the information away in case it was to prove useful later.

There was little chance of getting lost in the cave. The pathway through it was a straight shot without any branches, save for one path off to the left that was sealed by a boulder that Gupta couldn’t move. Thanks to this fact, it took Gupta less than an hour to make his way to the far side of the cave, from which he could see the rays of sun from the outside filtering in. As Gupta walked towards the exit, he tripped over some sort of obstacle. Gupta looked behind him towards the obstacle and was surprised to see it looking back at him.

This obstacle was sand coloured for the most part. Its back rose in a large hump which was coloured green at the tip. Several green shapes were also spotted around the hump- notably, one of them looked rather like a pyramid. Aside from this, the obstacle had four round feet and an oval shaped head. Its ears pricked up. It seemed to be barely awake and regarded Gupta with a calm expression. He assumed it had to be a Pokémon of some kind.

“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered, racing forwards to battle the Pokémon before Gupta could tell him not to.
“Numel?” The Pokémon questioned.
“Okay Marshtomp.” Gupta relented. If his Pokémon really wanted to battle... “Water Gun.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed, jetting water at the Pokémon.
The strange Pokémon appeared greatly hurt, and looked up at Gupta with eyes swimming in tears. Gupta couldn’t help but feel sorry for it. But despite this, it didn’t respond with an attack of its own.
“Okay then…” Gupta sighed. This was going to weigh on his conscience for a while. “Marshtomp, use-”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp interrupted, turning around to face Gupta and crossing his arms. “Marshtomp tomp!”
“What?” Gupta questioned. “What’s wrong?”
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp tried to explain, walking up to his trainer and looking up at him knowingly. When Gupta failed to respond in the way the starter Pokémon clearly wanted him to, he grabbed Gupta and pulled him towards the wild Pokémon.
“Marshtomp!” He emphasised, gesturing at the Pokémon.
“Numel?” The Pokémon responded, only now seeming to finally understand the situation. “Numel…” It shuffled forwards, and licked Gupta’s hand.
“Are you saying we should take it with us?” Gupta guessed.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp nodded.
“Low?” Swellow looked back to the group from where she had been stood some way away surveying the area, and hopped over, trying to get a look at the new Pokémon.
“Alright.” Gupta agreed, looking down at the Pokémon who had a quiet hopeful look on its face. He pulled out a Pokeball and held it up to the new Pokémon, who jumped in without question. It was an easy catch.

Gupta made it out of the cave without incident after that, and soon found himself standing on the path of the second half of Route 112. He found this part of the route to be deserted, filled only with tall grass and patches of soil containing still growing berry plants. Deciding that there wasn’t anything here worth dealing with, Gupta moved on forwards, walking for several minutes before he reached what appeared to be the northern part of Route 111, above the desert that had before been impassable.

The trainers on this route were, like the ones before them, standing around licking their wounds, and that told Gupta that Sadik had already passed through this route. To the north, above the ledges that spanned the pathway, Gupta caught sight of a house, and as he worked his way towards it, he was stopped by yet another trainer who had previously gone undefeated.

“Well hello there trainer.” The fellow teenager greeted. “Care for a battle? I bet you have an interesting team.”
“Do I have a choice?” Gupta asked.
“Good point.” The trainer laughed. “Okay Electrike. Let’s go.”
“Ele!” Electrike roared.
“Okay Marshtomp.” Gupta nodded to his Pokémon.
“Tomp! Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered, jumping into battle.

“Fine. Electrike, Quick Attack.” The trainer commanded.
“Mud Bomb Marshtomp.” Gupta instructed.
The opponent dashed forwards and hit Marshtomp before he could react, but Marshtomp didn’t seem to mind very much, responding by launching mud at the Electrike. The Pokémon was greatly damaged by the attack.
“Electrike, Howl.” The opponent changed tactic.
“Mud Bomb.” Gupta repeated.
The opposing Electrike let off a howl into the sky, but was then hit by a second glob of mud and fell down, unmoving.

“So you beat Electrike…” The trainer mused. “Okay, let’s go Makuhita.”
“Maku!” Makuhita called as it emerged.
“Swellow, you take over.” Gupta decided, calling over to his Pokémon who had been surveying the area some way away. Marshtomp trotted off and leaned back against a tree as Swellow fluttered to the ground in front of Makuhita.
“Okay Makuhita, use Force Palm.” The trainer began.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta chose.
Swellow took to the skies and struck Makuhita before the Pokémon could respond, causing massive damage. Makuhita responded with a powerful punch that managed to hit Swellow and injure her quite a bit.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta reiterated.
“Arm Thrust.” The opponent trainer ordered. The attack came to nothing as Swellow knocked the Makuhita down before it could hit her.

“My second Pokémon as well?” The trainer raised an eyebrow. “So you are strong. I see. But let’s see if you can get past Wailmer!”
“Wail.” Wailmer moaned.
“Wailmer, Rollout.” The trainer decided.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta advised.
Swellow flew in to hit Wailmer, and got in her attack without missing, but was then forced backwards by a rolling attack and appeared greatly annoyed.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated, as the opponent’s Pokémon rolled itself back around for another hit without any order from its trainer.
Swellow managed to get in her attack against the Wailmer before being struck for even greater damage than before. As Wailmer prepared for a third attack Gupta knew he had to move.
“Quick Attack.” He changed strategy, getting in before the enemy could attack and finishing it off. Swellow looked exhausted in her victory, and settled onto the ground as the trainer returned his final Pokémon to its Pokeball.

As the defeated trainer made his way off to find somewhere to heal his Pokémon, Gupta pondered the fact that the man he had fought had been quite rare in that he had not been 10 while Marshtomp continued to lean against the tree on the road. Suddenly, a voice came from above, and Marshtomp jumped a metre in the air and fell over forwards.
“Hey Guppie! How’ve ya been?” Sadik shouted from up in the tree.
“You’re in a better mood than earlier.” Gupta discussed.
“Yeah, well, this guy showed me how to make a secret base using this tree! Cool huh?” Sadik grinned. “Come on up, I’ll show ya around!”

The inside of Sadik’s ‘secret base’ was almost devoid of anything. The only thing worth noting was a computer set out on a mat in the corner, a flag that stood next to said computer, and a poster of a Torchic hastily pinned to the wall.
“Okay, so it’s not much yet.” Sadik defended, seeing Gupta’s expression. “But I literally built it ten minutes ago. I’m gonna get some stuff and decorate it all nice and then it’ll be somethin’. Ya’ll see.”
“Sure.” Gupta stated noncommittally.
“Anyway, ya look tired. Yer Pokémon too. I know a place not far from here if ya wanna get some rest in. I mean, Swellow’s so tired she can barely climb up here.” He paused for a moment. “Congrats on the evolution by the way.”
“Thanks.” Gupta answered far more sincerely, looking towards his Pokémon. Swellow was struggling to get into the base, and Marshtomp had only made it up the vine ladder by clinging to Gupta’s bag. A rest sounded good.

Before the trainers headed off for rest, Sadik decided to sit Gupta down and check out the status of their teams. When Gupta mentioned his new Pokémon, Sadik was intrigued.
“Lemme see!” He insisted, leaving Gupta with no choice but to send out Numel.
“Numel?” The Pokémon questioned.
“Look at that! A hump that big almost certainly means a female.” Sadik appraised. “And that spot there… Look, it looks like a pyramid.” He pointed to the green mark on Numel’s hump that Gupta had noticed before.
“I noticed that too.” The trainer nodded.
“Come to think of it…” Sadik mused. “Lots of our Pokémon have stuff about ‘em different to the usual. Take Asena for example. Ever noticed she has a white tip to her tail? Don’t get that with many Mightyena.”
“Oh.” Gupta absorbed the new information.
“And yer Swellow. She’s got these red triangles sticking out into her torso, where it’s usually all white.” Sadik continued. “And then there’s Lale… Not only’s she got a tulip for her flower, but she’s got a crescent shaped mark on her head, right between the eyes. Variations like that… Just one of those things I guess.”
“Guess so.” Gupta agreed.
“Anyway, congrats on cathin’ Numel too.” Sadik stood up. “How’s about we go rest her?”

The house Gupta had seen from before seemed catered to caring for trainers on the long journey to Fallarbor, and the owner welcomed the two weary teenagers with open arms. Not long after arriving, Gupta was sat around the table in the house with Sadik and the friendly man, while another who appeared to be living with him cooked passively in the kitchen.
“You’re teenagers huh?” He began, looking between Sadik and Gupta. “And you’re beginning trainers? It’s common for trainers to start a lot younger than you. Not that there’s anything wrong with roaming around as a young man. Ah, it takes me back…”
“I was helpin’ my cousin at the lab before.” Sadik explained. “And Guppie just moved here.”
“Well that certainly explains all.” The man empathised. “I remember when I was a young man, wandering around the world with my Pokémon. Oh the pretty girls I met… Have you two met any nice girls on your travels yet?” Sadik seemed to be actually thinking about the question, while Gupta looked on at the man as if he’d grown an extra head.
“Or, maybe you met some nice guys…?” The man tried again, and Sadik looked like he was about to say something before Gupta cut in.
“I’m not exactly on this journey for romance.”
“True.” Sadik nodded. “Not like I’m lookin’ for it or anythin’.”

“Ah, that’s true. You must have real adventure and glory in mind.” The man smiled. “But that doesn’t mean that you have to disregard love entirely. Sometimes it finds you in the strangest of places. I mean look at my grandsons!”
“Grandsons?!” Gupta’s eyes widened. This man looked nowhere near old enough to have grandchildren!
“Yes, my lovely grandsons.” The man cooed. “They’re a little older than you, I think, but oh are they successful as trainers! I’m as proud as a man can be about them. And they have such important jobs too.”
Gupta found himself wondering about what this man’s grandsons could even be doing.

He was brought out of his thoughts when the second man walked over with food and set it down on the table.
“Romulus, don’t talk their ears off.” He warned.
“But Alaric!” Romulus argued. “Hearing tales of great trainers is just what they need to inspire them! And aren’t you proud of your grandkids as well? Why both of yours are in the Pokémon League!”
“Really?” Sadik chipped in. “Both in the League?” Gupta had no idea why he was suddenly so interested. To him it seemed strange.
“Well, it’s no surprise.” Romulus shrugged. “Alaric was even Champion long ago. Although he gave it up long ago. As did I… I was in the Elite 4 in my day you know.”
“Wow.” Sadik appreciated.
Gupta sat there, listening to Romulus and Sadik talk about the Pokémon League and the qualities of a good trainer, his face setting into a deadpan mask. When he looked across at Alaric, the man had an identical expression.

Considering neither of the talkative men would shut up, it was a long night.

Chapter Text

When morning dawned, Gupta and Sadik readied themselves to carry on their way. Romulus seemed sad to see them go, but Alaric reigned him in well enough.
“You can come and visit again. If you want.” The stoic man offered.
“And if you see Gil or Moni or Feli or Lovi anywhere out there, say hi from us!” Romulus added.
“That too.” Alaric nodded.
“Sure thing. See ya guys later!” Sadik waved, heading off in the direction of Fallarbor Town, with Gupta following behind him.

It took barely an hour before the two entered an area blanketed by volcanic ash. The ash rained down on Sadik and Gupta as they continued to walk, and coated the tall grass with a thick layer. Sadik went charging through it regardless, and soon found himself face to face with a trainer who he began to battle. Gupta decided to leave Sadik to deal with the youngster and continued on up the stairs of the hill he was on. As he walked alongside the tall grass, a second trainer emerged from a pile of ash.
“Hiyah! I challenge thee!” The small child cried.
“What?” Gupta deadpanned.
“Come on, battle me!” The child insisted, sending out a Pokémon to battle Gupta.
“Koffing.” The Pokémon acknowledged.
“Alright Numel.” Gupta decided, sending out his new Pokémon.
“Numel?” Numel questioned, looking from Gupta to the Pokémon. “Numel…”
“Okay Numel, use… Tackle?” Gupta assumed.
“Koffing, use Tackle!” The child commanded.
Numel seemed a little reluctant to fight, and Koffing hit her before she got her attack through. She looked a little hurt, looked towards Gupta for reassurance, then decided she had no choice but to fight back.
“Tackle again Koffing!” The boy responded. Numel rushed forwards, spitting out a fire that struck the Koffing and split off to the side, sparks hitting the surrounding area as well. Koffing then tackled Numel, sending her sliding backwards. Numel attacked for a third time with a burst of flame, and this time she managed to take the Koffing down.

“Okay, keep going! Koffing, let’s go!” The excitable boy rebounded, sending out his second Pokémon.
“Numel?” Numel questioned, staring at the new Pokémon and readying herself to fight a second time.
“Okay Koffing, use Smog.” The child decided, changing his tactic.
Gupta was unsure what other moves Numel knew, so decided to stick with Tackle for the time being. Numel was able to hit the other Pokémon before being enveloped in some sort of poisonous fog. Numel frowned at the attack, and responded with another flaming attack.
“Poison Gas!” The boy noted excitedly. Koffing was hit by the attack from Numel before responding with an even more noxious fume that left Numel suffering badly.
“Tackle Numel.” Gupta tried, hoping Numel was able to defeat the opponent while she still had strength. Numel was able to get off an attack before she was hit by anything else, but she was still left struggling.

“Rest for now Numel.” Gupta declared, returning his Pokémon and sending out a different one. “Okay Swellow.”
“Low!” Swellow landed to the ground, spreading her wings ready to fight.
“Koffing, let’s go.” The boy finalised, sending out his final Pokémon.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta called, glad that he was back using moves and Pokémon that he knew.
“Use Smog Koffing.” The trainer guided.
Swellow took off into the air and hit the Pokémon before it could react, clearly injuring it greatly. The Pokémon responded with another barrage of toxic gas.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated. Before the opponent could even announce his attack, Swellow had struck down the Koffing.

In the aftermath of the battle, Gupta healed Numel’s poison, and the Pokémon looked to him happily before licking his hand in thanks. Sadik appeared soon after, fresh from his battle. While Gupta continued along the pathway to the west, towards Fallarbor, Sadik doubled back on himself and investigated the ledge above the area they had previously travelled. Numel and Swellow continued to walk beside Gupta, Numel at a slow and measured pace, and Swellow in erratic hops. When Gupta found a second trainer along the path, he made sure to keep Numel behind him, knowing she wasn’t up to fighting.

“Isn’t that interesting?” The woman before him smiled. “I have a Numel too.” She sent out her Pokémon, accentuating her point.
“Numel?” Numel questioned, stepping forwards to face the Numel.
“Numel!” The second Numel roared.
“Numel…” Numel whined, hiding behind Gupta.
“Marshtomp, deal with this.” Gupta decided, sending out Marshtomp.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp acknowledged.
“Okay Numel, use Lava Plume!” The woman announced.
“Water Gun.” Gupta chipped in.
Swellow perched on a nearby rock to watch the battle. The opponent’s Numel sent a wave of Lava soaring over Marshtomp, who responded with a strong jet of water.
“Numel!” Gupta’s Numel cheered, supporting her teammate.
“Numel, use Magnitude!” The trainer attempted.
“Water Gun.” Gupta repeated.
Marshtomp got in with his attack before Numel could finish its attack, and the opponent was knocked out. Swellow looked down proudly, and Numel smiled cheerfully at Marshtomp’s win.

Sadik returned from his exploration with another battle under his own belt, and the two trainers decided to carry on together from that point. As they continued to walk through the grass, Sadik pointed out a building in the far distance.
“That house over there? I hear they make things out of glass made from the ashes here. Thought maybe we should check it out.” He suggested.
“If you want to.” Gupta accepted.
“Sounds good!” Sadik smirked, charging through the grass.

Sadik’s recklessness managed to get him into another battle before the two trainers made it to the glass workshop. Gupta took the opportunity to return his Pokémon to their Pokeballs so that they were out of the way (the last thing he wanted was Marshtomp racing around in a house of a glassblower). Once Sadik had finished his battle, the teenagers began again towards the workshop. It took another half hour to reach the building, and Sadik entered immediately.

The workshop was almost entirely empty. Tools took up one wall of the space, and a blond man sat at a desk at the other end of the building. His back was turned to Gupta and Sadik, so they couldn’t see his face, but his accented voice drifted over to the duo, and it became apparent that the man was on the phone.

“Oh wow, seriously? I mean I saw about it on the news, but I never realised that you were that directly involved Toris. That totally sucks, huh? Still, at least you made it through okay, and the parts and stuff are all safe, so you have that right?” He leaned backwards over the chair as he spoke, and his green eyes caught sight of Gupta and Sadik. He sprung to his feet. “Anyway, some people are here, so I gotta sign off for now. I’ll totally call you back later, so talk to you later, ‘kay?” The man put the phone down and turned around fully to face the trainers.
“So… What can I do for you?” He asked, smiling accommodatingly. Gupta couldn’t help but notice that the emotion didn’t quite reach his eyes, as if the man was secretly nervous.
“Hey there!” Sadik grinned, being his usual friendly self. “I heard that ya make things using the ashes from around here. I was wonderin’ how I get somethin’ good.”
“Oh, you wanna make some glass flutes, I’m guessing?” The man assumed, getting up from his chair. “You certainly came to the right place. I’m Feliks. I can definitely make you something, but…” He pouted a little. “I’m kinda out of materials at the moment. So… Maybe you could go out and get some more ash for me?”
“Sure, I can do that.” Sadik agreed.
“Cool!” Feliks grinned, picking up a small bag and handing it over to Sadik. “This bag’ll gather the ashes that you kick up as you walk. Come back when it’s looking kinda full and I’ll take it from there.”
“Right.” Sadik nodded, turning to Gupta. “Hear that Guppie? Let’s get us some ash!”

Gupta refused to run around the grass patches of the route collecting ashes, so he and Sadik sent out Ateş, Marshtomp, and Lale and let them carry the bag between them as they played. Asena sat by Sadik’s feet and Swellow preened her feathers, perched on a nearby rock. Numel smiled happily over at the playing Pokémon, but made no move to join in, seemingly happy enough to be in such a pleasant atmosphere.
“How does the bag collect ashes?” Gupta wondered, watching the Pokémon run around.
“Dunno.” Sadik shrugged. “As long as it does, I don’t really mind too much.”

“Hey, this is some totally awesome ash you have here.” Feliks commented, seeing the collected ash that Gupta and Sadik had brought back over an hour later. “Okay, so with ash like this, I can definitely make something cool. Depends on what you want the flute to do, but…”
“There are different kinds?” Gupta queried.
“Yeah. You can make flutes that will play tunes to wake Pokémon up, snap them out of confusion or cure them of infatuation. But it’s like, impossible to make one that’ll do all 3. So choose wisely.” Feliks answered.
“Huh. Well, I know there are berries that’ll cure sleep and confusion.” Sadik considered. “But I dunno what to do about infatuation. So that one then.”
“Sure.” Feliks agreed. “I’ll make a red flute then. If you don’t mind waiting while I work. I can do it right in front of you.”
“Okay.” Sadik decided, turning to Gupta. “If that’s alright with ya?”
“…Do I have a choice?” Gupta asked.

In the end, it seemed as though Gupta didn’t have a choice, as Sadik fixed him with a pleading look that made him feel bad for even considering leaving. Luckily, Feliks finished quickly despite talking to Sadik almost near constantly as he worked. Before long, Sadik was left holding a red flute, and thanked the glass workman, with the promise that he would return again in the future.
“Sure. Anytime.” Feliks smiled again, turning back to his desk. Sadik exited the workshop with a final parting pleasantry, and Gupta was about to follow when Feliks spoke again.
“Nice guy. You should totally keep a friend like that around.” He commented.
“…What?” Gupta dead-panned. The comment had come totally out of the blue…

When Gupta finally got outside, he saw Sadik in battle with a wild Pokémon.
“Okay Ateş, use Double Kick!” He commanded. Ateş jumped forwards and struck the Pokémon, which had the appearance of a metal bird. The bird responded with a gust of air which struck like a razor. Sadik didn’t give up, reaching into his bag.
“Okay, let’s hope this works.” Sadik hoped, throwing a Pokeball at the wild Pokémon. After a few tense moments, the Pokémon was caught.
“Heh. Good work Ateş.” Sadik celebrated, picking up the Pokeball. “We got ourselves a Skarmory.” Gupta walked over to the teen and Sadik turned to face him.
“See this Guppie? My team’s growin’ all the time. At this rate, we’ll take the next gym, no problem.” Sadik boasted.
“… I don’t plan to lose.” The smaller trainer pointed out.
“Sure ya don’t.” Sadik nodded. “Anyway, Fallarbor’s not far. We all set?”

Another half an hour saw Gupta resting his Pokémon in Fallarbor’s Pokémon Centre while Sadik bounced around on his heels.
“There’s a contest next door startin’ in literally ten minutes. I can’t miss that for the world.” He insisted, looking towards the door impatiently.
“So you’re hooked on contests.” Gupta worked out.
“Well… I wanna experience all I can while I’m on this journey. Battles and contests both.” Sadik explained, taking his Pokémon back from the nurse. “Anyway, ya can always watch or stock up on items or whatever. I’d better go.” He gave a winning smile and a wave before running from the Pokémon Centre. After getting his Pokémon back, Gupta decided he had no choice but to follow.

Chapter Text

Gupta found Sadik in the green room, looking between his four Pokémon before tying a red ribbon around Ateş’s left leg.
“This time’s gonna be yer turn, kay Ateş?” He briefed his Pokémon. “Asena and Pençe, you guys’ll get a chance to shine later on I bet.”
“You named your Skarmory too.” Gupta commented, walking up behind him.
“Of course. Can’t leave any of my team without names. Gives ‘em personality.” Sadik argued. “Anyway, contest’s about to start, so me and Ateş’d better get out to the stage. Wish us luck eh?” Sadik smirked in Gupta’s direction before returning his Pokémon to their Pokeballs and heading off towards the stage.

Gupta didn’t particularly feel like sitting in on the contest, so he decided to walk around town for a while. For a while, everything was still, and despite the volcanic ash in the air, the atmosphere remained peaceful. But Gupta only just had time to visit the Pokemart and stock up on potions before the tranquillity was shattered; as he walked back towards the contest hall, a panicked townsperson ran screaming past him in the other direction.
“Help! Professor Galante’s been kidnapped!”
Gupta stared after the civilian, left wondering who exactly was in trouble. He resolved to take a further look around in order to find out more about what had happened.

This approach proved fruitless, as nobody else seemed even remotely aware of the occurrence, and seemed more preoccupied with mundane matters.
“The professor?” One girl considered. “He does work on meteorites.”
“Yes, but where is he now?” Gupta pressed.
“I dunno.” The girl shrugged. “In the lab maybe?”
“He was kidnapped.” Gupta stated.
“Oh! Really? That’s awful. Someone should do something.” The girl decided. Gupta sighed.

“Check out my Pokémon!” Another local trainer offered.
“The professor just got kidnapped.” Gupta pointed out.
“Yeah, but never mind that.” The trainer insisted. “Don’t you think my Pokémon is totally cool?”

The same attitude prevailed throughout the entire town. Nobody Gupta spoke to felt the need to do anything. There wasn’t a single police officer to be found in the town, and it would clearly take hours for backup to arrive. Gupta looked towards the direction the first townsperson had run from, deciding he was the only one who was going to do anything about the kidnapping. He seemed to be getting a lot of experience with helping out endangered individuals…

Route 114 was, at first, not much different in appearance to Fallarbor Town itself. Fields of crops nurtured by volcanic ash were situated either side of the dirt track that the teenager travelled. For quite a long time, there was nothing and nobody else to be seen, but after a while, a house came into view in the distance. Gupta found himself wondering whether the people inside knew anything about the kidnapping, and entered into the building.

Nobody seemed to be inside the house at first. There was a table and chairs and a switched on TV on one end of the room and a bed and kitchenette on the other. In the middle of the room, there was a large hole in the wall, propped up with wooden beams. It was incredibly suspicious. Suddenly suspecting that the professor could be being held further in, Gupta ventured out to investigate.

Inside the hole, a tunnel stretched for several hundred yards. The side walls were embedded with shards of bone and shapes that appeared to be fossils. At the end of the tunnel, a man was stood looking over the area. The man had pale brown skin, dark brown hair, and appeared to be rather smartly dressed. There was no sign of anyone who looked like a professor, but Gupta saw no harm in asking.
“Do you know anything about a kidnapping around here?” He asked.
“Nope.” The man replied, amber eyes turning on Gupta. “That sounds serious though.”
“Then what are you doing?” Gupta continued.
“Me? Working for Devon.” The man explained. “Yao wanted me to look around this area and set up an operation to collect the fossils here. But I think he’s on the wrong track. See, he wants to revive the fossils using our technology. But I think selling them makes more business sense. People love the aesthetic of fossils.”
“Okay.” Gupta answered non-committedly.
“Anyway, I know nothing of any kidnapping, sorry. There’s a house further down the way though. See if the guy there knows anything.” The man offered.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, backing out of the room. He still had a kidnapping to investigate.

The route ahead of Gupta transformed into a series of ponds, and then into a large lake with a boardwalk stretching over it. As Gupta made his way over to the boardwalk, it became apparent that the trainers on Route 114 that day were completely oblivious to his haste and to the urgency of his task.
“Someone’s been kidnapped.” The teenager stated to the angler that stood before him. “Don’t you think we have bigger problems?”
“Battles come before all.” The man insisted. “Come on Corphish!”
“Phish.” The Pokémon growled, clacking its pincers.
“Okay Swellow.” Gupta announced, deciding that it would be a bad move to use his other Pokémon.
“Okay Corphish, use Bubble Beam.” The fisherman ordered.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta responded.
Swellow struck the opponent before it could attack, and dodged the stream of bubbles that followed.
“Go again Corphish.” The fisherman tried.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow chirped as she flew in and finished off the enemy.

“Not bad, not bad.” The fisherman appreciated. “Let’s see how you handle this. Go Wailmer!”
“Swellow, Aerial Ace again.” Gupta continued, pointing towards the emerging Pokémon.
“Rollout.” The fisherman commanded.
Swellow struck hard with an attack that seemed stronger than usual, and took down the Wailmer before it was able to do much of anything.

As the trainer stood bewildered at his own defeat, Gupta prepared to leave. Unfortunately, he was interrupted as a second fisherman leaned over towards the teenager.
“Cool.” He commented. “Wonder if you can beat me though.”
“I’m in a hurry.” Gupta stated, trying to leave.
“Aw, come on. It’s not like this’ll take that long.” The fisherman argued. “Just fight my Pokémon.”
“Do you have Magikarp?” Gupta guessed.
“Of course not.” The fisherman scoffed. “You have to fight my Gyarados.”
The emerging Pokémon roared down at Gupta, who had no choice but to send Swellow back in to fight.

“Okay Gyarados, use Bite.” The fisherman started.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated again. Swellow managed to get in a solid hit before Gyarados responded with its own attack, which pulled out several of Swellow’s feathers.
“Low!” She chirped back at the opponent in annoyance.
“Alright Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta decided yet again.
“Thrash Gyarados.” The fisherman changed tactic.
As Swellow got off a second hit, she was hit hard by the tail of the opponent. Trying to right herself, she flew up into the air and watched the Gyarados thrashing around. She looked tired, and Gupta knew he had to finish the fight.
“Quick Attack.” He changed tactic, hoping that Swellow could hit Gyarados again before its thrashing caused her any more damage. Swellow struggled to get in to attack because of the thrashing tail of the Pokémon, but in the end she was able to get in another hit, and the large dragon went down.

The two fisherman Gupta had fought continued to stand around debating their loss, but the teenager slipped away before anyone else could find him. Did nobody here realise the urgency of the situation? Did the idea of a kidnapping mean nothing to them?

Gupta hurried on along the bridge, and onto the far bank of the lake. Before him, a large rock face rose up, with a path leading up the winding climb and into a cave entrance some way away. A number of bird Pokémon flew overhead as the trainer continued forwards, hoping that he would be able to find and rescue the kidnapped man soon. Just as he was stepping forwards towards the ledges and tall grass ahead of him, a flash of brown passed his view, and seconds later there was a shout.
“Catch that Pokémon!”

Chapter Text

Before Gupta had a chance to look after the speedy Pokémon, he was barrelled into by a young man he could only assume was its trainer. The teenager stepped back quickly, looking the new trainer over.

The first thing that stuck out about the man was his hair; shaggy and brown, it hung long on one side of his face yet was cropped short on the other. The second thing Gupta noticed was how similar he looked to Herakles; green eyes somehow portraying a similar expression. As he picked himself up, he looked Gupta up and down before making yet more requests.
“That Pokémon… Could I ask you to search for him?”
“I’m busy right now.” Gupta pointed out. “I don’t know if you heard, but there was a kidnapping.”
“Well yes, but…” He man sighed. “That Pokémon came into my care a short while ago. He doesn’t trust humans at all. If he were to run from the trainers on this route… He could end up getting hurt. It’d be even worse if he attacked humans out of fear.”
“You’re not going to let me go on with my business until I find your Pokémon, are you?” The trainer guessed.
“Nope.” The man stated. “So we’re in agreement then?”
“Fine, fine.” Gupta answered sarcastically. “It’s not as if I’ve got anything more important to do.”

“Great!” The man smiled. “I’ll look here by the water and over by my house. You look in the direction of the mountain.”
“Okay, fine.” Gupta agreed, turning towards the mountain in the distance as the man disappeared off towards the lake.

The area of Route 114 that Gupta had entered was bustling with trainers. Gupta began by walking downhill, across some grassy plains. He ended up caught between a ledge to the south of him and some tall grass to the right. He decided to cut across the grass rather than jumping over the ledge, but as he continued along the winding path, he was spotted by a pair of trainers.

“Oh, a trainer!” The younger girl chirped. “How would you like to battle us?”
“I’m in rather a hurry.” Gupta pointed out.
“Aw, come on.” The older girl huffed. “It won’t take long. Okay Roselia, let’s go.”
“Alright Azumarill, we’ll try our best.” The younger girl chipped in.
“Azu.” The aquatic Pokémon cheered.
“Rose.” The small prickly Pokémon joined in.
“Okay Marshtomp and Swellow.” The teenager decided.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp roared. Swellow took to the skies, glaring down at her foes.

“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Roselia. Marshtomp, Tackle on Azumarill.” Gupta began.
“Azumarill, Rollout on Swellow.” The first trainer commanded.
“Roselia, Poison Sting on Marshtomp.” The second concurred.
Swellow swooped in to attack the plant like Pokémon, and dodged the response coming from Azumarill. Roselia pierced Marshtomp with thorns, but appeared to cause little more than scratches. Marshtomp’s responding Tackle was far more damaging to Azumarill.
“Go again.” Gupta announced.
“Magical Leaf Roselia.” One trainer announced.
“Try Rollout again Azumarill.” The second replied.
Swellow was able to swoop in with a second attack and knock out Roselia before it could attack. Azumarill’s Rollout hit the second time around, but the damage was not too great, and Marshtomp defeated the Pokémon a few seconds later.

As the two girls sat around considering their loss, Gupta continued along the path, Marshtomp and Swellow still following along behind him. Ahead of him, the mountain began to rise up. The only way forwards was a trail that began off to the west. As the trainer walked towards the path, he found that the way was blocked by yet another trainer.

“Come on now, battle my Pokémon.” He implored.
“Why?” The teenager deadpanned.
“Never mind why.” The trainer continued. “Just do it. Aron, fight him.”
“Aron.” The metallic Pokémon chimed.
“Numel, handle this.” Gupta sighed, sending out his third Pokémon.
“Numel?” She questioned, looking towards the Aron.
“Okay Aron, Harden.” The strange man started.
“Magnitude Numel.” Gupta decided.
Numel sent out a shockwave that caused significant damage to the Aron. It responded by appearing to harden its shell.
“Use Magnitude again.” Gupta repeated.
“Harden again Aron.” The man continued.
This time, the attack Numel sent out did less damage, but Aron’s defensive move still achieved little.
“Magnitude a final time.” Gupta tried again.
“Metal Claw Aron.” The man changed tactic. This proved to come to naught as Numel defeated the Aron with her final shockwave.

“Numel!” Numel smiled, wandering over to Marshtomp, who was sitting in the grass a little way away.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, standing up and giving Numel a celebratory hug.
“Your Pokémon are so cool. I’m lucky to get to see them.” The man muttered to himself.
“Okay.” Gupta stated, taking a few steps back from the stranger.

For the next few minutes, Gupta and his Pokémon walked along the lowest part of the winding track leading up the mountain. Marshtomp and Numel had little trouble with their sturdy legs, and Swellow flew around the vicinity to get out of walking. After a little while, a child came into view, and his face lit up upon setting eyes on Gupta.

“Awesome! A trainer. It’d make my camping trip even more cool if I were to have a battle with a trainer like you.” He stated, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“I’m sort of busy…” Gupta pointed out. What was with all these trainers today?
“Aw, come on.” The boy pouted.
“Fine.” Gupta relented. “Numel, battle him.”
“Numel!” Numel cheered, wandering forwards.
“Go on Minun!” The boy sent out his first Pokémon.
“Mai.” Minun growled.
“Okay Minun, Spark.” The boy started.
“Magnitude.” Gupta told his Pokémon.
Minun ran towards Numel with its body sparkling with electricity, but the hit ended up doing no damage to Numel, who shrugged its tackle off as though it was nothing. The shockwave that Numel sent out in response, on the other hand, was devastating.
“Ah! Electric type attacks don’t work on ground type Pokémon!” The boy remembered. “Okay then Minun, use Swift instead!”
“Magnitude again Numel.” Gupta finalised.
A spray of stars hit into Numel, and she slid backwards a little before responding with a shockwave that knocked Minun over. It didn’t get up again.

“Ah! Minun!” The boy cried. “Okay then, I’ll have to use you Volbeat!”
“Vol. Beat!” The Pokémon got riled up for action.
“Volbeat, Quick Attack.” The boy commanded.
“Flame Burst?” Gupta guessed, not sure whether that was a move Numel was capable of using.
“Numel!” Numel smiled, taking the hit from Volbeat without too much issue and responding with a spit of flame that inflicted major damage on Volbeat.
“Confuse Ray.” The boy continued.
“Flame Burst.” Gupta repeated with confidence.
Volbeat sent out a peculiar ray that appeared sinister. Luckily, it missed Numel entirely, and the Pokémon responded with a second burst of flame that defeated the Volbeat on the spot.

“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp celebrated.
“Low.” Swellow agreed.
“Aww, you won.” The boy frowned. “But that’s okay. I’m happy just to be camping with my Pokémon.”
As Gupta continued along the path, he was left wondering whether he ought to evacuate the area. After all, there was a kidnapper around somewhere, and it really wasn’t safe for a kid to be camping in the area in the grand scheme of things.

The trail leading up the mountain widened ahead of Gupta and his team. The ground became increasingly littered with large craters seemingly caused by meteor strikes. Gupta tried his best to walk around the holes, but eventually he had no choice but to travel straight through the middle of one of the craters. Marshtomp and Numel slid into the crater head first, and Numel fell over, her legs flailing as she tried to get up again. Swellow calmly flew over the scene and landed on the other side of the crater.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp jumped, trying to help Numel get to her feet. Gupta looked behind him, saw his Pokémon on her side, and walked over to help Marshtomp pick her up. Once Numel was back on her feet, she smiled gratefully at her teammates, before plodding onwards towards the edge of the crater.

Once out of the scattering of craters, Gupta and the others continued to climb higher up the mountain, following the winding path. The walls around them became steeper and steeper, and many small indents were visible in them. Getting closer to the edge of the path, Gupta continued to walk until he was interrupted by yet another trainer.

“Why hello young trainer.” He greeted. “I wonder. Do you have strong enough Pokémon to survive out here by yourself? How about I test you?”
“You just want to battle me, don’t you?” Gupta assumed. “You don’t need such an excuse.”
“Of course I want to battle. What else would I do?” The man laughed. “Come on Slugma.”
Gupta stared at the Pokémon. It literally seemed to be made of lava.
“Okay, Numel.” He chose.
“Numel!” She cheered, walking forwards.
“Slugma, use Smog.” The man declared.
“Magnitude.” Gupta advised his Pokémon.
Slugma breathed a poisonous gas over Numel, who appeared annoyed at the attack, and responded with quake just like the ones before. This attack was devastating, nearly knocking Slugma out with one hit. Gupta wondered how the power of the attack could vary so greatly.
“Use Incinerate.” The man changed tactic.
“Magnitude again.” Gupta repeated.
This second attack again did little damage to Numel, who responded with a weaker shockwave from before. This didn’t matter, as Slugma was already weak enough to be defeated by the attack.

“Alright then. Guess I have to use Wingull.” The man declared, sending out his second Pokémon.
“Gull!” Wingull cried.
“Okay.” Gupta considered his options. “Use Tackle Numel.”
“Water Pulse.” The trainer replied.
Numel took huge damage from the water attack, and her responding slam was incredibly lacklustre by comparison.
“Right.” Gupta looked to the skies, where Swellow was still circling. “Swellow, take over.”
“Water Pulse again!” The man repeated his Pokémon’s command.
“Numel!” Numel cried, trying to shield herself from the attack. Just before it hit, Swellow flew down in front of her teammate, and took the attack in her place.
“Low.” She reassured, nodding to Numel as she ran and hid behind Gupta.
“Okay Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta set up his new Pokémon’s attack.
“Mist.” The man responded.
Swellow stuck first and scored a decisive hit, and Wingull’s response appeared to affect little.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated again.
“Air Cutter.” The trainer attempted.
Swellow struck first, and Wingull was defeated.

After that trainer had been defeated, Gupta travelled south and into a mountain pass. The terrain was getting more difficult, and the trainer wondered if he was ever going to find a trace of either the kidnapped man or the missing Pokémon. Suddenly, Swellow let out a cry, and Gupta looked in the direction of her attention to see a sudden flash of brown.
“A Pokémon?” He considered.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed.
The Pokémon disappeared around a corner and Gupta chased after it. As he reached a narrowing in the pass, he was spotted once more.

“Well if it isn’t a kid! I’ve been waiting for a trainer to come along to challenge.” He stated.
“Let’s just get this over with.” Gupta accepted, deadpan. “Come on Marshtomp.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp trotted in front of Gupta to face the man.
“Great! Good enthusiasm.” The man praised. “Let’s match up to that Geodude!”
“Geo.” The Pokémon acknowledged.
“Okay Marshtomp, Water Gun.” Gupta declared.
“Rock Throw Geodude.” The man followed.
Marshtomp got in with an unexpectedly strong current of water that managed to knock Geodude out before it was able to throw a single rock.
“That was powerful.” Gupta stated the obvious.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp grinned.

“Wow, that was something else.” The man accepted. “Though now, you’ll have to deal with my second Geodude.”
“Geodude.” The second Pokémon called as it emerged.
“Okay Marshtomp, Water Gun again.” Gupta tried, wondering if he could score a second one hit win.
“Magnitude.” The man ordered his Pokémon’s attack.
Marshtomp didn’t manage to defeat this second Geodude in a single hit, and it attacked with a sweeping shockwave. This one, much like some that Numel had managed earlier, didn’t seem to be very powerful.
“Mud Bomb.” Gupta responded.
“Use Rock Throw.” The man returned to his original command.
Marshtomp chucked a glob of mud at the enemy, who was unable to withstand the attack, and fell down easily.

“Yep, you’re a strong trainer alright.” The man admitted. “I’ve been waiting here for hours, and I haven’t seen as strong a kid as you yet.”
“You’ve been here a while…” Gupta thought out loud. “There was a kidnapping here earlier. Did you notice anything?”
“I don’t think I saw anyone who looked like they were in trouble.” The man pondered. “But… There was a little guy earlier who came this way. He was accompanied by these guys in red. They were rather odd looking, now that I think about it.”
“Guys in red?” Gupta didn’t think that sounded usual. “What if they were the kidnappers?”
“Oh! Maybe they could have been.” The man laughed nervously. “I guess just because someone’s not screaming doesn’t mean they’re okay, huh?”
“Which way did they go?” Gupta asked, face flat.
“Oh, over towards Meteor Falls.” The man shrugged, pointing further along the path.
“Got it.” Gupta nodded, heading along the path he had been taking before. It seemed as though the search for the missing Pokémon and the search for the missing man were taking him to the same places…

Around the corner was a further, steeper climb, and beyond that was a massive crater. In the centre of said crater, a ball of fluff was sitting looking back at Gupta.
“Eevee.” It hissed as Gupta slid down the wall of the crater towards it.
“You ran away from your trainer, didn’t you?” The human spoke, stepping towards the Pokémon. “He asked me to come and find you…”
“Ve! Eevee!” The Pokémon growled, standing its ground.
“Come on.” The trainer stated, leaning down to try to pick up the scared Pokémon.
“Eevee!” It cried, biting Gupta’s hand before running off again.
“Ah. Wait!” Gupta sprung back to his feet, clutching his injured hand.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp called, running after the Pokémon.

Eevee climbed out of the crater with some difficulty, and continued to run across the plateau the group had reached. Gupta managed to get out of the crater easily and continued after the Pokémon, Marshtomp and Numel following after him. Eevee continued to run wildly, completely driven by panic, and seemingly without knowing where it was going. The Pokémon drew close to the edge of the cliff, and a 10 foot drop to the path below awaited it.
“Tomp! Marshtomp!” Marshtomp warned, trying to dive after the Pokémon. Rather than stop, it only ran faster towards the cliff.
“Stop!” Gupta made a diving grab for the Pokémon, who slipped and began to fall. Leaning over the edge, the teenager was able to catch the Pokémon before any harm could befall it.
“Be careful.” He scolded the Pokémon, picking it up and pulling it into his arms.
“Eevee.” It huffed.
“Good catch!” A trainer standing to the south remarked. “I’d sure like to battle a trainer like you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” The trainer sighed.

“Okay Machop, let’s deal with this trainer.” The trainer declared, sending out his Pokémon.
“Alright Swellow.” Gupta announced, calling to Swellow as she acknowledged and landed on the rocks.
“Machop, use Seismic Toss.” The man commanded.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta stated, staying with his known tactics.
Swellow swiftly got in her hit against Machop and absorbed the responding attack without too much difficulty. Machop swayed a little, clearly already tired.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated.
“Knock Off.” The man tried.
Swellow was able to get in a second attack, defeating Machop before it could attack.
“Eevee…” The Pokémon from before murmured, watching in Gupta’s arms.

As the trainer stood around, remarking on his loss, Marshtomp became distracted by something off in the distance. Gupta was left to go through the formalities, keeping one eye on his Pokémon. By the time the trainer had made the decision to head for the Pokémon centre, Marshtomp had reached the area of his interest, and had picked a mysterious object up. Gupta looked towards Marshtomp finally to see the Pokémon hurrying back to him excitedly.
“Tomp! Marshtomp!” Marshtomp called, holding the object in the air.
“What?” Gupta questioned his Pokémon.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp repeated, thrusting the object upwards at Gupta. Upon examining it, the trainer found that it was a ripped piece of lab coat.
“You found that over there?” He checked.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp affirmed.

“Hey!” The young man from before called, running over to Gupta. “You found him!”
“He nearly ran off a cliff.” Gupta pointed out.
“Yeah, I did say bad things could happen if he wasn’t found.” The man shrugged. “He just doesn’t trust people at all. I ended up taking care of him because at least he doesn’t seem to hate me as much as some other humans but… He runs away all the time, and my job means I can’t keep an eye on him constantly. But he seems to like you.”
“Really?” Gupta asked sceptically.
“Yeah! He’s sitting there in your arms and not even struggling or trying to bite you.” The man pointed out.
“Oh.” Gupta looked down at the Pokémon. Sure enough, it wasn’t struggling anymore, and looked curiously up at him.
“This is gonna sound weird, but you’re a trainer right? You could take him around with you, and help him see the world. I can’t show him the care he deserves… But you could. Would you please take him?” The man proposed.
“Take this Pokémon with me?” Gupta queried.
“Yeah, that Eevee. Take him with you.” The man nodded.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed, jumping in the air.
“Vee!” Eevee smiled.
“Numel?” Numel turned her head to the side, confused.
“Well… Alright.” Gupta relented, taking out a spare Pokeball. Eevee joined without complaint.

“With that all taken care of, do you want to come back to my house for a while? I’d be capable of healing your Pokémon, so that you would be able to carry on looking for that kidnapped man without worrying about your Pokémon getting tired.” The man offered.
“That might be for the best.” Gupta considered. Marshtomp’s found clue meant that they were close, but if it came down to a fight…
“Great! Come with me then.” The man gestured back along the path and Gupta followed. “By the way, my name is Loukas.”
“Gupta.” The teenager introduced himself. “Nice to meet you.”
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp greeted, waving his arm in the air.
“Numel!” Numel cheered.

Loukas ended up leading Gupta the whole way back to the lakeside, where the man’s house was situated. Once inside, Loukas set about returning Gupta’s Pokémon to their Pokeballs and healing them, while Gupta took a look around the room. Loukas owned a lot of computer equipment, and what appeared to be design notes and formulas were pinned to the walls all over the house.
“This looks complicated.” Gupta stated.
“Yeah. It’s not bad once you get into it. I work on maintaining and upgrading the Pokémon storage system, so I need a lot of notes. It’s also why I can’t spare the time to look after that Eevee, you know?” Loukas detailed.
“The system that transports Pokémon to be looked after at Pokémon labs?” Gupta remembered, thoughts going back to Sadik’s rant a few days before in the Trainer’s School.
“That very one.” Loukas confirmed.
“That’s an important job.” Gupta pointed out.
“It has its perks.” Loukas defended. “As for the kidnapping… I heard about it, but I didn’t see anything. Still, good luck.” He handed Gupta back his Pokémon. “And look after Eevee for me.”
“Of course.” Gupta accepted.

It took Gupta almost an hour to retrace his steps back to the plateau on which he had found Eevee, and on which Marshtomp had found the tattered clothing. By the spot where they had fought the last of the day’s trainers, the path led rapidly downhill and turned sharply before coming to an abrupt end at the sheer wall of the mountain. As he drew closer, the teenager spotted an opening to what seemed to be a cave. He remembered the words of a trainer from earlier, who had called the area ‘Meteor Falls’. All signs pointed to the kidnapped man being held further ahead. Gupta was left with no choice but to venture into the cave.

Chapter Text

The inside of the cave was damp. Gupta heard the sound of rushing water all around him. Looking to the left of the cliff he was on, he noticed a bridge over a river that drained out from a raging waterfall system.

Gupta crossed the bridge to the sound of voices reflecting off the walls. As he walked over the linked wood, several figures came into view. A short, nervous looking man in a white lab coat was being apparently bullied by the calm green-eyed man Gupta had seen blocking the cable car earlier and a second man who was unknown to the teen.

This man was noticeably tall and pale, with spiky brown hair and piercing green eyes. He had long, black lace up boots and red trousers on the lower half of his body and a long red coat on his top half. The coat split at the waist into two black tails that trailed down his legs, and was open at the neck, revealing a plain black shirt underneath. A red and black striped scarf wrapped loosely around the man’s neck and hung down the length of his back. The same stylised ‘M’ symbol that had been emblazoned on the uniform of the man from Oldale was stitched to the left lapel of the man’s coat. He was frowning at the small bullied man as Gupta walked up to them.

“Just hurry up and find it.” He scowled. “We don’t have all day to listen to excuses.”
“I…It’s right around here! I promise!” The small timid man assured the other two, searching around on the ground frantically.
“Lars.” The second red-clad man addressed the first. “We’ll have to give a progress report soon. And if we wait around we could be spotted…”
“Looks like it’s already too late for that.” Lars pointed out, turning around and regarding Gupta. “Seems like a kid got in.”

“You kidnapped the professor.” Gupta assumed, stepping forwards.
“And…?” Lars shrugged, lighting a cigarette and putting it to his lips.
“Weren’t you just at the cable car station?” The teen asked the second man.
“Yeah, I was. I flew over to deal with things here.” The man accepted. “And you… Just seem to be unable to keep your nose out of things.” He turned to face Lars again. “Brother, let’s send this kid packing.”

Gupta looked towards the man who was still scrambling around on the ground, having completely missed the conversation so far. He was clearly the professor who was missing. Yet there wasn’t any way to get to him without moving the men in front of him.
“Seems like we should.” Lars agreed, taking a drag on the cigarette and blowing smoke in Gupta’s direction. “So kid. You mess with us in Team Magma? We’ll show you how scary adults can be.”

Both men took out Pokeballs, and Gupta took a step back, getting ready for a fight. If he had to fight both men to get to the kidnapped professor, then so be it.
Lars huffed as he noticed Gupta getting ready to fight. Just as he was about to send out his first Pokémon, a shout came up from behind Gupta.

“Wait!”

Sadik barrelled over the bridge and came to a rest beside Gupta.
“Guppie! Sorry I’m late!” He apologised. “The contest finished and ya weren’t around, so I went lookin’ and heard about the professor. Got a little side-tracked on the way, but I’m here now!”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, at least a little grateful that Sadik had arrived to help.
“Another kid? Fine. We can fight the two of you.” Lars shot back, getting ready to fight once more.
“Heh, like we’d lose to some shady looking piece of trash like you.” Sadik scoffed.
“Say that again. I dare you.” The tall man frowned, finally sending out his first Pokémon, which was immediately accompanied by a Pokémon sent by his little brother.

“Bun!” Bunnelby cried as it emerged from the Pokeball.
“Gunk.” Croagunk roared.
“Heh, a tough guy like you has such a cute little Pokémon.” Sadik laughed. “Okay Zehir, let’s go!”
“Seviper!” Zehir hissed.
“You caught another Pokémon?” Gupta assumed.
“Yep. This is Zehir. Ain’t she pretty?” Sadik smirked.
Gupta didn’t respond to that. “Let’s go Marshtomp.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered. Zehir looked across at Marshtomp for a moment before staring over at the opposition with a confident look on her face.
“Alright Bunnelby, use Mud Shot on the Seviper.” Lars commanded.
“Croagunk, Poison Sting on Marshtomp.” The other man followed.
“Marshtomp, Mud Bomb on Croagunk.” Gupta followed.
“Zehir, use Poison Tail on Bunnelby.” Sadik decided.

Bunnelby shot forwards and lobbed mud at Zehir, who hissed and writhed in discomfort. Zehir’s response was to strike Bunnelby with her tail. The Pokémon fell back and appeared to have suffered a poisoning. Croagunk shot poison barbs towards Marshtomp, who shrugged the attack off without taking too much damage. Marshtomp’s glob of mud hit Croagunk and caused it significant damage.
“Okay then Bunnelby, Mud Shot again at Seviper.” The tall man repeated.
“Feint Attack on Seviper Croagunk.” The second man responded.
“Mud Bomb on Croagunk.” Gupta decided again.
“Poison Tail again.” Sadik cut in.
This time, Bunnelby’s mud attack did even more damage to Zehir, who hit back with her tail yet again, causing more damage to Bunnelby than the last time. Croagunk’s next attack in response managed to take Zehir down, and Marshtomp’s counter failed to take the opponent down, although both enemy Pokémon did appear tired.

“Don’t worry Zehir, just rest.” Sadik soothed his Pokémon, returning her to the Pokeball.
“If you kids want to run, just do it now and save us the bother of having to destroy you.” Lars shot at Gupta and Sadik.
“Yeah right.” Sadik growled. “We’re not done yet. I just need to use…”
“Saur!” Lale cried, bursting from the Pokeball.
“Lale, not now!” Sadik admonished his Pokémon.
“Saur!” Lale greeted Marshtomp before trotting forwards to battle.
“Whatever.” Lars shrugged. “Bunnelby, Take Down on that Ivysaur.”
“Croagunk, Pursuit on Marshtomp.” The second man replied.
“Water Gun on Bunnelby.” Gupta declared.
“Take Down on Croagunk Lale.” Sadik sighed, deciding to make the most of what he had.
Bunnelby ran towards Lale, and connected with a running tackle. The recoil proved too much with the poison damage added in, and Bunnelby fell forwards and didn’t move again. Croagunk hit Marshtomp with a punch, but Marshtomp absorbed the attack without seeming to care much, and Croagunk was slammed by Lale seconds later. No longer able to target Bunnelby, Marshtomp spewed water at Croagunk instead, successfully taking the Pokémon down.

“Grr. These kids are tough.” Lars muttered to himself. “Fine. Sandile, you deal with them.”
“Sandile.” The emerging Pokémon laughed.
“Back Sandile up Slugma.” The other man added.
The opponent appeared to be made of pure lava and let out a screech that made Gupta take a step back. Some Pokémon were truly terrifying.

“Lale, Razor Leaf.” Sadik suggested.
“Mud Bomb on Slugma.” Gupta added in.
“Sandile, Embargo on Marshtomp.” Lars ordered.
“Slugma, Incinerate on Ivysaur.” The other man commanded.
Sandile set off an odd effect that surrounded Marshtomp. The Pokémon looked around in confusion, seemingly distressed. Slugma attacked with a burst of fire that hit Lale and caused her great damage. Lale’s response was to send a barrage of sharp leaves that cut into both Pokémon. Marshtomp finished by lobbing a glob of mud that struck Slugma for huge damage.

“Razor Leaf again Lale.” Sadik chose again.
“Water Gun on Slugma Marshtomp.” Gupta decided.
“Embargo on Ivysaur.” Lars declared.
“Harden Slugma.” The other man tried.
Lale got surrounded by the same mysterious power as before. Slugma attempted to solidify the lava on the outside of its body. Lale sent out another barrage of sharp leaves that again cut into the opponents and left both struggling to stand. Marshtomp’s shot of water ended up being enough to defeat Slugma despite its attempts to fortify itself.

“Ah, Slugma…” The shorter man gasped.
“Sandile, Assurance on the Ivysaur.” Lars continued regardless.
“Take Down on Sandile Lale.” Sadik changed tactic.
“Tackle.” Gupta finished.
Sandile’s attack on Lale sent her sliding back, but she responded with a powerful tackle which bowled the Sandile over. It didn’t get up, and Marshtomp’s attack soared over the top of the Pokémon, causing him to crash into the ground a few feet away. Lale frowned and skipped over to check if Marshtomp was okay, licking him gently until he got up. Gupta and Sadik looked towards the pair of suspicious trainers.

“All that bravado and then ya lose, huh? The two of ya ain’t half as formidable as ya look.” Sadik taunted.
“Hmph. I told you I’d show you how scary adults can be.” Lars dismissed, throwing a punch in Sadik’s direction.
“Tha hell?” Sadik questioned, dodging to the side and responding with a swing of his own.
“Saur!” Lale protested at the growing fisticuffs.
“Tomp…” Marshtomp mused, looking towards the other man sceptically.
“I won’t fight you, if that’s what you’re wondering.” He replied to the Pokémon.
Gupta looked around at the scene, debating whether to get involved.

“Hey, um… I found the Meteorite!” A voice spoke up suddenly. Both Gupta and the other man turned to find the professor holding a rock in the air.
“Great.” The man smiled, walking over to the man and grabbing the object. “Just hand it over, and you can go.”
“Um… But. If you don’t mind me asking…” The professor fidgeted. “What do you need it for?”
“Never mind that.” The man brushed off. “Just hand it over.”

“Oi! What in blazes are you doing there?” A growl came from a ledge down below. Gupta and the two men looked towards the steps that were carved into the rock face in time to notice Arthur running up towards them.
“Do you honestly think we’d let you get away with this, you scurvy Team Magma dogs? I’ve been watching you this entire time, waiting for you to pull a move like this. Quite a pathetic performance you put up against these little brats and all. And now you resort to using your fists instead of acting like gentlemen… What utter nonsense.” Arthur ranted.
“We don’t have time for you.” The man from before responded, snatching the Meteorite from the professor before he had time to react and turning towards the bridge, where Lars and Sadik were still fighting. “I have the Meteorite Lars. Let’s just go; we need to be at Mt. Chimney.”
“Got it.” Lars nodded, shoving Sadik back with some force. “Stay out of our way from now on, brats.”
“Hey, wait!” Sadik called, trying to stop the two men. He found himself staggering backwards, and nearly fell off the bridge before Lale caught him with some well-placed vines.
“You’re not getting away, you knaves!” Arthur yelled, chasing after the men from Team Magma.

As Sadik walked back towards solid ground, Gupta turned to the professor.
“You’re professor Galante, aren’t you?” He guessed.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp nodded.
“Right. That’s me…” The professor looked down. “I’m sorry if I caused trouble… I have no idea who those men are, or what they’re planning to do. I just didn’t want to get into trouble with them.”
“Don’t worry about that.” Sadik assured, stepping forwards. “At least yer safe now.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed.
“Besides, we’ll chase after those guys.” Sadik added.
“We will?” Gupta started.
“Yeah. We know where they’re goin’ after all. Those guys said they needed to be at Mt. Chimney. We’re headin’ that way to get to Lavaridge, so it’s not like it’s out of the way. And anyway, we can’t let them get away with whatever they’re gonna do. Those guys are shady.” Sadik persuaded.
“Saur!” Lale agreed.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp assented.
“And that’s that.” Gupta caved in. “So it seems we’ll be handling this.”
“I don’t know what use a Meteorite would give them, even at Mt. Chimney.” The professor frowned. “But if you’ll handle it anyway, I’ll not worry about it if I can. I’ll leave it up to you.”
“Great!” Sadik grinned, turning to Gupta. “Let’s go Guppie.”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, following after his friend.

“Did you win, by the way?” He asked as they walked from Meteor Falls together.
“’Course.” Sadik answered, confidence in his voice. “Like I’d ever lose. And as ya can see, I caught a new Pokémon while I was at it.”
“Right.” Gupta accepted. “Somehow, I’m not surprised.”

“Eduard? …Yeah, I’m fine. No, it wasn’t as bad as all that. The parts were saved, thanks to a young trainer…”
“Yeah, he really beat back Team Aqua. It was something alright. Anyway, that wasn’t why I called. I wanted to ask… Have you heard any more from Raivis?”
“Huh? Kidnapped? You serious? Well what do we do?”
“They say a young trainer was spotted going to find him, huh… Strange. I wonder if…”

Chapter Text

Gupta could barely keep up with Sadik as the two of them ran back the way they came, all the way to the base of Mt. Chimney. The trainers who had been flanking the pathways before were still around, and moved to let them pass, clearly not wanting to fight them again. Sadik ran ahead of Gupta, spraying some sort of aerosol that appeared to keep the wild Pokémon in the area away as well. Gupta figured that he had bigger problems than trying to figure out what was in the repellent.

Travelling the entire distance along Route 114, though Fallarbor and Route 113 and along down the Fiery Path took most of the rest of the day, despite the duo’s speed, and it was getting dark by the time they reached the cable car station again. Gupta hoped the men from before hadn’t already finished whatever it was they were planning. The fact that the guards from before had disappeared was not a good sign.

“Looks like the way’s clear.” Sadik assessed. “Let’s go before any of those guys come back.”
“What are we going to do exactly?” Gupta asked. He had chased after the men in red because it had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that they were about to face off against them (and whoever else was waiting at the peak of Mt. Chimney), he realised that he had no idea how to actually confront the group.
“We’ll go up to those Magma guys and give ‘em what for, of course!” Sadik explained. “They can’t get away with terrorising academics like that!”
“But how do we deal with this?” Gupta continued.
“Same way as we dealt with the guys in the Oceanic Museum?” Sadik guessed. “Those went away easy enough once you beat ‘em.”
“So we battle them, and hope they give up?” The smaller teen surmised.
“Sure. I mean, whenever hasn’t that worked for us before?” Sadik shrugged.

The inside of the cable car station was manned by suspiciously similar looking girls, who smiled and made easy conversation with Sadik as he asked them questions about the situation from earlier.
“Those strange people all dressed in red? They were certainly a strange group.” The older of the two mused. “We just supposed that they were a collection of tourists on a trip or something.”
“Yeah, don’t tour groups usually wear coordinated colours? It’s not that unusual.” The younger chipped in.
“That’s how they got through…” Sadik sighed. “Nothin’ to be done about it now. We’d better head on up there and stop those guys.”
“Did they do something wrong?” The older guide questioned.
“Oh, nothing much. Just kidnapped a professor and stole a meteorite.” Gupta rolled his eyes. These people obviously didn’t watch the news.
“Yeah right. Like anyone would do that.” The younger girl laughed.
“Anyway, the cable car is right here. If you want to go and have your little fight, go do it up on the mountain.” The older one added, guiding Sadik and Gupta towards the arriving cable car.

“They brushed us off.” Gupta summed up as the cable car climbed the mountain.
“Well, ya know… People don’t always believe what they’re told. And it’s not like this Team Magma’s done that much before this point that’d draw attention.” Sadik defended. “Besides, those two mighta just missed the news report. They’ll figure it out soon enough.”
“Still… It seems as though everyone we meet on this journey is either suspiciously helpful… Or literally as unhelpful as possible.” Gupta mused.
“Guess the world’s like that. Sure is a polarised place.” Sadik shook his head. “Anyway, are ya gonna be okay up there? Once we get to fightin’ those guys?”
“Are you worrying about that?” Gupta asked, a little confused. “Why would I have come if I wasn’t?”
“Ah, yeah. Just thinkin’…” Sadik acted almost as if he had said something he hadn’t meant to express, and took a second to recover his composure. “Whatever. Let me heal yer Pokémon real quick…” He got an array of items out of his bag and began attempting to patch up both trainers’ Pokémon.
“You seem to care about this a lot.” The smaller teenager commented. ‘And how do you do that without taking the Pokémon out of their Pokeballs?’ he added in his head.
“It’s nothin’ really. Just what any friend would do, I hope.” Sadik replied, air of confidence set in place. “Never mind that though. Look out there!”

The view from the window of the cable car was stunning with the altitude they had gained. Almost the entire route they had taken on their journey so far was visible below them, stretching out like a map. The shimmering light of the sunset made it look even more beautiful. Gupta glanced over it with a sense of awe; Sadik was mesmerised.
“It’s pretty.” The small boy appreciated. “But that just means we’re that much closer to the fight at hand.”
“Of course.” Sadik replied, looking pumped up already. “But we’re ready. We can do this!”

The girls who greeted them off the cable car looked identical to the ones who had sent them off, and Gupta was confused for a moment, and suspicious about having a similar conversation to earlier. But as Sadik spoke to them, it became clear that these sisters were more aware of the situation.
“Those guys from earlier? They chased the tourists away and went further towards the summit!” The older one exclaimed.
“We’re worried about what they’re up to, but we can’t leave our stations!” The younger worried.
“Well that’s what we’re here for!” Sadik boasted. “We’ll take care of ‘em for ya!”
“Something like that.” Gupta nodded.
“Sure thing.” Sadik smiled easily, turning towards the door. “Come on Guppie, we have some weirdos to stop!”

The atmosphere on Mt. Chimney was heavy. Darkness had fallen, and it appeared as though all tourists had fled the area. The first few minutes’ walk from the cable car station were silent, and Gupta began to wonder whether they had been right to head towards the summit instead of down the side of the mountain.

Then they climbed a rocky track, and found themselves on the precipice of the crater.

A vast group of red-suited individuals stood around the crater, obviously protecting their higher-ups from interference. As Gupta surveyed the area, he noticed Arthur and some of the same Aqua grunts he had fought before tying up several of the opposing team.
“Whatever these Team Magma guys are up to… Team Aqua sure doesn’t want ‘em to succeed.” Sadik guessed.
“For once, we might have to work with them. We don’t want a war on two sides.” Gupta instructed, beginning to make his way down towards the area where Arthur was fighting.

“So you ended up here.” Gupta pointed out, walking up to the man.
“You too. Good to see you kid.” Arthur nodded. “These bilge rats won’t let me past… But I can keep them all tied up long enough for you to get through. Just promise me… Get through to that damn frog. And teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget.”
“Umm… Okay.” Gupta found it hard to decode Arthur’s meaning, but chose to go along with it, slipping past as the man fought with three Magma grunts at once. He curved around the side of the crater, eyes setting upon a platform that stretched out over the lava and the man who stood there, gazing over some machine.

It was hard to make out the man’s exact appearance from where he stood, but he could see that he wore a red outfit as distinctive as the rest of his group. Assuming that whatever he was doing was important, and trying to get closer in order to stop him, Gupta stepped forwards, and into the line of sight of a familiar trainer.
“You actually came.” The grunt from Meteor Falls scoffed. “Let’s make this quick. You’ll go no further.”
“Yes he will!” Sadik interjected, running forwards. “’Cause you’ll be facing me!”
“Hmph. Fine. My brother’ll see to you anyway.” The man shrugged, facing down Sadik. “Go on and see for yourself.”

The man made no further move to stop Gupta, clearly seeing Pokémon battles as being above all else. It seemed as though everyone thought like that. It worked to Gupta’s favour as he stepped to the side and continued on, nearly reaching the platform’s base before he was stopped by another familiar face.

“I thought maybe you’d turn up.” Lars frowned. “You almost sunk our plans earlier. And I have to get you to pay me back for the loss, so…” He pulled out a Pokeball and stared into Gupta’s eyes. “Hope you’re ready.”
“Let’s just do this.” Gupta relented.

“Okay Diggersby, let’s get payback for the last time.” The man announced, sending out a Pokémon that Gupta didn’t recognise. As he stared at the rabbit like creature, he came to understand what the opponent meant.
“Great. It evolved.” He inferred.
“Right. We weren’t about to lose to you again. So we did some training before you got here.” The man explained.
“Whatever.” Gupta shrugged. “Marshtomp, let’s go.”
“Marsh! Tomp!” Marshtomp cried.
“Diggersby, use Take Down!” Lars commanded.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta replied.
The large rabbit like creature leapt forwards and slammed Marshtomp with some force, taking reasonable recoil before Marshtomp sent it flying with a jet of water.
“Right Diggersby, now use Double Kick.” The older trainer moved on.
“Water Gun.” Gupta repeated.
Marshtomp suffered both kicks from the opponent to the face before responding with another blast of water that left the other Pokémon barely standing.
“Quick Attack Diggersby!” Lars attempted.
“Water Gun again Marshtomp.” Gupta continued.
Marshtomp faced up to yet another hit, starting to look a little strained. The water that was sent in response knocked the other Pokémon out before another command could be given.

“Not bad. You’ve clearly not been sleeping either.” Lars commented, returning his first Pokémon to its Pokeball. “I’m not done yet though. Sandile, deal with this.” He sent out his second Pokémon as he spoke.
“I literally ran straight here.” Gupta deadpanned. “Marshtomp, Water Gun that one too.”
“Embargo Sandile.” Lars ordered.
A strange power emanated and surrounded Marshtomp, causing the Pokémon to become uneasy. Marshtomp’s response hit its mark, but the tension in the area didn’t ease.
“See that? Your items were sealed. Good luck healing your Pokémon now.” Lars boasted.
“…Okay.” Gupta shrugged. “Water Gun again Marshtomp.”
“Assurance Sandile.” The Magma Admin decided.
Sandile moved in with a slap to Marshtomp that sent him sliding back, clearly hurting. In that moment, a blue aura surrounded him, and Sandile was sent hurtling back a large distance, a jutting piece of rock all that prevented it from falling from the crater altogether. It didn’t even attempt to get up again.

“I don’t believe this… Losing twice to some kid…” Lars mumbled as he returned his second Pokémon to the safety of the Pokeball. “Shouldn’t matter though. I’m guessing you want to stop us. And that means getting by the boss. I’ve done enough damage to that water-type of yours… You should be easy for him to mop up. But if you still want to try… Go ahead. I’m not about to stop you.” He leaned back against the rock-face beside them, clearing the way for Gupta to begin to walk along the metal bridge that led to the man he had spotted earlier.

As he got closer to the machine and the man who stood before it, more and more details began to stand out to Gupta. He couldn’t yet see the man’s face, but from what he could see, he was fairly well dressed. Smart looking red trousers covered black boots on the man’s feet, while his torso was covered with a rose red jacket that turned black towards the bottom. The sleeves of a black jumper folded back over the cuffs of the jacket; the neck of the woollen garment was visible above the jacket’s collar. The other main feature of the unknown man that stood out to Gupta was his wavy blond hair- it looked impeccably well cared for.

The man turned to face Gupta, noticing a presence, and a few more scant details about him became clear. He wore two black emblems on his lapels. His boots had some strange design in red on them. A garish jewel shone in the buckle of his golden belt. It was a slightly strange outfit. But then, Gupta didn’t really understand fashion.

“Hm?” Long fingers stroked at the stubble on his face as the man trained his bright blue eyes on Gupta. “Well what have we here? Just look at the passion in your eyes! What an intriguing young man you are.” He assessed.
“I wouldn’t call it passion.” Gupta rebuffed. “Any normal person would want to stop you.”
“Ah, don’t be too sure.” The strange man continued. “Many in this world are so apathetic… But you, you have real drive. Tell me, what’s your name?”
“Gupta.” Said trainer introduced himself, slightly wary of the man already.

“Ah, I see. My name is Francis.” The man smiled sweetly, but his eyes carried a malice that chilled Gupta where he stood. “Oh young Gupta, such a shame we aren’t on the same side. Why, you’re such a handsome young man, and very strong too! Yes, you made it to me after all. But I know you came here to stop me.” He sighed deeply, a sorrowful expression creeping dramatically over his face. “Let me say just one thing. This world, it is full of beautiful people, no? And these people, the land is where they thrive… Why, we simply couldn’t live in the sea! In order for people to continue to be happy, to have the space to live in spacious and beautiful surroundings… We simply must make the land bigger, no?”
“Okay…” Gupta mulled his words over. They sounded to be the complete opposite to the plans Arthur had told him about before. But both leaders had entirely bizarre aims.
“Ah, but how to do that, I suppose you shall ask?” Francis smirked, flourishing his hand about. “But that is the clever bit, you know? An ancient Pokémon with the power to raise continents sleeps somewhere within this region. And in order to wake it and reclaim its power… Something is needed. We’ve searched and searched for that certain thing… But now, perhaps we don’t need to. For you see, with this meteorite, this machine, and the volcano’s power…”

He jumped up suddenly, as if realising he’d said too much. “Ah! Silly me. I can’t just give away everything to a boy like you, however cute you are. Especially if you’re so determined to stand against me. …Yes, I see that I have no choice. There is no sign of you agreeing with me on this. So I must.”

All pretences dropped as Francis glared fully at Gupta, taking a Pokeball out of his pocket. “Here, and now… I will show you the complete humiliation of defeat!”

Chapter Text

“Here, and now… I will show you the complete humiliation of defeat!”
Gupta stood still as Francis sent out his first Pokémon, wanting to see what would emerge before deciding which Pokémon to use. He wasn’t sure why the other man wasn’t just fighting him directly, but supposed it was another sign of the way things worked in Hoenn. When the Pokémon emerged, the young trainer chose his response.
“Roselia.” The Pokémon cried as it faced Gupta down.
“Alright Swellow.” The teenager decided, sending out the Pokémon he thought would be best.
“Low!” Swellow called, settling on the platform that stretched over the volcano’s crater.

Despite the darkness around them, the battlefield could be well seen, illuminated as it was by the glowing lava around them. Francis seemed to already be enjoying himself as he began giving commands to his Pokémon.
“Magical Leaf Roselia.”
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta chose.
Swellow flew in with some speed and struck hard before Roselia had a chance to respond. The opponent sent out a barrage of leaves as a counter-attack that Swellow found impossible to dodge.
“Roselia, now use Giga Drain.” Francis announced.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow came back around for a second attack which barely left the enemy Pokémon standing. Roselia tore into Swellow with barbs that seemed to sap her health away. All in all though, she wasn’t badly damaged, and Roselia remained badly injured.
“Grass Whistle.” Francis tried.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated again.
Swellow came around for a third attack, which knocked Roselia out before it could counter.

“Oh, so you’re able to work with type matchups eh? Well, let’s see how you handle this one!” Francis assessed, sending out his second Pokémon.
“Yena.” Francis’s Mightyena growled as it emerged.
“Low.” Swellow chirped, ruffling her feathers at the newcomer. She could clearly tell the difference between this Mightyena and Asena, even if the differences were hard for Gupta to recognise.

“Mightyena, use Crunch.” Francis began.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta continued, parroting the same line as usual.
Swellow attacked with another strong strike, and Mightyena countered with a powerful bite. Both Pokémon stood their ground.
“Assurance Mightyena.” Francis chose next.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta changed tactic, watching his Pokémon curve around in the air before swooping in with great speed and striking against the opponent. Mightyena’s counter was strong, and left Swellow barely standing.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta suggested.
“Assurance!” Francis replied.
Swellow forced Mightyena back before it could get in its final hit, leaving it down on the floor and Swellow clearly hurting.

“You look as though you’re reaching your limit.” Francis teased. “You could always give up now, if you want… After all, it’s so tragic to see someone so beautiful be destroyed so mercilessly.”
“I’m going to stop you.” Gupta reiterated.
“Well… Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The older man shrugged.
“Who exactly is winning here?” Gupta pointed out.
“We’ll see. I saved my best till last after all…” The Magma Leader announced ominously, sending out his last Pokémon.
“Cam. Erupt.” The Pokémon that emerged roared, stomping its feet at Gupta.
Gupta stared. The Pokémon had volcanoes. Emerging from its back. Pokémon never ceased to amaze him.

“Okay Swellow.” He deadpanned, deciding to move on. “Aerial Ace.”
“Lava Plume Camerupt.” Francis told his Pokémon.
Swellow tried her hardest to strike the Pokémon, managing to get an attack in before Camerupt retorted with a wave of lava that hit her straight on. She didn’t manage to withstand the attack and collapsed to the ground soon afterwards.

“Okay.” Gupta accepted, returning his downed Pokémon to her Pokeball. “Rest Swellow.”
As Francis stood smugly watching, Gupta chose his second Pokémon.
“Numel?” Numel questioned, looking over at the opponents. She almost looked close to tears as she glanced over at the Camerupt. “Numel…”
“Looks like a baby like her can’t stand fighting an adult, no?” Francis pressed.
“Baby?” Gupta questioned, looking down at Numel.
“Numel grows up into Camerupt. It’s hard to fight your own sometimes.” Francis sympathised. “But we’ve resigned ourselves to what we have to do. Earth Power Camerupt!”
“Um… Magnitude Numel?” Gupta tried.
Numel tried to send a shockwave through the ground to strike Camerupt, but the power was weaker than he had hoped, and the Camerupt absorbed the hit without much trouble. In response, it sent out a shuddering pulse of its own which caused the ground beneath Numel to erupt with a cascade of energy. Numel managed to withstand the attack, but appeared to be greatly pained, and looked towards the Camerupt with tears in her eyes.

“This isn’t working.” Gupta sighed under his breath. “Okay Numel, that’s enough. Eevee, you try.”
“Vee!” Eevee cried, jumping out of the Pokeball. As soon as he noticed Francis, he scowled, body tensing as he hissed at the opponent.
“Okay Eevee, use… Tackle?” Gupta guessed.
“Oh? Are you not familiar with your Pokémon?” Francis teased. “You sound so unsure of yourself. Anyway. Camerupt, Lava Plume!”
Eevee ran forwards and tackled the opponent with as much power as he could muster. Camerupt swayed a little but responded with a wave of fire that Eevee seemed deeply uncomfortable with.
“Tackle again Eevee.” Gupta decided.
“Magnitude Camerupt.” Francis shrugged.
Eevee attacked the Camerupt bravely once again, and the Pokémon’s response seemed to be a very lacklustre attack, as far as Gupta could tell. Regardless, Eevee barely withstood the attack. Gupta looked from his Pokémon to the Camerupt and saw that both were barely hanging on. He made a decision on a course of action.

“Right Eevee, leave it there.” He told his Pokémon, switching out once again. “Let’s finish this Marshtomp.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, facing down the foe.
“Right Marshtomp. Water Gun.” The young trainer finalised.
“Flame Burst Camerupt.” Francis declared.
Marshtomp glowed with a blue aura as he moved forwards, jetting water towards the Camerupt. Camerupt’s resultant attack was drowned out by the water from Marshtomp, and Camerupt fell down before the power of such an attack.

“Oh? Well what is this? You really are a strong, capable young man. I can feel the power radiating off you as you stand here! But! It is not over yet.” Francis smiled, despite his defeat. “I am more than capable of more! I only need heal my Pokémon, and then I can unleash my full power… Yes, the power of Mega Evolution!”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp protested, stepping forwards.
“You already lost.” Gupta pointed out. “Around here, I’m pretty sure that means you give up.”
“As if I care about things like that!” Francis huffed. “Those silly rules of etiquette have nothing to do with me.”
“Great.” Gupta sighed, standing his ground, even as he wondered to himself how they were going to get out of this mess. He couldn’t just fight again. No way did he or his Pokémon have enough strength.
“Well then, if that’s all…” Francis moved as though to heal his Pokémon when a ringing sound filled the area. Francis frowned suddenly, and reached into his pocket to grab his phone.
“Hello? Ah, it is you ma chérie. You know, you have the worst timing with things like this… Ah! So you found it after all… Wonderful! Why, it makes my heart soar to hear such news!”
Gupta stood and watched as the man continued to speak to the person on the other end of the line.
“Mt. Pyre it is then? Ah, brilliant! You always come through for me on things like this, chérie; I knew you’d find it! Well, I’ll just finish up here and return to the base then. Yes, we have a lot to plan! Alright then, I’ll speak to you soon. Yes, of course, I won’t waste a single moment!”

He turned to Gupta as the call was ended.
“Ah, what a shame. It seems I need to cut our time together short. It is such a sweet sorrow to let such a beautiful man as yourself go. But I must, you see. For I have far greater things to be seeing to. Hm, saying that is so rude of me… But my plan is soon to come to fruition. I cannot leave it any longer. You came here to recover that meteorite, correct? Then you may take it, as apology for my curtness. And may we meet again soon… I tremble with anticipation waiting for the day when we will meet again in battle!”
“Uhh…” Gupta paused, unsure what to say. Through the man’s strange language, he was sure he just heard him say that he was giving the meteorite away.
“Well! If that is all, I shall be going. Adieu to you all!” He took off running before Gupta could stop him, racing past the teenager and dodging his attempts to catch him as he passed. By the time Gupta had turned around, the entire of Team Magma was gone.

“Blast it all! Those knaves went and got away! And if I heard that right, they know where the orbs are and all…” Arthur cursed, walking up to Gupta. “Well, I can’t go and lose to that frog, can I? So we’ll be going as well. See you scamps around.” Arthur turned to nod at Sadik, who was making his way towards Gupta, before taking off.
“Well that was short. Guess he didn’t wanna stick around.” Sadik deduce, walking up to Gupta. “Anyway, good thing fer winnin’ Guppie. So maybe those Magma guys got away. We still stopped them. And got the meteorite, right?”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, walking over to the strange machine from before that the meteorite had been loaded into, and taking the piece of space rock. Once he had the object in his hands, he tucked it into his bag before walking back to Sadik.
“Anyway, yer Pokémon look all tired and all… How about we head back to the cable car station and get some rest?” The taller teen suggested.
“Okay.” Gupta agreed.

The cable car station was awash with tourists returning to the mountain. An old woman walked up to Gupta and Sadik as they drew close.
“I saw you up there.” She began, greeting the pair. “You did well to stop those men. I sell souvenirs up here on the mountain. But when I was a young woman, I used to work in a Pokémon Centre. Let me heal your Pokémon at least before you go on your way.”
“Thanks! That’d be a real help.” Sadik responded, smiling easily.
“Thanks.” Gupta parroted.
“Such polite children.” The woman mused. “I suppose the two of you are heading down the mountain to Lavaridge Town?”
“That’s right.” Sadik confirmed, making easy conversation.

Gupta listened as Sadik continued to talk to the woman they had met, and as his Pokémon were healed. He didn’t have much to add to the conversation, and he already felt too tired to attempt to make small talk. It had been a hard fight, and he was exhausted. It was dark, and the glow of the crater still illuminated their path, even as they continued towards Jagged Pass. And from the sounds of things, they still had a long way to go.

Chapter Text

Jagged Pass was rugged, and incredibly dark. Gupta struggled to maintain his footing on the slope almost immediately, and went tumbling down several unseen ledges only minutes after walking onto the route. Unable to see clearly where he was going or even regain his feet, he nearly fell down a set of stairs that stood to make traversal of the route a little easier, before Sadik caught him by the wrist, pulling him back upright.
“Easy there. Let’s go slow this time, okay?” He conversed, beginning to walk down the stairs.

In front of the two of them, the pathway seemed to dip rapidly, and Gupta wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“The bank here is unstable.” Sadik pointed out. “We can probably slide down. But climbing up’s out of the question.”
“At least we need to go this way.” Gupta pointed out. He was fairly sure there was no climbing up the ledges they had already passed anyway.
Sadik gave him an encouraging grin before sliding down the bank immediately. Gupta, still not feeling sure about it, felt along the wall of the ledge he was already on, until he could go no further. Before him, the edge still loomed. He stared over, but saw nothing but blackness. Regardless, there was no other way forwards. He steeled himself, and put a foot onto the unstable bank.

He did not slide down gracefully.

Reaching the bottom in a tangled heap, Gupta looked around for Sadik. He was walled in to the left and right by rock, and the bank behind him prevented him from travelling backwards. He couldn’t see Sadik anywhere, so walked forwards a little more. Another series of ledges presented themselves, and he walked down them slowly, not wanting to fall again.

“Guppie? Are ya over there?” Sadik’s voice rose up from the other side of a rock to his right, and Gupta turned to regard him.
“I’m fine.” He stated.
“We’re on different paths at the moment. But that’s not so bad, right? I’ll explore this path here, ya can explore yer path over there, and we’ll meet in the middle, right?” He detailed.
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, turning from Sadik and back to the path before him. There was another unstable bank, but he could more or less see the ground this time. He tried to slide down on his feet, but ended up slipping onto his back. At least he didn’t end up in a tangle of limbs this time.

“By the looks of things, you’re just starting out as a trainer. Certainly, you don’t have much experience with those sand banks.” A voice noted off to the side. Gupta stared through the darkness to see an elderly woman staring back. She lit a lantern at her feet and faced Gupta properly.
“I was about to head home for the day, after a little training in the dark. But since you’re here… Humour me with a battle, won’t you young man?” She continued, squaring off against the teenager.
“Alright.” Gupta agreed.

“Very well then. Shall we get started?” The woman decided, sending out her first Pokémon. “Let’s go, hm Meditite?”
“Numel, you can handle this.” Gupta decided, wanting his newer catches to gain some more experience.
“Numel?” She questioned when she emerged from the Pokeball, looking over to the opponent and smiling calmly.
“Meditite, use Force Palm.” The Elder began.
“Flame Burst.” Gupta suggested.
Meditite jumped forwards and attacked Numel with a forceful slap. In response, Numel sent out a jet of flames that split into several directions upon hitting Meditite. Both Pokémon shrugged off the damage done by the attacks.
“Meditite, use Bide.” The opposing trainer attempted.
“Flame Burst again.” Gupta repeated.
Meditite began to store energy, seeming to absorb Numel’s attack. But Gupta knew that Pokémon could be knocked out while using Bide, and was determined not to let Meditite carry out its attack.
“Magnitude Numel.” He gambled, watching Meditite continue to store up power.
The shockwave that Numel sent out was more powerful than Gupta could have expected, and despite attempting to guard, Meditite couldn’t stand up to the hit, and fell back, defeated.

“I see. That was a strong fight.” The woman appreciated. “Now then Hariyama, shall we continue?”
Gupta and Numel both stared up at the large Pokémon as it prepared to fight.
“Okay Numel, use Flame Burst.” Gupta started.
“Arm Thrust Hariyama.” The Elder guided her Pokémon.
Hariyama struck Numel over and over, getting in several strong hits before Numel sent it sliding backwards with a strong jet of fire.
“Hariyama, now use Force Palm.” The trainer decided.
“Flame Burst.” Gupta repeated again.
Hariyama hit Numel hard with the same attack Meditite had used before, and the Pokémon swayed a little, looking a little troubled. She responded with another strong burst of fire, and Gupta felt confident in her ability.
“Hariyama, use Knock Off.” The Elder changed tactic.
“Flame Burst.” Gupta repeated for a final time.
Hariyama swept downwards towards Numel with a powerful blow that left her barely standing. She stared at the Pokémon in response, and then back at Gupta, before unleashing a huge wave of fire that engulfed the opponent. Gupta wasn’t sure what was happening, but when the dust cleared, Hariyama was defeated.

“My, aren’t you strong already? At such a young age as well.” The woman mused, staring from Numel to Gupta. “Keep on raising your Pokémon just like that. I’m sure you’ll achieve great things someday.”
“Um, thanks.” Gupta nodded, returning Numel to her Pokeball for rest before turning back to the path. More ledges presented themselves after a short walk, and he took about hopping down them.

Halfway down the series of ledges Gupta found himself on, another young trainer stood, lantern illuminating him as he remained on the lookout for opponents. Gupta tried to avoid him, but the boy was clearly attuned to the sound of approaching steps, and there wasn’t much other noise in the growing night to distract him.
“Aha! I finally found another trainer!” He celebrated, running up to Gupta with the light in hand.
Gupta simply stared. What was a ten year old kid doing out by himself at this hour?!

“Anyway, you gotta fight me since I found you, okay? Let’s show him Gulpin!”
The giant grin of the opponent’s Pokémon was more than a little disturbing as far as Gupta was concerned, but he shrugged it off, sending out his own Pokémon in response.
“Vee!” Eevee cried, staring the Pokémon down.
“Right Gulpin, use Acid Spray!” The child declared.
“Eevee, Bite.” Gupta decided.
“Vee!” Eevee agreed, racing forwards and sinking his teeth into the Gulpin. It only laughed, opening its mouth wide and spraying acid over Eevee, who shuddered in discomfort.
“Gulpin, now use Sludge!” The boy called, excited.
“Tackle Eevee.” Gupta advised.
Eevee raced forwards, slamming the opponent. Gulpin’s retaliation- a ball of foul looking sludge- was shrugged off fairly easily by Eevee.
“Gulpin, Toxic!” The boy continued.
“Bite again Eevee.” Gupta told the small Pokémon.
Again, Eevee lashed out with a bite against the opponent. The strange poison mist that the Pokémon emanated from its open mouth in return seemed to make Eevee decidedly ill. Gupta reasoned that he had been poisoned.
“Bite again Eevee.” Gupta repeated.
“Yawn!” The boy attempted.
Moving faster than the enemy, Eevee struck Gulpin down, but still seemed to suffer from the effects of the poison regardless.

“Aww, that’s too bad. I’m not all that good fighting in this terrain… How do you manage it?” The boy asked Gupta.
“I stand still. And refrain from getting worked up.” He explained.
“Really? I guess that’s not really something I can do.” The boy sighed. “I’ll find my own way though. Thanks for battling me!” He smiled easily before running off down the path, jumping down the same ledges Gupta needed to traverse.
Looking towards Eevee, Gupta made sure to heal the poisoning as a priority. Once Eevee was feeling better, Gupta returned him to the Pokeball before jumping down the rest of the ledges himself.

At the bottom of the ledges, a patch of tall grass awaited. Gupta waded through the grass as quickly as he could, not wanting to linger for too long. He had nearly escaped the grass when a wild Pokémon leaped out at him.
“Machop!” It cried.
“Okay Swellow.” Gupta settled upon, sending out his chosen Pokémon.
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta decided. Swellow spun high into the air before swooping back down and hitting the wild Pokémon hard. It fell backwards before it even had a chance to attack, and Gupta returned Swellow to her Pokeball and moved on before it could get up.

One final ledge remained beyond the grass patch. After climbing down it, Gupta found himself on a large ledge that marked the end of the Jagged Pass. Looking around, the teenager realised he still couldn’t see Sadik, so decided to search for the other teen. He walked from one side of the ledge to the other, trying to spot his friend. He didn’t find Sadik, but he did find another trainer.

“Oh! A trainer! That means we can have a little more fun before we have to go home!” She smiled. Gupta stared. This girl couldn’t be any older than the boy from before, and she was still wandering around regardless!
“Okay then.” She sent out her first Pokémon quickly. “Let’s have fun Gloom!”
“Eevee, go.” Gupta decided.
“Vee!” Eevee chirped, staring down the Pokémon.
“Gloom, let’s use Acid.” The girl decided on.
“Tackle.” Gupta commanded.
Eevee appeared not to listen, instead sending a beam of stars flying at the Gloom, which slid backwards.
“Okay Gloom, now use Sweet Scent!” The young trainer tried.
“Tackle.” Gupta repeated.
Gloom filled the air with a cloying scent while Eevee slammed into the opponent. Gloom appeared hardly to be holding on, while Eevee still looked comfortable.
“Mega Drain.” The child panicked.
“Bite.” Gupta finished.
“Vee!” Eevee growled, running in to attack Gloom before it could react. The Pokémon fell backwards, clearly defeated.

“Too bad Gloom. You tried your best though.” The girl reassured her Pokémon. “Alright Swablu, let’s try our best too!”
The emerging opponent had the appearance of a cloud, and it carried an air of grace and elegance.
“Eevee, Tackle.” Gupta got in his move early, wanting to get the jump on the new Pokémon.
“Swablu, Fury Attack.” The younger trainer began.
Eevee slammed the opponent first, and withstood the barrage of pecks that resulted, although he did appear to be tiring as he turned back to Gupta, waiting for instructions.
“Bite.” Gupta commanded.
“Use Astonish!” The other trainer countered.
Eevee charged forwards and landed a sound hit against Swablu, which failed to make contact with its response, the attack seeming to phase through Eevee completely.
“Right.” Gupta nodded in understanding. Astonish was a ghost type move, and Eevee, being a normal type, was unaffected.
“Okay Eevee, Tackle once more.” He moved on.
“Round Swablu.” The child trainer attempted to tell her Pokémon.
Eevee managed to get in the hit first, and Swablu was knocked out before it could attack Eevee again.

“Aww, we lost. We had fun but… It’s hard to fight well in a place like this, and in the dark too.” The girl complained. “I guess that means it’s time for me to go home then.” She waved in Gupta’s direction before picking herself up and leaving the area.

“Guppie! I see ya’re survivin’ alright.” Sadik suddenly spoke up from a higher point, loud and excitable, and Gupta turned in the direction of his voice, spotting him climbing down the last of the ledges.
“There were a lot of battles on my end.” Gupta explained. “You?”
“Yeah, a few, more or less.” Sadik shrugged. “Anyway, if we’re done here, how do ya wanna head off to Lavaridge finally?”
“Okay.” Gupta agreed, returning Eevee to the Pokeball before following Sadik to the centre of the plateau, where a set of stairs waited to take them away from Jagged Pass and onto the last remaining piece of Route 112.

Chapter Text

The section of Route 112 that Sadik and Gupta walked along that night was decidedly small, and the streetlights of Lavaridge became visible after only a few minutes of walking.
“Hey, I reckon we made it, eh?” Sadik pointed out, stepping onto the first signs of paved road.

Lavaridge Town was small, comprised of only a few shops and houses, and a Pokémon Gym that stretched up into the sky, easily spotted even from the other side of the town. Sadik led Gupta from one side of the town to the other, the teenagers travelling along the path from the entrance of town to a Pokémon Centre that looked just a little different from any other Gupta had seen; a hot spring was situated off to the side, and as far as he could tell, the entrance lay within the centre.

“Feels good to have made it, eh? Let’s just take a load off fer tonight.” Sadik smiled, walking up to hand his Pokémon over for healing.
“We certainly won’t be getting in the Gym at this hour.” Gupta added, following him.
“Sure enough. Hey, why don’t we go soak up in the spring? We could do with some de-stress I think.” The taller teen continued.
“Just… Go in?” Gupta questioned, leaving his Pokeballs on the counter.
“Sure. I mean that’s what it’s there for, yeah?” Sadik shrugged, beginning to lead Gupta by the hand towards the entrance to the springs, smiling reassuringly. “Might as well take advantage of that, am I right?”

The etiquette of the hot spring was such that they left their clothes behind before they entered, each of the trainers left wearing only a towel on the walk over to the hot springs; Gupta reasoned this was why there were separate segregated areas for male and female bathers. In his own opinion, it mattered little once they were in the water, and it was hard to argue with the soothing warmth of the steam around him. And it was quiet, all others having gone home for the night.
“Isn’t it great just to hit the water like this?” Sadik commented. “People all over Hoenn talk about this place. They say the springs here can heal, ya know?”
“It certainly feels that way…” Gupta agreed. After several hard days of travelling, it was good to finally relax.

Silence reigned for several minutes, and Gupta wondered if Sadik was getting tired- it was unusual for him to go so long without speaking his mind. The other teenager was completely still, and Gupta edged a little closer to him, trying to work out if he was falling asleep. Just as he was about to shake his shoulder, Sadik began talking.
“Hey Guppie?”
“…Yes?” The smaller boy replied, wondering what was up.
“Thanks. For comin’ with me on this journey and all.”
“Oh. No problem.” Gupta shrugged. Even now when he looked back, he didn’t feel as though he’d had much of a choice in the matter…
“Seriously though. I dunno how far I’d have gotten by myself. It’s never the same without friends there with ya, know what I mean? I’d probably have gotten distracted, or gone back to the lab and ‘cuz like I always do. And those Magma and Aqua clowns? I never could’a taken them down without ya. So… Yeah.”
“Really…” Gupta wasn’t sure about that especially; Sadik seemed capable enough, and he was sure the other was simply underestimating himself. Still, the sentiment hit home, and he was left unsure as to how to respond, silence falling on the tranquil night air once again.

Before being shattered by a sudden cry.
“Marshtomp!”

The peace of moments before was shattered, as Marshtomp took a running leap into the hot springs, disrupting the water and creating an almighty splash. Gupta looked to his Pokémon with exasperation.
“How did you get in here?” He asked.
“Come on little guy, ya’re not supposed to be here. No Pokémon.” Sadik laughed. “I guess that’s just yer way of tellin’ us both to hurry up though, huh?”
He smiled readily and picked Marshtomp up as he left the hot springs, leaving Gupta to watch and reflect.
Life was more hectic than it had been before. But the change was good.

The next morning began as it often did, with Marshtomp waking Sadik with yet another burst of water.
“Yeah, mornin’ to ya too.” Said trainer greeted as he shuffled off to take a shower, Lale following along behind him (how Sadik could sleep with her increased weight on him every night Gupta would never know).
“Marshtomp…” Gupta warned, trying to set a firm tone. His Pokémon only grinned cheerfully at him.

Sadik insisted on being the first to challenge the Gym in Lavaridge, so Gupta was left wandering the town by himself (assuming his Pokémon didn’t count as company). The first order of business as far as he was concerned was to visit the Pokemart and stock up on items. Since the store was right next to the Pokémon Centre, this wasn’t a hard thing to accomplish.

The inside of the Pokémon Centre was full of the usual trainers discussing items and Pokémon related strategies. Gupta heard some children discussing Lava Cookies- apparently specialities sold at the top of Mt. Chimney. Gupta thought back to the old woman they had met the day before and wondered if that was what she sold for a living.

As Gupta finished shopping, a man to the side of him began ranting about his wishes to be immune to 1-hit K.O.s just like Pokémon with the sturdy ability. It appeared that people who were literally mad about Pokémon existed everywhere in the region. Gupta simply couldn’t escape them, no matter where he went.

Outside the Pokemart, Gupta dodged a random martial artist talking about dancing swords before heading towards the south of the town, where the Gym and other houses and shops were situated. Along the way, a girl hanging around in the town centre struck up conversation with him.
“You look so relaxed. Have you bathed in the hot springs yet?” She asked.
“I did.” The teenager confirmed.
“Ahh, me too. I go every day.” The young woman gushed. “I want to become beautiful and strong like Eyja. Maybe then I can be a Gym Leader too.”
“Eyja?” Gupta repeated.
“Yeah, she’s the Gym Leader here. She’s so cool… Everyone looks up to her.” The young trainer continued. “I wanna be like her one day.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, already wondering what it was about this Gym Leader that made everyone adore her so much.

The road curved around after the strange smitten girl, leading Gupta towards a house with barred windows. A sign on the outside declared it to be an herb shop. The trainer decided to step inside and take a look around.
“Oh! You’re a little young to be looking around a shop such as this, aren’t you?” The woman behind the counter mused.
“Um.” Gupta stalled. Was there something wrong with that?
“This is an herbal medicine shop young man.” An old looking man detailed. “Herbal medicine is incredibly bitter you know. Pokémon seem to dislike it, and it seems that they will dislike you for making them consume it. But it works wonders. The right herbs can heal any ailment you know.”
“But still… If it’s that bitter, why do people use it?” Gupta deadpanned.
“Sometimes, there is no other way.” The man commented sagely. “But maybe you’re a little young still to understand all that. You should take this for a start.” He brought forwards a stick of coal and handed it over to Gupta.
“Thanks.” The teenager stated, a little confused.
“This charcoal is used often in medicines. But it’s also an item that can be held by a Pokémon- it raises the power of fire type moves. You should try it on your Pokémon and see for yourself.” The older man detailed, smiling encouragingly.

Gupta emerged from that house a little confused, and having more or less reached the end of the Town- only a few houses remained before him. Deciding to head back to the Pokémon Centre, the trainer began walking back the way he came. As he passed a sandy area next to the Centre, where old people were gathering to soak up the heat of the day, he overheard more idle conversation.
“I hear that eggs have been found at the Pokémon Day Care whenever two Pokémon are left there together. Although it is just a rumour…”

Back in the Pokémon Centre, Gupta saw fit to ask his mother about the Gym Leader of Lavaridge town.
“Ah yes, Eyja… Like I said before, she’s related to the Gym in Dewford Town. Her older brother’s one of the Gym Trainers. She got bored of that sleepy island and set out to run the Lavaridge Gym on her own. People often assume that she’s reserved and quiet. But I think we can both count as living proof that such people often have hidden depths. And Eyja… Is known for having a strong fire burning behind that ice-covered exterior. I think that’s what endears her to people.” Cleo detailed, staring out at her son. “As for you… Once you defeat her, your next move will be to return here. I’m quite looking forward to it actually.”
“So you think I can win.” Gupta picked up on.
“You’ve come so far in such a short space of time. You have the strength to win. Good luck.” His mother reassured him.

Minutes later, Sadik returned, excited look on his face as he ran over to heal his Pokémon.
“Guess what?” He smiled easily. “I won Guppie!”
“Of course you did.” Gupta nodded, walking over. “So I can go and fight now?”
“Yeah!” Sadik grinned. “I’ve gotta tell ya though, that Gym Leader… She’s really strong. I barely scraped by for a win. And she’s really cute too!”
“Cute?” Gupta questioned.
“Well… Yeah. She’s pretty and all, and her personality… It’s just something I find pretty adorable, ya know?” Sadik continued to smile readily, looking over to Gupta. “Man, I wouldn’t mind fightin’ her again even.”
“Maybe another time.” Gupta brushed off. “Me challenging this Gym aside, mama’s waiting for us back in Petalburg, apparently.” He didn’t really care if Sadik wanted to get side tracked by a crush, but he had other things on his mind.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Good luck and all Guppie, I’ll see ya when ya get out.” Sadik gave Gupta a cheerful thumbs up as the shorter trainer made his way from the Pokémon Centre, on the way to the Gym.

Chapter Text

The inside of Lavaridge Gym was steamy and warm. As usual, the same man from all the other gyms stood at the entrance, arms crossed and leaning against one of the pillars.
“You came. Thought you would.” He commented. “Now, to business. This gym specialises in fire types. The leader is young. But don’t underestimate her. Go through the trap doors there and into the water below. You’ll be able to get back up again using the geysers. That’s about it really.”
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, beginning his path through the gym. There was only one door at first, so it was obvious he had to drop down from there.

Gupta landed on his feet on a board in the middle of a pool of water that appeared to be a hot spring. Two other boards stood to the left and right, and the teenager assumed that the geysers were situated under those boards. Taking a choice, he moved to the right, and shot up back to the surface level.

In front of Gupta, another trap door seemed to lead back down, to what had to obviously be a different area from before. Before he could get there though, a trainer stood in Gupta’s way.
“Welcome to the Lavaridge Gym.” He greeted. “If you want to get to our leader, you’ll have to go past me.”
“Fine.” Gupta stated. “Let’s go Numel.”
“Numel.” The emerging Pokémon cheered, seemingly soothed by the environment they were in.
“Okay Slugma, take them on.” The trainer announced.
The lava slug that emerged hissed in Gupta’s direction.
“Numel, Magnitude.” Gupta began, trying to get in before the opponent could attack.
“Smog Slugma.” The Gym Trainer commanded.
Numel attacked the opponent with a leisurely pace, sending out a heavily damaging shockwave, and the Slugma attacked even slower, sending out a mist of poison that managed to miss Numel completely.
“Magnitude again Numel.” Gupta repeated.
“Rock Throw.” The Gym Trainer decided.
Numel sent out a second shockwave, which managed to take the opponent down with ease.

“Well that’s the first of my Pokémon.” The trainer appreciated. “Now let’s see how you handle my Numel.”
“Numel.” The other Numel greeted enthusiastically.
“Tackle Numel.” Gupta started.
“Ember Numel.” The trainer countered.
The opponent’s Numel spat a stream of fire at Numel that failed to cause much damage. Numel charged into the fire and tackled the opponent in response.
“Now Magnitude.” Gupta followed up.
“Tackle Numel.” The opponent chose.
Numel was tackled by the enemy’s Numel before launching it with another shockwave that managed to knock it out.

In the aftermath of the battle, Gupta made sure to return Numel to the Pokeball before heading forwards and down the trap door in front of him. Falling once more into the hot spring, he noticed that different platforms- and geysers- presented themselves, this area clearly different to that he was in before. Visualising what he remembered of the view of this gym from the entrance, Gupta recalled that the spot roughly equal in position to the middle platform had a slope that led back to the entrance of the gym, and deduced that the way forwards was unlikely to be there- it was probably a trap of some kind. Therefore, he walked towards the end platform. Before he reached there, however, the water of the hot spring rippled and the teenager found himself being ambushed.

“Hiyah! I spot you challenger! If you want to get through to the Gym Leader, you must first defeat me!” The small child shouted, moving to send out his Pokémon. “Let’s show ‘em Koffing!”
“Eevee, you can handle this.” Gupta spoke, as he sent out his Pokémon.
“Vee!” Eevee roared, ready for battle.
“Alright Eevee, use Tackle.” Gupta tried.
“Clear Smog.” The trainer began.
Eevee seemed to improvise on the command he was given. The charge he launched against the opponent was far stronger than Gupta was used to, but seemed to cause damage to Eevee in return. The resulting haze emitted by the opponent was decidedly foul.
“Okay Koffing, now use Smokescreen!” The child continued, clearly enthusiastic.
“Bite.” Gupta changed tactic.
Eevee leapt in to strike the opponent, delivering a powerful bite that defeated the enemy.
“Vee.” Eevee huffed in the aftermath.

Gupta used the far geyser to make his way back to the surface, and found himself in yet another area with another two trap doors before him. He could see a trainer standing between the two doors, making the teenager believe that the far door was probably the correct way- why would the trainers line a route that lead nowhere? This mindset led Gupta to walk onwards towards the trainer. He completely ignored the second opponent until he walked straight into him.

“Found you challenger!” The man greeted. “That just means you’ll have to battle me and Slugma now!”
“Okay. Numel, handle this.” Gupta responded.
“Numel.” Numel sighed, looking over at the opponent. The fire slug still looked as creepy as ever.
“Slugma, use Rock Throw.” The man began.
“Numel, Magnitude.” Gupta followed on.
Numel sent out a fairly weak looking shockwave that still left the foe reeling. Slugma responded with a barrage of rocks which Numel shrugged off.
“Now Harden Slugma.” The man replied.
“Magnitude again.” Gupta repeated.
Numel got in before Slugma could attack, sending out a shockwave only barely stronger than the last. Slugma swayed around for a little, but remained standing, and reacted to the attack by hardening the lava on its surface.
“Incinerate Slugma.” The man tried.
“Tackle Numel.” Gupta decided, guessing that it wouldn’t take much to defeat Slugma.
Sure enough, the Pokémon was knocked down before it could attack.

Even after getting through this battle, Gupta knew that he still had a way to go. He focused on making his way to the other side of the area he was in, knowing that he would have to fight the other trainer before he could move on.

“You’re doing well challenger. But can you get past the rest of us, and the leader after that?” The Gym Trainer challenged. “Let’s fight them Meditite!”
“That’s not a fire type.” Gupta pointed out to himself. “Whatever. Let’s go Swellow.” Gupta chose, sending out the Pokémon he believed to have the greatest advantage.
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Meditite, use Confusion!” The trainer chose as her first move.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta decided.
Swellow dove in to attack the enemy, dealing a fair amount of damage before being struck by Meditite’s counter attack. Gupta remained confident in his ability to win.
“Meditite, Force Palm.” The trainer followed up.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow managed to strike heavily with her second attack, knocking Meditite down before it had a chance to hit her back.

After that, it was a simple matter for Gupta to head down the trap door at the far end of the area and into the water below. Yet another choice of geysers presented themselves to Gupta, but there was nothing this time telling him which was the correct path to take. He ended up picking a route at random, taking the middle path. This turned out to be the wrong route to take, as the surface turned out to be a dead end. Going back down the trap doors, Gupta walked towards the end geyser, but he was intercepted before he made it that far.

“This is an ambush! Abandon hope and surrender!” The small child announced as he sprung from the water.
“Oh no. A child pretending to be a ninja. Run for your lives.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Hey, lighten up a little! We’ll show you, right Koffing!” The boy fumed.
“Okay Eevee, deal with them.” Gupta sent out his Pokémon once again.
“Right Koffing, use Smog!” The child declared.
“Eevee, Bite.” Gupta decided on.
Eevee jumped in and clamped down on the foe before being pushed back by a cloud of foul gas.
“Koffing, Self-Destruct!” The child tried.
“Tackle Eevee.” Gupta attempted.
Eevee carried out the same powerful charge from last time, but was unable to defeat the opponent. Seconds later, there was a huge blast, and although Eevee was clearly injured, it was Koffing that ended up defeated in the aftermath.

Gupta moved on after that fact, and made his way to yet another surface area. This one had only one further trap door in front of it, making it clear that there was nowhere else to go. Before he could reach the doors though, he had to battle yet another trainer.
The trainer smirked in Gupta’s direction before sending out his first Pokémon- yet another Slugma.
“Okay Marshtomp.” Gupta declared, sending out his starter Pokémon.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, jumping up and down in the air, likely excited to be out of the Pokeball for the first time in the challenge so far.
“Right Marshtomp, use Mud Bomb.” Gupta decided.
“Slugma, Incinerate.” The trainer responded.
Marshtomp sent a glob of mud flying towards the enemy while Slugma responded with an ineffective fire burst.
“Use Mud Bomb again.” Gupta repeated.
“Ancient Power.” The trainer changed tactic.
Marshtomp threw yet more mud at the enemy, taking the foe down before Gupta got a chance to experience the attack.

“So you dealt with Slugma. Fair enough. Let’s see how you deal with Kecleon.” He announced.
The emerging lizard seemed to have something decidedly… Strange about it. Gupta tried to shrug it off, deciding instead to just attack.
“Okay Marshtomp. Mud Bomb again.” He started.
“Kecleon. Use Ancient Power.” The trainer commanded.
Marshtomp threw a huge ball of mud at the opposing Kecleon, which seemed to cause a decent level of damage. Mud stuck to the Pokémon in an odd way, and it seemed to take on an earthy aura. In response, a strange barrage of rocks imbued with some strange power flew into Marshtomp, who resisted the attack well.
“Kecleon. Fury Swipes.” The trainer ordered.
“Water Gun.” Gupta tried, having a bizarre hunch.
It seemed as though his intuition was correct, as the jet of water that emanated from Marshtomp was enough to defeat the strangely pained Pokémon.

Gupta didn’t dwell on the circumstances surrounding his last victory in battle, instead heading through the trap doors and onwards. The area of water he found himself in was yet again easy to navigate, with only one path forwards presenting himself. Sensing that he was near the end, Gupta walked forwards, ready to face the final trainer who was present within the space.

A Numel was soon standing before Gupta, and he made the decision to send out his own in response.
“Numel.” She called, ready to fight if a little docile still.
“Okay Numel. Use Magnitude.” Gupta decided.
“Numel, use Magnitude.” The trainer parroted.
Both Pokémon sent out shockwaves that made the ground beneath them tremble. Gupta found it hard to tell which Pokémon was more injured by the attacks.
“Numel. Magnitude again.” Gupta continued.
“Use Lava Plume Numel.” The opposing trainer changed move.
Numel sent out a second wave of energy that left the opposing Numel barely standing. The wave of lava sent out in response didn’t do as much damage to Gupta’s Numel, but after all the fighting she had already done, it was clear that she wasn’t going to take much more.
“Numel, Tackle.” Gupta decided to finish off with a sure shot.
“Lava Plume.” The trainer repeated.
Numel beat the opponent to the punch, knocking the other Numel out before the lava attack could be carried out, and standing calmly and stilly beside the opponent as it fell over.

There was nowhere left to go after the battle had been finished, so Gupta made his way towards the only other geyser in the area. When he reached the surface, a short walk was all it took before he was face to face with a young woman who Gupta assumed was the Gym Leader. He made sure to heal his Pokémon before moving forwards to face her.

“Hello trainer. Welcome to the Lavaridge Gym.” The woman greeted, long white hair swaying as she walked forwards, long lace up boots emphasising the line of her leg under the simple dress she wore. “I’m Eyja, the leader here.”
“I’m assuming you’re going to battle me now.” Gupta assumed.
“That’s right.” Eyja nodded. “It is my job after all, so I take battling challengers seriously.”
She leaned back, taking a deep breath before fixing her violet eyes on Gupta.

“If you’re anything like the guy before, I’ll have to work really hard this battle. You look strong.” The Gym Leader mused to herself. “Still, you look as though… I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
“Maybe you know my mother somehow.” Gupta stated. “She is the Gym Leader of Petalburg City.”
“Really? No wonder I recognise you. Don’t tell me you’ll run back to mama if you lose?” She smirked, clearly not beyond trash talking.
“Like I would.” Gupta deadpanned.
“I’m kidding, don’t worry.” Eyja assured him. “You look strong though. This should be fun.”
“Alright then.” Gupta agreed. “Let’s do this.”

“Very well then. For my first Pokémon, I’ll use Growlithe.” The Gym Leader announced.
“Okay Numel. You can do this.” Gupta decided, sending out his first Pokémon.
“Numel!” Numel smiled over at the Pokémon she was facing with respect.
“Grr!” The opponent roared back, full of energy.
“Growlithe, use Bite.” Eyja started.
“Magnitude Numel.” Gupta responded.
Growlithe charged towards Numel, getting in a strong hit with bite before running back to Eyja. The attack that Numel carried out was clearly stronger than Magnitude. The ground beneath Growlithe erupted with power, causing major damage to the fire type Pokémon.
“Your Numel’s learned Earth Power.” Eyja pointed out. “I think it forgot Magnitude to learn that move. Sorry about that.” She smirked, as though amused by Gupta’s lack of knowledge of his own Pokémon.
“Okay then. Numel, Earth Power.” Gupta corrected himself, rolling his eyes. How typical of his Pokémon to start using new moves without telling him.
“Growlithe, Overheat.” Eyja commanded.
Growlithe’s next attack was a powerful wave of fire that caused decent damage to Numel despite not being very effective. Growlithe seemed a little tired out by the attack, and Numel’s second attack left it barely standing.
“Overheat again.” Eyja repeated.
“Tackle.” Gupta changed tactic.
Growlithe sent out a second wave of fire that carried less power than the first but still left Numel clearly hurt. She slammed into the opponent for a counter attack that knocked Growlithe down, standing serenely before Eyja and staring up at her with a smile still on her face.

“Okay then. You defeated my first Pokémon. Not bad. If I were you, I’d rest that Numel now though.” Eyja advised. “Let’s go Larvesta!”
“Yeah, I know.” Gupta deadpanned. “Okay Numel, that’s good enough.” He stated, returning Numel to the Pokeball and taking a look at the opponent. It had the appearance of a bug, despite the red horns that resembled flames, which made his next choice of Pokémon obvious.
“Take it down Swellow.”
“Low!” Swellow chirped, leering down at the bug that looked so much to her like prey.
“Overheat Larvesta.” Eyja commanded, uncaring for the Pokémon that had just been let out.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta chose.
Swellow swept in to strike Larvesta, dealing heavy damage to the fiery bug. Larvesta responded with yet another wave of fire, which emanated from the horns Gupta had noticed before. Swellow absorbed the damage with ease.
“Use Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated.
“Overheat.” Eyja parroted again.
Swellow managed to strike a heavy blow against Larvesta before it could attack, which succeeded in causing the Pokémon to faint.

“Two down, two to go. I wonder if you can keep this up.” Eyja commented. “Okay Torkoal.”
“Swellow. Stay where you are. Aerial Ace again.” Gupta stood firm, looking over at the new opposing Pokémon, which seemed as though it would be right at home in the hot springs of the area.
“Overheat Torkoal.” Eyja repeated yet again.
Swellow dove down to strike against the new enemy, but Torkoal’s defence seemed solid and it barely appeared to feel the attack. Torkoal’s responding attack was powerful, but Swellow still managed to take the hit.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta tried.
“Body Slam.” Eyja decided.
Swellow’s second attack still managed only to slowly chip away at Torkoal, who seemed to be getting at least a little damaged, but still remained standing. The slam Swellow took in response, on the other hand, left her barely hanging on.

“Alright, return Swellow.” Gupta made the choice to change out his Pokémon, not wanting Swellow to be any more hurt. “Eevee, take over.”
“Vee!” Eevee hissed, glaring down at the opponent warily.
“Eevee, Tackle.” Gupta moved.
“Overheat Torkoal.” Eyja returned to her previous strategy.
Eevee jumped in with the same powerful charge he had been using in all of the battles so far that day. The heatwave that hit in response was far less powerful than the one before had been, and Eevee still seemed fine after the attack.
“That’s not Tackle you know. It’s Take Down.” Eyja stated.
“Well, the more you know.” Gupta shrugged. “Take Down Eevee.”
“Yeah.” The Gym Leader smiled a little. “Overheat Torkoal!”
Eevee’s second charge left Torkoal with hardly any energy left, but it was still there enough to send yet another fire wave Eevee’s way. Eevee panted a little, but still looked defiant enough to fight.
“Swift Eevee.” Gupta made his next move.
“Body Slam!” Eyja commanded, getting a little fired up over the battle.
Eevee sent out a ray of stars that knocked down the opponent, roaring at the enemy as it went down and continuing to watch Eyja warily.

“Alright. I guess now’s the time to get really worked up.” Eyja grinned impishly. “Do your best Fletchinder!”
“Take a rest Eevee.” Gupta returned his third Pokémon to the ball, ready for the final fight. “Marshtomp, you’re up now.”
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered, smiling lazily over to Fletchinder and Eyja.
“Fletchinder. Overheat!” The Gym Leader declared.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta responded.
Marshtomp absorbed the fire attack with hardly a trouble at all, and responded with a jet of water that seemed to displease the fire bird Marshtomp was facing.
“Peck!” Eyja attempted.
“Water Gun again.” Gupta repeated.
Fletchinder dove in and pecked repeatedly at Marshtomp’s head. Marshtomp shrugged the attacks off with a dopey grin before launching Fletchinder with a second jet of water. The Pokémon shrugged off the water angrily before regaining its composure.
“Overheat again Fletchinder!” Eyja tried, knowing that her Pokémon was on the back foot.
“Water Gun.” Gupta pressed. Marshtomp looked back at him and smiled. Then looked towards Fletchinder and smiled. And then instead of a jet of water, he stomped the ground and sent a barrage of rocks from the walls sliding down onto Flethinder. The Pokémon was knocked to the ground and struggled to get back up before collapsing entirely.

“And after all that, your Marshtomp knows Rock Slide. Of course.” Eyja shook her head.
“Marshtomp knows Rock Slide?” Gupta questioned.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp agreed.
“You and your Pokémon are hilarious. Just watching you is fun.” The Gym Leader continued. “I don’t have any issues with giving you the badge. You earned it.” She walked forwards and handed the badge over to Gupta. Marshtomp jumped repeatedly, trying to see the shiny new object.
“This is the Heat Badge. With it, Pokémon up to level 50 will obey you without question. Additionally, you can use the Strength HM outside of battle. If that’s something you want to do.” Eyja explained. “Additionally. I’ll give you the TM for Overheat. As you could probably tell, it’s my favourite move.” She reached out with a disc which Gupta also took. Marshtomp sniffed at it slightly. “Overheat is powerful. But it lowers your Pokémon’s Special Attack, so each time you use it, it’ll get less powerful. Be careful.”
“Thanks.” Gupta noted, putting the disc away in his bag and pinning his fourth badge to his bag strap. Marshtomp smiled encouragingly at him.
“Good luck on wherever you’re going. I hope to hear good things from you in future.” Eyja finalised, as Gupta was turning to leave.
“Alright.” The trainer nodded, picking up Marshtomp (with some difficulty), and beginning the walk back to the Pokémon Centre.

“I see by that badge things went great in there.” Sadik assumed, as Gupta returned to the Pokémon Centre to heal his team.
“More or less.” Gupta agreed. “Now I suppose we head back to Petalburg.”
“Yep!” Sadik grinned. “If we set out now, we’ll make it by nightfall I reckon. But there’s somethin’ else I’m interested in…” The teen got out two pairs of goggles and showed them to his friend. “With these, we can go into the Desert on Route 111. I’ve never been before, but it seems like a cool place to check out, doesn’t it?”
“Okay then.” Gupta nodded. “That should be on the way anyway. Let’s check the desert out on the way back.”
“Alright!” Sadik cheered. “Let’s go then!”
As he pulled Gupta away by the arm, heading out towards Route 112, the sun continued to rise over Lavaridge Town.

Chapter Text

Once Gupta and Sadik had passed the entrance to Jagged Pass, only a few ledges separated them and the path they had taken up to the cable car station before. Sadik grinned at Gupta before leaping down the uneven path, his friend soon following behind. The trainers they had fought before looked the other way and pretended not to see them, clearly not wanting to fight again.

As such, the walk along Route 112 was peaceful. Gupta looked up to the sky to see clouds and the odd bird Pokémon circling overhead. It didn’t take Gupta and Sadik long to reach the junction with Route 111 once more.
“Let’s go north for a bit.” Sadik suggested. “We can check out that desert, and gain a few levels for our Pokémon while we’re there.”
“Fair enough.” Gupta nodded, walking towards the northern edge of the path that marked Route 111. The sandstorm from before started up as he neared the fringe of the desert, with all its ferocity intact. Sadik appeared beside him before the sand got too unbearable, holding out a pair of the goggles from before.
“Ready?” He checked. “Put these on, and we’ll go.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed, taking the goggles and placing them over his head. “Into the desert then.”
“Into the desert!” Sadik smiled, walking forwards into the sandstorm.
Gupta looked after him before stepping northwards and entering the same storm.

The desert part of Route 111 featured deep pits of sand traversed by shallower paths that allowed for navigation. The goggles made it easier to see through the flying sand, but it was still tough to walk through the area, and Gupta stumbled into the deeper sand by accident as he tried to walk forwards. As he struggled to escape, the sound of shuffling grew nearer. An unseen figure crept closer to Gupta, sniffing the air before leaping up to strike. Gupta turned around to see a Pokémon flying towards him.

“Trap! Pinch!” The Pokémon roared, looking towards Gupta’s bag intently.
“Whoa.” Gupta stepped back, hand moving to send out a Pokémon. “Eevee, deal with it.”
“Vee!” Eevee cried, emerging into the sandstorm and looking around before recoiling at the environment.
“Eevee, Swift.” Gupta decided.
“Vee!” Eevee growled, unleashing a ray of stars which curved around to hit the target despite the cloying sand. The opponent replied with a powerful biting attack that left Eevee hissing and struggling to shake the opponent off. The sand seemed deeply irritating to his Pokémon, but Gupta noticed that the enemy seemed tired. It wouldn’t take much to finish it off…
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cried, appearing in front of Gupta and running over to shield the wild Pokémon. He seemed utterly unfazed by the sandstorm, but strangely convinced that Gupta should mean the attacking Pokémon no further harm.
“Vee?!” Eevee turned to Marshtomp, shocked, and growled at the starter Pokémon.
“Let me guess. You want me to catch that one too.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered.
“Vee?” Eevee questioned, looking from Gupta to Marshtomp suspiciously.
“Fine.” Gupta sighed, getting out a Pokeball and throwing it towards the opposing Pokémon, who Marshtomp held up triumphantly. The poor Pokémon looked utterly confused as it went into the Pokeball, but didn’t resist capture at all.

Marshtomp caught the Pokeball as the click resounded out, and skipped over to Gupta before handing it over. The trainer stared at it for a moment before pocketing it and looking back over to Eevee and Marshtomp. Marshtomp seemed reluctant to return to his Pokeball, so Gupta let him stay out for the time being. Eevee couldn’t return to the safety of his Pokeball quickly enough.

Gupta made his way back to the path after that, and set about walking along the road, exploring more of the area around him. He didn’t get too far before being stopped by a trainer, who had come running along in the other direction and smiled upon seeing Gupta.

“Alright, I found a trainer here!” The boy cheered. Gupta stared yet again; how were children even getting into such places?
“I’m guessing we’re going to battle now.” Gupta assumed.
“Of course!” The child agreed. “Let’s go Sandslash!”
“Shre.” The giant mouse clicked the spines on his back in anger.
Gupta thought about the Pokémon he had and made a decision on which to use. “Okay, let’s see what you do… Pokémon.” He stated awkwardly, sending out his newest catch.
“Trap?” The Pokémon questioned.
“Did you just catch that Trapinch in the desert? If so, it won’t stand a chance!” The child bragged. “Sandslash, Fury Swipes!”
Gupta stood there, unsure as to how to react as the Pokémon rushed forwards to attack Trapinch, who seemed just as confused. Just as he thought his Pokémon would be torn into, Marshtomp leapt in to take the hit, shrugging off the damage as if nothing had happened.
“Marshtomp.” Gupta continued, getting the idea that his Pokémon wanted to fight. “Water Gun.”
“Use Rollout Sandslash!” The boy ordered.
Marshtomp jetted a powerful spray of water which greatly injured the opposing Pokémon. The rolling attack received in response was easily shrugged off by Marshtomp.
“Okay Sandslash, Poison Sting!” The child attempted.
“Water Gun.” Gupta replied.
Marshtomp beat the Sandslash to the attack, knocking the foe down.

Gupta looked from Trapinch to Marshtomp and back again.
“I’m guessing you want us to do the same with all the trainers.” He assumed.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered.
“So, send Trapinch out and then you jump in?”
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp agreed, folding his lower two fingers and holding the third up in an attempt at a thumbs up signal.

Gupta continued walking through the desert, Trapinch and Marshtomp following him. Trapinch looked up at him periodically, staring intently as if after something. Gupta had no clue what it wanted. He found another trainer before he had the chance to find out.

“It’s good that you have ground types in this desert. They won’t take damage from the sandstorm, unlike other Pokémon.” The girl commented. “Given that, it’d be nice to battle here.”
“Fair enough.” Gupta relented. “Go on Trapinch.”
“Trap!” Trapinch protested, clearly not happy about still being made to fight.
“Okay Sandslash, let’s go!” The girl smiled.
“Slaa!” Sandslash growled.
“Okay Sandslash, use Magnitude!” The young girl commanded.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp called, leaping in and shrugging off the fairly weak shockwave.
“Marshtomp, Water Gun.” Gupta fell into routine, trusting his Pokémon to know what to do more or less.
“Sandslash, Fury Swipes.” The girl responded.
Sandslash ran forwards into the jet of water sent by Sandslash, taking heavy damage as it moved to attack Marshtomp repeatedly. Marshtomp was still able to absorb the damage.
“Water Gun again.” Gupta finalised.
“Fury Swipes.” The girl repeated.
Again, Marshtomp was able to move first, and knocked the opponent out before it could attack.

As he continued through the desert, Gupta wondered if it would be a good idea to let his other Pokémon get some of the experience from the battles they were waging. He remembered what the girl had warned him about Pokémon taking damage in sandstorms, but deduced that Numel at least would be okay.
“Numel?” She questioned as she was sent out, soon noticing Trapinch and Marshtomp and smiling warmly at them.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp grinned, jumping over to hug Numel. Trapinch wandered over slowly, sniffing Numel before smiling widely in greeting.
“Trap. Trapinch!” It cried.
“Right. Let’s carry on.” Gupta told his Pokémon, continuing through the desert.

Another child was found not much further along the track. Again, the child seemed no older than around 10, and looked almost the same as the boy from earlier. Gupta had no idea how so many children were wandering around the desert without supervision.
“A trainer! Alright, now we can battle!” The kid announced. “Come on Graveller, let’s go!”
“Trapinch, go handle it.” Gupta declared, a little worried about his Pokémon considering the reluctant look on its face.
“Graaa.” The emerging Pokémon growled.
“Pinch!” Trapinch growled back.
“Use Rock Throw Graveller!” The boy told his Pokémon.
“Numel. Come in and take over.” Gupta decided.
“Numel!” Numel agreed, running in front of Trapinch to shield it. Graveller threw a large rock in Numel’s direction; it bounced off of her without much damage being done.
“Numel, Earth Power.” Gupta began to fight back.
“Graveller, Self-Destruct!” The child cut in.
The Pokémon curled up before Numel before an explosion engulfed the area. Numel swayed a little but remained standing. Graveller was defeated in the blast.

Gupta reached the edge of the desert not long after beating the third child. Realising that Sadik wasn’t with him, and knowing that leaving via the northern end of the desert would be travelling in the wrong direction anyway, Gupta turned back around and headed back into the storm. The desert was tough to navigate, but Marshtomp seemed to know where he was going, so Gupta tried to follow him as best he could. When Marshtomp led him straight into the path of another trainer, he wasn’t particularly impressed.

“A trainer! You’re gonna battle us, right?” The girl hopped up onto the balls of her feet as she spoke.
“Of course.” Gupta nodded, knowing there wasn’t much choice in any case. Trapinch trotted over, already getting the hang of the routine.
“Cacnea, let’s go!” The girl announced.
Gupta stared the cactus like Pokémon down and decided on which Pokémon he would be switching Trapinch out for.
“Cacnea, Needle Arm!” The younger trainer began.
“Swellow, you’re up.” Gupta told, sending out Swellow to swoop in and take the hit.
“Low!” Swellow chirped, taking a fistful of needles to the face.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta began his commands.
“Feint Attack Cacnea.” The girl continued.
Swellow flew down on Cacnea, causing massive damage to the Pokémon who responded with some kind of sucker punch. Swellow swerved her head from side to side, struggling with the sandstorm.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta repeated.
“Ingrain.” The child tried.
Swellow hit blindingly fast, taking the opponent down before it could use its own move.
“Low.” Swellow huffed.

Sadik appeared through the sandstorm not long after Gupta defeated the final small child. He seemed pleased with himself, emerging towards his friend with Pence walking along beside him.
“Hey Guppie!” He waved, running over. “How’s it going?”
Gupta returned Swellow to her Pokeball, away from the raging sandstorm, and walked towards Sadik with Marshtomp, Numel and Trapinch. “I’m fine.” He greeted.
“Looks like ya caught a new friend!” Sadik observed, looking Trapinch over.
“I did.” Gupta acknowledged.
“Anyway, I was thinkin’... We’re gonna get back to Petalburg one way or another, right? But there’s a bit of the region we haven’t seen yet, right? We never did make it right the way through Meteor Falls… But I know there’s a route beyond it we haven’t explored, and it leads to Rustboro City too. It’s at least as easy as getting back to Verdanturf. What do ya think?”
“I don’t mind.” Gupta shrugged. “It would be nice to heal our Pokémon on the way though.”
“We’ll stop in Fallarbor for lunch or something.” Sadik decided. “Anyway, if we’re done here, how about we head out?”

Gupta was immensely relieved when he left the desert with Sadik later that morning. He had been protected from the worst of the sandstorm by the goggles, but being battered by the wind and finding himself generally unable to see through the flying sand had been annoying. Route 113 was reached soon after, neither Gupta nor Sadik wanting to stop for long. Gupta let his other two Pokémon out of the Pokeballs; Swellow took to flying overhead with Pence while Eevee insisted on sitting on his shoulder, glancing warily around at everything and anything. Numel walked calmly alongside Gupta with Asena, who Sadik had let out. Marshtomp, Lale and Ateş played chase with each other through the ash covered grass. Trapinch continued to look up at Gupta as if wanting something. The trainer couldn’t see Zehir at all.

Both trainers chose to heal their Pokémon in Fallarbor (neither having faced any further battles since leaving the desert), and after chose to sit on the long bridge along Route 114 while eating lunch. Their Pokémon were allowed back out of the ball, and Gupta finally figured out what Trapinch had been so interested in; the Pokémon began demolishing the food as soon as it was placed in front of it.
“Heh. Looks like you’ve gotten a real glutton there.” Sadik pointed out. “Such a cute little girl as well.”
“Sadik… How do you tell the sex of Pokémon?” Gupta deadpanned. Sadik hadn’t even looked at Trapinch in any detail!
“Guppie, when ya’ve been around Pokémon as long as I have… Ya just know. Trust me.” Sadik replied.
Gupta let it go and looked over to the rest of his team. Swellow was roosting on the island in the middle of the lake. Marshtomp had finished eating and was staring out over the water, as if wanting to swim. Lale was trying to get his attention with a vine. Eevee jumped up from his food and curled up in Gupta’s lap, nuzzling slightly into his side. As he looked past Sadik, he noticed Zehir apparently grooming herself. Over on the other side of the bridge, Ateş continued to play with his ball.

Even after everyone had finished eating, Trapinch was still trying to get to the food in Gupta’s bag. Gupta waved her away and got to his feet. Asena trotted back over to Sadik from where she had been lying in the grass at the end of the bridge.

Once all of their Pokémon had been gathered back together, Sadik and Gupta began travelling again, heading down Route 114 and through Meteor Falls. This time, there was nothing about the area which stood out to Gupta particularly; no trainers came forwards to battle them, and Meteor Falls in particular was nearly desolate; the pair made it to the place where they had fought Lars before without seeing another sign of life. Moving past that point, they found a series of water filled ledges. Sadik looked to Gupta with a smile, and the pair jumped down the set, their Pokémon following along behind them, and found themselves at the exit in due course.

As soon as he stepped foot onto Route 115, Gupta realised where he was. Looking towards the horizon, he was certain he could see the buildings of Rustboro City already. A craggy path led from the exit to a grassy road rigged with ledges that carried on into the distance. A smaller path to the side led down to a small beach, and it was this route that Marshtomp was determined to take Gupta along.
Sadik looked in the opposite direction, where Gupta noticed a third path leading to a berry patch that wound itself above the other two.
“I’ll catch up.” The larger teenager promised, parting temporarily from Gupta.

Down on the beach, Gupta met yet another trainer who seemed intent on battling him.
“A trainer huh? Okay then, let’s fight!” She decided, leaping around on the sand. “Meditite, let’s go!”
“Do you want to fight, Trapinch?” Gupta asked his Pokémon.
“Pinch!” Trapinch agreed, stepping forwards.
“Meditite, Force Palm!” The young woman started.
“Trapinch, use… Bite?” Gupta assumed. Trapinch had really large jaws, so she had to be able to bite things… Right?
Meditite jumped forwards and slapped Trapinch, who responded with a very strong clamping bite. The girl Gupta was facing didn’t seem too concerned.
“Hidden Power.” She continued.
“Bite again.” Gupta tried.
Meditite concentrated and sent out a strange power to attack. Gupta wasn’t sure what the attack was meant to accomplish; what he did know was that Trapinch wasn’t very affected by it. Trapinch seemed to ignore Gupta in response, stomping on the Earth and releasing jets of power from the ground. Gupta recognised that attack from Numel’s fights.
“Mind Reader.” The trainer moved on.
“Earth Power.” Gupta decided, more confident in his choice of moves.
Meditite concentrated on Trapinch but carried out no further action. Trapinch responded with the same powerful earth attack which knocked Meditite down.

Gupta walked over to the water’s edge after the battle had been won, but there was nowhere to go along the sand and crossing the sea seemed impossible. The trainer climbed back up to the path, but was spotted by another trainer before getting very far.
“Aha!” The man pointed in Gupta’s direction. “A trainer. You know what happens now, right?”
“Right.” Gupta nodded. “Swellow, take this one on.”
“Low!” Swellow agreed, landing before Gupta and staring the opposing trainer down.
“Let’s go Machop! Battle fiercely!” The trainer announced.
“Chop!” Machop cried.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta began.
“Low Sweep Machop!” The man ordered.
Swellow was clearly faster than the opponent, causing massive damage with her first hit and leaving the foe barely standing. Machop’s resultant kick caused little damage in response.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta continued, wanting to finish the fight as soon as he could.
“Seismic Toss!” The man announced.
Swellow attacked a second time and defeated the opponent thoroughly, preventing the attack from being carried out.

Gupta moved further along the path after the battle, travelling past the patch of berries on the other path where he could see Sadik still working. A ledge separated them for the time being, but Gupta could see the spot not far ahead where both paths turned into a series of ledges that led onwards to Rustboro City. Sensing that he was close, he stepped forwards, and was soon facing another trainer.

“I have a real collection of rare Pokémon here… Care to see them?” The man moved forwards, sounding a little suspicious.
“Uh, fine. Marshtomp…?” Gupta looked towards his Pokémon. “Let’s go.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, seemingly oblivious to the strange man.
“Seviper.” The man chose, sending out a familiar looking Pokémon.
“Marshtomp, Mud Bomb.” Gupta suggested.
“Poison Fang.” The other trainer ordered.
Seviper bit hard into Marshtomp with fangs dripping with poison, but Marshtomp hurled a large glob of mud in response, that caused an unusually high amount of damage and defeated the opponent in a single hit.

“That’s the first one.” The man stated. “Now, Zangoose.”
“Marshtomp, step back now.” Gupta decided. “Numel, you take over.”
“Numel!” Numel cried happily as she walked forwards.
“Zangoose, Slash!” The man commanded.
“Earth Power.” Gupta guided his Pokémon.
Zangoose brought its claws up in a powerful slash attack, which Numel managed to absorb. She responded by bringing raw power free from the earth, which clearly caused a large amount of damage.
“Pursuit!” The man changed tactic.
“Flame Burst.” Gupta followed.
Zangoose jumped in to strike Numel, who spat flame in its direction. The opponent couldn’t stand up to the attack, and collapsed.

Gupta met Sadik on the ledges that stretched on to Rustboro City, and the two of them carried on together through the soft afternoon air. Sadik seemed pleased with the berries he had harvested, and Gupta’s Pokémon were glad for the experience in battle. Eevee crawled back onto Gupta’s shoulder and sat there the entire walk to Rustboro.

Rustboro City was as bustling as ever, but little seemed to have changed since the last time Gupta was there. He and Sadik made their way straight to the Pokémon Centre where Gupta healed his Pokémon another time; Sadik was determined to make it all the way to Petalburg first.

It was as they were about to leave the city that Gupta received the call on his Pokenav.
“Hey Guppie! It’s okay if I call you that, right? Anyway, I think I saw you in Rustboro earlier! Are you still in the area? Because there’s something I could use some help with, if I’m honest. If you’re not too busy, can you meet me by the trainer’s school in a few? See you there, okay?” The voice on the other end rambled, cutting off before Gupta could respond.
“Guess ya’re needed, huh?” Sadik guessed, laughing. “That’s okay. I’ll go ahead and fight yer mother. Ya deal with what ya need to, since there’s waitin’ to do anyway. Then catch up, right?”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Gupta agreed. “I’ll see you in Petalburg then.”
“Cool!” Sadik grinned. “I’ll see ya later!”
He waved and left, leaving Gupta alone in Rustboro City as the lights started to turn on.

‘Numel, the Numb Pokémon. Numel stores magma in the hump on its back that it uses when using fire type moves. It is resilient to being hit and seems quite unfazed by most situations.’

‘Eevee, the Evolution Pokémon. Eevee has an unstable genetic makeup that suddenly mutates due to the environment in which it lives. This enables it to alter the composition of its body. While it bonds easily to its trainer, it seems suspicious of strangers.’

‘Trapinch, the Ant Pit Pokemon. Trapinch is a patient hunter. It digs an inescapable pit in a desert and waits for its prey to come tumbling down. Its giant jaws have enough strength to crush boulders. It seems to be near permanently hungry.’

Chapter Text

Yong Soo was already waiting by the entrance to the Trainers’ School when Gupta arrived. He noticed the other trainer quickly, and waved enthusiastically as he drew close.
“Guppie! Thanks for coming out here on such short notice.” He greeted.
“It’s not that big a deal.” Gupta insisted. “What happened?”
“Well, it’s like this…” Yong Soo detailed. “You know the kids at the trainer’s school? I promised them I’d visit and help them with battling and such. But then I realised how many of them there are… And I really don’t know if I can deal with so many kids. I figured everyone’d be better off if there was another trainer with me...”
“And you thought of me?” Gupta finished.
“Well, yeah. You’re a strong trainer, I can tell. And my brothers talk about you all the time. So when it turned out Kiku was busy, you were like, the next one I thought of.” The older teen took on a pleading look, and Gupta wondered if this guy was above begging. “So… Help me out, okay?”
“Fine.” Gupta agreed. “Since it’s on the way already.”
“Great!” Yong Soo smiled brightly. “They should all be in there, so let’s go!”

Hue was already waiting inside with the trainers’ school kids when Gupta and Yong Soo entered. Her face softened just a little upon seeing Gupta with her cousin.
“Yong Soo. I’m glad you made it. And… Gupta, wasn’t it? It’s good to see you again.” She greeted.
“Yep, we made it!” Yong Soo replied. “So, what do you want us to do?”
“The kids here are among our youngest trainers.” Hue started. “Many of them have only just gotten their first Pokémon. I wanted you to show them a little about caring for Pokémon. There’s only so much they can learn from the classroom, and my own Pokémon will only show them so much.”
“Oh, is that it?” Yong Soo laughed. “Okay, that’s fair enough. We can do that.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded. If they all worked together, it would be a lot easier…
“Perhaps, if we start with you each sending out a Pokémon to show everyone.” Hue suggested, moving to the front of the children.
“Alright!” Yong Soo laughed. “Alright Linoone. Say hello to everyone!”

The children that had gathered around Yong Soo cooed over the new Pokémon, a long racoon like creature that seemed thoroughly curious. As Yong Soo tried to moderate the kids attempting to swarm the Pokémon with hugs and petting, Gupta sent out his own Pokémon.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp greeted, smiling and waving at the assembled class.
“Oh wow, such an adorable Pokémon!” One of the little girls commented, hugging Marshtomp tightly.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp seemed to agree, hugging the child back. Other young trainers soon wandered over and began fussing over Marshtomp, who lapped up the attention.

“Now then.” Hue called the class back to attention. “I wanted you to all view for yourselves what well trained Pokémon look like. And to appreciate the effort and hard work that goes into those Pokémon. Take Linoone for instance. When you have a Pokémon like that, you have to be sure to keep its coat clean. And that means brushing it every day. Marshtomp might not have such coarse fur, but I’m sure it still gets dirty all the time as well. As a trainer, you have to be able to deal with that.”
“Marshtomp likes to wake people by spraying them with water.” Gupta added, unsure as to how his Pokémon could ever be considered well trained. “I think he thinks he’s helping.”
“I see.” Hue nodded. “Pokémon all have their individual quirks like that. A good trainer is someone who understands how their Pokémon are, and helps them become the best they can be, rather than try to change their inner selves. There’s a lot more to that than pure love and affection towards your Pokémon… Admittedly though, those things play a part.”
“Wow Hue, that’s deep.” Yong Soo appreciated. “I’m not used to you saying such heartfelt things…”
“But it is the truth.” The Gym Leader argued, looking a little confused. “Is there really such sentimentality in it…?” She turned to the class. “Anyway, for now, why don’t you all get to know the Pokémon we have with us here today?”

There wasn’t a lot for Gupta to do while the children from the Trainer’s School continued to faun over Marshtomp. His Pokémon was clearly loving all of the attention and care he was getting from the children, who spoke and sang and played along with him in the name of getting to understand Pokémon. Yong Soo sat alongside Gupta on one of the benches at the side of the room, surveying the young trainers’ education.
“Stuff like this… It’s good for the kids. They grow up to really love Pokémon, and see them as friends rather than tools. I like that.” He commented.
“It’s not like I have anything better to be doing.” Gupta added.
“Yeah. I mean, you’ve gotta wait for that other guy to get through Petalburg Gym first, right? You’re making good speed though, if you already have four Gym Badges…” The older trainer assessed. “Kiku still has his eye on you, you know. We all do.”
“I keep meeting members of your family that have similar things to say.” Gupta pointed out. “What are you all watching me for anyway?”
“Ah.” Yong Soo laughed. “Telling… Would just be no fun at all!”

“Gupta! There you are! How great to see you again.” A voice came from the side without warning. Gupta looked over to see Yao advancing on them.
“Hey Yao!” The younger brother waved. “Been up to much lately?”
“Actually…” Yao began, stepping closer. “We just finished development of something significant. A new type of Pokeball! It’s something I feel very proud of.”
“New Pokeball? Oh! Do you mean that one? The one you’ve been working on for forever now?” Yong Soo guessed.
“Yes! The Pokeball that never fails to catch a Pokémon. I’m sure of it this time! This one will work for sure.” Yao boasted.
“That’s great! But… Why come here?” Yong Soo carried on.
“Well… Actually, I was hoping you could test the prototype for me. I really can’t get out of the office for a long time and… I really don’t want to use it on some normal, common or every day Pokémon. So go find something rare to try it with so people get to see how it works, okay?” Yao rambled.
“Typical. Send others to do the hard work for you.” Hue cut in, walking over.
“I don’t mind! Let me see it!” Yong Soo retorted, standing up suddenly.
“Ah! I knew you would help.” Yao smiled brightly, bringing out some sort of box and handing it over to his younger brother. “Be sure to feedback on what you end up doing, as usual.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. This is gonna be great if it works. I can see it now.” Yong Soo smirked.

Gupta had stayed quiet the entire time, but Yao then turned towards him to speak.
“I still can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. I have my eye on you still, hm? I hope you live up to all our expectations… And that you can make real use of the new technology we continue to develop.”
“Yao… Is that a thank you or a sales pitch?” Yong Soo teased.
“Oh hush.” Yao swatted at his brother’s hands before straightening. “Anyway, I should be heading back. I’m glad to see you all well. Hopefully we can meet again soon.”

Yong Soo pocketed the strange box as Yao retreated. Gupta still hadn’t spoken and didn’t particularly care for the conversation, although the news that yet another person was watching him was a little disconcerting. Hue turned back to the class, an idea seeming to form in her mind. For whatever reason, the children had been too engrossed with the Pokémon to notice Yao.
“Everyone. How would a Pokémon show battle suit you?”

It was this request that led Gupta to stand before Yong Soo, the classroom having been cleared to make way for a battlefield.
“The way this is going to work… Each trainer will be limited to using 3 Pokémon. Try to use Pokémon that haven’t been seen yet. I think we can all learn something new that way.” Hue described.
“Okay then.” Yong Soo agreed. “That’s simple. Let’s go Kirlia!”
“Kirlia.” The human like Pokémon greeted. Gupta stared at it. It didn’t look entirely dislike a child. It was… Disconcerting.
“Alright Numel.” Gupta decided.
“Numel!” Numel smiled, staring around at the gathered children and Pokémon.

“Kirlia and Numel. Alright, let’s have fun!” Yong Soo smirked. “Kirlia, use Magical Leaf.”
“Flame Burst Numel.” Gupta stated.
Kirlia sent out a strange barrage of sharp leaves which Numel managed to shrug off before launching a spit of fire towards Kirlia.
“Okay Kirlia, now use Confusion.” Yong Soo continued.
“Numel, Flame Burst again.” Gupta repeated.
Kirlia attacked Numel with a strange power that Numel seemed bothered by. The Pokémon responded with a massive wave of lava that appeared to cause massive damage.
“Hey, look at that. Your Numel learned Lava Plume!” Yong Soo commented. “Alright Kirlia, draining kiss!”
“Earth Power.” Gupta changed move.
Kirlia reached towards Numel with a leeching kiss that somehow hurt Numel while restoring Kirlia’s health. Numel’s responding pillars of power churned earth dealt that damage back with more besides, leaving the enemy unconscious.

“Looking good Guppie! How about you use something else for a bit, change up the Pokémon, huh?” Yong Soo suggested. “As for me, I’ll use Vigoroth next.”
“Okay.” Gupta agreed. “Go on Trapinch.”
“Trap!” Trapinch roared, glaring down the emerging new opponent. Numel skipped off happily to where Marshtomp and the children were waiting at the other side of the room, trying to nuzzle into the hands of a few of the more eager kids.
“Raaath!” Vigoroth growled.
“Alright then Vigoroth, use Slash!” Yong Soo enthused.
“Trapinch, Bite.” Gupta tried.
Vigoroth descended on Trapinch with sharp claws, raking across the Pokémon’s body. Trapinch responded with a huge bite that made for a strong counter attack.
“That’s not a Bite attack.” Yong Soo laughed. “That’s Crunch! Anyway Vigoroth, Fury Swipes!”
“Fine, Crunch then.” Gupta corrected himself.
Vigoroth leapt in again and clawed repeatedly at Trapinch, moving wildly but scoring little overall damage. Trapinch responded with a powerful crunching attack that left Vigoroth barely hanging on.
“Uproar.” Yong Soo carried on.
“Earth Power.” Gupta finished.
Vigoroth appeared to attack Trapinch with a burst of pure sound, managing to cause some damage before Trapinch erupted the earth beneath it, knocking it out.

“Two down, one to go.” Yong Soo pointed out. “Alright Kadabra, you’re up!”
The emerging Pokémon looked bizarre and seemed to carry with it a mysterious aura. Gupta was not impressed.
“Eevee.” He chose, sending out his final Pokémon while Trapinch wandered over to join the assembled crowd (he spotted her peering into the bags of some of the children curiously, and he hoped she didn’t end up stealing food).
“Okay Kadabra, use Psybeam!” The older of the two trainers began.
“Bite Eevee.” Gupta followed.
Kadabra sent out a bizarre wave that hit into Eevee, who responded with an incredibly damaging bite.
“Kadabra, Miracle Eye.” Yong Soo continued.
“Take Down.” Gupta chose.
Kadabra seemed to take aim at Eevee with an unflinching eye, while Eevee leapt forwards with a powerful tackle that seemed even stronger than usual. Eevee slid backwards, reeling from the recoil, but Kadabra was knocked out entirely, to the surprise and delight of the gathered children.

“That’s that! Good battle.” Yong Soo complimented, returning his Pokémon and walking over to Gupta.
“Yes. That’s how real trainers battle.” Hue appreciated.
Eevee continued to stand still, ignoring the others in the room and Yong Soo walking towards him. Gupta noted that this was strange- Eevee seemed to distrust strangers entirely. He began to move towards his Pokémon, slightly concerned. Seconds later, Eevee began to glow, and his shape changed before the eyes of the entire room.
“Now?” Hue questioned, watching Eevee closely.
The glow intensified before fading away to leave a completely different Pokémon where Eevee once stood.
“Bre!” The Pokémon cried. “Umbreon!”
“Eevee evolved into Umbreon…” Hue commented. “To see a Pokémon evolve like that… What a good experience for these children to have.”
“Yeah.” Yong Soo agreed. “It makes me glad we came.”

“Thanks again for the help Guppie. I don’t think today would have been anything like as good if it’d just been me.” Yong Soo smiled easily as he walked with Gupta towards the edge of the city.
“It’s fine.” Gupta shrugged off.
“Maybe you’re wondering if that’s as strong as I get… Actually, the Pokémon I had with me today are some I’m still training up. I have full trained Pokémon too. But those… Hopefully you’ll meet them another time.” The older trainer admitted.
“Fair enough.” Gupta nodded. “Until we meet again then.”
“Sure!” Yong Soo waved as Gupta began to walk along Route 105. “And good luck with your Gym Battle!”

Route 105 was largely quiet, and Gupta walked through Petalburg Woods without incident as well. Before long he was back in Petalburg City, healing his Pokémon in the Pokémon Centre and waiting for Sadik.

When Sadik finally appeared, he had a cryptic look on his face.
“Did you lose?” Gupta guessed.
“Nah, I won… Barely.” Sadik relayed. “It’s just… Ya mother said something about plannin’ something extra hard for ya… I’m a little worried, if I’m honest.”
“Of course. Like she’d play fair.” Gupta sighed. “Whatever. I can deal with it.”
“Yeah. I mean we got this far, right?” Sadik smiled reassuringly. “Good luck Guppie. I still think… Ya might need it.”
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded at his friend, making his way towards the gym.

‘Umbreon, the Moonlight Pokémon. Umbreon evolved due to exposure to the moon’s rays. When darkness falls, or if it becomes excited, the rings on its body glow. It remains as suspicious as ever, lurking warily in the shadows.’

Chapter Text

When Gupta entered the gym, the same man who was always lurking around was leaning against the pillar as he always was. He looked up as Gupta moved forwards.
“This gym. There’s a lot waiting for you.” He stated.
“Right.” Gupta nodded. “I wasn’t expecting my mother to play fair.”
“She really won’t.” Kyung Soo confirmed. “You might not make it through this. Anyway. This gym is ground type… But you knew that. You’ll see two tunnels over there. Pick either, and follow it until you reach a room. Each takes you to a different trainer. The rest should be obvious from there.”
“Okay.” Gupta agreed, moving towards the tunnels. The two looked almost identical, save for some writing scrawled over the top of the entrances. Not caring for what the words had to say, Gupta reasoned that there was no issue in taking the left hand tunnel.

The tunnels were dark and winding, leaving Gupta with no choice but to feel his way along the wall in order to proceed. He carried on walking for a few minutes, until he made his way into a small cavern.
“Hello challenger!” One of the Gym Trainers called. “Welcome to the Petalburg Gym! We find ourselves now in the speed room. Don’t think we’ll go easy on you just because you’re the son of the Gym Leader.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to.” Gupta answered, staying as cool as ever.
“Fine then, we’ll start.” The trainer got straight to business. “Barboach, let’s get going!”
“Alright Numel.” Gupta decided, sending out his own Pokémon.
“Numel.” Numel smiled.
“Roach.” Barboach cried.
“Okay Barboach, use Water Pulse.” The trainer began.
“Earth Power.” Gupta responded.
Barboach sent forth a pulse of water which damaged Numel hugely. Numel whined, but her responsive burst of earthy power didn’t cause a small amount of damage either.
“Magnitude Barboach.” The trainer carried on.
“Tackle.” Gupta tried.
Barboach let out a shockwave that caused minimal amounts of damage. Numel ran forwards with a powerful tackle which caused an unusually high amount of damage. Numel seemed hurt by the attack. Gupta reasoned that Numel had learned Take Down too.

“Not bad. Not bad at all.” The Gym Trainer complimented. “Well then Baltoy. You’re up!”
The emerging Pokémon let out a strange ringing sound. Gupta looked towards Numel, who was barely standing, and made the choice to switch Pokémon.
“Pinch!” Trapinch called.
“Baltoy, Self-Destruct!” The trainer ordered, before Gupta had much of a chance to react.
Baltoy launched itself towards Trapinch before an explosion shattered the peace of the entire area. Baltoy was knocked out, but Trapinch withstood the attack.
“Why do they even do that?” Gupta wondered to himself.

Once the trainer had been defeated, Gupta turned to the tunnels that stretched off further into the gym. After some consideration, he took the right path, and followed the tunnel into the depths of the gym. On the other side, a second trainer stood.

“You there. I hope you’re ready for this.” The trainer announced. “I won’t just let you through! Go Swinub!”
“Nub!” Swinub roared.
“Okay.” Gupta accepted. “Come on Swellow.”
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Swinub, use Ice Shard.” The opponent began.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta followed.
Gupta was sure that Swellow should have been able to get in faster than Swinub, yet she found herself being attacked before she could even move. Although she managed to counter with a swift strike, Gupta was left wondering how Swinub managed to get moving so quickly.
“Icy Wind.” The trainer continued.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
This time, Swellow got in her attack long before the Swinub began to move. The Pokémon’s resulting attack seemed to damage Swellow quite a lot.
“Okay Swinub, Ice Shard once more!” The trainer finished.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta attempted.
Swellow once again got in her attack first, leaving Swinub on the floor before Swellow could be hit again.

“You’re doing well kid. But let’s see how you deal with this.” The trainer commented, sending out their second Pokémon.
“Gabite!” The Pokémon growled. Gupta chose to switch Swellow out.
“Trap!” Trapinch retorted as she stared down the enemy.
“Gabite, use Dual Chop.” The Gym Trainer stated.
“Earth Power.” Gupta countered.
Gabite leapt in with two damaging strikes that each seemed to carry decent power, while Trapinch responded with a powerful burst straight from the ground itself.
“Gabite, now Slash.” The trainer continued.
“Crunch.” Gupta decided.
Gabite raked across Trapinch’s face with sharp claws. Trapinch took a huge bite into Gabite’s arm, leaving the Pokémon shaking around wildly in an attempt to throw her off.
“Dual Chop.” The trainer commanded, exasperated.
“Crunch again.” Gupta repeated.
Gabite managed to miss with its attack, leaving Trapinch easy access to carry on biting Gabite, until it fell down and could battle no more.

“Kid, you and your Pokémon…” The trainer stated, shaking their head. “Whatever. Just carry on. See where that takes you.”
Gupta didn’t particularly care for the trainer’s words, returning Trapinch to the Pokeball and taking the tunnel on the left without saying a thing.

This tunnel wound around for a while before opening into yet another cavern. The trainer who was waiting looked up excitedly when Gupta entered.
“Great! I get to battle this time! The last three challengers all took the other path, and I missed out on getting any battling time. Can you imagine how boring this is?” He complained.
“I have no idea.” Gupta replied. “You’re going to fight me anyway, right?”
“Well, yeah.” The trainer admitted. “Okay Drilbur, let’s just get down to it.”
“Swellow, come on.” Gupta called, sending out his first Pokémon.
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Drilbur, Metal Claw.” The young man began.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta decided.
Swellow swept in with swiftness, striking Drilbur before it responded with raking claws of steel.
“Now Slash Drilbur!” The trainer continued.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta suggested.
Swellow again swooped in to attack the opponent, and Drilbur responded with another rake of claws- these decidedly less metallic.
“Rock Slide.” The man commanded.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta changed move.
Swellow got in yet another hit before Drilbur could respond, knocking the opponent out successfully.

“One out of three.” The Gym Trainer stated. “Golett, let’s keep it up!”
“Alright Umbreon, you take over.” Gupta chose, switching out his Pokémon.
“Bre!” Umbreon cried, glaring down the opponent.
“Golett, use Magnitude.” The trainer ordered.
“Umbreon, Bite.” Gupta started.
Umbreon jumped in to take a savage bite out of the opponent, while Golett responded with a weak shockwave which seemed to cause little damage.
“Okay Golett, use Mega Punch.” The trainer continued.
“Umbreon, Bite again.” Gupta repeated again.
Umbreon bit into Golett with more force than he thought was normal, and the Pokémon was unable to stand up to the attack, soon falling backwards and ceasing to move.

“Just one more left. Let’s try our best Stunfisk!” The man declared.
Gupta stared at the opponent’s new Pokémon. It looked totally bizarre, with its flat body and eerie expression.
“Okay Umbreon, take a rest for now. Trapinch… You’re up.” Gupta relented, not wanting to use any of his Pokémon too much and risk tiring them out.
“Trap!” Trapinch roared as she emerged from the ball.
“Stunfisk, Mud Bomb.” The Gym Trainer called.
“Trapinch, Earth Power.” Gupta tried.
Stunfisk launched a giant glob of mud at Trapinch, who responded with a huge burst of power from the ground that caused huge damage to the Pokémon… At least, as far as Gupta could tell.
“Now Water Gun Stunfisk.” The trainer changed move.
“Earth Power.” Gupta repeated once more.
Stunfisk launched an overall weak blast of water that Trapinch seemed deeply injured by regardless. Trapinch seemed not to follow Gupta’s directions in response, instead sending out a colossal shockwave that almost cracked the earth beneath them and knocked the Stunfisk out.
“Great.” The older man stated. “It learned Earthquake.”

There was only one path available to Gupta after that; a tunnel that led off from the right side of the room. The trainer he had been fighting wished him luck, and Gupta got the distinct feeling that he needed it. He made sure to heal his Pokémon before he proceeded.

His mother stood with her back to him, facing the plain rock wall with an unreadable stance. Gupta took no more than a single step forwards before she spoke.
“You made it. That’s good.” She stated calmly. “Your progress is incredible. I’m proud of what you’ve already achieved.”
“Thank you mama.” Gupta blushed a little. He wasn’t used to such emotions being so openly shared.
“All that remains is to see if you can surpass even me. One final test, if you will.” She continued.
“That’s fair.” The son nodded.
“I set you the goal that I did because I wanted to have a true battle against you, rather than anything trivial. I told you that already.” She turned to face her son as she spoke. “As time went on… I began to feel as though even this was inadequate. To fight you with a mere semblance of my true strength… Feels false somehow.”
Gupta’s blood ran cold. This wasn’t sounding good.
“And so, even if it might be a little against regulations… I want to show you, here and now, a real sense of my power. And then when you and I clash, without having to hold back… That, I feel, will be the greatest thing imaginable.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Gupta deadpanned.
“Of course.” Cleo reiterated.

“Very well.” His mother straightened up, looking the image of a goddess with her plain white dress offset so well by the many pieces of shining jewellery that hung around her wrists and neck, topped off with a simple headband that contained many beautiful looking gems. “I hope you’re ready for this. Sandslash, let’s begin!”
“Okay Marshtomp.” Gupta chose.
“Slaa!” Sandslash cried.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp greeted.
“Sandslash, use Crush Claw.” Cleo started out.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta replied.
Sandslash ripped into Marshtomp with razor sharp claws, but Marshtomp seemed barely effected by the attack, instead smiling happily and responding with a jet of water that easily hit the mark.
“Sandslash, now use Slash.” Cleo decided.
“Water Gun again.” Gupta repeated.
Sandslash leapt forwards and slashed at Marshtomp once more, while Marshtomp responded with a second jet of water, which left Sandslash swaying slightly.
“Can you sense the way in which the Pokémon are trying their hardest? This is what happens when strong forces collide.” Cleo detailed. “Slash Sandslash.”
“Really? Marshtomp seems pretty relaxed to me.” Gupta commented. “Water Gun Marshtomp.”
Sandslash clawed at Marshtomp again as Cleo began to speak once more.
“Maybe. But that’s his true nature, you know.”
Marshtomp jetted yet more water at Sandslash, who fell down defeated at the attack.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp seemed to agree with Cleo’s assessment.

“You’re doing well so far.” His mother complimented. “That was a good warmup. Good job Sandslash.” She returned one Pokémon, and took out the ball for another. “Rhyhorn, continue with this, won’t you?”
“Rhy!” Rhyhorn growled.
“We’ll continue Marshtomp.” Gupta chose.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered.

“Okay Rhyhorn, use Chip Away.” Cleo kicked off once again.
“Mud Bomb Marshtomp.” Gupta changed move from before.
Marshtomp managed to move faster than Rhyhorn, and launched a glob of mud in the Pokémon’s direction. Rhyhorn reeled from the hit, but responded with a sure strike that led Marshtomp to slide backwards.
“Rhyhorn, Stomp.” Cleo carried on.
“Marshtomp, Mud Bomb.” Gupta echoed.
Again, Marshtomp got the attack in first, but Rhyhorn’s determined kick left both Pokémon struggling.
“Your Pokémon looks tired. Don’t push yourselves too hard.” Cleo warned, watching Gupta with cat like eyes. “Rhyhorn, Bulldoze.”
“We’ll be fine. Water Gun.” Gupta suddenly changed tactic.
Marshtomp managed to get in before Rhyhorn could attack and jetted a powerful blast of water at the opposing Rhyhorn that defeated it easily.

“That’s the first half of the battle. How are you faring so far? Are you perhaps thinking that things have been strangely easy so far?” Cleo gauged.
“You’re going to send out some ridiculously strong Pokémon now, aren’t you?” Gupta assumed.
“Oh, of course.” His mother confirmed. “Right Mamoswine. Playtime’s over.”
“ Swiii!” The large imposing Pokémon called. It looked towards Gupta after it emerged and smiled readily. Gupta knew Mamoswine fairly well. It made him a little apprehensive over what his mother’s last Pokémon would be.
“Right… Marshtomp, rest for a while.” Gupta returned his Pokémon to the ball and readied its replacement. “Numel, take over.”
“Numel?” Numel turned her head to the side, watching the new opponent.

“Mamoswine, Take Down.” Cleo ordered.
“Numel, use Lava Plume.” Gupta tried.
Mamoswine charged into Numel with a strong attack that also damaged her. Numel responded with a powerful wave of fire that cut into Mamoswine deeply.
“Now use Ancient Power Mamoswine.” The woman continued.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta reiterated from before.
Mamoswine used some bizarre power to levitate large rocks into the air, throwing them at Numel. Numel’s responding wall of fire ate up the attack, but not before several rocks got through, injuring Numel.
“Mud Bomb.” Cleo settled on.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta echoed again.
Mamoswine launched a huge glob of mud that left Numel barely on her feet. Her responding plume of fire managed to defeat Mamoswine in the nick of time.

His mother returned Mamoswine to her Pokeball after that, but made no other move, only watching. Gupta wondered what she was doing until she spoke.
“Watch your Pokémon.” She advised. He looked towards Numel to find that she had stood entirely still, and was starting to glow faintly.
As Gupta watched, Numel’s shape changed, and she had evolved within a few minutes. Her form was now identical to the Pokémon that Francis had used against Gupta before- she had become a Camerupt, then.
“Camer!” She smiled, still seemingly as friendly and calm as ever. Gupta smiled a little. It was a nice sight to see.

“What a turn of events.” Cleo stated cryptically. “I wonder if it will be enough though… To deal with this.” She threw her final Pokémon, and Gupta stared in disbelief at the Pokémon that emerged.
“Garchomp.” He stated. “You’re using Garchomp.”
“We only battle officially once.” Cleo explained. “I feel like I should be allowed to use my favourite Pokémon. Especially after I got this.” She began fiddling with one of the jewels on her headband, and Gupta noticed that Garchomp was wearing a large necklace with a gem embedded in it. What was going on?
His mother seemed to activate some mechanism relating to the gem, and a strange light covered Garchomp in that instant. It looked almost like evolution… But not quite. When the light faded, Garchomp had changed form again, while still looking identifiable as the Pokémon Gupta had always known. What was this?”
“Are you ready?” Cleo checked. “To face the power of mega-evolution?”
“Mega evolution?” Gupta parroted back. “What?” That sounded so weird. And how come nobody had mentioned this before?
“A form of power above normal evolution. It’s temporary and only certain Pokémon can manage it. With a strong bond to their trainers of course. It’s only been newly discovered, but I wanted to try it as soon as I could.”
“That sounds… Convenient.” Gupta commented.
“It does, doesn’t it? Never mind.” Cleo shrugged. “It doesn’t change the fact that I stand before you to use that power.”

“Garchomp, now use Dual Chop.” Cleo instructed.
“Nu- I mean, Camerupt, use Earth Power.” Gupta tried.
It was no use- Garchomp was lightning fast, and not even Evolution could help Camerupt sustain the force of the attack. She looked as though she were trying to resist for a moment before she fell calm and unconscious.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure you can overcome this trial.” His mother encouraged, even as she stood before him with her most powerful Pokémon, stronger than he’d ever seen it and thoroughly unscathed. He decided to send out a Pokémon that hadn’t been damaged so far in the match against Cleo.
“Low!” Swellow chirped, not losing any face as she stared the foe down.
“Garchomp. Dragon Claw.” The mother commanded next.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” The son struggled.
By some miracle, Swellow was able to just get the edge on Garchomp, getting in a sound hit that still barely seemed to damage Garchomp at all. Garchomp’s responding attack left Swellow reeling.
“Slash Garchomp.” Cleo continued, calm as ever.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated, hoping for more success.
Swellow gave it her all, striking Garchomp as hard as she could. But the attack still barely made any headway, and Garchomp’s next slashing attack brought her down.

Gupta kept his face unreadable as he returned Swellow to her Pokeball. Things were suddenly not going very well at all.
“Don’t give up yet.” Cleo assured him, as he prepared to send out his next Pokémon.
“Bre!” Umbreon growled, glaring at Garchomp.
Cleo seemed as collected as ever. “Keep throwing all you have at me. Garchomp, Dual Chop.”
“Bite.” Gupta tried, wanting to at least get some damage in.
Garchomp hit into Umbreon hard, leaving him heavily damaged. Umbreon managed to score a biting attack against Garchomp in response, finally causing the Pokémon to at least look like it had been damaged at all.
“Slash.” Cleo returned to, staring at Gupta intently.
“Take Down.” Gupta attempted.
Garchomp got to Umbreon first, as Gupta thought it would, and Umbreon didn’t last to carry out his attack, falling to the ground with a disappointed look on his face.

“Marshtomp, give it a try.” Gupta sighed, sending out his starter. He knew Marshtomp was injured. But he was running out of options, and he could see the blue aura starting to form. If he could somehow get a hit in…
“Garchomp, use Dragon Claw.” Cleo carried on, not letting up at all.
“Water Gun Marshtomp.” Gupta guided his Pokémon.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp grinned, seconds before Garchomp descended on him in a flurry of claws. Marshtomp slid backwards, swaying back and forth… But managed to send a jet of water flying towards Garchomp, which hit with all the extra damage of Torrent before Marshtomp fell over backwards and curled up, content to sleep.

“Just one Pokémon left now.” Cleo pointed out. “Let’s see how this goes.”
“Trapinch.” Gupta stated, sending out his final Pokémon. “Do your best.”
“Trap!” Trapinch cried, smiling over at Garchomp.
“Garchomp, Crunch.” Cleo chose as her move.
“Crunch Trapinch.” The son echoed.
Garchomp attacked Trapinch with a powerful bite, and Trapinch responded with a bite of her own. Garchomp finally seemed to be getting tired, but Trapinch didn’t seem to be faring well either. Gupta grit his teeth. Not while they were so close…
Trapinch turned to face Gupta at that moment, and smiled cheekily. Seconds later, the same glow that had engulfed Numel before enclosed Trapinch. Even Cleo seemed surprised.
“Evolving mid battle?” She commented. “How unusual.” She began to smile a little as the glow began to fade.
“Vibrava!” Gupta’s Pokémon announced as she took her new form. Gupta stared. She had grown wings! He had a hard time believing that this was the same Pokémon.
“Garchomp.” Cleo still had that smile on her face. It didn’t bode well. “Dual Chop.”
“Uh, Vibrava… Crunch?” Gupta attempted, not used to his Pokémon’s new form. She could still do that right?
Garchomp came in with two strong hits that Vibrava seemed particularly worried by. Gupta wondered how that could be the case- wasn’t Dual Chop a dragon type move? Vibrava still managed to withstand the attacks somehow, and reacted with an attack Gupta hadn’t been expecting: an eerily coloured burst of breath that damaged Garchomp hugely. For a moment, Gupta wondered if even this had been in vain. But then Garchomp reverted to the form Gupta knew, and fell forwards onto the ground.

“There.” Cleo smiled, returning Garchomp to the ball. “That’s the power that you have. To surpass even your own mother… I couldn’t be prouder of you. Go on in your journey knowing that my faith is with you.”
“Thanks… Mama.” Gupta stated, looking down at Vibrava. She looked up at him, face begging for food. He returned her to the Pokeball for now.
“The dune badge is yours. You deserve it, after that battle.” His mother continued, handing over a sandy badge embedded with the image of dunes. Gupta pinned the badge to his bag and turned back to his mother.
“I also wanted to give you this. It’s the TM for Earthquake. I suspect at least one of your Pokémon will already know it… But it’s still a handy thing to have.” She continued, handing a clear disc over.
“Thank you.” Gupta nodded, pocketing.
“Further to that… It’s getting late, and there is still a long way to go. Won’t you come home for the evening?” Cleo suggested, stepping forwards.
“That sounds good.” Her son agreed.

Outside, Sadik was waiting impatiently outside of the gym, almost jumping on the balls of his feet when Gupta and his mother emerged.
“Well?” He asked, hopeful.
“He won.” Cleo confirmed. “Although not by much.”
“Yeah! That’s our Guppie!” Sadik cheered, smirking.
“We were going to head back to Littleroot, seeing as it’s so late now.” Cleo continued. “Do you want to come with us?”
“Yeah, sure.” Sadik accepted. “It’d be good to see ‘cuz again.”
Gupta nodded in approval, and the group were about to head off when a voice spoke up behind them.

“Ah. You’re the boy from before.”
“Helene. Yes, this is Gupta.” His mother turned around and greeted the newcomer warmly, as though she knew her well.
“Helene?” Gupta turned too, catching a glimpse of the woman. The first thing that came to his mind was how similar she looked to Herakles.
“That’s right.” Cleo nodded. “This is Herakles’s mother. We’ve been talking a lot and sharing stories since you all left.”
“I wanted to thank you for helping my son. He’s become so much happier since he got that Pokémon… And he’s finally gaining the courage to make his own way in the world.” Helene detailed. “I wanted to give you this. It’s the HM for Surf. With this, you can pass over the sea at Route 118, and carry on to the next gym and beyond.” She stepped forwards, handing the disc over to Gupta.
“Lucky!” Sadik grinned. “Right when we need to cross the sea.”
“Indeed.” Cleo agreed. “The world works in strange ways sometimes… Do you boys mind going ahead? I’ll stay and talk to Helene for a few more minutes.”
“Alright. I’ll see you at home, mama.” Gupta waved goodbye to the women.
“Don’t stay out too late.” Sadik teased with a smirk before the two boys turned around and began walking down the road that eventually led on to Littleroot.

“You know Cleo…”
“What are you thinking?”
“Our boys… Are at that age where they grow so quickly, aren’t they?”
“They are. But… I’m glad.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Marshtomp awoke curled up at the end of Gupta’s bed. Vibrava was sleeping peacefully next to him, while Umbreon draped himself over the young trainer like a blanket. Camerupt stretched out over the floor, while Swellow roosted on the very edge of the bed. Everything was peaceful.

Marshtomp used Water Gun.

“Marshtomp.” Gupta complained, shaking the water off of himself. “No.”
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered, seemingly not caring.
Vibrava was slightly sprayed with the water, and jumped up, looking to Marshtomp angrily. Marshtomp tried to appease his teammate with a pat to the head. Vibrava still didn’t look impressed.

The rest of his Pokémon remained sleeping peacefully, so Gupta worked on getting up and dressed (making sure to avoid waking Umbreon in the process), before heading downstairs, where his mother was already working on breakfast.
“Now you have a Pokémon that’s both dragon and ground type as well. It makes it easier to know what to feed them at least.” She commented.
“Dragon type? You mean Vibrava?” Gupta questioned.
“Of course. It’s a strong Pokémon. Although I’d watch out for ice types.” Cleo advised.

The rest of Gupta’s Pokémon woke up shortly after that, and trailed downstairs to meet their trainer. Gupta helped set out food for both his own Pokémon and his mother’s. It was nice to see Pokémon who had been fighting yesterday eating together without any issues. He continued to watch the gathered Pokémon eating while waiting for his own food.

Once Cleo had finished breakfast, they sat together to eat for the first time in a long time.
“After this… You’ll need to cross Route 118 and head along the road up to Fortree City. The easiest way to get there would be to cross the water at Route 103 and make your way up to Mauville City that way.” His mother detailed.
“So I need to use Surf.” Gupta realised.
“Right. You can teach Marshtomp the move.” Cleo confirmed. “Unfortunately, once you teach a Pokémon a HM you can’t forget it easily. You should think carefully about which move you want to replace.”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed, looking towards Marshtomp. Maybe it wasn’t an easy decision. But it had to be made.

Gupta met Sadik outside his house around an hour later, and they set off together towards Route 103, his mother waving after them and wishing them luck. The walk was short compared to others they had made on their journey, but Sadik seemed to still have a renewed sense of purpose, chatting amicably as they walked along.

Before long, they had reached the water’s edge on that route where everything began. Sadik didn’t ignore the significance.
“So this is where it all began, huh… Where you and I had our first battle. And now we’re settin’ out into the wider region, from this very spot…”
“It’s not that much of a coincidence. There aren’t that many routes.” Gupta shot down.
“Heh. Don’t burst my bubble so much. Anyway, which move do you wanna make Marshtomp forget? Way I see it, Water Gun would probably be the best choice…”
“I suppose you’re right.” Gupta agreed. “So, how do I do this?”
“Right then. All ya gotta do is take the Surf HM and place it on Marshtomp’s forehead. Then the machine’ll do the rest.” Sadik detailed.

“Okay.” Gupta sent Marshtomp out of his Pokeball and started to pull the disc out of his bag. Marshtomp heard the sound and turned to face Gupta, smiling happily. Gupta knelt down to his Pokémon, settling the disc against his head. The object began to glow, and Marshtomp gained a vacant look (Gupta tried but failed to figure out how this process worked). Seconds later, the disc’s glow faded and it fell from Marshtomp, Gupta barely catching it in time. Marshtomp turned towards the water with a sense of purpose.
“Alright Guppie, let’s go!” Sadik declared, gripping onto Gupta’s wrist and running towards Marshtomp as he made his way at some speed towards the water. The two trainers were only barely able to cling on before Marshtomp jumped in, dragging them through the water at a fair speed considering his size.

It didn’t take long at all for them to reach the other side of Route 103. Sadik seemed already acquainted with this area, and Marshtomp seemed definitely pleased with himself. The trainers on this route seemed almost not to notice them as Marshtomp continued to jump around and Sadik prepared himself to set off.
“I already defeated the trainers on this route.” Sadik explained. “So they probably won’t trouble us again. Anyway, we should take the Cycling Road to Mauville. Let’s go!”
“Alright.” Gupta nodded, following after Sadik. They soon caught up with Marshtomp, who sped up in order to keep up with them.

Marshtomp had to be returned to his Pokeball before Gupta and Sadik could embark on the Cycling Road. Gupta hadn’t used the folding bike Sadik had gotten in Mauville before, and by the time he had figured out how to unfold the item, Sadik had already taken off on his bike. Gupta cycled on regardless, noticing how slowly the world seemed to pass him by relative to the other cyclists. At least it was faster than running.

It seemed as though Sadik had taken out most of the trainers on the Cycling Road as well, but one trainer still remained to fight Gupta.
“Hey there kid!” The man greeted, cycling over. “How about you and I battle, huh?”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed. “Camerupt, deal with this.”
“Okay Minun!” The trainer decided, sending out his Pokémon.
“Camerupt, Earth Power.” Gupta started.
“Minun, Swift.” The trainer followed.
Despite being usually incredibly slow, Camerupt moved faster than the Minun, dealing major damage to the Pokémon, who responded with an incredibly weak attack.
“Earth Power again.” Gupta continued.
“Swift.” The man tried.
Camerupt’s second attack defeated Minun, making the command useless.

Gupta found no other trainers willing to fight after that, so made his way down the Cycling Road with ease. He found Sadik staring at the water outside of the enclosed area, and they made the decision to move straight onto Route 118 without stopping in Mauville City. After that, it was almost no time at all before the two of them were out on that grassy area (Sadik again having defeated the trainers there), staring down at the beach below them.

“We’ll need Marshtomp again.” Gupta stated, getting out the needed Pokeball as the trainers made their way onto the beach.
“Sure.” Sadik nodded. “And then… Over there. To the great beyond.”
“Dramatic.” Gupta commented, sending out Marshtomp.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered at the sight of more water, looking towards the sea and then Gupta with a hopeful look.
“Maybe take two trips.” Gupta suggested, grabbing hold of his Pokémon. “Come back for Sadik.”
“Marsh!” Marshtomp agreed, starting to swim as he was lowered into the water. Gupta and Marshtomp crossed the channel slowly before they reached the other side, Gupta climbing to shore as Marshtomp headed back for Sadik.

It wasn’t long before Sadik also reached the far side of the shore, Marshtomp looking thoroughly accomplished with himself.
“Heh. Well, guess I need to get a surfin’ Pokémon of my own.” Sadik commented, looking back in the direction they’d come. “Perhaps I should fish some…”
“Fishing? Why not use this Good Rod? I have a spare.” A fisherman on the beach stated.
“Hey, that sounds pretty good, thanks!” Sadik smiled, chatting away to the fisherman while Gupta wandered along the beach. It wasn’t long before he caught the attention of a second man fishing away at the beach.

“Hey there kid! Care for a battle?” The man requested.
“As if I have a choice.” Gupta pointed out. “Let’s go Swellow.”
“Go Carvana!” The fisherman announced. “Ice Fang!”
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta decided.
Swellow dove in at speed, causing massive damage to the foe, which managed to hang on enough to deliver a bite that appeared coated in ice and particularly effective.
“Assurance.” The man tried.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow was fast as always, and took Carvana down before it could attack.

“That’s the first one kid. Let’s see how you handle my second Pokémon!”
“…Is it a Magikarp?” Gupta guessed.
“Nah. This one’s all grown up. Let’s go Gyarados!” The fisherman announced.
Gupta remembered the dragon like Pokémon from before, and made a decision about which Pokémon to use.
“Rest Swellow.” He chose, returning Swellow to the Pokeball before sending out Marshtomp.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp.
“Bite Gyarados!” The man commanded.
“Rock Slide?” Gupta attempted, remembering Marshtomp using that move before.
Gyarados attacked Marshtomp with a powerful bite. Marshtomp looked to Gyarados and simply smiled.
“Marshtomp!” He cried, throwing a barrage of rocks at Gyarados. The Pokémon looked thoroughly bothered by the attack.
“Thrash Gyarados.” The older trainer called.
“Rock Slide again.” Gupta repeated with more confidence.
Gupta threw itself at Marshtomp with a terrifying barrage of attacks. When it was taken down by Marshtomp a few seconds later, it was a great relief.

“Well.” The fisherman assessed. “Maybe I need to stop just fishing and start training my Pokemon… Maybe. Anyway.” He turned back to the sea, all further conversation moot.
Gupta made his way further along the beach, soon reaching a large rock that signalled the end. He climbed the bank onto the grass at the other side, looking over at the way ahead. The grass on this route was incredibly tall- it could have swallowed Gupta up entirely. Wanting to get a look at the area further ahead, he walked into the grass and along the path that he was fairly sure ran along it. Eventually, the grass died down and Gupta found himself at a junction. He carried on along the path he was already walking, ignoring the branch to the side, and walked straight into another patch of grass- and a trainer.

“Oh good. I was hoping to train my Pokémon a little more.” The trainer commented. “Come on Swablu.”
“Alright Swellow. Handle this.” Gupta commented, sending out Swellow once again.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta started off.
“Disarming Voice Swablu.” The trainer ordered.
Swellow got in a sure hit before Swablu sent out a cry based attack that somehow hit its mark and did damage despite Swellow’s attempts to avoid it. Gupta still wasn’t sure how sound attacks worked.
“Aerial Ace again.” Gupta chose yet again.
“Take Down.” The other trainer changed tactic.
Swellow hit Swablu hard once again, leaving it barely hanging on. Swablu was able to counter with a powerful tackle, but it fell to its own attack.

“You did good Swablu. That was good.” The man reassured his Pokémon, returning it to the ball. “Alright Swellow, you’re up!”
Gupta deduced that using Swellow against a Swellow was a bad move.
“Alright.” He relented. “Come on Camerupt.”
“Camer!” Camerupt called as she stared at the opponent serenely.
“Swellow, Quick Attack.” The man asked his Pokémon.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta attempted.
Swellow struck blindingly fast, leaving Camerupt little time to understand what was happening (although frankly, she also seemed to fail to feel the hit). Rather than send out any fire to attack the opponent, Camerupt struck the ground, sending a barrage of rocks towards Swellow, causing massive damage. It seemed as though Camerupt had learned Rock Slide as well.
“Aerial Ace.” The trainer continued.
“Rock Slide?” Gupta stated, hoping he was right about Camerupt.
Swellow struck at Camerupt swiftly once more, but again Camerupt seemed unfazed, responding with the same barrage of rocks as before that managed to knock Swellow out.

After the battle had been won, Gupta turned around and headed back to the junction, taking the upper path instead of going back the way he came. He found himself in the path of yet another trainer almost immediately.

“Well if it isn’t another young trainer.” The man commented. “Care for a battle?”
“Another?” Gupta echoed.
“Yeah, there was another boy around your age a little while ago.” The man stated. “And then there was that prodigy… Anyway, let’s battle Pelipper!”
“Pelipper!” The Pokémon chirped.
“Umbreon, fight this one.” Gupta decided, sending out Umbreon, while wondering to himself who this so called ‘prodigy’ was supposed to be.
“Umbreon, Bite.” Gupta began.
“Pelipper, Water Pulse.” The trainer ordered.
Umbreon just got the edge on the opponent, managing a sure attack before Pelipper sent him flying with a concentrated burst of water.
“Wing Attack Pelipper!” The man followed.
“Take Down.” Gupta replied.
Umbreon ran in with a powerful tackle that defeated the opponent, and appeared unfazed by the damage he took in response.

“That’s strong kid. Almost like that prodigy…” The trainer commented.
“What prodigy?” Gupta asked, finally airing his question.
“Gupta.” A second voice cut the conversation off. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Oh, so you do know him. Surely you know that’s who I’m talking about.” The trainer he had just fought answered. Gupta turned around to find a familiar face staring back at him.
“Kiku?” Gupta greeted, a little surprised. Was Kiku really strong enough to be considered a prodigy?
“I was in the area, and was hoping that perhaps you would be around here… Is Sadik with you?” The older teen inquired.
“He’s on the beach.” Gupta responded. “Did you need to see him?”
“There is something Sadik asked me to obtain for him. I wanted to find him to deliver it.” Kiku explained. “Shall we go to the beach?”
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, turning back towards the way he’d come before.

He and Kiku took only a few steps before Sadik’s loud voice become audible.
“Gupta? Ya up there? Come take a look at this!”
It was enough to convince Gupta and Kiku to hurry towards the direction of Sadik’s voice. They found the teen on the beach at the bottom of the ramp that led to the grassy area they stood on, staring out to sea at something that seemed to be moving closer. As the two trainers made their way down towards him, Sadik turned and spoke.
“Kiku! Good to see ya. Seems like some kinda Pokémon are out there… But they don’t look like any I’ve ever seen before.” The boy commented.
“It is good to see you too Sadik.” Kiku agreed. “As for the Pokémon, let me see…” He stepped forwards, to the point where the waves met the sand, and stared at the horizon for a while before he spoke. “They are the Eon Pokémon Sadik. Latios and Latias.”
“The Eon Pokémon? Ya mean they really exist?” Sadik asked, looking sceptical.
“They do.” Kiku confirmed. “And for whatever reason… They are coming our way.”

Gupta looked towards the horizon, wondering what the other two were talking about. As he looked towards the horizon, he noticed two blobs of colour, one blue and one red. As he watched them, they started to grow steadily bigger, and before long the shapes of Pokémon were clearly visible. They took the form of two creatures that appeared to be crosses between dragons, birds… And planes. Somehow. As the two Pokémon reached the shore, Kiku stepped forwards and engaged them in conversation.

Sadik watched the back and forth with Gupta, as unable to understand what was going on as Gupta. Just before the teenagers got the chance to ask what was happening, Kiku turned back to the humans.
“There is trouble at Southern Island. It seems that they want us to go with them to deal with it.” He explained.
“Southern Island?” Sadik repeated. “I thought humans couldn’t go there.”
“It should be fine as long as the Eon Pokémon are with us.” Kiku reassured him. “Now, shall we go?”
“How?” Gupta inquired. They didn’t exactly have a boat, and he doubted Marshtomp could carry them all that way…
“We will have to ride the Pokémon.” Kiku deduced. “I can help you if you wish.”
“Great.” Gupta deadpanned, turning towards the Pokémon.

Sadik was already trying to jump onto the back of the larger blue Pokémon, so Gupta tried to climb onto the smaller red one. He held into its neck, and it seemed docile enough, but actually climbing up onto its back proved difficult and he slipped several times. Eventually, he managed it (just before Kiku came over asking if he needed help), and Gupta looked towards Sadik to see the other trainer had also succeeded in climbing onto the other Pokémon. Kiku slid behind Sadik and looked to the sky.
“Now… We shall go.”

Chapter Text

Seconds later, the two Pokémon took off into the sky, leaving Gupta with no other option but to hold on. The Pokémon circled high up into the atmosphere, soaring high above the Hoenn region. Once their height had stabilised, Gupta looked out at the scene around him. Seeing the entire region spread out below them was something he was unlikely to forget in a hurry.
“Sweet! What a view!” Sadik commented.
“It is quite something.” Kiku agreed behind Sadik. “And look… Southern Island is just over there.”
Gupta looked to the direction Kiku indicated- a small, lush island to the south of the region that appeared to be their destination. The Pokémon agreed with the assessment, beginning to dive and pick up speed as they swooped towards the island. Gupta held on for dear life as they drew nearer.

The Eon Pokémon dropped into a grassy area on the island, and the trainers slid to the ground and got to their feet. From what Gupta could tell, they appeared to be in the clearing of a forest of some kind. A path wound its way off into the trees, and this was the direction in which the Pokémon looked.
“That is the way we must take…” Kiku assumed, beginning to walk. “However… There is an unsettling feeling in the air. As though some threat exists here. We should be careful as we proceed.”
“That’s fine.” Gupta agreed.
“Sure thing. Let’s go!” Sadik shouted, beginning to run along the path.

Kiku and Gupta hurried to catch up with him, the latter barely reaching the treeline before a voice seemed to emanate out of nowhere.

(Those whose memories fade seek to carve them in their hearts…)

“Uh…” Gupta looked around. There wasn’t anything that could have spoken to them, so where was the voice coming from? Even stranger, the others seemed unaffected by the voice, as if they hadn’t heard it at all.
“Guppie! Take a look at this!” Sadik shouted seconds later, and the teenager cast the strange voice aside as he dashed into the woods.

Sadik was standing on a cliff edge within the woodland. Behind him, waterfalls cascaded down into a lake far below. Sadik himself was more concerned with the monument that stood in the middle of the grassy cliff- or rather, what lay at the base.
“Ya see these?” Sadik spoke, picking up some shining stones found in the grass. “Kiku, ya know all about this sorta thing, but… Are these what I think they are?”
Kiku stepped closer, looking over at the stones before replying. “Yes. These are indeed Mega Stones.”
“I thought so.” Sadik seemed satisfied with the answer. “Then these Pokémon… Latios and Latias… They came to us because they wanted them protected?”
“It would appear so.” Kiku agreed, looking towards the waterfall. Gupta followed his gaze to find the Pokémon from before flying towards them. They looked between the three trainers, relief evident on their faces.
“Still…” Kiku continued. “I am confused as to what they needed to protect the Mega Stones from… There is nothing here.”

Seconds later, the sound of footsteps rang out.
“What the…?” Sadik spun around, glaring into the treeline as a familiar group of red-clad figures appeared. “It’s that Team Magma lot!”
Heading the group from Team Magma, Lars stepped forwards. “Right. And we still need to make it up to you for before. You won’t win against us so easily this time.” He smirked. “Now, those Pokémon behind you… And their Mega Stones. Hand them over.”
“Like we’d do that! You’ve gotta be the ones the Eon Pokémon were warning us about!” Sadik spoke back.

“Was it really them…? Ya know, it mighta been us.” A second voice spoke up. Gupta looked back towards the trees to see Team Aqua advancing.
“Well, would you look at this. Look who’s come to get in our way.” Lars complained.
“Hey! What about you getting in our way?” The apparent leader of the group from Team Aqua argued.

This man seemed entirely different from Arthur, although something in his face struck a resemblance (possibly the eyes, which were also a shade of green). Gupta found himself pondering the girl he and Sadik had met before, who had claimed to be Arthur’s cousin; was this new man related to them as well? His dark brown hair and wild appearance seemed to distinguish him from Arthur, and he carried a wild air about him that seemed lacking from many of the other members of the team.

“Great. What do you suppose we do now? We’re not exactly about to go home over this.” Lars sulked.
“Well… There are two of those Pokémon. And two of us. You following?” The new man suggested.
“You mean team up? With you?” Lars seemed as though he was honestly considering it. “You know… That actually isn’t a bad idea. And we can take on those brats together.”
“Take us on? Even with all of ya, it’d be tough to beat us!” Sadik boasted.
“Sounds like a threat. Ready to show these kids what for?” The man asserted, turning to Lars.
“You’re on.” Lars replied. The man laughed, turning to the trio of young trainers.
“Kiku…” Sadik started, looking back towards his friend.
“I don’t have them with me Sadik…” Kiku seemed to be apologising. “I didn’t know…”
“It’s alright.” Gupta cut in. “We can take on these two on our own.”
“Heh. Cocky kid. But let’s see how far that lasts ya. I’m Bruce Kirkland of Team Aqua, and I’ll take your challenge head on!” Aqua’s representative declared.

“Bring it!” Sadik roared, getting fired up and stepping forwards, Pokeball already in hand. “Zehir, let’s do this!”
“Viper!” Zehir hissed.
“Get ‘em Psyduck!” Bruce began, sending out his first Pokémon.
“Duuuck!” The Pokémon quacked. Gupta stared at it. Admittedly, it looked tough for a Psyduck. But it was still an incredibly dopey looking thing.
“Houndour, take them down.” Lars announced, sending out his own Pokémon. The dog like Pokémon roared aggressively at Gupta, who sent out a Pokémon in response.
“Camerupt, you can handle this.” He assured his Pokémon.
“Camer!” Camerupt smiled.

“Okay Psyduck, Water Pulse on the Camerupt!” Bruce roared.
“Fire Fang against Seviper, Houndour.”
“Zehir, Poison Tail on Psyduck!” Sadik decided.
“Camerupt, Rock Slide.” Gupta suggested.
Zehir and Houndour ran towards each other, Houndour dealing a glancing blow before Zehir struck down on Psyduck. Psyduck launched a burst of water towards Camerupt, who reeled in discomfort before responding with a barrage of rocks that slid out of nowhere into the two opponents.

“Aqua Tail now Psyduck!” The Aqua Admin commanded. “Take that Camerupt down!”
“Bite on Seviper Houndour.” His Magma counterpart followed.
“Poison Tail again on that Psyduck, Zehir!” Sadik encouraged, before turning to Gupta. “Don’t worry about us. Do what ya need to with Camerupt.”
“Um…” Gupta wasn’t quite sure what Sadik meant. Perhaps the move he used before hadn’t been ideal. “Earth Power then.”
Houndour sunk its teeth into Zehir, who knocked it off before attacking Psyduck yet again, seemingly poisoning the Pokémon. Psyduck ran forwards and slammed into Camerupt with a watery attack, leaving her barely standing. Zehir looked back towards Camerupt for some reason, expression unreadable. Camerupt brought power forth from the earth seconds later, which damaged the opposing Pokémon seriously… But also caused damage to Zehir, who glared Gupta down as she shook herself after the attack. Psyduck was left struggling to stand, while Houndour had fainted entirely.

“Don’t think you’ve won just because you defeated one Pokémon.” Lars scoffed, returning his fainted Pokémon to the ball. “Krokorok, don’t let up at all.”
Gupta recognised the Pokémon that stared him down vaguely. Clearly, one of the man’s Pokémon from before had evolved.
“Zehir, Night Slash on the Psyduck!” Sadik continued, unfazed.
“Krokorok, Assurance on Camerupt.” Lars started over.
“Take Down Camerupt.” Gupta decided.
“Fury Swipes on Seviper Psyduck!” Bruce attempted.
Zehir was able to get her attack in first, knocking out Psyduck before it could attack. Krokorok meanwhile let off a powerful punch that took Camerupt down.

“Umbreon, you take over.” Gupta declared, unfazed. “Use Bite.”
“Bre!” Umbreon glared at the opponents.
“Go for it Mantyke!” The Aqua Admin sent out his second Pokémon. “Wing Attack on Seviper!”
“Krokorok, Crunch on Umbreon.” Lars continued.
“Zehir, Poison Tail on Krokorok.” Sadik suggested.
Krokorok managed to barely get the edge on Zehir, biting Umbreon with an attack that seemed barely to do any damage despite its startling appearance. Zehir slammed a poisoned tail into the Pokémon seconds later, while Umbreon chose to carry out its own attack on Mantyke. The smallest Pokémon seemed sluggish by comparison, finally striking Zehir with its own attack. Zehir seemed to be struggling after the blow.

“Zehir, Night Slash on Mantyke!” Sadik chose.
“Krokorok, Assurance on Seviper!” Lars carried on.
“Umbreon, Take Down on Krokorok.” Gupta stated.
“Mantyke, Bubblebeam on Umbreon!” Bruce chipped in.

Krokorok managed to attack before Zehir could get started, knocking her down. Umbreon responded with a powerful tackle that caused serious damage, while Mantyke managed a spray of bubbles in Umbreon direction in response. Umbreon did not look impressed.

“Alright Zehir, ya did good. Take over Pençe!” Sadik told his Pokémon, returning Zehir to her Pokeball and sending out Pençe in her place.
“Skar!” The metal bird crowed.
“Ya sound up for this. Alright, Metal Claw on Krokorok!” The trainer continued, showing complete trust in his Pokémon.
“Umbreon, Take Down on Mantyke.” Gupta followed up.
“Krokorok, Crunch on Skarmory!” Magma’s admin ordered.
“Headbutt on Umbreon Mantyke!” The Aqua counterpart responded.

Pençe got in to attack before Krokorok could move, scoring major damage with sharp claws and receiving a rather lacklustre bite in response. Umbreon ran forwards with another powerful tackle that knocked Mantyke out entirely.

“Two out of three ain’t bad kid.” Bruce assessed. “Let’s see how you do against this though. Go Finneon!”
“Finn!” Finneon cried. Gupta couldn’t see what made this fish-like Pokémon different from any others.
“Finneon, Water Pulse on Skarmory.” The Aqua admin began.
“Krokorok, Assurance on Skarmory.” The Magma admin copied.
“Focus on Krokorok.” Sadik advised. “Pençe, Air Cutter on Krokorok.”
“Take Down Umbreon.” Gupta decided.

Pençe managed to again damage Krokorok significantly, and the attack he took in response seemed to be shrugged off fairly well. Umbreon tackled Krokorok yet again, leaving both Pokémon barely standing. Skarmory took a second attack in the form of pulsed water from Finneon, this time seeming more badly hurt.

“Water Pulse on Skarmory again Finneon!” Aqua’s Admin repeated.
“Assurance on Skarmory Krokorok!” Lars continued.
“Swift Umbreon.” Gupta tried.
“Metal Claw Pençe.” Sadik commanded.
Pençe moved with great speed and determination, throwing Krokorok down and knocking the Pokémon out while Umbreon still prepared to attack. Gupta’s Pokémon redirected the move at Finneon, who absorbed the attack before taking down Pençe with a powerful jet of water despite the Pokémon’s best efforts to get back up.

“It’s okay Pençe. Ya did enough.” Sadik reassured his Pokémon. “Okay, next I’ll use…”
A bright flash of light cut Sadik off, and Lale was standing on the field the next anyone knew.
“Ah! Lale, no…” Sadik started.
“Saur!” Lale barked back, looking determined. Unfortunately, she hadn’t worked out that Bruce was an enemy, and walked towards him curiously.
“What a stupid Ivysaur.” Lars scoffed. “Diggersby, let’s break this idiot in! Use Hammer Arm!”
“Finneon, Attract.” Bruce laughed.
“Swift on Diggersby Umbreon.” Gupta chose, wanting to take down the bigger threat.
“Ah, Lale, Razor Leaf already!” Sadik shouted over to his Pokémon.
One of Diggersby’s ears curled into a fist and slammed down on Lale, who weathered the hit, but seemed somewhat sluggish, not being quick enough to respond. Umbreon shot star shaped rays over in Diggersby’s direction. Seconds later, Finneon sent out a strange pink coloured glow. Lale stood staring at the sight, completely besotted.

“Lale!” Sadik yelled. “What’re ya doin’?”
Lale still didn’t attack, standing completely still.

“Diggersby, Double Kick on Umbreon.” Lars continued, changing opponent and move.
“Finneon, Gust on Ivysaur.” Aqua’s admin carried on.
“Lale, snap out of it! Razor Leaf!” Sadik tried again.
“Take Down on Diggersby Umbreon.” Gupta chose.
This time, Umbreon was able to move first, slamming Diggersby hard before receiving two kicks to the face for his trouble. Lale still stared at Finneon, entirely oblivious to the rest of the world. Finneon simply stirred up a strong wind that cut into Lale. Despite clearly hurting, she retained a smile the entire time.

“Lale!” Sadik cried, turning to Gupta in desperation. “Guppie, send out Marshtomp. Maybe he can get her over this!”
“How?” Gupta questioned.
“Not sure. Just try okay?” Sadik insisted.
“Alright. Umbreon, step back for a minute. Let Marshtomp try.” Gupta relented, returning Umbreon to the Pokeball and sending Marshtomp out.
“Tomp!” Marshtomp cheered as he emerged, looking left and right before spotting Lale. He smiled lazily and trotted over towards her, getting a few steps before looking back at Gupta.
“It’s okay.” He reassured his Pokémon.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp grinned, skipping the rest of the way to Lale. She didn’t even notice him, staring ahead at Finneon.
“Marsh! Tomp!” He greeted, trying to get Lale’s attention. At first, she didn’t notice him, even as he walked around to face her directly. He held onto her shoulders and shook her back and forth, trying to get through.
“Marshtomp! Marshtomp!” He insisted. Eventually, Lale seemed to respond.
“Saur…?” She called, her eyes starting to come back into focus.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp cheered, reaching up to hug his friend.
“Saur!” Lale smiled, extending some vines for her own hug.

“Uh, Lale?” Sadik shouted across the battlefield. “Seriously. Razor. Leaf.”
“Marshtomp, Surf.” Gupta decided.
“Take Down on Ivysaur Diggersby.” Magma’s admin declared.
“Gust on Ivysaur again Finneon.” His Aqua counterpart repeated from before.
This time, Diggersby moved first again, slamming into Lale and damaging itself in the process. Finneon let off its own attack, clearly causing damage to the Ivysaur.
“Marshtomp!” Marshtomp jumped up and down, creating a huge wave that engulfed all of the opposing Pokémon. Lale was left struggling to stand, but still smiled.
“Saur!” She mimicked, smiling at Marshtomp as she sprayed sharp leaves all over the opposing Pokémon (both of whom seemed to take heavy damage)… And their unamused trainers. Normal routines had clearly resumed.

“Alright Lale. That’s good. Take a rest now.” Sadik noticed, clearly not wanting to push his Pokémon too hard. “Ateş, finish this for us!”
Lale pouted as she was returned to the Pokeball, and Ateş emerged seconds later, looking full of enthusiasm.
“Combusken!” He greeted, waving at Marshtomp.
“Marshtomp, Rock Slide.” Gupta chose, moving on with the battle.
“Alright Diggersby, Take Down on Marshtomp.” Lars scoffed.
“Finneon, Water Pulse on Combusken.” Bruce added.
“Come on Ateş, Double Kick on Finneon.” Sadik declared.

Diggersby ran forwards and slammed Marshtomp powerfully, taking damage itself in the attack that left it barely standing. Marshtomp seemed not to mind too much. Finneon jetted water over at Ateş, who looked a little upset at being wet.
“Marshtomp?” Marshtomp questioned, looking to Ateş.
“Combusken!” Ateş replied.
“Tomp! Marshtomp!” Marshtomp reacted, bringing a slide of rocks down on the opponents. Diggersby was knocked out by the attack, and Ateş came charging in with a pair of powerful kicks that finished Finneon off shortly afterwards.

“What? Losing to a group of kids?” Bruce groaned in disbelief. “Great, Michelle was right.”
“Whatever. We can deal with this. Those Pokémon would be useful, but right now, our plans are close to fruition enough that we don’t need them.” Lars assessed.
“Well, yeah. It’s not like it’s much different in Team Aqua. That being so… We’ll let you kids walk for now. But don’t think you can just keep on winning. Sooner or later, we’ll get back at you.” Aqua’s admin decided, before turning to the rest of the team. “Okay? We’ll move out for now.”
“We’ll be watching you.” Lars developed. “You especially, Kiku Honda. Don’t act as though all Hoenn doesn’t know who you are. Stay out of this.” He whirled around and strode from the forest, his team behind him.

“Everyone knows who you are?” Gupta couldn’t help but ask Kiku.
“Ah. There’s no need to worry about that.” Kiku assured him. “Importantly, we won.”
“Yeah!” Sadik grinned. “So now we can… Huh?”

Ateş and Marshtomp had turned to face each other, both beginning to glow a particular hue. It was obvious to Gupta by now what was about to happen. In front of their eyes, both Marshtomp and Ateş changed form, evolving before them. After a few seconds, the glow faded, leaving each Pokémon with their new form.

Marshtomp had grown significantly larger than before- he now stood level with Gupta’s shoulder. He had two fins on his head in place of the one he had had before, and a large tail fin that seemed to curl around his body a little. He still looked as relaxed as ever.
“Swampert.” The Pokémon assessed of himself.
“Swampert?” Gupta echoed.
“Yep. Marshtomp’s final evolution. Doesn’t he look powerful now?” Sadik smirked. “Not that Ateş looks bad himself though!”

Ateş had improved on his height even more, standing even taller than Sadik. His legs had grown large and powerful, and the claws on his arms were more developed. A large plume of blond feathers stretched from his head down his back and across his torso. He looked fearsome, but his face remained peaceful.
“Blaziken!” He called, running over to Sadik and enveloping his trainer in a hug.
“Ates!” Sadik celebrated. “Look at ya!”
“Swampert.” Swampert cheered.

As Sadik and Ateş continued to dance around with each other, there was the sound of a Pokémon emerging from its ball. Gupta turned to the sound to see Lale staring at Swampert eagerly.
“Pert! Swampert!” Swampert greeted, patting Lale on the head.
“Saur!” Lale chirped, also starting to glow.
“You’re kidding me.” Gupta deadpanned.

By the time Sadik had noticed the commotion and turned to face it, Lale had more than doubled in size, growing into a Pokémon that was even taller than Ateş. Her legs had grown bulky and strong, and the tulip on her back now rested over the top of her head. Other than that, she looked more or less like a larger version of her previous self.
“Venusaur!” She informed.
“Ah, Lale…” Sadik started, before laughing all of a sudden.

“It is strange for three Pokémon to all evolve one after another… But it is also a happy time.” Kiku assessed.
The Pokémon they had been protecting seemed to agree, beginning to fly around the group of trainers and their Pokémon, calling out all the while.
“Lati!”
“It seems as though you have made more than one friend today.” Kiku summed up. As if to prove his point, Latias swept down to nuzzle Gupta, while Latios joined the ever increasing group hug between Ateş, Lale and a struggling Sadik.
“I am sure their loyalty will prove useful to you someday.” Kiku assessed. “Now then. Shall we return?”
Gupta looked from Kiku to where Sadik was still trying to hold up various assorted Pokémon.
“Fine.” He answered.

The ride back to Route 118 wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as the journey over to Southern Island had been, and Gupta soon found himself back on solid ground.
“Thank you, Latios and Latias.” Kiku exclaimed to the two Pokémon, who smiled before taking off into the sky.
“That’s it then…” Sadik mused.
“Not quite.” Kiku revealed. “After all, I have something for you.” He reached into the bag he had been carrying, bringing out some peculiar objects. Sadik stared at them in wonder.
“Wow Kiku… Never thought ya’d be this quick!” He appreciated.
“I can be swift with these things. You know that.” Kiku mused. “Now then… These are for you.”

Kiku held two different items out to Sadik; one a leather armband with a red coloured gem tied to it, and the second a blue bracelet made of glass like balls with eye insignias covering them, one of which was actually a rainbow coloured jewel.
“This is great Kiku.” Sadik thanked his older friend, slipping the bracelet on before taking a Pokeball out. “Ateş, yeah?” He checked.
“Of course. And what timing.” Kiku confirmed.
“Alright Ateş, got something for ya!” Sadik stated, sending out his starter.
“Ken?” Ateş questioned, looking towards Sadik.
“Try this!” Sadik smirked, fitting the armband around Ates’s upper arm.
“Blaziken?” Ateş queried.

“What’s going on?” Gupta asked.
“Have you never heard of Mega Evolution?” Kiku asked.
“Mama uses it.” Gupta answered. This was to do with that?
“To use Mega Evolution, two items are needed. One for the trainer, and one for the Pokémon. Swampert and Blaziken are both able to Mega Evolve… So Sadik asked me shortly after your journey started to source some Key Stones and Mega Stones for you both, so that you could use the power when the time came.” Kiku explained.

“Both of us?” Gupta picked up on.
“Yes. These are for you.” Kiku added, handing the second set of two items over to Gupta. One was a rubber-like band with a blue gem set into it, and the second was a silver earring with a similar rainbow jewel to Sadik’s attached.
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, putting on the new jewellery before sending out his newly evolved Swampert.
“Swampert!” Swampert smiled as he looked at Gupta. His excitement only seemed to grow as Gupta hung the band around his wrist.

“So… How do we use these?” The young trainer asked, as Swampert started to dance around in the background.
“It is fairly simple. You just touch the gem with the intention of using its power.” Kiku detailed. “I am sure you can get the hang of it. In any case, I have to be going.”
“Yeah, I bet ya’re busy Kiku. But thanks again!” Sadik waved.
This left Gupta even more confused. How did everyone know Kiku? What did he even do?

“Ya know Guppie… I feel like I’d better do some more trainin’ here for now. I still wanna catch something fishin’ as well. How about ya head north up Route 119? I’ll catch ya up later.” Sadik revealed, after Kiku had already left.
“Fine. I’ll see you at the next town anyway.” Gupta agreed, beginning to turn towards the path back off the beach.
“Good work today!” Sadik yelled after him as he left.
Gupta smiled as he walked along the path to the north.

‘Camerupt, the Eruption Pokémon. Magma of 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit courses through its body. The volcanoes on its back have a major eruption every 10 years--or whenever it becomes really angry.’

‘Vibrava, the Vibration Pokémon. Vibrava’s wings have not yet completed the process of growing. Rather than flying long distances, they are more useful for generating ultrasonic waves by vibrating. These waves can bring on headaches in people.’

‘Swampert, the Mud Fish Pokémon. Swampert is very strong, if rather oblivious. It can swim even while towing a large ship and has strong enough eyesight to see even while underwater.’

Chapter Text

Route 119 was humid and lashed constantly with rain. Gupta struggled to move forwards as soon as he entered the area. Before him, there stretched a vast patch of grass so tall that it was impossible to see over it. The only way ahead seemed to be to pass through the grass. Gupta stepped forwards into the thatch.

It was tough to see where he was going or where he needed to go, and Gupta found himself turning around often. All the while, the grass around him shook, and he was certain he could hear the sound of footsteps. It was as though someone was following him…

After a few minutes of feeling as though he was making little progress, Gupta walked straight into the path of a trainer.
“We are the mimic circle!” The child declared. “…Although most of our members have already been defeated. Anyway, you still have to battle me! Go Dustox!”
“Camerupt, let’s go.” Gupta decided, sending out his Pokémon to fight.
“Camer!” Camerupt greeted, smiling at first before starting to frown at the driving rain, looking even more sluggish than usual.
“Dustox!” Dustox roared.
“Dustox, Psybeam!” The child began.
“Rock Slide Camerupt.” Gupta followed.
Dustox shot a strange, purple coloured ray at Camerupt, who shrugged off the attack and responded with a barrage of rocks that greatly damaged the opponent.
“Psybeam again!” The child tried.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta chose.
Dustox managed to get a second hit in, but Camerupt seemed as unaffected by this attack as she had the last one, and quickly brought the Dustox down with a wave of fire.

“No way… How could we all get wiped out so quickly… No way there’s only one of you!” The boy complained.
“Probably not.” Gupta agreed. In fact, he had only defeated this one trainer. But Sadik hadn’t come by here. Who else was laying these trainers low?

The answer came not long later, as Gupta walked further into the grass. He came across a secluded clearing within the area. There, sleeping on the open ground, was Herakles.

Gupta didn’t know what to do about the other trainer. It seemed wrong to just leave Herakles be, but equally wrong to attempt to wake him up. Instead, Gupta sat by Herakles, and left the other teen to sleep.

A while later, he heard movement, and looked over to see Herakles looking up at him.
“Gupta… Hello. Have you been here long?” He asked, moving to sit up.
“Not too long.” Gupta answered. “I am surprised to see you here though. This must have been what your mother meant.”
“Mama? What was she saying…?” Herakles asked, suddenly looking more interested.
“That you had finally gained the courage to make your own way in the world.” Gupta relayed. “So, you started a journey of your own.”
“That’s right.” Herakles smiled. “I had been fighting the trainers around here, but I got tired… I’m fine now though. How about we move forwards together?”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed, standing up. “First things first, we should get out of this grass.”
“It’s this way…” Herakles stated, getting up and walking towards the edge of the grass. Gupta followed him.

Herakles was proven right, as the two trainers emerged on the other side of the tall grass a few minutes later. The rest of Route 119 revealed itself as a tranquil sloping path, crossing over a river that wound its way around the route. Herakles turned to Gupta before speaking again.
“There’s a trainer over there I haven’t yet defeated. Do you want to fight her instead?”
“I don’t mind.” Gupta replied, walking towards the trainer. Once he got closer, she caught sight of him, and rushed forwards.
“Trainer. Let me check that your Pokémon are capable of weathering the path ahead.” She detailed. “Breloom, let’s fight.”
“Bre!” Breloom smiled.
“Alright. Swellow, you can handle it.” Gupta declared.
“Low!” Swellow chirped, ruffling her feathers a little at the rain.

“Breloom, Force Palm.” The opposing trainer decided.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta defaulted.
Swellow, fast as always, was able to get in a strong hit before Breloom could react, leaving the opponent barely standing. Breloom delivered a strong punch in response, but Swellow was able to withstand the attack well.
“Headbutt!” The trainer attempted.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Breloom was already weak, and was easily knocked out by Swellow’s next move before it could attack.

“That was good Gupta. You’ve gotten even stronger.” Herakles commented.
“Where now?” Gupta checked, turning back to Herakles.
“We head up towards the bridge.” Herakles pointed out. “It’s slightly uphill… But we’ll be okay.”

The trek was longer than it looked, and it was late in the afternoon before Gupta and Herakles made it to the top of the slope, where the bridge was. It was hard to see much of a view due to the heavy rain still falling over the scene, but the end of the bridge was still definitely visible. Herakles seemed far more concerned about their side of the bridge, however.
“Those two trainers… Look like a team.” He suggested.
“Do you want to fight them together?” Gupta assumed.
“We can.” Herakles nodded. “Let’s do that.”

“Hm? So, the two of you want to battle us. Okay then. Kadabra, let’s do this.” One of the duo stated.
“Kadabra!” His Pokémon agreed.
“Alright! Machoke, let’s get fired up!” The second enthused.
“Machoke!” His Pokémon roared.
“Delcatty… Let’s go.” Herakles decided, sending out his choice of Pokémon.
“Mew!” Delcatty called. Gupta looked at the Pokémon. It looked vaguely like Herakles’s Skitty… Maybe.
“Alright Swellow.” Gupta followed on, sending out the bird for the second time.
“Low!” Swellow called, still looking slightly annoyed by the rain.

“Machoke, Wake-up Slap on Delcatty!” One trainer began.
“Kadabra, Psycho Cut on Swellow.” The second followed.
“Feint Attack on Kadabra, Delcatty.” Herakles declared.
“Aerial Ace on Machoke.” Gupta asked.
Swellow still proved the faster foe, swooping in to strike Machoke. Kadabra launched a curved slash at Swellow seconds later, causing only a small amount of damage. Delcatty snuck up behind Kadabra before slapping it harshly for major damage. Machoke slapped Delcatty back and forth as it tried to run back to Herakles. It didn’t look impressed.

“Machop, Vital Throw on Delcatty!” The first opponent continued.
“Psybeam on Swellow Kadabra.” The second decided.
“Feint Attack on Kadabra again.” Herakles repeated.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta echoed.
Swellow hit Machoke blindingly fast, knocking the opponent out. Kadabra shot a beam to strike at Swellow shortly afterwards, but she was still standing, and Delcatty was able to come around and strike Kadabra again, taking it down.

“You know… It’s going to get dark before long. I don’t think we can make it to Fortree before nightfall…” Herakles considered. “Do you want to stay the night here? I made a secret base nearby…”
“That sounds good.” Gupta agreed. “I’ll follow you then.”

They left the bridge behind and travelled back down the winding slope, drifting off to the side until they reached a narrow strip that led out across the river.
“I heard that you got a bike from the shop in Mauville… You should be able to use it to cross over.” Herakles stated.
“Fine.” Gupta nodded, taking out the folding item yet again. Once the bike was fully unfolded, he lined the wheel up against the rail and inched out over the river. He made it almost halfway before the rail ended. Short, parallel pieces of rail led to a longer rail that joined to the opposite bank.
“Do a jump!” Herakles shouted over to him.
“How…?” Gupta questioned. Regardless, he tried to jump sideways. Somehow, he made it without a single issue. It was another of those things that the trainer had learnt by now not to question.

It didn’t take long after that for Gupta to make it to the other side of the river. Herakles joined him there not long after.
“That bike… Only that one is capable of jumping like that. Someone like Sadik who has a fast, heavy bike could never get here.” Herakles pointed out, seeming almost proud of that fact.
“Really…” Gupta stated noncommittally.
“Anyway, it’s right this way…” Herakles carried on, walking forwards and into some grass. Gupta followed him, and soon the two of them emerged next to a large shrub. Herakles cleared some leaves to the side to reveal an opening, and the two of them entered.

The inside of the secret base was walled in with grass, and was made of two main portions joined by a thin strip. The ground was largely dirt, but several mats had been layered over it to create a relatively soft floor space. A myriad of Pokémon dolls and posters were strewn around the place, almost all depicting cat-like Pokémon. The front portion of the base was largely taken up by a desk, while the back part was clearer.
“Here we are.” Herakles announced. “We can sleep in the back, if you want…”
“That sounds good.” Gupta seconded. “We’ll head over there then.”

The dolls and cushions at the back of the secret base were brushed aside to make a sleeping area for the two of them. Gupta had finished putting out his things when Herakles spoke again.
“I think… I should send out my Pokémon to meet you.” He mused.
“Right. Me too.” Gupta replied, sending out his team as Herakles brought out his.
Gupta had already met Delcatty, but his other Pokémon were new to him. The man began talking, walking Gupta through the team he had caught.
“Delcatty is the evolved form of my Skitty… She’s so fluffy… I also have Zangoose and Espurr… They’re also very fluffy… Although I wouldn’t try to hug Zangoose. And recently, I caught Feebas while fishing…” He gestured in the direction of the newest Pokémon, a kind of fish.

Gupta looked around at the Pokémon. Camerupt and Swampert seemed intrigued by the new arrivals, wandering over to engage with them, while Umbreon seemed wary, hiding behind Gupta. Swellow and Vibrava didn’t seem to care, Swellow settling down to roost while Vibrava started sniffing around for food.
“I recognise all of your Pokémon…” Herakles added. “They’re… Very cute.”
“Um… Thanks.” Gupta looked down, not really sure he saw what Herakles saw in his Pokémon.
“Swampert!” Swampert thanked Herakles.

“You seem like you’ve been doing so well on your journey so far…” Herakles commented later, as the two of them were settling down to sleep.
“And you.” Gupta replied.
“And that Sadik… Even if I dislike him… He really seems to like you.” The boy added.
“I’d like to think we’d formed a friendship by now.” Gupta answered.
“Friends? With how protective he is of you… I wouldn’t say that he sees you as a friend.” Herakles argued softly.
“…You haven’t seen all the women he’s flirted with so far.” Gupta deadpanned.
“That doesn’t change anything. Just because he likes women… Doesn’t mean he can’t like you.” Herakles pointed out.

Gupta didn’t have anything to say to that, so he instead fell silent, not believing what Herakles was saying for a minute.

Chapter Text

Gupta woke early the next morning, the sound of rain jarring him into focus. Swellow was already preening in the corner, but both Herakles and the other Pokémon were asleep. Rather than try to wake them, he set about finding some food for when everyone got up.

Gradually, the rest of the Pokémon began to wake up and inevitably crowded around Gupta. Umbreon sat at his feet and Vibrava began trying to bite the food out of Gupta’s hand, while Camerupt began playing with Herakles’s Pokémon. Swampert looked towards the sleeping boy, and Gupta felt a sudden wave of dread.
“Swampert. No. You can’t.” He pleaded with his Pokémon.
Swampert looked him straight in the eye and used Surf.

“Your Pokémon has gotten a lot stronger.” Herakles commented, as he dried out his hair, while Gupta swept the remains of the water out of the secret base. “That was a powerful blast of water.”
“I’m sorry we woke you.” Gupta apologised. “Swampert just keeps doing that…”
“It’s fine.” Herakles insisted. “We need to get moving anyway.”

Getting ready for the rest of the day was a fairly easy affair, and Gupta and Herakles got on the way not long afterwards. Now that he knew where he was going, it was a lot quicker for Gupta to get back to the bridge they had reached the day before. This time, the two trainers moved forwards.

At the end of the bridge, the path carried on north, stretching on through more tall grass and on towards a second incline. Gupta and Herakles made their way through the grass, and found themselves face to face with another trainer.
“I’ll go ahead for now…” Herakles stated, drifting off into a further grassy area and leaving Gupta to deal with the trainer.

“Good morning!” The young man greeted. “How about we battle in this harsh rainforest?”
“Fine enough.” Gupta stated. “Go on Camerupt.”
“Camer…” Camerupt complained, not liking the driving rain that covered the area.
“Alright Seviper, let’s go.” The trainer began.
“Viper!” The opponent’s Seviper hissed.
“Seviper, Poison Fang!” The trainer began.
“Earth Power.” Gupta followed.
Seviper attacked Camerupt with a venom-soaked bite, and Camerupt responded by bringing forth huge spurts of earth for massive damage.
“Seviper, Venoshock!” The trainer continued.
“Earth Power.” Gupta repeated.
Seviper sent a barrage of poison at Camerupt, who shrugged it off easily before sending more jets of earth flying at Seviper, who didn’t withstand the attack.

“Not bad. Vigoroth, you take over.” The trainer commented, changing his Pokémon.
“Vibrava, you can take it from here.” Gupta decided, also changing out his Pokémon.
“Go Vigoroth, use Slash.” The trainer told.
“Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta declared.
Vigoroth barely managed to get its attack in before Vibrava, slashing across the Pokémon who responded with a powerful shockwave which knocked Vigoroth back.
“Fury Swipes!” The trainer commanded.
“Crunch.” Gupta chose.
Vigoroth jumped on Vibrava with a flurry of claws. Vibrava seemed to ignore Gupta completely, instead using the same eerily coloured breath as before to attack Vigoroth, who fell down defeated.

“Your Vibrava’s learned Dragonbreath… It is a dragon type now after all.” Herakles commented, walking back over.
“Dragonbreath…” Gupta considered for later use.
“Anyway… I took out the trainers up ahead, so we can move forwards.” His friend added.

The path wound on, through more tall grass, up a set of stairs carved into a cliff, and between yet more grass until Gupta and Herakles made their way to a bridge. A large, imposing building stood before them. Not really interested in it, Gupta turned to the side, only to find the route over the bridge was blocked by the same female grunt he had run into in both Oldale and Slateport.
“Oh great, it’s you.” She frowned, obviously recognising Gupta. “Well I still can’t let you pass just yet. We’re doing important things over at the Weather Institute over there, and we’re not letting anyone over the bridge until we’re done.”
“So you’re going to tell me that and rather than hurry me over the bridge out of the way, let me stay on the same side as the building so valuable to your plans.” Gupta pointed out.
“Hey, orders are orders. Nobody crosses this bridge.” The woman folded her arms. Gupta took a few steps away before turning to Herakles.
“Let’s go hurry them up.”

The Weather Institute was a large building, but seemed completely deserted as Gupta and Herakles walked in. A slight shuffling behind the counter made it clear that the receptionist was hiding. Gupta made his way further inside and found a small room off to the side with a bed and computer inside.
“How convenient… A bed right here. Now that I think of it, I’m getting rather tired…” Herakles commented.
“You can sleep. I’m going on.” Gupta replied, turning around. This all had to end- Team Aqua couldn’t be allowed to block off bridges and do whatever they wanted with scientists.

A few Team Aqua grunts were scattered around the ground floor, but they were easily evaded- there was no point in taking on what were clearly guards. Instead, Gupta climbed the stairs to the first floor, where the next grunt he saw was impossible to avoid.

“Great. I remember you from Slateport.” The bandanna clad man complained. “Why don’t you just run along and pretend you never saw us?”
“No.” Gupta retorted.
“Fine. Clamperl, chase this kid off.” The grunt decided, sending out his first Pokémon.
“Swellow, let’s go.” Gupta announced.
“Low!” Swellow called.

“Okay Clamperl, use Water Gun.” The grunt started.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta defaulted.
Swellow flew in to strike Clamperl swiftly, before the opponent could react. Clamperl’s retaliating attack was incredibly weak in comparison.
“Clamperl, Clamp!” The grunt continued.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow was again too fast for the opponent, and successfully knocked it out before the other Pokémon could attack.

“Don’t think for a second that I’m letting up.” The Aqua Grunt continued, quickly switching Pokémon. “Take over Poochyena.”
“Yena!” Poochyena roared.
“Assurance.” The grunt demanded.
“Stay there Swellow. Aerial Ace.” Gupta followed.
Swellow dove in first once again, enacting a powerful strike against Poochyena, who responded with a sliding punch with its front paws. Swellow shrugged the attack off.
“Bite Poochyena.” The Grunt ordered.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated again.
Swellow knocked the second opponent out in much the same manner as the first, leaving Poochyena without a chance to carry out its second attack.

“Great. You’re just as strong as before. Alright Carvanha, let’s do what we can.” The Aqua Grunt complained, perhaps already considering defeat.
“Vana!” Carvanha growled.
“Swellow, take it easy. Vibrava, take it from here.” Gupta commented, also switching out his Pokémon.
“Brava.” Vibrava hissed.
“Carvanha, Ice Fang.” The man tried.
“Earthquake Vibrava.” Gupta suggested.
Vibrava was just slightly faster than Carvanha, and let off a powerful shockwave that staggered the opponent momentarily, before Carvanha responded with a bite coated in ice that left Vibrava reeling.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta continued.
“Aqua Jet.” The Aqua Grunt decided.
Carvanha launched itself into Vibrava with a powerful burst of water that left Vibrava barely holding on. Gupta’s Pokémon withstood the attack however, and responded with a barrage of rocks that took Carvanha down.

“I’m not sure what else I expected… Go on then. Michelle is ahead.” The grunt explained.
“Fine. I’ll convince her to leave.” Gupta stated, looking out over the rest of the floor. There seemed to be nobody in the office space, but the closed area at the end suggested that those present were simply hidden from view. As he walked forwards, Gupta heard voices, and once he reached the door and opened it, figures became immediately visible; a group of scientists standing around in various degrees of shock, and Michelle standing before one of the room’s cabinets, looking distressed.

“This… Is this really how it is?” She asked herself. “After everything I said about those stupid plans to raise the land… No way can the things we’re working for be this bad!”
“Realised that your ambitions were madness finally?” Gupta snarked, walking right up to the Aqua Admin.
“No! They’re not. They can’t be!” Michelle argued, rounding on Gupta.
“It’s still not too late if you turn back.” The teenager pointed out, walking towards the woman.
“It’s too late. It’s far too late! That’s why it can’t be true!” Michelle retorted.
“Only if you continue to cling to your ideals…” Gupta deadpanned.
“Leave me alone. Just leave me alone! Alomomola, send him away!” The Aqua Admin panicked.
“Okay Umbreon, take this on.” Gupta decided, sending out a Pokémon to counter.

“Water Pulse Alomomola!” Michelle started.
“Bite Umbreon.” Gupta followed.
Umbreon was swifter than the opponent, managing to get in a powerful bite before Alomomola could attack. Its counterattack sent Umbreon flying, but he managed to regain his footing without much trouble.
“Alomomola, Wake-up Slap!” Michelle continued.
“Take Down.” Gupta decided.
Umbreon charged the enemy with a powerful tackle that damaged him as well but left the opponent barely standing. Alomomola slapped Umbreon backwards in response, causing severe damage.
“Bite again.” Gupta repeated from earlier.
“Wake-up Slap.” The Aqua Admin tried.
Umbreon managed to get ahead of Alomomola once again, knocking it out before it could damage Umbreon any further. Michelle breathed hard as she watched her Pokémon fall, looking as though she was starting to calm down slightly.

“Pelipper, take over from Alomomola.” She decided, switching her Pokémon. “Use Water Pulse.”
Gupta had seen a Pelipper before, but only now recognised it as Wingull’s evolved form. That didn’t change his course of action.
“Umbreon, take a rest. Camerupt, use Rock Slide.” Gupta chose, also switching Pokémon out.
Pelipper sent a damaging barrage of water towards Camerupt, who responded with a rain of rocks that were just as powerful.
“Brine.” Michelle ordered.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated.
Pelipper rained water down on Camerupt, who took massive damage and struggled to stand in the aftermath. Luckily for Gupta, Camerupt’s responding attack carried far more power than usual, and successfully took the second Pokémon down.

“You…!” Michelle seethed. “Huntail, let’s go. Water Pulse!”
The Pokémon that emerged looked like nothing Gupta had ever seen. Some sort of sea creature perhaps? That fit with Aqua’s theme at least.
“Swampert, take over. Use Earthquake.” Gupta carried on.
Huntail sent a large pulse of water towards Swampert, but he withstood the attack without issue and responded with a powerful shockwave that knocked Huntail back.
“Dive!” Michelle commanded.
“Surf Swampert.” Gupta chose, watching as Huntail somehow… Disappeared. Did it somehow dive into the floor? Where did it go? This seemed irrelevant, as when Swampert created a torrent of water in response, Huntail was brought out of concealment, and driven back into a wall. The water drained out of the windows as Huntail slid down to the floor, defeated in the attack.

“Milotic. Make it count.” Michelle implored her Pokémon, looking resigned.
“Enough Swampert. Swellow, let’s go.” Gupta told his Pokémon.
Milotic was a large, beautiful serpentine creature. The face of the Aqua Admin suggested that this was her last Pokémon, but it looked nothing like the tatty fish Gupta had faced the last time they had met. Had that really evolved into this?
“Milotic. Disarming Voice.” Michelle ordered.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta reacted.
Swellow flew high into the air and dove down onto Milotic, who let out a damaging screech in return that Swellow seemed repulsed by.
“Now Dragon Tail.” Michelle decided.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow struck the opponent again, but Milotic stayed firm, responding with a powerful sweep with its tail. Swellow still seemed to be going strong.
“Water Pulse.” Michelle tried.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta parroted.
Swellow hit Milotic for a third and final time, knocking the Pokémon down at last.
“Milotic… Okay.” Michelle accepted, looking at her downed Pokémon.

“You lost. There’s nothing else to it.” Gupta stated.
“I lost… But. I still can’t turn back.” Michelle sighed.
“Why not?” Gupta asked.
“My full name… Is Michelle Bonnefoy.” The Aqua Admin revealed. “I know you’ve met the man who leads Team Magma… My older brother. I split my family apart when I made my choice… I can’t go back now.” She walked past Gupta, stopping just before she reached the door. “What will happen now… I don’t see why both our teams’ plans won’t come true. When that happens… You might be the only one able to do anything. Be ready for that, okay?”
Gupta stayed silent as Team Aqua crept slowly away.

“Gupta. You managed to beat them then…” Herakles greeted, walking into the room.
“Right. Team Aqua’s gone. And possibly a little discouraged.” Gupta answered.
“If that’s all in order, do you want to move on?” Herakles asked. “We really aren’t far from Fortree City now.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” Gupta agreed, already on his way towards the exit.

Chapter Text

Herakles had suggested that Gupta rest his Pokémon before moving on, and marched him to the bed in the Weather Institute. Gupta wondered what use a short rest could really be, but a ten minute nap restored his Pokémon to full health. Gupta had no idea how that was supposed to work, but Herakles persuaded him not to think about it too much.

All traces of Team Aqua had disappeared by the time Gupta and Herakles made it outside. The bridge that had once been impassable was now an open path forwards to Fortree City. The two boys walked on, assuming an easy path ahead of them. They didn’t get far along the path on the other side of the river before they were interrupted.

“Guppie! I caught up with ya!” Sadik shouted in their direction, running up the path towards them.
“Good to see you Sadik.” Gupta greeted.
“It’s you again.” Herakles stated.
“Hey, if it isn’t the brat. No clue ya were travellin’ around.” Sadik commented.
“You’re still clinging to Gupta… Like a puppy.” Herakles accused.
“Yeah, whatever. Anyway Guppie, I did a whole lot of training and caught a new friend too!” Sadik carried on, ignoring Herakles completely. “How about we test how far we’ve come so far?”
“This should be interesting.” Herakles assessed, moving to sit some distance away.
“Okay then.” Gupta accepted.

“Great! Okay then Çene, let’s see what ya do!” Sadik grinned, sending out a new Pokémon.
“Vanha!” Çene smirked, wiggling from side to side as though it couldn’t wait to get started. It seemed that Sadik had caught a Carvanha, and an energetic one at that.
“Umbreon, take this one on.” Gupta decided, sending out his first Pokémon.
“Bre…!” Umbreon hissed, clearly wary of the newcomer.
“Çene, Ice Fang.” Sadik began.
“Swift Umbreon.” Gupta suggested.
Umbreon managed to attack first, shooting a starry ray at Çene. The Pokémon responded with a powerful bite of ice that Umbreon still managed to shrug off.
“Aqua Jet Çene!” Sadik continued.
“Take Down.” Gupta chose.
Çene powered into Umbreon on a jet of water, but Umbreon responded with a powerful slam that knocked the opponent out. Umbreon seemed to take heavy damage from the attack.

“Okay Çene, that’s good for now.” Sadik reassured his Pokémon. “Asena, take over for her!”
“Yena!” Asena barked.
“Umbreon, rest for now. Swellow, let’s go.” Gupta announced, swapping his Pokémon.
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Asena, use Assurance.” Sadik decided.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta defaulted.
Swellow dove in quickly and hit the opponent hard, before Asena responded with a punch using her front paws.
“Bite Asena.” Sadik changed move.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow again hit Asena hard, but Sadik’s Pokémon refused to give up, recovering and charging in to bite Swellow. Both Pokémon were looking tired; they seemed a fairly even match.
“Assurance!” Sadik tried.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta stuck to.
As usually happened, Swellow hit Asena before she could move, knocking her down and finishing the round.

“Not bad Guppie. Still, let’s see how you deal with Zehir!” Sadik declared, sending out his third Pokémon.
“Viper!” Zehir hissed.
“Vibrava, you can take on this one.” Gupta told his Pokémon, switching out yet again.
“Brava!” Vibrava called.
“Poison Jab Zehir!” Sadik enthused.
“Earthquake.” Gupta decided on.
Vibrava managed to get the edge on Zehir, letting off a greatly damaging shockwave before jabbing the tip of her tail repeatedly at Vibrava.
“Night Slash Zehir!” Sadik moved on.
“Earthquake.” Gupta parroted.
Vibrava created a shockwave that was even more powerful than usual, and defeated Zehir before the other Pokémon could attack her.

“Don’t worry Zehir, ya did good. Okay Lale, yer turn now!” Sadik conversed.
“Saur!” Lale roared, looking as happy as ever.
“Stay there Vibrava.” Gupta chose, deciding that Vibrava wasn’t too tired to fight.
“Lale, Petal Dance!” Sadik declared.
“Earthquake.” Gupta repeated from earlier.
Despite her size, Lale was able to move first, creating a raging shower of petals that buffeted Vibrava. Vibrava responded by creating a large shockwave, but Lale seemed unfazed.
“Earthquake again.” Gupta repeated, a little confused by Sadik’s silence. Lale continued to use the same attack despite his lack of input, and it was clear that Vibrava couldn’t take another hit, struggling to stand as she hit Lale with a shockwave again.
“Petal Dance just keeps on goin’ like that. Don’t need to tell yer Pokémon to carry on.” Sadik explained.
“Fine. Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta tried.
It wasn’t a lot of use, as Vibrava was knocked out before she could move. However, Lale looked truly fatigued and dizzied in the aftermath.

“Alright Camerupt, finish this.” Gupta moved on, sending out his next Pokémon. “Use Lava Plume.”
“Camer!” Camerupt smiled, beginning to prepare her attack.
“Don’t give up Lale! Try Leech Seed!” Sadik encouraged.
Lale seemed not to hear him, instead tripping up and falling flat on her face. It almost seemed unfair when Camerupt sent a wave of fire to knock her out; she seemed too dizzy to really act.

“Don’t worry Lale.” Sadik soothed, returning her to the Pokeball. “Alright Pençe, let’s carry on.”
“Skar!” Pençe crowed.
“Right Pençe, use Air Cutter!” Sadik commanded.
“Lava Plume Camerupt.” Gupta repeated.
Pençe delivered a powerful slash attack to Camerupt, but she seemed not to care, and threw a wave of fire back in Pençe’s direction, that damaged him far more.
“Metal Claw.” Sadik stated.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated again.
Camerupt seemed to repel Pençe’s slashing claws, taking little damage while managing another powerful attack that almost knocked the opponent out.
“Swift Pençe!” Sadik attempted.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated for the third time.
Pençe shot a ray of stars at Camerupt, but she shrugged the attack off. The fiery wave she sent back Pençe’s way knocked the Pokémon out.

“Well, guess we’re down to the wire. There’s nothing left but to use Ateş. Let’s do our best buddy!” Sadik assured his Pokémon.
“Blaziken!” Ateş cheered.
“Camerupt, we can do this.” Gupta stuck with his current Pokémon.
“Heh, we’ll see…” Sadik stated ominously, hand ghosting over the bracelet he wore. “After all, we have access to that advanced form of evolution… We can Mega Evolve! Let’s go!”
“Ken!” Ateş roared, starting to glow. A spherical shell covered him, and a bright light obscured the view. Seconds later, Ateş leapt forth, looking rather different from how he’d been before.

The yellow fur on his body had turned red and the red black. The blond mane that had curved downwards now stood up, looking rougher than before. The crest on his head had fused into a single red horn in the middle of his forehead. His wrists also emitted long, bursting flames. He looked fierce. And yet he still smiled.

“Camerupt, Earth Power.” Gupta carried on regardless.
“Ateş, Double Kick!” Sadik started.
Camerupt took both attacks head on, and was beginning to look fatigued. She managed to bring forth energy from the ground to attack (which clearly caused damage to Ateş), but the battle was far from won.
“Quick Attack!” Sadik declared.
“Earth Power.” Gupta tried.
Camerupt didn’t even stand a chance, as Ateş attacked with blinding speed, knocking her down before she could even prepare to attack.

“Alright, let’s fight then Swampert.” Gupta decided, sending out his last Pokémon.
“Swampert!” Swampert grinned as he emerged from the Pokeball.
“Gupta. Try Mega Evolving Swampert.” Herakles suggested from his vantage point.
“I could have told him that, brat!” Sadik shouted over.
“Fine.” Gupta shrugged, looking towards Swampert, who only smiled calmly at him. He touched against the earring he had been given. Did he really have to give a cheesy speech…?”
“Um… Mega Evolve, Swampert?” Gupta attempted.
“Pert!” Swampert cried, jumping up and down and beginning to glow. Soon enough, the shell enveloped him and he Mega Evolved as well.

“Swampert!” Swampert roared, swinging his arms. His arms had grown incredibly thick and strong, and his head-fins extended longer, down the length of his back. A third fin was situated between the two, and his gills were also longer.

“Heh. Alright. Ateş, use Double Kick!” Sadik continued.
“Surf Swampert.” Gupta chose.
Ateş kicked Swampert viciously, but he was able to shrug the attack off without issue. Swampert smiled enthusiastically as he flooded the entire area, washing Ateş into some trees.
“Are ya alright Ateş? Come on, Peck!” Sadik spoke to his Pokémon.
“Surf again.” Gupta repeated. For once, Swampert’s water attacks were being useful.
“Ken!” Ateş chirped, running forwards to peck at Swampert.
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, blasting Ateş away with a barrage of water that forced him into the ground and knocked him out.

“Heh… Not bad Guppie. Ya’ve gotten really strong now.” Sadik complimented.
“I suppose I have.” Gupta nodded, watching as Swampert reverted to his usual form with a flash. He wandered slowly over to Ateş, who had also reverted, and tried to help him to his feet.
“Blaziken…” Ateş seemed to thank his old friend.
“Anyway. Guess we should head to Fortree now, huh?” Sadik asked, looking along the path they had yet to take.
“That sounds good… Alright. Let’s go.” Herakles seconded, walking over to the duo.

Fortree City was reached without further incidence, and Gupta, Sadik, and Herakles made it to the city a little before midday. Before they went to the Pokémon Centre, Gupta took a cursory glance at the settlement.

Perhaps as its name would suggest, Fortree was a city built largely in the trees. Ladders and bridges connected most of the houses, which were situated high up in the branches. A few other buildings, like the Pokémon Centre and gym, were situated on ground level, but otherwise it seemed like a hard place to traverse.

The inside of the Pokémon Centre was the same as any other, and while Gupta and Sadik healed their Pokémon, Herakles turned to the pair.
“I think I’ll go by myself for a while… I want to get supplies, and possibly take a nap before I challenge the gym… I don’t want you to wait around for me. But it was nice seeing you, Gupta…” He detailed.
“Fair enough. Good luck Herakles.” Gupta agreed, watching his friend leave.
“Well, that’s him I guess. I’ll be challengin’ the gym next, so I’ll see ya later.” Sadik waved, heading off out of the Pokémon Centre himself.

Gupta had barely finished healing his Pokémon before Sadik was back, a frown on his face.
“Somethin’s blocking the gym Guppie!” He complained. “We’ll never get in at this rate!”
“Let’s investigate then.” Gupta decided, looking to the exit of the Pokémon Centre. “You investigate around the town. I’ll look outside.”
“Great idea.” Sadik accepted. “I’m countin’ on ya!”
“See you soon.” The smaller teen promised, beginning his journey.

Route 119 hadn’t contained anything interesting on their way up it, so Gupta doubted it held the answers now. Instead, he climbed one of the ladders and walked across the length of the town, soon clambering down and heading out the other side.

Route 120 was humid and covered in puddles. Gupta made sure to avoid the trainers (he didn’t want to battle so soon after defeating Sadik), the teenager dove into the tall grass and made his way south, deducing that there was nothing particularly interesting about the route so far.

As he emerged from the other side of the grass and looked towards the bridge off to the side, Gupta began to wonder what exactly he was meant to be looking for. Nothing in particular stood out to him, and Sadik had never been clear about what the blockage had been. When he had passed the gym on his way out of the city, he hadn’t seen anything that looked like it could bar the way. As he walked along the bridge, he noticed a figure, and recognition dawned.

“Guppie! Haven’t seen you in ages! You’ve been okay, right?” Yong Soo greeted, as enthusiastically as ever.
“I’m mostly fine.” Gupta answered, walking closer. “Something’s blocking the entrance to Fortree Gym though… Apparently.”
“Oh! Did that happen again? Don’t worry, I know just what to do.” The older teen stated. “It gives me the chance to give you that thing too. But anyway… Are you ready to fight? Like now?”
“I suppose.” Gupta nodded. What did the other trainer have in mind?
“Great! Okay, put this on then…” Yong Soo continued, handing Gupta an item he had pulled from his bag.
“Right…” Gupta nodded sceptically, looking the object over. They looked like goggles of some sort, but he wasn’t sure what good they would be… Until he put them on, and a Pokémon he had never seen before became visible only a few metres away.
“Kecleon!” The hidden Pokémon cried, charging forwards.
“Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta chose, quickly sending out his Pokémon to deal with the opponent. She dodged the attack, delivering a shockwave which knocked the wild Pokémon back, at which point it turned and fled.

“That was good! Did you see how the Pokémon became visible when you startled it? You can use that to clear the path to the gym.” Yong Soo explained. “While you’re here, I wanted you to have this. It’s something I found in Meteor Falls before, and I think you’ll use it well pretty soon. The Pokémon you sent out just now proves that!” He handed a strange gemstone over to Gupta. “Here you go, it’s Flygonite!”
“Another Mega Stone…” Gupta realised.
“Yep! That reminds me… Did you maybe receive a meteorite sometime…?” The older trainer inquired. Gupta stared for a second. Did he have a meteorite? Actually…
“Anyway, that can wait for another time. See you around Guppie!” Yong Soo shrugged off, looking towards the end of the bridge before rushing off.

“A meteorite? That sounds interesting… I’m interested in astronomy and similar. The murals in Dewford were amazing…” Herakles commented, walking up behind Gupta.
“A meteorite…” Gupta considered, taking the item out of his bag. In truth, he had more or less forgotten about it after taking it at Mt. Chimney. Now that it was mentioned, he realised how heavy it was.
“That’s a meteorite. Look at that colouring… That’s a lucky find.” Herakles continued.
“You have it.” Gupta deadpanned, offering the object forwards. “I don’t think I need it.”
“Really? Thanks so much… It feels really warm.” Herakles smiled softly, taking hold of the item. “These patterns are so pretty…”
“Good for you.” Gupta assessed.
“Anyway. I was going to carry on. I’ll see you around, hopefully…” Herakles stated, drifting towards the other side of the bridge. Gupta watched him for a while before returning to Fortree City.

“Ya say this’ll work on that blockage?” Sadik questioned, looking over the goggles from before. “Well, there’s only one way to find out!” He put on the accessory and started moving towards the invisible roadblock. A Kecleon appeared before Gupta, looked startlingly at the duo, and ran into the trees.
“Whoa. An invisible Pokémon huh?” Sadik appreciated. “Never would’ve thought of that. Anyway… I’ll take on the gym for now. Let ya know when I’m done.”
“Fair enough.” Gupta nodded, letting Sadik past him into the gym.
“Thanks Guppie!” The other trainer added as he rounded a corner.

Chapter Text

Gupta had been waiting in the Pokémon Centre as usual when Sadik entered the area, looking pleased with himself.
“I’m going to assume you’ve won.” Gupta stated as the other teenager moved to heal his Pokémon.
“Sure, it was a piece of cake!” Sadik boasted. “Although… Somehow, that brat Herakles beat me there!”
“You mean he got around the blockade?” Gupta assumed. “Odd. Anyway. I’ll take on the Gym Leader.”
“Sure thing. Good luck Guppie!” Sadik waved from the counter as Gupta left.

The inside of Fortree Gym was quiet, patterned with dandelions and enveloped in a gentle breeze. The maze that led through the gym sloped upwards to some sort of ledge at the top, and some sort of turning gates swung in the breeze as they blocked the resulting path. The same guide as always awaited him, looking vaguely amused.
“It seems quiet in here, doesn’t it?” He guessed, leaning against the statue at the entrance. “The Gym Leader here has a protective older brother. He’s very strict about the Gym Trainers they let in here, so there aren’t many of them.”
“At least I won’t get constantly interrupted.” Gupta supposed.
“There is that.” Kyung Soo nodded. “Anyway. The Gym Leader and her brother use flying types here. As long as you bear that in mind, you’ll have no problems.”
“Fair enough.” Gupta agreed, starting to head into the gym.

Gupta realised that the gates in the gym were different to how he had expected. A single post was driven into the ground in the middle, from which several boards protruded. When he pushed on the first board, the contraption spun around like a turnstile, and he was able to proceed. The second gate swung just as easily, and Gupta climbed to a second level within the gym.

The gate he found there didn’t move around, and Gupta noticed that the board blocking the way protruded further than the width of the path, causing it to get stuck on the wood bales that formed the ‘walls’ of the maze. Luckily, there was a second path off to the side, and when Gupta took it, it looped around to the other side of the wooden turnstile. Pushing it from this side swung it around so that the path was no longer blocked, but Gupta was left back where he started, and was forced to take the long path around again to carry on and up to the third level.

The wood blocks that formed the sides of the area were far larger on this level, and the paths between were narrow. This time, Gupta had to navigate an even more complicated puzzle, pushing boards into specific positions in a particular order in order to go on. Halfway through his attempts to solve the level, Gupta found himself face to face with a trainer.

The young man was dressed simply in brown trousers with a white shirt and green jacket. His bob-cut blond hair swayed in the breeze, while his green eyes were frozen hard in determination. Gupta assumed that this was the Gym Leader’s brother.
“So you’re the one who came to challenge the gym. The other trainers are still licking their wounds after the last two losses. I told them to retrain themselves. But I’m still here. Alright Scyther, let’s go!”
“Scyther!” The Pokémon cried.
“Swellow, handle this.” Gupta decided.
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Scyther, Slash.” The trainer started.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta began.
Swellow swept in and struck Scyther before it could attack. Scyther responded with a flying slash that Swellow easily endured.
“Slash again.” The Gym Trainer repeated.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta followed.
Swellow was once again too fast for the opponent, knocking it down and taking it out before it could respond.

“That’s one of my Pokémon. Staravia, take this up.” The Gym Trainer continued.
“Stay put Swellow.” Gupta chose.
“Staravia, Aerial Ace.” The trainer commanded.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta parroted.
Swellow managed to strike the opponent first, causing a decent amount of damage. Staravia responded with an almost identical attack.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
“Endeavour.” The trainer replied.
Swellow again attacked first, but was soon subjected to a powerful counterattack that left Swellow barely standing. Gupta couldn’t quite understand how the opponent had gotten so powerful.
“Quick Attack.” The young man attempted.
“Quick Attack.” Gupta copied, not wanting to let the enemy attack first.
Both Pokémon dashed towards each other, but Swellow managed to strike first, kicking Staravia to the ground.

“Man, what is it with all the strong trainers today…? Whatever.” The trainer commented, folding his arms and stepping back. Gupta was left to consider how rare trainers conquering gyms was actually meant to be as he carried on down the path, returning the tired looking Swellow to her Pokeball before he went.

The rest of the puzzle beyond the trainer was trivial, and Gupta found himself walking up the steps towards the Gym Leader in no time at all. The Gym Leader stood atop a raised platform, patterned with flowers. A few windmills turned at the back of the arena. In the middle, a young woman stood, staring serenely at Gupta.
She was clearly related to the trainer from before, with the same colour of hair and eyes and the same bob-cut framing her face. She wore a simple red dress and white tights, and a cutesy bow in her hair, but carried an expression that told Gupta that she was not to be messed with.

“Hello. You’re the third challenger I’ve met here today.” She greeted. “You solved the puzzles in the gym, and you defeated my big brother… In which case, you’re clearly strong enough to face me.”
“That is what I came for.” Gupta pointed out.
“Of course.” The girl continued. “Welcome to the Fortree Gym then. I’m Lili, the Gym Leader here. I like living among the nature and Pokémon here. It’s helped me understand Pokémon a lot better, I think… Now let me see how the bond between you and your Pokémon is developing.”

“Alright then. Camerupt, let’s fight.” Gupta started.
“Tropius, do your best.” Lili asked of her Pokémon.
“Camer!” Camerupt greeted the opponent.
“Tropius!” It roared back.
“Tropius, Stomp!” Lili requested.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta responded.
Tropius rose up on its large leafy wings and fell down suddenly on Camerupt. Its dinosaur like form was a little unnerving, but Camerupt was unfazed, and engulfed Tropius in a wave of fire anyway.
“Leaf Storm Tropius.” Lili continued.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated.
Tropius swept up a roaring storm of foliage and debris that injured Camerupt badly. She was able to respond with a roaring torrent of fire that took Tropius down.

“Don’t worry Tropius, you did your best.” The Gym Leader reassured her Pokémon, beginning to switch it out for another. “Emolga, take over.”
“Emolga!” The Pokémon cheered.
“Camerupt, take a break.” Gupta decided, switching his Pokémon. “Go Umbreon.”
“Bre!” Umbreon hissed.
“Emolga, Acrobatics!” The Gym Leader suggested.
“Take Down Umbreon.” Gupta settled on.
Emolga jumped in with blinding speed and beat into Umbreon, who slammed the opponent with considerable power in response.
“Now use Shock Wave.” Lili followed on.
“Bite.” Gupta chose.
Emolga emitted a shock of electricity that Umbreon was able to withstand. He responded with a bite that pulled Emolga out of the air and slammed it into the ground with enough force to knock it out.

“You’re doing well.” Lili commented, complimenting her Pokémon as much as Gupta. “Togetic, let’s continue.”
“Tic tic!” Togetic chirped.
“Umbreon, stay where you are.” Gupta advised. “Take Down.”
“Togetic, Fairy Wind.” Lili spoke to her Pokémon.
Umbreon slammed Togetic with some power, but also took significant recoil damage. Togetic’s responding gust seemed strangely damaging to Umbreon, and given his already weakening state, it defeated him easily.

“Alright Umbreon, return.” Gupta accepted, getting ready to switch Pokémon again. “Swampert, let’s fight.”
“Swampert!” Swampert grinned.
“Fairy Wind Togetic.” The Gym Leader repeated.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta decided.
“Swamp!” Swampert complained, running over and swatting at his trainer’s ear. Gupta caught on quickly to what the Pokémon wanted.
“Alright, I’ll do it.” He relented, activating Swampert’s Mega Evolution.
Swampert started to glow, soon bursting out into his larger, more powerful form. Somehow, the bulky Pokémon was able to get the jump on its opponent, bringing down a cascade of rocks that caused massive damage to Togetic. It survived, but its responding attack was lacklustre in comparison, despite it being same as the attack that had knocked out Umbreon.
“Togetic, Wish!” Lili attempted.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated.
Gupta had never heard of the move Togetic was trying to use, but considering Swampert knocked it out before it could finish using it, he figured it likely didn’t matter.

“It’s come down to this then.” Lili stated. “My final Pokémon. Altaria, don’t give up!”
“Ria!” Altaria chirped.
“You’re not the only one who can Mega Evolve… My Pokémon can do it too.” Lili pointed out, fiddling with a pendant that she wore. A familiar glow surrounded Altaria, and when it subsided, the Pokémon seemed even fluffier than before.
“Now Altaria, Take Down.” The Gym Leader continued.
“Swampert, use… Earthquake?” Gupta guessed. The opponent looked like a bird, but something told him to at least try.
Altaria rushed in and slammed Swampert hard, clearly taking damage in recoil. Swampert responded with a powerful shockwave that shook the platform they were on. And the walls. And damaged Altaria, despite the fact that it was floating. Somehow.
“Okay.” Gupta shrugged. “Earthquake again.”
“Dragonbreath Altaria!” Lili continued.
Altaria launched a purple beam of power at Swampert, who shrugged the attack off and sent another shockwave back at Altaria, leaving it clearly hurting.
“Earthquake.” Gupta chose for the third time.
“Disarming Voice!” The Gym Leader decided.
Altaria let out a screech that seemed to make Swampert a little wary, but he still attacked again, with a shockwave that caused enough damage to knock Altaria out.

“Well done… You’re clearly a very strong trainer.” Lili complimented, returning her tired out Pokémon to the ball. “In which case, you more than deserve the feather badge.”
Swampert, reverting to his usual form, strode calmly over to Lili as she got the badge out, before taking it and ferrying it over to Gupta. The Gym Leader smiled at the display.
“The bond you share with your Pokémon is something else… You should also be able to use this.” She took out a disc which Gupta walked over to collect before Swampert had a chance to put it in his mouth. “It’s the TM for Roost. If you have any flying-type Pokémon, you should find it useful.”
“Thanks.” Gupta nodded, putting the TM away while pinning his latest badge to his bag.
“I’m interested in how much further you can go… Anyway. Until we meet again.” Lili finalised, waving as Gupta started along the series of ledges that led down to the edge of the gym.

“Guppie! Did ya win?” Sadik asked as the smaller teen returned to the Pokémon Centre.
“Somehow.” Gupta revealed, healing his Pokémon. “Swampert was able to hit Altaria with Earthquake.”
“Mega Altaria loses its flying type and gains the fairy type.” Sadik explained. “So even though it’s still airborne, ground attacks can hit it.”
“That… Doesn’t work.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Yeah, well… Don’t think about it too hard.” Sadik brushed off. “Besides. We should rest up. Tomorrow we head out on the long journey to Lilycove City!”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed. It was getting late…

The light of the moon shone down on the tent that had been erected in a clearing within the grass of Route 121. Herakles slept on, the meteorite he had previously gained in his hand, while a new friend curled up at his feet.

Chapter Text

Early the next morning, Gupta woke in the Pokémon Centre, and began to get his belongings together, ready to leave. Swampert seemed to still be sleeping, and Gupta looked towards Sadik, hoping that he would wake up before Swampert saw the need to intervene.
“Swamp…” Swampert yawned, waking up groggily.
“Swampert…” Gupta warned, already knowing what his Pokémon was going to do.
Swampert looked to Gupta, grinned, and used Surf.

“Don’t worry about it Guppie. I mean it. Swampert’s just tryin’ to help.” Sadik shrugged off, climbing down the ladder that brought them to the path that led to Route 120.
“He shouldn’t.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Don’t worry.” Sadik insisted, looking out on Route 120.

It was, all in all, exactly as Gupta remembered it, path twisting through tall grass and leading to the bridge where Gupta had learned of the hidden Pokémon intent on blocking their path.
“I already took care of the trainers before the bridge. So how about we head out from there?” Sadik suggested.
“Fine by me.” Gupta agreed, walking forwards.

Gupta hadn’t ventured out beyond the bridge before, and the scene beyond was even wetter than the area before, with rain constantly falling and the ground saturated with water. As the path curved downwards and to the right, it split around some trees.
“I’ll go down. You can go up if ya want. The path should join back up anyway.” Sadik explained, running off down the lower path. Gupta took the upper path as suggested, noticing the relative lack of trainers. He walked for several minutes in almost complete silence, save for the sound of rain.

Suddenly, there was a shout, and Gupta looked around to find a small boy had hidden himself in the trees.
“Hiyah!Got you!” The boy cheered.
“Not this again.” Gupta sighed.
“Come on, let’s fight! Koffing, take this on!” The child declared.
“Umbreon, deal with this.” Gupta decided, sending out his first Pokémon.

“Bre!” Umbreon hissed.
“Koffing!” The opponent roared back.
“Koffing, Sludge!” The boy started.
“Bite Umbreon.” Gupta suggested.
Umbreon delivered a harsh bite to Koffing, who threw horrible sludge in Umbreon’s direction in response.
“Tackle Koffing!” The boy continued.
“Bite again.” Gupta repeated.
Umbreon tore into the opponent again, throwing it into a tree and knocking it out. Gupta couldn’t help but notice how easily the opponent had been defeated.

“Don’t worry! There’s more where that came from!” The boy promised. “Koffing, take over now!”
“Koffing!” The second Pokémon cried.
“Take Down.” Gupta chose, wondering over the logic in the boy using the same species of Pokémon over and over.
“Assurance Koffing!” The young child attempted.
Umbreon slammed Koffing hard, leaving it barely standing. Koffing spun into Umbreon in retaliation, although its attack was relatively weak. Umbreon had probably hurt itself more with recoil.
“Koffing, Smog!” The child followed.
“Swift.” Gupta advised.
Umbreon, being much faster than the opponent, was able to shoot it out of the sky with its next attack before Koffing could attack.

“Just one more! Go Koffing!” The boy carried on, sending out his next Pokémon.
“Koffing!” Koffing cried. Gupta sighed. Three of the same Pokémon?
“Bite Umbreon.” Gupta defaulted.
“We’ll show you! Self-destruct Koffing!” The boy laughed.
Umbreon attacked first, but was then knocked back as Koffing exploded. Umbreon slid along the ground but was able to get to his feet. Koffing was knocked out instantly. Gupta was left wondering what the point of that had been as the child mused over his loss.

Sadik was proven right soon after, as Gupta’s path curved downwards and met up with Sadik’s. Gupta found the other trainer in battle, and Sadik waved as he walked past.
“Don’t worry about me Guppie! Carry on through the grass, I’ll catch up.” Sadik commented.
“Fine.” Gupta nodded, carrying on south.

The tall grass ahead of him had multiple paths cut through it, enabling Gupta to proceed while being fully able to see where he was going. The paths twisted constantly leftwards and rightwards, but Gupta wasn’t interested in passing through the grass, and so carried on down them regardless. The journey was long, and quite some time passed without Gupta seeing much of anyone. But as the path finally turned southwards again, Gupta found himself face to face with another trainer.

“You there. Battle my Pokémon.” The trainer insisted.
“Fine.” Gupta agreed. It wasn’t like he had a choice.
“Masquerain, let’s go.” The trainer began.
“Swellow, take care of this.” Gupta decided, sending out his Pokémon.
“Masquerain!” The Pokémon chirped.
“Low!” Swellow cried, shaking the rain from her wings.

“Alright Masquerain, Bubble!” The trainer decided.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta told his Pokémon.
Swellow swooped in with a powerful flying slash that greatly damaged Masquerain, while the enemy countered with a fairly weak spray of bubbles that hardly seemed to trouble Swellow, as she shrugged them off as easily as the rain.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
“Gust.” The trainer commanded.
Swellow beat Masquerain to the punch, and knocked the opponent down before it could attack (not that Gupta believed for a second that this Pokémon could have defeated Swellow).
“Well done… My precious bug Pokémon.” The trainer spoke.
“Right…” Gupta reacted, stepping slowly away from the trainer and carrying on down the path, which veered again off to the left.

At the end of the path, Gupta found a ledge, which he saw no choice but to jump down. He ended up walking along a cliff above some sort of lake, with tall grass to one side and a cliff to the other. At the end of the grass patch, another ledge continued the path on southwards.
“Guppie!” Sadik yelled, bursting out of the grass and tumbling over the ledge and onto the path below.
“Sadik. So you won.” Gupta assumed.
“Sure did. Anyway, onwards we go!” Sadik grinned, starting to follow along the path, with Gupta walking with him.

The path after this carried on over another bridge that stretched over the lake, and the rain subsided as the pair walked over. It was getting to be late in the morning by the time they made it to the other side.
“It’s not long until we reach Route 121 now.” Sadik stated. “If we’re lucky, we’ll make it to Lilycove before it gets dark.”
“I should hope so.” Gupta answered.

The path carried on south for quite a while before seemingly splitting into two directions.
“I’ll investigate the path off to the right, although I don’t think it goes anywhere much.” Sadik stated. “Ya can stay here if ya want.”
“Maybe.” Gupta stated. He didn’t really want to go out of his way, if there wasn’t anything there to see.

Sadik walked off, and was gone for a long time. Gupta got bored, and wandered up the path his friend had disappeared down. Another lake was off to the left, with some berry plants growing slowly off to the side. Gupta sat by the lake and decided to let his Pokémon out of their Pokeballs for a bit.
Umbreon immediately curled up by Gupta’s side while Vibrava, wondering if it was already lunchtime, made a dive for his bag. Swellow began circling the area around them, while Swampert dove straight into the lake and splashed around. Camerupt watched him, looking as though she would join in if only she weren’t weak to water.

After almost an hour, Sadik returned.
“There’s a lot of trainers up there.” He assessed. “And some kind of weird rock formation.Seems like people are investigatin’ it. Anyway, let’s get moving.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, calling his Pokémon back. Most of them returned to their Pokeballs happily, although Swampert pouted a bit and Vibrava tried to crawl into Gupta’s bag instead.

As they returned to the path that would lead to Lilycove, Gupta and Sadik spotted a trainer surveying the road ahead.
“Take this one Guppie.” Sadik instructed. “I’ve done my fair share of fights.”
“Alright.” Gupta agreed reluctantly. He didn’t want to fight, but Sadik had a point.

“Alright trainer! Let’s see how your Pokémon are shaping up.” The man greeted. “Come on Nuzleaf, let’s test our opponents!”
“Nuz!” Nuzleaf greeted.
“Alright Camerupt, let’s go.” Gupta chose.
“Camer!” Camerupt smiled.
“Nuzleaf, Leaf Blade!” The trainer started.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta followed.
Nuzleaf slashed at Camerupt, wielding a sharp looking leaf. Camerupt looked upset at the attack, and blew Nuzleaf away with a wave of fire in retaliation.
“Now Nuzleaf, Leaf Blade!” The trainer carried on.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated.
Nuzleaf cut at Camerupt again, hurting her quite badly. Luckily for Gupta, Camerupt’s counter attack was more powerful, and took the enemy down before it could do more damage.

“That’s looking good so far.” The trainer assessed. “Alright then Manectric, let’s continue!”
“Etric!” The Pokémon roared.
“Rest Camerupt.” Gupta decided. “Vibrava, take over for her.”
“Brava!” Vibrava chirped.
“Manectric, Bite!” The trainer chose.
“Earthquake Vibrava.” Gupta suggested.
Manectric ran in to bite Vibrava viciously, before being knocked backwards by the force of Vibrava’s Earthquake. It seemed to be barely holding on, even after just one attack.
“Quick Attack.” The trainer ordered.
“Earthquake.” Gupta parroted.
Manectric hit Vibrava with blinding speed, but it seemed to do little damage in the end. Vibrava’s counter caused massive damage, and took the opponent down.

“Alright Guppie!” Sadik cheered as the trainer won. Gupta wondered for a moment where the voice had come from, and when he looked around he noticed his friend was further down the path, having seemingly also battled a trainer.
“I thought you’d had enough battles.” Gupta stated.
“Yeah, well… There was one more trainer.” Sadik pointed out.

Lunchtime saw Sadik, Gupta and their Pokémon all settled by the side of the road, with the Pokémon left to their own devices while their trainers planned the route ahead. Ateş, Lale, and Swampert played happily off to the side while Pence and Swellow chirped calmly to each other. Camerupt looked over the playing Pokémon with a calm smile on her face. Asena and Umbreon stood steady guard over their trainers. Zehir preened herself while Vibrava was head first in the food bowl. Çene looked impatient to get moving, and Gupta noted that she looked completely different from the last time he had seen her- Sadik informed him that she had evolved into Sharpedo.

“Well, we’re making good time at least. Lilycove’s another couple of hours along this path.” Sadik pointed out. “There’s a place called the Safari Zone pretty close by actually. Thought maybe since we have the time we should swing by and check the place out. There’s meant to be loads of rare Pokémon that ya just don’t see much around here.”
“Sounds good.” Gupta appraised. It couldn’t hurt, seeing as they were fairly close to Lilycove City already…

“So, do we wanna get going already? Çene at least looks about ready to shoot off into space, although I dunno about the rest of our little guys…” Sadik pointed out.
“They’re not so little anymore.” Gupta mused. “Any of them.”
“Yeah, well… Pokémon grow so fast, huh?” Sadik laughed. “And we’re so close now to seein’ all the places in Hoenn there is to see. Guess this is the climax of our journey. Our Pokémon show it too. Come on, let’s see it through to the end.”
“Yeah.” Gupta agreed, turning to his Pokémon. Once he’d rounded them all up (a difficult job, considering the reluctance of the playing Pokémon to stop and the insistence of Vibrava to keep on eating), he turned to Sadik, and the two trainers moved on to Route 121 together.

Chapter Text

Sadik had healed their Pokémon before they had left. This proved to be useful, as Route 121 was crammed with trainers just itching to battle. Gupta and Sadik strode forward, with Gupta taking on the first trainer while Sadik battled the second.

“Trainer… Battle my Pokémon.” The mysterious girl who stood before Gupta stated. She looked eerie, with her black hair wild and uncontrolled and a crazed look in her eyes. “Come on… Duskull.”
“Dusk.” The Pokémon called.
“Umbreon, fight this.” Gupta chose, sending out his Pokémon.
“Bre!” Umbreon roared.
“Duskull, Shadow Sneak…” The trainer ordered.
“Bite Umbreon.” Gupta suggested.
Duskull created a rampaging shadow that managed to strike Umbreon before Umbreon could react. Umbreon responded with a powerful bite that caused great damage to the opponent.
“Now Duskull… Pursuit.” The woman continued.
“Bite.” Gupta repeated.
This time, Umbreon struck first, knocking the opponent out with a powerful bite before it could attack.

“Okay then… Sableye…” The trainer stated, sending out her second Pokémon.
“Umbreon, Bite.” Gupta continued.
“Shadow Claw.” The trainer commanded.
Umbreon managed to attack first, with a bite that seemed to do less damage than it had before. Sableye raked at Umbreon with shadowy claws that seemed to lack power.
“Knock Off.” The trainer followed.
“Bite.” Gupta parroted.
Umbreon attacked first yet again, bringing Sableye close to defeat. The counter attack didn’t cause too much damage.
“Feint Attack…” The trainer attempted.
“Bite.” Gupta repeated again.
Umbreon attacked first as he always did, knocking the opponent out successfully.

Sadik had also finished his battle by the time Gupta had found the teen, and the two of them continued on together. The path carried on for a few minutes before carrying on down a set of stairs. At this point, the path split into three; although only the eastern path seemed to actually go anywhere.

As they moved along the path, the two trainers travelled east through a pass until they reached another set of stairs moving back up. Sadik was insistent that they travel up them, and soon Gupta began to see a building come into view that he assumed was the Safari Zone. As they moved towards it, they came across another two trainers.
“Hey, battle me and my partner.” The older of the two girls requested.
“A double battle eh? Sure thing.” Sadik smiled. “Come on Ateş, let’s go!”
“Alright.” Gupta nodded. “Swampert, handle it.”
“Ken!” Ateş cheered.
“Pert!” Swampert replied, looking excited to be standing alongside his old friend.
“Okay Spinda!” One of the two girls called.
“Come on Slaking!” The second followed.

“Alright Ateş, use Double Kick on Slaking!” Sadik started.
“Swampert, Rock Slide.” Gupta chose.
“Slash on Swampert Slaking!” The older girl commanded.
“Sucker Punch on Swampert Spinda!” The younger followed up.
Spinda leapt in to punch Swampert before he could move, while Ateş ran forwards, sprang off of Slaking with a kick, and landed with a second kick to the Pokémon’s face. Slaking moved slowly towards Swampert before slashing him with sharp claws, and Swampert responded by cascading rocks down on the two Pokémon.

“Okay Ateş, Blaze Kick on Spinda!” Sadik continued.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated.
“Dizzy Punch on Blaziken Spinda!” The younger girl commanded, while her elder remained quiet. Gupta wondered why she wasn’t announcing an attack, before noticing that Slaking seemed to be loafing around.
“Slaking never moves on two moves in a row.” Sadik explained, as Ateş rushed forwards and launched into Spinda with a fiery kick. Spinda’s counter attack was a strong punch that seemed to stagger Ateş a little. Swampert smiled and launched more rocks at the enemies, knocking Spinda out.

“Ah!” The younger of the girls fretted.
“Alright Slaking, use Hammer Arm on Blaziken!” Her team-mate carried on.
“Quick Attack.” Sadik chose.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated again.
Ateş managed to strike first, knocking Slaking back. Although it responded with a powerful strike on the Pokémon, Swampert managed to finish it off with another barrage of rocks.
“That’s what I call team-work.” Sadik commented.
“Ken!” Ateş agreed.
“Pert!” Swampert joined in.

The Safari Zone was further up the path from the two trainers, and Gupta and Sadik made it to the doors without incident after defeating the girls. From the outside, the building looked relatively normal, aside from the paintings of Pokémon and nature on the walls outside. When Gupta stepped inside, he noticed a counter with a woman standing behind it, and many people hanging around what seemed to be a lobby area with chairs and a vending machine. Sadik walked straight past the counter and towards a gate to the left hand side.
“It used to be the kinda place you had to pay to enter. Then people got tired of all that, and so it’s a free area now. We just gotta go this way.” He stated, opening the gate.
“Okay.” Gupta nodded, following his friend. At least that explained the layout of the place…

The area the other side of the entrance building was a wide plain filled with tall grass and cut through by raised areas of jagged rock. Sadik took off towards a lake on the far side of the plain almost immediately, and Gupta was left wandering on his own. Deciding to get a better vantage point, he climbed one of the rocky outcrops. Standing on the peak, he could look out over the whole Safari Zone, taking in the layout of the grassy areas, lakes, and interspaced rock formations. Before he got a chance to explore anything though, Gupta was interrupted by a Pokémon running straight into his leg.

The Pokémon was tan with brown patches. A small hole could be seen in its body, and it had a large round head with prominent nostrils and small eyes that protruded from the top. Its feet had small claws. It looked thoroughly afraid of Gupta.
“Hippo!” It cried.
“Uhhh… Swellow?” Gupta defaulted, sending out a Pokémon to investigate the new arrival.
“Low!” Swellow chirped, locking on to the suspicious Pokémon and standing tall, ready to fight if necessary.
“Hippo!” The Pokémon panicked, charging at Swellow with an attack that seemed to hurt it almost as much as it did her.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta responded, not willing to put up with his Pokémon being attacked.

Swellow swept in and almost knocked the Pokémon off its feet. It got up and seemed ready to charge Swellow again, but a flash of light cut it off and Gupta looked back the next second to see Swampert had emerged from his Pokeball and caught the attacking wild Pokémon in his arms.
“Pert! Swampert!” He argued.
“Low.” Swellow seemed to sigh, rolling her eyes and looking towards Gupta. “Swellow!”
“I’m guessing you want me to take this one with us too.” Gupta assumed, used to this kind of behaviour by now.
“Swampert!” Swampert confirmed.
“Fine.” The trainer relented, taking out a Pokeball and throwing it towards the poor defenceless wild Pokémon, who had stopped struggling in Swampert’s arms but still looked completely terrified.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t resist capture at all.

Gupta hadn’t felt much like exploring the rest of the Safari Zone after that bizarre incident, so returned to the entrance soon after and waited for Sadik. His friend arrived not long after that, seeming jubilant with the training he had accomplished.
“Anythin’ much happen while ya were out there?” He inquired.
“I caught a new Pokémon… Or rather, Swampert made me. Again.” Gupta revealed.
“Really? Lemme see!” Sadik exclaimed.
“Right.” Gupta accepted, sending out his newest Pokémon.
“Hippo!” It whined, still looking scared.
“A male Hippopotas? Talk about rare.” Sadik assessed. “He looks pretty timid though… It’s alright little guy! I won’t hurt ya!” He leaned down to pet the new Pokémon, who cowered away from his hand before cautiously sniffing it.
“I see.” Gupta considered. “Still, we’re done now, right? So let’s get to Lilycove.”
“Right behind ya.” Sadik concurred. “Let’s get goin’ Guppie!”
“Okay then. Hippopotas… Return.” Gupta finalised, returning his new Pokémon to the ball. Hippopotas almost looked pleased to be sent back to the Pokeball.

It was already late afternoon by the time Sadik and Gupta made it back to Route 121 proper. It didn’t take long for them to make their way back along the path they had travelled before, Gupta a few steps behind the ever enthusiastic Sadik. When they were nearly back to where they had fought the two trainers earlier, Sadik suddenly stopped and Gupta only just avoided walking into him. He wondered what was going on.

To the south of where the path had split before there was a pier, and Sadik seemed to be intrigued in it for some reason.
“What’re they doin’ here?” He asked, and Gupta followed his gaze to find a group of what seemed like Team Aqua grunts walking along the pier.
“Are they goin’ to Mt. Pyre?” Sadik wondered.
“Mt. Pyre?” Gupta echoed.
“Yeah. That’s where people bury their dead Pokémon. Their spirits can rest in peace there… Why would they want to mess with that?” Sadik seethed.
“We should stop them then.” Gupta stated.
“Yeah. Seems like we have a little time though. Let’s carry on fer now.” Sadik decided.
“Really?” Gupta questioned.
“Yeah. Besides, if we wait, we might draw out their leaders.” Sadik pointed out. “And we need to heal and stock up on items, so Lilycove it is.”
“Right. Let’s go on then.” Gupta agreed.

The remainder of Route 121 was made up of tall grass cut through by fences which formed a maze that greatly increased the difficulty of their travel. Gupta quickly became annoyed at the inconvenient route, and so when another trainer appeared before himself and Sadik, he was more than willing to take him on, leaving Sadik to carry on down the path ahead alone.

“Well young man. Do you wish to test yourself against one such as I?” The older man challenged.
“Let’s make this quick.” Gupta followed on. “Swampert, take care of it.”
“Pert!” Swampert cheered, appearing on the battlefield.
“Alright then Manetric, let us fight.” The man assessed.
“Tric!” The Pokémon roared.
“Manetric, Bite!” The man started.
“Earthquake.” Gupta defaulted.
Manetric was clearly faster than Swampert, and leapt in to bite him before he could really get moving. Swampert shrugged off the attack, and let off a rippling shockwave that caused massive damage to Manetric.
“Manetric, Tackle.” The older man continued.
“Earthquake.” Gupta repeated.
Manetric threw everything it had into the attack, but Swampert stood firm and responded with a counter that knocked the opponent out. The other trainer complimented him on his skill, but Gupta was left wondering what difference he really made when Swampert was capable of using such powerful attacks.

Sadik had wandered quite far along the path by the time Gupta had finished his battle, but he caught up to the other trainer after a short amount of time, the taller teenager having also stopped to battle a different trainer entirely.
“Glad to see ya back.” Sadik greeted. “It’ll be dark soon, so we’d probably better hurry now.”
“Right.” Gupta agreed, marching forwards along the last twist of the road that brought Route 121 to the edge of Lilycove City. Sadik walked along behind him, keeping a swift pace that was apprehensive in opposition to Sadik’s usual excited vigour.

Lilycove City seemed like a beautiful place. Even the short path leading up to the Pokémon Centre was lavishly decorated, and Gupta could see what looked like the back of another Contest Hall from the Pokémon Centre’s door. He healed his Pokémon first, while Sadik stepped to the side, making a call on the phones in the corner.

When Sadik returned, Gupta attempted to ask him about it.
“Did you call your cousin?” He assumed, even though he wasn’t sure that Batsaikhan could help.
“No. Kiku.” Sadik explained. “He’d be interested in all this, what with his job and all.”
“What does Kiku even do?” Gupta inquired.
“Tell ya later.” Sadik dodged. “Fer now, head up the hill to the Department Store. I’ll see ya there.”
Gupta shrugged and walked out, not caring that much about the answer but curious all the same.

The road that continued past the Pokémon Centre soon split into a crossroads, and looking around Gupta saw paths that led to a hotel, the contest hall, out to a lighthouse, and towards what looked like some kind of Pokémon Fanclub. The only path that he cared about in that moment instead led up the hill, towards a set of houses and a large building that Gupta assumed had to be the Department Store. Another building was situated beyond that, but to Gupta’s eyes it looked to be a museum; he could check that out once the trouble at Mt. Pyre was dealt with. The teenager stood in front of the Department Store and waited.

“Sorry to keep ya waitin’.” Sadik apologised a few minutes later when he arrived. “Let’s just go straight in.”
Gupta nodded assent and the two of them walked into the large building in front of them. There was a front desk with two receptionists on the ground floor, but Sadik walked past them to the stairs.
“There’s lots of things here.” He detailed as they walked. “This place doesn’t just sell the usual stuff, but also decorations for secret bases, stat boosting items for Pokémon, and even TMs. There’s a lot of staff around to stop others getting lost… But fer now, we want the boring stuff on the floor up.” He climbed the stairs with Gupta just a single floor before walking onto the shop floor proper. Gupta could see that it functioned like a normal Pokemart.
“It’d be nice to look around the rest of this place some other time.” Sadik expressed. “Right now though, we need to just stock up on the basics.”

A few minutes later, and freshly burdened with all the healing items Gupta thought they needed and more, the two teenagers walked back out onto Route 121, on their way towards Mt. Pyre.
“Do you really think we’re alone? We can’t be the only ones going up against Teams Magma and Aqua.” Gupta stated. There was no way nobody else had noticed what was going on…
“I dunno.” Sadik confessed. “But for now… We might have to assume that we are. Somebody has to stop them. Might as well be us.”
It seemed fair. But still Gupta wondered where exactly the responsible adults were meant to be in all this. The only other person they had even told was Kiku, and he seemed barely old enough to be an adult himself.

Chapter Text

Gupta leapt off of the end of the pier and onto Swampert’s back, Sadik taking his place astride Çene at the same time.
“Full speed ahead Guppie! Just try to keep up, yeah?” Sadik commented, beginning to surf off into the waterway beyond, Çene moving at an astounding speed.
“Pert! Swampert!” Swampert complained, struggling to swim with anything approaching the same speed. Gupta could only watch as Sadik disappeared into the distance in a plume of water.

Sadik had informed him that the short water route they had to traverse to reach Mt. Pyre was Route 122, an unremarkable stretch with little to mark it out as far as Gupta was concerned. Even though Swampert was slower than Çene, he made it around the edge of Mt. Pyre and onwards towards the small landing plain at the entrance within a little more than ten minutes.

“So this is Mt. Pyre… It rises pretty quick from the water, huh? I’d heard all about it before, but it’s really majestic up close…” Sadik commented. “Anyway, let’s go. We can’t let those guys just ruin this place for everyone!”
“Right.” Gupta nodded, heading inside.

The inside of Mt. Pyre featured of rows upon rows of graves, packed tightly into the room with a scattered handful of people paying respect around the place. Sadik led Gupta between the rows as they advanced into the monument. After a minute, Sadik stopped and looked around before speaking.
“Ah… There used to be an exit here that led up to the outside. But they’ve boarded that up… We’ll have to go further up the inside first.”
“Okay,” Gupta agreed.
“On top of that…” Sadik continued, “This place is full of trainers looking to battle. Why they can’t pick some other place or time, I dunno.”
“We’ll have to take them out then I guess.” Gupta decided.
“Okay then,” Sadik agreed, pointing towards a male trainer in the distance, looking around as though appraising the visitors. “I’ll take that one on. You look for others.”

Gupta continued to walk between the rows as Sadik made a beeline for the trainer, keeping an eye out for anyone who looked ready to fight. Before long, another male trainer brought attention to himself.
“You there… Do you happen to have any rare Pokémon?” The trainer asked.
“We’re in a cemetery. And there’s a crisis.” Gupta deadpanned. “You don’t think there’s a better time?”
“You can still battle…” The trainer pointed out. “Lairon, come on…”
“Lair!” The Pokémon roared.
“Uh… Hippopotas, you handle this,” Gupta chose.
“Hippo?” Said Pokémon questioned, staring towards the opponent with a terrified look on its face.

“Lairon, Iron Head...” The trainer commanded.
“Hippopotas…” Gupta started, unsure as to what to command his Pokémon.
“Hippo!” Hippopotas panicked, not waiting for a command as he burrowed into the ground. Lairon’s attack sailed over the top of the hole.
“Iron Head again.” The trainer stated.
“Hippo!” Hippopotas cried, emerging from its hole and striking Lairon. Gupta stared. Was that attack… Dig perhaps?
Lairon turned around and struck Hippopotas hard with a charging head-butt. Hippopotas seemed to be hurting after the attack.
“Dig Hippopotas.” Gupta chose.
“Take Down.” The trainer decided.
Hippopotas disappeared into the ground again just before Lairon got a chance to land its attack. It stayed below the ground as the trainer prepared his next move.
“Lairon, Take Down!” The trainer ordered.
Hippopotas emerged from the ground and struck the opponent, leaving it barely standing, but Lairon’s counterattack hurt Hippopotas badly as well.
“Okay Hippopotas, return to the Pokeball,” Gupta told his Pokémon, sending it back into the ball. Hippopotas looked relatively relieved to be out of the firing line.

“Take over Vibrava,” Gupta stated, sending out his next Pokémon.
“Brava!” Vibrava chirped.
“Vibrava, Earthquake,” Gupta chose.
“Iron Head.” The trainer attempted.
Vibrava moved first, and swept Lairon away with an encompassing shockwave that knocked it out.
“Don’t hang out in a place like this.” Gupta complained, returning Vibrava to her Pokeball before moving on.

Gupta made sure to heal Hippopotas before he went any further. His Pokémon seemed to be getting used to him at least, leaning against his arm as he healed his wounds. After that, Gupta moved further along the rows of graves in Mt. Pyre, trying to leave the grieving people and Pokémon in peace. Rather than return to the Pokeball, Hippopotas followed along behind him, looking a little frightened.

Soon, Gupta found himself before the stairs going upwards. He considered whether to move onwards, but before he could come to a decision, a hand tapped him on the shoulder.
“Behind you… What is that?” The female trainer asked, face unreadable.
“Uh…” Gupta turned around, spotting nothing. “What…?”
“Hippo?” Hippopotas questioned, visibly shaking.
“Sableye, let’s fight…” The trainer smirked, sending out a Pokémon.
“Sableye!” The Pokémon growled.
“Hippo!” Hippopotas protested, angry at being tricked.
“Sableye, Shadow Claw…” The trainer began.
“Hippopotas… Dig?” Gupta tried.
Sableye raked Hippopotas with sharp claws, but the Pokémon seemed unfazed, as though a switch had been flicked, and responded by biting Sableye instead. The move looked as though it was probably Crunch.

“Alright Hippopotas, Crunch,” Gupta changed tactic.
“Feint Attack…” The girl continued.
Sableye struck Hippopotas with a sudden punch before Hippopotas responded with an extremely powerful bite that seemed to cause more damage than Gupta would usually expect. Both Pokémon seemed to be getting tired.
“Sableye, Shadow Claw!” The girl declared.
“Crunch,” Gupta repeated.
Sableye raked its claws down Hippopotas over and over, leaving him barely standing. Somehow, Gupta’s Pokémon dug in and responded with another powerful bite that knocked the opponent out.

“It disappeared you know… The Pokémon here. They come out of the graves to play. Please… Be careful,” the girl requested, looking towards Gupta with unfocused eyes.
“Oh… Right.” Gupta nodded, stopping to heal Hippopotas another time then and there before returning him to his Pokeball to rest. Seconds later, Sadik appeared beside him.
“Great! Ya found the stairs Guppie. So, let’s get on!” He conversed, running towards the stairs.

The next floor of Mt. Pyre looked almost the same as the first. As Gupta walked along the clear path between the rows of graves, he noticed that Sadik had caught the attention of another trainer, who he was busy fighting. Gupta continued a little further along the path before he saw a little girl standing in his way.
“You. You’re a trainer. So battle me.” The girl declared. “Come on Jigglypuff!”
“Jiggly. Puff!” The Pokémon cheered.
“Fight this Swellow,” Gupta decided, using a different Pokémon for a change of pace.
“Low!” Swellow cheered.

“Swellow, Aerial Ace.” Gupta started.
“Jigglypuff, Round!” The girl decided.
Swellow swept into Jigglypuff with a powerful strike that left it swaying. The opponent began to sing, and somehow injured Swellow simply with the sound.
“Aerial Ace,” Gupta repeated.
“Wake-up Slap,” the girl continued.
Swellow struck before Jigglypuff could react, knocking the opponent out with a second powerful attack.

The child seemed remarkably happy to have battled despite her loss, and Gupta decided to leave her to her thoughts, continuing down the path. Sadik soon caught up with him, and pointed out a pair of trainers standing to one side besides the stairs.
“I think they’re trainers. We should fight them,” he detailed, taking a detour in order to appear directly before the couple.
“Hey, what’re you two up to here?” He asked.
“Oh, us? It’s a test of courage. But as long as we do it together, we’ll be okay,” the young man explained, gesturing to his partner. “Aren’t you a trainer? Would you battle us to help pass the time?”
“Yeah, sure. Guppie! Get over here!” Sadik replied, looking back to where Gupta was, still situated on the path.
“Fine.” The smaller trainer agreed, walking over.

“Alright then. Let’s go Manectric!” The man declared.
“Come on Delcatty!” His girlfriend added.
“Miaow!” Delcatty greeted.
“Tric!” Manectric roared.
“Alright then Çene, take ‘em on!” Sadik called, trying to spur his Pokémon on.
“Go Hippopotas.” Gupta added.
“Shar!” Çene growled, managing to stand on the ground on only one fin… Even if she did keep rocking from side to side precariously.
“Hippo!” Hippopotas complained, running to hide behind Çene.

“Okay Manectric, use Discharge!” The man decided.
“Delcatty, Wake-up Slap on Sharpedo,” the woman followed.
“Use Dig on Manectric,” Gupta suggested.
“Night Slash on Delcatty Çene,” Sadik guided.
Manectric let off a powerful blast of electricity that greatly damaged Çene, but also caused Delcatty to take damage as well. Çene responded with a slashing attack to Manectric seconds later, and Delcatty followed up with a stinging slap to Çene. The Pokémon slid back in pain after attacking.
“Çene’s rough skin damages an opponent who makes physical contact with her,” Sadik explained as Hippopotas disappeared into the ground.

“Thunder Fang on Sharpedo Manectric,” the man changed tactic.
“Wake-Up Slap on Sharpedo,” the woman repeated.
“Surf!” Sadik grinned.
Manectric charged into Çene with a bite that sparked with electricity, and didn’t harm Delcatty at all, making Gupta wonder why that move hadn’t been used from the start. Çene jumped away from the Pokémon and created a giant wave out of nowhere that engulfed both opposing Pokémon without harming Hippopotas at all. Delcatty had already fainted when the attack subsided, and Hippopotas knocked Manectric out when he emerged from the ground shortly afterwards.

“The two of you coordinate so well!” The female trainer cooed. “Things really are better when you face them as a couple, am I right?”
“A couple?” Sadik echoed.
“You’ve got the wrong idea.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Really? Well you still work so well together,” the woman continued. “It was a pleasure to battle you.”
“Likewise,” Sadik agreed, starting to turn away as Gupta followed. “See ya!”

The third floor of Mt. Pyre was more spaced out than the first two, the graves more lavishly decorated and spread apart from each other, with large corridors between them. Gupta and Sadik barely made it into the area before they were spotted by yet another pair of trainers.

“Hey trainers! Play with us!” The youngest of the girls, who appeared to barely be old enough to be in school, requested as she walked into their path.
“Please do. It can be so hard taking care of her…” The elder of the girls added.
“Alright, fine. Ya wanna battle kid?” Sadik asked. “Okay then. Come on Zehir!”
“Viper!” Zehir hissed.
“Okay Hippopotas.” Gupta chose, sending out his newest Pokémon.
“Hippo?” Hippopotas questioned, looking over to Zehir.
“Viper.” Zehir greeted, waving her tail at the new arrival.
“Okay Mawile, fight ‘em!” The child shouted, sending out her Pokémon.
“Join in Girafarig.” The older girl relented.
“Mawile!” Mawile cried.
“Farig!” Girafarig called.

“Girafarig, Psybeam on Seviper!” The older of the two girls started.
“Mawile, Vice Grip on Hippopotas!” The younger girl added.
“Dig Hippopotas.” Gupta decided.
“Poison Jab on Girafarig Zehir!” Sadik suggested.
Girafarig fired a beam of energy from the face on its tail, causing a relatively large amount of damage to Zehir, who fought back by jabbing the opposing Pokémon repeatedly with her tail. Mawile leapt in to bite Hippopotas with its large jaw, which didn’t cause massive damage, but left Hippopotas scurrying underground in a panicked frenzy.

“Alright Girafarig, Psybeam again.” One of the trainers repeated.
“Crunch on Seviper!” The younger girl changed tactic.
“Use Night Slash on Girafarig.” Sadik commanded, also changing moves.
Girafarig hit Zehir hard yet again, leaving her reeling from the hit. As she recovered, Zehir moved to strike Girafarig with an equally strong attack. Mawile directed a powerful bite at Zehir, but it lacked the effectiveness of Girafarig’s attack. Seconds later, Hippopotas emerged from the ground and struck Mawile hard.

“Zehir, that’s enough. Ya can’t take another hit.” Sadik declared, returning her to the Pokeball. “Let’s finish this off Asena!”
“Yena!” Asena growled, emerging from the Pokeball and grounding herself on the floor before sending a reassuring glance in Hippopotas’s direction.
“Crunch on Girafarig Asena!” Sadik continued, giving out commands once again.
“Stomp on Mightyena Girafarig.” The older trainer responded.
“Use Vice Grip on Mightyena Mawile!” The younger trainer ordered.
“Dig again Hippopotas.” Gupta repeated from earlier.
Girafarig cantered up to Asena and stomped a hoof down on her head hard. Asena seemed hardly bothered by the hit, leaping up and biting Girafarig, pulling the opposing Pokémon to the ground and knocking it out. Mawile leapt up just afterwards, gripping at Asena’s fur. Hippopotas, rather than digging back into the ground, stared at the opposing Mawile, locking his sight onto it. He created a swirl of sand and rock that swept up Mawile and took the opponent down.
“That’d be Sand Tomb.” Sadik explained, watching Hippopotas execute the move.

“Yay! Come and play again soon!” The younger child cheered.
“Children are a bother…” The older trainer complained.
“Right.” Gupta agreed, starting to turn around as the opposing trainers began to head off to heal their Pokémon. Hippopotas refused to move, instead standing completely still and beginning to glow faintly.
“Already?” Sadik questioned, watching the Pokémon intently. Gupta noticed his friend’s expression, and turned around just in time to see his Pokémon evolve.
“Hippowdon!” The newly evolved Pokémon announced.
“He must have been close to evolution when ya found him…” Sadik mused. “Maybe now he’ll grow a little spine. Anyway. I’ll go ahead and see what other trainers there are. Meet ya at the exit down at the bottom of the room.” He smiled, waving as he disappeared into the rows of graves.

Gupta returned Hippowdon to his Pokeball, the large evolved Pokémon taking up too much bulk and making it hard to navigate the area. He continued to walk downwards through the passageways between the graves, soon finding himself before an archway in the wall, leading out into the world beyond. Late evening light filtered through the passage, and Gupta realised then just how much time had passed.

As he wondered how much time they had left until Team Aqua found whatever they were looking for, Sadik reappeared, jubilant from a recent win.
“Okay. Better get goin’ now, huh? The peak’s just beyond us this way.” Sadik stated.
“You’re sure they went this way?” Gupta checked. As well as the exit, there were also stairs…
“Yeah. There’s nothin’ but more graves up the top of the inside area. The outside, on the other hand… It’s just a hunch. But there’s this one thing up there that they could be aimin’ for.” Sadik detailed. “We can beat ‘em to it if we hurry. Let’s go!”
“Right.” Gupta agreed, following on behind Sadik as they emerged onto the peak of Mt. Pyre.

The mountain’s peak consisted of foggy, sloping ledges that Sadik and Gupta hurried along as fast as they could. Patches of tall grass were littered here and there, but the duo tried their best to avoid them, not wanting to battle any more Pokémon unless they had to.

Soon, the fog deepened and the slopes grew more drastic, until Sadik and Gupta finally reached a relatively flat area, dotted with graves, that seemed to be the absolute peak. At the top of one final set of stairs, scattered members of both Team Magma and Team Aqua were gathered, harassing a couple who were stood protectively in front of some sort of dais.

Gupta instantly recognised Arthur and Francis among the group, and he soon spotted Michelle standing by her leader’s side. The other figures within the group were unknown to Gupta, although two members of Team Magma stood out in particular due to their individuality.

The first girl had short, wavy blonde hair tied back with a red headband (with the Team Magma logo prominently displayed on the fabric). She wore a large red hooded jacket with yellow coloured horns on the hood, and black gloves could be seen emerging from the sleeves. Her legs were covered with a long black skirt which split down the side, a red stripe accenting the divide. Her boots were black and went almost to her knees. Fire burned in her green eyes.

The second girl had far longer blonde hair, held in a braid with a red ribbon and many bobby-pins. She wore an elegant black dress that was fully sleeved and ran down to her knees, with an elaborate red and black coat that criss-crossed her chest over the front and sported the same yellow horns on its hood and the usual Magma logo on the lapels. Her legs were clad in red tights that disappeared into black boots, similar in design to those of her companion. Her blue eyes shone with intelligence behind her glasses.

The couple who faced off against them consisted of a stuffy-looking, bespectacled, and formal man, who dressed in a pressed white shirt and black trousers with a long blue coat, and carried an air of indifference in his violet eyes and dishevelled brown hair, and a wild-looking woman, who wore a multi-layered green and brown dress, brown lacy boots, and a few small beige flowers threaded into her flowing brown hair.

“No way are we giving you what you want!” The woman fumed, her green eyes flashing with anger, hands clutching a frying-pan as a weapon as she tried to fend off her attackers.
“You might as well just pack up and go home.” The man with her attested, scowling.
“Wait a sec. Haven’t I seen her before?” Sadik pondered, studying the face of the woman, before realisation dawned. “Yeah. She’s one of Kiku’s co-workers!”
“Right.” Arthur scoffed, advancing on the duo at the dais, hand resting confidently on his hip. “The great Elizaveta Hedervary. And here I thought you wouldn’t be here.”
“I got tipped off.” Eliza explained. “All the better if it means I stop you!”
“Well my dear, if you want to fight, go ahead and fight. We all have plenty of Pokémon, I’m sure we can wear you down.” Francis threatened.
“My Pokémon?” Eliza echoed. “Wait. No! I left them behind…” She realised.

“So what?!” Sadik jumped in, running up behind Arthur and Francis. “We have our own Pokémon; we’ll defend ya!”
“Oh look.” Francis purred. “If it isn’t the same charming young people who stood in our way at Mt. Chimney.”
“That child from the Oceanic Museum…” Arthur recognised. “I hear you’ve been giving Michelle trouble as well. You just don’t know when to quit, do you?”
“Francis.” The bespectacled Team Magma member offered, adjusting her glasses as she spoke. “I can take care of these meddling children, if you’d like.”
“Camille my dear, that would be most courteous of you.” Francis agreed. “Meanwhile, I will have more than enough time to snatch the orbs from those pesky guardians!”
“If you want them, you’ll still have to go through me! Pokémon or no Pokémon!” Elizaveta threatened, preparing to fight.
“That can be arranged.” Arthur scoffed, pulling a sword from his belt and advancing on Mt. Pyre’s guardians as Francis strutted towards the dais.

Elizaveta met Arthur halfway with her frying-pan, metal echoing off metal in the cold evening air. As she struggled to deflect the weapon away, Francis reached the man who accompanied her, throwing him aside as though he were merely a toy.
“Roderich!” Elizaveta called, turning towards the stricken man for just a moment. Arthur took the opportunity to punch her in the face hard, sending her flying across the area and to the ground.
“That was far too easy.” Francis sighed. “And now, the Red Orb is in my possession.”
“Don’t get too ahead of yourself frog,” Arthur spat, stepping up alongside the other man. “I have the Blue Orb now, see?”

“Not fer long!” Sadik voiced. “We won’t let ya get away!”
“Well Michelle? I think it’s high time we got revenge on these brats.” Arthur assessed, moving to stand alongside his admin.
“You’re right. Let’s thrash ‘em!” She agreed.
“Emma, Camille, take care of this. I have more important things to worry about.” Francis brushed off, making as if to leave.
“No ya don’t!” Sadik started, before the previously silent prominent member of Team Magma rushed forwards to block him off, letting Francis rush off into the growing night.
“You have to beat us first!” The girl insisted, readying herself for battle.

Gupta sighed. This did not look good…

Chapter Text

Night had already fallen upon the peak of Mt. Pyre. The lower members of Team Aqua and Team Magma skulked away as Arthur and Michelle drew up alongside the girl who had first stopped Gupta and Sadik from interfering.
“Emma, let us go first. I wanna get revenge personally!” Michelle requested.
“Fine by me. We’ll be ready to step in when you fail,” Emma answered, stepping back to where Camille stood, watching the situation closely.
“Alright. The time for our revenge has come at last,” Arthur assessed, preparing his Pokémon for battle. “I warned you back at the Oceanic Museum never to cross us again. And I don’t intend to show you any mercy!”
“Get ready!” Michelle called.

There was silence for a few seconds before the battle began.
“Go on Milotic, destroy them!” Michelle started.
“Frillish, take down these meddlesome children,” Arthur added.
“Asena, let’s go!” Sadik enthused, leaping into battle.
“Alright Umbreon,” Gupta decided. “Let’s fight.”
“Yena!” Asena growled.
“Bre!” Umbreon roared.
Gupta took in the appearance of the two opposing Pokémon. Milotic was a familiar Pokémon from before, but Frillish was a new Pokémon entirely; a blue, moody looking creature that seemed to float in mid-air, whispy tentacles emerging from its body.

“Bite on Frillish Asena!” Sadik started.
“Take Down on Milotic.” Gupta followed up.
“Water Pulse on Mightyena Frillish.” Arthur commanded.
“Aqua Tail on Umbreon.” Michelle told her Pokémon.
Umbreon attacked first, slamming into Milotic with a powerful attack, but one that carried recoil. Milotic responded with a powerful sweep if its tail that knocked Umbreon back. Asena charged at Frillish, biting the Pokémon and causing heavy damage. Frillish countered by knocking Asena back with a blast of water.

“Alright Asena, now use Assurance on Frillish!” Sadik chose.
“Bite on Milotic.” Gupta decided.
“Brine on Umbreon.” Arthur declared.
“Aqua Tail on Umbreon.” Michelle repeated.
Umbreon seemed not to listen to Gupta, running up and biting Frillish instead of Milotic. He was hit by Milotic’s attack seconds later, but his reasoning became clear when Asena charged at Frillish, doing massive damage and knocking the opponent out.
“Assurance does more damage when another Pokémon’s already attacked the target,” Sadik explained. “Guess Umbreon’s wantin’ to help with that.”
“Alright then Frillish, return. Sealeo, you take over!” Arthur stated, sending out his second Pokémon.

“Seal!” Sealeo cried.
“Umbreon, Take Down on Milotic,” Gupta carried on, ignoring the new Pokémon.
“Asena, Take Down on Sealeo!” Sadik copied.
“Milotic, Attact on Mightyena!” Michelle ordered.
“Sealeo, Ice Ball on Mightyena,” Arthur started off.
Umbreon charged into Milotic with intense force, knocking it out before it could attack but leaving Umbreon barely standing with the effects of the recoil. Asena slammed Sealeo just as hard, the enemy responding by throwing a sphere of ice at Asena, which caused little damage.

“Ah, Milotic!” Michelle fretted. “Return for now. Pelipper, take over!”
“Pelipper!” The new opponent squawked.
“Try using Moonlight,” Sadik advised. “Asena, Take Down on Sealeo again!”
“Alright,” Gupta agreed. “Moonlight, Umbreon!”
“Brine on Umbreon Pelipper!” Michelle chose.
Umbreon stood still, concentrating as moonlight from the cloudless night filtered down. The rings on his body began to glow, and within seconds his vitality was restored, and he seemed as energetic as ever.
Asena took the opportunity to charge at Sealeo, damaging him greatly but doing damage to Asena in return. Pelipper jetted a stream of water at Umbreon, doing a decent amount of damage. Sealeo launched a larger ball of ice at Asena without having to be prompted, doing more damage than before. Asena growled, seemingly still having the strength to fight.

“Okay Pelipper, Water Pulse on Umbreon!” Michelle called.
“Bite on Sealeo, Asena! Don’t give up!” Sadik encouraged his Pokémon.
“Take Down on Pelipper.” Gupta decided.
Umbreon charged Pelipper with force, causing considerable damage to the Pokémon. Asena knocked Sealeo out successfully with a powerful bite while Pelipper launched a shockwave of water in Umbreon’s direction.

“Right Sealeo, that’s enough.” Arthur pointed out, withdrawing his second Pokémon. “Go on Mightyena!”
“Yena.” The opposing Pokémon roared.
“Asena, how about ya get some rest,” Sadik spoke to his Pokémon, returning her to the ball. “Pençe, it’s yer turn!”
“Scar!” Pençe chirped.
“Bre.” Umbreon greeted the new arrival.

“Pençe, Air Cutter!” Sadik enthused.
“Umbreon, Swift,” Gupta changed tactic.
“Mightyena, Tackle on Umbreon,” Arthur declared.
“Use Roost Pelipper,” Michelle tried.
Umbreon sprayed a barrage of stars at the opposing two Pokémon, and Pençe followed up with a sweeping slash that knocked both opponents back and left Pelipper defeated. Mightyena charged into Umbreon, and Gupta saw that his Pokémon was getting tired.

“Pelipper, return!” Michelle defaulted, taking back her exhausted Pokémon. “Go Alomomola!”
“Umbreon, take a rest,” Gupta decided, returning Umbreon to his Pokeball. “Swellow, take this on.”
“Low!” Swellow chirped, roosting on Pençe’s head. Pençe looked up briefly before accepting her presence.

“Pençe, Slash on Mightyena!” Sadik changed move.
“Aerial Ace on Alomomola,” Gupta defaulted.
“Aqua Jet on Swellow, Alomomola,” Michelle ordered.
“Assurance on Swellow, Mightyena!” Arthur told his Pokémon.
Alomomola moved with a swiftness that seemed unusual for it, and propelled itself into Swellow using a burst of water before falling backwards towards its trainer. Swellow leapt from Pençe’s head and swooped in to slash at Alomomola. Pençe delivered a hugely powerful clawing attack to Mightyena that took that opponent down.

“Alright Mightyena, that’s good enough,” Arthur spoke, taking his Pokémon back. “Go Vaporeon.”
“Poreon!” Vaporeon chirped.
As far as Gupta was concerned, Vaporeon looked a little like Umbreon. If Umbreon was blue and had a fish’s tail.
“Pençe, Air Cutter again!” Sadik suggested.
“Aerial Ace on Alomomola,” Gupta repeated.
“Use Aurora Beam on Swellow Vaporeon,” Arthur chose.
“Wake-up Slap on Swellow Alomomola!” Michelle attempted.
Swellow leapt in to attack Alomomola again, and Pençe followed up with another all-encompassing slash that knocked Alomomola out before it could attack. Vaporeon hit Swellow with an icy beam that caused heavy damage to her.

“Return Alomomola,” Michelle stated. “Huntail, take over now.”
“Use Air Cutter again,” Sadik repeated from earlier.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Vaporeon,” Gupta decided.
“Ice Fang on Swellow Huntail!” Michelle chose.
“Aurora Beam on Swellow,” Arthur repeated.
Swellow hit Vaporeon hard, causing a large amount of damage. Pençe’s attack left the opponent barely on its feet, but it endured. Huntail bit Swellow with ice tipped fangs, and Vaporeon hit her with the same beam as before, leaving her clearly low on energy.
“We can do this Pençe! Air Cutter again!” Sadik encouraged.
“Aerial Ace on Huntail.” Gupta stuck to his usual tactic.
“Muddy Water Vaporeon,” Arthur ordered.
“Brine Huntail!” Michelle followed.
Whether by luck or an intense amount of fortitude, Swellow managed to deal an unusually strong attack to Huntail, setting it up well to be taken out along with Vaporeon by Pençe’s attack. Sadik watched intently as both opposing trainers took their Pokémon back.

“Very well. You give me no choice. I shan’t allow you meddlesome kids to trouble us anymore!” Arthur ranted, gritting his teeth. “Sharpedo, destroy these brats!”
“Shar.” Sharpedo growled.
“If yer gonna do that… I’ll counter it.” Sadik revealed, returning Pençe to his Pokeball. “Lale, yer turn!”
“Saur!” Lale cheered, emerging from the Pokeball. She looked straight towards Arthur and Michelle and smiled, having not seen them before.
“Lale… Lale, no!” Sadik realised, trying to stop his Pokémon.
“Saur! Venusaur!” Lale conversed, charging towards the opponents, vines outstretched as if for a hug.
“Low.” Swellow sighed.
“Dragalge, get rid of this thing.” Michelle complained, sending out her last Pokémon.
“Draa.” The opponent growled ominously. It had the appearance of some sort of seaweed, but was very much sentient and malicious looking.
“Sharpedo, Poison Fang.” Arthur dismissed, waving in Lale’s direction.
“Shar!” Sharpedo agreed, sinking its teeth into Lale.
“Saur!” Lale whined.

“Guppie, send out Swampert.” Sadik advised.
“Right.” The smaller trainer agreed. “Rest Swellow. Swampert, take over.”
“Swamp!” Swampert announced, springing from the Pokeball.
“Saur?” Lale queried, turning around and starting to run back over to Swampert. “Venusaur!”
“Alright, time to end this.” Sadik commented, activating the Key Stone on his bracelet. “Lale, Mega Evolve now!”
“What?” Gupta deadpanned. Lale didn’t have a Mega Stone… Did she?

As strange as it seemed, upon staring intently at Lale Gupta did indeed notice a Mega Stone, attached to an ornate collar that was fitted around her neck. As the jewel started to glow, Lale mega-evolved in front of Gupta’s eyes, changing into an even more powerful form.

The crescent moon remained on her forehead, now joined by two triangular marks either side. The tulip on her back had meanwhile duplicated itself, twin flowers now perched on each of her broad shoulders. Lale roared, standing firm before Sadik.

“And Swampert too.” Sadik pointed out. “If we use both our Mega Evolved Pokémon, we can take this on.”
“I know,” Gupta accepted. “Alright Swampert, Mega Evolve.”
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, turning into his Mega Evolved form.

“What, think you’re the only ones that can use Mega Evolution?” Arthur scoffed, gripping the spyglass that still hung around his neck. “Well you can think again! Sharpedo, Mega Evolve!”
“Shar!” Arthur’s Sharpedo roared, starting to Mega Evolve upon its trainers command.

Sharpedo’s jaw extended outwards, and multiple yellow marks etched into its body. Horns grew around its snout, and it growled menacingly at the opponents.
“Now then Sharpedo, Slash on Swampert!” Arthur began.
“Petal Dance Lale!” Sadik decided.
“Sludge Bomb on Venusaur Dragalge.” Michelle ordered.
“Rock Slide Swampert.” Gupta tried.
Sharpedo struck first, slashing at Swampert with its sharp horns. Dragalge spat foul smelling sludge at Lale, sending her sliding backwards. Lale responded by spinning a blizzard of petals in Sharpedo’s direction, dealing heavy damage to it. Swampert sent a barrage of rocks at both opponents at the same time.

“Slash on Swampert again!” Arthur repeated.
“Toxic on Venusaur Dragalge.” Michelle changed move.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta parroted. Sadik remained silent.
Sharpedo rushed in, slashing at Swampert, but he withstood the hit well. Dragalge emitted a toxic mist that Lale seemed heavily susceptible to. She spun more petals that hit Sharpedo and caused a heavy enough hit to knock it out, but seemed to sway from side to side in the aftermath. Swampert looked from Lale to Dragalge to Gupta, and let off an Earthquake that took Dragalge down and left Lale barely holding on. Both Team Aqua members looked awestruck by what had happened.

“That… Completely impossible!” Arthur protested.
“What? I can’t believe I lost to you brats again!” Michelle growled.
“The power that you children hold… You’re sure some kind of prodigies, you hear?” Arthur commented. “Well, I don’t know how you went about getting that strong, but I don’t want anything to do with it. And if you think I’m stopping now just because of some kids, you’ve got another thing coming.” He turned to his Admin. “Michelle! I’m heading to the next place as planned. Head back to the base and make the preparations.”
“Got it.” Michelle nodded.
“I’ll be keeping this.” Arthur added, pointing to the Blue Orb. “Anyway, that’s enough talk for now. I don’t doubt I’ll be seeing you scallywags on the road some more.” He smiled to himself, stepping backwards before taking a running leap over the remains of the battle and pushing between Sadik and Gupta to escape, Michelle following behind him. Gupta turned to follow them but found his path blocked.

“You won’t go any further!” Emma declared. “Not while you still have to fight us!”
“However strange it may seem, I cannot allow you to start after Michelle like this.” Camille followed up. “Even though she’s strayed so far from us… She still remains our sister.”
“You’re another one of the Bonnefoys.” Sadik inferred.
“You’re fighting me now, not my little sister.” Camille stated. “Magcargo, stop them.”
“Let’s go Ponyta! Time to fight!” Emma backed up, throwing a Pokeball at Sadik and Gupta with great enthusiasm.

“We don’t have time to heal our Pokémon…” Gupta complained.
“We’ll have to make do with what we have.” Sadik answered. “Lale, return for now. Zehir, yer turn now!”
“Okay Swampert, return.” Gupta followed suit, taking Swampert back into his Pokeball. “Hippowdon, take over.”
“Viper!” Zehir called.
“Hippo…” Hippowdon complained, taking one look at the other Pokémon before trying to hide behind Zehir. It didn’t work, and she simply slid over to the side in any case.

“Ponyta, take care of these wimps. Take Down on Hippowdon!” Emma declared.
“Magcargo, Shell Smash.” Camille ordered.
“Alright Zehir, Poison Jab on Ponyta.” Sadik started.
“Dig Hippowdon.” Gupta started off.
Ponyta charged into Hippowdon hard, causing a decent amount of damage but injuring it as well. Zehir slid over and jabbed Ponyta repeatedly with her tail, while Hippowdon disappeared into the ground. Magcargo cracked the surface of its own shell, lava oozing from the open space.

“Now use Lava Plume Magcargo.” Camille continued.
“Poison Jab again Zehir!” Sadik repeated.
“Take Down on Seviper Ponyta!” Emma chose.
Magcargo brought a wave of lava down on the field, damaging Zehir while Hippowdon avoided the attack and Ponyta seemed largely unaffected. Zehir got the edge on her opponent, jabbing it into submission before it could attack, while Hippowdon emerged from the ground and brought Magcargo down with a single unusually strong attack.

“Talk about a fluke.” Emma complained. “You won’t get that lucky again. Alright Claydol, take over from Ponyta.”
“That’s enough Magcargo.” Camille spoke to her Pokémon. “Whiscash, go on.”
Gupta looked to Hippowdon, who seemed to be getting a little tired, and was uncomfortable around the opponents to boot.
“Alright.” He relented. “Vibrava, take over from Hippowdon.”
“Brava!” Vibrava called, giving a quick nod to Zehir before staring down the opponents.

“Zehir, Night Slash on Claydol.” Sadik began.
“Crunch on Claydol, Vibrava.” Gupta followed on.
“Extrasensory on Vibrava.” Emma decided.
“Water Pulse on Vibrava Whishcash.” Camille added.
Zehir tore into Claydol with a multitude of slashes, and Vibrava followed up with a powerful bite that almost took the Pokémon down. Claydol attacked Vibrava with a strange power while Whiscash launched a burst of water at Vibrava, who largely shrugged it off.
“Right Zehir, now Poison Tail on Whiscash.” Sadik continued.
“Dragon Breath on Whiscash.” Gupta tried.
“Magnitude Whiscash.” Camille decided.
“Selfdestruct Claydol!” Emma cut in.

A large explosion engulfed the arena, leaving only Vibrava and Whiscash standing at the end. Vibrava hit Whiscash with purple fire, while Whiscash’s attack caused no damage to Vibrava, who simply flew out of danger.
“Alright Whiscash, Rest.” Camille tried.
“Crunch.” Gupta defaulted.
Vibrava got in the attack first, taking Whiscash down. Camille looked a little annoyed.

“What… Just happened?” She asked. “Emma, why do that?”
“Come on, we have a lot further to go as yet!” Emma tried to cheer her fellow Admin up. “Ninetales, your time to shine!”
Camille looked as though she wanted to say something, but she shut her mouth and sent out her next Pokémon instead. “Go on Flareon.”
“Vibrava, rest.” Gupta soothed his Pokémon, returning her to the Pokeball. “Camerupt, take over.”
“Çene, time to fight.” Sadik moved on, sending out his next Pokémon.
“Camer!” Camerupt smiled at Çene before bowing to her opponents.
Gupta took a moment to survey his enemies. Flareon looked like another relation of Umbreon. Ninetales looked slightly similar, but had nine flowing tails that gave it a majestic appearance.

“Alright Ninetales, Feint Attack on Camerupt!” Emma ordered her Pokémon.
“Flareon, Bite on Camerupt.” Camille followed.
“Çene, use Crunch on Ninetales.” Sadik decided.
“Earth Power Camerupt.” Gupta attempted.
Flareon leapt in to bite Camerupt, who remained largely unaffected by the attack. Çene attacked Ninetales with a far stronger attack while Ninetales leapt in to strike Camerupt, who created an erupting torrent of earth below Ninetales, throwing it backwards.

“Flareon, now use Lava Plume.” Camille continued.
“Quick Attack on Sharpedo Ninetales.” Emma commanded.
“Crunch on Flareon, Çene.” Sadik changed target.
“Rock Slide Camerupt.” Gupta chose.
Ninetales jumped in to strike Çene, taking damage in the process. Flareon brought a large wave of lava down on the field. Çene and Camerupt took a small amount of damage, while Ninetales seemed happier if anything.
“Ninetales’ Flash Fire means that it won’t take damage from fire type moves. It actually gets stronger.” Sadik reminded.
Çene seemed unfazed by the development, biting Flareon hard. Camerupt brought down a rain of rocks that damaged both opponents and brought Ninetales down to low health.

“Ninetales, Flamethrower on Sharpedo,” Emma demanded.
“Bite on Camerupt Flareon,” Camille followed on.
“Crunch on Flareon Çene,” Sadik declared.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated.
Flareon attacked Camerupt once more, while Ninetales launched a pillar of fire at Çene, who shrugged the attack off and countered with a powerful attack against Flareon. Camerupt brought down another barrage of rocks seconds later which knocked the opposing Pokémon out.

“We’re still not done!” Emma insisted. “Nidoking, take over now!”
“Nidoqueen, make them pay.” Camille decided.
Although the opposing Pokémon were named differently, Gupta could have sworn that they were the same species given the similarities between them. It was one of the stranger aspects of the world in which he lived, which he still struggled to get used to.

“Alright Çene, Ice Fang on Nidoking,” Sadik decided.
“Earth Power on Nidoqueen,” Gupta brought back from earlier.
“Body Slam on Camerupt Nidoqueen,” Camille started.
“Double Kick on Sharpedo Nidoking,” Emma continued.
Çene attacked first, dealing a decent amount of damage to Nidoking before being hit by the opponent’s strong kicks, knocking her back. Nidoqueen slammed into Camerupt, who withstood the attack well before responding by dragging up a damaging blast of power from the ground.

“Body Slam on Camerupt again,” Camille repeated.
“Double Kick on Sharpedo Nidoking,” Emma parroted.
“Ice Fang on Nidoqueen Çene!” Sadik swapped target.
“Earth Power on Nidoking.” Gupta decided, following suit.
Çene was able to attack Nidoqueen before it could react, taking the opponent down. Nidoking kicked Çene again, almost taking her down, but she held on with what little strength remained in her and Camerupt brought Nidoking down with a blast of power seconds later.

“Don’t feel that you’ve won yet. I still have one more Pokémon left.” Emma stated, switching Pokémon one final time. “Blaziken, finish this!”
“Ken!” The opposing Blaziken called to its trainer, glaring down at Gupta’s side. Gupta noticed the armband it wore. Sadik noticed too. Gupta stared at the gem attached to Emma’s hairband, already knowing what was going to happen.
“Again?” He asked rhetorically. “No matter. Ateş, it’s up to you now!”
“Ken!” Ateş cheered, smiling at Camerupt as he emerged from his Pokeball.
“Swampert, come back out now.” Gupta stated, returning Camerupt and sending out Swampert, who seemed to be back in his normal form.
“Delphox, back up Blaziken.” Camille declared, switching her Pokémon as well.

“Alright Ateş, Mega Evolve!” Sadik stated, activating his Key Stone for a second time.
“You already Mega Evolved Lale before…” Gupta stated. Didn’t Key Stones need time to recharge?
“It counts as a separate battle.” Sadik explained. “Ya can only Mega Evolve one Pokémon per battle, but if ya get in multiple battles at once, it’s okay.”
“Right.” Gupta nodded sceptically.
“Blaziken, Mega Evolve!” Emma continued, turning her own Blaziken into its most powerful form.
“Swampert, Mega Evolve… Again.” Gupta added, feeling a little strange for evolving the same Pokémon twice in quick succession.

Flashes of light erupted from the battlefield as 3 of the battling Pokémon transformed.

“Now then Delphox, Psybeam on Blaziken.” Camille began.
“Blaziken, Double Kick on Swampert!” Emma followed.
“Swampert, Rock Slide.” Gupta defaulted.
“Ateş, use Peck on Blaziken!” Sadik decided.
Ateş rushed in to attack the other Blaziken, pecking at the opponent before it brushed him off and kicked Swampert in the face. Swampert slid backwards while Delphox hit into Ateş with a powerful beam of energy. Swampert finished his slide and brought a slew of rocks down on both opponents, damaging them heavily.

“Delphox, Psyshock on Blaziken,” Camille continued.
“Blaziken, use Quick Attack on Swampert,” Emma responded.
“Ateş, Peck on Blaziken!” Sadik repeated.
“Swampert, Rock Slide,” Gupta tried again.
This time, Blaziken struck first, hitting Swampert before being pushed aside by Ateş, who pecked it ferociously. Delphox launched another psychic attack that hurt Ateş badly. Swampert brought another set of rocks down on the opponents, leaving them barely standing.

“Alright Delphox, you can finish him. Psybeam.” Camille summed up.
“Blaze Kick on Swampert Blaziken!” Emma changed tactic.
“Peck on Blaziken Ateş,” Sadik tried again.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated yet again.
Ateş managed to attack first, knocking the opposing Blaziken out before it could attack with a jumping peck. Delphox hit Ateş yet again, causing him to collapse to the ground. Swampert glared at Delphox before using Surf and knocking the opponent away, taking it down at last.

“Well, we lost.” Emma pointed out, looking more than a little annoyed.
“It doesn’t matter. We bought enough time.” Camille told her co-worker. “We should retreat for now.”
“Right!” Emma nodded, returning her Pokémon to the Pokeball before making her escape, Camille following after her.

“Wait!” Sadik yelled after them.
“You two…” Roderich stated, getting to his feet. “If you want to chase them… You’re going to need this.” He brought a strange badge bearing the Magma Emblem out from his pocket.
“Where’d ya get that?” Sadik asked.
“I stole it from that man who attacked me.” The guardian answered. “I believe it could be useful to you.”
“You should chase Team Magma and Team Aqua down.” Eliza continued. “I’ll get my Pokémon back and then join the search.”
“Alright, I’ll go after Team Aqua.” Sadik stated. “Guppie, take that badge thing and go after Team Magma.”
“Where do I find them?” The trainer asked.
“Try near Mt. Chimney. That’s where we found ‘em before.” Sadik suggested. “Also, teach Swellow this HM. It’ll let ya get back to Lavaridge in almost no time at all.” He took a disc out of his bag and handed it over.
“Alright.” Gupta nodded. “Good luck.”
“You too.” Sadik expressed, sending Pençe back out of his Pokeball. “Everything else’ll have to wait. I’ll come find you when it’s all over!” Pençe started to fly as he spoke, taking Sadik off into the night air.

“You can rest for a while if you want…” Eliza offered.
“I’d better get going.” Gupta pointed out. He took out the machine he had been given before and pressed it to Swellow’s head. Almost immediately she began to fly upwards, hovering as if waiting for Gupta to join her.
“It’ll hold your weight well enough.” Roderich answered his unspoken question. “Hurry then, and teach those fools a lesson.”
The young trainer nodded to the guardians of Mt. Pyre before grabbing onto Swellow’s leg, not daring to question how it was that she could carry him into the sky. It was late, and dark, and the night wasn’t over yet…

‘Hippopotas, the Hippo Pokémon. It enshrouds itself with sand to protect against germs. It doesn’t enjoy getting wet. Or being attacked. Or much at all. Although timid, it will defend itself when significantly threatened.’

‘Hippowdon, the Heavyweight Pokémon. It blasts sand from ports on its body in order to attack. Although it remains timid, it becomes even easier to anger, and much stronger when it does decide to attack.’

Chapter Text

Sadik landed on the pavement of Lilycove City, confident that Team Aqua would be somewhere nearby. After all, they had seemed so determined to take the Devon Parts from before. Sadik knew that those parts had been for a submarine, and that that same submarine was about to depart from the Harbour on its inaugural mission. Sadik had a terrible feeling that Team Aqua would be returning for the entire vessel, and he made sure to heal his Pokémon at the Pokémon Centre despite the rush, anticipating another fight to be had.

There was a large crowd gathered outside the Harbour, made almost completely of journalists and onlookers, with a few police officers scattered around. Sadik spotted Toris at the head of the crowd, answering the questions of the masses. As he stepped forwards to warn the man, a voice rang out.

“Well now, everyone listen up! This submarine you all keep talking about… Belongs to Team Aqua now, okay? Don’t even try to stop us from righting humanity’s wrongs, you hear? And anyway, you should be honoured that we have chosen to commandeer it!”
“What? What are they talking about…?” Toris questioned, worry evident on his face before Sadik came into view.
“They’re talking crazy, that’s what.” He insisted, stepping up to the man. “Let me at ‘em!”
Toris looked from Sadik to the entrance of the Harbour with apprehension, before taking a sidelong glance at the police who seemed entirely dumbfounded, talking into radios and getting absolutely nothing done.
“Alright.” He relented. “But try not to be too reckless.”
Sadik gave the man a reassuring thumbs up as he entered the Harbour.

Sure enough, Arthur leaned against the railings alongside the submarine’s mooring, watching his grunts cut the many restraints holding the vehicle in place. Alongside him was somebody Sadik had never seen before: a person who seemed to carry some authority while still clearly ranking below the man that was Team Aqua’s leader. Sadik assumed that they had to be another of the Admins.

Comparing them side by side, Sadik could see that the newcomer was both similar and different to Arthur. While the Aqua Leader’s coat was longer and scruffier with a higher collar and a loose design, that of the new Admin was more compact- closer to a jacket than a coat, it was noticeably more formal and evoked a military vibe while remaining the same shade of navy. The Admin’s trousers were white rather than black, and seemed neatly pressed, while they wore much simpler blue boots. Two curls of brown hair poked out of the same bandana that all of Team Aqua wore on either side of their head. Their eyes were green and they had the same thick eyebrows as Arthur, but Sadik was still fairly certain that this person had to be related to Bruce as well. As he stepped forwards to challenge the duo, Sadik was noticed by Arthur.

“You really did chase me here, huh? What a persistent little blighter you are!” He commented. “But what do you honestly think you can do to stop us now, huh? We have the Blue Orb, and once we equip this submarine to break into the Seafloor Cavern, the power of the sea’s as good as ours!”
“The power of the sea?” Sadik echoed, unease spreading through his body. “You can’t mean…?”
“But of course. How else did you expect we were gonna turn the world back to its unspoiled beginnings? We of Team Aqua will raise the Legendary Pokémon Kyogre… And bring about the Primordial Sea!” Arthur gloated.
“What?! Ya can’t do that!” Sadik argued. He had known that the Orbs being stolen from Mt. Pyre was a bad thing, but now he understood just what had the League so worried about Team Aqua. And if Team Magma was planning something similar…

That Pokémon was inside Mt. Chimney. Gupta was in danger.

“ I can, and I will!” Arthur sneered. “It’s already too late for you. I just need to hold you off a little while longer…” He turned back to his Admin. “Skye! Hold him off while we escape.”
“Okay cuz.” Skye responded. “We can’t have him messing up our plans anyway.”
“No hard feelings kid. This is just the way it is.” Arthur pointed out, untying the final rope holding the submarine to the dock and swinging down onto the vessel as it started to move.

“Wait!” Sadik tried, chasing towards the railing.
“Nah… Not yet. Still have to fight me.” Skye stated, pushing Sadik backwards and pulling out a Pokeball.
“If that’s the way it has to be, fine! Zehir, let’s go!” Sadik stated, sending out his Pokémon ready to battle.
“Viper!” Zehir hissed.
“Gorebyss, hold him off!” Skye commanded.
“Byss!” The Pokémon called.
“Gorebyss huh…” Sadik considered. “Right Zehir, Poison Jab!”
“Aqua Tail Gorebyss.” The Aqua Admin commanded.
Zehir leapt towards Gorebyss, stabbing it multiple times with her tail and fangs. Gorebyss swept Zehir backwards with its long tail, but seemed to be suffering in the aftermath, and Sadik could tell that it had been poisoned.

“Alright! Now use Venoshock!” Sadik followed up.
“Psychic Gorebyss!” Skye attempted.
Zehir remained faster than the opponent, spraying a dubious liquid over Gorebyss. It seemed unable to handle the attack, and fell down defeated before it could get a chance to retaliate.

“That’s a good strategy.” Skye admitted. “But I’m not even close to done. Weavile, take over!”
“Alright Zehir, take a break.” Sadik determined. “Ateş, come on out!”
“Ken!” Ateş roared.
“Weavile.” The opponent hissed back.
“Ateş, use Blaze Kick!” Sadik began.
“Weavile, Icy Wind.” Skye decided.
Weavile attacked first, knocking Ateş back with a blast of cold air. Ateş recovered quickly, and kicked Weavile into the railings of the dock, leaving a trail of fire behind.
“What’s up? Not gonna Mega Evolve?” Skye taunted.
“Well, I can only do it once. Might as well save it ‘till I need it!” Sadik shot back. “Ateş, Blaze Kick again!”
“Night Slash Weavile!” Skye ordered.
Weavile struck first once again, delivering an attack that hit for heavy damage despite the type disadvantage. But Ateş still held firm, knocking Weavile back with yet another powerful kick and taking the opponent out.

“You might want to get that fire type out of here.” Aqua’s Admin advised. “Go on Tentacruel.”
“Tenta.” The new opponent called eerily.
“Alright Ateş, that’s good.” Sadik said to his Pokémon. “Pençe, take this one on.”
“Skar!” Pençe screeched.
“Tentacruel, Bubble Beam.” Skye declared.
“Pençe, use Air Cutter.” Sadik chose.
Tentacruel fired a powerful beam of bubbles towards Pençe, who stood firm in the face of the attack, retaliating with a powerful slash towards the opponent.

“Brine Tentacruel.” Skye demanded.
“Air Cutter Pençe!” Sadik repeated.
Tentacruel attacked Pençe with a torrent of water that bore down on him with reasonable force, but Pençe withstood the attack, and knocked Tentacruel out with a powerful slash in retaliation.

“Alright Tentacruel, return now.” Aqua’s Admin spoke. “Starmie, your turn.”
“Star.” Starmie announced itself.
“Right Pençe, that’s enough. Go Asena!” Sadik followed, swapping his Pokémon again.
“Yena!” Asena growled.
“Starmie, Hydro Pump.” Skye chose.
“Asena, Bite.” Sadik started off.
Starmie shot a huge jet of water towards Asena, sending her sliding back a considerable distance. Asena responded with a powerful bite that caused major damage to Starmie.

“Starmie, Recover.” Skye attempted.
“Bite Asena!” Sadik repeated.
Starmie focused on the spot, glowing a soft white as it regained its own health. Asena charged into the foe and bit it, but Starmie was left still standing.

“Now use Confuse Ray.” Skye followed up.
“Bite again.” Sadik continued.
Starmie shot a peculiar ray at Asena that left her confused. Sadik glanced towards his Pokémon, unsure as to whether she would attack or not. But Asena overcame the confusion easily, taking the opposing Pokémon down with another powerful bite.

“Aright, it’s my last Pokémon now.” The Aqua Admin announced, returning Starmie to its Pokeball. “If you were planning on using a Mega Evolution, the time is now. Go Kingdra!”
“Might take ya up on that.” Sadik commented, taking Asena back. “Lale, finish this!”
“Saur!” Lale smiled, waving towards the opponents.
“Dra.” Kingdra huffed, turning away.

“Kingdra, use Twister.” Skye demanded.
“Alright Lale, Petal Dance. But first… Mega Evolve!” Sadik declared, activating his Key Stone and looking towards Lale, who transformed in the thick of the battle.
“Saur!” She cried, staring down the opponent. Kingdra seemed unfazed, striking her with a torrent of wind, and Lale responded with a graceful shower of petals that cut into the opponent.

“Use Brine Kingdra.” Skye continued, watching as Sadik simply stood still. Kingdra tried to rain a powerful blast of water down on Lale, but she seemed barely effected, still spinning petals relentlessly at Kingdra, who looked to be almost out of energy.

“Smokescreen.” Skye resorted, causing Kingdra to spray out a dark smoke that obscured the battlefield.
“Don’t let it get to ya Lale!” Sadik reassured his Pokémon. From within the smoke, Lale launched a final attack at the enemy, successfully knocking it out before falling to the ground, dizzied.

“Don’t worry about it Lale. Ya did great. Return now.” Sadik declared, taking his Pokémon back.
“So what if you did? The sub is long gone. Although you’re welcome to chase us to Lilycove if you’re that determined to stop us. Not that it’ll work.” Skye pointed out. “My work here is done.”
“Wait!” Sadik called, trying to run after the Admin, but they only jumped onto Kingdra and disappeared beneath the water within the docks, seemingly having used Dive to escape.

“So Lilycove it is then…” Sadik affirmed to himself, turning back towards the entrance of the Harbour.

Gupta knew that time was of the essence as he landed in Lavaridge Town. Somewhere between here and Mt. Chimney, Team Magma was nearing the completion of their plan. Whatever that plan was.

Trouble was, it was a wide area to search in such a short time. Gupta stopped briefly at the Pokémon Centre to heal up before leaving and walking towards Jagged Pass.
Despite the late hour, there was still a young boy on the mountainous ridges, trying to hop up the ledges using his bike. Gupta thought of the bike in his own pocket. It saved going all the way to the cable car at least.

Thinking back to when Herakles had coaxed him into hopping his bike over a river previously, Gupta unfolded the vehicle, concentrated, and began to hop his way up the ledges, using some fairly well placed rocks in assistance.

“That’s how you do it!” The child below cheered, as Gupta rounded a corner and dodged some grass before continuing to climb. The path ahead carried on straight for a long time before curving around to the right and landing Gupta near where he had fought an elderly trainer before.

It was at this point that the Magma Emblem that Gupta had picked up on Mt. Pyre began to glow, an entrance appearing within the rock walls around him. Not wasting any time, Gupta packed up the bike and ventured inside.

Team Magma’s base had been built into the side of the volcano, utilising natural rock tunnels that had no doubt been dug by Pokémon decades before. The entire setup felt surprisingly roomy given the circumstances, with relatively high ceilings despite the narrow corridors of the base. Gupta edged along the first section with relative ease, eventually finding an obstacle only when a series of boulders came into view.

“What now?” Gupta wondered to himself, pushing uselessly at the boulders in front of him. While he couldn’t move the boulders, it was likely that one of his Pokémon would be able to… But which move could he use to achieve that? Sadik hadn’t mentioned anything…

Suddenly, there was a flash of purple light behind him, and Gupta turned around to find a Pokémon he had never seen before floating in the air in front of him.
“Mismagius!” It cried, dropping a disc and a note at Gupta’s feet before disappearing as suddenly as it appeared. Gupta picked up the items without delay, looking the note over first.

‘Gupta,
Apologies for the delay in reaching you. Eliza has already informed me of the specifics of what occurred at Mt. Pyre, and we are all on our way to help you as soon as we can. In the meantime, I have sent one of my Pokémon ahead with this message and a HM. Using it will enable you to teach one of your Pokémon Strength. I have a feeling that you might be in need of it soon enough. Until then, take care of yourself.
Kiku’

Gupta picked up the disc and looked at it carefully, while wondering exactly who Kiku meant by ‘all’. And what he and Eliza actually did for work. Regardless, the disc was exactly what he needed. All he had to do was decide which Pokémon to teach it to. Looking through his Pokémon, Gupta decided on Hippowdon.

“Alright Hippowdon, come here for a moment.” He called, sending out his Pokémon.
“Hippo?” His Pokémon questioned, looking around nervously. Gupta slapped the HM disc onto Hippowdon’s head, and the move was taught within seconds. Gupta then turned back to the rocks that were in their path.
“Hippowdon, Strength.” He started, guiding Hippowdon forward.
“Hippo.” Hippowdon nodded, plodding forwards and pressing against the rocks, starting to shift them. He seemed a little nervous, but kept at his task until a path had been created.
“Alright, let’s go,” Gupta told his Pokémon, returning Hippowdon to the Pokeball and continuing into the base.

The path within the base wound around in an arc, and Gupta followed it in relative peace for a while, aware of the various sounds emanating from within the base as machines whirred and members of Team Magma chatted deeper within the corridors.

After a while, Gupta turned fully around the curve, arriving at a long path littered with machines that marked the way ahead. Walking down the pathway, a Team Magma grunt came into view. Gupta recognised the man as the same one from the Oldale Town ruins, at the beginning of his journey. Hardly anything about his appearance had changed in that time; he seemed just as ready to battle as he had always been, which Gupta supposed was a good trait for a sentry. Unfortunately, there was no way to sneak around the man, and no other paths that he could take…

“So you think I can’t see you there? You have some nerve for a kid.” The man commented, as Gupta tried to walk past regardless.
“It was worth a try.” The teenager pointed out.
“Wait. I remember you. You’re that kid from Oldale Town.” The man recognised. “You may have beaten me and my Pokémon back then, but we’ve gotten a lot stronger since. I’d like to see you try now!”
“We’ll see.” Gupta responded, taking Hippowdon’s Pokeball back out and sending him out.
“Hippo?” Hippowdon questioned.
“Alright Kokolo, show them your real power!” The grunt declared.
“Roar!” The emerging Pokémon growled. Gupta stared at Kokolo, finding the Pokémon to have changed entirely.

It had grown immensely in size, and had grown an impressive mane, which spread out in all directions in wisps of red and yellow. Instead of looking curious and weak, it now appeared capable and majestic. Clearly, the Pokémon had evolved.
“Alright Kokolo, use Noble Roar!” The Magma Grunt started.
“Hippowdon, Dig.” Gupta decided.
Kokolo roared harshly at Hippowdon, causing the Pokémon to shrink back in fear before scuttling away underground, his morale already seeming to fail.
“Now Kokolo, Take Down!” The grunt continued.
Kokolo tried to run towards Hippowdon, but ran over empty ground, as Hippowdon had already escaped. As it skidded to a stop, Hippowdon emerged from the ground and struck Kokolo, causing heavy damage to it.
“Take Down.” The Magma Grunt repeated.
“Dig.” Gupta followed.
Kokolo charged at Hippowdon again, hitting him before he could escape underground. Hippowdon recoiled at the damage, but Kokolo was also hurt, and Hippowdon slipped away before more damage could be done.
“Endeavour!” The grunt attempted, probably already knowing that his attack wouldn’t hit.
Kokolo tried to reach the buried Pokémon, digging at the ground and trying to listen for the sounds of movement. It turned towards one specific patch of earth just as Hippowdon emerged, getting knocked back against the wall of the base and being knocked out.

“Kokolo! Alright, take a rest,” the grunt spoke, returning his first Pokémon to its Pokeball, “take over Leo!”
“Ray!” Leo roared, leaping onto the field.

Leo had clearly evolved as well. The black fur that previously only covered its hind legs now covered a large amount of its body, leaving only parts of its legs, torso, and head coloured blue. It retained the yellow star that decorated its tail, and had gained a large mane of black spikes. It held a fierceness in its eyes.

“Leo, use Swagger!” The Magma Grunt chose.
“Dig Hippowdon,” Gupta tried.
Leo glared harshly at Hippowdon, causing him to edge slowly backwards in fear. As Hippowdon backed against a wall, Leo closed its eyes and laughed, triggering Hippowdon’s temper. He began thrashing around wildly, managing to injure himself in the struggle while Leo simply jumped away.

“Bite Leo,” the Magma Grunt continued.
“Dig.” Gupta tried again.
Leo charged forwards, biting Hippowdon viciously. Hippowdon continued to thrash around, using Sand Tomb instead of Dig to attack the opponent.
“Bite again,” the grunt repeated.
“Dig,” Gupta tried for the third time.
Leo, still stuck in the vortex of Sand Tomb, still managed to attack Hippowdon, who finally managed to calm himself down, burrowing into the ground finally.
“Use Roar!” The Magma Grunt attempted.
Leo roared viciously, hoping to scare Hippowdon off. But the Pokémon had taken shelter in the relative safety of underground, and emerged in due time, knocking the opponent out.

“Ugh, I can’t believe I lost again.” The Magma Grunt complained. “It’s not like it matters. The rest of us waiting within the base will destroy you.”
“We’ll see.” Gupta stated. “Come on Hippowdon.”
“Hippo.” The Pokémon nodded, being returned to his Pokeball as Gupta continued into the base.

As he advanced, machinery became visible within the rock walls. Eventually, the path led Gupta through an arch and into a second area, where multiple Magma Grunts patrolled around in circles. Gupta started at the top of the room, and continued down the stairs that were carved into the rock. Another familiar Magma Grunt stood beside one set of stairs, and there was no way for Gupta to avoid him.

“I had a feeling I’d be seeing you again.” He stated, voice level and calm. “You’re already too late though. Even as we speak, our Leader is busy finalising our plans.”
“I’ll still try.” Gupta pointed out. “You won’t stop me like that.”
“Fair enough.” The Magma Grunt stated. “If you won’t leave, I’ll just have to make you leave. Toxicroak, make them pay!”
“Craaa!” The Pokémon roared. Gupta noticed that this Pokémon resembled the Croagunk this grunt had used before, only now with long, red claws on its hands, a large curved spike on its head, and a red vocal sac beneath its throat. It was clearly an evolution.
“Hippowdon, fight this one.” Gupta declared, sending Hippowdon out again.
“Hippo.” Hippowdon complained.

“Alright Toxicroak, Venoshock.” The grunt started.
“Dig Hippowdon.” Gupta followed.
Toxicroak leapt forwards before drenching Hippowdon in foul looking liquid. Hippowdon shrugged the attack off, disappearing underground.
“Toxicroak, Swagger.” The grunt continued.
Toxicroak failed to launch an attack, and Hippowdon emerged from the ground immediately afterwards and struck the opponent hard, sending it flying backwards.
“Sucker Punch.” The grunt decided.
“Hippowdon… Use Strength.” Gupta changed tactic.
Toxicroak jumped in and hit Hippowdon before he could react, Hippowdon responding with a powerful charge of its own that caused massive damage to Toxicroak.
“Mud Bomb.” The Magma Grunt tried.
“Strength.” Gupta repeated.
Toxicroak tried to launch a ball of mud at Hippowdon, but the Pokémon avoided the attack, charging Toxicroak again and knocking it out.

“Alright Toxicroak, that was okay. Magcargo, take over.” The grunt spoke, changing his Pokémon.
“Mag. Cargo!” The new Pokémon roared. To Gupta, it looked as though Slugma had grown a shell for itself.
“Rock Slide Magcargo.” The grunt ordered.
“Dig.” Gupta defaulted.
Hippowdon got the edge on Magcargo in terms of speed, disappearing underground before the opponent could attack. Magcargo’s attack missed entirely.
“Shell Smash.” The Magma Grunt changed move.
Hippowdon emerged to attack Magcargo, dealing massive damage, while Magcargo cracked its own shell, revealing its own weak points but ridding itself of some of the weight holding it down.
“Magcargo, Rock Slide.” The grunt continued.
“Dig.” Gupta suggested.
Magcargo hit Hippowdon square on with a barrage of rocks, but Hippowdon withstood the attack, heading back underground.
“Flame Burst.” The grunt attempted.
Naturally, the attack failed to strike Hippowdon, who emerged and struck Magcargo heavily, knocking the opponent out.

“Alright, that’s enough Magcargo. Mightyena, take over,” the grunt stated, sending out his third Pokémon.
“Yena!” The Mightyena growled.
Gupta looked over to Hippowdon, who seemed to be getting tired.
“Hippowdon, rest.” He chose, withdrawing his Pokémon. “Umbreon, take this on.”
“Bre!” Umbreon called, gearing up to fight.

“Mightyena, Embargo.” The grunt commanded.
“Take Down.” Gupta responded.
Umbreon slammed into Mightyena, causing heavy damage while also taking damage himself. Mightyena surrounded Umbreon with a strange power that Gupta recognised from the last time he had seen Embargo used.
“Mightyena, Snarl.” The Magma Grunt carried on.
“Take Down.” Gupta parroted from earlier.
Umbreon charged and slammed into the opponent again, causing an even larger amount of damage than before, and succeeded in taking Mightyena down before it could attack.

“You really are as strong as ever.” The grunt commented, stepping backwards. “Good luck getting through the others though.”
Gupta returned Umbreon to his Pokeball and looked out over the area below, where many grunts still patrolled. Getting past them all would be some job.

Luckily for Gupta, the grunts patrolled set routes with predictable patterns, and as such the teenager was able to avoid the rest of the grunts in the room and continue deeper into the base. He soon came across a diverting path, with two further entrances to further areas visible to Gupta: one on his level, and the other down another set of stairs. Gupta took the second path, and soon found himself on another winding downwards path that ran alongside scattered pools of lava. Eventually, Gupta found an exit, but he could see a recognisable figure across the cavern, on the other side of a lower down pool of lava. Gupta approached her, figuring that she was likely to be guarding the correct way ahead.

“It’s you,” Camille spoke as Gupta came closer. “I knew you’d be here. As soon as I realised one of our grunts had dropped their Magma Emblem at Mt. Pyre… I knew you’d find it, and follow us. And so, I decided to wait here.” She adjusted her coat, looking straight into Gupta’s eyes.
“You don’t understand. And I don’t expect you to. The world my brother wishes to create. We’ve all struggled for so long to make that a reality. And now, that’s finally about to come true. All of us in Team Magma will stand in the way if you make any attempt to stop us.”
“That’s fine by me.” Gupta explained. “If you have to fight, then fight.”
“Very well.” Camille agreed, “Flareon, fight as hard as you can!”
“Flareon!” The Pokémon cried.
“Vibrava, your turn.” Gupta chose.
“Brava!” Vibrava glared at the opponent.

“Flareon, Lava Plume,” Camille ordered her Pokémon.
“Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta decided.
Vibrava let off a huge earthquake that shook the very walls of the cavern they were fighting in, but Flareon hung on, bringing the lava that pooled behind them up to strike Vibrava, who shrugged the attack off.
“Bite Flareon,” Camille continued.
“Earthquake.” Gupta repeated.
Vibrava struck first, taking Flareon down without taking any further damage herself.

“Alright Flareon, that was good enough. Take over Magcargo!” The admin continued, sending out her second Pokémon.
“Vibrava, come back. Camerupt, take over.” Gupta decided, switching out his Pokémon.
“Camer.” Camerupt yawned.
“Okay Magcaro, Shell Smash!” Camille ordered.
“Earth Power Camerupt.” Gupta followed.
Camerupt moved first, striking Magcargo with pillars of earth that erupted from the ground while Magcargo cracked its own shell, limbering itself up.
“Now Magcargo, use Ancient Power!” Camille declared.
“Earth Power.” Gupta repeated.
Magcargo managed to move first this time, throwing a series of rocks that seemed to be almost magically controlled towards Camerupt. She withstood the hit easily, and responded with another barrage of earthy pillars, which knocked the opponent out.

“Magcargo, return.” Camille spoke. “Alright Delphox, let’s go!”
“Okay Camerupt, enough. Umbreon, take over.” Gupta chose, switching his Pokémon once more.
“Bre!” Umbreon growled.
“Delphox, Mystical Fire!” Camille commanded.
“Umbreon, Bite.” Gupta defaulted.
Delphox sent a ring of fire towards Umbreon, who leapt through the attack and fought back with a harsh bite to the opponent.
“Mystic Fire again.” Camille repeated.
“Bite.” Gupta copied.
Delphox tried to scorch Umbreon with its fire, but he resisted the attack, and responded with a bite powerful enough to knock the opponent out.

“You’re as strong as ever.” Camille commented, switching her Pokémon out. “But I can’t just let you pass. Go Nidoqueen!”
“I beat you just hours ago. Why would now be different?” Gupta pointed out, returning Umbreon to the Pokeball. “Go Swellow.”
“Low!” Swellow chirped.
“Nidoqueen, Double Kick.” Camille suggested.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta countered.
Swellow took off into the air before diving down to deliver a swift strike against Nidoqueen, who repelled Swellow with a pair of strong kicks, sending her flying back to her starting position.
“Body Slam Nidoqueen.” Camille changed move.
“Aerial Ace.” Gupta repeated.
Swellow attacked first once again, swooping in with an unusually strong attack that knocked Nidoqueen down with its power.

“Again…” Camille muttered under her breath. “It can’t be helped. Go Whiscash!”
“Okay Swellow, good enough.” Gupta commented, returning her to the Pokeball. “Swampert, finish up.”
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered.
“Whiscash, Water Pulse.” The Magma Admin attempted.
“Surf.” Gupta chose.
Whiscash sent a strange pulse of water towards Swampert, striking him square on. Swampert seemed barely worse off for it, and sent a wave of dark coloured water towards Whiscash in response.
“That wasn’t Surf…” Gupta deadpanned. “Fine. Swampert, keep doing… Whatever you’re doing.”
“Whiscash, Magnitude!” Camille tried.
Whiscash let off a shockwave that dealt minimal damage to Swampert, who responded with another wave of unsanitary water that knocked Whiscash down and defeated it.

“Again, I lose to you…” Camille surmised. “It can’t be helped. Go on. There are others waiting further in for you.”
“I’ll just have to defeat them too then,” Gupta pointed out, returning Swampert to the Pokeball and continuing down the path that stretched out alongside the magma pool.

At the end of the path, another exit revealed itself, and Gupta walked through to find himself looking out over another cavern. The path edged sharply downwards and to the right before narrowing into a single track that seemed to be twisting towards something. Halfway along the path, Gupta found the other two Admins of Team Magma, standing across from each other at either side of the path.

“So you made it. I had a feeling you’d turn up here,” Lars commented, pushing off from the wall, hands in his pockets. “Let’s get this over with then.”
“Yeah, we already realised a while back that we can’t really win,” Emma sighed, turning fully towards Gupta. “But my brother and I, we owe Francis a debt. So we’re gonna fight until the end!”
“If that’s what you have to do, then do it.” Gupta declared. “Swellow, Vibrava, take them on.”
“Krookodile, don’t let this kid get past!” Lars ordered.
“Let’s go Rapidash!” Emma chipped in.
Gupta didn’t fully recognise either of the two Pokémon which stared his team down, but he guessed that they were evolutions of Pokémon he had seen Lars and Emma use before. They seemed strong and imposing, and he steeled himself for a fight.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Rapidash,” he began, hoping to pre-empt his opponents. “Vibrava, Earthquake.”
“Krookodile, Assurance on Swellow.” Lars commanded.
“Rapidash, Take Down on Vibrava!” Emma enthused.
Swellow charged in first, striking Rapidash before it could attack. Rapidash slammed into Vibrava with some force, but she shrugged the attack off easily, and let off a powerful quake that badly damaged both opponents, while Swellow flew over the top, unconcerned. Krookodile launched a slap in her direction, but she took only minimal damage from the attack.

“Krookodile, Crunch on Swellow,” Lars continued.
“Rapidash, Take Down on Vibrava again!” Emma repeated.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Krookodile. Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta decided.
Swellow swooped down on Krookodile, dealing heavy damage with her attack while Rapidash slammed into Vibrava again, damaging itself such that it was barely standing. Vibrava looked towards Swellow and roared once before unleashing a second quake, which Swellow was easily able to dodge but which took the two opposing Pokémon down.

“Aww, don’t worry Rapidash. Nidoking, take over,” Emma spoke to her Pokémon.
“Return Krookodile. Excadrill, let’s go.” Lars scoffed.
Nidoking looked just as tough as ever, while Excadrill reminded Gupta of the Drilbur he’d seen used in his mother’s Gym. He remained unfazed.
“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Nidoking. Vibrava, Earthquake again.” He chose.
“Nidoking, Thrash!” Emma shouted to her Pokémon.
“Excadrill, Slash on Vibrava,” Lars told his Pokémon.
Swellow once again struck first, dealing heavy damage to Nidoking before taking a kick to the face as Nidoking thrashed around wildly. Vibrava set off another earthquake to damage Nidoking and Excadrill before being scratched harshly by Excadrill’s long shovel-like claws.

“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Nidoking. Vibrava, Earthquake.” Gupta parroted.
“Excadrill, Rock Slide.” Lars attempted.
Swellow struck Nidoking once more, dodging out of the way as the Pokémon crashed into Vibrava in its wild attack, clearly growing tired. Vibrava knocked it away with a shockwave that also enveloped Excadrill, knocking both Pokémon out without giving either a chance to attack again.

“Alright Nidoking, come back. You’re up Claydol,” Emma announced, sending out her third Pokémon.
“Excadrill, back to the Pokeball. Diggersby, come on out.” Lars stated.
“I’ve seen these before…” Gupta muttered to himself. “Vibrava, Crunch on Claydol. Swellow, Aerial Ace on Diggersby.”
“Diggersby, Double Kick on Swellow,” Lars decided.
“Claydol, Extrasensory on Vibrava.” Emma followed.
Swellow attacked Diggersby and tussled with it as it attempted to kick her repeatedly. Vibrava flew over towards Claydol and attacked it with a strong bite that caused major damage, before being sent flying off by Claydol’s counter attack. She landed back on the ground, unfazed.

“Swellow, Aerial Ace on Diggersby. Vibrava, Crunch on Claydol again.” Gupta continued.
“Diggersby, Flail on Swellow,” Lars declared.
“Alright Claydol, Self-Destruct!” Emma chipped in.
Swellow swooped in to strike Diggersby and the Pokémon struggled in response while Vibrava flew towards Claydol once again. Seconds later, all of the Pokémon were engulfed in an explosion. Vibrava and Swellow were left barely standing when the dust had cleared, while Claydol and Diggersby had been knocked out.

“…Why do you keep doing that?” Lars asked.
“Come on, you know he had us. At least this way two of his Pokémon are barely able to fight.” Emma justified herself. “Anyway. Ninetales, take over for Claydol.”
“Lopunny, take Diggersby’s place.” Lars seconded.
“Swellow, Vibrava, rest. Swampert, Camerupt, take over.” Gupta followed on, also switching his Pokémon.
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, glad to finally be out of the Pokeball.
Gupta hadn’t seen Lopunny before, but something about its appearance undoubtedly fit with Lars’s style… Somehow. He didn’t consider the matter any further than that.

“Swampert, Mega Evolve and use Rock Slide. Camerupt, use… Rock Slide as well?” Gupta tried.
“Lopunny, Jump Kick on Camerupt!” Lars countered.
“Ninetales, use Feint Attack on Camerupt!” Emma added.
“Swampert!” Swampert cried, Mega Evolving while Lopunny and Ninetales charged towards Camerupt, Ninetales slamming into the Pokémon while Lopunny took a flying leap and missed completely, crashing some distance away. Camerupt stepped back slightly before cascading rocks down on the pair, the newly Mega Evolved Swampert joining in eagerly, their combined attacks knocking both opposing Pokémon out.

“Only one left then. Better make it count. Come on Houndoom!” Lars declared.
“Finish this! Blaziken!” Emma decided.
Blaziken looked the same as it had before, and Gupta already knew that Emma had a Key Stone. Houndoom looked like an evolution of Houndour, with curved horns and a pointed tail. Gupta saw a second Key Stone wrapped up in Lars’s scarf, and guessed at what was about to happen.
“Alright Houndoom, Mega Evolve and use Feint Attack on Swampert!” Lars ordered.
“Double Kick on Camerupt Blaziken!” Emma chose.
“Rock Slide. Both of you.” Gupta answered simply.
Houndoom’s tail split as it Mega Evolved and its horns stood straight up and curled vertically. The ridge around its neck grew large and appeared to gain many spikes of its own. The Pokémon certainly seemed more fearsome as it charged towards Swampert, dodging left and right before slamming into him. Blaziken also finished Mega Evolving, springing into action and kicking Camerupt repeatedly before jumping back to its starting position. Camerupt reared up and brought a barrage of rocks down on the opponent, Swampert doing the same.
“Blaziken, Quick Attack on Camerupt.” Emma changed move.
“Feint Attack on Swampert Houndoom,” Lars repeated.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta stuck to.
Blaziken rushed in at great speed to get a hit against Camerupt, Houndoom following with another attack on Swampert. Camerupt caught both Pokémon as they started to jump backwards, catching them in a stream of falling rocks that Swampert only added to, and which knocked out Houndoom before it could return to its trainer. Gupta was honestly starting to wonder how the whole cave hadn’t collapsed with the amount of rubble his Pokémon were bringing down.
“Ah! Blaziken, Quick Attack on Swampert!” Emma tried.
“Rock Slide.” Gupta repeated once more.
Blaziken hurried over to attack Swampert, but failed to take the opponent down, and was easily buried and defeated in the onslaught of rocks that followed. Camerupt seemed glad to be rid of the opponents, while Swampert looked eager to move on and explore.

“We did what we could. That’s all we had to do.” Lars summed up, returning Houndoom to the Pokeball.
“Go on then. Go, and fight Francis. But don’t expect it to be easy. All of the hopes of Team Magma… Rest on him now.” Emma continued, seeing to her own Pokémon.
“We’ll see about that.” Gupta commented, returning his Pokémon to their Pokeballs before continuing along the path.

Once Lars and Emma were out of sight, Gupta sent out all of his Pokémon to make sure they were fully healed before they fought Francis. Swampert seemed excited for what lay ahead, and Swellow was clearly ready to fight, while Hippowdon and Camerupt seemed unsure, Hippowdon even trying to hide behind some rocks while Camerupt looked like she’d rather be sleeping. Umbreon sat calmly by Gupta’s feet, looking up at his trainer, while Vibrava had already disappeared into the bag in search of food.
“Alright.” The teenager announced, gathering his Pokémon and preparing for a showdown.

Chapter Text

Lilycove City remained bustling, even by night. People streamed to and from the department store, the hotels, the shipyard, and the brightly lit contest hall that still held events even long after dark. Sadik wanted nothing more than to get up on that stage and compete. But there was work to be done. After stopping briefly to heal his Pokémon, Sadik set about finding an entrance to Team Aqua’s hideout.

The sailors in the cove proved to be the most helpful, pointing out a cave in the shallow water and complaining about how Team Aqua’s Wailmer kept getting in their way. Giving a vague promise to investigate, Sadik sent out Çene and began swimming towards the entrance.

The first thing Sadik saw after entering the complex was a long pathway that led to an entrance through an archway with the Aqua emblem emblazoned on a flag over the top. Sadik landed on the spit of land, and charged into the base.

A corridor full of warp panels greeted Sadik, who stopped for a moment, looking between the available paths.
“I don’t have time for this.” He seethed, picking the path to the right at random, and appearing in a second room which contained another warp panel, a staircase, and a grunt standing guard.

“Oh great. You did come to stop us.” The grunt complained. Sadik recognised her from the attack on the Oceanic Museum.
“As if I’d stand by and watch you get away with all you’ve done.” Sadik declared.
“If you really want to fight us that badly, fine.” The grunt replied, adjusting her ponytail before sending out her first Pokémon. “Liepard, make him regret coming here!”
“Ateş, get ready to fight!” Sadik spoke, sending out his starter Pokémon.
“Blaziken!” Ateş cheered.
“Pard.” Liepard hissed.
“Liepard, Slash!” The Aqua grunt began.
“Double Kick!” Sadik chose.
Ateş leapt into battle, delivering two swift kicks to Liepard before being knocked back by a slash from Liepard’s claws.

“Taunt Liepard!” The grunt continued.
“Double Kick!” Sadik repeated.
Ateş attacked Liepard once more, knocking the opponent backwards and almost taking it out. Rather than fight back, Liepard merely taunted Ateş.
“Alright, use Peck Ateş!” Sadik finished.
“Slash again Liepard!” The grunt tried.
Ateş jumped in before Liepard could attack, knocking the foe out with a mere peck from his beak.

“Liepard, return. Go Mightyena!” The grunt continued.
“Stay on Ateş, and use Double Kick again!” Sadik followed.
“Swagger Mightyena.” The grunt attempted.
Ateş leapt in once more to attack this new foe, who attempted to rile him into a fury but ultimately failed, Ateş throwing its attempts at annoying him off.

“Mightyena, Assurance!” Team Aqua’s grunt changed tactic.
“Double Kick!” Sadik stayed firm.
Ateş hit the opponent hard, dealing heavy damage to it while withstanding the counterattack and seeming to be barely injured at all.

“Now Mightyena, Snarl!” The grunt tried.
“Quick Attack.” Sadik decided.
Ateş charged in blindingly fast, taking Mightyena down and standing tall afterwards, a smile clearly on his face.

“Don’t get too confident. I still have one Pokémon left. Girafarig, go!” The grunt conversed, returning Mightyena to the Pokeball and sending out Girafarig.
“Ateş, don’t give up now! Blaze Kick!” Sadik encouraged.
“Girafarig, Stomp!” The Aqua grunt ordered.
Ateş leapt at the foe with a kick of fire, the attack leaving him crouching on the ground. Girafarig kicked him in the face before he could retreat.
“Ateş, Blaze Kick again!” Sadik insisted.
“Zen Headbutt!” Aqua’s grunt commanded.
Ateş kicked Girafarig once again, but was then sent flying backwards by a powerful head-butt that seemed infused with power. He landed on the floor of the base, still very much able to fight.

“Alright Ateş, finish this with Quick Attack!” Sadik decided.
“Girafarig, Double Hit!” The grunt tried.
Ateş charged forwards again, knocking the opponent out and ending the battle.

“So what. You think you’re so great just because you beat me? You still have to find your way through the maze that is our base.” The grunt taunted Sadik.
“Well, ya already gave me a hint. Obviously the correct way forwards is down these stairs; ya wouldn’t be standing here otherwise.” Sadik pointed out.
“…Oh.” The grunt realised, staring blankly at Sadik.
“Have fun with whatever punishment ya get for that little mistake.” Sadik smirked, returning Ateş to his Pokeball and continuing into the base.

The area at the bottom of the stairs was some kind of laboratory, with scientists milling around and seemingly trying to pretend that Sadik didn’t exist. He walked straight up to the machinery, watching as some sort of meteorite was fired at with lasers over and over.
“What on earth…” Sadik mused to himself, before noticing a bookcase over to the left. Upon reaching it, he pulled out a book which seemed to contain research notes and began to read.
“Super-Ancient Pokémon, breaking the seal on the Seafloor Cavern, a drill… That’s why ya needed that submarine,” Sadik deduced. “But… Bringing the world back to its beginnings? Why if ya do that…” The teenager shook his head, turning to the warp panels in the room. “I have to stop this, quick!”

The warp panel directly below the bookcase led to a narrow corridor, and following it led to only another warp panel. When Sadik stepped on it, he appeared in another room, which appeared to be someone’s living area. Michelle sat at the table in the room, staring into space with an unreadable expression.

“Great, dead end…” Sadik assumed, attracting the young woman’s attention.
“…You.” She recognised.
“Look. If I have to fight ya, I will. I can’t let Arthur get any further with this!” Sadik stated.
“I know. And I… Don’t want to fight anymore. After what happened at the Weather Institute… I may have fought you at Mt. Pyre. But I want no more to do with this.” Michelle declared. “I only hope… I can find a way to stop all this before it’s too late. This is never… This isn’t what I wanted!”
“Well, it’s never too late to show regrets. Just tell me where the submarine is now.” Sadik decided.
“Don’t bother with the other warp panel in the lab. Take the one outside.” Michelle detailed. “You’ll see another lab on the other side, but don’t enter. Just follow the corridor. You’ll get there soon enough. But they’ll be leaving soon. I don’t know if you’ll make it in time.”
“I’ll try my best.” Sadik promised. “I’ll set this right, okay?” He smiled reassuringly in Michelle’s direction before leaving the way he came.
“I’ll… Make things right too.” Michelle swore.

The warp panel on the outside of the lab did indeed lead Sadik to another laboratory, where they appeared to be making some sort of protective suit. Sadik ignored it and continued along the corridor as instructed, soon finding another grunt on guard as proof that he had been right in his choice of path.

“It’s you. That boy who ran at the Oceanic Museum.” The man recognised. “So I finally get to battle you.”
“Sure thing.” Sadik agreed. “Ateş, let’s go!”
“Mightyena, take him down!” The grunt ordered.

“Ateş, use Double Kick!” Sadik began.
“Assurance Mightyena!” The grunt continued.
Ateş jumped in to attack the opposing Pokémon, being forced backwards by the counter, but not before dealing considerable damage.
“Assurance again!” The grunt repeated.
“Double Kick!” Sadik followed.
Ateş charged in with an attack that was even more powerful than usual, and took Mightyena down in a single hit, without giving it the chance to attack.

“Alright… Mightyena, return. Clamperl, let’s go!”
“That’s all ya have?” Sadik taunted. “This is gonna be fun. Çene, come and take over!”
“Ken.” Ateş nodded to Sadik as he was returned to the Pokeball.
“Shar!” Çene roared, glaring her opponent down.
“Alright Çene, Crunch.” Sadik chose.
“Water Gun Clamperl!” The grunt decided.
Çene rushed the opponent at speed, biting it hard, and shrugging off the resulting spray of water as if it was nothing.
“Crunch again!” Sadik encouraged.
“Iron Defence Clamperl!” The grunt attempted.
Çene’s bite was too powerful, and knocked Clamperl out before it could move.

“I’m getting through yer team pretty quick.” Sadik pointed out.
“I still have one more Pokémon to go.” The grunt revealed. “Sharpedo, come on out!”
“Huh. Sharpedo against Sharpedo, is it?” Sadik assessed. “Don’t let up Çene. Crunch once more!”
“Sharpedo, Aqua Jet.” The grunt began.
The opponent’s Sharpedo rushed at Çene with a torrent of water, which she shrugged off easily, responding by biting the foe hard.

“Çene, Surf!” Sadik continued.
“Aqua Jet again.” The grunt repeated.
The opponent relied on the fast moving water to hit first again, while Çene again withstood the attack, bringing a mighty wave down on the Sharpedo. The water drained through vents on the floor, Aqua’s base seemingly being made for battles like this.

“Surf Again Çene!” Sadik tried.
“Slash!” The grunt attempted.
Getting the edge on her opponent with her impatient nature, Çene brought another torrent of water down on the opponent’s Sharpedo, knocking it out before it could attack again.

“I lost… But the others. Those ahead. They’ll stop you.” The grunt declared.
“We’ll see about that.” Sadik decided, returning Çene to her Pokeball and continuing onwards.

The corridor that awaited Sadik beyond the next warp tile presented Sadik with a dilemma. There were two warp tiles, placed to his left and down the corridor from his position. Michelle hadn’t mentioned which to take. Picking at random, Sadik took the lower tile, and found himself facing a strange setup, with many rows of warp tiles separated by channels of water. He continued to pick tiles at random, warping all over the place, until he found a path ahead quite by accident, and stumbled through to the other side.

The room he had ended up in was styled like the captain’s quarters of an old ship, with fine furnishings, an ornate desk, and a bed that sure seemed inviting to Sadik at that moment. Regardless, he pressed on, about to leave the room before he noticed a cluster of Pokeballs in the corner that looked like the sort that held items.
“I guess stealin’ from criminals technically isn’t bad, and items are items…” Sadik weighed up. “And… What’re they doing there if they aren’t meant to be taken? Most people don’t exactly leave their items in these just in general…”
Walking up to the cluster, Sadik decided only to take a single ball. He picked one at random, and found himself holding some sort of Pokeball he’d never seen before. Shrugging, he placed it in his pocket and moved on.

Finding his way back to where he had been was a struggle, but eventually Sadik reached the corridor of warp points once more. Knowing that time was now surely short, he picked the correct path, making it to the hangar where the submarine was luckily still docked.

Cranes and other machinery still stood over it, as grunts ran to and fro making preparations. Sadik snuck past as many as he could until he was only feet away from the walkway that led to the submarine. He was so close… But a familiar duo guarded the path ahead, and he knew it would be impossible to sneak past them.

“Well, here I am.” He announced, stepping forwards and staring Bruce and Skye down.
“That was quick. Impressive. But you’re still too late.” Skye smirked.
“Heh. The little kid from Southern Island. Although maybe not the littlest of the kids… What? Your friend too scared to come after us?” Bruce taunted.
“Nah. He’s stopping Team Magma as we speak. I gotta stop ya too, else it’ll just make me look bad.” Sadik shot back.
“Well someone sure talks big.” Bruce pointed out. “Think you can back it up kid? You’ve been causing trouble for everyone in Team Aqua, and I’ve been training my team up ready to fight you ever since I lost to you.”
“Good.” Sadik laughed. “Otherwise, this wouldn’t take long at all.”
“As cocky as ever.” Bruce nodded. “Let’s see how long you last. We’ve gotta hold you up until our ‘cuz is ready with the sub after all.” He turned to Skye. “You ready?”
“Sure thing bro.” Skye confirmed. “We can take this guy.”
“Heh. Love to see ya try.” Sadik stated defiantly.

Francis stood at the end of the winding pathway, standing before a vast pit of lava. Multiple digging and drilling machines had been abandoned nearby, leading Gupta to deduce that the pool was not naturally formed.
“So, you made it here to face me after all. Gupta, you beautiful, clever young man. I knew there was potential in you from the moment we met. And to find a single dropped emblem and trace it all the way here, to us… Marvellous!” Francis began, speaking before Gupta could fully get close, the Red Orb visible in his hand as he waved his arms around while he spoke. “Ah, but alas… You come to stop us. Such fire, such passion! I would love for such a strength as yours to be on my team. Why, you even bested all of my admins to stand here before me! But I’m afraid this is as far as you go.”
“You seem awfully sure of that…” Gupta pointed out.

“Well of course!” Francis laughed, turning to face Gupta, Red Orb still in his hand. “Do you not see Gupta? With this, I can finally realise all of my plans! And you’re already too late to stop me.”
“Why is this so important to you? And why use these methods?” Gupta probed.
“Did I not already say? Humanity needs more space on which to thrive. As for why I wouldn’t simply use normal reclamation methods… Truth is, we tried. Lars is quite the expert in the field.” Francis sighed. “But that man… He’s always standing in my way. He left me no choice.”
“Arthur.” Gupta assumed.
“Yes, him! That stupid man and his ambitions to expand the sea. Such foolishness! But if I am to triumph over him, I must resort to this. Otherwise, he will simply undo my efforts!”
“Your sister doesn’t seem to think it’s… ‘Foolishness’.” Gupta stated.
“Michelle?” Francis seemed to stop for a moment, eyes widening before all tenderness vanished from his face. “That stupid, innocent little girl! She was always crying to me: ‘but brother, what of the Pokémon in the ocean?!’ Do you know how vast the ocean is Gupta? I told her time and again that the Pokémon had enough habitat, that we humans were crying out for more space! But she betrayed our family, betrayed it for that horrid man! And now, I will prove I am right. I will prove that the oldest sibling knows best. And I will get revenge on them both for their actions against me! And for that… Gupta, pretty as you are, I have no choice but to destroy you. Now, bask in my full power, that I was unable to show you before, and know how much greater than you I am!”
“Good luck to you, then.” Gupta deadpanned.

“Alright Vibrava, take him down!” Francis began.
“Vibrava… Alright, go on Vibrava.” Gupta mirrored. Perhaps he should have expected a trainer like Francis to have a Pokémon like Vibrava…
“Brava?!” Gupta’s Vibrava questioned.
“Brava!” Francis’s Vibrava hissed.
“Vibrava, use Dragonbreath.” Francis ordered.
“Vibrava, use Dragonbreath.” Gupta parroted.
Gupta’s Vibrava moved first, breathing purple energy at the opponent and getting in a solid hit before being knocked back by an identical counter attack.

“Vibrava, use Dragonbreath.” Francis repeated.
“Vibrava… Also use Dragonbreath.” Gupta sighed. This was going to get confusing.
Another volley of energy flew back and forth, leaving both Pokémon noticeably tired. Francis and Gupta locked eyes and a second passed.

“Dragonbreath!”

Gupta’s Vibrava struck first, taking Francis’s down, and landing on the floor of the cave, looking exhausted.

“Vibrava, return now. Go Roserade!” Francis decided, switching his Pokémon.
“Alright Vibrava, that’s enough. Swellow, take it from here.” Gupta spoke.
As far as Gupta could tell, Roserade was Roselia, but larger and with entire bouquets in its arms. Francis wasted no time in attacking.
“Roserade, Giga Drain.” Francis began.
“Aerial Ace Swellow.” Gupta suggested.
Swellow swooped in to slash at Roserade, dealing massive damage, but Roserade retaliated with a powerful draining attack which restored a significant amount of its HP.

“Swellow, Aerial Ace again.” Gupta followed on.
“Toxic Roserade.” Francis chose.
Roserade managed to hit first, covering Swellow with a foul liquid that poisoned her badly. She was able to take down the opponent shortly afterwards, seeming to hit Roserade with far more power than before. Still, she was clearly hurting as she attempted to roost in the aftermath of the fight.

“Don’t worry Swellow, rest. Umbreon, take over.” Gupta decided, switching out again.
“Why don’t you just love playing switcharoo with your Pokémon? Mightyena, take this foe on!” Francis teased.
“Alright Umbreon, use Swift.” Gupta tried.
“Take Down Mightyena.” Francis settled on.
Umbreon sprayed a ray of stars to strike Mightyena, who charged on through, slamming Umbreon with force.

“Swift again.” Gupta repeated.
“Take Down.” Francis followed.
Umbreon leapt backwards and sprayed more stars in Mightyena’s direction, before being slammed into once more. Umbreon seemed to be tiring, but Mightyena didn’t appear to have much energy left either.

“Moonlight.” Gupta decided.
“Assurance.” Francis commanded.
Umbreon stood on the spot, slowly recovering health, and Mightyena’s attack didn’t do much damage at all.

“Taunt Mightyena.” Francis attempted.
“Take Down.” Gupta declared.
Umbreon charged Mightyena at speed, knocking the opponent out before it could move again.

“Look at you, battling with such force!” Francis complimented. “Torkoal, let’s carry on shall we?”
“Umbreon, return now. Hippowdon, your turn.” Gupta decided.
“Well look at that. The poor Pokémon seems so scared. Torkoal, use Body Slam.” Francis smirked.
“Hippowdon, Dig.” Gupta defaulted.
Torkoal slammed Hippowdon with force before the Pokémon disappeared under the ground, safe from further harm.

“Look at that. It won’t help you though. Torkoal, Protect.” Francis ordered.
Torkoal created an energy barrier around itself, which Hippowdon failed to break through after emerging from the surface, causing the attack to fail.

“Alright Torkoal, Body Slam.” Francis continued.
“Hm… Sand Tomb.” Gupta suggested.
Torkoal slammed into Hippowdon once again, before being trapped in a whirling cloud of sand which continued to cause damage.

“Alright Torkoal, Protect.” Franics ordered once more.
“Dig.” Gupta told his Pokémon.
Hippowdon dug under Torkoal’s barrier, hiding and waiting to attack.

“Ugh… Torkoal, Flamethrower.” Francis relented.
Torkoal breathed a stream of fire which impacted the ground not far from where Gupta stood, while Hippowdon emerged from the ground to attack Torkoal, who was still taking damage from the whirlwind previously.
“No need to get so angry.” Gupta stated.

“Torkoal, Protect.” Francis defaulted.
“Dig.” Gupta repeated.
Hippowdon dug back underneath Torkoal’s shield, but Francis was determined not to give up this time.
“Protect!” He attempted.
Torkoal tried to keep its defences up, but ultimately failed, and its barrier was breached as Hippowdon emerged from the ground once more, defeating it.

“Alright, let’s see how you deal with this! Come on out Cacturne!” Francis taunted, sending out his next Pokémon.
Cacturne seemed to be a sentient cactus with a scary looking face. Gupta wondered what caused a Pokémon like that to exist.
“Good work Hippowdon. Camerupt, take it from here.” Gupta assured his Pokémon.
“Camer!” Camerupt smiled.

“Aww, little Numel evolved.” Francis commented. “Cacturne, Spikes.”
“Lava Plume Camerupt.” Gupta chose.
Cacturne sprayed a shower of hard spikes over the battlefield, before Camerupt brought lava bursting out of the walls of the cavern, crashing down onto Cacturne and causing major damage.

“Cacturne, Sucker Punch.” Francis continued.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated.
Cacturne charged in to hit Camerupt before being swept back by another wave of lava, barely managing to stay on its feet.

“Pin Missile.” Francis moved on.
“Lava Plume.” Gupta repeated again.
Cacturne fired several volleys of spikes to strike Camerupt, but failed to cause much damage, and was taken out by a third wave of lava not long afterwards.

“And so, it has come to this. The reveal at last of my greatest power… Go Camerupt!” Francis announced.
“Camer. Upt.” Francis’s Camerupt growled.
“Alright Camerupt.” Gupta declared, knowing she wouldn’t want to fight. “I’ll fight with all my power too. Swampert, you finish this!”
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered as he burst out of the Pokeball… And onto the battlefield’s spikes.
“Swamperrrt.” He whined, jumping around.

“What did you think spikes were for?” Francis taunted. “Regardless, now you will witness my Pokémon in all its Mega-Evolved glory!”
“Great.” Gupta rolled his eyes, noticing the jewel on Francis’s belt and the stone that Camerupt wore around one of its humps. He knew what was coming.
“Camerupt, Mega Evolve!” Francis commanded.
“Alright Swampert, Mega Evolve.” Gupta followed.
Camerupt’s Mega Evolved form looked more like a volcano than a Pokémon, with only its hooves visible under its fur, which had grown to resemble a lava flow. It had a black ‘M’ on its forehead for reasons unknown, and looked even angrier than before.
“Swamperrrt,” Mega Swampert roared, in an attempt to stand up to the foe.

“Alright Camerupt, Take Down.” Francis started.
“Surf.” Gupta suggested.
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, bringing water down to swamp Camerupt, who seemed thoroughly upset. When it found its feet, the opponent charged Swampert with great force, taking damage in the recoil.

“Use Earth Power!” Francis tried.
“Surf.” Gupta repeated.
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, bringing a second wave crashing down on Camerupt, who responded by making the very earth beneath Swampert erupt. Camerupt seemed tired, but Swampert was still largely pleased with himself.

“Rock Slide!” Francis attempted.
“Surf.” Gupta repeated for the third time.
Rather than repeat his earlier move, Swampert instead brought the same dark coloured water as before down to attack Camerupt, sweeping it into a wall and knocking it out. Francis was also covered in the water, and some spilled over into the lava pool behind them, hissing as it hit the molten rock below. Gupta wondered where all that water had come from, and where it was all going.

“Ugh… What horrible, dirty… Muddy Water!” Francis complained.
“Huh.” Gupta responded, filing the name away so he could use the move on command in future.
“Swampert!” Swampert cheered, reverting to his ordinary form.

“Well, you lost. So give up.” Gupta declared, stepping forwards.
“Never! Did I not tell you before that I don’t care about things like that? And I also told you it was too late!” Francis seethed, turning towards the lava pool. “The Legendary Pokémon was here all along… Now Groudon! With the power of the Red Orb, awaken once more! Take back the power that was lost to you, and reform our world! Achieve your Primal Reversion!”
“Wait…” Gupta tried to talk sense into the man. None of that sounded good…

A deep rumbling cut through the earth, rocks breaking from the ceiling and falling into the lava below. Gupta and Swampert stepped up to where Francis stood, raising the Red Orb above his head, and stared into the pit. A Pokémon was clearly visible within the lava, and before Gupta’s very eyes, it started to twitch.

The creature was giant and bipedal, with huge red plates of skin that gave it the appearance of being heavily armoured, sharp claws and teeth, a large spiked tail, and white spikes running down its entire body. As it opened its eyes, it turned to face Gupta and Francis for a moment, yellow irises gazing straight through the pair, before it let out an almighty roar.
“Swaaaammmpert.” Swampert attempted to imitate its cry, leaning over the edge for a better look at the Pokémon.

Then, a huge flash of light erupted throughout the area, and when Gupta could see again, he noticed the Pokémon was sinking into the lava, seemingly trying to dig its way out of the base.

“That’s it. I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. And now, with Groudon… I can finally make a perfect world.” Francis breathed.
“With Groudon…” Gupta mused. “Um… Where’s it gone, then?”
“What?!” Francis shouted, turning back to the lava pool. Groudon had already disappeared. “This makes no sense… Groudon should obey the holder of the Red Orb… It shouldn’t be able to just leave without my say-so!”

“Francis! Francis, the situation is…!” A voice spoke up behind them, Gupta and Francis turning back around to see Camille running towards them.
“Camille, Cherie, what is wrong?” Francis questioned.
“The outside…! It’s as bright as day out there Francis. Even brighter than day! The sunlight… It’s so very harsh.” Camille explained.
“Well, but of course! It is only as we expected, no? Groudon’s ability intensifies the sunlight and drains the seas.” Francis shrugged off.
“No. It’s so much more than we ever thought it would be. If it continues like this… The harsh sunlight will put human life in danger! If it goes on too long, surely the temperature will raise too high, and the world will become uninhabitable…” Camille worried.
“It’s… So much worse? No, but it has only just awoken. It should not have so much power yet. And if it is so powerful now, what will happen when it undergoes Primal Reversion…?” Francis considered, worry finally starting to appear on his face.
“What do we do?” Camille asked.
“We must track it. Find out where Groudon is going. It must be looking for energy to undergo Primal Reversion with. If we can get to it first… We can wrestle it back under our control, and fix this.” Francis planned.
“Yes! On it!” Camille agreed.
“…Good luck with that.” Gupta deadpanned.
“Do you have any better ideas?!” Francis turned on Gupta. “All that matters now is that I have awakened Groudon with the Red Orb. This is no longer about you. I will deal with this myself.” He turned and raced back into the base without another word, Camille following behind.

“No longer about me… I bet we’ll end up involved anyway.” Gupta assumed.
“Swampert.” Swampert agreed.
Tiredness swept over Gupta in the aftermath of the battle, and he searched for a quick escape, not wanting to stay in the base longer than was necessary. He saw an archway he hadn’t seen before to the right of where he had fought Francis, and, considering it as good a shot as any, he returned Swampert to the Pokeball and continued through it.

The pathway through the final archway was a straight line that kept going up and up. Gupta knew that he had to find his way back to the entrance eventually, and was relieved when he made it to an area just above where he had started. It had been too long…

In Lilycove City, three figures stood still, still standing off in front of the submarine.
“Gorebyss, take revenge for Slateport.” Skye began, starting the battle off.
“Golduck, let’s go!” Bruce followed.
“Asena, Zehir, come on out!” Sadik declared.

“Gorebyss, Aqua Tail on Seviper.” Skye began.
“Golduck, Fury Swipes on Mightyena.” Bruce continued.
“Asena, Assurance on Gorebyss. Zehir, Poison Tail on Golduck.” Sadik suggested.
Asena charged forwards, hitting Gorebyss hard while Zehir slashed at Golduck with her tail, dealing a large amount of damage. Gorebyss swept Zehir away with a counterattack, and Golduck chased Asena down, raking her with its claws several times.

“Gorebyss, Psychic on Seviper.” The younger of the two siblings commanded.
“Golduck, Water Pulse on Mightyena.” The older brother ordered.
“Asena, Assurance on Gorebyss.” Sadik repeated. “Zehir, Poison Jab on Golduck!”
Asena charged in to attack her foe yet again while Zehir jabbed at Golduck repeatedly with her tail. Gorebyss sent her flying backwards with a powerful blast of energy that hurt Zehir badly, while Golduck sent a blast of water crashing into Asena. She didn’t seem to care much.

“Alright Gorebyss, use Aqua Ring.” Skye decided.
“Golduck, Aqua Tail on Seviper.” Bruce chose.
“Asena, Assurance on Gorebyss.” Sadik repeated once more. “Zehir, Venoshock on Golduck.”
Both of Sadik’s Pokémon rushed in to attack the enemy, taking both opposing Pokémon out successfully before they could attack, Asena with a charge that hit Gorebyss straight on while Zehir barraged Golduck with poison until it fell.

“Weavile, don’t let up. Come on out and use Metal Claw on Mightyena.” Skye commanded, switching Pokémon.
“Golduck, that’s enough. Mantine, time to go! Take Down on Seviper!” Bruce followed on.
“Asena, keep going. Use Take Down on Mantine!” Sadik decided. “Zehir, over here a sec.” He got a Super Potion out of his bag and started healing Zehir as she moved over to him.
Asena raced forwards, slamming into Mantine hard and shrugging off the recoil, before being attacked by Weavile, who came from the side with claws already shining with metallic force. Mantine charged Zehir as she returned to the battlefield, taking significant recoil damage in the process.

“Weavile, Icy Wind.” Skye continued.
“Take Down on Mightyena Mantine.” Bruce ordered.
“Zehir, use Poison Tail on Weavile. Asena, Assurance on Weavile.” Sadik suggested.
Zehir attacked Weavile with speed, slashing at it with her tail before Asena followed up with a second attack that caused major damage. Weavile responded with a burst of cold air that sent Sadik’s Pokémon sliding backwards. Mantine hit Asena hard in a second attack, but seemed to be growing tired. Weavile was also suffering, and appeared to be poisoned.

“Again?” Skye exclaimed. “Whatever. Weavile, Metal Claw on Seviper!”
“Mantine, Water Pulse on Mightyena.” Bruce attempted.
“Yeah, ya know what’s gonna happen now.” Sadik boasted. “Asena, Take Down on Mantine. Zehir, Venoshock on Weavile.”
Zehir leapt in to bombard Weavile, knocking the opponent out before it could move, and Asena took Mantine down shortly afterwards, a powerful tackle leaving her unsteady but very much the victor.

“Alright Weavile, return. Tentacruel, your turn.” Skye commented.
“Don’t worry Mantine. Alright Lumineon.” Bruce told his Pokémon.
“Lumineon huh… Looks like yer little Finneon evolved. Not the only one. Asena, Zehir, that’s good enough. Lale, Pençe, take over!” Sadik smirked.
“Saur!” Lale cheered.
“Skar!” Pençe crowed.
“I see… It’s that thing.” Skye deadpanned.
“Right…” Bruce agreed.

“Heh.” Sadik smiled. “Lale, Mega Evolve and use Razor Leaf! Pençe, Air Cutter!”
“Saur!” Lale cried, Mega Evolving before turning towards Bruce and Skye and extending a vine in their direction.
“Saur!” She waved.
“Same as ever.” Bruce scoffed. “Lumineon, Attract.”
“Bubble Beam on Skarmory Tentacruel.” Skye decided.
Pençe moved first, whipping up a sharp gust of air to attack both opponents. Tentacruel sent a spray of bubbles back that Pençe shrugged off. Lumineon surrounded itself with a pink glow, but Lale seemed to ignore it completely, instead sending a barrage of leaves to attack both opposing Pokémon.

“Alright, same again!” Sadik insisted.
“Rain Dance Lumineon.” Bruce attempted.
“Toxic Spikes Tentacruel.” Skye declared.
Pençe attacked first yet again, bringing another strong wind down on the two opponents. They couldn’t withstand the ferocity of the wind, and were defeated before they could attack. Lale looked towards Pençe in annoyance before spraying Bruce and Skye with leaves instead.
“Lale, no.” Sadik reminded her.

“Ugh, great.” Skye complained. “Starmie, take care of this.”
“Alright Carracosta.” Bruce followed.
“Lale, just keep using Razor Leaf.” Sadik instructed. “Pençe, Air Cutter.”
“Carracosta, Smack Down on Skarmory.” Bruce tried.
“Confuse Ray on Venusaur.” Skye decided.
Pençe attacked first yet again, slashing at the opponents with more razor sharp wind. Starmie attempted to hit Lale with some sort of strange beam, but she danced out of the way despite her size and proceeded to spray yet more leaves at the opposing side, seeming to cause even more damage than usual and taking the enemy Pokémon down before Carracosta could get in a single move.

“You have got. To be kidding me.” Skye sighed. “Alright then. Kingdra!”
“I guess it’s down to you Sharpedo.” Bruce relented.
“Pençe, keep using Air Cutter. Lale, Petal Dance.” Sadik changed tactic.
“Sharpedo, Mega Evolve and use Slash on Venusaur!” Bruce commanded.
“Kindra, Twister on Venusaur.” Skye followed.

The people and Pokémon gathered at the dock watched as Sharpedo Mega Evolved, glaring the opponents down with a much fiercer new form.
“Nice.” Sadik appreciated. “It’d be cool if Çene could do that…”
“Skar!” Pençe crowed, getting back into the pace of the battle by bombarding the opponents with powerful gusts of air while Sharpedo counterattacked by slashing Lale severely. Kingdra followed up by creating a twister with Lale at the centre.
“Saur…” Lale complained, before beginning to spin wildly, attacking Kingdra first and doing a decent amount of damage.

“Alright Sharpedo, Aqua Jet on Skarmory.” Bruce changed move.
“Kingdra, Smokescreen on Venusaur.” Skye tried once more.
“Pençe, Air Cutter again.” Sadik repeated.
Sharpedo rushed Pençe with speed, striking Pençe before he could attack, but being swept back by Pençe’s attack seconds later. Kingdra attempted to obscure Lale’s vision, but just as in Lilycove, she carried on regardless, this time hitting Sharpedo and leaving it barely standing.

“Alright Pençe, Air Cutter.” Sadik finalised.
“Aqua Jet on Skarmory again.” Bruce continued.
“Brine on Skarmory Kingdra.” Skye decided.
Sharpedo attacked first again, managing to get a good hit in against Pençe before being knocked out by the counterattack. Kingdra was left injured but still standing, and brought a colossal volume of water down on Pençe, hoping to knock him out. He barely remained standing, and Kingdra was barrelled into by Lale seconds later and was taken down. Lale got up from the attack, but started wandering around randomly, clearly confused.

“You just keep on winning, don’t you? What? Think you’re some sort of hero?” Skye guessed. “Don’t forget. We only had to stall you. And we did well enough with that.”
“Yeah.” Bruce nodded, turning to Skye. “Take care of things here, okay? I’m going with the sub.” He returned his downed Pokémon to the Pokeball and charged towards the submarine, leaping aboard as it started to move.

“No ya don’t!” Sadik tried, moving forwards. Lale was still wandering aimlessly, but Pençe at least tried to look tough, spreading his wings threateningly.
“It’s already too late.” Skye pointed out. “It’d be far too dangerous for you to attempt to launch your Pokémon into the sea so close to a moving propeller. You’d be chopped to pieces.” The Aqua Admin paced over to the railings, watching as the submarine began to submerge, Bruce already hidden inside. “Although… If I were to give you a hint. All I could say is…” They turned back towards Sadik, smirking. “You seem like the type to follow them all the way to the Seafloor Cavern to try to be a hero. And if that’s you, be my guest. But don’t ask me how to find them. It’d be cheating to tell you.”
“All I gotta do is find the Seafloor Cavern right? Sounds easy enough to me.” Sadik boasted. “Then me and my team’ll…”

“Speaking of team, watch out for that Venusaur.” Skye pointed out, and Sadik turned to find Lale trying to walk through a stack of shipping containers.
“Lale, no!” Sadik called, returning her to the Pokeball before she could do more harm.
“Well… Looks like the sub’s gone enough. I’ll be off then.” The Aqua Admin commented, turning to Kingdra who had picked itself up off of the floor and at least seemed well enough to swim. By the time Sadik was able to react, they were gone beneath the waves.

“Again…” Sadik muttered, looking around the now empty docks. On the far side of the area, across the berth from where he had entered, there was one last warp panel. Sadik returned Pençe to the Pokeball and took the route offered to him, finding himself back at the very beginning of the base. With no more time to waste, he left as quickly as he could.

The Wailmer were gone from the cove when Sadik returned to the shoreline, and the people of Lilycove seemed pleased to see the bulk of Team Aqua gone. But Sadik, knowing that they were now closer to their goal than ever, remained uneasy.
“Sadik!” A voice called from the direction of the town, and the teenager turned to see Elizaveta advancing towards him. “Sadik, I was too late…”
“Never mind that Eliza. We’ll go after ‘em is all. Where’re the others?” Sadik asked.
“Kiku went to Mt. Chimney. Gilbert’s shoring up security at Mt. Pyre for now, but I told him to go back Kiku up when he’s done.” Eliza detailed. “Sadik… You don’t think they really mean to release the super-ancient Pokémon do you?”
“It seems that way.” Sadik confirmed. “That means everyone at Mt. Chimney’s in danger. I’m going to go after Aqua and that submarine. Eliza, make sure Guppie’s safe. I told him to chase Team Magma, and…”
“Say no more. Kiku will take care of it. I’ll stay here and find out what I can. Yong Soo’s already in Mossdeep; he should be able to help you once you get there.” Eliza confirmed. “Sadik… Be careful out there, okay?”
“Sure! Me and my team’ll be back before ya know it!” Sadik smirked, turning back towards the ocean.

He was about to send his Pokémon out to continue, when suddenly, harsh sunlight started up, as though a foggy day had suddenly cleared.
“What…?” A townsperson asked.
“It’s the middle of the night.” Another pointed out.
“No… NO! It can’t be… We’re already too late.” Eliza deduced.
“Guppie…” Sadik worried. “Hope ya made it out alright.”
“Kiku will be there by now. He’ll save him. I know it.” Eliza declared. “Sadik. It’s now more important than ever that Team Aqua not be allowed to succeed. Please, you have to stop them.”
“I know,” Sadik nodded. “I’ll do just that.” He turned back towards the sea, getting out a Pokeball once more. “Now then Çene… Onwards!” He called, sending out Çene before speeding off in the direction of Mossdeep City.

A group of children watched his display from the cliffside, one boy in particular completely enthralled.

The sunlight had grown incredibly harsh by the time Gupta made it out of Team Magma’s hideout. The rays of sunlight filtering through the landscape of Jagged Pass seemed eerie, not least because Gupta was feeling dizzy through lack of sleep. As he stepped forwards, he almost collapsed, but was caught before he could fall to the ground.
“Gupta. I’m sorry for being so late.” His rescuer apologised.
“Kiku…” Gupta recognised. “They already… Released it. Released Groudon…”
“I know.” Kiku nodded. “You did everything you could. Please, rest now.”
The comforting words were the last thing Gupta heard before he slipped into a deep sleep.

“Ah, Gilbert. So you are on the way… Yes, it is rather too late. Eliza already went to help Sadik, but it seems she was too late to do much as well… No, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s important that we investigate Team Magma still, so please come here as soon as you are able regardless of what has occurred.”
Gupta stirred slightly from the bed he was lying on, trying to look up at Kiku as he paced around the room, talking constantly on the phone.
“If all is well, Sadik should be meeting with Yong Soo soon… Yes, I too hope that my brother can keep on topic, the situation is dire… Oh? You know all about annoying younger siblings… I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who would truly consider Monika ‘annoying’ but, well…”
Gupta found it almost impossible to follow the conversation, and chose simply to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Gupta awoke the next morning to find himself in Lavaridge’s Pokémon Centre. The curtains in his room had been shut as tightly as possible, but light still streamed in from outside. The teenager got up and walked over to the window as soon as he was fully awake, still feeling groggy from the night before. He peeled the curtains back slightly, seeing that the sunlight outside was harsh and unrelenting. The brightness of the day outside seemed… Unnatural.

“That’s Groudon’s power, I’m afraid.” A voice explained to his side, and Gupta turned towards the sound, finding Kiku sitting in a chair in the corner.
“We… Couldn’t stop them.” Gupta remembered, looking down to the floor.
“Don’t worry about that.” Kiku insisted. “We will take it from here. We’ll find Team Magma, and stop the Legendary Pokémon ourselves if we have to.”
“Right…” Gupta responded, Kiku’s words reminding him of a question that had been on his mind for a while. “Kiku, who are you? And what do you even do?”
“You mean to say you don’t know?” Kiku asked, looking surprised. “Well, we- that is to say, me and my colleagues-…”

“Kiku! Don’t worry about a thing, the awesome me has arrived!” A second voice butted in, cutting Kiku off as a taller, confident seeming man entered the room. To Gupta, his hair and eyes stood out the most; he had messy white hair and piercing red eyes that fixed on Gupta curiously.
“This the kid?” He asked, turning towards Kiku momentarily.
“Gupta’s not much younger than I am…” Kiku protested.
“Yeah, got it. So. Gupta, right? Kiku’ll and I’ll take it from here. We’ll hunt down Team Magma before you know it. I mean I’m promising that, so it must be true.” The newcomer shrugged.
“You’re… Promising that?” Gupta repeated sceptically.
“Ah, yes. Gilbert is rather…” Kiku tried to explain.
“Confident.” Gupta euphemised.
“That’s because I’m awesome.” Gilbert argued.

“If that’s what you want to do, fine.” Gupta agreed. “Anyway. What happened to Sadik?” He