Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.


14. Behind the Laughter

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough ~ Frank Crane


"The reason why reality television shows have dwindled in popularity so much is because of one simple fact; everyone has a sob story. No matter what show it is, be it a singing competition, a dancing competition or a cooking competition, people seem to think they can only win if they have a story that makes people love them and feel sorrow for them.

Now call me cold-hearted, but I really don't think the fact that when your pet cat died, you found it on your dancing shoes and decided it was a sign in anyway affects your dancing abilities. People have real, decent reasons behind them, such as singers who come on after finding the papers to register in a relative's will, but they don't let that rule their personality. They only mention it when they're pressed, and even then it's only a passing mention, and then they try to act like everything is normal.

But the matter of fact is, all of their sob stories pale in comparison to anything a trainer can tell you. The people that go onto these talent shows have never experienced the real world. Look at the kids who come back from their trainer journies - whether they're ten or twenty, they all share the same common look of haunted experience. When you're a trainer, you seem some real shit on the road. You go out, capture and bond with pokemon, and then can end up watching their guts removed before your very eyes. You meet people who make you smile and laugh, and then their face gets torn off by an angry ursaring.

The point is, pokemon trainers have seen it all. They deal with death, doom, despair and fear on a daily basis. But you know what? They use it to build their characters. Some can't take it and drop out when they can, opting to go for a normal life away from pokemon. The trainers that continue will use their experiences to further their own personalities, and they're all cut from the same cloth, so to speak. You're never going to meet a trainer who's going to spill a sob story to you after meeting you for thirty seconds. Every trainer keeps it bottled up, and they'll only reveal it to someone they trust enough, and only when they're continually pressed.

Which brings me back to the main point. Reality television viewings have dropped so much because a large portion of the viewers were, at one time, a pokemon trainer. No doubt they sit down to watch it for entertainment value, only to end up being pissed off when someone comes on, claiming that they've got the worst life ever because someone they know died, and they found out by the phone. Trainers have seen people killed before their very eyes - they're not going to give a rattata's ass about those sort of people. They're going to find something else to watch and so the viewer figures drop.

The main thing I want to say is; everyone has a sob story. The only thing is, you only ever hear one side of the story."

- Tom Rogers, Rustboro News Network. (Comment in regard to the dwindling popularity of reality television shows. September 22nd, 3009)


The next morning, I woke up with my goal already in mind; to begin sorting out Loki. I made quick time with all the mundane, every-morning tasks before I set out, making sure I left Adryan a note explaining my absence. The sun was just beginning to streak across the skyline, and it brought a brilliant refreshing taste to the air. It seemed like it was going to be a good day.

I just hoped it would continue in such a way.

I managed to get outside of the city's limits within record time. Birds and bees were chirping and buzzing within the thickets, and I saw a few ledyba and kricketot flying and jumping around within the undergrowth. They were a distraction, and I needed to make sure Loki didn't chase after them too.

I made my move before I could regret it. I released Loki in a flash of light, and instantly his ears fell back flat against his head as he hissed at me. His claws were raised in the air, and a deep, guttural growl was building in the back of his throat.

I made my move as quickly as I could. I leapt at him and picked him up by the scruff of his neck, earning myself only a few scratches and cuts in the process. He hissed more and attempted to slash my throat open before I squeezed one of the gems on his back. He shrieked in pain and thrashed even more, though quickly became submissive as I hissed a command for him to stop.

"You're going to listen to me Loki," I growled to him, keeping my voice deep and threatening. "I don't have time to fuck around and deal with you wanting to rip things to pieces. I need to go out and save this world before it becomes the shithole I grew up in. But to do it, I'll need your help." I started to loosen my grip on his back gems, going slowly enough so that he didn't suddenly attack. "I don't care that you want to maul everything you come across. I don't care that you want to sink your teeth into flesh all the time." I turned him round to face me, aware that I was leaving myself out in the open. My hand was completely away from the gems that sprouted over his body, though I kept my grip on his neck hard. He seemed completely submissive at the moment, and I thanked my lucky stars he was young enough for this to work.

"I just need you to help me," I told him, cursing the words for making me sound weak. "Follow my commands; I'll point out the best ways for you to take out any trainer pokémon. In return, I'll let you hunt whatever you want, and do whatever you want as long as you follow my command."

He stared at me for a moment, expression blank. With my free hand I reached into my pocket and pulled out a few large pebbles. Loki instantly stiffened and sniffed at the air. He stared at them with ravenous hunger, and I lifted my hand closer to his face. When he reached for them, I snatched my hand away. "I want to know you're on side," I told him. I offered my hand again. "Work with me, and I'll treat you." I closed it and snatched it away again. "Carry on the same way, and you're going to be in pain again," I told him, moving towards the glistening emerald gems threateningly.

He seemed to consider everything a moment. He lifted his arms tentatively and reached for my hand again, clawing slowly at the air. I held the rocks out he nodded eagerly, making a number of excited, raspy noises. I placed him down on the floor and held the rocks out. "Work with me?"

He jumped up excitedly and leapt like a child at my waiting hand. I took the fact that he wasn't attacking me as a good sign and stretched my hand out to him. He leapt up and grabbed my hand, greedily eating the offered treats. Afterwards he looked up at me with big, wide eyes and considered me a moment. As soon as I saw his ears flick back threateningly again I raised my hand. He flinched and considered his attack for a moment before deciding against it. He relaxed, and I dropped my hand. Instead I reached out gently, and heedless of his wary growls, I pressed a hand to his head and rubbed it gently. He began to nearly purr as I rubbed the back of his ears, and I gathered that I'd managed to at least start working towards getting him back to my command.

As little as it was, it was still a step forwards.

When I got back to the room, I just bumped into Adryan as he was finishing getting ready. He looked surprised to see me back so soon, and even more surprised when I thrust some ice wrapped in cloth in his stomach.

"For your eye," I told him even as I walked passed and placed a small vial of pills on the counter. "And vitamin C for it too." He went to say something, though I cut him off quickly by telling him, "Gargle salt water for your lip."

He looked somewhere between amazed, impressed and blind as he pressed the ice to his injured eye. "Just how do you know all this?" he asked even as he squinted at me.

I offered a tentative smile. "I grew up with a lot of time spend in training drills and a long way away from a medic. You just learn how to deal with most injuries in the field."

He hissed as he pressed the ice further into his eye. "How often are there black eyes and split lips in the field in army training?"

I laughed. "A lot more than you'd think. When you've got about twenty guys and a dozen women all stuck with each other twenty-four-seven, there ends up being quite a number of fights that break out."

He nodded and looked amused by my story. "So you manage to get a start with Loki then?"

I thought back to my treatment of the ghost. No doubt he'd disapprove of my methods, but I needed results fast. As long as it worked, I didn't see much of a problem with it. "I think I'm starting to get some progress," I told him, as honestly as I could. "But it's gonna be a while." He nodded and sat back down on his bed, though quickly tightened his scarf before placing the ice once again to his face. "So... what happened yesterday then?" I noticed him tense and quickly opted to tread as carefully as I could. "You looked upset Ayd. You try to get me to share my problems as much as I can with you, I'm not exactly a good friend if I don't do the same back to you."

He looked at me and bore a snarl that was coated in honeyed venom. "Except you don't actually share anything all that true with me, do you?" he hissed. I stood rigid and thought the urge to gulp. Surely he hadn't figured out almost everything I'd said was a lie? I knew it was going to happen sooner or later; I just wanted it to be later.

Like five years-from-that-moment later.

He sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he apologised instantly. "Look, I'm not used to chatting to people that have been in the army, or anything of the like. I know there's going to be stuff that you're not allowed to mention to anyone else, it just irks me when people lie to me, even if they're doing it for my own protection or the like." He removed the ice and blinked rapidly, adjusting his vision once more. "My mother and I had a falling out."

Well, that much was obvious. I grabbed his hand and made him press the ice back onto his eye, making sure he knew to keep it there until the swelling had gone down. I then sat down on the bed opposite him. "How?"

He laughed a dead, hollow laugh. "Just. Me and her don't exactly share the same sort of views, and she can't seem to see that I've developed my own opinions of the world."

I tilted my head curiously. People had fallings out over opinions, surely, but mother and son? It seemed unheard of. I voiced these thoughts to him, and he came out with another hollow, short laugh.

"She can't see past the haze that covers her eyes," he growled with surprising spite. "She was brought up with the old-Hoenn values-"

"Old-Hoenn?" I asked, cutting through his explanation. He looked at me and seemed slightly amused that there was yet another thing I didn't know.

He gave a one-armed shrug. "She grew up in the old parts of Rustboro where it's still a completely white community. Her mother drilled it into her, and I think now that gran's dead, she feels closer to her or something by using her ideals as her own." He scowled and shook his head. "Basically, those sort of beliefs are that you're not allowed to be attracted to, let alone date or get married to anyone that isn't the same race or religion to you. If they're a different race, different religion or the same gender, then you're not to touch it with a ten foot barge pole."

I stared for a moment. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn't get past the block in my head. "How... exactly can you have that mentality?"

He laughed. "I know, right?" he asked, and shook his head. "Anyway, it all kicked off because when I was travelling round Sinnoh for the first time, there were three of us: me, another guy and a mixed race girl." He looked happy at the memories. "We had some great times, and they were some of the best friends I ever had. But mum's still sore I went travelling with them, and she's never let up that I spent two years travelling with... well, I really don't wanna go round repeating what she said."

I blinked. Then I blinked again. The mental block was back, and this time it was twice as strong. "But... that's ridiculous," I said, unable to help myself. "I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for other people, regardless of their race."

"Exactly," he emphasised once more. "Anyway, she started bringing all of that up, and the age-old parent belief that if you're travelling with someone of the opposite sex, you must be at it like a couple of lopunny." I resisted the urge to ask if they were, in fact, doing exactly that. I got the feeling it wasn't exactly I time for humour.

"So I just told her a few home truths," he said with a defeated sigh. "And she was not happy with what she heard, let me tell you." He laughed a hollow laugh again, and I wondered how much he was actually trying to hold everything together. It was blatantly obvious he was hurt by it all, and I caught sight of how bloodshot his free eye actually was. He must have been crying about it while I was gone, but I didn't bring the point up.

"She didn't like what she heard," he said gravely. "So she basically punched me in the face, twice, then up and kicked me out, swearing at me to never come back again."

I couldn't say anything for a moment. It was like all coherent thought had gone away and my brain was nothing more than an empty space with a lone tumbleweed bouncing through it. "No offence or nothing, but your mum's an ass."

He shook his head with a sad smile. "She's a bigot. She should get over it though. Hopefully."

I nodded and felt the need to cheer him up. Most prevalent on my mind was how happy he seemed about his travelling group in Sinnoh. "So who was this girl you had the fight about then?"

He smiled a happy-yet-sad smile and reached into his pocket. From within he pulled out his wallet and quickly pulled out a photo from its inside. He stared at it for a good, long moment before he handed it to me. I looked at it and made out three, happy smiling faces instantly. They all looked about sixteen, and at the oldest, looked my age. There was a boy with jet black hair that fell in a complete mess round his face, and he had blue eyes that looked like they were made of ice. Above him was a girl with near-caramel skin. Her face had a huge, wide grin on it, and she had black hair tied back from her face, though bright pink bangs framed it, and brown eyes stared at the camera. It took me a moment to recognise Adryan; I only gathered it was him by the glasses, though these were a pair of light, clear frames whose lenses took up most of the top of his face. Where I knew him to have brown hair, in the photo it was a bright blonde and a complete mess. There was even a leaf sticking out of it.

"That's Owen and Chris," he told me without moving towards the photo. "I met them when I was about fifteen, and we travelled together for nearly three years afterwards." He smiled and looked over at me. "And no, that's not my natural hair colour. This is-" he pointed to his uneven mop, which even then held the exact same messy style as in the photo – sans leaf. "Well, apart from the red tips," he allowed.

I smiled and stared at the picture. They all just seemed... so happy. It made me slightly jealous to stare at it. I began to realise there wasn't actually a moment in my life until then that I'd actually been as happy as the three I saw in the photo. I decided then that I had to make sure make sure I found some happiness in my journey.

I handed the picture back to him, pushing the jealousy down as far as it could go. "What happened?" I asked.

Instantly his face fell. "It was in Kanto," he said, voice devoid of any emotion. "We'd collected roughly sixty-five badges, and thought that between the three of us, we were more than able to survive Cerulean Cave." He looked like he wanted to cry at the memory. "My god, we were so horribly wrong." He shuddered and wrapped an arm around himself. "The pokémon in there... they were brutal. We didn't realise how bad... how powerful they could become. There's wild ditto that inhabit there – they're shapeshifters," he explained for my benefit. "Usually it takes ages for a ditto to become adept at transforming under a trainer's command. But these are on another level. They can become anything at any time. We didn't realise it, but from the moment we stepped in, we were being hunted by them. They could pretend to be walls to block you in and even give the appearance of a broken floor. They effectively led us into a dead-end where they pounced." He shuddered once more and I felt the need to put my arm round him. Instead I sat next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He looked like he just might have buried his face in my neck and burst into tears had I put my arm completely round him.

"It was horrible," he breathed, shell-shocked. "Ditto... they don't eat normally. They're sorta like bugs, where they need to dissolve everything first before they eat. Except, they don't spit out stomach acid or anything of the like. Since they can become anything, they start to sweat acid over their victims. They... they managed to get Owen-" he suffered a bad spasm at the memory. "The moment they got him, there was nothing we could do. He just began to melt then and there, screaming in pain, agony, all sorts." He sighed heavily. "Me and Chris, we knew there wasn't anything we could do. We turned tail and ran. We didn't know where we were going; it was too dark to see, and we were both blinded with tears. Somehow, by some miracle we managed to get back to the entrance, but then everything fucked up again.

"This parasect just appeared out of nowhere," he recounted. "The bastard thing threw out a load of spores, and we just managed to avoid getting caught in them. But they blocked the entrance, and if we stayed in, we'd have to continue to face it. So we did the only thing that made sense; we rushed for the entrance. We made it... but not completely." I looked at him curiously, though didn't have to ask before he provided the answer. "The parasect, that bastard attacked with deadly speed. It cleaved off one of her arms with fuckin' deadly speed. She didn't even notice herself it was missing until we got outside. But it was too late then, and we weren't gonna run back in for it. We just passed out right outside the cave, then and there. Some of the champions that patrol it found us later, and we woke up in the hospital a day or two later."

He suddenly growled and punched the bed. "I got off completely unharmed! Chris lost an arm, and Owen died in there! And I walked out without a scratch on me! I'd have gladly lost an arm if it meant keeping Owen alive!"

I knew how he felt. Survivor guilt was one of the worst things to have to deal with after something had happened. To see all your friends die and yet you carry on living... sometimes it was the hardest thing.

"Hey," I whispered to him, and gripped his shoulder tighter. "It's alright. It gets better with time. You can't blame yourself for surviving."

"What do you know?" he snapped. I should have expected that. I hadn't told him anything of my past, and for all he knew I could have just been trying to calm him down and make him feel better.

I told him what I could. "I grew up in and around the army. It's true like you said, there's stuff we see that we're not meant to share with other people. You think it's fun to watch your friends be hit by gunfire or blown to smithereens? You think I haven't wondered why, countless times, that I've survived yet the guy next to me has had his brains splattered on the wall behind him? You think I haven't watched people die as I've tried to patch them up?" I shook my head as the memories all plagued me once more. "I've seen kids, kids, reduced to nothing more than little chunks of flesh because they've angered a voltorb or the like. I've seen people stabbed in the gut by nidorino and then had to watch as their organs melted out of their bodies." I stopped a moment and looked him dead in the eye. "Do you know what happens with weedle when they're in mating season?" He shook his head. "They attack with their stingers, but the females use that to lay their eggs. The eggs get planted in a living victim, and it takes a week, sometimes less for the larva to hatch. Then they eat their way out of the victim.

"That's what I know," I told him with a heavy heart. "But you know what? You can carry on blaming yourself all your life for their death, living with survivor guilt. Or you can just pick yourself up and live your life, knowing that even if that's not what they wanted, it's stupid to throw away your chance."

He laughed bitterly and rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "Yeah, I suppose," he grunted and blinked away his remaining tears. "Sheesh-" he rolled his eyes, "-we're a right pair between us, aren't we?"

I smiled grimly. "Speak for yourself." We laughed a moment between ourselves, after effects of our sudden confessions of gruesome experiences. "Why would you want to go to Hoenn's equivalent after all that?" I asked him.

He looked at me, one eyebrow arched over the over. "Isn't it obvious?" he asked, and rubbed a hand through his hair. "I need to conquer it. If I can go in there by myself and survive, it'll make me feel better about it." He met me dead in the eyes. "I mean, haven't you gathered it yet? All that shit that happened has made me shit-scared of caves. I mean, I needed you, who was no more than a random stranger, to come in there with me."

That came as a bit of a surprise, though less than I would have thought. I guess on some level I'd already assumed he was afraid. "So it's building yourself up?" I assumed. "Tackle a smaller cave with someone, and then run into a large network of horrible beasts on your own?"

He nodded then shook his head. "Something like that, though I do need to train my pokémon. The best training I can give them are in harsh conditions like that."

I stared at him a moment. In his eyes, I could see a look I'd seen all too often with people suffering from survivor guilt; he'd given up to a degree. If he went in there and died from it, he wouldn't care. "I'm coming with you," I told him in nothing more than a growl. "I'm not going to let you suffer and endanger yourself on your own down there."

He shook his head, though had a smile on his face. "I'm not going to let you," he told me, convicted in his decision. "I don't want to risk another friend dying around me."

I stood there, numb and flustered for a moment. I wanted to call him out; to scream at him for wanting to let himself die in there, but I knew it wouldn't be the best case. I needed to make sure he knew he had to press on and survive. "But don't want one of my friends dying alone in some horrible cesspit everyone avoids." Granted at that time, he was really my only friend. But I didn't want to admit that to him, nor anyone else.

"I won't be alone," he promised me. "I've got my pokémon by my side." He caught my sceptical look and smiled once more. "Look, I took them out back in Oldale, because I knew this was something I had to do. I need to go in there, alone, and come out the other side with only my skills and my pokémon to thank for it. Otherwise, I'm gonna be living in fear the whole while." He placed his glasses back on his face and leapt to his feet. "Look, I'm gonna wait round town until you've had your gym battle, alright? After that, I'm going to fly over to Pacifidlog town and use the entrance near there. I shouldn't be gone more than a month, maybe two if I'm pushing it. When I come out, I'll ring you and let you know, and meet up with you where we can."

He was planning ahead. It was a good sign. At least I knew he wasn't completely planning on meeting his end within the network of horrors. "Fine," I said, albeit reluctantly.

He shoved me lightly on the shoulder. "Come on, cheer up! I'll be back annoying the hell outta you before you know it! Look-" he wrapped a hand around my shoulders and gestured outside the window. "We'll go around town today, do some sightseeing and get you training a bit more. You managed to get some done where I told you yesterday, right?"

I nodded, reflecting of my experiences the day past. I was sure I'd learnt a lot from it. I told him this, and he laughed once more, though I could tell that this one was born of amusement, for the first time in a while.

"You're always learning," he told me. "No matter what. Don't believe you know everything about your opponents, because they'll always have something that can surprise you. Tell ya what," he said and shook my body from the shoulders. "I'll even show you the pokémon I'm taking with me to the Origin Cluster, and let them train some of your pokémon."

I looked at him, confused and surprised. "But aren't your pokémon leagues stronger than mine? I'm sure any of your pokémon could defeat mine with a sneeze."

He laughed. "Maybe so. But come on, let's go enjoy the town while we're still here," he said, and near enough manhandled me out of the room.

I have to say, travelling with Adryan really opened my eyes up to the new world. I saw so many people going about daily business, as well as the vast population of Rustboro. I saw people living and moving around as no more than guided ants, and none of them seemed bothered by the fact they were leading most likely mundane, run-of-the-mill lives.

I asked Adryan about it, and he told me that not everyone became a trainer. He said there were roughly four billion humans on the planet, and maybe ten times as many pokémon living on the planet. It wasn't feasible for everyone to become a trainer and for both populations to continue to flourish.

He went on to tell me that even though many kids started off journeying at the age of ten, many had quit and given up by the time they were fifteen. He said only twenty-three percent of trainers continued on with their journeys, while seventeen percent would die and the other sixty would quit and become something else. Most pokémon teachers were trainers that hadn't managed more than five years in the field – though people like doctors and nurses trained without ever truly wanting to be a trainer.

While we were in the main shopping districts, I picked up a jacket – much through Adryan's insistence. He told me there was a large desert that took up most of the region between Mauville and Fallabor, and that locations such as the Petalburg Woods would become deathly cold at night.

I wondered how long I'd have actually survived in the world without his help.

He pointed out a few basic things to me along the way, such as what shops sold the best clothes and equipment for travelling. I found myself amazed by it all. I'd travelled to the remains of Rustboro before – or 'Sector 23' as I knew it. While I was in there I'd found various remains of shops and trinkets that were sold in past times. It was amazing to see it all still alive and in existence.

We stopped at a weapons store and I managed to stop him from buying anything from within. Everything in there was ludicrously overpriced for what it was, and I was certain at least half of his stock would only last a month at best. I told Ayd that he needed a weapon that would be able to cleave a pokémon in two, not fail to even cut butter. It was strange to think about it; he made sure I was prepared for the elements of current Hoenn, and I made sure he was prepared enough for the dangers the world possessed.

We did make a good team.

He was amazed I knew so much about what body armours to wear, as well as what weapons would work best. I grinned at him and told him a life as a soldier wasn't exactly wasted in regards to practical applications. Though helping him out made me realise I needed armour and a good weapon of my own; I was actually amazed I'd managed to live so long in a world without any of them protecting me.

Ayd led me far enough away from the main town that the beach was instantly visible. There were a number of different sandy locations that were packed with tourists, though he led me further out, over a large amount of sharp, growing rocks and a good few hundred feet up some of the local mountain ranges. We ended up in a remote, sandy location that stretched on for a good half a mile, and the rocks enclosed it in a roughly oval shape. Small ponds decorated some parts of the environment, and I heard the distinct sounds of wild pokémon elsewhere within the location.

"Great, isn't it?" Adryan asked me with a wide grin on his face. "Quite a lot of people know about this place, though not all of them like coming up here; there's wild zangoose and seviper that live in and around this territory; unless you've got pokémon that can defend you, you can quite easily end up caught in the conflict."

I quickly thought about the two different species. I knew the best solution would be to cut one of them deep enough to let it bleed and leave them to attack each other. If they sensed the blood of the other, it overrode all their base senses, leaving them only with feral rage in its place.

Wingull and swablu both flew above us both, cawing out towards the vast blue ocean. It was an impressive place, and I'd never have had an idea such a place existed if it wasn't for Ayd.

I turned towards him as I heard a poké ball explode open. Irenui appeared in a flash of light and cooed against him for a moment before she took to the skies, quite happily chasing after the low-flying local birds.

He threw open another poké ball, and I found myself staring at the pokémon that formed from its light. Its body was almost non-existent; it seemed to be floating on small tufts of clouds. Its head was completely transparent, and I found that the sunlight bent around a roughly circular shape, though two large, black eyes were immediately visible, regardless of the pokémon's relative transparency. I squinted at it a moment longer, and found that it actually wasn't transparent, more than its head seemed to be made from the same wispy cloud substance as its body, though they moved at a considerably faster rate, and seemed to bend and change ever so slightly as the sun beat down on it.

"This here's Hale," Adryan told me, and the creature chirped happily upon mention of its name. "He's a castform."

I looked at the pokémon curiously. It was just about larger than his trainer's head, and seemed to weight absolutely nothing. It floated around rather happily and continually stared up at the sky. I'd never heard of a castform, much less ever even seen one. Once I told Adryan, he replied that it wasn't much of a surprise; he'd never heard of one before he captured it. Apparently they were engineered by scientists about a century ago in order to help them predict the weather. Supposedly a castform would change its appearance with the weather, and so they could tell from that. However, they made the oversight that the creatures could still breed, and eventually their numbers grew so much that they were able to escape. Now apparently they lived deep within the forests near Fortree, though were wide-spread in every country's areas with harsh weather.

"Let out Xander," he told me as the castform floated cheerily around his head. "Hale here can help him out with a few water moves."

I nodded and released Xander from his ball. He croaked happily upon seeing me and stopped to watch the floating Hale with interest. At Adryan's command it spat a small stream of water at him, and instantly Xander decided to chase after the floating creature. I started after him, noticing him get shocked with a small fry of electricity, though Adryan held me back.

"He'll learn better this way," he told me, nodding towards the two. "Pokémon need to learn by battling as much as possible. There's only so much he can follow your commands, you know? He needs to learn how to battle on his own as best he can; you're here to control him and help him become more powerful. Trainers all have different approaches to battle, and so each helps pokémon become stronger in a different area. Even if you met another trainer with a lotad, chances are yours and his are going to be completely different, even though they're the same species."

I filed the information away without meaning to. My training would make my pokémon both stronger and weaker in some aspects to others of the same species raised by other trainers. It made complete sense. Though it didn't stop me wincing every time I saw Xander receive a small shock of electricity – even if he shook it off instantly afterwards. He leapt up at Hale a few times, attempting to snatch it with his teeth, though every time the castform floated away cheerily.

Hale was a deadly fighter, I could tell that much. He floated around and loosed elemental attacks as if they were brilliant fireworks. Every attack he made with deadly execution, it was like he was dancing a deadly dance within the air. Sparks, flames, ice and more would dance off him at random intervals and explode out in every direction. I had no doubt that if it were trying, Xander would have been dead in less than a second. No matter where Xander tried to hide, or how quickly he reacted, every attack of Hale's hit. They were all weak, that was obvious, though they seemed to be in random order. If Xander came too close, Hale would float out of the way, and would occasionally ram into the lotad's body with crushing force.

It was scary to think it was only toying with him.

"You need to identify your pokémon's flaws in regards to battling," Adryan began to instruct me. Like me, he was watching the faux-battle, though with a considerably straighter face than me. "Your pokémon seems reluctant to attack until he's attacked. I know some can be like that naturally, like your sableye, but you need to make sure they're ready to attack whenever they need to. It's one thing to let your opponent attack first and take advantage, but it's another to just sit around and wait to be attacked."

I nodded. It was yet more work I had to do. He told me to release Loki to help him too. I was reluctant, though realised with two pokémon out nearby, and a large flying dragon circling overhead, he'd be reluctant to attack.

I was wrong.

He found the first shadow he could and dove into it. As soon as anything got close he lashed out and tried to sever everything indiscriminately. I hissed him name at him, though got no answer. I barked his name once more and advanced on him. I reached my hand out to grab one of the gems on his front, knowing it would cause him pain and stop him. I barked the word 'no' at him and raised my hand slightly, causing him to stop in his tracks. He remembered how much pain I'd managed to cause on him, and obviously didn't want to repeat it again. I realised then I would have to associate the word 'no' with the threat, and soon enough he'd realise with just the verbal command.

On the other hand, I needed commands for everything else. But that was another matter. I growled for him to stop once more with my newly-decided verbal command, and he stopped in his tracks. He dropped his arms to his side and looked up, relenting all attack. I smiled and changed my tune, offering him a small pellet of food as a treat. He gobbled it up happily and stayed by my side, jumping up in excitement every so often, trying to claim more of the treats. It took me hissing the command multiple times at him to get him to understand to stop, though every now and then he would try again.

It was fast wearing on my admittedly small amount of patience.

The whole time, Adryan had been completely silent. I thought he would say something about my training methods, though realised earlier he had told me that everyone did have different training methods. I simply assumed that he was going along with such a train of thought.

There was also the fact that he had a pokémon stood by his side. It was a gardevoir, and the very sight of it made a cold shiver race down my spine. I never understood the legends that gardevoir were creatures of beauty, able to entice any human towards their doom with their so-called 'otherworldly' beauty. I had to wonder if any of them had ever seen a gardevoir in the flesh before.

They were terrifying creatures.

The only aspect of their legend that was true was their hair. It was more fur, but long, thin and sleek enough to pass for human hair. It cascaded down past the creature's shoulders and framed most of its face. The supposed 'dress' they wore was actually the skin of their defeated enemies. The longer the creature's dress, the more deadly it was. Adryan's had a dress that reached all the way down to the floor. If you looked close enough, you could still see the veins on the skin that covered its body. It was tied around the creature's waist and protected its thin, vulnerable lower body and legs hidden underneath. One long, fearsome red spike protruded from its chest and back both and was the colour of blood. Its arms were a green the same colour as its hair, and its face was sunken like that of a heroin addict. Its eyes were blood red and evil-looking, and large white spikes framed its cheeks. Its mouth had multiple fangs visible, and they could stretch their mouths past their necks to swallow prey.

Perhaps most fearsome of all were their hands. They were the same green as its arms, though ended in five fearsome claws in place of fingers and thumbs, each as long as my forearm.

Gardevoir were demonic creatures, nothing more than the stuff of nightmare. Legends can only have been born of them through their use of psychic manipulation. They needed to skin enough victims quickly enough to form their skirt soon after, or preferably before their evolution. The only creatures that were large enough with skin soft enough to use were the likes of slaking, alakazam and machamps among others, though humans were also used. A gardevoir could alter someone's perceptions to convince them it was a beautiful creature, then kill them and skin them alive for its dress.

They were evil creatures... and most likely humans in pokémon form because of such.

Adryan grinned at me as Loki backed away, clutching to my leg in fear. Even though he had a natural advantage over it, he still feared it. It showed how fearsome the creatures were. Ayd patted the gardevoir on the shoulder, and I considered running at that very moment.

"You... have a gardevoir?" I whispered, choked with fear.

"Mh-hm," he grunted with a nod. "This is Willow."

And suddenly, my brain felt like it was on fire.

[Greetings human-friend of master Adryan.]

I screamed as the voice burned within my mind. It felt like every cell within my brain burst all at once, replaced only with burning hot fire that came from the pits of hell itself. "My brain!" I shrieked, and couldn't have sounded less manly if I tried. Everything I'd learnt about psychics ran through me at that moment, and I felt cold-burning fear erupt from my heart. "It's screwing with my brain!" I freaked out on the spot. "I'm going to get a tumour and become the newest skin for it's dress!"

"Dude, calm down!" Adryan hissed at me. My hysteria wasn't broken until he slapped me, hard, across the face. I blinked even as he looked back at the creature and tilted his head, seemingly having a conversation with the creature. "She isn't killing you," he told me, speaking over my hyperventilation. "It's a psychic's telepathy." He shook me until he was sure I was paying attention, and even then I was still trying to recover my breath. I was dimly aware Xander and Hale had stopped sparing, though Loki was still hidden behind my leg, though he peered his head around and hissed at the demonic psychic.

"I forgot you weren't adjusted," Adryan whispered, gripping me tightly until he was sure I'd calmed down. "When it first happens, they're jump-starting your brain, so to speak. Most humans don't have the specialist brain cells already present required for telepathy. If you don't have them already, when a psychic speaks to you with telepathy they're effectively starting it for you." He gripped my shoulders and offered a small, reassuring smile. "Honestly, what they're doing is destroying brain cells your brain is never going to use, and forcing them to become cells able to receive and give telepathic messages." He looked back at the demon and then to me. "It takes a long while to adjust. Depending on the pokémon, it can take anything up to a few months for you to be able to send any thoughts back." He smiled grimly and pressed my backpack into my hands. "Take some painkillers. I know from experience it's going to hurt like a bitch for a few days. It's never going to be as painful as that again, though every it happens in going to be painful for you."

I nodded, and with shaking hands I pulled a handful of painkillers from my bag and gripped my flask of water. I considered taking them all then and there, just to get rid of all the pain, but knew I'd most likely need all of them later. Instead I took double the dose and prayed the pain would dim soon. It still felt like someone was sticking burning hot pokers into my brain and stabbing with childish glee.

"How bad... was it... for you?" I wheezed.

Adryan offered a small, apologetic grin. "About the same as yours really. I should have warned you before hand, but I've had Willow since she was a ralts. I was about thirteen when I caught her, and made sure I trained her as much as I could. It was hell for about a month, but by the end of it, there wasn't any pain anymore." He placed a hand on my shoulder. "And it doesn't fuck up with your brain," he reassured me. "Sharing thoughts and images doesn't cause any sort of brain damage. It's only when you start trying to share the pokémon's abilities, like telekinesis or precognition that it fucks you up."

I nodded. It was reassuring to know. "How about... we don't mention that again?" I breathed, clutching my aching head. "I think I just lost a lot of man points with that display..."

He laughed deep from his gut. "I think I can agree with that. Anyway-" he stood back up and stepped next to his pokémon. I noticed the demon laced its fingers with him, and I shuddered at the thought of touching such a creature. It just looked so... evil. "I got Willow out to help Loki."

I stared between the demon and my trickster. He looked downright terrified of it, and his ears were pressed against his head as he bared his teeth at it. "Are you sure?" I asked.

He grunted approval as he nodded. "I know dark-based creatures are immune to most psychic probes, but that's only meaning when it's used directly on them. A psychic can't pick up a dark creature telekinetically and throw it over the horizon, but it can pick up a tree and smack it clean over the border instead. Besides-" he smiled at the demon, "-Willow can teleport if the need arises. I'm sure if your sableye succumbs to the blood thirst again, she can easily keep him on his toes. She can even make sure he can't do anything but attack her."

I nodded. It sounded good. And I wanted to get away from the demon as soon as possible. I bent down to Loki and scratched his head. He growled past me at the demon, though was content with my attention to him. I grinned and sensed it would be a good time to test how vicious he could be. Even though he'd all but killed that trainer's machop, I wanted to know he was capable of it at any time, but stopped himself only because of my training.

I smirked conspiringly at him. "Sic'em," I growled.

He looked up and his eyes completely darkened for a moment, before they lit up again. I assumed it was him blinking. I kept up my smirk and gestured towards the demon at my back. "Get'er," I repeated.

He didn't need telling twice. With a haunting cackle he leapt forth, hell-bent on having her blood. The demon, however, conjured eerie purple flames around her and her trainer both. They whipped around them, forming a protective barrier between Loki and them two, causing Loki to continually have to dart in amongst their flames.

Adryan gave a nod, and the demon vanished from her position. Loki leapt up and glanced around apprehensively, though suddenly the demon was behind him, claws ready and slashing wildly at the air. Where Hale was a deadly acrobat, she was a murderous ballerina. Her cleaves nearly took of Loki's ears and head more than once, and the trickster was suddenly on the defensive, running as fast as he could from the horrible demonic beast. He was doing nothing more than running for his life, and I wanted to recall him and use his plan of fleeing from the creature.

Adryan seemed to sense my thoughts. "Your pokémon are going to go through a lot worse than this," he told me. Xander was still being abused by the floating Hale, though he seemed to be attempting to dodge and hit an airborne target, rather than Loki's flee-for-your-life tactics. "You'll never do well in a gym challenge if you haven't trained them well. Both of my pokémon are working at less than a tenth of their power."

I blinked and stared at them both, numb with shock. They were nothing more than a blur on multiple occasions, and I was nothing short of amazed when my pokémon actually managed to dodge their attacks. Though I was beginning to realise how this would help them; both were developing their speed and evasion, but no doubt Xander's accuracy would improve, and so would Loki's defences.

"Pokémon learn by experience," Adryan lectured me. "Much like how we learn from our defeats, so do they. However, theirs is a lot more obvious," he allowed. "I mean, you've been shot before, but you've never really learnt from it, other than to not let yourself fall into that situation. Pokémon are a lot different.

"Willow was shot before," he told me, gravely. He watched her with a stoic expression, his eyes shrouded behind his glasses. "She'd just evolved, and we were travelling through Sinnoh's wilds. We reached a settlement on Mount Coronet, and some goon with a rifle shot her on sight."

I was amazed at the anger I saw in those few words. However, I considered anyone in their right mind would unload a magazine-full of bullets into such a creature if they saw it. I myself would have shot it.

Multiple times.

In the face.

Hell, I knew it was tame, and I still would have shot the demon if I had a gun!

I looked at it and couldn't help but shudder. Gardevoir weren't natural. They were evil looking creatures and they made my blood run cold. I knew that I wouldn't want to encounter one on a sunny day, let alone in a dark alley. There were many pokémon to be afraid of, and such demons were ones that freaked the shit out of me.

"I had to rush her to a pokémon centre," Adryan told me, malice in his tone. "Luckily Irenui was a flygon by then, but I was only just starting to train her to fly. I think that whole day was one terrifying experience: seeing my pokémon get shot, and then having to fly a clumsy dragon a few thousand feet in the air. Willow healed up perfectly fine, but people never stopped seeing her as a monster. A few months later we were headed towards Pastoria, and some goons decided to jump us. We didn't realise, but they had a sniper hidden in the mountains. They were poachers who were killing trainers and selling off their pokémon."

"Sinnoh sounds like a lawless state," I commented. I hadn't seen much bad in Hoenn, but I couldn't imagine people going around killing trainers for their pokémon.

He shrugged. "It's about the same as anywhere else. Sad thing is, some trainers are more powerful than local police forces, so they effectively become immune to the law." He leant back and popped his back. "But we were there, got stopped by these poachers at gunpoint. None of us knew there was a sniper until we heard him fire three gunshots. Willow had learnt. She grabbed those bullets from the air itself and directed them into the poachers holding us up. Then because they'd threatened me, she ripped apart their every atom, including the guy that was stupid enough to shoot her."

My mouth was agape. I didn't realise the demons were so powerful in addition to being so aesthetically terrifying. "You sound like you really bonded well with it."

He shrugged and glanced over to it. "I suppose, but it helps that she's a gardevoir." He looked back at me and placed his hands behind his head. "Gardevoir and gallade are strange pokémon. If they're raised by a trainer well enough, then they fall in love with the trainer, and will go to any lengths – including sacrificing themselves – to protect the trainer."

I stared in dumbfounded amazement at him. I had never heard about any pokémon falling in love with a human, or vice versa. And that demon was in love with Adryan? I had the mental picture of him in its embrace, making out with it with heated passion. I had to fight the urge to be sick.

"They fall in love with their trainers?" I echoed, bewildered.

He nodded. "Yeah. Gallade's is meant to be more from the loyal honour of a knight, and gardevoir's from just infatuation, but no matter what, both species fall in love with their trainer, regardless of the trainer's gender. Ever heard the phrase 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'? Well hell fears a gardevoir who couldn't protect it's trainer."

I shuddered. Anything was right to fear the demons. I supposed it was good to have one of them that would literally go to any lengths to protect its trainer, but I still didn't want one near me at the same time. I would have been happy to never have to see one of the horrific creatures ever again.

He snapped his fingers and both his pokémon stopped their assaults for a few minutes. My however, flopped down on the floor, beaten and weary. They only got a few minutes rest before Ayd snapped his fingers again, and his pokémon began to chase after mine, regardless of their exhaustion. I noticed a few times the demon stopped itself from going through a slice that would have taken Loki's head off, and Hale never used attacks that were strong enough to actually cause lasting damage to Xander. They were both incredibly trained, and I again found myself awed by Adryan's abilities as a trainer.

He himself grinned and plucked another poké ball from his belt. "I'd show you Siren, but you've already met her," he told me. He threw his arms out to the sides and circled his fingers. "And well, there's not exactly anywhere I can put her safely. Lapras can be left on land well-enough, but they move pretty damn slowly and can only manage about an hour before they need to be back in the water." He shielded his eyes and looked up to the sky, where Irenui was happily flying along above us, kicking up sand with every flap of her wings. "And at least this one can keep her company."

I had to take a few steps back as the light exploded in front of me. It stretched up a good three feet above me, and I found myself unable to stop gawping as the creature came completely into focus. It had a large brown, quadruped body that was as tall as my shoulders. Its neck was thick and a good three feet tall, and its head was an equal shade of brown. The top of its head had a large bump and was a deep green, the same as the eye-guards that naturally grew either side of its face. Four large leaves – each as big as me – grew from its back, and even more wrapped around its chest and the base of its neck as a natural armour. Large yellow claws the size of my hand grew on each of its feet, and curiously, a bunch of bananas grew from its chin.

It rumbled a low, threatening sound, and I was afraid it was going to eat me. Instead it leant down and licked my face like a dog, though it still had enough force to send me stumbling back a step or two.

"Leif!" Adryan chastised the creature. It rumbled again and craned its long neck to him, and it gave him the saddest eyes it could muster. Though, seeing as they belonged to a nine-foot tall tropical dinosaur, it didn't exactly have the desired effect.

"Silly boy," he said, though laughed as he rubbed the top of its head. Its eye-guards flicked back flat against its skull, giving it a three-sixty-degree view. "Not everyone's as strong as you, you do realise this?"

I stared at it in amazement. I'd never seen a tropius so close before. I knew they were formidable creatures, yet never thought I'd see one so placid. The large growth of green atop its head grew over its face like a small guard, shielding it from sunlight. This close, I could see that they had vein-patterns like leaves, though I knew they grew over the extra solid bone in the creature's skulls that gave additional protection to their otherwise fragile heads.

"This is Leif," he introduced me to the creature. Its eyes rolled sideways in their sockets to see me fully, and it gave another low rumble. "He's harmless really," Adryan told me as he rubbed the creature's chin. "Aren't you?" he asked the creature with a laugh. He patted it on the head and pointed skywards. "Irenui's flying around in the skies near here. Wanna chase after her Tiny?"

The tropius gave a deep bellow and licked Adryan across the face. He laughed as he too stumbled back, though grabbed his scarf as the creature's leafy wings beat down around it. They gave enough force to nearly knock me off my feet, though I saw it managed to send Hale and Xander both flying a few feet.

I stared after it as it flew into the sky. I couldn't believe leaves could function as wings for the creature. Then again, I knew that they were actual wings that had grown from the creature itself, and had adapted to absorb chlorophyll. They weren't truly leaves, but were the closest a reptile like it could manage to grow.

I turned to Adryan, one brow higher than the other. "'Tiny'?"

He laughed. "Well, have you seen the size of him? When he got that tall, I had to give him that nickname."

I blinked at him. "You're weird," I decided. Above his two creatures roared, and I looked up in time to see them circling around each other like raptors stalking their prey. "The damn thing's nine foot tall!"

"Yeah," he agreed. "Hard to believe he's just an infant, huh?"

If it were possible, my jaw would have hit the floor. "That's... an infant? Just how big do they grow?"

He placed a hand above his head. "Urm, the tallest one recorded was about eighteen feet? They usually grow tall enough to eat all the fruit from banana trees that they can... so roughly fifteen feet?"

I'd never, ever, heard of one growing so huge. I whipped out my pokédex and opened it as fast as I could, intent on hitting the information page I needed. "How comes it says here they're usually about six foot seven?" I asked, practically shoving the screen in his face.

He laughed and took the machine from me, calmly pressing a few buttons. "You're still learning to use this. Most of the time, the heights they give are the measurements they recorded well over fifty years ago, when people were still designing these. They took the height from one of each species, and decided it was the normal height for them." He handed the machine back to me and pointed for me to look at the screen. "That's more like their heights."

I stared at the electronic display. He'd brought up a screen which displayed a lot more in depth information as to the creatures. There were two small boxes labelled 'height' and 'age' that I could adjust at will, and below was a picture of a tropius at those specifics. It detailed high amounts; down from the structure of the creature, to showing how the wings and neck grew over time. As I flicked through the 'age' column, I could see the creature growing and shrinking before my very eyes.

In a simple way, it was immensely amusing.

"So then why do keep the old, outdated heights?" I asked after finding out from him exactly how he got to such a screen. I wished that these inventions had existed in my time; they would have proved so much more useful in warfare rather than just word-of-mouth and recounts of journeys into the wilds.

He waved a hand in the air. "Something to do with 'safe heights'. Supposedly, if a pokémon is taller or heavier than the 'normal' figure offered, novice trainers shouldn't try to train them. It mainly means they're older than the age you can really train them effectively. The older a pokémon is, the longer it trains them to do things. The younger they are, the quicker they pick up on everything." He looked at me with a frown. "Did you never pay attention in trainer school or something?"

I stared at him a moment, flustered. "I uh, skipped a lot," I said, rubbing the back of my neck.

He clicked his tongue against his teeth. "Regretting it now eh? Good thing you've got me here with you, eh?" I couldn't have agreed more with that statement if I'd tried. "Ah well, guess you should meet the last of my team then."

Another explosion of light made me scrunch my eyes shut. When I opened them, I found myself staring at a strange red boulder that was just a bit smaller than my waist. Various cream dots covered its surface, and there were large holes in random places on the boulder, which were circled with the same cream colour. I stared at it in intrigue, though yelped as a scaly yellow head popped out of one of the holes. It seemed to only just fit out of the hole, and seemed like a rather thick snake hiding in a rock – it even had snake-like eyes, though they were at the front of its face, and had small slits for nostrils. However, four limbs poked out of the boulder, two on each side, each as thick as one of my legs. The creature blinked at me, disinterested, and lay its head down on the boulder covering its body.

"That's Ward," Adryan explained, a smile in his voice. "He's a lazy git, but he's one of the best pokémon I have. You might not believe it, but nothing else can take a hit like his species."

I considered it a moment. I knew it was a shuckle, a creature known to be nigh-invincible. They were naturally incredibly weak, though supposedly had started creeping into large rocks for protection eras ago. Apparently, because they spent so long in the rocks, being exposed to the same conditions as them, they eventually developed a shell of their own that was as tough as rock. But from there, the creatures had only evolved further, and their shells were meant to be nearly as tough as diamond.

I knew for myself how strong they were. I'd seen bullets ricochet off their shells so many times it had lost all humour, though none of the amazement. Only the strongest of pokémon or industrial tools could actually break a shuckle's shell, and in the mean time, the creature hiding within could easily wear down at the attacker's vitality with vicious poisons.

Ayd's pokémon didn't help the stereotype. It simply lay there, unbothered by everything.

I resisted the urge to poke it. "Isn't it going to do anything?"

"Probably not," he laughed, though crouched beside the creature. It lifted its head sleepily and blinked at him, making a strange cooing sound as Adryan rubbed the bottom of its chin. "But I wouldn't want to be the pokémon that get in his way. He can tie them up and just poison them slowly from the outside in, set traps within the ground itself... pretty much just screw everything up that comes near us." He jumped back to his feet and placed his hands behind his head, staring to the sky and watching his two flyers enjoy the open air. "This is my strongest team. They can beat almost anything without much effort, and I've got a different tactical approach for every sort of situation with them." He grinned to himself. "They'll help me survive the Origin Cluster, and they'll be my team that'll demolish everyone in the league this year."

I looked at him and found that his grin was infectious. I didn't know what was making me grin so much, but no matter how much I struggled to stop, I just found it kept making its way onto my face. "So what are you going to do afterwards? Can champions act as guards? You said there were some near Cerulean..."

Thankfully he didn't flinch at my indication of his earlier tale. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "I'm more than qualified to be a pokémon ranger: you only need a set of twenty badges for that." He must have noticed my confused look, for he laughed lightly. "They patrol most of the dangerous places with countries, like the forests, the caves, those sorta things. Anywhere where there's likely to be a lot of trainers that won't survive the journey through there, they patrol to make it safer, as well as help locate and report the dead." He waved his arms in the air like an excited child. "They help out most police forces too, patrolling most routes and trying to keep towns safe from gangs."

I nodded and made sure I remembered the information. I reasoned that it would without a doubt be useful sometime later on. "And champions?" I pressed.

"They do the harder work," he supplied. "All the horrible places, like the Origin Cluster and Mount Silver are patrolled by small groups of two or three champions, in addition to one member of the country's Elite Four. In the absence of police they can even enforce the law, though more often than not, they decide they are the law. The police forces are often stronger than rangers, though very rarely are stronger than a champion. It's why there can be bandits or the like that are stronger than the local police. But the champions answer to the Elite Four of each country – they act like the head of all trainers, so to speak. Alongside being the most powerful trainers in the country, they tell the governments exactly what needs to happen with regards to trainer safety, and they're the first step for everything trainer related. No new law that concerns trainers can be passed without the mutual consent of both groups."

I nodded and filed the information away with the last lot. "So, the Elite Four are in charge of a country's law force then?" I gathered.

He tilted his head side-to-side. "Yes and no. Officially; no. Unofficially? Yes. The champions that are available are usually used when the police forces storm criminal organisations. They're often used when people try to protest too, there's been loads of times when people have attacked league officials because of trainer deaths or even because a wild pokémon has killed a few too many people. Champions usually muscle in and try to deal with the situation, though often make it worse." He scowled and shook his head. "Most of the time, they just make it worse. I don't think I could be one of those."

"Elite Four member?" I suggested.

"Not sure," he responded. "Most Elite Four have to be an advanced type-specialist, if only because if something's going wrong with one specific type of pokémon, they have someone who can exert authority over them. Most likely, I could be a fire type specialist but-" he shrugged theatrically, "-I'm not all that keen on them, to be honest."

I felt my head pounding within my skull at all the information he'd given me. There was no way I could have learnt it all on my own. I told him this, and I got another laugh out of him.

"Hey, I'm just making sure you're ready for the world," he said with a toothy grin. "I wouldn't be a good mentor or friend if I didn't do that, would I?" He threw his arm around my shoulder and ruffled my hair. "Just you watch, I'll make a semi-decent trainer out of you yet."

"Your faith in me is commendable," I drawled.

I had to wonder just how I would ever manage to keep every bit of information I learnt from him to hand. I needed it all for my journey, though I never knew exactly when I would. All that mattered then was proving to myself that I could handle myself in this new world. It just meant it started with a gym battle. That would show me exactly whether or not I had what I took to survive in the new world.

I just wish someone had actually told me what nonsense that was. The gym battles only prepared a person for the battles they faced.

The true horrors of the world were another story entirely.

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