Regret

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.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5808527/1/Regret

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19. Dewford

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment ~ Will Rogers

 

-O-O-O-

"Gardevoir are a mysterious pokémon that have full control over their psychokinetic abilities. With the smallest thought, they can make anything and everything blow up in astounding explosions. There are many interpretations of the creatures, all from various stories given by people through the ages, most of whom have been enticed by the creatures as they try to complete their instinctive worship. The 'dress' they wear is actually made from the skin of various different creatures, both pokémon and human alike. Whilst most gardevoir consider this to be a sacred act, and will kill their victim quickly and painlessly, or even seek out a recently deceased victim large enough to skin, there are some of their species that will carry out such actions whilst their victim is still alive. The only difference between genders that has been noted is that female gardevoir warp the skin into what is compared to a ballroom gown, where as the males form what appears to be a long cloak.

Gardevoir, like humans, have a variety of different emotional states, and are capable of free-thinking, like most human-like pokémon, as well as humans themselves. A human-like pokémon can make the decision to murder pokémon for fun, or even for sadistic enjoyment. Of course, there are cases outside of these, but those are few and far between. It has been noted, however, that when a gardevoir is a trainer pokémon, it will fall in love with it's trainer if treated well enough, regardless of the gender of both pokémon and trainer. Such bonds give way to their sacrificial nature towards their trainers, and the grief they feel when a trainer dies lets them exploit their psychic abilities to their full potential. Often, if a trainer has died and a gardevoir goes on a rampage, it takes up to ten powerful trainers to subdue and kill it, and often the trainers lose every pokémon they used to fight it.

Before Gardevoir evolved to use psychic abilities, they would use the long claws on the ends of their hands to peel skin from flesh. Some small clans still maintain such practices, whereas most will now use their psychic abilities for such. For a long time, it was thought that their actions, as well as their arousal towards the peeling of flesh and splattering of blood showed that they were creatures of darkness. It has been proved they are not, though they do retain some instinctive urges that are quite similar to their dark brethren.

The long, extendible jaw they have makes them seem similar to snakes, though is actually an adaptive process from when they were preyed upon by gallade, alakazam and gengar, among others. Gardevoir need to eat large amounts of food in order to get the energy they require, though often had to abandon a meal part-way through when they were being hunted. More often than not, they would die of starvation. Eventually a few evolved to have large jaws, allowing them to consume more in shorter times, letting them eat enough food whilst still being able to flee readily from predators. Many myths surround their mouths, as they are lined with sharp fangs all designed to rip flesh from bone. It is said that if a gardevoir ever presses it's mouth against you, every time you close your eyes you shall feel it's mouth against you again, for months to come.

Like many psychic pokémon, gardevoir are capable of psychokinesis, telepathy, image projection, as well as precognition. A well trained gardevoir can see as far into the future as their abilites will allow, though will most often never share what they see with another soul. It is said that once they see far enough into the future, a vision of The Dialga itself appears to them and warns them off sharing what they have seen. Instead, they will provide soft little nudges to people, guiding them away and towards certain things the gardevoir know shall happen.

In addition, they are also capable of using multiple elements to their advantage, when trained enough. A trained gardevoir can bend electricity, fire, ice and even exploit ghostly energies to attack.

But despite all this, gardevoir are actually not one of the most powerful pokémon there are in existence. However, given their appearance, many people fear them as 'demons', and will go out of their way to avoid or even kill these creatures.

- A guide to Hoenn's native Pokémon, by E.G. Alerce. (23rd International Edition)

-O-O-O-

The few days whilst I was waiting for my gym battle passed rather quickly, as if they never happened at all. In the time I managed to battle a few trainers along the Dewford coast and earn myself some money, but nothing really eventful happened.

Though everyone was still talking about Aaron, the Elite's death. It was starting to make me all the more paranoid, and I was certain someone or something was following me wherever I went. I explained everything that happened to Lacey, but she didn't seem to care about the situation one bit. It wasn't like pokémon could go to prison, after all.

It was the morning of my gym battle when I was walking towards the gym, and found myself stopped by one of the electronics stores with televisions in the windows. They were playing a great load of different shows, though the news channel caught my eye.

I couldn't hear anything, but the text on screen told me all I needed to know. They had performed an autopsy on him, and had discovered that his mouth and throat had all swollen up because of a strange chemical. They suspected foul play.

I was in and out of a nearby shop before I even realised what was happening. It took me a moment to realise exactly what was happening, though I recoiled as I came to attention and found an unlit cigarette in my mouth.

I yelped and batted it away, wondering just how I managed to phase out and still purchase a pack of them, and a lighter too. My hands were still shaking, and I began to stare at the cigarette tossed on the floor.

It had been three years since I had quit, or more three years since I was reprimanded so much that I never wanted to go near one again. I had taken up smoking at about thirteen, using it to calm my nerves. It wasn't to look cool or anything of the like – I had heard the adults talking about how it made them less stressed, and tried one myself. After that, I was hooked.

Three years cold turkey, almost ruined by unconscious thought. I stuffed the lighter in my pocket and the cigarettes in my bag, considering the possibility that I may be able to sell them later on to someone.

I decided then that I needed to get away from people for a while. I knew the island had a network of caves known collectively as Granite Cave, and remembered Jennifer telling me I should go explore them in order to help myself understand Loki. I figured I could spend a day or two exploring them, and then head straight towards the boat to Slateport, avoiding any sort of news on the Elite along the way.

As long as I didn't have to hear about it, it was out of my mind.

I arrived at the gym early, with a good ten minutes to spare before my battle time, and began going over everything that could play out in my mind. I knew the gym leader specialised in fighting pokémon, which meant that Loki would be great to use, and Lacey not so much.

My musings were cut short when I heard someone call my name. I jumped to my feet and found myself facing a man about my height and with roughly the same build as me. His hair reached his shoulders and was a bright, sky blue, and only the tiniest amount of brown roots showed that he dyed it. His eyes were also a bright blue, and he wore nothing but a pair of dark blue training bottoms. His whole body glistened with sweat, and I wondered just whether or not he had been living in the gym before he came to collect me.

"Alright dude," he greeted with me a smile as I walked up to him. Instantly he stuck his hand out. "Name's Brawly. I'm the leader here, and I'm the bloke you've gotta beat to get the Knuckle Badge."

Like Roxanne, he gave me a quick tour of the gym's emergency exits and the like before he led me into the arena. It was no different to that in Rustboro, complete to the size of the stadium and the podiums at either end, except I noted there weren't any rocks on the battlefield. If anything, the battlefield was completely plain, save for the white lines marking it. All around the side there were weights and gym equipment, and people were still using it even as we walked towards it.

"Alright dudes, move out!" Brawly yelled with a clap of his hands. "This bloke here's challenging for a gym battle, so y'all know the rules. Move your asses before they're handed to ya!" He laughed at the quick scattering of everyone before turning back to me. "So ya ready mate? Ain't too late to back out now."

I gave him a grin. "I was just about to ask you the same thing."

"Oh-ho!" He laughed and clapped me on the back. "We got a confident one 'ere! And with only one badge to boot!" He smirked and wiped his thumb across his teeth. "Something tells me I might be taking you down a peg or two today mate."

I smiled at him, though said nothing. His attitude was infectious, and I found myself with the same cocky demeanour he exuded. All around us the people living the ring-side gym climbed into the stands, eager to watch the match that was making them move from their training.

I looked at them and felt a pang of nervousness. My first battle only had Ayd as an audience member. This had at least thirty muscular men and women who each looked like they could snap me in half without any effort whatsoever.

I breathed and put the thought aside. If I made it to the league, I would have to battle in front of a large crowd, regardless. My podium raised up into the air slightly as did his, and the bars locked into place before he said anything.

"Alright dude, you're challenging me today for Dewford gym's Knuckle Badge!" he shouted across the field. "I'm gonna be usin' three 'mons, you're allowed to use up to six! Battle's over when one of us has all his 'mons knocked out or killed. Go outside the boundary lines, and you've lost that round. Attack me or anyone else watching-" he flashed a confident grin. "Well, alongside losin' your licence, it wouldn't be the smartest thing to do. You got all that?"

"Loud and clear!" I shouted back.

"Great!" He beamed and pulled a poké ball from the stand he stood on. "Best of luck mate!" he yelled before he flung his ball into the field. It burst open with violent energy, and left a steady stream of white energy in its wake even as it bounced back into his hand. The light formed into a demonic looking pokémon about two feet in height with withered skin. Its head and feet where both a dull, mottled grey, and the rest of its body was an aged shade of blue. Its head looked rather like the bulb of an onion, and two, dark, sunken black eyes stared out from underneath. Its nose was flat and pushed up, and its chest was thin enough to showcase its ribs clearly.

It hissed at me, and I found a little smile work its way onto my face. Meditite, a pokémon that survived on meditation and water alone. It could be powerful, but it had ample weaknesses to make up for it. Like the fact that its ears held a great number of advanced nerves, or that its skin over its chest was a lot thinner due to the starvation it forced itself to go through.

I called out Loki in exchange. He looked around the battlefield, and upon noticing the meditite, gargled a strange laugh and rubbed his hands together in plotting.

Brawly placed his hands on his hips and sighed as if he had fought this battle a thousand times. "Race in and burn it!"

To my shock, the pokémon suddenly stopped floating in midair and dropped onto its feet. With alarming speed it raced at Loki, and I only just caught the fact that its fists were actually on fire!

Fire or not, I figured it wouldn't matter if it couldn't hit him. I shouted, "Loki, jump away!"

Across the field, Brawly smirked. "Identify it!"

I blinked at him and barely saw his pokémon's eyes shine a bright, bloody red. I had no idea what it meant, though as soon as Loki disappeared, the fighter whipped round and smashed his flaming fist into a spot where there was nothing but a shadow. The shadow shrieked and went flying back, and my heart dropped as Loki bounced across the floor, hissing all the while.

He growled and wiped his mouth with the back of his arm, snarling at his opponent. He caught sight of the haunting red eyes of it, and seemed to figure out what it was quicker than I could. He growled something in tongue unintelligible for me, though the meditite reacted instantly, shouting and racing towards him again.

This time, Loki was prepared. Every swipe the pokémon made Loki avoided with ease, bending backwards or simply sidestepping to avoid it. However, all the while he was being pushed back further to the boundaries, and I knew soon enough he would cross over them.

"Force it back!" I yelled at him. "Knock it away!"

He cackled with delight and punched the pokémon square in the face. It recoiled, shrieking anger before it tried to punch him again, though this time Loki caught it in his jaws. He bit down, hard, and blood began to trickle from its wound.

I gulped and feared he would lose control again. "Knock it away!" I screamed again, hoping it wasn't too late.

Brawly just smirked and folded his arms. "Reverse it."

I barely managed to take glance at his smug expression before Loki hissed again, shaking the meditite's arm in his grip. He released it and reared back, leaping forwards with deadly intent, claws as sharp as anything. His opponent saw it coming. It growled at him and caught him by both arms, using his own momentum against him before it smashed him into the ground.

I winced at the sound. The meditite didn't back down, and I saw it rear back and kick Loki in the head, even as he was down. I knew pokémon battles were brutal, though this was on another level. While I had heard that some specific pokémon went into blood thirsts, I had never considered that fighters were brutal simply by nature. It reared back to kick again, though this time I screamed an order for Loki to confuse it.

I heard his cackle moments before I saw his arm grab the meditite's leg. It screeched at some unseen threat and then shuddered, dropping its head limply. The movement gave Loki enough time to get to his feet, and he raked his claws deep into its face before he punched it – below the belt. Given the way the pokémon crumpled, I had to hazard a guess that it was male.

Maybe not any longer, given the force Loki punched it with.

The meditite reared up again, and I could hear Brawly shouting at it to jump and kick. But nothing was working, as I saw a faint purple glow in its crossed, glowing red eyes. It screeched a moment before it smashed its face against the floor, and there was a horrible crunching noise on impact. It reared its head up again, and smashed its face into the floor again, and I could see the blood spilling out of its nose like there was no tomorrow.

Loki looked completely bewildered. He didn't know what to do now his opponent was attacking itself, and stayed in his stupefaction until I told him to attack its chest. He ran up to the creature and kicked it hard in the ribs, and I heard something break as it rolled along the dirt floor, breathing bloody bubbles from its nose and mouth both.

Brawly evaluated his pokémon a moment and then recalled it back into its poké ball. "Well done mate," he praised me, offering a large grin. "Nice goin' there. You're little critter's a right little fighter, ain't he?" He smiled once at Loki, then at me before he grabbed another ball from his podium. "But good luck against this one!"

He tossed the ball forwards, and white light exploded out of it like a bomb had gone off. It formed a pokémon barely taller than Loki, though it was covered completely in light beige fur. Only its hands and feet were brown, as was the type of its tail. It bounced around, screeching wildly, and it looked completely simian aside from the pig-like nose and the glaring red eyes.

Mankey, I identified it at once. Prone to violent anger outbursts, yet have the power and offenses to back it up. Their only real weaknesses were their noses or their tails, and hitting either of them meant pissing the creature off more than you would normally by hitting it elsewhere.

Brawly gave a nod towards it. "Identify it!" he barked.

The same haunting red glow poured out of the screaming mankey's eyes, and I found myself wondering just what exactly the move did. It didn't take me long to figure it out as it suddenly leapt at Loki and smashed a fist into the trickster's face, making him howl in pain.

I cursed. It made his fighters able to hit ghosts! There went my advantage!

"Get its sides!" I yelled at Loki.

Again Brawly folded his arms and barked, "Reverse it!"

It was part of his strategy, I realised. I saw his mankey dance back a step as Loki raced forwards, and just as his claws raked the pokémon's side, the monkey span round with the blow and kicked him on the back of the skull. Loki hissed and went flying, and I flinched at his cries of pain.

But he proved his will to fight again as he leapt to his feet as the mankey raced back towards him. He cackled and danced around blows, and I realised then, truly, that Loki was brilliant offensively, but he always let the opponent attack and put themselves in danger. It was my constant ordering for him to take the offence that was leading to be his downfall.

"Get it's face!" I screamed at him. "Wait for an opening and get its eyes!"

I barely saw him nod as he ducked under a wild swipe from the creature. It kept screeching wildly as it tried to attack Loki, and every time he just barely inched around the blow. It took until the mankey tried to punch him low that Loki leapt over his blow and raked his claws across the mankey's face, leaving deep, bleeding gashes in his wake.

Unfortunately, he caught its nose.

The mankey screamed wildly and thrashed on the spot. Its nose was torn open, and blood was trickling down from its head and into its eyes. It was only making it more angry. The thing went wild and chased after Loki with murderous intent, not hearing even Brawly's orders for it to calm.

I winced. Nothing could stop a mankey's rampage, save for knocking it out or killing it. I hoped for the former as I called for Loki to confuse it. The moment he stopped to try and concentrate, the mankey was upon him, and kicked him with powerful force across the arena. It continually chased after him, repeating the process until Loki struggled to get back to his feet again.

I flinched at every blow, angered and fearful that I couldn't recall him in time. Each blow was accompanied by the large, loud echoes of flesh attacking flesh, and I could see blood drooling out of Loki's mouth as he collapsed on the floor. I recalled him as quickly as I could, which only managed to irate the mankey further.

It leapt around the pitch, shrieking wildly, screaming for an opponent. I glanced at Brawly, wondering just whether or not he was going to recall it.

"Your move mate," he told me. "The little critter's angry, but it's no different to how he would be in the wild. I'm not recallin' him anytime soon."

I grimaced. I didn't have plans to ever meet an angry mankey in the wild, much less one that had been trained and was thus more powerful. Added to that, Loki was my main hope for the battle. Since he was down and out, I decided to go for something of a gamble.

I tossed a poké ball forwards, and out of it appeared Lacey, looking as unimpressed as ever. She glanced around the arena, shot everything and everyone a dirty look, and then focused an even dirtier one on me.

I pointed behind her. "Focus your aggression on that."

She pulled back her lip into a sneer at me, then turned to face her opponent. Instead she found herself with a face-full of angry mankey, shrieking and hollering as it punched in the face.

I knew it would manage to hurt her some – more than Loki did – but knew it wouldn't be enough to take her down, only to anger her.

I was right.

It was like everything seemed to stop for a moment as Lacey uttered a single syllable growl. The mankey turned to her face her suddenly, and I could see fear in its beady little eyes. The leaves covering her hands shone deathly sharp in the light, and she hissed before she raked them both upwards, covering herself and the battlefield in blood.

The mankey screamed in pain like I'd never heard before. Below, the top few inches of its tail twitched on the floor, still bleeding. Lacey gave the creature a dark smirk and picked it off her face by the scruff of its neck. I just managed to scream at her not to kill it before she dropped it and kicked it like a football. The mankey screeched as it flew through the air, and I was nothing but impressed by the distance Lacey managed to kick it. Her beady yellow eyes focused it with one more glare before she folded her arms and turned away from it.

The mankey didn't seem to want to do anything more to anger the violent nuzleaf. Instead it continued to wail in pain, clutching at the bleeding end of its tail until Brawly called it back into its ball.

"Well, uh..." he stammered as he stared at the remains of his mankey's tail. He looked at it, then at Lacey, to me and then to the poké ball in his hands. "Thanks for... not killin' it, I guess." He shook his head and composed himself, clearing his throat before he grabbed another ball from his podium. "Well mate, count yourself lucky with those past battles! This critter's gonna give you a run for your money!"

He flung his last pokémon forwards, and I found the pokémon he released instantly familiar. It was a machop, and it growled at Lacey, flexing its muscles arrogantly. I inwardly hoped that this machop would meet a better fate than the one Loki had fought.

Brawly grinned and clenched his fists. "You know what to do. Chop it!"

"Trip it up!" I yelled at Lacey. She had other ideas. She stood there, arms folded in rebellion even as the machop raced forwards. I saw it raise a hand to attack her neck, and at the last moment she simply sidestepped it and let it continue running.

I felt my cheeks turn pink, convinced everyone was looking at me. She was my pokémon, and she was disobeying me, and I felt like it was a cardinal sin at that moment.

"Burn it!" Brawly barked. The machop growled and raced forwards again, his fists engulfed in flame once more. Yet again Lacey spared him little more than a sideways glance before she stepped around it, letting it run ahead again.

I gave up trying to command her after the third try. Instead I just told her to dodge each attack, if only for some semblance of looking like I was in control. Instead it earned me nothing but a dirty look from her, though she continued to spare the machop almost no effort.

It was having an effect. The machop was getting angry, as was Brawly. I could see them both clenching their fists, breathing deep and fast.

"Pound it into submission!" Brawly screamed at it. This time the pokémon raced forwards, and when Lacey moved to sidestep it, it reached out and grabbed her shoulder. She cried out in alarm, yelping as the fighter rounded on her, punching her in the face and chest.

I heard her growl, and cried out for her to swipe it off her. Instead she hissed and bit down on its face, tearing a chunk out of its cheek. The brawl quickly turned brutal, and the machop began punching wildly at her chest, aiming to break a rib as its face streamed blood. Lacey's razor tipped leaves raked across its arms and chest both, spilling out yet more blood between them.

The machop screeched and wrapped its arms around Lacey's neck, trying in vain to pull her down. She hissed and kicked in the back of the shins, making it drop as she wrapped her own arms around it.

Our pokémon were brawling in nothing more than joint headlocks. I saw Lacey pull at the crests on the machop's head and gnaw at its arm, even as it tightened its grip and tried to pop her head off.

"Burn it!" Brawly screamed once more. I saw the machop's fists burst into flame, and heard Lacey shriek as the fire raced down her back. She snapped her body up in pained alarm, and I saw her eyes darken even as her arms tightened around the machop's neck.

"Lacey, no!" I screamed at her.

It was too late. She kicked the machop's legs from under it again, and this time it fell to the floor. Her hands tightened around its head, and there was a sickening crack as she snapped its neck.

The machop dropped to the floor, neck bent backwards, a slow, deathly gurgled groan escaping its lips. Lacey stepped back and brushed herself down just as the pokémon died at her feet.

Deafening silence surrounded us entirely. Everyone stared at the middle of the arena, all in shock at the dead machop. Lacey huffed at her fallen foe and turned away scornfully, folding her arms indignantly. I had to wonder just whether any pokémon had died in the gym before. Brawly did mention a battle was over when a person's pokémon were dead... but why were they acting so strangely to it?

Brawly recalled the pokémon with no visible expression. I saw the poké ball dim, and turn a mixture of black and grey. Brawly looked at it a moment, closed his eyes and whispered something before he looked back to me with a small, fake smile. "Well done dude," he shouted, and pressed a button for the podiums to descend. I recalled Lacey as quickly as I could, figuring her presence in the arena probably wasn't making people like me any more than they already did.

I met Brawly in the middle of the battlefield, and he grinned and shook my hand, leading me back out of the arena.

"I'm really sorry about your machop," I said to him once we'd left the arena.

He shook his head. "It's alright dude. Like it says in the rules; you can win a battle with your opponent's 'mon dying. It's just been a long time since anyone managed to kill one of mine."

I nodded and tried to say nothing about it. "But it's still hit everyone hard. Maybe I shouldn't have used Lacey back there."

He whirled on me and met my gaze, his eyes burning with emotion. "Look dude, never, ever sit there and regret the things you've done. Everything happens for a reason, alright? You'll go crazy thinking about things that could have been if you did everything a little differently." He pressed a hand onto my shoulder and looked away. "Trust me on that mate, I've had my fair share of experiences that I wished I could have done differently."

I nodded and followed him in silence. In my mind, I was worried he was going to lead me somewhere with a big group of his cronies waiting, all eager to get their revenge on me for killing his machop. Instead he lead me into what had to be his office, given the large amount of papers and the computer. Although, in the room there was a surfboard hung up on the wall, and a set of weights in the corner.

He grinned as he saw me look at the surfboard. "You a surfer?"

I chuckled and shook my head. "Nope." The closest to surfing I had ever come was the swimming training I had when I was growing up, and that was simply being thrown into the water when you were a kid. The only thing that resembled surfing in that was that the weaker swimmers all clung to floating rafts for their lives. "Never really tried it," I said.

He stared at the board himself a moment. "Been a surfer all my life. I've always loved bein' out there, tamin' the waves."

"Why did you become a gym leader then?" I asked him.

He turned to face me and grinned. "Always liked the thought of runnin' my own gym. Means livin' here, I can go out into the surf as often as I like. Sides," he said as he dropped into his computer chair and placed his hands behind his head. "The chicks all seem to dig the fact you're a gym leader."

I laughed at his reasoning. When he asked me for my pokédex and trainer card, I handed them over, standing and watching as he went through the options on his computer. It seemed he was a lot less computer literate than Roxanne, as every so often he would curse and hit the side of the monitor. I hoped it wouldn't damage either of my items currently in the computer.

"Blasted thing," he growled at it. "If I didn't have to know how to use it for my job, I swear I wouldn't ever use one."

I laughed. "Not good with computers?"

He cursed once more and craned his head to look at me. "Got that right. I can use them, I just don't like usin' them." He scowled and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm not really helpin' the stereotype that fighters have no brains, am I?"

"Not particularly," I answered honestly. At the back of my mind, the questions towards fighters began to build up. I wondered whether or not I should actually ask him, given that my pokémon had just killed one of his, but I figured it was probably the best time. Alongside that, he didn't seem to mind about it much, so I figured he was either used to it, or had never really bonded with it. "So is it a problem all adapted fighters have?"

He shook his head. "Nah, just me mate." He leant forwards to click the mouse, though did a double take and spun in his chair to look at me. "Just how do you know about that?"

I had the feeling I would be using the explanation a lot. "I'm partially ice adapted," I answered him. "Well, maybe. I can't say for sure. I have no one I can confirm it with, so it's all just theories at the moment."

He laughed and brushed his hair backwards with a hand. "Well, at least I know how you got the smarts about them. I'm not supposed to share that information freely, but no one seems to mind when it's shared with another adaptee." He grinned at me, reclined in his chair and placed his feet on the desk in front of him, hands behind his head again. "Fighters have stronger muscles than most. Where a normal person can lift a pound, we can lift a pound and a half with the same effort." He gave me a once-over. "You and me are about the same sorta build. But whatever you can lift, I can do that and half again. My muscles are stronger than normal people's so I can take blows a lot better than most can.

"But we've obviously got disadvantages," he said with a small frown. "Because our muscles are so advanced, they can wear out quicker than normal. If we don't constantly use them, we develop muscle atrophy really quickly. Plus we get a lot angrier than most people, and half the time just forget what we're doing and go into a frenzy – kinda like the mankey you saw earlier." He grinned, leant back a bit further and winked at me. "So come on then dude, gonna share what you know? Leaders are only allowed to know about their own adaptation, unless another tells 'em about theirs."

I blinked at him. I would have thought they knew it all, in order to make sure they were the best in their field. I considered though, that they were all specialists, so only really needed to know everything about their chosen pokémon. Learning about others would probably distract them, so on some level, it made sense.

"Don't know all that much," I admitted with a shrug. "I feel the cold less, but feel the heat more. Aside from that, I don't know anything."

Brawly's face fell. "Bummer." He sighed and shook his head before he glanced back to the computer, and cheered as it finished processing my items. "Finally!" he exclaimed. "I was afraid I'd have to call in someone again." He threw a glare at the machine as he handed me back my pokédex and trainer card, and I noticed a second badge now on the back of the card. "Blasted things."

I laughed and placed them both away. "I can't tell you much more about ice adaptation, though I can give you a bit of advice." He looked at me, one brow higher than the other, obviously disbelieving. "You can easily tell you dye your hair."

He scoffed. "Well, duh. Who honestly has this colour hair naturally? It's a pain in the ass to keep dyin' it and my eyebrows, but I don't like havin' it brown. Makes me feel normal," he said with a theatrical shudder.

I laughed and pointed to his arms. "Your armpits still have brown hair. If nothing else, you look a bit confused."

His eyes widened and he lifted an arm to check. "Ah... hell!" he cursed, throwing them down theatrically. "I am not about to start dying those too! Means I've gotta start shaving there as well!"

I didn't want to ask where else he shaved. In fact, I was slightly worried he was sharing the information with me anyway. Instead I thanked him for the battle, and once more apologised for what happened to his pokémon.

"No worries mate," he said as he walked me back to the main room. "Like I said, it happens to the critters every so often. I can't expect to be a gym leader and never have any of them die, but it's still a shock to have it happen." His eyes glistened in the light, and I saw him scrunch them shut quickly. "Best thing I can do is bond with them all and enjoy the time I have with each and every one of them. I might not be a travelling trainer anymore, but my 'mons are still as likely to die as they were even back then."

I filed the information away. It seemed that no matter where you were in the world, your pokémon and you were always likely to die. It showed how strong trainers were, given that they could endure their pokémon dying on them, and simply pick themselves back up and move on.

"Thanks again," I said as he stopped in the main room.

"Eh, no worries mate," he replied, shaking my hand once more. "You're a good battler. Give yourself enough time to get that nuzleaf of yours under control, and it'll be ripping your opponents apart piece by piece." He smiled and clapped me on the arm. "Now get goin' to the centre and heal your 'mons up. I'm gonna use the healing facilities here, and do the paperwork for the battle." He groaned and folded his arms, dropping his head a moment. "The hidden joys of being a gym leader. Anyway," he said as his head snapped back up. "Good luck with your journey. If you're ever in Dewford again, hit me up for a rematch, alright?"

I nodded. "Count on it." He grinned once more and left me to see myself out of the gym, and I saw that as he walked away, a small group of girls about my age followed him with their eyes, giggling and whispering between themselves.

Well, he did say being a gym leader helped him in that regard, though I had the feeling it was more to do with the fact he walked around in nothing but a pair of training sweatpants, showing off his muscles for all to see. I considered whether or not I should try it, just to see if I got the same effects.

I snorted to myself as I stepped back into the tropical heat of the island. I'd most likely end up treading on glass or getting something unsanitary stuck between my toes, and probably end up having my chest and back sliced open by plants, or even break out in rashes from brushing past certain other plants.

All in all, I wasn't likely to try it.

I got back to the centre fairly quickly and left both Loki and Lacey with the nurse. I knew the latter hadn't been injured much, but didn't want to take my chances that she'd managed to pull something or injure herself in a way I hadn't realised. Thankfully the nurse told me that Loki wasn't going to need any advanced treatment, just to stay there for a few hours, and then a few days of rest.

It meant I had some time alone with Xander. I let him out in the pokémon centre's main lobby, and marvelled at how much he was changing. Almost all his skin was now a dull green, as opposed to the dark blue when I first captured him. His middle legs were almost non-existent, and his front ones were a good few inches longer than his hind legs. The yellow bill that surrounded his mouth was beginning to turn red, and was a dull orange at the moment. He still couldn't stand on his hind legs, but I figured he was probably nearing a metre tall in height.

I guessed it would be about a month before he changed into a lombre.

He looked up to me expectantly and I explained everything that happened in the gym to him. He listened the whole while, and only made a few noises when he heard that Loki had been injured, or that Lacey managed to kill Brawly's machop.

Other than that, he didn't seem too bothered by any of it. I went for a walk around town with him, slowing my pace to meet his as we wandered around. I figured that I would head to Granite Cave when Loki was fully treated from the centre, and would spend a couple of days there. Xander croaked an agreement, and I sensed he wanted to explore and enjoy the town as much as he could. We went to a few shops and bought enough things for the next few days, and earned a few shocked looks when Xander tried to reach something on a shelf and instead brought the whole display down on him. I just laughed and hurried him out of the store before collapsing on the roads nearby, doubled up and not caring about the looks I got.

Along the way I bought a new bandolier to hold my poké balls – this one had an emergency release button I placed on my waist, and when pressed it would release all my pokémon at once. I considered it a brilliant idea, and it meant that if I ever needed to use it, I only needed to press one button, as opposed to continually grabbing and throwing poké balls wildly.

As strange as it was, I felt normal for the little while I walked round town with Xander. I had no thoughts of gym battles, no thoughts of how to save the world, nothing about disobedient pokémon or the like. It was just me and Xander, enjoying being tourists rather than trainers.

For that brief while, I was normal. And it felt fun.

It was nearing mid-afternoon by the time Loki was ready to be checked out of the pokémon centre. I had left collecting Lacey until he was ready too, deciding to spend the few hours between with Xander. I had realised that even though I had started off with him, he wasn't the pokémon I felt most attached to. I had to admit, if only to myself, that Loki was fast becoming my favourite. He managed to provide me with laughter, and wasn't worried about working with bad morals.

It wasn't that I didn't like Xander – I cared for him a lot, which surprised me – it was just that his own set of morals often conflicted against my, admittedly lower set.

Even if he wasn't my favourite, I still enjoyed my time with him, regardless.

With all my pokémon on me, and in the new bandolier I had bought, I made way to Granite Cave. It was a good hour's walk away from the main town, and nestled on the northern part of the island, and stretched as far under it to the south-western side. It meant I could quite easily get lost within the network of tunnels and not emerge for a good few weeks, and even then I'd be on the other end of the island.

It didn't bother me in the slightest. My plan was to get away for a few days, it just meant if I was away for a week, I could use the time to train my pokémon further.

I stopped before the mouth of the cave and thought about that. I'd have to be running drills in the middle of a cave, with no light to see what my pokémon were doing. I supposed I would just have to deal with it.

The cave entrance itself was in a large mountain wall, and the sea water occasionally lapped up the beach high enough to trickle into the cave mouth. I stared at it running inside and wondered just whether the inside would be flooded or not.

It didn't matter if it was. If there was a large part of it that was flooded, I would simply avoid it. I pried my torch out of my bag and switched it on, flooding the darkness with a brilliant light. I couldn't help but smile, remembering Adryan's earlier, apt description of it being a miniature sun.

I bathed a far wall in light and saw something that looked like a paras scuttle away. I wondered briefly what sort of pokémon I would find in the depths of the cave, and whether or not I would know anything about them. The most obvious ones were the likes of zubat and geodude, which were found in almost every cave there was in the world. But I knew that sableye were native to this cave, and had never heard of the creature before I captured Loki. It meant there could be a few others I didn't know, like the aron Mia had mentioned she was hoping to capture.

I figured I would find out soon enough as I walked into the caves. I had my pokédex on me, and I could still use it in the dark, as it had its own light built in. I knew I could have checked it before I ventured in, but I wanted some element of surprise and mystery in the caves. Having prior information all the time was a good thing, but sometimes it did make things boring. I wanted something fun and exciting for once – though possibly not on the same level as in Petalburg Woods.

I called out Loki and watched as he sniffed the air in delight. He leapt up, danced around me and cackled in delight, and I figured that the cave smelt like home to him. I saw a few small cuts on his body that were a shade lighter than his skin, and figured that they would become scars in no time.

"Stay near me," I instructed him, following him with the beam of my torch. "If you wander off and get lost, I'm not going to be able to find you if you're hurt."

He nodded and made a few quick growls, though quickly began stalking around the cave, his arms raised above his head like a predator. I chuckled and pictured him perfectly in a vampire film as the main antagonist, sneaking around in the dimmest locations.

I walked at a slow pace in the cave, my eyes half-adjusted to light and dark both. Every so often I would hear Loki cackle in delight as a pokémon shrieked in alarm, and would often find him scaring the local wildlife. Though one time he did prod a paras in the back, and it responded by unleashing a cloud of spores on him then and there. As the creature scuttled away, he fell asleep on the spot, and fell forwards into the cave wall.

I laughed and returned him into his poké ball, figuring it would teach him a lesson. Sure enough, when I called him back out after what felt like half an hour, he was awake and a lot less tormenting towards the local creatures.

There wasn't really much to find in the cave itself, save for a large amount of rocks and large natural ledges, and some pitfalls I only found by Loki happily pushing rocks or pokémon into. I would have chastised him, but it happened to save me, so I just let him have his fun.

After about an hour of walking in a straight line, the floor began to dip into a small slope. It angled around to the left and opened up into a large cavern that was filled with a great number of rocky crevices and alcoves, all blending in brilliantly in the darkness.

I could hear a number of pokémon in the tunnels, and occasionally my flashlight would find something like a geodude, a zubat, or even a nosepass carrying on without fuss towards my presence. A few times random feral pokémon would attack, but Loki managed to take them out with only a moment's notice. I realised his eyesight was naturally adapted to these conditions, and he could spot the threats a long time before I could.

It also made me swim with confidence that he was actually stopping things from attacking me.

We made it further into the cave, and I followed Loki as he sniffed out something I couldn't see. He ended up leading me further underground, and I flipped open my phone to find it had no signal whatsoever. We were pretty far down within the cave networks, and my only guard and guide was a trickster.

And yet, I felt completely safe with him around.

He ended up leading me into a small chamber that I would never have been able to find myself. The walls were glistening with jewels, and my eyes shone with the light they reflected. It was a beautiful mesh of every colour imaginable, and I wished I had a good enough camera to take a picture of it. A photo of it alone would have been worth thousands.

"Don't," I growled at Loki as he tried to gnaw at the gems on the wall. "They could be supporting the wall, or they could even belong to the sableye in this cave." His ears perked up at the mention of his species, and I smiled at him. "Yup, sableye live in here. I actually let you out to see if we find any, and to see if you can learn something from them."

He looked at me, tilted his head and then rubbed his hands together with a gleeful laugh. I was still trying to adjust to the fact that such movements weren't signalling him plotting my doom, even if they did look like they suited a poorly acted villain on some action film.

I shook my head at him and turned back to the gems on the wall. They were all different shapes and sizes, and I couldn't help but notice that some shone brighter than others. I squinted at an orange one and held my torch up enough to let me see it better. It was a brilliant colour, and I saw that within it seemed a flame was burning. I stared at it a moment and realised it was almost exactly the same as the one I'd taken from the store in Rustboro, the same one I'd fed to Loki as a job well done.

The media were saying that among everything that was stolen, a 'fire stone' was one of the items missing. I had the briefest memory of Adryan mentioning such stones to me, and that they had enough radiation in them to cause certain pokémon to evolve.

I had fed Loki one of those stones.

My stomach flipped at the thought. I'd let him eat something that emitted radiation! Who knew what it would lead to! I could end up with him warping into some horrible creature that couldn't control it's flames, or anything!

My mind went haywire, and only shut down as I heard Loki chattering behind me. Another set of growls, deeper than his own answered him, and I whipped round in an instant. Loki was stood in a corner of the room, looking up curiously at something.

I panned the light upwards and illuminated a larger, darker sableye in the light. It looked up and hissed at me, clutching some form of gem in its hands. I heard Loki chatter beneath it, and it hissed at me once more before it began to consume to gem once more, and large amounts of drool dropped from its mouth.

I stared at the gem it was eating. It was a brilliant blue, and it looked like it was made of water. It had to be a water stone. If the wild sableye was eating it, that had to mean it wasn't all bad that I let Loki eat a fire stone.

The wild sableye hissed at once both once more before it faded into the shadows, and whilst I whipped around trying to see where it went, anticipating a threat, Loki just stood there, watching in one lone spot. I stared at him, then at the spot, and found nothing, even when I shone my flashlight directly at it. I figured that either the wild sableye was hiding there, or it had said something to Loki before it vanished.

It took a moment, but then the trickster looked up to me and offered a wide, fanged grin, and begun pointing at the gems on the walls. He grunted and growled all the while, and I found myself taking a few minutes to understand him.

"They wanted you to take some?" I guessed, and couldn't help but smile when Loki jumped up and down in excitement. He cackled and pried a green stone from the wall, though I quickly thought about it and forced it back in. "Don't take the leaf stones," I told him, keeping my voice stern. "If we have them on us, they could end up doing things to Lacey." I threw him a grin. "And personally, I think she's dangerous enough as is. I don't wanna piss her off anymore, do you?"

He looked at me, tilted his head then laughed and scampered away. I gathered that he opted not to piss off the murderous nuzleaf either. Instead he pried a fire stone from the wall, and made quick work of consuming it, again repeating the exact same reactions as when he ate one in Rustboro.

I wondered why he would be able to eat one without any ill effects. More so, I wondered what eating such stones could do for him. After finishing that one, he grabbed two more – another fire stone and a thunder stone, and gestured for me to put them in my bag. I wasn't completely sure whether or not it was a good idea, but gathered that since he'd talked to the sableye with a water stone, it must have been okay.

I placed them both in my bag, my mind blazing all the while with the reasoning why sableye could eat rocks and gems in addition to normal foods. It seemed strange – I knew there was almost no energy content in them – but there had to have been a reason for it. I shrugged and decided that if he had a few more and something happened, my question would be answered. If nothing, then it would most likely be a tasty food source for them.

At the thought of food my stomach growled. The sound made Loki laugh before he pressed his head forwards and tried to imitate it. I laughed and scratched him behind the ears, telling him we needed to find somewhere safe to set up and eat. I could have chosen to sit down there, but opted to move further away, just in case the radiation from the leaf stones affected Lacey, or even just in case the water stones affected Xander.

It took a good twenty minutes of walking, but eventually we found a small cave within the rock face of a wall. It was large enough to fit about four people sitting down, all around a fire, and so I knew myself and all my pokémon would fit in. I released both Lacey and Xander, instructing them to keep an eye out whilst I lit a fire. Lacey disagreed at first, and threatened to walk off into the dark, until I told her that I was about to give out food, and that there was nowhere to forage in the cave.

It seemed to swing her vote. She stood just outside of the cave entrance, choosing to remain a distance away, as if our very presence offended her. I managed to get the fire lit, and Xander croaked quite happily with the warmth of it, whilst Loki kept trying to put his fingers in it like an excited child.

I looked at them both and grinned. "Good thing I still had some wood from Petalburg," I said aloud, knowing they probably couldn't understand me. I was beginning to realise why people travelled in groups; sometimes the lack of human interaction did tend to make you lonely.

I forced the feelings down. I had a job to do; I had to stop the world becoming that of which I grew up in. It was my task alone, and I couldn't burden anyone with it.

I began playing with the lighter I had bought earlier, watching my pokémon cradle the fire – or in Lacey's case, pretend it and we didn't exist. The dull orange tones lit up a good portion of the caves, and I found myself able to see a good few metres all around me. I could see small gatherings of little pink pokémon with large ears jumping around in the far distance, and every so often a zubat would flutter by. I frowned and turned back to the fire, knowing that it would attract pokémon. A cold shiver raced down my spine, and I shuddered loud and completely.

All of my pokémon looked to me in concern. I smiled and shook their concerns away with my hand. It was the horrible feeling again, like the one I had when I was in the pokémon centre.

I was being paranoid.

I had to be.

Regardless I turned to Lacey. "Can you see anything in this darkness?" She looked at me, and I saw the light catch her eyes. It took me a moment to realise that the light hadn't actually caught her eyes, more that it was coming from them. She was a creature of darkness; she could see in the dark perfectly.

Which didn't help my paranoia that she would kill us in our sleep.

"You can then," I said, nodding to myself as fear built up slowly in my body. Something was making that cold feeling race up me, it had to be! I was being watched, it was the only explanation for it!

Watched, or followed.

The news report said that one of Aaron's pokémon wasn't found on him. The creepy feeling had been haunting me since I got into Dewford. There had to be a connection somewhere!

"Can you see any bugs here?" I asked Lacey, and drew from her another sneer. She shook her head and pointed to the distance, and with the help of my torch I found a small family of paras scuttling along a uneven, rocky wall. "Not those sort of bugs," I said. "But thanks," I added, seeing her dark look. "I meant something that looks... weird." Really detailed description, considering I was describing a bug pokémon. They all looked weird.

"Is it possible for bugs to be dark or ghostly?" I asked her, and my other pokémon too. "Or even psychic?"

Lacey looked at me a moment and shrugged. Xander and Loki both shared expressions of equal confusion. Well, that was a dead end. Instead I sighed, shook my head and thanked Lacey once more before retreating into the small cavern.

Fire would attract pokémon, I recalled. So would any scents of food. I pulled a face and set to work. "Lacey, you and Xander eat first," I said, even as I was working through my bag, trying to find something for them to eat. "Me and Loki will make sure nothing comes chasing after us for it. Then we swap around. Is that alright?"

Xander croaked an affirmation. Lacey just hissed at me. Even Loki had the courtesy to jump up and down happily, nodding all the while.

It only took a few moments for me to pour the strange kibble for the two grass pokémon. Lacey didn't look happy about being given her food in a metal dish normally used for growlithe and the like to eat off the floor with – though she rarely did look happy when I was around. She clutched it in her hands, making a slow, deliberate attempt to sniff it, ensuring it wasn't tainted.

"I can taste test if you want me to," I told her, grinning slightly. She hadn't forgotten what had happened on the boat. Not that I could blame her – I think anyone would remember being spiked and getting diarrhoea. "There's been no competition since the boat, and I don't want to start it again, to be honest with you."

She pulled her lip back in a sneer again, though took a tiny bite from her food. Deciding it was adequate, she placed the whole thing in her mouth and chewed slowly, offering me only a minute nod in response.

Once they were done with their food, I cleaned away everything and gave Loki a bowl of his own. He grumbled and grasped for my bag, though I made it clear the stones were treats only. I wondered just whether or not I would still have such a problem if I ever decided to speed up Xander's evolution into a ludicolo.

With Lacey and Xander watching for pokémon, I rested back against the cave wall and pried out my pokédex, snacking on an energy bar as I flicked through its database. In the whole machine, there was only one pokémon that matched anything to do with my fears; a strange, ghostly bug known as shedinja. Apparently it was nothing more than the shed shell of a nincada, brought to life by some unholy spirit inhabiting it. Supposedly it didn't breathe, eat or sleep, nor did it make any sound or movement even as it floated along, stalking its enemies throughout the world.

I shuddered again. It was the perfect predator. At least, it would have been, did it eat anything. Instead it seemed to be nothing more than a ghostly grudge, seeking down and killing things for whatever reason.

Goosebumps tickled my entire body. I prayed it wasn't one of them that was following me, and only my own imagination.

I tried to convince myself it was something else. Maybe it was that damned scizor – I never saw what happened to it after I ran away from it. Maybe it was even the creepy-looking beautifly. Or maybe I was just going crazy, seeing shadows where there weren't any.

Xander croaked low in warning, and I nearly leapt out of my skin. I threw the pokédex into my pocket as quickly as I could and scrambled out of the small cave, the small fire providing me just enough light to see what my pokémon was growling at.

It was a yellow pokémon about a metre tall, and was almost completely muscle. Its hands were a dark black, as was the colouring around its collar. There was a red ring on both of its cheeks, and it squinted at us with almost-closed eyes. A quick glance down told me it was obviously male.

I identified it at once. Makuhita, a fighter that was nearly all muscle, though had enough fat reserves to make it not feel the cold or the heat. They were deadly fighters at close range, and had a habit for attacking foes larger than itself and never giving up until they were knocked out or killed.

I grinned to myself. I could use a tough pokémon like that.

It growled at us, grunting and pointing towards the fire and Loki's food. I knew the food would attract a pokémon, though never considered catching whatever it attracted until I saw the pokémon stood before me.

"Xander, you take care of this," I whispered, shooting serious glances at Lacey and Loki both. "I want to catch this, so don't injure it too badly, alright?"

He croaked his agreement, and I smiled. "Make sure to keep your distance," I warned. "Now slow it down with some bubbles!"

That was a sentence I never thought I'd say in my entire life.

Xander took a deep breath a spat out a steady stream of bubbles, like he was one of those strange machines. They shone and floated towards the makuhita, and it seemed to scoff at the non-threatening looking attack. Its bravado was quickly shaken as each of them popped in its eyes and mouth, and swam around it enough to make it flail in pain, movements slowed by the barrage of bubbles swarming around it. They all popped at once, making the pokémon hiss in pain and flail backwards, soaked to the core.

It roared in anger and raced forwards, its arms already up for an assault. Xander leapt forwards and smashed his skull into the pokémon's stomach before it could even swing at him, and then blasted it point-blank with an explosion of water.

He waddled up to the pokémon, croaked and nudged it. The makuhita groaned and tried to force itself back up to its feet, fierce tenacity forcing it to fight again.

I smiled. My pokémon were getting strong. Added to that, the little makuhita's fighting spirit made my hopes soar for getting somewhere fast. I grabbed my bag and pried out a poké ball, and saw Xander step aside another attack and blow a few bubbles at the fighter, knocking it down once more. It wasn't giving up, that much was certain.

I aimed the ball and lobbed it with all the force I could muster. It bounced off the pokémon's fatty stomach and exploded open in the air, shaking a few times before it finally dimmed. I'd caught it.

"Alright!" I cheered, excitement bubbling through me. I could understand why people stayed trainers so long; there was always a rush in something, no matter what you were doing.

Xander nudged the poké ball back to me, and Loki began doing some strange little celebratory dance. Meanwhile Lacey just stood there, eyeing us all with distaste. I rolled my eyes at her and placed the makuhita's ball on my bandolier.

"Don't be so upset," I told her with a smile. "I could have had Loki pound you into submission like that. You're lucky he only poked you in the eyes and didn't just claw them out."

She hissed, and her leaves became sharp as razors as she swiped them up. I had barely even blinked before it rested against my neck, pressing hard enough to draw a little line of blood. Her meaning was clear; she could kill us at anytime, without any effort.

The fact that she wasn't said something, at least.

Regardless, I didn't take the threat kindly. As soon as she let down her guard to look smug, I snatched her arm by the wrist and twisted it. She cried out in alarm and went to hit me with her other hand, and I caught that too by the wrist and twisted them in opposite directions. Her face was almost in mine, and either of us could have smashed our skull into the other to break free. But neither of us did.

"Listen to me Lacey," I growled acidly, dimly aware the other two pokémon were watching and ready to attack. "I will not have you pulling any shit like that. I know you can kill me, and yes, I appreciate the fact that you haven't but-" I twisted one of her arms in my grasp, and she cried out as I wrapped it around her neck and pulled her back against me, so that her back was pressed to me, one arm restrained behind her, another pressed against her own throat. "Know that I don't need any sort of technology to kill you. Pull any stunts like that again, and I won't hesitate to snap your neck and leave you there dying like you did to that machop."

I growled once more, released and pushed her away in the same movement. She gave me a dark look and then turned away, sulking and discretely rubbing her injured arms.

Xander croaked at me, drawing my attention down to him. "It's nothing," I reassured him, waving away his question. I wiped away the blood trickling down my neck and shuddered once more, again feeling the unholy presence of something watching me. It was happening more often – it had to mean it was coming closer, whatever it was.

I pushed away my paranoia. "Alright guys, time for drills. You're not getting off just because we're in a cave. I know perfectly well two of you can see just fine in here." I turned to Xander, crouched down and smiled at him. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you, but watch your footing if you're moving about. I'd rather you try practicing longer range attacks, but be careful not to aim them too far. There's going to be a lot worse than beedrill in here to piss off."

I nodded at him, and he gave a little warble back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lacey flex her wrists and push off the wall she was leaning against. She walked a little out of my sight, and I caught the faintest flashes of light as her eyes wiped around in the darkness. Both my pokémon looked up at me, and I just shook my head. "It's alright guys," I reassured them. "She's just blowing off some steam."

I watched both the others agree and walk off to train somewhere nearby, still in my direct sight. I had two badges, and yet she still hated me. Most people tried to convince you to challenge gym leaders because owning badges would help you control them.

That was total bull.

Badges were nothing more than a statement between humans. Pokémon didn't care if you beat a gym leader or not, because it was them that battled. If anything, it was like exploiting them for your own advancement.

To earn their respect and obedience, you actually needed to do something else. Each pokémon had its own personality, and would take different amounts of time and effort to earn their trust, at the very least.

I found it amazing that I knew all of that already. I made a quick flick through my pokédex to check through the pokémon native to the cave. While before I was looking forward to the excitement of not knowing what lay in wait, I didn't want to live in the dark anymore. I needed to know just what lay in the caves, just in case there was something stalking me, and it was native to the caves.

I couldn't find anything that fit the bill save for abra and sableye. The first couldn't do much more than teleport unless they were intelligent enough to train with other pokémon to learn new abilities. I figured the latter wouldn't bother me, as I had one with me, and the other sableye I met before never attacked me.

It didn't really put my mind at ease.

Either way, I found out there were no machop that lived in the network of caves. It made me feel just the slightest bit relieved – I didn't exactly have much luck with the creatures. Out of two I'd encountered, Loki had mauled one – I still didn't know whether it was alive or not – and Lacey had killed one.

I figured that maybe I should stay clear of any trainers with a machop. With my luck with them, Xander would break their ribs with a blast of water, or the new makuhita would pound it into a bloody wreck.

Though my luck with machop turned out to be the least of my worries in the caves and Dewford both.

 
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