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.


32. Perspectives

In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him ~ Anon.


"Our opinions of life and the world are defined by the way we see things. Where we see tragedy, another may see humility. Where we see joy, another may see distractions. Where we see life, another may see death yet to come. Pessimism, optimism and any other viewpoint on life is dependent on the hand fate deals us. How we play that hand shows everyone what we truly believe."

- Nathaniel Turner, philosopher and doomsayer. (September 29th, 3011)


I didn't manage to sleep much that night, if at all. I found myself at one point lying on a sand dune, staring up at the sky as it slowly began to change colours from a dark blue to a lighter shade of pink. I aimlessly began to try and connect the stars with my finger, wondering what they all meant.

I'd never really bothered to try and learn the names for them, though a little part of me wished I had. It probably would have managed to distract me more than linking up stars into large, shining sky-bound genitalia.

Xander gurgled in his sleep next to me as he reached out and sprawled across one of my legs. I smiled at scratched the top of his head, watching him sleep in silent wonder.

I'd changed so much on my journey. I remember staring up the skies, unsure of whether or not it was a good thing. I'd managed to befriend my pokémon and make connections with people, ensuring that I had backup on the stupid quest I had to complete.

Yet at the same time, the bonds that linked me to them were also my undoing. It was the thought of leaving them behind that made me reluctant to do anything. I wasn't sure what would have been the better option; to carry on in a journey without any bonds tying me to people, to make the bonds and then sacrifice myself at the end, or maybe even find some sort of happy medium.

I saw six flashes of eerie crimson light approach me and forgot myself for a moment. I was about to scream and try and shoot the damned thing until I realised it was only Adryan's claydol floating up towards me.

I relaxed a little when I realised this, though I tensed again as a familiar burn assaulted my head.

[You should rest, mortal,] Myos urged. [Your species are not one that can function with little or no sleep.]

I shrugged and placed a hand behind my head. "I'll manage," I told it. "I've got too much on my mind to even begin thinking about getting to sleep, let alone achieving it."

[We could knock you out, if you prefer?] the pokémon offered.

I shuddered at the thought of such a thing happening again. "I'll pass, thanks," I told him, snappishly. I felt the presence from my mind lift and saw the pokémon turn to leave before I called its name. It turned on the spot and stared at me, all six eyes glowing hauntingly in the light darkness. I chewed my bottom lip uncertainly before I managed to say, "You said before... when you found me in the tower... you told me the charmeleon injured himself battling Tyraos. Who's that?"

The claydol hummed as it moved to hover in the air next to me. [Tyraos is the name of the claydol you encountered.]

I leant up instantly, surprise lifting both my eyebrows up. "You knew its name?"

I felt something like a nod in my mind. [We are claydol. Whenever we meet another of our species, we go through a split second joining of the minds with the other. It is an ancient practice started by our elders, shared down through the generations. It is now common courtesy between our species.]

I felt a spike of rage and my entire face darkened. "So while that thing was trying to eat me, you were shaking its hand?"

[It took less than a second for the process to occur. It is instinctive and something we cannot control. Much like you humans and your needs for destruction,] he growled in my mind. [By knowing the creature's name, we can honour its death with the respect it deserved, regardless of their actions while on this earth. A process which you mortals do not seem to share.]

I forced myself to cool down and took a deep breath. "Why do you keep calling me mortal?" I asked it. "You're not exactly immortal. It's like me going around calling everyone else human. 'How are you, human?', 'Do you want some tea, human?'"

[Humans are a mortal species,] it responded flatly. [Our spirit lives on after our bodies cease to function. Unlike humans, we are not made of flesh. We are of stone; unmoving, unchanging. We can only be destroyed by demolishing the stone we occupy, after which our spirit moves on to find another host, or we depart from the world.]

I nodded hastily as I lifted an eyebrow. "Okay, okay. So who named that other claydol then? Is that the name they worshipped it by?"

[Tyraos was a false icon,] Myos hissed. [Claydol are all given a spirit name when we occupy the baltoy bodies we begin with. Our spirit name holds many meanings but most of all; we are named for the era in which we shall perish.]

I blinked. "You're named for the time you die? That's morbid." I shook my head with a small smile. "But wait, I thought your spirit lived on? How can you perish then?"

[Spirits are not immortal,] Myos hummed. [Spirits cannot be broken, but they can perish. We do not know what happens once they perish, but we know they move on from this world. Tyraos was meant to perish many centuries ago. However, they extended their spirit life by unnatural means. Many baltoy and humans revered them, hoping to share in their knowledge of false-immortality.]

I laughed a quiet, unimpressed sound. "Why is it that such things can be so easily believed?" I wondered aloud. I shook my head as I felt Myos begin to speak again and instead asked it my own question, "So when are you to die then? I've never heard of an age of Tyraos and sure as hell can't think of one called Myos."

I felt something like a smirk in my mind. [You assume our names are given by human standards. We know when we shall perish and we know it will be a long time yet.]

"Oh," I whispered, question unsolved. Instead I went for another point that had bothered me for some time, "What's a 'righter of time'?" I asked it. "I saw it inscribed beneath a statue in the tower but couldn't think of anything to do with it. All I saw was-"

[It is not your place to interfere, mortal!]

I yelped at the sudden ferocity of Myos' voice and clutched and my ringing ears, dimly feeling a little bit of blood trickling out of them. I managed to look at the creature with wide, fearful eyes and whispered, "W-what?

[Do not interfere,] it instructed me, voice back to normal. [Non-psychics are not to know of the righters. Such knowledge only leads to disaster. Accept your place and know not to interfere with matters that are far above you, mortal.]

I stared at the floating pokémon, my mind buzzing with a multitude of emotions. "But... what? Now I'm just more confused."

[Good. Do not attempt to incur the wrath of the righters, mortal. Many have done so, and only disaster awaited them.]

The claydol simply vanished from view with those departing words. I found myself just staring into space for a while, wondering just what the creature could have meant. All I got from that was a small headache and a small dizzy feeling.

I decided then and there that psychics were one of my least favourite things in the world.

I grunted at Xander to move and tried to wake him up without surprising him. I'd done it once before and ended up taking a pressurised blast of water to the face. After an hour or two of dizziness, coupled with a day of trying to get water out of my ears, I decided that I'd never do it again.

He finally croaked a small sound and blinked sleepily at me, shuffling enough to move off my leg. I thanked him and stood up, rubbing my arms against the chill of the morning. I turned to say something to Xander but a cold shock of dread stabbed me in the back. My chest tightened and my breath dropped into quick and short breaths as unnatural terror flooded through me.

Xander croaked something and I felt a gust of cold, too cold wind behind me.

I felt myself trembling without control as I turned around only to find a demon staring down at me, long sharp teeth dripping fresh blood.

A scream built and died in my throat as I leapt backwards, grabbing frantically for a weapon. The demon snapped its fingers and pressure slammed into all my limbs, trapping me in place and holding me a foot in the air.

Icy pain stabbed at each and every part of my mind. [Greetings... kin slayer.]

I recognised the tone and felt confusion take over some of the fear. "Willow?" I guessed.

The trained demon smiled, exposing more of the unholy teeth. [Correct you are, kin slayer.] It floated around me full circle, trapping Xander in place like me when he tried to attack her. [Now, now,] it whispered into my mind, making me shudder with uncontained fear and repulsion. [Do not have your pets attack me when I come to you with an offer of peace.]

I turned my head as much as I could. "You call this peace?" I snapped.

[The best offer of it you shall receive,] it shot back. It flicked a little part of its dress and I blew out a small relieved breath at the length of it. At least Adryan's demon wouldn't be trying to add me to its disgusting attempts of clothing. [You killed some of my kin. By all rights, I should slaughter you where you stand.]

I felt my jaw drop. "Those demons in Dewford... they were your family?"

[Gardevoir are all related,] it informed me. [Whether by blood or not, we are tied as kin. You slaughtered them and I should avenge them... but it is not the reason why I approach you.]

I snarled and tried to kick the harpy. "I don't give a shit about your deals! Let me go! You think Adryan's going to be happy about you doing this to me?"

I felt it laugh inside my skull. [You think he shall find out? Would you tell him I did this? I certainly shall not – neither shall any of my brothers and sisters in arms.]

The thought that all of Adryan's pokémon had conspired against me made my stomach fill with frozen dread.

"He'll wake up," I protested. "And then he'll see this and put you down like the freak of nature you are."

Pressure exploded behind my eye and I screamed in pain. Something definitely burst and I felt the demon's claws touch the side of my face, taking away all the pain.

[You think our species learn to heal for selfless reasons?] the gardevoir taunted me. [Some do. The rest of us, however, learn to repair injuries for our own gain. You can only torture a creature to a certain limit. But when you can heal injuries, it makes the victim suffer almost limitless pain.] Its clawed fingers spread out over my face, cupping my cheeks and leaving small cuts in their wake. [I have ensured that Master Adryan shall remain asleep for our conversation. I am not a fool, kin slayer.]

I bit back a frightened whimper and balled all my resolve into snarling, "What do you want then?"

One long, thin claw gripped the bottom of my chin and pulled me forwards. [Ultimately; your death. Until then, I am content with you to leave and never contact Master Adryan again. You bring death and destruction everywhere you go. And I will not let you destroy him too!]

"And what makes you think I'll do anything you'll say?" I hissed at the creature. "You're just a stupid, fucked up pokémon that's fallen in love with its trainer. You're just jealous because he'll never share romantic feelings for you and I'm closer to him as a friend then you'll ever be!"

It slapped me this time, hard enough to make my teeth wobble.

[Do not think you know of what you speak!]

My ears rang with the force of its mental roar. All at once I was struck with the horrific realisation that even if what I said was true, the demon was psychotic enough to manipulate something else into a reason for my death. It could be anything, from me making Adryan get a paper cut, or even have him get in trouble with some sort of authority figure and she would decide it was reason enough to kill me.

The demon's clawed hand wrapped around my face, clawed fingers gripping one side and its thumb getting dangerously close to my eye.

[You will leave,] it hissed. [And you will do it soon. You will put enough distance between you and Master Adryan so that you never endanger him, or I shall make you slit your own throat open. Do you understand me?]

I said nothing and it shook my head, clawed thumb threatening to pierce my eyeball. [Do you understand me?]

"Yes!" I yelped, flinching as I felt a sharp point touch my eye. "I understand! I get what you mean!"

The gardevoir threw my face away. [Then you shall do as I demand.]

I nodded, swallowing a hard lump. "I'll make sure I don't endanger him."

The demon looked at me, eyes glowing blood-red. [I was not asking.] It flashed out of sight as Lacey suddenly appeared behind it, slicing through the faded image of the demon's neck.

I dropped to the floor, panting wearily as I reached over and checked to make sure Xander was okay. Once I was certain he was I looked up only to see Lacey standing above me, murder apparent in her face.

"I'm fine," I told her, refusing to submit to the crazed demon. "It's gone now and the next time it tries anything like that, I'll kill it myself."

The nuzleaf folded her arms and uttered an intelligible syllable at my expense. She turned away and made sure the gardevoir was well and truly gone before she watched me stand up.

"Where's Loki?" I asked her. "And the charmeleon?"

She pointed in either direction, showing me Loki asleep with the eerie sight of Ripper's one, glowing red eye hovering above it and the charmeleon in the other direction, alone and apart from everyone else, watching the sunrise on its own.

I looked between them both and made my choice. "C'mon guys," I whispered to my pokémon. "Let's see if we can't make a break through with this charmeleon before we head back to town."

When we finally arrived back in the town, Adryan made sure to lead me off the beaten track and towards what seemed like an ancient stone temple built a few kilometres away from the main town. Apparently it was Sandstream's pokémon gym – something which was hard to believe, even inside. The large, imposing stone chambers were filled with empty space and ancient carvings over the walls, making me think it was yet another temple.

Though it was the gym, I found out, as I managed to book myself a battle the very next day. The receptionist there –who, like everyone else in the town was dressed in simple cloth – told me that the gym was built into the remains of an ancient temple – they'd found it belonged to the Cult of Groudon, though had been long abandoned and robbed of all its treasures. The town wanted to keep it but also have enough financial income to support it and thus it was decided that it would house the gym.

The whole time I was pointedly ignoring Adryan. I knew his gardevoir wanted me nowhere near him, though chalked that down only to their over-protective nature. As much as it irked me to admit it, I could see why people would want one; they were fiercely protective of their trainers.

However, the thought of owning one chilled me to my core.

The reason why I was ignoring Adryan was simply the reason that he continually insisted on talking about what we were supposed to do to stop the world from reaching breaking point. I didn't want to think about it, to be honest and though I should have been thankful for the kick up the backside, I wanted nothing more than to bury my head in the sand and pretend nothing was ever going to happen.

"There's got to be something you can do," he probed further as I tried to get my pokémon to run drills. "Seriously, beating gym leaders for badges? That can't be all you've got planned... though it explains a lot about why you were so clueless towards everything when we first met; you've got no idea about anything."

"Adryan," I growled, my teeth tearing over each other like sandpaper. "Stop thinking out loud. I know I don't know what I'm doing, alright? The best I'm hoping for at the moment is that by showing people I have badges; they'll understand I'm a trainer with some merit and not just some whacko nut-job off the street. Hopefully once they know that, they'll be more likely to listen to me, if I ever need to convince people."

He shrugged slightly. "Well, it's a good starting plan I guess."

I pulled a hand over my face and growled, "Well if you've got any better ideas, I'd like to hear them! I'm not even sure I want to do anything now, if it means I'm going to just poof away into the air itself! It should take ten years for things to get as bad as what they were when I grew up – that means I've got ten years of living normally before everything goes to shit and I can just do away with myself!"

His face became deadly serious instantly. "Don't talk like that. I might have told you to deal with this by some sort of humour, but suicide jokes just aren't lightening the mood."

I threw him a dark look. "Who said I was joking?" I grumbled. "Either way suicide's all I got to look forward to. I either do it by the end of the year and die by some horrible twisted sort of time-continuity or drift forever in some sort of green void with little bastard celebis." I stuffed my hands in my pockets and told my pokémon to keep running laps. "That or I live for another decade, have some fun, watch my pokémon get old, have a few illicit affairs and bastard children here and there, then blow my brains out when everything turns shit."

"You couldn't do that," Adryan whispered.

My reply was cold and instant, "Couldn't I? You've seen my memories; you know full well that I can do what it takes to survive when I need to." I took a look around us and seeing no people outside the town with us, I continued. "I've killed people because they were threatening to drag me down with them. I've left others to die because if I stayed, I'd be in the ground next to them. What makes you think I'm above letting the world suffer for a decade whilst I retire to a nice house somewhere with a trophy wife and an everlasting supply of whiskey?"

"You're better than that," he told me, conviction in his voice. "Yes, I've seen that you used to behave like that. But I've also seen the way you are now. You're telling me that five months ago, you would have put your own neck on the line for pokémon? You're telling me that you're still the same cold-hearted, ruthless bastard that you were then? You've changed. You care about other people... about other pokémon and you certainly can't stand by and let innocents suffer. Otherwise a certain person would still be killing people in the Petalburg Woods."

"I've changed once," I growled defiantly. "I can do it again. All this around us-" I waved my hand in a circle, "-this isn't something I'm used to. This isn't my world. This is just some foreign land I've been plonked in and told I have to save. Well if they can manage to pull me out from eighty years from now, they can find some other sucker who wants to change turn into thin air when he changes everything." I stuffed my hand back in my pocket and watched my pokémon with a distant stare. "Me? I just want to be able to live a life that I never got a chance to experience. I want... I want to watch my pokémon grow old with me and not have to worry about some looming countdown ticking over my head. I want to be able to sleep at night without fretting over each small detail I must have to change.

"Don't you see it?" I snarled at him. "I don't want any of this shit that's been thrown on me! I want a normal, bread and butter life. And if I have to close myself off and decide that everyone else apart from me and my pokémon is cannon fodder, then I'll do it!" I looked away from the hurt expression written all over Adryan's face and stared instead at the sandy floor beneath my feet. "I don't want to die just so other people can live. I might have been able to do it before; when I was nothing but a soldier with no bonds, no ties to anything. But I've changed; I've made ties that I don't want to break. I don't want to die and have everyone carry on without me! I don't want to fade away and have everyone I know forget I ever existed!"

"You're a coward," Adryan told me, point blank. "You hide behind the fact that you care about others, using it as an excuse for you not to do anything. Most people would use it as a reason to keep fighting; to protect the ones they care about from having to experience it themselves."

"Well sor-ry I'm not other people then!" I snapped at him. "I'm my own person! I'm selfish, I'm fine with that! You tell me then! Would you honestly let yourself fade out of existence, just for the chance to change something about a future you're not going to live through anyway?"

He floundered like a beached fish, unable to produce an answer.

"There you go then!" I shouted, unable to stop the anger I felt. "Why the fuck should I skip along to save the world when even the people from it wouldn't do the same thing? I'm not a coward; I'm a survivor. If turning my back on my supposed destiny makes me a coward, then fine! And if I happen to meet that stupid celebi whilst I'm turning my back on what I'm mean to do, I'll stick two fingers up at it too and tell it exactly what it can do with its plans!"

Despite everything, Adryan stood there and shook his head at me. "You have some serious anger issues," he whispered.

My vision blurred red. "I have every right to be angry!" I screamed at him, fury filling me completely. "I don't want a part of this fucked up shit! And if you're going to stand there and tell me what to do, you can do one and complete this stupid goal yourself! I'm not dying for some screwed up time-pixie!"

I was breathing heavily, anger clouding my vision and my judgement. The only thing that cut through it all was when I heard a metallic click and Adryan telling me to calm down. It wasn't his words that caught my attention, but rather his tone. He was afraid. He was frightened of me. Of something I was doing without realising.

I looked down and saw that I was holding my gun at him, safety off and my finger on the trigger.

The sight of it made me yelp and I dropped the horrible metallic contraption instantly. It bounced off the sandy floor as I doubled over, clutching at my chest as breathing became hard; my lungs refusing to open or shut.

"I don't want this," I mumbled to myself as I collapsed under the weight of everything. My fingers dipped into burning-hot sand as I tried to feel something. Everything felt hollow inside me; anger washing away to leave an empty void I tried filling with pain. The hollow feeling faded away and I felt crushed, lost, afraid and scared of myself. Yet even the pain couldn't distract me from that.

"I never wanted this," I complained. "I just wanted out of my world. I didn't want to have to change everything and sacrifice myself. That was what Alex wanted! I just got taken in his place!"

I saw Adryan inch around the gun as he crouched down before me. "Who's Alex?" he asked, his voice still a little jittery.

I blinked and wiped my nose as I looked up at him. "You don't know?" I asked, bewildered. "Surely you've seen it? Before I got here, the kid I was following? He was with the celebi, then he got shot and I got taken in his place?"

Ayd shook his head. "I didn't see any of that. There's... blank spots," he said, touching the side of his head. "It's like... like Myos couldn't manage to retrieve all the information from some parts... or even that he didn't want me to know about some things." He scrunched his face up. "Weird. Maybe I should ask him about it."

The thought of encountering the claydol after the earlier angry conversation made me jittery. Coupled with the fact that I'd just pulled a gun on Adryan, I was certain I didn't want to see any of his pokémon. His gardevoir had told me I would only end up hurting him, yet I'd put that down to it being a jealous, possessive creature. It was only then that I started to realise that she may have been right.

The thought that I could endanger any of my friends was probably worse than knowing I could end up vanishing.

"I'm sorry," I said, honestly repentant. "I didn't mean to... you know."

Adryan covered up what was left of his fear with a fake laugh. "Yeah, well just don't go doing it again, alright? I probably pushed you over the edge with the comment about your anger."

I shrugged. "Maybe. Possibly. I don't know. What I do know is that I shouldn't have done that, no matter how angry I got." I sighed and peeled matted hair from my face as I glanced back to my pokémon. "I better get them back on their drills. And tell them I haven't gone completely crazy. Maybe even see if I can get the charmeleon to do something other than sitting off in the distance, seething at everyone."

Adryan perked up. "You haven't given it a name yet?"

"No," I said with a shake of my head. "I haven't thought of one for him yet. Right now I'm focusing more on getting him to train without ripping open his wounds again – you saw how much that nurse bitched at me when she saw they'd been opened up." I managed a small smirk. "Couldn't you have had Willow heal him instead? At least he can breathe fire and isn't prone to emotional break downs."

"Healing takes a lot out of pokémon, you know?" he told me. "Even healing small injuries on another can make a pokémon feel sick for a good hour. Getting rid of your concussion, as well as sunburn and a broken rib? That pretty much put her out for a good while. Not all gardevoir are demons, you know? You shouldn't keep judging them all by the actions of one."

I'd have taken what he said a lot more seriously if his gardevoir hadn't threatened to make me kill myself earlier that day.

"I suppose," I said without ever planning on doing any differently. "Anyway, I better go deal with my pokémon."

I made it three steps before Adryan shouted after me, "Hey, soldier boy!"

I stopped and spun on the spot, wondering just what he wanted. He gave me a confident grin as he stood up and promised me, "We'll find a way to do this without you vanishing."

Doubt and pessimism fuelled my thoughts. "I won't hold my breath," I told him.

"We'll do it," he swore. "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Where there's a will, there's a way.

I hate those words.

After everything, Adryan seemed to realise not to bring up the subject of changing the future. He braved it once only to tell me to talk about it when I was ready, just before he left to buy some food for his pokémon.

My actions scared him more than he would let on.

Not that I could blame him.

There wasn't a part of me that could seem to remember ever bringing the weapon out – there was nothing but a blank spot where that was concerned. I tried not to focus on it and instead tried to think of other things.

Like how to get the charmeleon to obey me.

He still had the unruly habit of snarling at me every time I got too close, which meant that physically forcing him into doing drills was out of the question. I even tried holding his food to ransom to make him obey – instead he just went out into the desert and came back with a cooked sandshrew between his teeth. Lacey was impressed and decided that he was her new hunting buddy.

Thus, I ended up with a murderous tag team of Lacey and a charmeleon. Lacey would kill whatever she liked and the charmeleon would either cook it until they could eat it, or just burn it enough until it was just ash.

I tried to stop it, only to receive another stream of fire aimed at me. I snarled and kicked the lizard in the shin. That just ended up with me being hunted down by an angry, fire breathing pokémon until Xander knocked it sideways with a blast of water.

"See, this is why we should work together," I grunted at him. "Then I don't end up running away from a fire breathing lizard and you don't end up with your ears and nose dropping water."

He snarled at me once more and turned away, nearly taking my face off with his tail. I took it as a win, since he didn't try to just slice my face off.

The best I managed the whole day was getting Erra to try and fight a wild trapinch that came too close to us. It took nearly five minutes of me reassuring her that she could win the battle and that she was strong enough to fight before she actually decided to do anything. In one blow she managed to startle the creature and send it scurrying away in fright.

I tried telling her that the problem was her own confidence; she was strong enough to battle, yet didn't believe in herself. She preened at the compliment, though a snide snarl from the charmeleon brought her right back down to zero-ego.

"Leave her alone," I commanded of the creature. "I don't care if you have a problem with me, but you leave everyone else alone, alright?" I put myself between him and Erra, who was buzzing a slow, depressing tune behind me. "Do you want me to have you criticised at every opportunity? Because believe you me; you upset any of the others and I'll let them snuff out that silly little tail-flame of yours."

He matched my glare for a few seconds, holding it with primal ferocity. My every instinct commanded me to run, yet I ignored them all, intent on standing up to the fiery lizard. Finally he gave one little snarl and turned away once more, leaving me and Erra alone once more.

Once he was far enough away I let out a small, relieved breath. The magnemite clicked happily as she landed on my shoulder, scuttling across to sit on my head. I watched as the charmeleon stalked past Xander and Loki both; making a beeline for Lacey. They stood there, across a sand dune from us, just talking for a little while until I saw the nuzleaf nod towards me and say something before the charmeleon stalked away from her too.

"Fiery pokémon are all a bit stubborn," said Adryan from behind me, successfully making me yelp and scare Erra into giving me a slight shock, all at once.

"Don't do that," I said, breathless as I clutched my thundering heart. "Surprising me might make me attack you. Surprising my pokémon is likely to have them kill you."

He flashed a confident grin. "It won't come to that. But as for your charmeleon," he said with a nod towards the creature, "don't worry about him being stubborn. All fiery pokémon are rather reluctant to change their views, as well as being a little – mind the pun – hot-headed. Where do you think the saying comes from?"

I scratched my cheek in thought. "So what do I do then? Attack him with a fire extinguisher?"

He barked a laugh. "I wouldn't do that. I did that when I was growing up once to one of mum's slugma. Pro-tip; never coat a fiery slug in flame retardant foam. It tends to make them a little angry. And fire isn't the only element they can wield."

I had to smile at thought of a young Adryan being chased around by an angry slugma.

"Anyway," he continued, "just be patient with trying to get through to him. You're earning his respect little by little; standing up to him to protect your other pokémon is a sure way to show him you actually care about him as a creature. It'll be an uphill struggle, but once you get through to him, you'll find it tough to lose his loyalty."

The thought of that alone was enough to make me wear a giddy smile.

"I'm not using him in the gym tomorrow though," I told Adryan. "He's still got those dressings; making him battle won't do him any good."

"You'll do fine enough," he reassured me. "Just get those pokémon as angry as you got earlier and you won't have any problem in the battle."

I winced at the mention of it. "Yeah... let's pretend that didn't happen. Getting my pokémon angry probably isn't a good idea."

Adryan took one look at the magnemite on my head and winced. "Yeah, I agree with you there. They're already creepy. Don't want to add anger issues to that too."

With comments like that, it really was no wonder why Willow thought I would end up killing Adryan.

Even by the morning of my gym battle, conversation between me and Adryan was still slightly strained. It didn't help that we were sharing a room and we were both actively avoiding talking about my little anger problem.

I ended up spending most of the night sharing awkward conversations about aimless topics as I poured most of my attention into my phone. I texted Mia for most of the night and in doing so, found out that she was likely to arrive within Sandstream after my gym battle.

I told Adryan and got nothing more than a non-committal grunt out of him. He asked me a few questions about her and our conversation went – for once – with me doing most of the talking.

By the next morning, I couldn't much stand the awkward silence between us.

"So what are you ideas then?" I asked him as we walked to the gym.

He looked down to me, slightly surprised to hear me talking so freely. "Ideas about what?"

I gave him an unimpressed look. "You know what about."

"Oh, that," he drawled. "I'm not sure to be honest. I've thought about it a little, but to be honest with you, wouldn't it be better if more people knew? The more people thinking on it, the more-"

"I don't want anyone else knowing."

He mouth dropped open in shock and he looked at me, stumped for words for a good moment. "Why?" he finally asked. "If you had more people helping you, you could have more people helping you do this. There could even be less chance that you'd vanish. I'm sure Chris would help if we asked her, maybe even this Mia girl you've been going on about."

"I don't want anyone else knowing about this, because I'm not sure there's anyone else I trust," I confided in him. "I took a big gamble with you; I wasn't sure if you were going to run away screaming or just ditch me and pretend I never existed in the first place. I know we could use another psychic to convince people... but I'm not sure I want anymore psychics probing at my brain."

He gave a small nod. "Alright then. I can think of something else – there's no way I'm just going to sit around and do nothing now that I know all of this."

I shook my head. "I don't know why you're doing this."

"Because I'm your friend," he answered instantly. "More than that; I told you I'd make sure you don't die."

I felt touched and apprehensive all at once. "Thanks. But... can we not forget the whole thing before? It's kinda making everything a little awkward between us, isn't it?"

"Awkward?" he threw me a grin. "I don't know what you mean."

"You know damn well what I mean Adryan," I growled. "And pretending it didn't happen isn't making it any easier for me to cope with. I don't remember doing it. Don't you think that scares me just a little? I managed to pull a gun on my best friend without even thinking about it!"

"It scared me too," he admitted as he hung his head. "There's a part of me even now that wants me to run away from you and live on the other end of the country. But... I can't do that. Not knowing what you've been and you are going through."

"That still doesn't excuse what I did," I mumbled.

"Maybe not, but I like to think that you'd still stick with me if I pulled some shit like that on you," he told me. "But you trust me enough to confide your big-ass secret in me – I think I can still trust you, even if you did almost kill me without thinking about it."

His logic and reasoning was flawed; I couldn't help but think that. I was convinced that there had to be some other reason behind it – I certainly wouldn't have trusted anyone that had pulled a gun on me in blind rage.

I said nothing more on it as we got inside the gym and I registered my arrival. I was awed with the fact that the entire reception room was nothing more than a large chamber that managed to hold the same eerie feel as the tower in the middle of the desert.

I barely managed to suppress a shudder as I thought back to the incident. Thankfully Adryan seemed to miss it as he continued to talk about aimless nothings; something to do with his own gym battle in Sandstream.

A trainer came along quickly enough afterwards to lead me towards the battlefield. It was a strange situation to be in again; having Adryan watching me in a gym battle. It had started my gym career, but I had become used to battling without a personal audience.

I tried to put the thought out of my mind as I saw him sit in the stands to the side. I saw that unlike the town outside, the gym's battlefield was a soft dirt floor, dark brown in colour and filling the room with the smell of freshly turned earth.

Waiting in the middle of the battlefield was the gym leader - a strange man clad in a dark red cloth robe and hat that covered up almost all of his body. There were black lined patterns across the cloth, as well as two large eyes of sorts on the hat – the robe even seemed to spread out into a tail behind him.

He eagle-spread his arms and smiled at me. "Welcome outsider, to the Temple of The Groudon."

I blinked, wondering just how serious he was before I decided to ask my questions and receive an answer.

"You're not really a Groudon Cultist, are you?" I inched closer to him and saw that the markings across his clothes continued in paint across his face. "The thing's a myth, isn't it?"

The man smiled. "Au contraire. The Groudon appeared precisely four years, three months and two weeks ago. He battled the might of The Kyogre and was locked in a stalemate until The Rayquaza itself appeared to calm them."

I waited for the punch line. A whole minute passed before I realised that in fact, it wasn't a joke. "You're serious, aren't you?" I whispered.

He smiled. "Believe not in the worship of The Groudon, if you care not to. But know that He did appear and He does exist. One day He shall raise the land above the sea and leave all those who are unworthy behind."

I just smiled and nodded. Obviously the Hoenn government would employ anyone as a gym leader, regardless of their religious beliefs, gender, or whatever. I found it strange that a temple could exist to worship a pokémon near a town which seemed perfectly normal by any other standards. Not once had they ever mentioned a Groudon within Sandstream and so I decided that either they worshipped the pokémon in secret, or didn't believe and so left the temple out of their city's bounds. Or maybe they even pretended to worship it, just to bring in tourists, worshipers and money.

It wasn't my business to pry. Regardless, it was nice to meet a religious priest figure who didn't seem to shove their religion down my throat, contrary to the popular opinion. Every time I'd switched on the television I'd seen reports about people fighting over their religions; whether or not a pokémon or human god was to be revered for creating everything. I figured if they took a stance like the Gym Leader, they'd have fewer followers but a lot less controversy and public fights.

The leader placed a hand before his face, three fingers curled around his thumb and his little finger outstretched as he bowed. "Groudon's blessings upon you, challenger. I am Brother Benarn, leader of the Sandstream Town's pokémon gym and Revered Chanter of the Order of Groudon."

My introduction was far less fancy. I daren't try to make up a title, for fear of offending the poor man and simply told him my name.

He seemed to appreciate that. He laughed. "You would not believe how often people try to add false titles to their names," he told me. "People should not claim to be something they are not. We are all the way we are made; we should not attempt to be much else. We are like the earth itself; composed of many elements, our layers changing with time and our purpose decided only by those with power greater than our own."

We have no free will, only a course that's already set out for us. It was the basis of what he said; something which I felt myself disagree with. I had to hope that there was some semblance of free will in the world – that I could manage to escape the stupid task the celebi has set me. The Brother's alternative was that no matter what happened, I wouldn't be able to escape.

"Make way to your podium, challenger," the leader bid me. "I shall take my place upon my own and begin our battle when you are ready."

I nodded and quickly left his presence; aiming for my podium. It was nothing against the man – he seemed perfectly nice enough – but I just didn't like the fact he thought everything was predestined. To me, it seemed a depressing outlook on life and a way to escape blame for everything.

Once up on his podium and after they had risen and locked in place, the leader folded his hands on each other, hiding them within his robe. "Challenger!" he boomed across the battlefield. "You challenge me today for Sandstream Town's Terra Badge! I am to use three pokémon, you may use up to all six pokémon on your person! We battle under the guidelines illustrated by the Pokémon League Authority! Best of luck to you challenger and may The Groudon guide your hand in battle!"

He flicked a hand out of his robe and with it, tossed a poké ball onto the battlefield below. It snapped open and poured out the form of a metre-and-a-bit high porcupine-like creature covered in tiny grey scales. The quills on its back were dark and brown, clustered close enough to look like large armoured plates. It had large claws on its forepaws – almost the size of the paws themselves – and smaller claws protruding from its hind-paws.

It reared back and hissed a strange sound, ears placed flat against its skull as it snorted through the dripping snout on its face.

I made a quick choice to let Erra face the sandslash first. What caught my surprise was that before Erra had even attempted to avoid the pokémon, the sandslash actually placed a clawed paw in front of its face and bowed, just like the leader had.

The pokémon actually had been trained to pray. It was a strange, curious sight that both enthralled me with its obedience as well as stunning me beyond compare. The thought of making a pokémon bow made all sorts of questions pop up in my brain along the lines of pokémon and whether or not they were actually religious. It could have been that it had been trained to show such respect, or it could have actually believed the religion itself.

I pushed the thoughts as far aside as I could as I went through the same-old routine with Erra of trying to convince her she was, in fact, strong enough to fight.

"C'mon," I said as I tried to pry her from my shoulder. I'd already been warned that if she continued this behaviour, she would be disqualified. I didn't want to risk losing a pokémon before the battle had even begun. "Think about it Erra; you can fly. This thing's locked to the ground. You've beaten sandslash in the desert – this is no different."

She buzzed once, weakly, protesting. "I believe in you," I told her, regardless of how big a lie it was at the time. "I wouldn't have stood up to the charmeleon if I didn't?" I pointed out with a grin. She seemed to be half-convinced by the fact and decided to approach the battlefield again, flying in with steady caution.

Perhaps she would have been a better battler sooner if I did actually have some faith in her abilities.

"You can do this Erra," I said as she flitted around the battlefield, forever keeping a healthy distance between her and the sandslash. "Now screech at it!" I barked as I stuck my fingers in my ears.

I saw the gym leader's mouth move but heard nothing under the horrible sound that came from Erra's wings. The sandslash curled up into a ball and remained perfectly stationary, its ears tucked underneath a portion of its scaly body. I pulled a face and told Erra to stop screeching before I took my fingers from my ears.

The sandlash suddenly uncurled itself and took a running leap at Erra, jumping far higher than I would have thought possible for such a creature. The magnemite buzzed a sharp tune in panic and shot the sandslash with a blast of electricity, to no avail as it raked its razor sharp claws across her flank, just below her wings.

She dropped to the floor in a sideways spiral, wings too beaten on one side to move. I cursed and had her make the screeching sound again. The sandslash wailed as it touched down on the floor, paws clamping over its ears before it curled into a ball again. Erra buzzed and zapped it again, with no effect again.

"It's grounded!" I told her. "Electricity's not going to do much. Wait for your chance and blind it instead!"

Benarn smiled across from me. "Dig into the earth itself!"

The sandslash hissed and dove at the soft floor with its claws, easily tearing it apart and creating a deep hole large enough to fit it inside. I cursed and told Erra to try and take flight again. Her wings beat against each other pitifully as a small trickle of blood painted her side.

She remained on the ground, unable to fly. The sandslash burst out of the ground and only in fright did she manage to stun it with a bright flash of light. I felt spots dance in my own vision as I heard the sandslash's wails and told Erra to climb atop the pokémon.

The leader barked for his pokémon to curl into a ball once more. There was a small sound like wings beating from a far distance, barely audible over the sandslash's whimpers. I barked at Erra to screech once more and when that failed, I told her to bite onto the softest part of the sandslash she could find.

Instantly the creature uncurled itself as it leapt into the air, screeching wildly and with somewhat of a lisp. Hanging from the end of its tongue was Erra, who in her fright and attempts to hold on was continually shocking the creature.

Sandslash were grounded pokémon, but I knew that like any other creature, their insides were as wet as any other's – their nervous systems controlled by electrical impulses. After enough shocks its body seemed unable to process anything further and it collapsed to the floor, twitching erratically as its body fought to maintain normal functions.

"You can let go of it now," I told Erra. She did so immediately and scurried away from the pokémon, clicking happily as it vanished in a beam of red light. I praised her before I recalled her too; knowing she wouldn't be able to suffer another battle with the injuries she had. I tossed out Lacey's poké ball and watched her stand in the middle of the battlefield with a smug expression, her arms folded across her chest.

They dropped to her sides when her opponent appeared before her – a large pig-like creature, covered in shaggy brown fur with only a pink snout and two large tusks protruding. I saw the way it's breath clouded whenever it exhaled and assumed it had to be a cold pokémon.

Lacey's expression sold my theory. My brain was dead at the thought of the creature; I had no idea what it was or what could be done against it. Yet again I found myself battling blindly. The last time it had happened was against Veronqiue's lairon, which hadn't exactly ended too well.

"Keep your distance!" I commanded my nuzleaf. "Think you can set a trap?"

She flicked the leaves on her wrists and shook her head instantly afterwards. I cursed. No leech seeds then. The pokémon reared back and I saw ice form over its tusks just before I shrieked at Lacey to move. She leapt out of the way as a pinpoint beam of ice froze over the ground she just occupied, burying the ground under a good few inches of cold.

Lacey snarled and vanished from view with a small breeze. Her opponent snorted wildly and blew a small misty breath around itself, attempting to shroud itself from view. The action made me smirk; I could still see the pokémon perfectly and I was certain the gym leader didn't know that.

I saw Lacey appear behind the creature and slice its back, spilling blood and fur in one. The pokémon whined and kicked out with its hind legs, catching Lacey in the stomach and knocking her back a step.

I thought briefly that we would have to work on her attack; every time she had tried that attack she had been kicked by the pokémon she was slicing. Winded, she dropped to the floor as her opponent spun on its heel and attempted to charge her. The icy creature blew a freezing beam in front of it as it charged, creating small ice structures that it shattered as it ran into them, sending shards of razor-sharp ice flying everywhere.

Lacey hissed as they cut into her and only just managed to avoid becoming a frozen sculpture herself. She jumped to the side and grabbed a hold of one of the pokémon's tusks. Instead of stopping it though, she was pulled along with the creature and howled as she was taken for an impromptu ride.

Her unwilling carrier roared and bucked to try and shake her grip. Instead Lacey grabbed a handful of the pokémon's fur and used it as a handhold to try and mount the creature. It roared once more and threw small icy beams in every direction as Lacey pulled at fur and sliced indiscriminately over its body. Once atop the creature, she leant forwards and grabbed both its tusks, pulling upwards with as much strength as she could muster.

The pokémon screamed and blew ice over its tusks, coating Lacey's hands in a harsh covering of frost. The nuzleaf shrieked but held her ground, guiding her steed as best she could.

She barked a laugh as the creature beneath her whined and dropped to the floor, refusing to move anymore. Instead she let go of its tusks and jabbed it in the side with her fingers, pouring poison into its open wounds. Her steed roared again and successfully bucked her off, dropping her on the floor ungracefully as it reared up and smashed the ground, knocking her to the floor again as she tried to stand.

Again the pokémon breathed out a foggy mist, attempting to shroud itself once more. I smirked at the way it sagged beneath its supposed cover and knew it was reaching its limit.

"Slice it once more!" I commanded Lacey. "Aim left!"

She nodded and leapt into the mist, slicing in wide, precise arcs. Deadly sharp leaves raked across the pokémon's face, raining blood down upon Lacey. She laughed as the liquid splashed on her and brutally kicked the grounded pokémon in the face, spilling more blood and a few teeth.

She seemed almost disappointed when her opponent vanished from the field, leaving her alone and showered in blood. It quickly faded though, once she looked up to the leader and tauntingly began to lick the blood from her leaves.

"Stop that!" I barked at her, angry and mortified at her behaviour. "Keep showing off and I'll make sure you don't battle!"

She sent me a sharp glare though dropped her arm instantly, throwing one more look at the gym leader before she walked back to the middle of the arena.

I heard Benarn whisper something about her being unable to partake in The Groudon's glory before he unleashed his final pokémon in the field. It was – to both mine and Lacey's surprise – a swampert. Covered in slimy blue skin and with large black fins, it seemed to be something that belonged more in the deep sea - save for its arms which seemed to be as thick as a young tree's trunk. The swampert roared and struck the ground with enough force to make my podium shake, as well as knocking Lacey completely off her feet.

"Keep your distance!" I told her, even if it was deathly obvious. The creature's arms were strong enough to shatter rocks with small attacks – Lacey's comparatively squishy body wouldn't be much more than paste after taking even one punch.

The pokémon bellowed and shot a pulse of water straight at Lacey. Her eyes widened just as she leapt to the side, the water digging a trench through the floor. She hissed at the pokémon as it roared again, bringing its heavy fists down upon the ground. The nuzleaf smirked as she managed to keep her balance, just before the floor beneath her collapsed.

She shrieked as she fell a few feet into the ground, landing painfully and becoming effectively trapped and at the creature's mercy. I cursed at the perfect forward planning of it all; the sandslash had made the floor weaker by digging tunnels through it, all it needed was a few heavy blows to make the floor crumble and shatter.

The swampert bellowed once more as it begun to fill up the trench with water; soaking the nuzleaf inside and threatening to drown her within. She gasped for breath as she continually bobbed under the water's surface before I recalled her into the safety of her ball, glaring daggers at the swampert all the while.

I called out Xander instead, confident in the fact that at least he could swim if he got trapped in the muddy pool.

The swampert took one look at its new opponent and unleashed a furious blast of water that tore up more of the floor. Xander warbled and bounced out of the way, pushing himself closer to the powerful pokémon.

I pulled a face as I tried to think of a plan. "Blast it in the face!" I yelled at him. He needed to get its attention and that was the best ticket to do so. "Then use the floor to trap it!"

He croaked a quick reply before he spat water in the swampert's face. It roared and chased after him, swinging its powerful fists after him. I knew he wouldn't be able to fight the pokémon well with it being mobile, but the swampert had effectively created a hazard in the middle of the arena – one I was keen to exploit.

Xander warbled as the swampert struck the floor close behind him and he lost his balance, sprawling over the floor. He only just managed to get his footing and leap over the large muddy pool in the field before the swampert came charging along and fell straight into it, roaring in surprise as water splashed up and rained down across the whole arena.

I laughed at the pokémon's look of confusion as the soft, wet mud sucked its legs down and trapped the pokémon within. Water continued to pour out of the hole like an overfilled bath as it struggled, effectively pushing itself further and further in the mud.

Benarn folded his arms in his robe once more and turned his head towards his pokémon. "Use the gift of earth given to us by The Groudon."

I was understandably confused, as was Xander. The swampert, however, seemed to understand completely and gave up struggling, instead deciding to grab handfuls of mud and hurl them at Xander like natural-born bombs. He shrieked as once knocked him in the face with enough force to make him roll backwards and pulled himself up in time to start bouncing away from the projectiles.

"Cloak yourself!" I commanded him.

He warbled as more projectiles soared at him and tried to find a lull in the assault. As soon as one came he breathed out a small, thick mist and continued to do so even as he bounced around, surrounding the trapped swampert with a cloak of fog.

I had to smile at the creature's shocked expression. I could imagine myself in its place; trapped within a small area, nothing but an ever prevalent fog with the occasional shadow driving you crazy.

I could see Xander perfectly in the fog, bouncing around and shooting blasts of water at the trapped swampert. Eventually Benarn seemed to guess Xander's location from where I was looking and had his swampert begin to attack with yet more mud bombs and its own water blasts.

The swampert took a deep breath and unleashed another pulse of floor-destroying water blasts. Xander croaked and leapt over it, retaliating with his own attack, hitting the creature square in an eye. The swampert roared and lashed out blinding as Xander landed, spun around on the spot and kicked soft mud into the swampert's face, blinding it further.

The swampert roared again and smashed a fist into the floor, shaking it and making Xander cry out in protest. The sound alerted the swampert to his presence and it lashed out with another mighty blow. It caught Xander in the side and there was a horrible, wet snapping sound followed by Xander letting out a loud scream that made my spine go cold with fear. He pulled himself feebly to his feet, one limb held weakly off the floor and all his weight on the other. He hissed at the swampert and shot it in the back of the head with another watery blast before he attacked the floor beneath it, soaking it further.

The swampert growled at him and tried to turn around to attack him. Instead it pressed too hard on the wet, unstable ground beneath it and sunk completely below sight, trapped in a watery pitfall beneath the ground.

I watched Xander try and limp feebly around and felt pure anger at the creature that dared to harm one of my pokémon so. "Freeze it," I told him, deathly serious. "Freeze the water and trap it."

He croaked once, trying to disagree with me. Benarn, however, didn't know this and so quickly recalled his pokémon before he bowed his head towards us both.

"My pokémon was trapped," he explained. "It would take far too long for her to work her way out of the mud, during which time you could have easily froze her in place. You win this battle challenger; Groudon has given you His blessings."

I nodded once, still mad at the swampert's actions. I knew that I could heal Xander later though and so a goofy smile grew on my face at the realisation that I'd finally managed to win another gym battle. Xander croaked once and I thanked him before I called him back into his poké ball, intent on getting him to the pokémon centre as soon as possible.

The leader met me near my podium before he bowed to me once again. "Well done challenger. Follow me and I shall grant you with the Terra Badge."

I nodded and followed him in silence until Adryan managed to catch up to us in the corridors. He grinned and slapped me on the back, smiling and chatting animatedly about my battle all the while.

"Nice scare tactics by the way," he said with a wink. "Risky business, but it can pay off sometimes. Scare the opponent into thinking that you can do something you might not be able to."

I smiled and nodded along with him. I decided that maybe it was best to let him think that I was only trying to scare the gym leader. In truth, if Xander could have frozen the swampert, I would have made sure he did. It was only because the lombre refused and I couldn't exactly do away with it in full view of everyone that I didn't do anything else.

We were led into an office just like many of the others in all the other gyms I had visited, though this one was decorated with ancient looking scrolls and texts all hanging from the wall. In the corner there was even a stone carving of The Groudon, beneath which were a number of candles held up on golden candlesticks.

Benarn smiled at me, his mouth the only thing visible on his face. Honestly, if I hadn't had Adryan there with me, I would have been incredibly more creeped-out than I was and would have no doubt ran away screaming from the man.

Instead I managed a small, little smile of my own and handed over my pokédex and trainer card. I wanted to be out of there as soon as possible, in order to heal Xander and get away from the man.

Benarn nodded once, placed my pokédex and my trainer card into the computer and pressed a few commands. "I wished to ask you, brother," he said without taking his face away from the screen. "You seem to have vast knowledge and affinity to ice. Are you by chance a descendant of a Child of Regice or Articuno?"

I blinked and stood there, struck dumb for a moment. Adryan took a look at me and smirked as he nudged me in the side and leant down to my level.

"Most of the pokémon-worshippers believe we're all descended from a mythological pokémon," he whispered in my ear. "If we're from KanJo, you'd be descended from The Articuno. Hoenn or Sinnoh; The Regice."

I lifted an eyebrow as I turned slightly to whisper back, "What if I was from another country? Or adapted to pokémon of darkness in KanJo – they have no mythological pokémon like those, right?"

He shrugged. "I don't know everything you know? Just answer the man," he said in an even lower whisper. "He creeps me out."

I snorted a barely contained laugh. "Me too," I answered, conspiringly. "I think I'm from a Child of Regice," I answered the gym leader. "I'm not totally sure – I've got no family to double-check that fact, but I was born in Hoenn."

Benarn nodded. "I thought as much," he confided. "You seem to be able to see through thick icy mists and are able to understand the Regice's pokémon children like only a true Child could. Whilst battling my piloswine you seemed to understand the creature's weaknesses and injuries better than most would."

I smiled just slightly. "So what does a ground-ada... I mean, a Child of Groudon experience?" I asked, hoping I covered my slip well enough. If he was to refer to ice-adaptions as being a child of an icy mythological pokémon, I had a feeling I should refer to him as one of The Groudon.

He turned and gave me a small smile before looking back to the computer screen. "You acknowledge me with the proper respects. That is most pleasing to see in today's younger generation. We Children of Groudon are blessed with the ability to feel tremors in the ground like an ariados' web. We can feel the vibrations and evaluate them to determine what is happening, even when our sight fails us. We also do not suffer electrical shocks as much as the Undescended Children. However, The Groudon tests us by making us attached to the earth – we cannot be separated from it without becoming ill. Whether by sea travel or air, without the land beneath our feet, we become sick."

Bad sea sickness and vertigo, Adryan translated for me.

"We are better workers of the land," Benarn continued to explain. "Most Children of Groudon are farmers in locations even a Child of Shaymin or Celebi cannot grow crops." The computer beeped and he withdrew my identification from it, handing them both back to me. "There are many advantages and disadvantages to being a Child of a Chosen. Each tests us in different ways in order to bring out our true character. Be true to the nature of The Regice, child, and He shall guide you to prosperity."

The thought of having a powerful pokémon like Regice was enough to make me slightly giddy. But I knew that realistically, there was little chance of such a thing ever happening. I figured that Benarn's religion only started when people first discovered they were becoming attuned to their pokémon and decided that the mythological pokémon had to be helping them.

Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn't. But I didn't want to waste my time on wondering about questions of religion and science. Instead I thanked the man once more and left the gym, intent on getting my pokémon's injuries healed.

Although my mind was constantly abuzz with the question of how I could honestly become more true to my icy adaptation.

Once I had managed to get my pokémon checked into the pokémon centre, I found myself with some time to waste before Mia turned up. Adryan suggested that I let the charmeleon out for a little bit, regardless of the fact he hated humans.

I didn't want to go around holding onto a fire breathing lizard, attempting to keep it from attacking people, so instead we went back outside the town again to let him stretch his legs. His leg seemed fine enough – he could walk on it perfectly and didn't seem to limp, though I knew it would still be a good fortnight before he would be able to do much without ripping it open.

By my leg, Loki let out a small growl at the shifting sands, convinced there was something hiding within. I laughed and picked him up, holding him on my shoulder for a little while until he decided to sit with his legs on either side of my head, much like a little child.

"You really should get around to naming that charmeleon of yours," Adryan pointed out to me. He shot me a smile as he let his flygon out to fly around the sky and watched her a little while before focusing on me again. "Have you never noticed that pokémon respond better when you've got a name to call them by? Saying 'you do this' and 'you do that' isn't exactly personal, is it?"

I thought about what he meant. It was true that I seemed to get more out of Erra since I had a name to go with her – when she was just known to me as a magnemite she seemed reluctant to do anything but sit on my shoulder.

I shrugged and made Loki laugh with the movement. "I can't think of one for him though. I don't want something that's too obvious and clichéd – how many fiery pokémon are there out there called 'Blaze' or 'Flame' or something like that?"

He laughed. "Well, you've got to pick a name that you like, and one that he does too. Calling him 'Lizard' isn't going to do much towards you being able to control him."

I nodded and jogged to catch up to the charmeleon, who was sat far away from us both again, flexing its legs as if testing its bandages. Once he saw me approaching he snarled again, which made Loki dig his claws into my head and hiss back at him.

I held my hands up to silence them both, if only to give my head fewer puncture wounds. "You need a name," I told the charmeleon. "Everyone else has one and I can't leave you out, can I?" I forced myself to smile at the creature -forgetting I had a mask covering my face - even as he continued to growl at me. "So do you have one already?"

He pulled his lip back in a sneer, fire dancing between his teeth. Loki once more hissed at the lizard and I was forced to quiet them again.

"That's a 'no' then," I decided, slightly disappointed. It meant that I'd have to think of one on my own. I wanted something that matched him, though all I knew about him was that he was angry, human-hating and able to control fire. That left me with stupid ideas based on fire and anger.

"He has scars on his stomach," Adryan pointed out. "And he'll have one from the surgery. You could do something with that?"

I shook my head. I couldn't name him after a physical attribute. I knew many people did so, but it only really left me with the one name I'd thrown away for being far too unimaginative and cliché.

Adryan grinned. "I've got it," he said with a snap of his fingers. "With those marks, it's perfect for him, don't you think?"

I followed his line of sight and saw the bright, scarred flesh of the charmeleon's stomach and knew instantly what he was going to suggest. "I don't think-"

"How about Scar?" he suggested, grinning all the while.

I shook my head, giving Loki a small ride and making him laugh as I did so. "I'm not calling my charmeleon 'Scar'. It's something an eight year old would come up with! I can't take myself or him seriously if it just becomes a case of 'Scar, come here. Scar do this. Scar do that.' Do you really think I'm unimaginative enough to call a pokémon with permanent wounds 'Scar'?"

Behind me I heard the charmeleon growl appraisal.

My gut sunk as I turned round and faced the creature, mortified and slightly betrayed. "You cannot like that name."

The pokémon dragged a claw along the knife-scar along his stomach, tapped it once and gave me a large smile.

I felt betrayed.

"I think that settles it then!" Adryan declared with a clap of his hands.

And thus I ended up with a charmeleon named Scar.

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