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.


18. Progress

Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his actions ~ Alfred A Montapert



"Ever hear that 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction'? Well it's testament in the laws of nature. That what everyone calls Karma is quite simply the statement showing us all that it does exist. No matter what you do, it's always going to have some sort of impact on everyone and everything else. You can carry on pretending as much as you like that it never happened, and maybe one day, you just might believe that. But somewhere along the way, your actions are going to pop up again, and you're going to have to deal with what you did. Maybe you'll go crazy worrying about it. Maybe people will hate you. You might even somehow manage to start war.

The point is, no matter what you do, it always comes back to bite you in the ass."

- Professor Edward Birch, 46th Hoenn League Runner Up, Pokemon Habitats PHD, Pokemon Biology and Ecology Msc. (September 17th, 3012)


I don't think I'd ever been as happy to see a sunny sky as I was the day I got out of the Petalburg woods. My mind was completely frayed by the events in the forest, and I wasn't sure what day it was, let alone what time it was.

The nuzleaf beside me muttered a few syllables as we exited the woods. I smiled at her and recalled her back into her poké ball, if only to be on the safe side. I knew her species could receive an increase of speed in bright sunlight, and didn't want to risk her being able to attack me before I could do anything about it.

Thankfully she'd led me to the exit near Petalburg City. Even still, I had to walk for another day until I would reach it's limits. I wanted nothing more than a bed for the night and somewhere safe to stay for once.

Unfortunately, Petalburg was still shut because of the virus outbreak. It meant I wouldn't be able to stop there before I went to Dewford, and I wouldn't be able to collect the badge from Petalburg for a good while.

Thankfully, along the way there was a small village that I came across. It was built along the coast and was clearly a tourist resort, given the amount of seaside attractions they had. Regardless, they were prepared for trainers, and it didn't take me long to find the pokémon centre within. I checked my pokémon in with the nurse, and found out that Loki and Xander both only needed seeing to for a few hours, whereas the nuzleaf would most likely need to be in there for a larger portion of the day.

I explained to the nurse that I'd only just captured her, and she was part-way through evolving into a shiftry. The woman nodded and made a note of such a thing, and I was impressed that my record was flagged still with a small mention of Loki's blood thirst. I reassured her that it was better now, but she explained they would continue to exercise caution until he was completely over it.

I thanked her and booked a room for the night, and was amazed to find out it was only oh-six hundred in the morning. It explained why everywhere seemed so dead – everyone was most likely still asleep, or already left to carry on to their next destination.

I didn't care. I needed some sleep. I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept within the forest, and realised it had to be some time before I'd encountered the sceptile. I frowned. I couldn't remember how long it had actually been since such an event had happened.

I found my room quickly and realised it had the same Spartan decor as the one me and Ayd had shared in Rustboro, though this one was a slight bit smaller. I tossed my bag and boots in a random direction of the room and hid my weapons under the spare bed, silently thankfully the nurse hadn't noticed them on my person. I was sure it wasn't illegal to carry around a knife for protection, but I had a feeling an unregistered gun would be another story.

I didn't pay it much mind as I climbed into the shower as quickly as I could, rejoicing in the feeling of scalding hot water on my skin. The bottom of the shower quickly turned a thick, nearly black colour, and I blinked at it, wondering just how dirty I really was. All over I could feel my muscles stretching under the feel of the water, and the many cuts and bruises that covered my body sending brief flares of pain as the water hit them. When I finally finished in the shower I stepped straight out, still dripping wet, and decided to get a better view of my wounds.

They weren't pretty.

The mirror showed me that I had a big yellow bruise the length of my arm where the scizor had hit me. Multiple scratches covered my chest from where Loki had attacked me, as well as from falling over a few times. A few smaller bruises dotted my chest, and I had a small number of cuts on my cheeks and my forehead. I wondered how and when I'd got them as I scratched a pathetic amount of stubble.

My back didn't look any better. As far as I could get to see it, it too was covered in numerous small nicks and bruises. I didn't know how many of them would end up as scars, nor did I want to think about it.

I also noted with some pride I had another hair or two on my chest. Not counting the snail trail, I had a grand total of eight.

I felt so manly.

I squinted at myself a moment longer, evaluating to see if anything needed dressing or covering over. As far as I could see, nothing looked like it did. It was good enough for me. I stumbled back into the main room, not bothering to dry myself or get dressed before I collapsed into the bed and somehow fell asleep instantly.

By the time I woke up later in the day, there was already a faint pink tinge to the sky. I squinted at it from the comfort of my bed and realised that I'd probably managed to sleep in well into the evening.

I groaned, rolled over and switched on the television all from the comfort of my bed. I was still lying there, half in a daze when I saw it flick onto the news channel and tell me it was hitting nineteen hundred hours.

Thirteen hours sleep. I don't think I ever slept for so long in my life. It took considerable effort to keep my face out of the pillow as I stared at the television screen, trying in vain to focus on it and wake myself up.

When the headlines flashed up about a robbery in Rustboro, I was awake instantly. The news was detailing about the weapon shop that I had robbed, and was explaining what was stolen, as well as having a small snippet of an interview with the grotesque man that owned it. Below the screen was displaying that they were still looking for the robber, and that any information would be welcome. Apparently it had started a string of robberies around the same district, and I felt that somehow, I may have been partially responsible.

Though I only stole from the one store. Everyone else was jumping on a trend. No doubt one of them would be caught and punished for them all, which left me in the clear. Even if they discovered it was me, I could still elude capture. How likely was it that the whole country was to be on the lookout for one robber? Though it wouldn't help if they managed to get a picture of me – that would certainly make getting gym badges an even bigger challenge.

I pushed the thoughts away as I climbed out of bed, got dressed and brushed my teeth. I stared at my reflection and was amazed that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I didn't seem to have massive black lines under my eyes. It was a wonder what a good sleep could do. I yawned and popped my back, and decided I needed coffee.

It didn't take long for me to gather up my dirty clothes and leave them in the centre's laundry collection. It was only a small charge, and apparently would only take a few hours, and they would just drop them off in my room for me when they were done. It made me think about how many travelling trainers actually knew how to wash their clothes in a stream or the like, or whether they carried on with stinking clothes for a while.

At least I had an excuse for mine: I'd been covered in ariados blood and rotting gyarados. I would have been amazed if after the dip into the stream I came out without a stink on me.

Along the way to the canteen, I picked up my pokémon and found that they were all in good health. The nurse told me to keep Xander and the nuzleaf both out of their poké balls when I could, as they would need the room to carry on evolving. Apparently when they were ready to evolve, they would sneak off or remain in their poké balls for a few days until the process was complete.

I thanked her for the information and considered it. It meant that I would be going without one of my pokémon for a good few days when it happened. I ran my fingers over their poké balls and had the strangest feeling that with my luck, they would both go through evolution at once, and leave me with only Loki to defend myself.

I pushed the thought away as I got into the canteen and ordered enough food for myself and all of my pokémon. I decided to treat us all – using the Elite's money – after everything that had happened in the forest. It meant I had to call the nuzleaf from her poké ball, and after giving me the dirtiest look she could muster, she finally relented in helping me carry the trays of food over to a table – if only because I told her if she didn't, she would go without any and I'd pinch her nose. It worked a treat.

I'm sure I practically inhaled my food when we tucked in. I forgot how long it had been since I'd had anything other than protein bars, berries and water, though realised it was the meagre amount of food I'd ate after my gym battle nearly two weeks prior.

My stomach grumbled once again at the thought. I was honestly amazed I hadn't dropped in the forest after everything that happened.

It took a while to get Xander and Loki to understand the nuzleaf wasn't going to hurt us, or anyone else in the centre – even if she did spend the time trying to murder us with her eyes alone. It took a little while longer to explain to Loki that mashed potato wasn't something to play with, though I didn't bother trying to explain table manners to him after that.

It made me realise that the nuzleaf probably ate with the most manners out of all of us. Xander and Loki both sat on the table, happily eating like the animals they were. I was pretty sure I wasn't any better. But she looked at us all in disdain and sat there sipping at a bowl of oran berry soup with her spoon.

I considered her as she ate the food. She had to have had a trainer before, I deduced. I wasn't too sure before, and knew I had no way of getting the information out of her, but the way she ate pretty much proved it to me. That and the way she laughed snidely every time someone was amazed by her mannerisms and praised me for it.

She didn't have much love for me, that much was certain.

I looked at her a moment more, and her menacing yellow eyes rolled up in their sockets to look at me. I held her stare for a moment before I asked, "Have you got a name?"

She looked at me with palpable disdain. A moment later she hissed something and shook her head for my benefit.

Well, at least it answered one thing. And it meant I could communicate with her by simple nods and shakes of the head, if nothing else. Though if she didn't have a name, I knew I needed to give her one. Unfortunately, nothing much could come to mind. I thought about naming her with something to match her personality, though I didn't think she'd appreciate being named 'Rude' or 'Bitch'. Maybe Pinocchio? The thought of it made me grin.

Her eyes flickered to me and I felt a cold shudder pass down my spine. I realised that perhaps being cruel to the creature wasn't advisable until I had her full obedience – given her age, I deduced she wouldn't be as easy to convince as Loki.

I scraped a fork against my empty plate as I thought about what to name her. I knew she had an affinity for poisoning people, and figured I could use that somehow. But it left being able to do it in a subtle way. My first thought was to call her 'Inertia', but somehow I felt like it just didn't fit.

"Lacey!" I exclaimed suddenly, snapping my fingers. She gave me a dirty look, and I felt that I had to explain it to her. "Well, you did try to poison us when you first met us. And you can 'lace' things with poison..."

Her eyes rested on me a moment longer before she gave a tiny nod. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her. Somehow I doubted any human would decide what name they should be given. I said her name, and noted with some sense of pride she turned to face me. Although, when I smiled that she was responding to it, she simply huffed and turned away again.

I couldn't help but wince at her attitude. Somehow, I got the feeling that blackmailing her with a death-threat wasn't the best sort of way to gain her trust. But at least it meant that she wouldn't try to kill me at any time, which was always a bonus.

I flipped open my phone and stared at the time. Honestly, I was amazed it was still working after the abrupt trip into the stream, but it seemed to have been built to last. Then again, I considered that I had bought it in a trainer provision shop, so it would have obviously been built to withstand the normal hazards a trainer encountered.

I wondered whether 'normal hazards' included homicidal Sinnoh Elite Four members and murderous sceptiles.

"C'mon guys," I said as I cleared up our trays. "Drill time."

Both Xander and Loki made instant sounds of protest. I couldn't help but laugh; they reminded me of myself when I first started doing training drills. I grinned at them both and shook my head. "We can't slack off just because we've had a meal. We've gone almost a day without them because of-" I lowered my voice to a whisper, "-that murderous Elite. Besides-" I grinned at Loki and nodded towards Lacey. "If it wasn't for our drills, you probably wouldn't have been able to help me catch her. Or survive against the scizor, for that matter," I added as an afterthought.

They both grumbled in reluctant agreement, and I smiled at the both of them. I found it strange how even across species, the thought of having to do intense drills still exhausted everyone before they even began. I considered that I should become a researcher for a moment, though shook the thought away. I doubted I would ever have the smarts to sit down and study pokémon for the rest of my life.

With the way things worked out, I sometimes consider it was a good thing I never planned for what would happen after the end of that year.

I had to recall all of them whilst I walked through town to find somewhere to let them run drills. Eventually I found a spot on the beach that no one seemed to want to visit, if only because it was filled with stones and pebbles, rather than the golden sands everywhere else. It suited me just fine, and at least Xander could swim around happily in the sea.

Whilst Loki and Xander both set to their drills, I turned round to Lacey. She watched the smaller pokémon with a disdained expression and turned to me as if to ask if I was actually serious.

"You're going to have to do these too," I informed her, crossing my arms. "Laugh all you like, but if it wasn't for these, I wouldn't have been able to catch you." She gave me a sharp look. She was interested by that, but still annoyed with the fact. "I'm not going to lie to you or anyone: you're far stronger than either of those two. But yet, I still got Loki to be able to take you down a few notches, didn't I?" I let myself hold a smug smirk as her face clouded in reluctant agreement. "The point is, I can help you train up to defeat things you were never able to before. You saw before; I'm not above pointing out weaknesses for my pokémon to exploit." I met her gaze, and found that there was some form of intrigue in her eyes. "If you show me what you're capable of, let me set up a few drills to help you improve your abilities, I'll help you be able to take down opponents far stronger than you – ones you would have had no choice but to run away from before."

She looked at me and huffed, though went through a brief display of her abilities. I found quickly that she knew only more basic techniques, and could be quite a dirty fighter, given her preferences to kick low or just vanish and attack in blind spots. She could make the leaves on her wrists become razor sharp, and once or twice she managed to nick me with them – which I'm completely convinced were always planned to be intentional.

She was obviously a physical fighter, which gave me something to start from. I had her doing speed drills like the others, and had her trying to increase her strength in another. I knew her species could develop their blows to be strong enough to shatter shields, and needed to figure out how to train her to learn such abilities. There was also the strategy element to it; I knew that even then, my main strategy was purely offence. Xander still couldn't heal himself in under an hour, and it took Loki a lot of concentration to confuse something, though strangely it came completely naturally to him to annoy something to just continually attack him. I had a grand total of three techniques that weren't offensive, and knew I needed a lot more.

Roxanne proved to me how much I would struggle later on, and how much battles could vary, with only her lileep alone. I resolved to find out more strategies I could use, and then implement them for my pokémon. I knew that she had told me the next gym focused on mainly offensive attacks alone, but I knew there would have been some level of battle style other than that.

I ran my pokémon into the ground that evening, realising that none of us were tired. I needed to reset my body clock, as did they, and the only way I knew how to was to train until we were all ready to drop. All of them looked exhausted, though Lacey looked like she'd never experienced such a work out in her life.

I never could forget her face when I started doing speed drills with her, and completely left her in the dirt. She looked like she wanted to kill me, and like she was angry with herself for letting herself be beaten by a human. It ended up turning into a competition where both of us would try to trip up the other or put them off as much as possible. As strange as it was, it was fun. Even more so when Loki joined in, and then Xander began to try and blast us from the sidelines.

It was about another hour before we eventually gave in, and we collapsed onto the stony floor, laughing all the while. Lacey looked at us all as if we were mad, though I know I saw amusement in her eyes. Just by that alone, I knew I would be able to win her over.


I called them all back and made way back to the pokémon centre, managing to book myself on the ferry leaving the day after. Apparently it would be a two day trip, and then it would arrive in Dewford. Supposedly the trip from there to Slateport would be a week. I cursed at the thought, it was yet more time I'd have to give up. It meant I could use those days solely for training my pokémon, yet at the same time, it also meant I wouldn't be getting any closer to furthering my gym challenge.

It also cost near two-hundred poké. I stuttered when I was told that, though relented when I was told it covered the fees for my room, my food on board and the ticket itself. In addition to that, it also booked me a room on any boat headed to Slateport within the next week. It wasn't like I could eat money in the field. Though it meant that I was down to fifty poké left in my wallet, and cursed the fact. I was going to throttle Ayd when I next saw him.

I think I was the first person awake in the whole centre the next morning. My boat wasn't to leave until oh-eight hundred, and I had gotten up a little past oh-five hundred. I was awake that early that Loki was still asleep next to me, and Lacey was still asleep on the bed opposite.

The shower was already running in the bathroom, and I found that Xander hadn't moved from his spot at the bottom of it. I'd left it on for him the night before, knowing it would probably be a while before he would get to be in water again. I also figured it could simulate rainfall, and knew his species could get healthier in the rain.

Though he was that asleep, he didn't seem to bat an eyelid when I walked into the room. It meant I had to take a shower around him, which was, in no uncertain terms, extremely awkward.

Afterwards I saw down for a bit and tried to make a list of everything I knew was to happen. I could remember all the main events, like Sinnoh being wiped out by a volcano, but it was too far ahead. There wasn't much I could remember for the specific year that would happen. It gave me a headache to think so much, but I needed to get something. It was worse still that I didn't know where whatever I needed to change would occur, so I couldn't even focus on bit specific area. The best thing I could think of was that Pacifidlog would flood about eight months from then because the corsola colony they were built upon would migrate due to over-population.

I tapped my pen against the paper pad and shook my head. It didn't make sense that such an event would lead to the world's doom. Places flooded all the time, it didn't mean global war would occur because of it. If it turned out to be some sort of massive genocide, starting there, I could understand. But it was far too small, in my opinion, to cause any damage.

It took a good hour for me to think of only three more events from my history. Johto and Kanto would have a quarrel over wanting to have larger borders and the different pokémon they wanted to introduce to each region. Some small town in Sinnoh would suffer a virus outbreak similar to the ones occurring around me in Hoenn, though everyone would be evacuated quickly. Cinnabar Island in Kanto would suffer from the plates beneath it shifting, which would cause another volcano eruption large enough to wipe it and several close islands off the map.

None of it seemed large enough to cause global war. I hissed and shoved the paper pad back into my bag, and instead pulled out my pokédex and the guide I got from Jennifer and began flicking through them. I needed to know some more techniques my pokémon could use, and found that there was in fact, a great wealth of them. It even included details next to them of how long each pokémon would, on average, take to learn it.

I made a few small notes beside each of them in the guide, and highlighted the ones that sounded like they would be best for each of my pokémon. I liked the sound of Xander being able to hide himself in a thick mist, and apparently he would actually learn it naturally, given enough experience. One in particular shone out for Lacey, and I found myself wondering just how to teach her it. The main problem I found with the so called 'help' on teaching abilities the guides provided was just that they said each pokémon learnt techniques differently. Supposedly a torchic would learn how to breathe fire differently from a cyndaquil and so on.

All in all, it was a lot more work for me. But it made me think of Ayd's comment to me that everyone's pokémon performed differently, regardless of species. I realised that was probably down to how everyone brought them up and trained them, and decided it was probably better for everyone to have their own, unique pokémon, rather than a generic, overused creature with the exact same attacks.

I decided to talk to her about it later. It was a strange concept for me; being able to talk to my pokémon. I was used to the rather more infantile duo of Xander and Loki, who I was lucky with if they managed to understand even the gist of what I was saying. Lacey on the other hand seemed to understand everything, and while I couldn't actually get a conversation out of her, it was still nice to have some sort of interaction, knowing that the other person – or pokémon, in that case – could understand me.

I ended up waking them all up and explaining everything that was happening before taking them downstairs for a quick, Spartan breakfast. They didn't seem to complain much about it, and I could see that Lacey was beginning to appreciate having food given to her, rather than most likely foraging it like she used to have to do. Afterwards I called them all back to their balls and made way to the boat, with well over an hour to spare before it would be departing. My room was just a bit larger than a cupboard, and had barely any room to move around in aside from the twin beds either side of the room. A small bedside table separated them both, and the bathroom had no shower, only a bath, a tiny sink and a toilet.

I couldn't complain. It was better than sleeping rough on the ground, worrying about insects and all other sorts of things eating me in my sleep. Thinking about that made me realise I had to explain the concept of taking watch to Lacey, and winced at the thought of it. While I knew she wasn't going to kill me anytime soon, for fear of dying herself, I wouldn't have put it past her to murder Loki and Xander while they slept, and leave me mangled or suffering.

Regardless, I let them all out again, and quickly made the room feel extremely cramped. I made it clear to them – particularly Loki and Lacey – that they weren't to cause any trouble, otherwise I'd tie them to the back of the ship and let them swim behind it in the carvanha-infested waters. It got my point across.

I filled the bath up with cold water and let Xander have a swim round in it, even as Loki decided it was all a fun game and began trying to splash around in the water. Xander didn't seem to find it as fun as him, and sprayed him with a load of bubbles that all popped in his face. The sableye shrieked and leapt backwards, deciding instead to throw toilet water at him from a safe distance.

I winced. I wasn't going anywhere near Loki until he'd been cleaned.

Instead I turned away and left them, and decided to sit on the unoccupied bed in the room. Lacey was sat on the other, seemingly thinking as she watched out of the porthole on the wall. I figured it was either her making a show of ignoring me, or simply fascination at seeing the world from the inside of a ship. Or possibly both.

I coughed her name and waited for her to show me some attention. When she did, I shuffled a bit closer. "I found a technique I thought you'd like me to help you start to learn." She looked at me, and her eyes narrowed instantly. She didn't exactly hide the fact she didn't like me, and didn't hide her doubt I'd found something she'd want to learn. So instead she sneered and turned back to face outside the window once more.

I shrugged dramatically. "Alright, fine. If you don't want to learn how to poison things without plants, I won't help you."

I turned away and fought the urge to grin as I saw her head slowly crane back towards me. While she might not have liked me, she still seemed to respect the fact that I could help her. And if nothing else, I could manipulate that to make her stronger, and maybe make her have enough respect for me to obey her.

She grunted at me when I made no show of turning back to look at her, and did so once more to gain my attention. I moved back round to face her, and saw that she was sat on the bed, cross legged, as if she were a student about to learn. The thought of it made me chuckle nervously. I didn't exactly know how to teach her it, after all.

"It's a special technique called toxic," I told her, pulling on what I'd learnt. "You transfer deadly poisons into your opponent, which if left untreated can cause a load of symptoms, one of which is obviously death."

I resisted the urge to shudder at the delight I saw flare in her eyes. I needed to remember that she was a mass murderer, and would most likely love to find out information on how to kill things in a number of different ways.

"If you're to learn it, I'm only going to teach you how to administer non-fatal doses at first," I instructed her. "That way, we know how well it works, and we know that your body can cope with passing on the poison. If we started trying to do it fatally, it could end up just killing you before we even begun."

If nothing else, it was the truth. I didn't know just how to teach her it, and knew that the poison had to come from her own body. I didn't want to risk her overdosing on fatal amounts of poison before I'd even started teaching her – though I did have to admit, it would have been an ironic way for her to go.

I began to explain the basic concepts of it to her, and was quite amazed by how good a student she turned out to be. While she might not have liked me, she was able to put it all aside in order to learn. I was somehow proud of her in the moment I realised that, and knew that when I had her respect and like, she'd be a valuable asset.

More importantly, she'd be a good friend. It was still a foreign concept to me; having a pokémon as a friend, though I found myself looking forwards to actually being friends with her. It was more than she just seemed so much more intelligent that either of my other two pokémon, on the level that I could actually hold a conversation with her.

The ship lurched beneath us, and I heard all my pokémon cry out in alarm. I just smiled at them all and explained that it meant we were moving. I ended up getting them to follow me outside, and we stood on the deck outside our room, watching the sea pass us by underneath.

I still made sure to stay a few paces away from Lacey. She was a good student, but I doubted she'd have any problems about pushing me overboard.

I scowled and wiped my forehead, already feeling a slick line of sweat forming. My hair begun to drip, and I cursed the fact it was so hot. None of my pokémon seemed to mind, even Loki, who I knew preferred shadows and darkness. I cursed the fact I was enduring heat I hated just for their sakes, and found myself reflecting on a time when I would have just left them and moved on with my life.

I leant forwards on the railing and found my thoughts lost as I watched wingull soar around us and various aquatic pokémon swim at the water's surface.

I knew there would have been a time where, if Xander wasn't performing well enough, I would have ditched him and traded him instantly. The same with Loki, and probably Lacey too. The fact that I needed to train everything seemed to sway me into keeping them.

I thought about it more. If an experienced trainer like Ayd had offered to take them off my hands, and instead provide me with something more powerful, would I have taken it? I knew when I started my journey, I would have. However, by that time, I'd bonded so much with them all, I couldn't ever think of trading them in. Alongside that, I wondered if a truly experienced pokémon would actually obey me. With my horrible luck it would just murder me and then return to its old trainer.

I shook my head and only just caught Loki trying to steal something from a man's pockets. I managed to stop him in time, though succeeded in offending the man himself. He didn't appreciate the fact that I'd stopped Loki from stealing something from him, and instead decided to shout at me for a full two minutes about how I should be training my pokémon better.

I made Loki steal from him when he walked away.

After the exchange, Lacey looked at me curiously. I simply smirked at her and turned to face the sea again. I felt Xander sit on my feet even as I began to speak to her. "Some people just need teaching a lesson," I explained, and saw her lean forwards to watch the sea from the corner of my eye. "I don't want you guys going around causing trouble at any opportunity, but if I agree that someone needs teaching a lesson, or if they just deserve it, I'm not going to stop you." I threw a sideways glance at her and lowered my voice to a whisper. "Which means you're not allowed to go around randomly killing people or pokémon. But if we agree that it's the best possible solution, like with the Elite, I'm not going to stop you." I smiled towards the sea. "And I'll even help to make sure you don't get caught."

I noticed that she smiled at that. I realised then that was probably the reason why I longed for her friendship more than any of my other pokémon's; we were almost exactly the same. I was a killer, and so was she. The only differences between us were our methodologies and our species.

I smirked to myself as a thought hit my brain. After saving the world, I could set up my own business venture; pokémon assassins. I was sure there were a few underground groups around the world that would hire assassins to kill people, and considered the niche in the market of hiring pokémon to do the job. I was certain a few would exist, but they would most likely be obvious choices; a weavile or a scythe, perhaps even a haunter or some form of a psychic.

Who would honestly expect a crack team of a ludicolo, shiftry and a sableye to be top-notch assassins? I could get a few more, 'normal' pokémon to help out, like maybe an ampharos or a jynx.

I shuddered at the thought. Jynx were creepy.

My pokémon noticed my shudder and looked to me in concern and alarm. I smiled at them and explained I was thinking about jynx. They looked at me as if I were crazy, and I realised the pokémon weren't native to Hoenn. They could only be found in cold caves or mountains, and I didn't have any plans to go searching for them.

Regardless, I felt like explaining the pokémon to them.

"Jynx are pokémon born out of dead human souls," I elucidated for them. "Back before humans built large towns, they used to worship a great number of different gods for every slight thing. The sun, the moon, even crops had a separate god. Thing is though, they used to make sacrifices to the gods; they'd slaughter animals, pokémon and people in order to appease their gods.

"In the colder places, they used to sacrifice women to the god of summer, in order for him to bring a sunny summer for their crops," I said, silently amazed I could remember it all. It really did show what reading a few random books before going to sleep could do to a person. "It was always blonde haired women, for whatever reason. They'd make them wear a long red dress, and they'd fit them with some sort of jewelled bra that simply framed their breasts – it didn't cover them. They would then be left to die from exposure to the cold.

"It would take a few centuries, but eventually their spirits would be able to return and form something that looked like their body when they died. The main difference is that their eyes are completely white, and their skin is a horrible shade of purple." I couldn't help but notice that Lacey was the most engrossed in the story, and I wondered how much it was to do with the fact she could completely understand me.

"-And it's said that they continue to haunt the locations of their death, eternally searching for a body to inhabit."

I started at the sudden voice. It was female and had the slight tinges of a Kantonese accent. I whirled round to find a face to the voice. She was an inch or two shorter than me, and had bright ginger hair that bounced around her face and fell to her shoulders. She wore a pair of light black framed glasses, and dressed completely in practical purple and black clothes. A few freckles complimented her cheeks, making her seem a little younger than her voice implied.

"You sure know your stuff," she said as she leant on the railing near me, and only smiled as Loki tried to sniff the air around her.

I smiled. "Well, I don't like to brag. In fact, why don't I-"

"-Hit on me and I'll castrate you with a rusty knife," she interrupted me with a deathly serious tone. I raised an eyebrow, unsure as to whether or not she was joking before she smiled at me. "So how do you know all that about jynx then?"

I didn't register her question, still shocked from the sudden change in tone. I debated to myself whether she was just bi-polar, or whether she was just crazy. Either way, I decided that maybe it was a good idea to run away screaming from her. That was, until a woman rushed past us and knocked into her, and she screamed after her the very graphic ways that she was going to make her infertile with nothing more than a spoon.

It was funny when I wasn't on the receiving end of it, at least.

She looked back to me and offered a small smile as if nothing had ever happened. I began to consider that maybe she would be fun to hang around with, if only for the constant threats at people that weren't me, so I opted to go for the blunt route and asked her what the sudden threat to myself was about.

She smiled, though gave me a fierce look. "If all you're after is a quick peek at my tits and a five-minute fuck, do us both a favour and walk away."

She been burnt recently in the past, it was blatantly obvious.

Even still, I couldn't help but grin at her attitude. It was refreshing, at the very least. It also meant that I definitely wouldn't be the only one on the receiving end of it. "You're the one that came over to me," I pointed out. "So that makes me think you're the one after a five-minute fuck."

She laughed and looked out to sea. "Touché. I was actually interested by the fact you know the myths surrounding jynx. They're not exactly well known outside of specialist pokémon-myth studies."

I chuckled nervously. I made the mental note to not use any of the information I'd learnt from my time in public spaces. Loki and Xander both seemed quickly disinterested in the girl, and Lacey seemed to glare at her with less hatred than she did me – which I still think was rather offensive.

I shrugged and gave her an honest, if not vague answer. "I like to know about pokémon. Who knows when you might need to know such obscure stuff? It could save your life."

She laughed and matched my gaze. "Well, I doubt you'll need to worry about jynx hijacking your body. They're all female."

I couldn't help but grin. "Knowing my luck, I'll encounter the one jynx on the planet that wants to be a man." She laughed once more. "Or, I'll get taken over by one that gets a gender-swap operation, whilst still in my body."

"Don't know why jynx would want to become human though," she said, voice thick with thought. "I mean, who would really want to trade in control over ice, and having psychic abilities?"

"Someone who got killed off to appease some god they probably didn't believe in?" I offered with another shrug.

"Good point," she conceded. "So you a trainer then?" she asked, eyeing my pokémon.

I nodded and introduced us all. Characteristically, Loki hopped around like an excited child – and I noticed him swipe a pair of earrings from her bag – whilst Xander seemed indifferent, and Lacey had outright scorn for us all.

"Just the one badge eh?" she asked, surprised. "You must have started quite late then."

I made the quick mental calculations. "About six weeks ago?" I shrugged and couldn't honestly remember it. "I'm not sure," I admitted. "I've just spent about two weeks in the Petalburg Woods; I'm still all over the place."

She winced. "Ouch. I remember going through Viridian Forest back when I was a newbie; it took me nearly a month to make it through." She shuddered and rubbed her arms. "Believe me, when you've just started out as a trainer, bumping into wild kangaskhan and pinsir is one of the last things you want to be doing."

I nodded, understanding completely. Granted though, I wasn't about to mention I'd narrowly escaped sceptile, as well as a swarm of wurmple, and then an ariados and a scizor.

"So is that nuzleaf what you started off with?" she asked me, nodding towards Lacey. "Most people tend to have a pokémon a while before they start off journeys."

I shook my head. "I only just caught her." I lifted up a foot a fraction, displacing Xander enough to make him croak. "I actually started off with Xander here."

"Huh," she grunted, seemingly evaluating us both by that one simple fact alone.

I crossed my arms. "So what did you start off with then?"

Her smile seemed to light up the deck. She grabbed a poké ball from her belt and clutched it tenderly a moment before she released the pokémon in the widest part of the corridor. The light eventually faded to form a tan furred quadruped that was only slightly smaller than me. Lighter, wispy fur collared round its neck, and small patches of light fur covered its lower back and its underbelly. Two large antlers stretched from its head, just below its ears, and they both had a large dark coloured spot nestled in each.

It stared at me with its long face and deep brown eyes, and I barely kept Loki from leaping at it in interest.

"I'm Mia-Louise," the girl introduced herself, and gestured towards the stantler. "And this is Charles."

The stantler snorted a small greeting at us, flicking its ears happily as Mia stroked its face. "He's not actually my starter though," she conceded, her smile fading. "I started off with one of the regional starters of Kanto, like most new trainers. I had a bulbasaur... but she died in the Viridian Forest, just after I caught Charles. So in essence, he's my first pokémon that's still alive."

"Sorry," I said reflexively. I waited for her to dismiss it before asking, "Charles?"

She grunted and looked at me. "What's wrong with Charles?"

I shrugged. "I dunno. I just never would have thought it would fit a stantler."

Amazingly, she laughed and agreed. "Hey, I started off in Kanto about four years ago. I still had a young mind in regards to names. Originally, he was going to be named Snuggles."

I nearly choked on my spit. Snuggles... the stantler. I started to wonder if this girl was single, and if not, whether I should set her up with Ayd. Given that they had horribly weird names for their pokémon in common, I decided they'd get on like a house on fire.

"Snuggles the Dastardly," she furthered with a laugh.

I resisted the urge to bury my face in my hands. "She's a lunatic," I whispered to my pokémon. "I swear to whatever gods are up there, I attract them or something. I must sweat some sort of lunatic pheromone or something."

Her stantler vanished in a flash of light, and she began looking out to sea again. "Well, I've got to go look over my team," she told me, pushing herself off the railing. "Some of them need a run around, and no offence, but they're not going to get it whilst I'm talking to you."

I shrugged. "None taken."

"Catch you around then?" she asked before leaving. "You wanna meet up later tonight for some food or something? It'd be nice to have a friend or just someone to talk to on this journey."

I considered it a moment. Whilst she was a lunatic, she was right that it couldn't hurt for me to have another friend. I tried to count off my list of friends, and didn't even make it close to going over one hand. I couldn't call Jennifer one, neither could I really call Roxanne one, in total honesty. That just left Ayd. I winced at the thought. I had one friend in the whole of Hoenn.

"Sounds good," I told her. If nothing else, at least I could get a second friend in the whole of Hoenn.

I found out a few things during the boat journey, the most prominent being the Lacey got sea sick. Even after I helped her the best I could, she still seemed to outright hate me, and I left it at that.

Though I knew I couldn't fully trust her. The first night, when we sat down for some food with Mia – after she had told the waiter he was going to have to get the menu surgically removed from his colon if he kept staring down her top – out of nowhere Lacey brought myself and her drinks. I looked at her, unconvinced, and I'm sure there was respect and a hint of her being impressed in her eyes. She took the drink from me and tested it, as if to set my mind at rest.

When I drunk it however, my tongue was on fire!

I don't know what she'd put in it, but it was the spiciest damn thing I'd ever consumed! There was sick amusement in her face as she watched me take a sip, though I was determined not to let her beat me. My eyes were tearing up with the sheer heat and pain of the drink, but I made sure to drink the whole thing and thank her for it.

She didn't look amused.

She seemed even less amused when I got her back by spiking her drink with a laxative. I'd never seen a pokémon look so ill and shocked at once, though I found out that she knew how to use a toilet – even if it meant I couldn't use the one in our cabin for the whole two hours she was locked up in there.

Regardless, it was worth it.

I had to keep her in her ball for the rest of the journey, only letting her out for food, due to her getting sick with every large bump of waves. I was conflicted about it, knowing that keeping her out could let me get to know her better, and would help her evolution. But keeping her hidden away made sure she couldn't pull any pranks, or get sea sick or the like.

Besides, the day after, my tongue was still burning from the damned spicy tea.

I found out a few things about Mia during the time I'd spent with her. She was from Viridian City in Kanto, and started off as a trainer when she was fourteen. Supposedly it took her two years to complete the Kanto circuit, and then another two to complete the Johto circuit. She said she was starting off afresh, per say, in Hoenn, travelling only with her stantler until she caught Hoenn-native pokémon. Apparently she'd caught two pokémon already, and only had a team of three, but she wasn't letting me know anyone past her stantler.

Supposedly she was travelling to Dewford to compete in her third gym battle – she'd beaten those in Petalburg and Mauville with her stantler alone – and was trying to capture an aron – whatever that was.

She had a habit of constantly warning me not to hit on her for the first day, until I told her that I wasn't planning on having my testicles removed anytime soon. She seemed to appreciate my answer and continued as normal, as if she'd never threatened me in the first place.

She was weird.

But she was a good laugh. It was nice just to have another friend I could chat to – even if it was about aimless things such as where to go on our journeys, the stupid things our pokémon had done, or even just small pieces of our backgrounds that we didn't mind sharing.

It seemed to be an unwritten rule amongst trainers that you never revealed everything about your past, and you never pressed someone for it either. I appreciated it a lot, it meant that I could act normal, and not have to worry about telling them I could possibly be their grandchild or something.

That thought hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had no idea who my grandparents where, and for all I knew, I could have bumped into them multiple times without realising. Hell, the kid with the machop Loki mauled could have been my grandfather!

It was too much to think about.

It got to the final day of the journey, and myself and Mia were sat on the uppermost deck, watching the distant island of Dewford come ever closer. They really spared no expenses on the boat; even on the top floor there was a small canopy with a bar and a large television that was updating everyone with all the latest news.

Supposedly they still hadn't caught the thieves responsible for all the Rustboro robberies, though apparently Roxanne had hospitalised someone that was stupid enough to try and rob the gym. I somehow grinned at the thought, knowing that she hit hard enough to not need a pokémon to take someone out.

Mia's stantler stood a few paces behind her, watching her like a silent protector. Xander was quite comfortably nestled on the pokémon's back, and every so often I would hear small grunts and growls as if they were talking to each other.

"It's a shame I don't have a big flier," Mia whispered as she stared out to sea. "Or even a wailord, or a lapras. It would be so much fun to just travel around on their backs, watching the world from a new perspective."

"You'd have to train them for it first," I said, grounding her dreams. "Personally, I don't want to be riding a pidgeot who just decides to drop me from a few thousand feet in the air."

She rolled her eyes at me and punched me in the arm. "Geez, aren't you just mister serious? Have you never dreamed a little? You know, just let your imagination run wild and think of all the possible things you could do with pokémon?"

Yes actually, quite often I've wondered what ones would be best for killing someone in different ways. Quick, painless, slow, barbequed, sometimes even without any evidence whatsoever.

But just imagining what I could do with them?

"Not really," I answered her. "I've always been the sort of person that just takes life a day at a time."

"Psh," she grunted, waving a hand at me. "That's all well and good, but what happens if you die tomorrow?" She folded her hands behind her back and smiled to the sky. "You need to live everyday like it's your last. You need to be able to go to bed on a night and know that even if you don't wake up the next morning, you're proud of what you've done and who you've been."

I found myself amazed by her. She seemed so crazy at times, I never once thought there could be anything deep underneath it all. I just thought she was rather airheaded and a complete nutter. "So are you?" I asked her.

She laughed. "Fuck no. I don't plan to die anytime soon – I've still got the whole world to see!" She grinned and turned back to me. "Of course, if I do go soon, I'll try and see if I can make a deal with The Giratina or something. Give me unholy demon powers and a longer life in exchange for helping it take a few souls to the underworld." She shrugged. "Fair deal I think."

I shook my head. "You're mad."

"I'm awesome," she corrected me. "Mad people live in fear that the world won't accept them. Awesome people accept the fact that the world is just jealous of them."

I laughed. "And you don't sound at all arrogant or egotistic."

She was about to say something until a loud cry from the bar area interrupted her. We both glanced over there and found there was a crowd gathering, all staring at the television in equal silence. It took us a moment to walk over there, and a little more to find somewhere we could see and hear the television report.

"...body has been identified," the reporter was saying. It showed a man with a receding hairline, black hair and brown eyes, and he stared into the camera even as behind him the woods showed signs of movements.

"Officials were called to the scene of Petalburg Woods in the early hours of the morning, after a pokémon ranger called in to report a dead body." My stomach flipped at his words, even with as much as I tried to convince myself it could just be anyone's body found. "The body has been identified as Aaron Mattheis, Sinnoh Elite Four member."

Everything descended into white noise as the gravity of it all caught up with me. I heard people gasp and cry out around me, and already people were spreading rumours. I forced myself to remain as stoic as possible, praying that I didn't somehow reveal the guilt I could feel flooding my veins. I knew I'd killed him for good reason, and knew that it was the best solution. But I'd never had to deal with the aftermath of killing a murderer before, much less one that no one knew was actually going around killing people.

My ears snapped back to reality as I heard the next few words from the television.

"It is thought that Mr. Mattheis discovered an underground group that was responsible for the mass disappearances in the forest as of late. Reports are already coming in, detailing that tens, if not hundreds of silk cocoons have been found, each containing a rotting dead body within."

There were more gasps and cries in the crowd. I remained as quiet as I could, knowing that piece of information already. I needed to know if they had any leads in the matter. If they suspected someone in particular, I needed to know if they resembled me in any way!

The reporter gathered himself a moment, possibly pausing for dramatic effect. Bastard. Why couldn't he just provide it all then and there?

"There are almost no outward signs of trauma to Mr. Matthies, and his death is currently being treated as suspicious. A renowned trainer of his level would not have fallen victim to eating poisonous plants, or many other fates that befall novice trainers." I realised that the man wasn't reading from the autocue anymore. He was just giving his own opinion, covering it up as speculated fact to further his own opinion. And it was damn well making it seem like he'd been murdered! My plan rested on him being believed to have died accidentally!

"For him to die in such a way, foul play must have been involved. Most likely a trainer with poisonous pokémon." He cleared his throat and began to speak, though everything descended into white noise once more.

The damned news reporter was giving his opinion as fact. It was screwing up my plans – even if they were hastily made. If people thought he'd been murdered, no doubt there'd be a larger-viewed autopsy. It meant the other Elites wouldn't have been able to cover up his... indiscretions to a degree they could have. It meant people would realise the Elites weren't actually fully protecting them, and there could be uproar.

I forced my head clear of such thoughts. I was over exaggerating everything. Most likely they would just reveal he had been poisoned, and then they would set up some criminal that they had been after for a while to take the fall for it all. It was the way corruption worked; maintain the purity of one, and dump the crimes on a publically hated figure.

I glanced at Mia and saw she was staring at me curiously. A horrible thought struck me: stantler couldn't read minds, could they? I didn't want to have to go round killing people to cover up my crimes, though couldn't risk having to be chased round the country by police.

"If even the Elite are being killed, that's not a good sign," I whispered, hoping that she wasn't thinking what I feared she was.

Thankfully she shook her head and sighed. "I can't say it is. You're just lucky you avoided that, you were in those woods a few days ago, weren't you?"

I nodded, gulping as discretely as I could. "Yeah, but they're a big place. I could have just skimmed past him multiple times and never known."

"True that," she conceded, placing a fist under her chin. "But it's strange that only one of his pokémon are missing, don't you think?"

My breath caught. One of his pokémon were missing? For the first time I was glad I sweated when it got slightly hot – it was covering up the nervous sweat I knew was wanting to pour out of me. "I zoned out of that part," I admitted, scared she was trying to lead me into a trap. "I was counting my lucky stars that wasn't me being reported on."

"I can understand that," she admitted. She nodded back to the television screen. "It was saying that they found all six poké balls on his possession, though only five were occupied. They think he set one loose before he died – maybe to bring down whoever killed him?"

I started entertaining horrible thoughts of humongous swarms of bugs chasing after me in my sleep. After that it was the scizor creeping into my room at night and ripping me apart, limb by limb until only my head and torso remained.

I shook my head to clear my mind of such thoughts. "You wanna go get something to drink somewhere quieter?" I asked Mia. "This is all everyone's going to be talking about for a while, and to be honest, I don't want to be sitting around listening to it. I'll end up going crazy entertaining thoughts that it could have been me."

"Sure," she said with a smile. "I was wondering why you looked a little freaked out by it all, but that explains it. I mean, there being an Elite found dead a little while away from where you were a few days ago?" She shook her head. "I can't imagine it."

The rest of the ship journey passed in a blur. We got into Dewford around fourteen hundred hours, and already the news had spread throughout the ship and town both. Everywhere was spreading rumours about the dead Elite, from stories of how he'd had his soul eaten by a ghost, to conspiracy theories about him being a Sinnoh spy.

It was all getting way out of control. People were panicking, and in doing so accusing him of trying to work against the Hoenn government. It made me panic that somehow I'd managed to cause something that would lead to global war.

I forced the thoughts aside. It wouldn't do me any good to go around entertaining them. Instead I resolved to stay for around a week in Dewford and let the news die down, and possibly try to figure out what I was going to do next.

The first thing on my list was to visit the Dewford gym. Like most trainers, Mia was going straight to the natural caves on the island, saying that she was going to explore them and catch herself a pokémon to train before going after the gym, as apparently fighting types had a deathly advantage over her stantler. I nodded and told her my plans, and we exchanged numbers before parting ways, deciding we would meet up when we were both on the mainland, rather than whilst we were still in Dewford – neither of us knew how long we'd be staying on the island.

The signs that pointed to the gym were thankfully easy to follow. I was impressed that I managed to find it on my own, and silently celebrated the fact. It proved to me that I could get around places without needing people's help.

Dewford itself was a beautiful seaside town, and everything was built on the hills overlooking the beaches and sea both. Everywhere offered picturesque views of either the beach or the rainforests on the other end of the island. It was nothing short of a tropical resort, and even I could appreciate the magnificence it brought – even if I found it far too hot. The main thing I wanted to do then was hide in the sea or a cold, cark cave.

The gym itself looked no different to that in Rustboro, and was still a large, domed building, though didn't have the rock gardens decorating the outside. Inside it looked rather the same as that in Rustboro, though this one had a reception desk, at least. Instead of the smell of fresh dirt, this gym smelt of both pokémon and human sweat. I could see that several rooms were left in complete pitch-black darkness, and I could hear people training in there.

There was a little old lady that sat at the desk, talking away on the phone with a look of irritated concentration on her face. Even at a distance, I could see that the woman had muscles – perhaps more than me! At least she enforced the image that the gym was full of fighting specialists.

I smiled at her when I approached, and she greeted me with a nod and mouthed for me to wait a moment. I could see her getting gradually more annoyed with the person on the phone, and bit my lip to stop myself from laughing when she smashed it back down on the desk in anger.

"Sorry about that," she apologised instantly, offering me a small smile. "Welcome to the Dewford gym. Is there any way I can help you?"

Tell me how you've got such huge muscles?

"I'd like to challenge the gym, please," I said, trying to be as polite as I could. While there was the general rule to respect someone's elders, I also abided by the rule of respecting someone that looked stronger than you. She looked like she could bench press me and the weights both.

"Certainly dear," she said, smiling all the more. She swivelled around in her chair, placing herself in front of the computer screen. "I've got an opening two days from now at two p.m., if that suits you?"

Two days training seemed more than enough after two weeks in the woods. I also had Loki, who I knew wouldn't be able to be hit by most fighting pokémon. If it came to it, Xander could just keep his distance, or I could just send out Lacey and let her get smacked until she decided to beat her opponent to a pulp – it wasn't like she would listen when I told her to attack.

"That's perfect," I told her with a smile of my own. She took my details quickly and printed me off a small slip that gave me a three night, free stay at the pokémon centre. It meant if I did stay for a week, I'd have to get some money. I also had to get some more to pay for everything I'd need in Slateport, as well as supplies for whilst I was in Dewford. I was running low on everything.

Most importantly, toilet paper. It doesn't matter what every other trainer tells you the one thing you need for different scenarios is, the main fact is that whilst you're travelling, toilet paper is like gold. When someone desperately wants some, you'd be amazed at the lengths they'd go to, and the amount of money they'd pay all for a little bit of it.

I thanked the woman and left the gym, following the signs to the pokémon centre as I thought about it. I would have to challenge some trainers around my level to get some money – I couldn't very well kill someone and rob their corpse again. Well, I could, but I decided that perhaps one murder was enough.

Besides, if it came to it, I could always have Loki rob some trainer when they weren't looking.

I made way to the pokémon centre fairly quickly, and managed to get the nurse working reception to recommend me some travel sickness pills for Lacey. She explained it wasn't uncommon for pokémon to get seasick, though often times it would be fire, ground or rock pokémon, rather than grass. I thanked her when she gave them to me, and then once more when I found out they were free, since I was a trainer. I booked into my room and considered how I would get Lacey to take the pills as I made my way to my room.

I swiped the card into the lock and let myself in, smiling at the familiarity of the room. It seemed they were all the same, no matter what town they were in. I supposed it was for the best, four floors of rooms probably meant that they spent a fair bit of money on just maintaining them. I was just thankful that I hadn't been forced to share a room with another random trainer.

I stopped and watched out of the window, noticing how tame the town was in comparison to Rustboro. Despite the harsh heat, I shuddered, feeling something cold descend down my spine. It was an eerie feeling, like I was being watched or something.

Paranoia flooded me as I checked every inch of the room for something, someone, or even a small camera. I found nothing. I considered it to be nothing more than my imagination as I looked from the window again, marvelling in the beauty of the seaside town.

I should have realised beauty only hides the ugly horrors buried beneath.

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