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.


11. Victory's Cost

If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires. ~ Abigail Van Buren


"Losing has a cost, and not doing anything has a cost. But the heaviest price to pay is often the cost you didn't know that came from winning."

Agatha Harker, 33rd Kanto League Champion, Kanto Elite Four member 2967-3005. (August 18th, 3007)



My first memories of Oldale Town were nothing more than a drunken blur accompanied by strange sounds and occasional black spots.

Needless to say, when I awoke the next morning, I was regretting the night before. My head was pounding within my skull at the slightest of noises and the entire room spun when I lay down. My bed felt like it was balancing on top of water, and I was sure it was rocking me everywhere and anywhere. I forced myself to sit up on my bed and stared in a pained haze at myself. I'd gone to bed fully clothed - including my boots! It was without a doubt one hell of a night if I'd been so drunk I'd forgotten to get changed for bed.

I glanced over at Adryan, wincing at his snores which bore into my tender skull. He was in a similar state of dress, which told me that I wasn't going to be the only one suffering from the night before. I stood up and lurched, grasping my stomach instinctively. Hoenn beer in this time was a lot stronger than the beer of my time... unfortunately, by the time I'd drunk three, I was far past caring.

It took effort to get myself to my feet, and even more will to stop myself swaying on my feet. It had been a while since I'd had such a god-awful hangover, but it wasn't the first time I'd had to spend a day suffering for the liver damage. At least this time I wasn't on a sudden sixteen hour guard stint.

I made way into the adjoining bathroom, plucking my bag and scouring it for some sort of painkiller on my way. Once I'd filled a glass enough with water I took as big a swig as I could in addition to the pain relief, and if anything, made it worse. For some reason, after alcohol, water always seemed to taste like cheap vodka to me. Regardless, I pushed past it and drank as much as I cold stomach. A hangover was simply dehydration. All I needed was pain killers, water and a shower, and I'd slowly get better throughout the day.

My stomach rumbled as I shed my clothes for a shower. Obviously I needed food too. A nice, greasy fry-up was in order. As a soldier, I knew to follow my body's needs and whims when required. I could push far past the limits of exhaustion and hunger the normal person could, but even then, I had my own limitations. I didn't much fancy facing a day with a monster hangover and empty stomach whilst training my pokémon.

The world spun around me again and I gripped onto the shower screen to keep myself steady on my feet. Obviously I wasn't going to be doing much physical training, which meant I would spend the day going over little routines with my pokémon and learning more from the guidebook and pokédex I held.

I returned from the shower and dressed in a spare set of clothes, taking a moment to glance at the time. It was only oh-nine hundred hours... it made my head spin once more. I was sure I'd not gotten in the night before until sometime around oh-three hundred... it meant I'd only had roughly five hours of sleep on a massive drunken binge.

Yet it was also the longest I'd slept in a very long time.

I left Adryan a quick note and adjusted him in his sleep slightly. Dead weight made him weigh more than he seemed, though I knew it had to be done. I'd lost count of the amount we'd drunk the night before, but judging by the pressure in my skull, it was a lot. I'd seen countless allies drink too much and end up vomiting in their sleep, it was nothing more than instinctive common sense that made me move him into the recovery position. If nothing else, it would make sure if he did vomit during his sleep, he wouldn't choke on it.

I swayed on my feet and considered my vast wealth of practical knowledge. Just how different was I from the 'normal' people my age of this world? I considered Adryan for a moment, and snorted to myself. He was anything but normal... in fact, I was sure he was as weird as I was to this world – though at least I had an excuse.

I deliberated that as I made my way out of our room. Apparently we'd checked into the pokémon centre sometime during the night for somewhere to stay. I winced, considering how much it may have cost, in addition to our late night binge. I opened my wallet and winced again at the sparse amount of notes left within the leather bounds. Obviously I was to be eating sparingly for a few days after ordering breakfast.

What surprised me the most was that the centre itself didn't have a cafeteria within. Adryan had explained to me that most centres had a food section that sold edible food at prices affordable to a trainer's budget. I'd told him he sounded like he was advertising the centre, though he'd only laughed it off with a grin and another swig of his drink. I blinked and let the room straighten itself out for a moment. At least I remembered something from the night before.

I found a young girl who couldn't have been older than fourteen sat in the centre's lobby, waiting for her pokémon to be healed. She nearly leapt out of her seat when I spoke to her, and I wondered how much my breath stank of stale alcohol despite brushing my teeth multiple times. Although when she calmed down and I saw the small scars and nicks on her body, I gathered it must have been because of she was fairly new to being a pokémon trainer.

"Do you know what's up with the food here?" I asked her. She looked up at me with bright brown eyes that held a familiar look of haunting. Obviously she'd seen a person or pokémon she'd cared about die sometime recently.

She squinted up at me, dirty ginger hair falling into her face and making her look even younger than I first thought. "You don't know?" she asked me.

I shook my head and instantly regretted it. The room span for a good moment even after I stopped movement. "I only just got into town last night."

She shrugged and obviously thought nothing of it. "There was a leak in the lab on ruin road two streets down. They found out it was nothing, but apparently it managed to infect the pokémon centre's food stock. They've shut it down for contamination issues, and every food shop within a five-street radius of the lab, but everywhere else is fine."

I nodded and smiled at her. "Thanks for the help." She smiled and gestured that it was no problem as I turned to leave. If there was a contamination issue with the food, I'd rather head a bit further out than five streets. Unfortunately, Oldale Town was only large enough to accommodate a twenty street radius around the centre. It meant I was going to the farther regions of the town. At least on the way I could find some supplies I would no doubt need.

After a good while of wandering without any specific destination in mind, I happened upon a small cafe that overlooked the distant river found in route hundred-and-three. It was run by an old couple that were completely welcoming to any customer, though the man did make a few sly jokes to my hung-over state.

Better than that, they said I was allowed to feed my pokémon my own food on the tables outside. Apparently they were both trainers in their heyday, and although almost all their team had now past on, or looked after their children, though apparently they had a kadabra named Garth and –quite scarily – an ariados named Vox that cooked the food. I was understandably freaked out at first, then subsequently amazed that pokémon could be trained well enough to perform cooking duties. More than that, that they had managed to train a kadabra – a creature I knew would crush the mind of anyone it didn't like – enough to cook food for a living.

I wondered just how much people relied on the creatures in this world, as well as how everyone managed to be a much better trainer than me. Though everyone I had met was far older than me and far more experienced, I still had to advance well enough to change the world within the year.

I placed my bag on the floor and pulled out two metal dishes I'd bought on my way to the cafe. In addition I had a small bag of pokémon feed – it looked like glorified pellets and smelt like processed stale meat and eggs – that was supposedly good enough to be viewed as a meal for pokémon. I sniffed one and popped it in my mouth curiously. It wasn't brilliant, yet it was still edible and had taste. Though I knew I would rather eat food fresh from the environment around me, and a part of me told me I should treat my pokémon to the same courtesy. At least if we all ate roughly the same foods, the creatures wouldn't have cause to become jealous and violent.

I placed the two bowls on the ground near my feet and poured what I guessed was an equal measure into both. I double checked to make sure before I snapped both balls off my bandolier and called out both my pokémon. They appeared together, looking equally as confused as the other. Xander growled at Loki, whilst Loki hissed at Xander. Inwardly, I cursed myself for the mistake. Last time I had let them both out together, Loki was new to my team, and Xander was simply for my protection.

"Guys, it's okay," I told them both, jumping from my chair and sitting level with them. The movement made the world spin, but I squinted hard enough to push the feeling away. "You're on the same side now, okay?" I said to the two, placing a hand on each of their heads. "We're team mates, comrades... friends." The last part was nothing more than a blatant lie at the time, though it seemed the pokémon were beginning to understand. "We're part of a pack now, you understand?" I assumed animalistic terms would make more sense to them – even if they were just human defined names. I moved my hands from their heads and gripped a pellet of food in each, holding it before each of them. "I've got you both some food, but-" I snapped it away as they both lunged for it, and looked at me with the same bewildered expression. "You're not getting any until you accept each other's presence and wait for it." It took a good minute for me to stop playing hide-the-food until the duo got the hint. Thankfully, by the time I'd put my point across, they seemed happy enough to cooperate, and I gave them both their bowls of food.

Granted though, the game had left me partially soaked and covered in small cuts and bites. But it was worth it to begin teaching them both who was their master.

I watched them for a bit, just basking in their presence as they ate in relative seclusion to each other. However, when they had both finished, it seemed they realised they were in fact, now joint together. They made small grunts and growls at each other, took in the other's scent, and thankfully decided that neither was a threat. They quite happily sat by my feet, stomachs full and communicating in primal noises. I found myself following their conversation without ever knowing what was going on. Obviously they could understand each other, yet somewhere along the lines, something had stopped humans from understanding them. I knew that psychics could communicate with humans with no adverse affects to the human, and had gathered from Loki's eerie dead rat theatre he had some degree of psychic talent to him. If I trained him enough, I knew I could get him to begin communicating within human languages.

The only problem with it, like everything else, was the element of time. Time was my enemy here, not my ally, and I was fighting it every step of the way on my journey.

By the time my food came, I'd very nearly passed the point of hunger. I smiled and endured the old man's praises of how civilised my pokémon were – I knew it was only because they were fed and sated – before I tucked into my meal. It was heavenly and didn't last anywhere near as long as I would have liked it too. I burped and reached for my cup, swilling the coffee within. Likely that food was to keep me going for the majority of the day, if not the day after, alongside meagre rations of energy bars and water. I'd all but exhausted my funds buying the pokémon dishes, the food and a phone for myself. Given the cheap price tag, I knew it was an old make and model, but it didn't matter to me. I'd collected the phone numbers of Jennifer and Birch both without ever having a phone.

Besides, I didn't need a new-fangled phone that could access the internet at any given location above ground or take a picture with so-and-so amount of pixels of digital quality. I just needed a phone. I'd grown up in a war camp as a soldier, and so I knew the basics of how to adapt electronics to a situation. While I was nowhere near the best – in fact, I'm certain I was the least talented of everyone I knew in that regard – I still knew enough to get by. I could fix it so the battery would last a little longer, and so that I could pick up signal up to thirty feet below ground – providing there was no interference by metal walls or metallic or electronic pokémon. With everything I bought in the store, in addition to the supplies I bought to 'upgrade' my phone, as well as my breakfast, I had roughly eighteen poké to my name. It allowed me to get one more coffee, thankfully – I desperately needed the caffeine – and still have roughly sixteen left, which was probably enough to get a room for the night.

I winced again at the thought of my previous night on the town. I'd had well over two hundred and fifteen poké then. It meant that Hoenn alcohol was expensive, I'd drunk far too much, or I'd been buying rounds for me and Adryan both. Or likely, all three.

Xander croaked at my feet, drawing my attention. I glared at Loki at he attempted to slash through the shoelaces on my boots, and he gave me a look I can only think he deemed sheepish. I shook my head and laughed at his antics, though still tapped him lightly on the head with a guidebook from my bag. While his antics amused me, I wasn't going to let him unleash his tricks on me.

I flickered through my book and read up as much as I could on lotad and sableye. Apparently the former would begin the evolutionary process into a lombre at roughly fourteen months of age, providing they had enough experience in battle, and the latter would never evolve. It caught my attention, though I couldn't very well say enough to change it. Unfortunately, I knew nothing of sableye in my time, so couldn't say for sure whether or not they could evolve. Instead I was left simply to just follow the current – if not, to me, outdated – information.

I plucked the pokédex from my pocket and activated it. Once everything was loaded I hit the scan button and placed it above Xander, and was forced to wait yet again. Once it worked I scanned through the useless information, such as general lotad information and evolutionary chains to find the information I needed. Apparently Xander was only ten months old. It meant he still had another four months to even begin turning into his next form. Though I did notice that his foremost front legs did look the tiniest fraction longer than those at his back, and he seemed an inch or two taller than the average height my pokédex relayed to me.

It meant he was already becoming a lombre, and I was going to have to train him enough to play catch-up with his body's changes.

Loki was only three months old, according to my pokédex, which explained a lot about him. It meant he still had a long way to go to achieve his power – I knew that most pokémon continued to get stronger and develop until they were about eight years and four months old, which was roughly a hundred months. From the top of my head, stronger pokémon like alakazam, kingdra and rhyperior took roughly seven years to fully transition into their final forms, and pokémon like growlithe, pikachu and staryu about six years. Of course, they would continue to get more powerful after that age, but I knew it was roughly the cut off for when they'd stop growing and metamorphosing.

I grimaced once I noticed my coffee had ran cold. I briefly debated giving the pokémon it, which I quickly decided against. I had a hyperactive handful enough in Loki, I didn't want him running around on a caffeine high. Xander on the other hand would most likely have an adverse reaction to it. I knew that it had been proven that caffeine didn't lead to dehydration in humans, though giving it to a water pokémon was another story. Something in the drug affected with the pokémon's natural water-producing glands and dried them out. I might not have been that friendly with Xander, but I didn't want him dying anytime soon.

Instead I pulled a face and drained the rest of the cup. I quickly placed my dirty plate and cup in the inside of the cafe and ordered another coffee fast enough to ensure my pokémon didn't decide to maul each other or anything in my absence. I sat back down and poured Xander some water into his bowl, and then splashed some over his head. He croaked happily and waddled towards the bowl, where he seemed to be trying to drink from it and swim in it at once. I gave the rest of the bottle itself to Loki, and after teaching him how to drink from it without spilling it everywhere, let him supervise himself. Of course, once he was finished, he decided it was the most fun thing ever to crush the plastic again and again, creating more and more noise.

Pokémon were not a good cure for a hangover.

Another coffee and one Loki mercifully recalled to his poké ball later, I made way out of the town and towards the outskirts out route one hundred and three. I needed to train my pokémon somewhat, and the food had done a good job in absorbing most of the drug in my body. From my shoulder, Xander croaked a happy sound, even as he bobbed along. I don't know what made him decide my shoulder was a great perch, but the creature had clumsily attempted to clamber onto it when I picked up the remnants of Loki's plastic bottle-turned new fun toy.

It was strange carrying the creature on my shoulder. While he weighed nothing more than three kilos at most, he was nearly half a metre tall, including his leaf. It meant he was perched precariously between my shoulder, back and backpack, and was tall enough to look over my head. His weight didn't bother me; I was used to having to carry packs weighing anything upwards from twelve kilos. His three kilo weight was a feather in comparison.

More than that, the creature cooled my head, and thus me. Despite the fact he was greatly attuned to water, he was still sharing a symbiotic relationship with a plant. It meant that even though the sun should have dried him out, the plant on his head still needed enough sunlight and nourishment to survive. Xander himself provided the water and nutrients it needed, all the plant required in addition was sunlight, carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Again I was struck by the notion that my knowledge was far too different to that of people native to present time.

I found a clearing within the start of the route and let Loki out again, giving him a moment to adjust before I placed Xander on the ground. Given what I'd learnt from the book, no matter how fast a sableye was, it would always let its opponent attack first to ensure it could counter the attacks effectively. That pretty much meant it was relatively useless training Loki to move faster if he was only going to let the opponent fall into a trap. On the other hand, it still meant the foe could avoid the trap, so he'd still need some speed avoiding it. Other than that, he was supposedly effective in both taking and giving long range and close-up damage, and like any pokémon could perform attacks of his element easier. The only problem was, attacks of darkness were produced with negative energy, a sort of bad karma, and ghostly attacks were formed from the energy of malevolent spirits in their surroundings.

Honestly, I didn't really want to let him practice either until I knew for certain he was under my control.

Xander however, was pretty much feeble at everything but dishing out and taking long-range hits. He could heal and move faster in the rain, and had a natural affinity with water, as well as both the sun and plants.

Ideally, I would train their downfalls, though first I actually had to train them in the basics. Of course, I had no idea how to truly start such a thing.

"We're going to play a game," I told them both, deciding on something. I knew they were both relatively young, so I assumed training in the guise of playing would work well. "Humans call it tag," I told them, crouching down as far as I could to their level. I thought hard and fast, trying to put it into terms they'd understand. "One of you has the pokérus. The other has to run away and avoid getting captured. If the one with the pokérus touches you-" I tapped Xander on the leaf for emphasis, "-then you have to chase then and give it back. You guys understand?"

They looked up at me with what I hoped was understanding, but was more likely just plain attention. "Alright guys, I want you to remember; no hurting the other, alright? All you need to do is touch them; no biting, no scratching, no inflicting injuries." I stood and threw my arms into the air. "Alright, go!"

Instead, they both remained there with equally stumped expressions.

Well, that was anti-climatic.

Obviously my plan ended in failure. Instead I just told Xander to squirt Loki with a tiny blast of water and watched as they chased each other around the clearing.

Loki seemed to understand quickly it was all a game, though still seemed somehow sinister in his attempts. Xander scuttled around as fast as he could on six stumpy legs, though Loki would continually dive into the shade of a tree and embrace his ghostly abilities. Quite often he leapt through a tree or the ground itself and managed to catch Xander with a rake of his claws. I went to stop them at first, though quickly realised they were in fact, non-lethal blows. In fact, it seemed nothing more than an equivalent of cuts and scrapes kids would get playing chase or climbing trees. Regardless, each time Loki managed to scratch Xander, he would retaliate by knocking the ghost off his feet with a blast of water.

All in all, it was fun to watch. I found myself becoming distracted by their antics more often than I could keep attention on my book.

Thankfully I caught them in time as a pachirisu ran at them from nowhere. It looked at them both with its grey eyes, chittering as it stretched out its white body, rubbing small paws against its yellow cheeks. Static discharged randomly from the cheeks on its face and the blue spikes of its tail, and equally blue ears flicked in either direction.

It took all of a moment for both my pokémon to decide to chase it.

I groaned and pushed myself to my feet. Of course my pokémon would decide to gang up on a creature capable of frying us all with a few hundred volts of electricity, wouldn't they? "Loki! Xander! Stop!" I barked, even as the squirrel rushed past me. My pokémon both stopped by my side, panting slightly and with wide grins on their faces.

The human the pachirisu ran to, however, didn't seem to find it as enjoyable. He was a strange weed of a man with bottle-black hair that flopped over his face. He was nearly as tall as me, and given the rust-coloured stubble growing from his chin, he must have been around my age. He had a crimson red v-neck tee that he tucked into faded black jeans, and a pair of worn black boots covered his feet. All in all, he didn't look anything like the sort of person that would own a blue and white squirrel.

He took all of two seconds to decide he wanted a fight.

"The hell you doin'?" he shrieked at me, advancing a step. The pokémon on his shoulder bared its teeth and hissed at me and my pokémon, and I felt the urge to laugh at them both. He seemed to have no muscle mass to him, and looked as if he hadn't eaten right in a long time. It wasn't through ego alone that I decided he wouldn't stand a chance if he did decide to start a fight.

"You think it's funny to let your pokémon run 'round and attack others?" he continued, stomping forth another step.

I managed to stop myself from rolling my eyes at him. If he had been in normal shape, or had a threatening pokémon by his side – or both – I would have found myself vaguely intimidated. However, instead I regarded him as nothing more than a joke. I had several years of training as a solider behind me; he looked like he would struggle to open a paper door.

So I found myself opting to simply beat him with words. "Depends if the trainer's stupid enough to let their pokémon run at two potentially wild pokémon." I folded my arms and glared at him – even if I did have to look up an inch or two. Inside, my heart was beginning to race. I knew if he wanted to fight me myself, I would have no problem winning. My pokémon on the other hand, might struggle. After all, Xander had only fought a wild electrike, and Loki had yet to battle anything.

"They would have stayed only chasing each other if your pokémon had left them alone," I told him, putting a little authority into my voice. "Maybe if you had a little control over your pokémon..."

That seemed to push him over the edge. He trembled in visible anger as he snatched a poké ball from his belt. "Oh, that's it!" he declared with furious passion. "I'm gonna pound you and your pokémon into the ground!" He threw the ball to the floor and caught it as it exploded open and shot back into his hand. The light formed a treecko, which was nearly the same green as the grass, save for the red of its stomach. "Come on, let's do this," he barked at me. "Or are you afraid?"

Honestly, I was a little. I had to compete in a pokémon battle that I had no idea how to manage. Thankfully, I knew a little about treecko, and a few weaknesses I could exploit. I looked down and saw not only Loki hopping from foot-to-foot in delight, but Xander growling lowly at the new menace. Obviously they both wanted to fight, though I felt confident in sending out Xander first. I said his name and nodded towards the treecko, and he understood instantly.

Before the gecko could even blink Xander was upon it, warbling as he bit into the creature's scaled skin. The pokemon's trainer shrieked in alarm and quickly threw out every command he could think of, successfully confusing not only me and Xander, but his own pokémon by the looks of it. The treecko, however, seemed to just decide to rely on its own battling technique.

It flipped up and slammed its tail into Xander's head with enough force to make him flip over, startled and disgruntled. It then leapt at him and began scratching with all its might at his exposed underside, its tiny claws glowing a faint white.

Xander croaked and bit down on one of the gecko's arms. He shook the creature with feral might, managing to shake it this way and that. The treecko slammed him with its tail even as he bit harder and began to shake with more force. Eventually Xander growled and shot the gecko away with a blast of water that seemed to have the force of a cannon. He croaked once more and spat another volley of water, though this seemed to have small bubbles that flew out with it. It shattered into the treecko with virulent force, enough for me to hear the crack of bone like it happened right next to me.

The treecko slammed down hard moments later with a bone-jarring thud. One of its legs was bent awkwardly from the landing or the attacks, and judging by its laboured breathing it had broken one or two of its ribs – if not punctured its lung.

Mercifully, the trainer was quick to recall it. He snarled at me and looked torn between wanting to run and heal the treecko or setting his next pokémon on me myself. I breathed a small, somewhat relieved breath to myself. Obviously he wasn't that experienced of a trainer either.

Finally he decided to go with option of fight. Another poké ball cracked open, this time revealing a machop from its containment. The grey skinned creature growled at us all, flexing muscles the species trained each day of their lives.

I quickly recalled Xander in a flash of light. He was weakened and injured, which left it to Loki. Thankfully, he had an advantage over the machop.

I looked down at the ghost at my legs. "Get'em," I said, flicking my head towards them both.

Loki wasted no time. He cackled and raced forth, insane laughter driving the machop wild. It grunted and swung a fist at him, only to pass completely through the pokémon. Loki laughed to himself once more, merry in his torment of the creature.

Again and again the machop attacked, though each blow ended in equal failure. His trainer kept screaming at it to use its foresight to seek out Loki's weak spots, though the trickster's continual torment stopped it from doing anything but attacking.

Loki grabbed the machop's hand after another blow. He cackled once more and threw the pokémon to the side, raking his claws across its exposed stomach. Then Loki was on it again, claws and teeth merrily attacking the creature. He bit into its neck and pierced skin enough for blood to spurt out and into his mouth.

And suddenly, it was like someone had flipped a switch.

Loki went crazy. Not the kind of crazy as in old –woman-shouting-at-lampposts-crazy, but crazy as in battle-fever-crazy. His claws and teeth became nothing but a blur as he buried them deeper and deeper in the machop, eager to feel more blood, to embrace and rejoice in the life that pooled around him.

"Loki stop!" I screamed at him. He wasn't listening. He continued to slash away at the screaming creature, heedless of what flew out of it. I only managed to recall the ghost as what I'm sure was a piece of severed intestine flew through the air.

In the wake of Loki's recall, he left the trainer with a mangled mess of a machop. I winced inwardly at the trainer's expression of sheer horror. He obviously wasn't used to anything like that, which just slightly amazed me.

I tried my best to offer a small apology as he spluttered and screamed about the state of his pokémon.

"Listen!" I snapped, finally having enough. "You need to learn; pokémon are feral creatures. They go around mauling each other, not caring about whether the other lives or dies. Unless you don't understand that, stop blubbering now! Pokémon live and pokémon die, but when they're under our control, they're weapons, no matter whether they're also our allies or tools." He quieted and looked at me in slight shock. Obviously he wasn't used to people having my sort of attitude, though mine was only common place from my own time. "They're weapons," I explained to him, "and like any weapon, you need to understand that when you use it, someone, somewhere is going to get hurt."

He blinked, growled and shoved me in the chest. I only just caught the small flash of yellow and orange paper notes in my hands before I punched him in retaliation. He recalled his pokémon as quickly as he could and raced off towards town, no doubt to get his pokémon healed.

I, on the other hand, was frozen on the spot. Why did he give me money? I knew trainers battled for fun and to train their pokémon, yet I'd never heard of money being exchanged at the end. Had I scared him that much he decided to pay me off? Or was he paying me for my advice? I threw both thoughts away. I'd seen many trainers that looked considerably wealthier than me, and it was the only logical conclusion of how trainers would make money on the road. People would make their pokémon fight and bet on the winner. It was like cock fighting or bear baiting, though somehow legal despite the former's outlaw.

It didn't make much sense to me. Then again, not much in the new world did.

I stuffed the notes in my wallet. At least, if nothing else, I was an extra fifteen poké better off. My fingers reached up and caught on Loki's poké ball, hesitantly tracing the contours of the design. He'd gone crazy when he tasted blood. I knew most creatures of darkness did, though I'd – foolishly – hoped that he would be different.

I needed to see how bad it was.

I snatched the ball off the bandolier and unleashed the beast within. Loki appeared with a deep, guttural hiss that I'd never heard before. Even as the light faded around him, he growled a deep, threatening growl at me, fangs bared and still coated in blood. I backed away and felt a brief spike of cold fear race up my spine. If I had a gun in my hands, I had no doubt I would have shot him then and there. However, I was completely defenceless.

Which gave him a perfect chance to attack.

He leapt at me in a flurry of teeth and claws, and I yelped as he bit down, hard into my arm. I struggled to pry to creature off even as his claws began to shred at my chest. Panicking, I completely forgot about his poké ball. It was only when he accidentally caught it that he was sucked back into the orb. I collapsed to the floor, panting for breath, barely aware of the throbbing pain in my arm. My top was shredded in various places, as was my chest, and I had tooth marks each an inch deep puncturing my arm.

I'd won my battle, but lost Loki.

I sighed long and hard as I reached into my bag and pulled out a first aid kit. I tried to pretend that I wanted to cry only because of the burn of antiseptic on my wounds. I wasn't fooling myself. I'd got my hopes up so high about the creature, only to have them torn down in the worst possible way. I knew he was only an infant, and that given time, I could train him enough to break such urges, but my brain wasn't working properly at that time. I was just filled with the undeniable feeling that I'd failed not only myself, but my pokémon, and worst of all; Jennifer. The woman had given up everything to help me try to save the world, and within the first few weeks, I'd failed her. She'd taken me in and treated me as a mother would, ensuring I was ready for the new world. Fuck the celebi that told her everything, she was the one that helped me in this new world.

I decided then and there that I would succeed, if only so I didn't fail her. I never had a mother of my own, and Jennifer was the closest thing I had to one – even if I'd known her for a week and she was to die within a few months.

I'd find out later that most people lost their first battles, and some would even be so out of their depth that their pokémon would die. But at that time, it didn't matter to me. I'd won my first battle, but lost one of my pokémon's sanity in the process.

Victory always has a price, after all.

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