His Own Road

Sixteen-year-old Ethan Hawkins just wants to train pokemon. He is enrolled at St. Margaret Academy in Sandy Hills, four hours from the city he’s spent all his life in. He absolutely hates it; his old friends get to stay back in town and attend trainer schools near their homes. Just his luck to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, on his own, away from his favorite types… forced to fit in with peers who want nothing to do with him. What’s a guy to do? One of the first pokemon he accidentally meets is weakling that follows him around like a lost puppy. As the world of the American League unfolds before him, Ethan realizes he may have bitten off more than he can chew. On top of that, he gets tangled in a mess of thievery that could very well end his new journey before it even begins.

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2. Roommates

A terrible noise woke Ethan. His eyes snapped open and he rolled to his back on his bed, staring at the ceiling. His new room was darker than it was when he arrived. Was that thunder? How long was he out? Rain pelted against his window across from him, some of it spraying the wooden floor boards because it was open.

Outside, the skies were still gray but the afternoon had passed. He sat up, stretched and yawned then rose to his feet to close the window. Thanks to him passing out he kept his hoodie on. After pulling it off he fished his cell from his jeans. The juice in his battery had fallen below the halfway mark. He checked the time next to it, reading the small white numbers. Six-thirty-eight. Ethan raised his eyebrows. Had it really been that long?

His eyes widened when it hit him. The welcoming party! Was it over? How would he get there now? He’d have to apologize to Ms. Willows when they met up later.

Another loud crash brought him back to reality, making him jump. The wall to his left shook as it boomed through the entire dorm. That definitely didn't sound like thunder. The heck was going on?

He hurried down the hall, passing the other two rooms. He could hear a crowd of people screaming, cheering and laughing in the corridor. Entering into his living room, he noticed the door was wide open. How did that happen? He could've sworn he closed it when got in…

A group of boys and girls his age bolted past him down, shouting at each other. He raised an eyebrow. One of the guys sprinted back, poking his head into Ethan’s dorm. He was a pale boy with dirty blonde dreadlocks covering most of his face.

“Bruh. Pokemon battle in the hallway. Get your ass out here, man!”

Ethan’s eyes widened. They can freaking battle in here?!!

He dashed out of his dorm, joining the pale teen who laughed and shook his shoulders, jumping up and down. Ahead of them a massive crowd of students had gathered, going as crazy as fans at a sports game. Some were even live streaming the event on their phones. Ethan pushed his way to the front, he had to see what kind of Pokemon they were using.

The battlers were two upperclassmen, both boys sporting light fuzzy beards under their chins. In front of him with his back facing Ethan was a messy haired guy wearing a black long sleeved shirt and jeans. He had an earring in one lobe, chains dangled from his belt loops. On his end of the fight stood a scraggy, breathing hard while holding onto its baggy extra skin using one hand.

“Xander, scraggy! Kick their asses!” One kid beside Ethan hollered.

“Do your best, scraggy!” A girl on his other side said.

“He’s got it in the bag.”

Across from Xander, his opponent was another dark-haired dread head, only his locks were neatly braided and tied into a ponytail. He had on a v-neck shirt, camo cargo shorts. His partner for the battle was a machop.

“I wouldn’t call this a championship rematch. They’re using baby pokemon.”

“Finish it, Nathan! Get your revenge!”

“He should win. His machop has the advantage.”

Xander snapped his fingers. “Scraggy, headbutt.”

“Chop it down!” Nathan commanded.

The two fighting types charged at one another, making the crowd around them begin to yell even louder. It was enough to make Ethan’s ears ring. They met in the middle of the hallway. The macop lifting an arm over its head, scraggy sliding to a stop before leaning back with its big head high.

Scraggy started to ram its head into machop’s chest however it was stopped when the gray creature bashed the bottom of its palm on top of scraggy’s noggin. A loud slam filled the corridor as the two clashed. Scraggy grunted out in pain, wincing for a second but it refused to go down and held its ground. The two seemed evenly matched for a minute, locked in a contest of strength. Machop using all of its power to make his enemy bow before it while scraggy fought to push its foe backward with its hard head.

“Low sweep!” Nathan raised a fist. “End it right now!”

Nathan’s partner swiftly obeyed, raising a knee off the floor, causing scraggy to stumble a few steps back.

“Wait for it, scraggy.” Xander spoke calmly. He was so relaxed, he had his hands in his pockets.

Machop sent a hard kick flying toward scraggy’s side. Short as scraggy was, the assault would have cracked it right in the side of the neck. Scraggy followed orders, not moving an inch while macop’s leg hurtled on with breakneck speed.

“Jump.” Xander said.

His partner leapt high over his opponent’s pokemon, seconds before getting hit. Machop swung at nothing but air, whipping up a blast of wind that sent chills down Ethan’s arms.

“Headbutt it again.”

As scraggy fell back toward the ground, it grabbed its extra skin around its legs then ducked forward. Performing an acrobatic front flip and slamming its forehead right against machop’s own cranium. The move sent the crowd into a frenzy while machop tumbled along ground until he rolled to a stop some odd feet before Nathan. Lying face first on the floor, machop’s body twitched a few times, then he went motionless.

Xander turned toward Ethan and the rest of the students, extending his arms out. Ethan watched everyone around him just about lose their minds; a couple girls in particular rushed past him to personally congratulate his scraggy. On the opposite side, other students had gathered around Nathan to encourage him for a good try. He was visibly upset.

The pale boy that dragged Ethan out of his dorm abruptly forced his way through to the middle of the hall. “Everybody scatter! Teddy’s coming, he’s got back up!” He pushed Ethan. “Don’t just stand there bruh, get back to your dorm!”

Xander and Nathan returned their partners to their pokeballs. The crowd around them quickly began to disperse.

“What the hell goin’ on, up here?!!” Ethan heard a deep voice bellow from around the corner of the hallway, followed by a lot of boots thumping against the floor. “Get outta of the way for’ I write all ya’ll up! MOVE!”

Was battling not allowed? He didn’t have time to ponder on it. He jogged back to his dorm and shut the door, the lights were on in his living room. He narrowed his eyes. How on earth…?

“Yo what’d ya think?” A boy’s voice came from the kitchen. Following the question, the stranger appeared around the bend holding two cans of grape soda.

He seemed tall as Ethan was and the wild black afro atop his head certainly provided an extra foot or so. Everything else below that was shaved down cleanly. The guy wore shorts, a simple tank top sporting some sort of rock band on the chest.

“What did I… uh…” Ethan couldn’t answer his question. He shook his head. “Hold on, are you my roommate?”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner.” He tossed Ethan his extra can of the fizzy drink. “Call me Clarke. It’s my last name, but I can’t stand being called Arthur.”

He glared at him. “Don’t call me Arthur.”

“Fine!” Ethan raised his hand. “I won’t.”

Clarke shrugged. “So… what’d ya think?”

“Think of what?”

Clarke pointed to the door. “The battle!” He arched an eyebrow. “You’re not one of them wacky types, are ya?”

“NO!” Ethan cleared his throat. “No. I’m still just taking everything in.”

“I gotcha,” Clarke nodded. “Well here’s what I think. It sucked.”

Ethan almost laughed. “It did?”

“Course’ it fucking did,” He cracked his can open. “First that idiot with the scraggy was trying so hard to be cool and shit. Really got under my skin.”

He went on after taking a quick sip. “The other fool was using machop all wrong. He was a step behind the other trainer all the way through.”

Ethan folded his arms. “Would you have done something differently?”

“He shoulda’ had machop use seismic toss the moment it jumped!”           

“They both seemed pretty low leveled to me."

Another stranger said, walking into the living room from the back. A tanned skinned teenager with glasses and long hair down to his neck. Also wearing jeans plus a sweater. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. “What if his machop didn’t know seismic toss yet?”

Clarke kicked the air with a foot. “Low sweep till it couldn’t stand anymore! Scraggy’s soft in the knees, dude. Gotta’ go for the weak spots!”

He saw Ethan about to ask, so he decided to step in. “Oh yeah, this is Marco. Lucky lotto winner number three.”

Marco held out his hand to Ethan. “Nice to make your acquaintance.”

“Ethan.” He replied shaking it.

Marco grinned. “We apparently are dealing with a machop expert.” He nodded to Clarke.

“Guess so.” Ethan chuckled, opening his own can at last.

Clarke frowned. “Hardy har har. I’m tryin’ to tell you guys! My dad has a few machop on his ranch. Real strong ones, I’ve battled with em’ before!”

“Hmm,” Marco rubbed his chin. “Since you have so much experience, why are you at St. Margaret’s?”

“To get my trainer’s card, of course,” Clarke said placing his hands on top of his head. “Like everybody else.”

Thunder rumbled outside, Ethan walked across the room to close the window.

“Hey, leave it cracked. I love the smell of rain.” Clarke said.

“I’d love to stay and finish this conversation guys,” Ethan began. “But I have some unpacking to do.”

“Hurry back man,” Clarke placed his hands on his hips. “We gotta’ talk favorite types!”

“That’s right, you were stone cold out when the two of us arrived. We decided not to bother you.” Marco explained.

“Thanks.” Ethan looked down. “I’m mad I missed the welcoming ceremony though…”

Clarke rolled his eyes. “I didn’t go either.”

“It was all right,” Marco explained. “There was food, a raffle but mostly we just listened to teachers talking.

 “See?” Clarke made a raspberry noise with his lips. “Bunch of B.S. Teachers flapping their gums. We didn’t miss much.”

Ethan wondered if Ms. Willows was there. If she introduced herself. It would have been a great opportunity to learn what trainer class she looked over. Didn’t miss much his butt. That was everything, for him! He made his way back to his room, grabbing his duffel bag once he entered. He nearly dropped it because it was so heavy…

He literally had to drag it across the floor and heave it to this his bed in one go. No wonder he crashed for so long, carrying something like this. It was a miracle he wasn’t sore… yet. He remembered what he packed, no way everything inside would make it feel like this. He unzipped the black bag and pulled it open. Horror spread across his face when he peered in it.

He pulled out a pair of black, calf high leather boots that certainly wasn’t his. About five pairs of heels, four gym shoes, towels. He dug deeper. A white one piece swimsuit, tons of bras and colorful panties, even some lacy ones! Heat started to flood to his face. A flower-patterned bag with tons of make-up… he stopped. He was sure this was an invasion of privacy.

“What… the… hell…?” Ethan took a breath, feeling his stomach plunge. “WHERE IS MY STUFF?!!!!!!”

Could all this belong to his mother? No, she didn’t have anything in the back of the van. He began to pace back and forth, racking his brain for answers. How could this happen? When did he lose his…

His eyes widened when it hit him. The blonde that knocked him down when he first arrived.

“THAT GIRL!!!”

Marco and Clarke burst into his room. “Are you alright?”

“You specifically told me you weren’t wacky!” Clarke pointed at him.

Ethan spun around terrified, a pair of panties in his hand. “THAT GIRL HAS MY STUFF!!”

“Oh shit!” Clarke yelled, snatching the underwear from him. He glanced at him, then at the underwear. “This is not helping your case.”

Marco yanked the underwear from him next. “You’re into… cross-dressing?”

I’m not!!!” Ethan was ready to tear his hair out.

Clarke shrugged.” Hey man, there’s no judgement here. If that’s you then…”

Oh my God, listen to me!!!” Ethan pleaded. He sighed to calm his nervous. “Some chick bumped into me when I first got here.” He took the panties back. “We dropped bags and must have grabbed the wrong ones by accident!”

“Ooooooh.” Marco and Clarke said.

“Are you sure it’s not what Marco said?”

“NO!”

Ethan started packing all of the things back into the duffel. “I have to find her. No, I need to find Ms. Willows!” Perhaps he could find help at the security desk. He’d have to start there.

With that he put on his hoodie, then pulled the heavy thing over his shoulder and took off for the living room. “I’ll be back guys.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Clarke caught up to him in the hall. “Slow down dude. If what you say is true, she can be anywhere on campus. This is a big friggin’ place.”

“We can’t be out all evening. Do you even know this mystery girl’s name?” Marco pushed his glasses onto his nose.

“I’ll start at the security desk,” Ethan slipped on his shoes. “She has to be in the system, right? Maybe they can send her an email or something. There’s also the fact that she could be looking for me too.”

“I’ll go with you then,” Clarke darted off to his room. “Hold up, lemme grab my sandals.”

“I’ll get my boots too.” Marco was right behind him.

Ethan arched an eyebrow. “What are you two doing?”

“This is the best thing that’s happened all day,” Clarke yelled out. “You really are wacky if you think we’re gonna miss this!”

Ethan, Clarke and Marco stood at the security desk right before the main entrance in the hideous lobby. The seat behind the black marble counter was empty. Clarke pressed on the small red button at the end of the desk. He pounded on the thing three times. Yet no one appeared from the door beyond the chair.

“Where the heck are these guys?!” Clarke said through clenched teeth. “The fuck!” Ethan thought he was ready to punch something.

Marco pushed his glasses on his nose, glancing around the empty lobby. He spotted the corridor to his left, leading to the security offices and the cafeteria.

“Maybe we can find help at the office.” He began walking toward the white hallway.

The three rounded the bend, watching the walls surrounding them go from pale to checkered black and white. The way continued, but the first set of doors stood to either side of them amongst glass panels. Gigantic shutters extended from one end to the other. They were closed, meaning Ethan and his new roommates couldn’t see what was going on within. If there was anything happening in the first place.

“Maybe you two should try the one on the right,” Marco pointed. “I’ll do this one.”

The trio split up as the bespectacled boy suggested. Ethan pushed on the door, it didn’t budge. Instead the glass rattled softly. Clarke tried the knob, it was locked.

“Nothing,” He said, turning to face Marco.

“Same here,” Marco frowned, tossing bangs from his eyes. “They must be busy, hunting down those two guys battling earlier.”

Ethan nodded. “You may be right… but is security really that thin? Do they need all hands on deck for such a situation?”

“The rules are, battling isn’t allowed in the dorms,” Clarke put his hands in his pockets. “They confiscate pokeballs for that stuff, dude. Sure it was fun to watch but they’re out here pullin risks.”

They faced Ethan, waiting on his decision.

Ethan looked down for a second, adjusting the strap of the bag on his shoulder. What to do next? Was it over already? He suddenly remembered the security post he passed with Ms. Willows while he was first on his way to the Bison building. There had to be someone who could assist them there! It was just down the road.

“I’m going to try the post outside,” Ethan explained. “You guys don’t have to come.” He never asked them to join him, honestly. They were the ones treating this like some big adventure. Or they could be perverts and were only in this just to get a look at the blonde who normally wore the pink panties in the duffel.

“Don’t push us off,” Clarke folded his arms. “We said we’d help, all right? Let us help.”

“But… why?” Ethan asked. “This isn’t a three-man job.”

Clarke shrugged. “Got nothin’ better to do.”

Ethan narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Mmmhm.”

Marco scratched his cheek nervously. “If we’re being frank here gents, I’m interested in meeting this mystery girl…”

Ethan extended his arms toward him. “Thank you!” He gave Clarke a dirty look. “At least he’s being honest.”

“You can’t lump me in with the nerd!” Clarke retorted hotly. He quickly faced Marco. “No offense dude.”

Marco was about to reply when a sound started to echo through the hallway ahead, coming from another corner. Something that reminded Ethan of jingling keys or a handful of loose change bouncing up and down in someone’s pocket. The three spun around, Clarke taking the initiative to run up and meet the person headed their way.

“I can’t believe this.” He said once he reached the t-shaped intersection.

To their surprise Xander stepped forward holding an umbrella, chains on his jeans bouncing alongside his movements. He looked at Clarke, then glanced down the hall to face Ethan and Marco.

“Well damn,” He chuckled. “Were you all expecting me? Fans?”

Clarke grabbed the collar of his shoulder and twisted it, forcing Xander to drop his umbrella. “My ass. We should turn you in,” He grumbled. “Maybe then we’ll get some service around here.”

“Not cool, bro,” Xander shoved him away, causing Clarke to stumble a few feet back. Xander seemed stronger than he looked. “Snitches get stitches.”

Clarke began to raise a fist. “There’s three of us and one you. Way I see it, we’ll be dishing the need to get stitches.”

“I’ve had worse odds against me. You three pups got another thing coming if you think I’m just gonna’ stand here and be held down,” Xander spoke as calmly as he did in his battle. However, Ethan could feel seriously cold intent behind every word. “I will thrash if I need to.”

Ethan did not sign up for a fight tonight. It was still his first day, for goodness sake. The last thing he wanted was his mother to swerve her van around…it’d be a world of embarrassment.

Xander glared at Clarke, popping his knuckles. He slid a foot forward, assuming his fighting stance. “Do we have a problem?”

“Everyone just wait!” Marco called out. Thank God somebody was the voice of reason around here. “This isn’t the mission, Clarke.”

“Yeah but this is his fault, though!” The tall teenager argued.

“You know nothing. For your information I was challenged,” Xander picked up his umbrella. “Nathan is just some whiny ass punk who doesn’t know how to get over his losses. I mopped the floor with his real team in a local tournament last year. He’s had it out for me ever since.”

He shook his head. “Kinda’ sad.”

“None of that is our business. Stay and fight then,” Ethan turned to head back to the lobby. “I’m going to the post outside.”  

Clarke threw his arms in there. “Jesus. That’s how it is? Some friggin roommate.”

Xander remained in position. He stared at his foe’s huge afro, cracking a grin. “What now, coco puff? Still wanna’ rumble?”

“Screw you!” Clarke shouted, really ready to pop the guy now.

“Let’s just go!” Marco begged. “Fight him now and you’ll join him in sitting in either of these offices. Is that what you want? On your first night?”

Clarke considered it for a second. Then he begrudgingly dropped his arms. “This isn’t over, ya hear me?”

“Actually, I think it is.” Xander relaxed. “I was just on my way out. This isn’t even my dorm.” He walked past Clarke, pushing his own hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I’ll be leaving this place with you freshies.”

“No way!” Clarke stomped his foot. “No way in hell you’re hanging with us.”

Marco hurried to Clarke’s side at the intersection. “For once, I agree with him. Whether you started the battle or not, you’re a wanted man. Guilty by association.”

Xander raised a hand. “Chill. I have no interest in getting to know any of you. Once your friend, who’s fucking gone by the way, gets to the checkpoint, I’m ghost. Hell, once we leave the building, I’ll hang back. We don’t even have to talk.”

Ethan wanted to smile when he saw his roommates push open the main doors, stepping out into the rain in front of the buiding. They seemed hesitant to continue, taking note of the downpour. He didn’t know why but he was waiting several feet off with his hood on in a small garden beside a dripping bench. The sky was getting darker by the second, dark enough for the tall lampposts lining the brick roads behind him to glow brightly. It was colder than he cared to admit. He had to keep his hands tucked in his hoodie so they would stay warm and dry.

His eyebrows shot up when he noticed Xander exit the building a minute later, opening his umbrella. Ethan watched the trainer stare at his two new friends, getting wetter and wetter by the second. Xander threw his head back and laughed. Then he spoke to them, words Ethan couldn’t hear being so far away.

Marco lowered his head in defeat, Clarke shouted out some obscenities and kicked at a puddle. Then they huddled under Xander’s umbrella. Ethan chuckled and shook his own head. He did give them the chance to stay. But no, everyone’s an adventurer these days…

“Guys!” He waved at them. “Over here!”

“You two sure you don’t want to turn back now?” He asked Clarke and Marco once the three of them entered the garden.

“Let’s j-just get this over with.” Clarke grumbled, throwing his arms inside his tank top. It didn’t help much, he shuddered when a chilly gust of air blew right through him.

“Whatcha’ gonna do when we split up?” Xander nudged him, fully knowing the answer. “You’ll be stranded with those doughnut loving idiots. HAH!”

“They have carts,” Marco replied, looking just as miserable as his roommate. Rain rolled down the lens of his glasses. “We’ll catch a ride back.”

Right on cue, before the four of them could set off, a large six passenger club cart pulled up to the side of the road behind them, stopping next to a lamppost. One guard, a bald, bearded man sporting a plastic poncho and leather gloves leaned forward in the driver’s chair squinting at them, beyond the picket fence.

“Hey! You kids!” He shouted. “What’s going on over there? Come here, all of you.”

“Lucky!” Ethan hurried over to him.

Xander hesitated. Would he be caught? The guards were always sharing things with each other over their radios.

Clarke bumped his shoulder into him. “Move, I’m freezing out here!”

“Don’t push me!”

The guard looked each of them in the eyes. “Got a bad storm about to hit the campus, this rain is only the tip of the iceberg.” He pointed to the Bison building. “If that’s your dorm, better get inside before everything locks down. That’s in two hours.”

“I’d love to be inside sir…” Ethan began. He explained his problem to the man, patting the heavy duffel bag.

“Me and my friends tried to look for help, but there’s no guards around in there.” He said once he finished.

“Craziness,” The guard reached for his radio, pushing down on a button.  “What the hell… JBB, this is fourteen, please respond—”

Xander held his breath.

“Honestly sir, I’m just trying to get my bag back. I have a lot of important stuff in there, some of which costs too much to be replaced,” Ethan spoke up, interrupting him.

The guard looked at him. He sighed. “Fine. The offices in your dorm wouldn’t have been able to help you anyway, without more information on this girl. Best thing I can do is get you over to lost and found at the Winetta Lab. It’s not too far from here. They can check all the items and put out an email blast. Hopefully your girl will come across it.”

“That’d be a big help sir.”

“Hop on in,” The man patted the seat beside him. “The rest of you, get back to your dorms.”

Xander opened his mouth to speak but Marco cut him off.

“Did you say the Winetta Lab? We’re all supposed to be there.” He began fishing around in his pockets. Half a second later he yanked out a folded sheet of paper. “This is from Mr. Corbin Humphries, the normal type leader here. We had a meeting scheduled today but the storm threw a lot of things out of whack.”

“You’re telling me, kid.” The guard shook his head. “Okay, everybody in. Hurry up.”

Ethan took his place in the passenger seat. Marco, Clarke and Xander all sat in the back. The cart pulled off speeding down the illuminated brick path, flying past buildings, more gardens, plenty of statutes. Rain and cold flew into Ethan’s face. He hugged the bag closer to himself. He hoped he could meet the blonde at the lab. More than that… Marco had connections with the gym leader here?! When was he going to tell him that? He closed his eyes. No, that was none of his business. But it did open a world of new questions. Perhaps he wanted to be leader after he graduated?

Behind him, Xander grabbed Marco by the shirt. “The hell is your deal? I don’t need to be anywhere near that place.” His whisper was more of a growl, one that made Marco cower under him.

“I was improvising!”

Clarke reached across, immediately pushing him off his roommate. Hard enough to nearly throw the guy off the cart.

“Keep your hands off him. Way I see it, we just saved your ass. When we hop out, fix your own problems.”

Instead he snatched Marco by the shirt this time and shook him wildly. “Dude I could hug you! That was some quick thinking! I thought it was over for us right there.”

“Please stop ruining my clothes.” Marco moaned.

Xander scowled. “It wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place, if he didn’t interrupt me!”

“Cut it out back there!” The bald man barked. “Don’t make me turn this thing around!”

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