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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1. St. Margaret Academy

The city had faded from Ethan’s sight hours ago. Open pastures as great as the sea replaced glass highrises and paved streets. His mother's minivan cruised down the winding highway, Ethan said nothing. He wasn't supposed to be talking anyway. A bubbly pop song filled the car, it was stupid. His mother hummed along, tapping her thumbs on the steering wheel. They passed by herds of miltank and tauros, he watched the pokemon graze on the lush grass.

Further off in the distance he spotted a patrat at standing atop a hill. Ethan pressed a thumb against the cool glass. The mound was about the same size, this far out. Now it looked like the wide-eyed beast was three inches tall, standing on his thumb. He smirked with amusement. Acting fast he reached into a pocket and fished out his cell. This deserved a picture.

Elisha glanced at him, smiling. “Glad to see you in better spirits.”

Ethan frowned. He certainly was not in a happier mood. He sank deeper into his chair like a spoiled child that didn't get a toy at the toy store. “I'm bored, that's all.”

He spoke the truth. They had been heading down state, on the road nearly four hours now. He peeked at the GPS in front of him, one more hour remained. The van rounded a bend toward a long bridge. It stretched over a pretty wide river. Beneath several ducklett floated along the still surface, dipping their heads underwater. Ethan saw a fisherman and his son in a lone boat not too far off. The boy looked to be no older than a first or second grader, wearing a bucket hat and a life jacket.

He tugged excitedly on his father’s arm, pointing at all the magikarp and goldeen leaping up around them. Ethan’s mother reached out and turned a knob on the radio, changing the station. A flock of taillow, led by a couple Swellow soared high above them. He leaned forward, watching through the windshield.

Elisha was mocha skinned and lanky. As was her son. Her eyes brown, his hazel, like his father. Normally her hair came down to her shoulders. Last week though, while Ethan got a haircut in preparation for today, she tied her own into long thin braids and put them in a ponytail.

It was supposed to be raining by the time they arrived. The temperature would drop as well. Elisha sported a windbreaker over a long-sleeved shirt. Below that, comfortable jeans. Her son’s outfit wasn't too different. He wore his favorite steelix hoodie instead of a jacket.

“We're almost there, so you might as well lose the attitude,” Elisha began. “St. Margaret is a great school.”

Ethan turned his head to stare out his window again. His frown deepened. He didn't care whether the academy was a good school or not. He wanted to be at Lakeside Prep. Not only was it still in the city around everything he knew and was comfortable with, all his friends were going to be pokemon trainers there. Here he was being dropped off in the boonies, all by himself. He hated it already.

Elisha continued. “You're too young to throw away your education for all this pokemon business. Remember our deal?”

When he didn't answer Elisha’s jaw tightened in irritation. “Ethan!”

He grumbled.

“Louder, please.”

He sighed. “I remember.”

“Thank you. St. Margaret is the perfect place for you to finish your studies. And you get to do what you've always wanted. Two birds, one stone. Your father and I could've saved our money, you know.”

Ethan looked down. He opened his mouth to reply but a chippy tune interrupted, cutting off the song on the radio too. Through the van’s bluetooth her cell was was going off, one of Elisha’s friends was calling. She quickly answered, pressing a button on the wheel.

“Hey girl, what's up?” She began.

He returned to looking out his window. Half of him felt relieved he was stopped. I'll be all alone. Even you and dad won’t be around. At this point he'd settle to go back home and deal with his sister.

Ethan’s stomach started doing flips when they arrived at the school's outer gates. They surrounded a dense forest. The van continued down a narrow dirt path with tall trees and thick shrubs on both sides. Ethan could barely see past them. He could hear the cries of pokemon. Despite it drizzling he rolled down his window. Chirps of birds and the buzzing of bugs filled the air. They were all around him. Rain sprinkled his face.

He thought about catching a Spearow or a Murkrow. Maybe a Fletchling. Could that be the move? Long as he was he student at St. Margaret anything he captured around here was his to keep. He grinned. Mine, he thought. To care for and play with, to raise to adulthood, in its own right. Thinking about all these things made him excited and that eased the knots of anxiety in his belly. Perhaps his time out here wouldn't be so bad…

“JESUS!!” Elisha yelled, suddenly stomping on the breaks.

Ethan turned to face his mom, he could barely get a word out before the momentum of the van roaring to a stop threw him forward. Forcing him to stare at his lap. Luckily his seatbelt prevented him from slamming his head against the dashboard. The van kicked up a thick cloud of dust as it swerved a bit to the bushes.

Breathing hard and admittedly scared out of their mind, mother and son looked up through the windshield, spotting an enormous sawsbuck standing in the middle of the road. It gazed at them apprehensively. Lush green leaves sprouted from its tall, crooked antlers. He noticed a scar above one of the eyes. Its fur was full and chestnut colored. Ethan blinked.

Not even a second later, a herd of deerling, accompanied by more sawsbucks came sprinting through the green from his mother’s side. Their hooves sounded like thunder; they could feel the ground trembling. There were so many Ethan couldn’t keep up his count. He leaned forward, his heart started to pound faster, not from fear this time, but from sheer fascination.

This moment just took the cake. There were more pokemon here than he’d probably ever seen in his life. Albeit it being the same one and its evolution. So close, so… real. Elisha also seemed to be captivated. He had to get this on his phone. He glanced down, fumbling through every pocket on him. Where was it? Oh come on!

He found it on the floor between his shoes. Unbuckling the van’s belt, he ducked down to grab it. When he came back up everything was silent. Real thunder rumbled across the gray skies.

The big sawsbuck remained. It snorted, a puff of nearly visible vapor rising from its nostrils. Without a word it bolted off, leaving them to sit back and exhale.

“Goodness,” Elisha clutched her chest. “I didn’t… I didn’t realize I was holding my breath!”

She turned to her son, putting a hand on his shoulder. Then moved to his arm. “Are you alright? Does anything hurt?” She lifted his arm to check his side.

Ethan pushed her hand away, gently. “I’m fine,” He said. A smile crept across his face. “That thing was huge.”

His mother chuckled. “Wasn’t it?!” She rubbed her forehead. “Swear to God it, came out of nowhere… I’m so sorry!”

Ethan waved a hand at her. He needed a second to process what just happened. She noticed his smile and she couldn’t stop a proud grin from forming on her own lips.

“What do you think now?”

“I… I don’t know.” He said lowly. He pointed at something right ahead on the side of the path, closer to him. It was a fancy sign, a myriad of colors with bold cursive letters. Welcome to St. Margaret Academy, it read. A Family of Learning.

Elisha nudged him. “There’s one on my end too.”

Sure enough, they found another. A smaller, diamond shaped yellow one with the silhouette of a deerling and a venipede. Black letters, all caps.

BEWARE OF ROAMING POKEMON.

That made them laugh.

She grabbed the steering wheel and turned it to the left. Then she stepped on the gas and the van was off once more.

Ethan recalled his mom reading something online about their gates protecting the habitats of pokemon. Hunters caught on the grounds would be arrested and fined. He also remembered reading that certain areas the forest were open only to part time staff and faculty. He wondered if any of them were out here.

Not too long after, they reached a crowded parking lot next to the campus. It wasn't hard to find, there were more signs. Handwritten with bright markers.

Standing in small patches of well-kept grass decorated with polished statutes were trios of teenagers in raincoats and hooded jackets. Helping to direct cars and buses of incoming students. Their partner pokemon eagerly assisted. There was a hoothoot on some kid’s shoulder with glowing red eyes. It used the scarlet beams it emitted like the long arms of a security blockade right before vehicles entered the lot. A jigglypuff danced cutely at one girl’s side each time she handed out a ticket and told drivers which lot to park in.

Another guy had a gurdurr that was hoisting a female student in each hand high over its head. And they held signs above them, to reach the windows of a coach bus behind his van. All of that was to the left, facing his mom. Ethan's eyes damn near grew big as dinner plates. He felt like he was a six year old again.

There was a paved road that ended at a heavy wooden gate on his side. He couldn’t see past it however he noticed bleachers, plus a scoreboard towering high over everything in the distance. Some sort field. Maybe a soccer or football field? He didn’t see any goal posts. Could it be a battling area? That got him hyped.

Security guards stood before it with strong adult pokemon. One man with a bushy dark mustache had a nidoking behind him. Awesome! Beside him, there was a blonde with a forretress and a freaking jynx. His eyes widened with stars when he saw a ginger haired guy sporting sunglasses. He had a fucking scizor!

“OH. MY. GOD.” Ethan threw himself against the window, completely fangirling. He took it back. He took it all back. These people… these students… their partners… it was too much to handle right now.

“OH MY GOD!”

“Ethan, move!” His mother shouted. “Boy sit your behind down. Don’t make me chop you!”

People could either park and explore the campus with their kids or use the express lane to drop an incoming student off if things had been set up over the phone or online. Ethan was one among many who completed the necessary forms and other registration procedures on his laptop with his mom. So she took the second lane. There was a long line of cars along the path, stretching out from a brick red building not too far off in front of him.

Concrete walls with black gates on top of them had been built to each side of the place, going on to surround the entire campus. Ahead, more pokemon, students, guards and some faculty awaited him as if they were staff at a fancy hotel or something. Helping groups of families with their bags. Passing out packets of papers, giving out instructions on where to go. Crowds of people were piling inside.

“This place seems so lively already!” Elisha giggled. “Very organized.”

After ten minutes, Elisha pulled the van up to the building at last. He hopped out and stretched. The wind had picked up, spraying light rain at him. He pulled his hood over his head. A group of students and their energetic partners rushed past him to tend to the large bus of teenagers. Joined by his mother he went to the back of the van, they opened the trunk to gather his things.

He glanced at his mother as she helped him. She didn’t say a word. He stayed quiet as well. This was it. The lonely road. After today he wouldn’t see his mother or his family until early January. Six months from now. All of the nervous energy returned full force, putting a giant knot in his stomach. His fingers felt shaky. But he had to keep moving. He had a whole bus of kids like him waiting. Ethan had a camping backpack, another bookbag on wheels, plus a very heavy duffel bag. He threw the camping one on first.

Without warning Elisha abruptly grabbed him, pulling him in for a tight hug. She squeezed him even harder when he rubbed her back. Who was he kidding, he embraced her hard as he could.

“I’m going to miss you, kid.” He heard her sniff.

“I’ll miss you more.” He replied.

They stepped back and she wiped an eye.

“Mom, don’t do that.” Ethan looked down, afraid he might tear up if the water works began to flow. He felt a lump form in his throat.

“Oh shut up,” She said. “You’re my son and I’m not going to see you until the new year.” She wanted to wail right then. “The new year! Do you have any idea how stressful this is for a mother?!”

“I’ll call, I promise.” Ethan nodded.

“Every damn Sunday, understand?” Elisha pointed at him sternly. “Not by phone either. I want a video call because I love seeing your face.”

“Alright, alright,” Ethan grumbled, beginning to feel embarrassed.

“And if I see one black eye, I’m marching right up here to German suplex somebody’s kid.”

“Please don’t. I don’t think that’s legal.”

She folded her arms. “Who’s going to stop me?”

“Uh, try the police!” Ethan threw his hands up.

“Don’t you worry about them. If one kid touches you, I’ll suplex them, their parents, their grandparents. The principal if I have to, and a teacher on my way out.”

“MOM!”

She hugged him again. “I just had to get that out, okay?”

“Mmhmm.” He moaned into her shirt.

“Take care of yourself,” She rubbed his head. “Let the fun come to you. Remember to smile. Do your homework. I’m serious, Ethan. Do your freaking homework.”

“Mmmmmppphhhh.” Ethan groaned. His face was stuffed between his mother’s ample breasts now. She was squeezing him for the second time.

They broke away for the final time. Elisha closed the trunk as a brunette-haired woman walked up to him. She touched Ethan’s shoulder softly, causing him to yelp and spin around.

“Whoops! I didn’t mean to scare you!” She chuckled. She had her hair tied into a long ponytail. Sporting glasses and a clipboard under one arm. She wore a zipped-up windbreaker plus a long tight dress that fell to her calves. It hugged her figure nicely. Beside her right leg was a whimsicott, balancing a stack of packets on its head.

“Are you a new student?”

Ethan nodded.

“Fantastic!” The woman pulled out her clipboard. “Can I have your name, please?”

“E-Ethan Hawkins.”

“Hmm…” She flipped through pages of her list. “Hawkins, Hawkins…”

“Whimsi!” The creature spoke in a high pitched cute tone, slightly lowering her head to him. The stack wobbled from side to side slightly. “Cott, cott!”

“Um, thanks.” He said, bending down a bit to take a packet.

“Whimsi~”

“Aha!” She smiled, circling his name on one sheet. “Found you. Your name seems familiar.”

The woman held out her hand. “Anywho, welcome to St. Margaret Ethan. It’s wonderful to meet you! I am Ms. Willows.” She nodded to her pokemon. “This little prankster here is Willa.”

“Nice to meet you both.” Ethan glanced at her then squatted to meet her trusted friend.

“Willows?” His mother asked, approaching them. “You wouldn’t happen to be the woman I spoke to on the phone would you?”

“Well, I made quite a few calls to some families with the same last name…” Ms. Willows giggled.

“I’m Elisha.”

The brunette’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh! I remember!” She held out her hand again. “It’s great to finally meet you too!”

“Likewise!” Elisha shook her hand. “Listen, can I talk with you for a second?”

Ethan rolled his eyes and groaned. Leave it to his mother to ruin everything, put an extra set of eyes on him so he can’t enjoy his freedom away from home. He began walking toward to the glass doors when he heard female voice shout.

“Watch out, watch out!”

He turned to find the person responsible right when a yellow blur unexpectedly crashed into him. He shut his eyes and the next thing he knew he was on his ass with his bags all over the ground. Pain throbbed in his head, his chest and knees.

“Ow, ow, ow…” The blonde sat up, rubbing the side of her face. She was a freckle faced girl about his age with curly hair falling to her shoulders. Most of it was. One side of her of head had braids above an ear. She wore a thin, open parka with a blouse underneath. Below that, black corduroy jeans. She seemed to be carrying about as many bags as he was.

“Come on dude, I said watch out!” She said frustrated. “Do you have sand in your ears or something?”

“Hold on, how is this my fault?” He picked himself up. “You ran into me!” How was anyone supposed to get out of the way with that one second warning?

“Ethan!” Elisha rushed to his side, Ms. Willows and Willa at her heels. “I turn my head for one second… what happened?”

Students who witnessed the accident helped the girl to her feet and collected her things. She shook her head. “Ugh, I don't have time for this. They're gonna take it from me!”

At those words she hurried off fast as she came, disappearing into the throng of adults and teens heading inside.

Ms. Willows snapped her fingers at a student, a tall boy wearing a large afro. Next to him was his duosion. “Marcus, can you and your partner go fetch her please? Bring her to a registration desk. I need her information.”

She turned back Ethan. “I do hope you're alright. Your mother and I had a little chat, you’ll be with us for the afternoon.” She gave him a warm smile. “Don't worry, Willa and I will take care of you.”

“Cott!” The whimsicott jumped up and handed him a piece of her cotton. All perfect and round and soft. He arched an eyebrow. Why was she giving him a piece of her cotton?

“Follow us and we’ll show you to your dorm.” She took the packets from Willa and handed them to another student passing by.

Ethan turned to give his mother a wave, then hurried to follow the brunette.

Inside, the place was about as big and spacious as the lobby of a shopping mall. Fancy carpets covered the floors. Tall pillars covered in giant banners stood in the corners, behind long counters where school staff worked from several computers. Along the walls, students stood at information booths, ready to provide whatever they could to curious parents. There were also a few school clubs present, new students could join right off the bat to make transitions easier.

In the middle of it all more workers sat at desks. There were lines of people everywhere. Loud chatter filled the air. That was just the first floor. Raising his head Ethan could get a peak of upstairs, the floors seemed closer to balconies near the center of the space. Open computer labs were stuffed next to one another and kids were crowding into every available area to begin or finish important online business.

“Keep up Ethan, I wouldn’t want you to get lost,” Ms. Willows said, making him begin to jog up to her as she and Willa zigzagged between desks. “You’ll have to go upstairs to get your student ID. Around the campus that card will be your key to get in every building, even your own dorm. It’ll also be your source of currency.”

She made her way to a set of stairs at one end of the room. “We do start new students off with free credit, but once it runs out, I’m afraid you’ll have to reload it on your own. You’ll learn how to do that here.” She peered over a shoulder to look at him as she moved up each step. “Understand?”

Ethan was too busy lugging the heavy wheeled backpack up the stairs and avoid the strangers coming down. The massive and weighty duffle bag on his shoulder wasn’t helping. He didn’t remember it being so… hefty. He was starting to breathe hard. A light sheen of sweet had covered his forehead. Damn it all, why did he bring this useless pack of—

“Ethan? Do I need to repeat anything?”

“Um…” He wheezed. “Maybe.”

Ms. Willows giggled. “Don’t worry, the students in lab five will be happy to explain everything again. “This way.”

“Whim~” Willa hopped onto the woman’s shoulder.

Once Ethan had gotten his ID and the free credit, he registered himself on the school’s online system and set up his email. He was kind of miffed about the whole process because he finished so many forms on his computer back at home, only to find out he had to come here and waste half an hour doing even more.

On the other hand he couldn’t be too upset because he ran into a group of teenagers from Florida that had come with their parents. They were extremely behind. He watched them count on on their fingers how many steps had been passed. The registration process could be very taxing, he wished them the best of luck. He was free to roam the campus, get into his dorm at last.

The academy was much bigger than he originally thought. It was massive. There were a little over two dozen buildings that made up the campus, according to Ms. Willows. Each of the establishments, dorms, centers, and academic halls were distanced a good ways of from one another. Which simply meant Ethan had to drag his ass out of bed and get a move on if he wanted to be at class on time.

Orland Park was a vast area smack dab in the heart of school grounds. Alive with pokemon students could catch, plus spots to train them. Trees towered over every inch, the grass was lush. There was a pond to the north, the west and the south. Statues of the school’s founders and cherished teachers decorated serene places to relax or study. From there, webs of brick paths with tall lampposts spread out all over the campus like veins.

Thanks to the weather though, most outdoor places looked deserted. The rain was really falling now accompanied with frequent flashes of lightning. Any scheduled tour groups were postponed. Ethan’s dorm was in the John J. Bison building, on the east end of the academy. Ms. Willows knew a few shortcuts through the park. They took a long, twisting road cluttered with giant trees and thick weeds.

The canopy of green from south to east was thick enough to make the rain seem like drizzle as it did when he first arrived. Thunder boomed over them. A few buneary darted out onto the path ahead. But when they saw Ethan and Ms. Willows, they hopped back amongst the trees. Besides the wildlife there wasn’t much to show but she did her best to explain all the roads they passed, which road went where. There were signs to help, so no one would get lost. Nowadays lost students or faculty were rare cases.

Willa didn’t like to get too wet, so she returned to her pokeball. In her place though Ms. Willows brought out two more of her partners, a linoone and a granbull. They would be bodyguards in case any rogue decided to surprise them.

Ethan blinked, staring in awe at the purple beast walking alongside him. It only came up to his shoulders but holy smokes it was intimidating. It reminded him of a small bear standing on its hind legs.

“I hope this doesn’t sound too obnoxious but…” He cleared his throat, kicking a rock out of his way. “When do new students get their own pokemon?”

“Oh? You like them?” Ms. Willows asked with a grin looking down at him. Ethan nodded excitedly.

“What’s your favorite type?”

“Ground and steel types! I like the sturdy guys.”

“I see. You’re certainly a long way from getting most of those kinds around here. There’s a few, you’ll need to raise them with lots of care. Perhaps you’ll learn to appreciate the pokemon we have around here.”

She raised a finger. “Every student will be allowed to find a partner a week or two after classes begin. But each method is split right down the middle and depends on your trainer class. Those studying to be a ranger or a breeder raise pokemon from eggs.”

“Wow.”

“Yes. Students who want to become competitive trainers and specific type leaders, their road is a bit more difficult. You’ll see what I mean soon enough. All of our battlers here graduate to take on the league, which is an arduous task.”

“The American pokemon league, right?” Ethan said desperate to prove he wasn’t totally clueless. A flock of pidgey and pidgeotto flew high over them, squawking noisily. Venipede nearby trembled at their calls, darting for safety between the weeds.

Ms. Willows flashed him a gentle smile. “That’s right. So, Ethan, which trainer would you like to be? A skilled type leader? A caring breeder? How about a resourceful ranger? Or is the hard-nosed battling more your style?”

Ethan looked down, his head was swimming. “I… I don’t know.” He felt kind of silly for being so unsure.

“That’s all right, it really is. Every new student is undecided when they learn we have four classes of trainers to choose from,” She laughed. “Take your time, you still have two weeks to decide before classes start.”

Ethan looked at her, then down at her linoone. “What if I want to change trainer classes. Can I do that?”

“Of course,” Ms. Willows nodded. “We allow one switch. Keep in mind that we’d like you to graduate on time.”

“One more question,” Ethan said.

“I’m starting to think you skipped a form or three online.” She joked.

“Well, this one is about you.”

She raised her eyebrows. “In that case, ask away~”

“Which kind of trainers do you teach?”

She beamed, wagging a finger back and forth. “Ah-ah-aah. I won’t spoil that. You’ll have to wait like everyone else.” She chuckled.

“Aw come on! I promise I won’t tell!” Ethan pleaded.

The Bison place was another brick building painted tan, five stories high. Not far from it was The Pit, a battling arena. As well as a gymnasium for students, one of three libraries, a learning center and some security check points.

“This is where I leave you.” Ms. Willows said once they reached the front of the dorm. Glass doors made up the entrance, he could see a guard through them.

“Thank you, for y-your help.” Ethan rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

“You’re very welcome. There will be a little welcoming celebration in about an hour. It’ll be in the Howard and Kate Rice building. Don’t worry too much about the location. Just follow the crowd.”

He nodded.

“Great! You’re all set, for now.” Ms. Willows returned her pokemon to their capsules. “Your mom asked me to keep an eye on you, so we’ll be seeing each other soon. I’ll be waiting for your decision.”

With that she was off.

Ethan took a breath. Then he turned around to face his new home.

There was a huge monochrome lobby and gaming area on the ground floor. He wondered, who was responsible for making everything black and white in those two rooms. He didn’t know a thing about decorating and color schemes but that didn’t mean it was any less ugly. Even the chairs and couches by the windows, all an eye sore. Two security offices sat in the front, a cafeteria was around the corner, plus two laundry rooms. Corridors on the second floor were long and wide. Beige walls, even in the dorms. They were back to back. Ethan had to find his room on his own, once he was done registering at the main desk. He new digs was dorm 213.

When he arrived, the place was empty. The living room seemed comfortable, set with an open window across from him. A couch was pushed to wall to his right, a love seat on the opposite. A polished wooden table sat between them. Further to his left, a dark hall led to three bedrooms plus a bathroom. Behind the door in a corner was the kitchen. Kind of on the small side.

He felt exhausted already. Ethan sauntered to the very last room at the end. His bed had been moved to the middle of the room in front of the window. He didn’t care. Dropping his bags, he collapsed against the bare mattress face first. His legs ached. So did his back and his shoulders. Hell, everything hurt. He did a lot of walking. At least the bed smelled nice, the scent reminded him of daisies. He felt himself sink into the material, he sighed. There were dressers already set up, and a closet to his right. 

He closed his eyes, they felt so heavy. Before he knew, he had fallen asleep.

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