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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5. The Scarlet Forest I (Get Yanma & Bellsprout)

It felt as if Ethan had been walking for hours. Perhaps two, maybe more. He didn’t bring his phone with him to check the time. The arches of his feet hurt and that in turn made his calves sore. His thighs burned, everything below his waist didn’t feel the way it should. Worse than all that, the sun was blazing in the clear afternoon sky, on an already warm day. His head was hot and the back of his neck burned. His discomfort was beginning to show on his face; he kept a constant frown on now. He didn’t know the Scarlet Forest was so far.

They were quite a way off from the campus, walking through grass that grew up to his knees.  He had to continuously step on a bunch of thick stems to stop a cluster of them from shooting up his shorts. Crooked trees and lush looking bushes taller than him surrounded them. The buzz of wild pokemon nearby filled the air. Yet even so Ethan could hear rushing water in the distance. They must be near some river or stream.

Ms. Willows was leading the way now. At first everyone walked together as one big group, laughing and joking with each other. The further they walked though, the quieter they all became, focusing their energy on keeping their feet moving. Ethan glanced around him. Behind him Clarke looked just as miserable as he did. So did Xander but Ethan was beginning to understand that he probably always had a deep frown on his face.

The past few times he’d seen him, he looked as though something or someone had pissed him off. Except when he spoke to Camryn, that is. Everything the older, heavy topped girl did got a smile out of him. Next to him Marco was busy with his phone, saving the trail to the Scarlet Forest on a map. Every once in awhile he looked up from the screen to make sure the group wasn’t leaving him. Up front, Camryn and Tasha was keeping pace with the teacher. Summer walked ahead of him by herself.

“It won’t be long now everyone,” Ms. Willows said, peering over a shoulder. “We’re almost there! Make sure you pay attention to the scenery, you’ll understand why it’s called the Scarlet forest.”

It was a slow change, first only the tips of grass were crimson. As well as certain leaves on trees and bushes. Their path ended at steep hill that rose upward.

“This way.” Ms. Willows instructed, beginning her march.  Everyone but Camryn and Tasha groaned.

A gentle breeze tugged at Ethan’s clothes. Sure enough, the higher they hiked, the rest of the green around them turned a dark shade of red. When they reached the top, the rest of the air in their lungs was taken away.

They stood before a meadow of burgundy that stretched for miles before them. An abundance of scarlet trees lined the horizon, far as his eyes could see but it seemed like it’d take the rest of the day to reach the other side.  Tall grass, huge hills and giant shrubs filled the space between them and the opposing edge of the forest.

“Wooooow,” Clarke put his hands on his hips, enjoying a strong gust of summer air. “This is amazin! It certainly makes all that walking worth it.”

“Pssh.” Xander rolled his eyes.

Tasha looked on in horror. “This… this is terrible!”

“That’s more like it,” Xander wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“You don’t understand,” Camryn shook her head. “Normally this meadow is full of colorful berries. It’s supposed to look like the end of a freaking rainbow out here! What… what happened to everything?”

She pointed to a particular bush not far from them. “Plants like that one over there grow sweet berries that students use in the bake-off in the Halloween festival.”

“Everything looks… so ordinary.” Tasha said with sorrow. She pulled out her pokeball. “This is where I caught my cutiefly.  If she saw this place right now she’d be heartbroken! They need this place to thrive.”

“Even without all that stuff though, it’s still a beautiful place!” Clarke said, attempting to cheer up the girls. “Come on, don’t be so glum.”

Ms. Willows narrowed her eyes. “You’re right Arthur. The meadow is breathtakingly astounding. The problem remains, however. Last week I ventured out here to check. Everything was fine then. Two days ago, I discovered this. What could have happened to all the fruit that normally grow around here? As Tasha already explained, certain pokemon of the forest need an area like this to survive.”

“Could it be a pokemon’s doing?” Marco asked. “A possible herd that has grown out of control? Deerling are natives to these parts.”

Ethan blinked at Marco, remembering the massive group of deerling he and his mom had seen during the first day. They seemed so pure. He refused to believe they were responsible.

“It could be a possibility.” Ms. Willows said. “Good guess, Marco.”

“It can’t be!” Ethan argued.

“Why not?” Summer tilted her head. “That seems really logical, actually.”

“What about people? Someone could be stealing all the berries right?” Ethan explained.

“To wipe an area like this out, that’s a lot people, Ethan.” Camryn said.

“The forest is protected, genius,” Xander countered. “Outsiders aren’t allowed out here.”

“Some people don’t always follow the rules.” Clarke shot him a look.

The teacher nodded. “If that is the case everyone, we have a big problem on our hands.”

Ms. Willows turned to face her students. “Our task for the day is to investigate! The good thing about all of this is that either of Ethan and Marco’s cases leave clues. Let your pokemon help and see what you can find.”

The woman reached into every pocket of her cargo shorts and pulled out three flare guns. She passed them out to Tasha and Camryn. “We’ll split into groups. Cam and Tasha will be leaders.”

She turned to Xander, also handing him a flare. “You’re an upperclassman. I’m placing you in charge too, so please act responsibly.”

Xander shoved his hands in his pockets and sighed. “Baby sitting. What a drag…” He mumbled under his breath.

Then she faced Ethan and his classmates. “Ethan, you go with Tasha. Arthur, you team with Camryn.”

Xander shot a glare at Clarke.

Ms. Willows went on. “Summer, with me. That leaves Marco and Xander.” She took out her own flare and stuffed it into her waistband. “Spread out kids. We meet back here in one hour.”

With that the pairs split up, going down the opposite side of the hill, into the clearing. Tasha and Ethan headed to the far east, back into the woods. Ms. Willows and Summer remained behind to check around the meadow for anything. Then they’d make their way northeast, to the heart of Scarlet Forest. Camryn and Clarke went to the west, toward the still end of the forest river. Xander and Marco traveled northwest, further up river near the rapids.

 

 

Clarke stood on a small beach of gravel before the river. Around him red trees joined other plants in growing along tall, jagged cliffs. Swarms of beedrill buzzed past high over him. Hoppip floated by, pushed along by the warm breezes. The water was crystal clear in the sun; he could see straight to the bottom.

Several feet off flocks of swanna and ducklett floated by on the calm surface. A small group of buizel, lotad and surskit were with them. Looking down, he kicked a few rocks into the water, scaring off some barboach that had swam near shallow waters.

He turned around to face Camryn who was searching through some bushes at the edge of the forest not too far off.

“Nothing over here!” Clarke yelled out.

Cam returned to her full height and put her hands on her hips, her buxom breasts bouncing within her crop top. “Yeah, I'm getting a big fat bunch of nothing over here too.”

She pulled her cell from the back pocket of her jeans to message Ms. Willows. “Alright, guy. Let's move!”

Clarke spotted a large oval shaped rock ahead with bunch of wooper playing on top of it.

“Woo!” One said, using its tail to throw mud around.

“Per, per, per!” Shouted a second, bouncing around the group.

He smirked, pointing to it. “Lemme’ check that rock before we go.”

Camryn waved a hand at him. “Knock yourself out, bud.”

He began to make his way up the rocky shore, creeping like a wacky hunter in an animated kid's show. Sneakily lifting a quick ball from his pocket. The wild pokemon were on to him though. The wooper quickly scattered into the water as he approached, making big splashes in the river.

“Wooper, woo!”

“Per, per, per!”

Clarke frowned and dropped his head. “Aw damn it…” Catching a pokemon was going to be tougher than he thought. Even with quick balls.

He checked the rock once more, just in time to spot a yanma land on it. His nostrils flared in determination, Clarke wouldn’t let this one get away. Straightening himself, he raised a leg, rearing his arm back while pushing down on the button in the middle of the blue capsule.

“Go!” He yelled as threw his pokeball the way a professional pitcher did.

The quick ball spun like a globe as it sailed through the air towards the flying insect.

Yanma turned his way, tilting its head. “Ma!” Acting fast, it did a full spin, using its powerful tail to swat Clarke’s capturing device right to the ground. The thing broke open in a loud crack upon hitting on the gravel.

“Tch.” Clarke scowled. He pulled out the pokeball with his only pokemon inside. He quickly released it into the open. A light as bright as the sun flashed across the beach.

“Mareep! Fry it!”

Camryn looked up from her phone to watch Clarke engage in battle. She chuckled. “What the hell, I could use a good break.” With that she sat down Indian style, placing her cell on her lap.

Clarke’s mareep galloped full speed at the large rock, lowering his head. Jolts of lightning flashed from the round ball on his tail.

The yanma’s wings started to vibrate audibly as it flapped them at high speeds, also kicking up a faint cloud of dust around it. Soft waves rippled in the water nearby. Clarke realized it was warning his partner. It will attack if provoked. He grinned. Exactly what he wanted.

“Bring it then!” He pointed. “Mareep, thundershock!”

His electric sheep leapt high into the air, angling its glowing tail over its back.

“Eeeeeep!” He cried, firing off a powerful bolt of electricity that struck as fast and hard as a bolt in a thunderstorm.

Yanma kicked off the boulder, hurling a gust of air along the beach. It flew toward Clarke with the speed of a bullet. He clenched his jaw, standing his ground. Right before it seemed on course to slam into him, it rocketed into the sky, throwing another strong wind at him. His afro swayed back and forth. Clark had no choice but to cover his face or risk being pelted with pebbles and dirt.

Mareep’s attack was a few seconds late, striking the rock. He began to fall back to the ground, a deafening explosion echoed through the sky. His assault carried enough power to break a large chunk of rock off the side; putting a scorched crater the size of a baseball in the stone. The broken piece cannonballed several feet off in the river, scaring away the swanna and ducklett. Smaller bits rolled down the beach.

The wild bug was hurtling straight toward mareep, preparing to crash into his side full force before he touched land.

Clarke grit his teeth. “Mareep look out! Dodge it!”

Camryn shook her head. “He’s not dodging that.”

True to her words the bug caught his partner in the air, ramming its head in his ribs. The force of the attack made mareep screech in pain and sent him tumbling across the gravel, rocks flew everywhere. The yanma wouldn’t let up though. It sped toward its foe again, moving so fast Clarke lost sight of it.

Mareep could barely stand before the wild yanma hit him again, smashing its head directly against his own in an unrelenting quick attack. Clarke’s little buddy yelped out once more as he cartwheeled back and slammed into to oval shaped boulder hard.

“Ooooh.” Camryn flinched, almost feeling the pain mareep was in. “Ouch.”

“Don’t quit, Mareep!” Clarke yelled. “On your feet! Just a lil’ more!”

His partner struggled to rise, all four of his legs trembled as it fought to stand. Not to mention he had a pretty big bruise in the middle of his head. “Maaaaa!” He lifted his head to bellow once he steadied himself.

Clarke raised a fist. “Atta’ boy!” If his knew his pokemon right, his friend’s power should be kicking in by now. He needed Mareep to put all his strength in this next attack.

Yanma was floating above the creek across from him, watching intently. The hum of its wings was making even more waves ripple through the water. After hearing its foe’s battle cry it took off mareep’s way for a third time, preparing to finish the fight. The river parted as it flew, revealing a bed of smooth pebbles beneath it.

“Get ready!” Clarke ordered. “Use charge!”

“Reeeeeee…” Mareep growled, raising his tail again. The bulb began to shine, making his coat of wool also glow as it powered up his coming thundershock.

Once yanma hit land, a small shock of electricity coursed through it, locking up it body. Its wings froze and the pokemon let loose a shrill buzz before crashing into the gravel, throwing dust and dirt everywhere. Yanma’s momentum carried it for a few seconds, forcing the bug to slide to a stop.

“Hah! How ya’ like mareep’s static ability?” Clarke smiled. “Now hold this thundershock!”

“MAAAREEEEEP!!!” The pokemon hollered, unleashing a massive bolt of lightning from his tail.

This go around the shocking assault hit its target and hit hard. The ground trembled while an extraordinary radiance covered the entire beach. Sparks popped like fireworks.

Moving quickly, Clarke yanked out another quick ball. “You’re mine!” He said, launching it into his mareep’s light show.

When everything cleared, his pokeball sat in the middle of the shore, laying on its side. The red light in the center had just vanished.

“Hell yeah!” Clarke cheered. He ran to the capsule, picked up it and then bolted to his partner’s side.

“Nice job, mareep!” He rubbed the pokemon’s head. “You’re tough as nails, you know that? My pop would love you.”

“Eeeep!” The sheep replied jovially.

He returned the creature to his pokeball. “Take a good rest dude!”

Camryn stood on her feet, giving him a slow clap. “Not bad at all! For a minute I thought you were gonna’ get your butt handed to you.”

He brushed his shoulders. “Nah! It was all strategy.”

That made Cam laugh. “Uh-huh. You just lucked out, that’s the truth.”

Clarke stomped his foot. “A win is a win, damn it!”

The sound of a gunshot reverberated through the air, making Camryn and Clarke crane their head to the sky. Flocks of spearow soared from trees. In the distance, a green flare smoked among the clouds.

“Somebody’s found something,” Camryn said. “Let’s jet.”

 

TEN MINUTES EARLIER…

 

The vegetation on the east end of the forest was much thicker than anything Ethan and Tasha had encountered so far. He could barely see what was around him now. There was nothing to follow, that made him nervous.

“I don't like this…” Tasha started to walk slowly as the ground below her feet suddenly began to fall. They were going downhill again.

“Me neither,” Ethan said out of breath. Losing his way was a real possibility out here. Chances of getting injured were higher than ever. The trees and the shrubbery were closing in on them.

They pushed their way out of a thicket. Causing a group of scatterbug to dart off in all directions along a dirt road.

Wait… a road? Ethan did a full spin to check his new surroundings. Apparently, the hill was on the side of some narrow path that snaked on ahead of them. Beside him, a few more feet off he noticed a tall steel fence followed the road, disappearing behind more scarlet overgrowth. Because this forest was protected he suspected it was to keep them in.

Tasha clutched her chest and exhaled. Dropping her purse, she grabbed Ethan's arm as she put a hand on a knee and bent over for a rest. “That was too close. We could be falling off a cliff right now.”

She looked at him. “How about we avoid those dense areas, if we can?”

He glanced back up the hill. “How will we get back to the meadow?”

“I'm sure there's another, safer way around here somewhere.” Tasha rose to her full height, picking red leaves off her blouse. Then she dusted her dress off.

Ethan could barely say a word, the ear-splitting sound of his pokeball cracking open filled his ears. A flash of light erupted from a pocket of his backpack. His cleffa unexpectedly appeared at his side. The two students quickly looked down.

“Cleff! Fa! Fa!” The pink pokemon was waving her arms up and down frantically.

“Hey!” Ethan exclaimed. “Why are you out of your ball? I didn't call you.”

Swinging his bookbag around to his side, he started to fish around for the capsule. He had to return her.

Tasha giggled, putting a hand on his shoulder to stop him. “Relax. Let it go for a second. It seems like she’s trying to tell you something. Let's focus on that before you put her back inside.”

Ethan looked back at his cleffa, joining his classmate in kneeling before cleffa.

“Hello cutie,” Tasha smiled, tilting her head. “You got something to tell us?”

“Cleffa! Cle, cle, fa! Cleffa!” She explained ardently, then pointed ahead to an area of the gate nearby. Without another word the pokemon took off, her little legs darting down the dirt road. It was faster than it looked.

“Cleffa, stop! Don’t run off!” Ethan worriedly hurried after her.

“Ah! Wait up!” Tasha was on his heels. She yanked out her pokeball. “Cutiefly, keep up with cleffa!”

She tossed the red and white capsule high above her and it opened midair, releasing the fuzzy bug.

“Cuuuuuu!” She zipped off per her trainer’s orders. Ethan glanced up as his friend’s partner flew ahead of him, weaving between the long branches of trees above. Startling several bird types resting in their nests.

What on earth was Cleffa doing? Did it not respect him because he was a new trainer? He was already starting to regret picking the stupid thing off the cart. But would it have made a difference in what he chose? All pokemon had the potential to disobey. Was he really cut out to be a trainer?

He and Tasha followed his pokemon around a bend, watching it take a take a sharp right turn and disappear behind a cluster of bushes. Cutiefly did a swift dive and went in right after it.

“Cleffa! STOP!” He yelled.

Ethan followed the two pokemon through the grove. He jumped into it, lifting his hands to protect himself from the sharp twigs. Rather than scratch up his face, they raked at his arms, leaving tiny cuts all over his skin. Once he cleared the bushes he found cleffa and cutiefly standing before a rather large hole in the fence, big enough for an adult person to crawl through. However, that was not what was concerning his cleffa.

The two pokemon had gathered around a bellsprout, who had gotten one of its leaves caught on the broken, jagged end of the gate. It lay on its back in the grass, looking battered, bruised and extremely fatigued, to the point to where its lips were shriveled and losing color. He figured it must have been here for a long while, just withering away.

“Fa… cleff…” His partner rubbed the tired pokemon’s head gently.

“Flyyyyyy….” Cutiefly said it a solemn buzz as it floated over her.

Ethan kneeled next to the bellsprout. He turned to cleffa. “Was this what you were running to?”

“Cleffa, cleff.” She nodded.

He glanced down at the bellsprout. What was the deal here? How did she know about this? Did cleffa know this pokemon before it was captured? Turning to the huge hole in the fence he noticed that all the grass underneath it had been ripped out and replaced with deep grooves of damp soil. Something, or someone had definitely been crawling through here…

He watched the wild bellsprout weakly turn its head toward him. Ethan frowned. He couldn’t leave it like this. He examined the broken bit on the fence the grass type was caught on. The ends looked closer to a candle wick after it had been lit. Twisted and charred black. With a lot of rust. Reaching out, he used two fingers to try and straighten the piece of metal the bellsprout’s leaf was stuck on. The sharp bit had gone right through the rubbery green.

He tugged on it; to his surprise the jagged end broke straight off. He tossed it away then began to work on bellsprout. Moving as slowly and gently as possible, he lifted the hurt pokemon’s limb off.

“Sprout!” It cried out in shrill voice. The creature shut its eyes and its body trembled.

“It’s okay, it’s done.” He said, hesitant to touch it any further.

“Oh my God!” Tasha shouted after bursting through the bushes behind him. “Did you battle this bellsprout?”

He shook his head. “Cleffa found it like this. I think this was what she wanted us to see.” He looked up at Tasha. “Maybe they knew each other before?”

“I don’t think so,” Tasha replied, dropping herself beside him. “All of the pokemon on that cart were hatched from the eggs in the lab.”

She rubbed her chin. “Cleffa’s kind of a mysterious pokemon. What if it sensed bellsprout was in danger and came to help?”

Ethan stared at his partner for a second. “I’d say she has one big heart.” He grinned. He patted her head, making the pink creature close her eyes and sigh softly. “You scared me for a minute but all you wanted to do was to help someone, huh?”

“Cleffa!”

He felt a weight settle off his stomach. Cleffa’s intentions were good and pure. Though it may have been a bit reckless.

Tasha pulled off her purse, leaning toward the bellsprout. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix you up!” She started to dump all kinds of items out. Boxes of bandages and gauze. Lotion, sunscreen, a couple bottles of water. She had stuff for pokemon as well. Revival shards, bags of berries, super potions, full heals, elixirs.

She wrapped the bellsprout’s left leaf in gauze and bandages. As well as the top of its head. After a revive and a one of her potions the grass creature was looking a bit better but it was still too weak stand or move very far on its own.

Tasha wiped the side of her face with the back on her hand. “There! I've done all I could with my items. We saved it, thanks to cleffa but it needs a pokemon center.”

She smiled at him. “Well? What are you waiting for? Get out a pokeball!”

Ethan arched an eyebrow. “What? Why me?”

Tasha sat on her calves and folded her arms. “Are you telling me you'd leave this little one out here to end up hurt all over again?”

“You're the one that fixed it up!” Ethan made an x using his forearms. “Don't put it on me.”

It was bad enough the first pokemon he got was Cleffa, he couldn't take another small, cutesy type again. He'd rather have something rough and sturdy, like geodude. Or a magnemite!

His classmate waved a finger at him. “Ah-ah-aaah. Your partner found it first, bellsprout was the whole reason she left us behind.”

She pointed at the cute little fairy creature. “Don't you see? Cleffa is a pokemon from the stars! Capturing bellsprout here is your destiny.”

“Oh please,” Ethan groaned, facepalming his forehead. “I make my own destiny. And it doesn't involve a bellsprout!”

Hearing this, bellsprout looked down, seeming absolutely crushed from Ethan’s coldness. “B-bell…”

“Now look what you did! You hurt its feelings!” Tasha flicked his nose, causing him to yelp and cover his face.

“Fa! Fa! Fa!” His cleffa gave him a mean look, puffing out her cheeks.

“Not you too!” He whined. Ethan sighed in defeat. If he walked off now, he'd feel like a total jerk, plus Tasha and cleffa wouldn't let him hear the end of it. Going through his bag he found an empty capsule. He pushed on the button to expand the pokeball to the original size.

Ethan held it out in front of bellsprout.

“Don't forget to apologize, otherwise it might not accept you.” Tasha instructed.

He rolled his eyes. Then Ethan closed his them to calm himself. When came back to reality to meet the wild pokemon’s tiny beady irises he felt himself freeze up. Ummmm...

“I don't know what to say.” He said.

Tasha shrugged like it wasn't a big deal. “Be honest. Why did Cleffa bring you here? Once you have the answer to that, ask it to join you.”

Ethan nodded. Seemed about right. He faced the bellsprout again. “Uh… l-listen. Sorry for being… so mean. We really do want to help you. Mind coming with me?”

Tasha clasped her hands over her chest as if to stop her heart from bursting out. “That was perfect! Awww~”

Bellsprout stared at him for a couple minutes. Then it glanced down at the capsule in his hand.

“Sprout.” It tapped its head against the large button. The pokeball snapped open and a red flash overtook his vision.

Once it disappeared the grass type was gone and the red and white device was shaking madly in his hands. Ethan needed to drop it, for fear of the thing dislocating his shoulder. It wiggled back and forth in the grass between the two of them, a ruby glow emanating from the center.

After what seemed close to an eternity of watching the shaking pokeball it went still at last and the faint crimson shine vanished.

Tasha beamed, slapping him in the arm. “Congrats! Bellsprout is yours!”

Ethan didn't feel too overjoyed. He picked up the thing and stood up. “Wow. Thanks.” He said in the most deadpan tone he could muster. “You completely bullied me!”

She raised a finger. “I think you mean completely helped you. You're a noob, so you should catch every pokemon you meet. That one came on a silver platter! Better take what you can get.”

She continued, beginning to collect her items and placing them back into her purse. “Things are looking up for you when we meet back at the meadow. You could be the only one amongst your class to have gotten something new!”

“I doubt that,” Ethan replied. “You're underestimating my friends.”

“Not in the slightest,” Tasha rose to her feet. “You're underestimating the Scarlet Forest.”

They returned their partners to their capsules before turning to the hole in the gate.

“What do we do about this?” Ethan asked.

“It's obvious, right? This hole isn't supposed to be here, so it's a clue.” She grinned at him. “Finding this, getting a bellsprout… if I were you I'd hang onto that cleffa. She's a serious lucky charm.”

She took out her flare gun and raised it over her head. She shut her eyes tight, pushing a finger into her ear. Ethan also plugged his ears. Then she pulled the trigger, firing a green blast into the sky. After it was miles upon miles away from Ethan and Tasha in the air, a trail of bright smoke developed from the rising flare.

 

The Scarlet Forest II is coming soon!

 

 

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