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EVERYONE: C'est la Vie

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Summary: After winning a school raffle, Eloise Damon embarks on a journey through Unova. Through reluctance, hesitation, trial and error, her brother pushing her to her limits, and her friend Sylviana holding her hand to guide her, Eloise bumbles her way to pyrrhic victory. Finally having friends, becoming outspoken, and liking pokémon didn't hurt, though.

Warnings: Nothing comes to mind except some swearing.

Chapter 1: Start of Something Different

I felt indifferent towards pokémon, really.

My first real interaction with a pokémon was in third grade. It was me and some other kid's turn to care for the class petilil after school. Instead of excitement, I felt endangered as the grass-type shot shaky leech seeds at the both of us when she got startled at my presence. One wrapped around the both of our ankles and wouldn't let go for a while. Didn't hurt or scar, though.

The next year, someone accidentally kicked the class lillipup, causing him to run around the room and tackle everything in sight, including me. The hit actually made me fall down and kiss the floor. And the next year? The class purrloin stole my pencil case and almost gave me a panic attack when I told my teacher, who shamed me for being a tattletale and not trying to ask the dumb cat nicely (which I actually did. I never got it back, by the way). These three incidents happened to other classmates, of course, but I carried a particular lasting annoyance from the experiences. Those three pokémon were selected for the classroom setting, and I managed to get on all of their bad sides. What did that say about me?

My friend Sylviana said it was because I didn't smile that every class pokémon didn't really like me. My brother said that it was because I was fat and made the floor shake with every step I took, making each pokémon scared of me. If I had to guess, they both were probably right.

The last major interaction I had with a pokémon of similar nature was about five years ago. My brother, halfway through college, depressed, moody, and directionless, came home with a pawniard he caught. It was right after our mom gave him an ultimatum of going on a pokémon journey or getting a job, both of which he had never experienced before. He chose the former after a bunch of arguing.

The night he brought the pawniard home, the thing took an interest in me. He stared me down despite me being well bigger than him, and kept faking stabs at me with his sharp arms whilst laughing. Or whatever that weird breathy noise he made was. My brother kept watching his first pokémon and, at my pain, smiled continuously for the first time since entering college.

After that, I didn't have to deal with annoying pokémon in my life at all, except for the dumb pidove that tried to make a nest on the balcony outside my window every summer, or when my brother visited home and sent out one of his seemingly sadistic pokémon whenever I went into the room. I still felt indifferent to pokémon. I just didn't really care.

Despite that, I somehow wound up in this situation: standing opposite my friend Sylviana on a battlefield with a tepig as my partner. At the upper end of seventeen, I was starting my pokémon journey about eight years above the national average age of ten. Sad, ain't it?

I managed to win a school raffle that allowed me to go on a journey in place of a year of school, held every year with one winner. I would have called myself the ultimate lucky student, but I wasn't. The pool of students included only those who never went on a journey before. This year, I ended up being the only person in the school who never attempted going on a journey somehow. I should have just lied on that survey I had to take on the first day of school. Thus, I won. And they wouldn't take no for an answer.

The tepig was part of the deal, but really? A tepig? How cruel. They had to give a pig a pig, of course.

It wasn't like I was going to reject it, though. After what happened at the end of last year, I was too scared to go back to school.

"I'll go easy on you, El!" Sylviana threw her hair over her shoulder. For the first time this year, it was back to her natural blonde. I guessed she got bored of glitter green.

"Not like it'll make a difference," I said to myself. The tepig looked raring to go, not realizing how hopeless this battle was.

By Sylviana's feet was her dearly beloved sylveon. Although she never told me much about the journey she had a few years ago, I did know that her pokémon were unusually strong. Something about intense training with the guy she toured Unova with, I recalled her telling me. The pink thing beside her was no exception.

With the snap of her trainer's fingers, the sylveon leapt forth, face morphing from angelic to smug. "You can go first. Remember, whoever gets a good hit in first wins no matter what."

Ah, the little game of "one hit outs" or whatever it was called, meant to serve as our handicap. It still wouldn't help, I knew.

This tepig knew ember and tackle, and was a girl. That was all I was told when I was given her. The only chance we had of winning was spamming ember and hoping it landed. There was no way anything else was going to work.

Sylviana shook in anticipation across from me. I took a deep breath and tried to bring myself to shout. Right before I opened my mouth, everything hitched in my throat, and all I did was say quietly, "Ember."

"What was that, El? It's not fair if I can't hear your commands." Actually, wasn't that legitimate strategy in battles? There was no official rule against it, as far as I knew. And I read the basic trainer's manual last night, so I knew. Anyway, the tepig drove home Sylviana's point by turning around and tilting her head. She hadn't heard me either? This would be a problem. I couldn't bring myself to speak any louder if I wanted to. It was too embarrassing.

"Em-ember." I tried again. At least this time was a little louder and steadier, ignoring the stumble. But, it still sucked. The tepig looked at me again with lost written all over her face. I went to try again, but didn't get to.

"I guess we'll go, then, El. Don't have all day!" Sylviana had no patience. I knew this to be true. As well as that she would jump at any opportunity to win. "It'll be fast. Celeste!"

It was my turn to look confused. Last time I heard, Celeste was Destiny, and that was a week ago. Last month, I think she was Valentina. Last year, probably Penelope. Anyway, in the beginning, she was Angel.

"Grab that tepig, then use swift!" Celeste's ribbons shot out across the field and wrapped around the tepig, holding her in place. I would admit that I blanked out right there to rack my brain and ponder, What the hell move is swift?

It sounded familiar, yet I hadn't a clue. It couldn't have been a buff given the context. It didn't matter since I found out the hard way. Celeste yanked the tepig closer to her as she charged some move. The next thing I saw was a string of sharp stars shooting out, straight at the tepig. The first one hit and the tepig cried out in pain. I could have sworn Celeste started reeling her in faster at that. All I could do was stand awkwardly and let it happen. And let that be seared into my mind as the move swift.

The second star landed, but elicited no sound other than a solid thump. The next however-many followed suit. What was left on the battlefield was a tepig crumpled on the ground and a sylveon wagging her tail, waiting to be doted on. Celeste clapped her ribbons together behind her as if they were dirty.

Sylviana jumped to shower Celeste with affection. Meanwhile I walked over to the tepig the slowest I could while biting my lip. Once I stood next to her, she groaned and rolled over. Her eyes opened, and, instead of glaring at me or any angry reaction I expected since I kind of let her get hurt, she softly oinked and tried to stand.

What did I feel from that? Well, what was I supposed to feel? I felt pretty shitty since she got hurt, but what was I supposed to do about it? All I did was pull out the potion Sylviana gave to me earlier and spray it all over the tepig. Once I used the whole bottle, she sprung up and wagged her tail like nothing happened. Well, potions only provided temporary pain relief, so let's see her energy in about an hour.

Hoo, boy, if this tepig's personality was going to be like Sylviana's, like it looked like, there would be a problem somewhere down the line.

"You did great, El." I stared at Sylviana and slouched further over. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. Though, even though I accepted that as fact, it didn't really light a fire under me or anything. It was just a little frustrating that this was going to be harder than it seemed.

"Sure." The tepig kept distracting me by bumping against my leg. I kept taking small inches away from her, but she stuck to me like a magnet. No one was this friendly or nice in reality. Something had to be up with her. Why couldn't she just have been as bland as I was?

Sylviana tapped her Xtransceiver, reminding me that we had to finalize the results of our battle. I pulled up mine and stared at the screen, an application called Spar Star opened up. Two icons, a blue Battle Completed and a gray Forfeit, appeared. I selected the former and was taken to a confirmation screen, then a screen with a green Winner and a red Loser icon.

"I won," she sang and tapped away. Then, Sylviana looked at me expectantly.

I slowly chose Loser and watched as the icon filled the screen, the red background and black text creating a haunting sensation. My win-loss ratio of 0-1 came up next. Sylviana gave a small cheer and flashed her own screen in front of my face, her 74-5 ratio dwarfing mine. I should have been happy for her, but all I felt was bitterness. What other damn result did she expect?

Immediately, I was sent to a national victory leaderboard ranking all trainers in Unova registered to the app. Talk about insult to injury. I ranked 309,026,154th in the region, apparently, tied with a bunch of other people with the same or equivalent win ratio as mine. I didn't even think about checking out the cross-regional leaderboard. And that number, as absurd and specific as it was, kept repeating in my head.

"And now we wait." Sylviana bounced on her heels as she wore a satisfied smile.

"For what?" I managed to ask.

"Never mind." She pointed to the sky. A huge bird pokémon soared above, diving straight at us. It cawed just as I realized that there was someone holding onto one of its legs.

Closer and closer the two came until they were nearly on top of us. The pokémon was a braviary; I at least knew that. When he was about twenty feet above the ground, the person clutching the bird let go and started dropping down. The guy landed a few yards away from us on a knee and a hand in a pose that tried too hard to be cool. I kept wondering if he pulled anything and didn't want to admit it since he wasn't standing up yet.

"Ricky!" Sylviana walked over to the guy and drummed his shoulders. I was more worried about the fact that some random dude just dropped from the sky, and that his braviary was making his way towards me. Sylviana pulled the guy up while his pokémon stood just a foot away from me and kept cocking his head.

I took a small sidestep, nudging the tepig along with me away from the bird. He came closer and shoved his face in mine, beak nearly piercing my glasses and gouging my eye out, tongue wagging like no tomorrow. Wow, was this thing huge.

"Bomber, don't bother her." The guy yanked the braviary away by the neck and shook his head. "Sorry, he likes people." He returned Bomber to his poké ball after the bird whacked him on the back with a large wing in a come on type of manner.

"Uh-huh." I slowly nodded like an idiot to glaze over that.

"This is my friend." Sylviana slapped the guy on the back right where Bomber had, then did the same to me. Boy, did she hit hard.

"Sure. Maverick." He stuck his hand out while staring off in some other direction. That was seriously his name? How hipster.

Reluctantly, I met his hand with mine and twitched it in the guise of a handshake. "Eloise."

"Lois? Nice meeting you." So close, yet so off. He turned around and didn't give me a chance to correct him. Not that I had the balls to do so, but still. Guess it was my fault, really, since I tended to slur and speak quietly. But he couldn't have at least pretended to care a little more?

"So-"

Maverick held a hand up and stopped her. "I'm going ahead. This is boring. Need to train more." He sure made a great first impression. "If you wanna follow me, go ahead, but I'm not holding your hand through Unova again, Sylvia."

So, he was the guy she traveled with before? I hadn't a clue why we encountered him, but I knew I didn't really want to see him again. Sylviana did, though. She pulled on his arm and groaned. "Stay and travel with us for a while. At least till Striaton."

"I'm not slowing down."

"You're not saying no. But hold up!" Surprisingly, Maverick stopped. "Let's have a battle. I'm bored. Let's give El a show, too."

He turned around and crossed his arms. "Seriously?"

"Yup. One hit outs."

"Hurry up." His words were curt. The way he held his forehead probably meant he didn't want to deal with Sylviana's pestering. When she wanted something, she usually got it.

"Not recording this one." Sylviana stood opposite Maverick and covered her Xtransceiver, screen still displaying her 74-5 ratio.

Wait, why did our battle have to be registered to Spar Star? Oh, yeah, I accidentally pushed buttons since I never used the app before and ended up pairing us together somehow.

"Fine by me. Just don't complain when you lose."

"Here we go, Dean!" Sylviana hurled a luxury ball, and out came her hydreigon. He hung his jaw loose and hovered surprisingly steadily considering his wing-to-body size ratio. "Who's a good boy?"

Dean let out a roar and smacked his lips. The sound caused the tepig by my leg to cower behind me. I shook my head as I heard the crinkling sound of a plastic wrapper. Sylviana whipped out a small cake to feed Dean. No wonder I caught that one huge filling in the biggest of his tiny teeth when he opened up.

"Whatever. Edge." Maverick lazily tossed a poké ball, and out came a bisharp. I couldn't put a finger on it, but this particular pokémon seemed kind of familiar. And not just because my brother had one. Something about the scratch on his head-axe.

~X~

The battle was riveting. I couldn't put it into words, but knew that Maverick won in just one move. Okay, actually, while Sylviana ordered Dean to charge in, Edge moved to use sucker punch and landed a hit, so he won. I would note that my brothers' bisharp was much faster and more precise than Maverick's appeared to be. From what I could tell, at least.

Maverick returned Edge and walked on after winning. Sylviana hurried to follow him, dragging me with her by the sleeve, yet pouting and grumbling to herself.

"This sucks." I hid my words in a sigh. I really didn't understand why I had to go all the way to Nuvema Town from Opelucid City to get the tepig for my journey instead of the school. At least when I got my eighth badge in Opelucid, I could head straight home and forget it all ever happened, if I planned things right.

It was a surprisingly short distance to Accumula Town. The whole trip, Sylviana and Maverick walked ahead side-by-side while talking about something I couldn't hear. I trailed them and tried my best to not lose them or look like a creep.

"No stopping," Maverick announced as we first stepped foot in the town. No issue there, except that my legs burned since he walked faster than I did. The tepig kept up without complaining.

As we walked on, I pulled some candy out of my bag. I really liked gum. I was known by my classmates as the person who always had gum to spare if asked for some. Not that I really wanted to share, but how rude would I be if I said no? It would be a weird flavor marketed to hyper kids under the age of ten, guaranteed. A hefty stash of the stuff nested in my bag, hiding from shame. The dense block-type gum called my name this time. Unwrapping it and discreetly tossing it in my mouth distracted me for about a minute.

The tepig squealed. I nearly forgot about her. Maybe I should have put a bell on her. Or just return her. The way she stared up at the wrapper in my hand made me stop chewing. She wanted a piece? Did she really? I shook a new block of gum in front of her to test my hypothesis. Again, she squealed.

Okay, maybe this tepig wasn't that bad. I kind of wanted to laugh.

It was artificial blue and smelled like chemicals. Was it even safe for her to try? I really didn't know what I was thinking, but to get her to stop bumping against me, I stopped walking, unwrapped the gum, and tossed it in her mouth. "Don't swallow it. Please just don't."

I shouldn't have given it to her. Who knew if she would listen to me, much less understand me. A wet smacking from her at least meant she didn't eat it yet. But, all things went wrong eventually. Not even a minute later, she cringed and groaned.

"Wait." The wrapper was in my hand, prepared for this very moment. "Here."

Before I could squat down and hold out the thing for her to spit it out in, she coughed and sent a small fireball shooting out to the stairs I saw Sylviana and Maverick finish ascending. Gum was at the center of it, soaring an unusually long distance.

A passing person almost made it into the line of fire. But it was too short to be a person. There was a mohawk, though. The gum flew just luckily enough to barely miss hitting the guy's hair.

"Too sour? Just hope he didn't notice that!" The flavor was sour blue raspberry. Xtreme, according to the package. All I could do was quicken my pace, hold the wrapper in my hand, and try to avoid meeting the person we almost set ablaze. He didn't actually get hit, though, so he wouldn't make a scene, yeah?

They guy stopped walking to roll his shoulders. As I passed him, I realized it was not a man, but some pokemon. With weird skin-pants and bared teeth for whatever reason.

I hadn't a clue what it was, but something else intrigued me more: it had a tattoo on its head, right under the mohawk. It was a black gyarados coiled into an infinity symbol. I stopped walking to ogle at the thing. On top of the tattoo, it even had a gold chain and bandanna around its neck. In its hand was one of those trilby hats, too. How that worked with the hair, I didn't know.

Swag. It had to have had a trainer. I needed to see the trainer so I could laugh at them. So badly did I want to laugh at the poor little guy, too. Someone had to tell me that I would see more pokémon like that in the future. Maybe then I would like them more.

Catching up to Sylviana came back to me, so I reluctantly turned away from the stunning specimen in front of me and went on. At the bottom of the stairs, the fireball sizzled out and a wad of half-chewed gum remained. One swift motion later, I climbed the stairs with an unusually warm blob of gum pinched between its wrapper in my fingers. The tepig groaned.

"Just hurry. I have other flavors." What an amazing sequence of events. With a spring in my step, I clamored up the stairs to keep up with Sylviana. Really, though, I wondered why I bothered saying that. How stupid did I sound?

She cried out with what I guessed was glee? What I said worked? Speed must have been this tepig's boon. Practically flying up the stairs, she made it to the top well before I did.

"Just follow them." Pointing at Sylviana's slowly disappearing back, I couldn't bring myself to return the tepig. We're gum buddies? I thought, trying to make the best of my situation.

~X~

Striaton City was a step up from Accumula Town. The feeling I got when I entered it was much better, too. That was because Sylviana got tired and called a car service to bring us here shortly after I caught up to them (wasted gum disposed of properly, of course). She sure knew how to work her silver spoon.

"Let's go to the center." Pinching my sleeve, Sylviana dragged me to a large building with a red roof. We entered together through its automatic doors, Maverick leaving us to go wherever it was he wanted to. "I'm gonna go with Ricky for now. You can get your own room and do whatever you want. I'll find you later. Be back soon."

Sylviana left, and so did the excitement. As well as my lifeline. With the tepig by my side, I joined the line at the front desk. When five people stood in front of me, my heart started pounding. What was I supposed to say to the receptionist? Just room for one, please? That had to be it, right? But what if they were completely booked already? What if she couldn't hear me? Should I just have waited for Sylviana to come back to help me?

The woman first in line approached the desk. Then, in a flash, the man in front of me went up. Everyone in line had requested rooms, so I had to have been in the right place. My slouch became more obvious despite that knowledge.

"Can I help you?" The woman behind the desk looked straight at me. The tepig nudged me and I dragged my feet to meet the lady.

"I'd like a single room." What happened? Like every other time something like this happened, I changed my answer last minute to something even wrong-er. My everything became numb. It suddenly became hot. I dug my fingernails deep into my palms and tried to ignore my blunder. Did what I say even make sense?

"For how long?"

There was more to this exchange? How long should I have expected to stay? Sylviana told me there was a gym here, but… "Three days." It was more of a question, but I couldn't bring myself to say any more.

"At 1,000 poké a night for private rooms, that'll be 3,000 poké, please."

I just nodded and mechanically took three 1,000 poké bills out of my bag's inside pocket. Without any slip-ups, to my benefit. It was a good thing Sylviana told me that in centers, pokémon healing was free, but food and board was not; otherwise, I would have frozen like an idiot at her response. I didn't even remember what happened after I took the money out, just that I wanted the exchange to be over.

The tepig got me out of my daze again. I found myself in a hallway lined with rooms by some miracle. In my hand was a card key and receipt for the room I got. Well, the purchase could have been more painful. And the room was pretty cheap. But, I was pretty sure that poké centers were in cahoots with whatever luxury hotels existed nearby them in terms of profit, so that probably evened it out. Either that or taxes.

I was only left with 7,000 poké that my mom gave me, though. According to my brother and Sylviana, I was supposed to win battles to get more money. But I was already exhausted. I checked my Xtransceiver, and it was only just past noon; I got my tepig in Nuvema Town at around eight this morning.

Finding and entering my room, ignoring some flyer posted on the door, was much easier than paying for it. I let the tepig in first. Order existed in the room. No dust or stains showed themselves from what I could see. Not even thinking, I turned the television on and sat on the bed like I did at home. The tepig managed to hop up beside me, and wagged her tail while watching the TV.

"This is gonna be a long day," I said to myself. The gum in my mouth muffled the words. Now I chewed two blocks.

The tepig… That bothered me. I couldn't even bring myself to think of her as my tepig. I also couldn't come up with a decent name for her. Everything in my head was either predictable, too cutesy, or too edgy. Sylviana loved naming her pokémon. She said it was her favorite part of getting a new partner.

Her Dean's name came from the fact that she got him as a deino. She was still young when she got him, so his name wasn't too fabulous, and he got too attached to it when she came up with something better. I was pretty sure she named Celeste (or Angel or whatever) based on whatever name she wished she had herself. The sylveon always reacted positively to her new names. Like trainer, like partner, I assumed.

My brother called his pawniard, now a bisharp Miles. Apparently it was because when they started out on their journey, they passed by a gym with people running on treadmills facing the street. Miles went through the open door and tried running on a treadmill himself. Of course, he couldn't turn it on, so he ended up running into the window. It left an impression on my brother. He decided on Miles, and the pawniard liked it.

So what about this tepig? We had done nothing together, and the only thing I knew of her was that she didn't like sour gum. Speaking of, I opened a different flavor of gum and held a piece out to her. "This one's sweet, I think." Who didn't like strawberry?

If I was to be stuck with her, we might as well have found a common ground. To my surprise, she whipped her head away from the gum. So she didn't want any more? Guessed "Gummy" was out of the question for a name. And a word to the wise: strawberry and sour blue raspberry was not a good flavor combination.

I didn't bother going any further with that and instead changed the channel on the TV. Boring news, cartoons, and the like flashed by as I flicked stations to find something.

The tepig sat and watched the channels fly by. Hope she wasn't impressionable. "When I come up with a name for you, we'll go out and train." I decided on that. But since I was horribly indecisive, that declaration was just an excuse to procrastinate. "Probably."

A minute passed and I landed on Cooking Network. Any show on these food channels was entertaining, so I left it there. I checked the door and made sure it was closed. How embarrassing if someone walked in and saw us watching cooking shows.

The tepig hopped off the bed and plopped down right in front of the television, tail wagging and eyes glued to the screen. We had this in common, then.

A couple of commercial breaks later, I actually felt like going outside. The tepig, on the other hand, was enchanted by the cooking show.

"The mystery ingredients were a doozy, but I'm pretty confident I can take that gross canned soup and turn it into a delicious, spicy broth. So I decided to make ramen for my entree," the chef on TV said. "I love, love, love spicy food. And the pantry had a bunch of beautiful peppers begging to be put in my soup. After I dumped the canned soup into a pot to heat up, I ran to the pantry."

I sat back down to watch at least until the next commercial break. The tepig kept crying out. She sure was hype for something.

"The pantry was pepper paradise. I took a big green bell pepper-"

She oinked. I had to admit, her squeal was pretty cute.

"-a few jalapenos-"

Another oink.

"-some poblanos-"

Again, an oink.

"-and serranos. Plus a lot of chili powders from the spice rack." That was a pepper paradise to the chef? Had he never gone to a supermarket before?

A very loud oink.

I really didn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. So she liked peppers? Or maybe just the way they sounded? Maybe she liked the chef? Some commercial interrupted the show, but the tepig kept staring at the TV.

I had nothing to lose, so I played a little game. "Ghost."

An oink.

Quieter than it was, but I still got a reaction. "Cayenne."

She oinked again.

So I wasn't exciting enough? "Guajillo."

A flat oink.

Sarcasm or waiting for the show to start again? "Shishito."

An excited oink.

That was exotic-sounding enough for her. "Tabasco."

An explosive oink.

The commercials were still running, so she was reacting to me, yeah? My whole repertoire of pepper names exhausted, I then knew she liked peppers. That had to be it. I was too lazy to come up with anything else. So, I moved to stand next to her. When she looked up at me, I pointed at her and said lamely, "Pepper."

That was a legitimate name for some people. The tepig saved me grief by smiling and oinking.

"Sure, let's run with that." So there I was with my tepig Pepper. Damn, I came up with a name for her. And it was a food. I said that thing before, so we had to go try training now. "Let's go out now."

She shook her head, eyes still glued to the screen. How was I supposed to react to this?

"And there are ten minutes left on the clock, chefs."

Okay, maybe after the show was over would we go. Some forest stood to the east of Striaton, so we would be fine on time.

It was hot, humid, and grody in the forest beside Striaton. Deciding to just go in a straight line to not get lost, Pepper and I currently stood in an empty patch of land. "And there are pokémon where?"

At least no trainers showed themselves. On cue, I heard rustling in a nearby bush. Out came some rodent. I scanned it with the pokédex app Stat Star (sister app of Spar Star) on my Xtransceiver and knew it to be a patrat. He paid us no mind, however. "Come on, the only battle we had was with Sylviana. That doesn't even count."

"Go instigate that thing," I said with weird breaks between each word. Was this seriously how training went? Might as well just sign her up for a gym membership. Pepper snapped up and ran a small lap around the patrat.

He growled. We were just a nuisance to him? Not like I wanted to do this either.

What I thought didn't even matter. The battle started as Patrat charged at Pepper. Was this tackle? "Ember?" I said it at the same volume I had during out bout with Sylviana. But, I guessed since the area was so quiet, Pepper heard me this time around, even with the gum in my mouth. I still didn't know what I was doing. She only knew two moves, though, so how badly could this go?

Pepper took a deep breath, then sent out bits of fire, halting Patrat in his tracks. He ran in again, then leapt in the air with his mouth agape. His gnarly tooth glowed as he fell towards Pepper.

Pity I sucked under pressure. "Tackle?" Her ears perked a little. Was she straining herself to hear me? Or unwilling to follow my command? Boy, oh, boy, I was going to have to get used to not just talking, but talking loudly.

I meant my command, though. If this were like a video game or something, the bashing tackle would at least stun Patrat. Hopefully Pepper knew to avoid his tooth.

The tooth was of no worry as Pepper smashed into Patrat right after I blinked. Bouncing back and landing perfectly, she wore a satisfied smile. Meanwhile, Patrat grumbled, rubbing his face where Pepper nailed him. Running away became his next move.

"Wait-" I cut myself off. I intended to stop Patrat from escaping to have Pepper wail on him until kingdom come? "Forget it. Who's next?" I asked no one.

Pepper cried out. In the direction she faced was another patrat. "Here we go again."

~X~

A pink blob drifted behind a rusted chain link fence we walked along to get back to the city just as the sun started setting.

"What a space case." It floated into the fence, bounced off of it, then changed its path by a 30-degree angle. They collided again shortly after. "Is it brain dead?"

I scanned it with Stat Star and learned it was a munna. "Do I do anything about this?" He kept ramming into the fence like he was programmed to. "There's a hole for him to get out through like a foot away from him. Just get in there!"

"Ah..." he droned. What a strange sound.

Such a travesty, one that I kept watching for some reason. Just until he gets out, I told myself.

Finally, Munna adjusted himself to bump through the hole in the fence. Except it actually was just too small for him to get through. If he actually tried to squeeze through it, he probably would have made it, but it was like he was being pushed by the wind and nothing more. "Good God, are you alive? How haven't you died yet?"

The brainless smile he wore didn't help him. He just kept wiggling against the hole. "No, wait, he's actually stuck." Indeed he was. The munna was just barely moving, not even worried about being trapped in there. "Do I do something about this?"

I meant, it wasn't my job to do that. Plus, I didn't want to touch him, period. Who knew if I would hurt him, gross myself out, or agitate him. Pepper jumped and hit my bag with her head, specifically the side pocket I put her poké ball in.

"Do what now?" So I was listening to Pepper? How the tables had turned. Next, she rubbed against a hole in the fence on the ground.

"Don't you get stuck too."

Contrary to my prediction, Pepper squeezed through to the other side with ease. I stood juggling Pepper's poké ball and an empty one Sylviana gave me in my hand. Pokémon got sucked into poké balls when returned. If I caught this munna, at least temporarily, could I "save" him?

I almost wanted to walk away (hooray for inaction), but Pepper waited on me. And the sight was too sad to leave alone. "Prepare thyself."

"Ah..." he droned. Still pretty empty up there.

With no grace or sense of urgency, I tossed the poké ball at Munna. He went in without trouble, and the ball traveled through the hole, landing right beside Pepper. "Why didn't I just hold the ball? That would have been easier. But then it wouldn't have been cool!" What a revelation.

Pepper didn't complain as she nudged the ball and pushed herself through the hole she entered. I took it and sent Munna out. Immediately after coming out, he started drifting back towards the hole. In a panic, I returned him, did a 180-degree turn, and sent him back out again. "Well, see ya. Don't get stuck again."

For some reason, he stopped moving. "You can go if you wanna now." Pepper grunted in what I assumed was agreement.

Still, he didn't leave. Seriously? But I didn't want him. I only caught him to save us all from embarrassment. Pepper must have felt the same way by how much she was oinking.

"Go. Please. Now."

"Ah..."

"I'm too tired for this!" Could he take a hint? "Oy vey. If your gonna get stuck again, just come."

How did this come to be? Why did I think he was going to be a parasite or something? I started walking away, Pepper following closely. Munna drifted in our general direction slower than my brain was operating at the moment. Slowing down to a crawl, I waited for him to catch up to return him. "Sylviana will like you. Pink and cute. She'll take you off my hands."

"Ah..." He either didn't understand or was extremely indifferent.

"Pick up the pace. I don't care how, just get here." I stopped walking. This was torture in its own right.

My wish was granted in a way. Loud cooing came from nearby. Pepper oinked in that direction. An alert one was she. A pidove perched on a tree with its wings spread open.

"No, get away, you vermin." The pidove that marked my balcony every year made me sick whenever I head a coo. Every time they landed there, I had to be the one to chase them away because I was the only person in my family bothered by them. They exhausted me. And they were loud. I got jump-scared when they started crooning. Every single damn time. "Fuck off!"

It left the branch it perched on and soared towards me at mach speed. I gained the courage and stupidity to take a stance ready to punch it if it came near. Except it didn't. Munna stood between us, and the pidove aimed right for him.

Pepper oinked with urgency. Sounded like a warning, one that Munna didn't process in time.

It cooed, then became a gray blur charging at Munna like he was some toy, leaving behind a white speed trail.

"Pepper, do something." I sure as hell hadn't a clue.

Too late. The rat with wings collided with Munna and sent him flying in my direction. At least he came closer faster than he would on his own. My reflexes kicked in for once and I managed to return him just before he hit me.

Pepper cried out. "I know, right?" I pretended she complimented me.

The bird flew a small distance away. But when I looked at it, instead of being annoyed, I started laughing. Probably because Munna annoyed me more than it.

"Thanks. Less work for me." I shook his ball in the air. But then, Pepper assumed a battle stance.

"Wait, you wanna battle that thing? Let's just run away. I don't wanna do this." She didn't move.

So she was like that, huh? Unable to come up with a way to get out of this mess, I scanned the pidove. Ms. Pidove, it turned out. The dex portrait was pretty cute. The actual thing? Not so much. "How'd we piss you off? You're not even native to this area. Do I have a pidove curse or something?"

Not missing a beat, she flapped her wings, strong enough that a small whirlwind formed and aimed for Pepper.

"That's gust? Well, then… Dodge?" Assertive was not in my vocabulary. All I could do was pray Pepper could execute my commands excellently.

Pouncing into the air with leg strength I couldn't have guessed she had, Pepper just missed getting grazed by the wind. I had to dodge myself since I was the next thing in the gust's line of fire. And by dodge, I meant stiffly run about three steps to the left.

"Tackle." Pepper dashed towards the dove and leaped at the last second, bumping into the bird. Pidove fell out of the air and splat to the ground. Following this, her eyes narrowed and she charged for Pepper. No light stream followed her, meaning that she wasn't using that move.

"Do we do anything about this?" Although not apparently a move, Pidove's full-body hit pushed Pepper back. It looked really stupid, quite actually, like a balloon bouncing off a wall. I didn't bother suppressing the laugh coming out. What was she doing? We only hit her once. Could she be any less threatening right now? "Tackle."

Back and forth, back and forth they went. Pepper was doing alright, so I didn't say anything. Exchanging hits was all it was. It got old fast. "Okay, just end it. Ember."

Instead of going in for another charge, Pepper hopped back and took a deep breath. Similarly, Pidove took flight and charged a move herself. Cloaked in white the next instant, Pidove swooped in with what I assumed was quick attack. "Any time now." Pepper was going to get hit no matter what with that move. If ember got out, it would at least cushion the blow.

Luck shone through for us in the middle of Pidove's attack. Once she made it to about two yards from Pepper, she stopped for some reason. Recovering from her dead stop seamlessly, she spun around in what I thought was her checking her surroundings. Pepper relaxed and forgot about ember as she watched Pidove in intrigue alongside me.

"Another space case?" Disappointing. Wasn't she just super hostile?

She lost me with this. After going for a second spin-around, Pidove did a slow, clunky, 360-degree rotation along the vertical axis. A pompous chirp escaped her, followed by a shaky descent to the ground. Once landed, she took a bow for no one and tilted her head up in the air as if she pulled off some badass stunt. Which she didn't.

I reopened Stat Star. "Yup, they've got bad memories." That didn't really explain her behavior, but whatever. Pepper looked at me with her head tilted. "I feel you deeply, man. So what to do about her?"

Pidove stretched her wings like a human flexed their muscles. We were completely forgotten. I wasn't aware this could happen. "Hey, uh, is it bad if I kinda wanna catch her right now?"

Cheeks puffed out and twitching her right ear (which I just noticed had a small scratch on it, most likely from Pidove's beak in their bumping match), Pepper nodded. Cut me some slack.

"I mean, that's kinda charming in a way. I like her better than Munna, at least." I disliked him more than I should have. Empty poké ball in hand, I took aim at Pidove. "Hold still. Or fly away. Whatever you want."

I waited a good minute for the bird to move, but she didn't. So, I flung the poké ball through the air, hitting Pidove square on the head. "Oh, no, you need those brain cells!" Should have aimed lower. "It's fine..."

Without issue, Pidove went into the ball to stay. Hey, I was doing pretty alright. Was this a proud moment? Either way, I made sure my two newly-occupied poké balls went into my bag safely, then took out another potion Sylviana gave me to heal Pepper. "Not too bad today."

~X~

"Why are we here?" Maverick crossed his arms and glared at Sylviana.

He took the words right out of my mouth. After yesterday ended on a nice note for me, I didn't expect to find myself seated in the Striaton gym on only the second day of my journey. But, Sylviana insisted, constantly assuring me that it would be fine. Easy for her to say. I hadn't even had my first real trainer battle yet. As if I stood a chance of winning. But, Sylviana sure loved pushing me to my limits.

"Battle, duh." As careless and lackadaisical as ever. Sylviana turned her attention to me. "Don't be so nervous, El. When the waiter comes, just ask for a gym battle."

"Gym battle? Wait, isn't this place-"

Maverick got cut off by a man in a tux with blue hair in strands like they were made of clay approaching out table. He bowed and offered a smile. "Hello. I hope you are all doing well today. Welcome to Striaton Restaurant. My name is Cress, and I'll be your server today. How may I help you?"

Instead of giving an order, Sylviana elbowed me and nodded. "I got you." She winked, then turned to the waiter. "Excuse me, but my friend wants to challenge you to a battle."

As expected, Sylviana had said that loudly. Her voice commanded attention. I darted my eyes around as Sylviana put her arm around my shoulders, noticing a few people staring at our table. At least I didn't have to say it myself now, which I was thankful for.

"Is that so?" Cress lowered his arms which had been holding a pen and notepad.

"Mm-hm, a gym battle!" Sylviana was more excited for this than me.

I felt my face set ablaze and looked straight down. What a nightmare this became. Sylviana elbowed me again, egging me on. "Y-yeah, I-"

Before I could muster the ability to speak properly, Cress looked at me and gave a professional smile. "I apologize, but I believe you are mistaken. Striaton City no longer has a gym. We are not registered with the League anymore."

His smile was too perfect, and so were his words. Who knew what he was actually thinking. Probably what a dumbass. Putting me down gently? No matter how he phrased it, I just felt like an idiot in that moment. Why did Sylviana have to speak for me, and so definitively?

Awkward silence overtook us until I realized Cress was waiting for a response. "Y-yeah, I understand and apologize." Hopefully I said it loud enough so I wouldn't have to repeat it.

"No worries at all. However, although we cannot offer a gym match, we do offer regular battles if you wish. We encourage them to entertain all parties in Striaton Restaurant."

"No, thank you," I forced myself to say.

"With that out of the way, may I take your order?"

Wallowing in embarrassment and misery, I paid Sylviana no mind as she spoke. I wanted to leave so badly. Was I the only one feeling like shit?

"El, I'm sorry. I really didn't know about that."

Oh, Sylviana. How I wished she would think before she acted on my behalf. As much as she meant well, I wanted nothing more than to disappear. "It's fine."

Shortly after, Cress came back with a basket of cookies and a pot of tea. Indulging myself was the last thing on my mind. I couldn't bring myself to eat in public, anyway. The moment the cookies hit the table, however, a stinging sensation traveled up my nose to my throat. I could tell there were peanuts in them, and I was badly allergic to them.

"Won't you have some, El?" Sylviana waved a cookie in front of my face.

I covered my nose and looked back down. "I'm allergic."

"Oh, yeah. Whoops, I'm sorry. I always forget!" On the flip side, Sylviana loved peanuts.

Peanuts were the least worst thing to happen so far today, though. Breathing shallow breaths through my mouth while turned in the other direction made them a nonissue. "Sure."

"Ooh, you know what?" Dropping her half-eaten cookie, Sylviana waved Cress back.

"Is there anything else?" he asked.

"Are we done yet?" I caught Maverick groaning across from us.

"Yeah, there is. I wanna have a battle!" Sylviana proclaimed while standing up. Heads turned to the bold girl wearing a confident smile. Excited murmurs broke out, even.

"Really? We haven't had a battle here in a while." Cress waved at two other waiters at this news. This wasn't how he reacted to my supposed challenge. Or was it?

"Yeah, and I want a challenge. Is there a rotation field here?" I had a textbook definition of what that meant.

"Yes we do. Why?"

"Let's have fun. I wanna have a rotation battle!" Again, she was loud. More people struck up side conversations pertaining to battles.

"How interesting. We've never had to break out our rotation field before!" Cress looked back at the two waiters he addressed before. "Why don't we up the ante? How about me and my brothers against you in a three-on-three rotation battle right now?"

Cress knew how to work a crowd. Several cheers burst out, and I saw a banner drop down from the balcony seats, which must have been there the entire time. They had a home team fan club here? Way to bully someone into not backing out.

"Okay!"

The next thing I knew, I saw two large metal disks rise from the ground in the open space at the back of the restaurant. It was then that I noticed white tape set up to mark a battlefield on the floor. Sylviana skipped to take her place. Cress and the two men he kept glancing at stood opposite her.

Was this seriously happening? So convenient, like it was a cartoon. How serendipitous it worked out like this. I knew this to be true: Sylviana thrived in the spotlight. Attention fueled her. When eyes fell on her, she was invincible. So unlike me. She would do a lot of things to be noticed, and she loved every second of it.

All I could do was sit back and see what would happen. That was all I really knew how to do well.

~X~

Somewhere in the notebook I carried around with me, hidden in my bag was this poem:

You call me your friend,

I pretend to be.

You hold my hand,

I let you, reluctantly.

You tell your stories,

I pretend to listen.

You take the spotlight,

I see you as a work of fiction.

Behind you, you leave many doors open,

and instead of slipping in, I close them.

You're so far ahead, chasing dreams.

I stay behind, again and again.

You say you got my back

and hold your baited hand out to me.

I tell myself you're lying

and throw it all away.​

Sylviana, I'm sorry I feel this way about you. You're just too good to be true. But, like my thoughts and words, it'll be kept under lock and key and never see the light of day again.
 
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Okay I may as well be part of the solution around here rather than part of the problem, so let's get in on this fic while it's hot and FRESH, possibly at least hereabouts.

- Already I see this is one of those fics, where canon capitalization has been kicked to the curb.
- accidentally kicked the class lillipup, causing him to run around the room and tackle everything in sight <- Yeah, some trained pet. Goes berserk at a simple kick.
- who shamed me for being a tattletale and not trying to ask the dumb cat nicely <- I've heard of kids telling each other that snitches get stitches before, but teachers? What the hell kind of school is this?
- A fat girl protag! That's different. Props for someone who is explicitly implicitly unattractive rather than someone average or better.
- Also a person uninterested in journeys! Also different, since I'm writing of one. Though far different circumstances and situations.
- "I'll go easy on you, El!" <- She says as she uses what's implied as HER STRONGEST POKEMON.
- "What was that, El? It's not fair if I can't hear your commands." <- Ah, reactionary trainers, aka those who spam the strongest move, "Dodge it".
- "Grab that tepig, then use swift!" <- She says she'll go easy, then uses her strongest Pokemon, then says one hit is an instant win, then uses a move THAT CANNOT MISS. Like, what the hell?
- Huh, interesting thing of a national database of wins and losses. But, what's stopping people from lying?
- The guy landed a few yards away from us on a knee and a hand in a pose that tried too hard to be cool. <- You know, for as auspicious a start as this already has, I at least find myself already liking this character. She seems the only sane person already.
- Funny way for trainer and Pokemon to bond.
- So how does this Tepig know so much about spicy food and specific names of peppers, anyway?
- Jeez, so much stuff going on in the first chapter. Now we're fighting wilds?
- Finally, Munna adjusted himself <- Proper capitalization? Well it's officially proper but inconsistent to what you're doing. A few other similar instances around here too.
- Good God, are you alive? <- Points for not using the awkward Arceus in place of God.
- Well I think Eloise has set or tied a record for fastest attempt release of a Pokemon, heh.
- It was implied that she only has one spare ball, so why does she suddenly have an extra?
- Going by strict game logic, huh? That's going to make travel to hit all the towns kinda awkward.
- Wait why do they have a rotation field if it never ever got used? Shoutouts to using that forgotten battle type though.
- Getting a mental image of Eloise being a least slightly goth. Would do a lot to explain things, especially that poem.

All right! First thing! While I'm not as strong feeling about rushing through journey fics as some are, man is this ever rushy even for me. The intro is fine, that's no problem given the character's personality. Then there's going through a couple towns and routes (even if they're mostly superfluous in game), nickname giving and bonding with the first Pokemon, two captures, and setting up (not) a gym battle in the span of the entire first chapter. That's...a bit much! Hoping this is just getting the pieces in order at lightning speed before reining in some.

Other than that, it's an interesting enough concept. A reluctant trainer being pulled along on a journey. Eloise has an entertaining enough personality, and Sylviana while obnoxious is so in a good way and clearly intended to be at least a bit. Looking forward to what you have to bring next.
 
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Your prose are a pleasure to read. Really reads like a professional novel, and I love how you handle the dialog as well. Really nice balance that reads so smoothly.

I love Eloise and how you’ve portrayed her.
 
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Hello, System Error! Apologies for the late response, and thank you so much for taking the time to read and review my story! I appreciate the feedback. Let me address some of your points if I can.

On the topic of capitalization of species names, I see the merit to both sides of the argument so I'm a little indifferent to one way or the other. I was going to capitalize, truth be told, but went lowercase since I'm going to use uppercase to denote actual names and placeholder names since I see it as the trainer not caring enough to give their pokemon a nickname (like Eloise and Munna, which is why it switched from "the munna" to just "Munna" after a while) and thought that it might be confusing to use uppercase. Apologies if that's not to your preference, though.

And about the pacing, I absolutely agree that this chapter was busy, like BUSY busy. When I was writing it, I wanted the first chapter to leave off at Striaton Restaurant to get to meat of the journey as soon as I could, but I see that I ended up doing too much before we got to that point. I wanted to section it off here, but I'm actually cross-posting this, and on other websites I posted it like this, so I kept the length for consistency's sake. Starting with Chapter 3, chapters get shorter and more compact and focused, so there's that.

To comment on the tattletale thing briefly: honestly, that was something I experienced in elementary school that I thought would fit here. The guy I sat next to kept bothering me and stole my eraser even when I told him to stop, so I told the teacher and she just said that I should have asked nicely, then put me in time out during the free time period we had for being a tattletale. Not that nice of a memory.

On Sylviana, she certainly is in her own little world with its own definitions of fun and fair. With Stat Star, it's mostly a bragging rights thing if anything else. For the spare poke balls, I guess I wasn't clear with it, but I think I said for the first one that Sylviana gave them to Eloise and meant for it to extend to other spares she had. My bad for the ambiguity. I do plan to use the games as a nice skeleton to Eloise's journey, but I'm definitely going to add my own things to try to make this Unova a little more different. With rotation battles, I don't know why, but it's kind of been a minor headcanon that every major battle area in Unova has one, probably due to my fond memories of battling my brother with this format in Black/White 2. And yeah, Eloise is certainly going the edgy route.

Again, thanks so much!
 
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Chapter 2: First Time for Everything
The lights dimmed as several patrons ran from their seats to crowd around the battlefield. From my chair, which I refused to leave since I was still simmering from my earlier embarrassment, I managed to lean back enough to get a perfect view of the scene before me.

Three spotlights came on and aimed straight down, illuminating three waiters standing side-by-side in the darkness, each one with hair of a primary light color. A fourth spotlight shot down and revealed Sylviana. How showy. In front of Sylviana and the waiter in the middle, which happened to be Cress, was a control panel with only a dial, three small black screens set at 120-degree intervals around the wheel, and a timer.

If I knew right (which I did because I did a report about rotation battles for a class last year), the dial turned the rotation plates and the screens would show which pokémon was in what position. Three pokémon would represent each side, and only the center pokémon could spar. The center could only be switched via rotation by the control panel, only operable for one use once the timer reached zero, which got reset after the trainers decided to rotate or pass. The timer limit was two minutes.

I had gotten nearly every fact correct except the time limit, in this case, according to the numerous rules the referee listed off with surprising gusto. For this exhibition match, the limit was only one minute.

Rotation battles were also all the rage in gambling circles. They tended to be unpredictable and quick. What was Sylviana's plan with proposing a rotation battle? Probably just to show off.

"Why don't we go first?" the waiter with green hair suggested.

"I couldn have said it better myself, Cilan." Cress, who had disappeared for a second, walked over with a cloche in hand. I didn't think his response really applied, but whatever.

"Let's do this!" The one with red hair removed the cover, revealing three poké balls. Each man took one and assumed their positions.

"Calm down, Chili. Now, let us begin." Cress took a bow, then followed his two companions. In complete sync with one another, the three men tossed their poké balls to the rotation platform. From each one came a human-sized monkey with colors matching their trainers.

Without missing a beat, not letting the eyes on her best her, Sylviana winked and tossed three luxury balls out in one motion. I recognized all of the 'mon who looked back at their trainer to figure out what they were supposed to do.

"Just stand on the plate. Dean, take the front." Sylviana looked unfazed. I watched as Dean the hydreigon fluttered over to hover at the head of the rotation pad, opposite Cress's (according to Stat Star) simipour. Her cinccino Micky and swanna Odette seemed to have dragged their feet to stand to the left and right of Dean, respectively. "Please, Odette."

Those three plus Celeste were the only pokémon I knew Sylviana had for sure. Anyone else, I never met. Though, I found it strange that in the several years since Sylviana came back from her journey, I only ever saw Dean and Celeste on occasion. Then Sylviana hadn't kept up with training and junk. So, was she going to win? I didn't know.

My thoughts were broken as the referee belted out, "Battle begin."

"How about you take the first move, dear?" Cilan gestured with an arm for Sylviana to go.

"Thunder fang!" She went in for the kill. I knew the type-advantage chart well enough. Dean's mouth glowed yellow, sparks flying out every which way, as he charged straight for the water monkey.

Though, that kind of confused me: what was battle etiquette? Unrelentlessly using super-effective moves against the opponent? Or using them in moderation? The former was cheaper, but it had a higher chance of winning, for sure. Would I be looked down on for exploiting weaknesses like that? I guessed watching this battle would help me determine that.

"Rainie, dodge." Dean went for a chomp, but bit nothing but air as the simipour leaped back in a flash. The hydreigon had enough energy to try another time, then another, and another, all of which garnered the same result.

"Not fair!" Sylviana stomped a foot. Boy, was that monkey fast, like some blue blur.

A loud buzz went off, nearly making me fall out of my seat. "One minute has elapsed. Each side must decide on rotating or staying," the referee said.

"Stay." Sylvina squinted at her opponents, probably anticipating who would come up next.

On the other hand, a mechanical whirring came from the other side of the field. The rotation plate spun surprisingly quickly, going clockwise until the green monkey, the simisage or whatever, took Rainie's place.

"Our turn, Sprout," Cilan said as he and Cress hopped with grace to switch positions on their side.

"Flamethrower." Sylviana didn't waste any time. Just as the waiters' plate stopped spinning, a shot of wild fire hit Sprout dead-center. He yelped, leaping into the air. Unrelenting, Sylviana said, "Keep going."

"Hold yourself, Rainie," Cress called out, hands held palms-out to say stop. I glanced over to see the simipour holding his tail pointed towards the flaming grass-type, his back (the part not getting directly hit by flamethrower) on fire. Like, not even a small flame, but as if he had wings made out of them.

"It's alright. Sprout, slide in for low sweep." Cilan kept his composure. His simisage managed to stand tall, withstanding the move. Then, in one fluid movement, he dropped down and slithered towards Dean, fire extinguishing in the process. A swift kick made contact with Dean's round belly, ending the stream of fire shooting out. Like a sack of junk, Dean dropped to the plate and groaned.

"One minute has elapsed."

I heard two plastic ticks, Sprout jumping back to his spot with a clang, then the two plates turning clockwise. The red monkey and Odette faced each other. Sprout fell down to one knee, clutching at parts of his body where greenery once was.

"Shoot, guessed wrong," Chili said, trading places with Cilan.

"Scald!" Sylviana wasted no time. Her swanna, however, did. The bird craned her neck to the left and spread her wings to (slowly) stretch. "Odette!"

"Um, okay… Rock slide, Sunny!" Chili called.

Well, it was still a battle, so he shouldn't have showed mercy. But what was Odette's deal? I was pretty sure Sylviana absolutely spoiled her. From how many times Sylviana fawned over the poké-musical Swanna Lake to me, I knew the bird was her favorite pokémon. Was that not the case?

I snapped out of my thoughts when I heard a rumbling. I looked to see a mini avalanche of rocks falling down to Odette. Only then did she move. The swanna snapped up and whipped her head, shooting out a jet of pressurized water (probably not scald) above from her beak. All rocks hit by the blast were either blown to bits or swatted away. Once everything hit the ground, Odette resumed her lazy stretching.

"One minute has elapsed."

Time sure was going quickly. It seemed like each side could only get in one move per round. Either that or the waiters were padding it out. I was pretty sure that Sunny could have gone in for another move after unleashing rock slide.

Again, both sides swapped pokémon. Rainie came back, and Sylviana's cinccino slowly stood up once the plate stopped spinning. "Mickey, attract."

Was Rainie even a girl? I didn't bother checking Stat Star again. It didn't even matter. Similar to Odette, Mickey took his sweet time warming up. However, he didn't outright ignore Sylviana as he eventually struck a pose and winked, casting pink hearts to cross the battlefield.

"I'm afraid this is it for you." Cress and Rainie both pointed at Sylviana with a wink. "Go in for acrobatics."

Once again, Rainie's speed was showcased as he ("he" since he charged right through the hearts) darted for Mickey. In an instant, he appeared behind the cinccino and slammed him.

"Follow with hydro pump." The next second, Mickey was doused with water, eliciting a cry worse than before. But it probably wasn't from pain. His fur wilted, only becoming worse as he sat up to stroke it.

"One minute has elapsed." Couldn't this guy shake it up or something?

One tick resounded and Sylviana's plate spun to Odette. Mickey lay writhing in pain at the back, but eventually stood up. Well, the guy was small, and Rainie was pretty huge, so it stood to reason it did a little more than just hurt. I was impressed he wasn't knocked out.

The swanna cawed out, answered by a shaky response from Mickey. She then took a proud stance and stood at the edge of the plate, beak almost poking Rainie. She at least had camaraderie, I guessed?

"Crunch." Rainie leaped towards Odette, face gentle and calm. That was, until he came close enough to go in for the kill. He shot for her right wing, opening his mouth to reveal chompers ready and willing.

Odette's targeted wing glowed white. Sylviana immediately commanded, "Wing attack." With a twitch, just as Rainie was about to bite down, the swanna smacked the monkey in the face, right between his gaping maw, causing him to fly backwards. He landed face-down, one hand clutching his mouth. "Air slash."

After grumbling and not moving for a moment, Odette lifted her wings and, well, slashed the air. The sheer force of the attack generated carried over to Rainie, hitting him while he was down for ten strikes.

"Lift your head and let's try ice beam."

Cress might as well have said nothing at all. Much louder than he, Sylviana cried out, "Hurricane."

Odette growled again for some reason, then obeyed. What a moody bird. She flapped her wings once more, only this time continuously. In no time flat, a small twister formed with Rainie at the center. He screamed out as the hurricane cut him deep, over and over again. I glanced to see Sprout and Sunny maintaining composed faces while clenching fists at their sides.

"Get out with acrobatics!"

"Aerial ace." Again, Sylviana drowned Cress out. For the finishing blow, Odette swooped in at breakneck speed with pinpoint precision, colliding with his head. Only then did the hurricane die down, revealing Rainie splayed on the floor covered with bruises and cuts, yet still trying to stand (barely making it onto one knee before kissing the floor again).

The referee looked at Cress, who nodded. Only then did he declare, "Rainie is unable to battle."

The waiters were screwed. Odette was a beast and had the type advantage for the remaining monkeys. On cue, the buzzer went off. Sylviana and Cress put their hands on their dials, but only one tick sounded out; Sylviana faked switching.

Sunny came out. Well, Sprout was still pretty charred. "Sneaky. Very sneaky, indeed." Cress returned Rainie and gave his ball to a waiter who dashed to a back room, presumably to heal.

"Sorry." Well, her move wasn't technically illegal, but boy was it cheap. "Hydro pump!"

With one shot, Odette fell Sunny. Water gushed out and slammed into him like a wall. He went flying, stopping only when he fell onto Sprout. Sunny lay unconscious, above a winded simisage.

"Whoa!"

"I'm sorry!" Sylvina immediately said. Would that be considered a foul, even if it was accidental?

"Sunny is unable to battle."

"We're alright." Cilan looked at his simisage and took the center position. After Sunny was returned, the plate auto-rotated to Sprout. Collecting himself quickly, Cilan snapped and spun in place. "We're only reached the climax. Let us see if we can turn this around." There was no way they were winning.

The crowd, which I had completely forgotten about and ignored as I put all my focus on the battle, uproared. I only then noticed that Sylviana had her own little fanclub. I glanced over to my side to see Maverick bored out of his mind. I guessed he was waiting on Sylviana to foot the bill.

"One minute has elapsed."

Sylviana rotated to Dean. I had a feeling it would be over in an instant. "Flamethrower." Yep.

"Dodge and use seed bomb." Sprout just missed being singed again as he jumped up. He wasn't as quick as Rainie, but a close second. The simisage grabbed glowing green orbs from his pompadour and threw them like grenades, hitting Dean straight on the head. However, once the dust settled, the hydreigon was perfectly fine. "Low sweep."

"Flamethrower." So much for variety. But, it didn't matter as Sprout became roasted before he charged his attack.

"Sprout is unable to battle. And so, the victor is challenger Sylviana!"

~X~

As Sylviana went off to get her pokémon healed, I made my way to a sector of the poké center with a whole line of videophones set against a wall. My Xtransceiver went off the hook with notifications right after we left the restaurant. Both my mom and brother texted me to call the latter. The latter also sent me a bunch of pictures of various pidove since knew my disdain for them. Well, not for the one I caught, though.

I went to the station at the very end and pulled a 100-poké coin out from my bag. Some notice about a serial vandalist hung above each phone. After inserting the change, I checked my Xtransceiver to enter the location coordinates that my brother gave me to call the videophone he was waiting at currently. I punched in the information carefully, triple-checking before pressing enter.

A full minute of connecting, loading, and stomach churning later, I got a picture on my screen. Of Miles. He stood unmoving, breathing heavily and strangely, until he got pushed out of frame.

"Where are you?" He wasted no time.

"Striaton City." From behind him, his bisharp edged back on screen and kept staring me down.

"How many badges do you have?"

"N-none."

"The hell do you mean, none? You've been out for a week." He had a tendency to exaggerate time. I, on the other hand, overestimated time.

"It's been a day and a half. What do you want from me?" I whipped my head back to see if I was the only one in the room. Thankfully I was.

"So?"

"I'm not a god!" Hot shit, why was I supposed to have accomplished?

"Have you caught anything yet? If you haven't, I've lost all hope for you."

"Yes." I made sure to keep my tone unsure.

"Who"

Oh, if he knew I caught a pidove, he would never let me live it down after how much I whined about them at home. "A munna."

"From where?"

"The Dreamyard?"

"What the hell? I've never seen one. I wasted a whole week trying to find one there."

"I don't want him, though. But he wouldn't leave when I sent him out." Also, I feared for whether or not he was capable of existing alone.

"And?"

"And what?"

"Who else?" Were we changing subjects already?

"...A pidove." What could I say? I was a coward.

"Ha, that's all?"

"What was I supposed to do?" I could have said that all day long. "At least I caught a munna."

"What was your starter again?" Oh, he knew. And I knew he knew. "Oink." And he said it.

"This is costing me money." I fed the machine another 100 poké.

"Whatever. Have you gotten lost yet?"

"No." I was following Sylviana the whole time. Hopefully, that would have been the case until the end.

"Do you even know where to go next?"

The answer to that question was a big, fat no, but there were only so many places to go directly from Striaton City. I at least knew that much.

"Go to Nacrene. Then to Castelia. Get a badge like any normal person would." Each sentence bled frustration, stretched out and stressed like he was talking to a baby. "Do you even know where that is?"

I barely even remembered the first name he told me. Something beginning with an N probably. Maybe it was actually M? "What?"

"Go north. Do you even know that?" Well, who knew what cardinal direction they were facing at any given time? "Go to the transporter behind you, then. Before I hang up."

"Why?"

"Wait, you said you didn't want Munna? Then go to the thing on the side of this phone." He pointed somewhere off-screen.

I looked to the right and saw a mass of green and yellow plastic. It was a trading station. I knew from reading various starter pamphlets about pokémon journeys last week. You put a poké ball in the middle of the contraption, and somehow it would be traded with the person on the other line's. I honestly didn't care enough to learn the mechanics behind it.

"Who am I getting?" All I could think was, Please don't be Queen. Please don't be Raze. Please don't be Pierce. His slaking, archeops, and excadrill (respectively) were especially prone to hostility. I would have included Miles, but there was no way he would part with his first partner. But, wait. The same applied for all the ones that intimidated me. So, who would he pass off so easily?

"Pawn." On cue, Miles scoffed at the name. I knew two things about Miles: that he had a cruel streak, and a one-sided rivalry with Pawn, my brother's gallade.

To me, Pawn was a strange one. I got along with him, actually, and with his sister Bishop, a gardevoir. The only two of my brother's team that never went out of their way to tease me when they were at home. "Why?" I shoved in another 100 poké.

On the screen, I saw him reach his arm off-screen clutching a poké ball while Miles did his best to stop him. "Because babies need a babysitter. So says Mom. He comes back once you get a badge. What, would you rather Bishop?"

"No." Bishop was an affectionate and flamboyant one. Because I had nothing to lose, I took out Munna's ball. I guessed he was better off with my brother.

Before I could step away to load up the trading dock, I got pushed aside. A forceful, purposeful push. I stumbled into the wall to my right. There, having taken my place in front of the video phone was Maverick. Sylviana followed close behind.

"Joel, what are you doing right now?" Maverick barked.

My brother loudly groaned and dragged himself back on screen. "Hello, Maverick."

Then things clicked for me: Maverick was the annoying guy that kept proclaiming he would beat my brother, but never could. I knew as much from the televised competitions they squared off against in that I watched when there was nothing else on TV.

That was why Maverick's bisharp was familiar to me. It was the cocky one that got stomped on by Miles a couple of times before on public television, the scratch on his horn an eternal reminder of that one humiliating match. Apparently, Maverick ripped off Miles, but couldn't come close with Edge.

"Where are you?" Maverick repeated.

"I can't say." Apparently, Maverick also sought my brother out to extreme lengths to challenge him. Like one of those annoying recurring characters in video games. Never got a win in, I could tell.

"Hey, Joel!" Sylviana pushed Maverick away and smiled. Wow, was this becoming a mess. Was I going to get Pawn or not? He seemed more tolerable as a traveling companion than the two in front of me were at the moment.

"Yes, hello." My brother was stilted as hell.

Sylviana and Maverick gabbed on and on as I waited behind them. What exactly happened? Wasn't that supposed to be my call?

Eventually, I felt my Xtransceiver buzz. A text came in from my brother, reading Go to Station 1. At my previous phone, Station 10, Joel, very close to the edge of the screen, looked bored out of his mind as Maverick kept going on about something we couldn't care less about.

I followed the instructions and saw on the screen above the trading station lit up. On the right half of the screen was my brother's name, his trainer ID, and who he was offering. I used common sense to put my ID card on the scanner thing and Munna's ball on the transporter. To my relief, it worked.

Press OK already was the next text I got. I followed, and after a cute animation played on the screen above and a pillar of light shooting down on the poké ball, I picked up the capsule in the trader. Then, from the phone at Station 1 came an incoming call from the same location as the one my brother gave me earlier, off by just one number. Pick up was the next text I got.

I answered the call and saw Joel and Miles again. "Hurry before they notice I'm not going back." He pointed with his thumb to his right. "Did you get Pawn? If you didn't, I will kill you."

Immediately, I sent whoever was in the ball in my hand out. And out came a gallade with a black fanny pack on and a choker around his neck with some circular divot. I recalled all of Joel's pokémon had this same accessory, just in different places; way to go, team spirit. Pawn raised an arm to cheer and placed his other on my shoulder. He stood in view of the phone to reassure my brother.

"Good." Joel then brought the poké ball he had into view and looked at it before tossing it. "Stickers. Nice."

He referred to the slip of paper I stuck on the ball with Munna scrawled on it. How else was I supposed to differentiate who was in what ball? I hadn't a clue how other people sorted that out. And I only had three.

From his ball came Munna, as spacey as ever. He took one look at me, then my brother, and nothing more. Either he didn't care, or he… No, he probably just didn't care.

"Pawn won't battle for you. He's just there to hold a stick to your back and make sure you don't hurt yourself somehow. Keep him out except where he's not allowed." He started talking faster. From behind me, I heard Sylviana chattering. She was probably within view of him. "Again, he won't battle for you. Figure it out yourself. Pawn, bring her to Castelia City. I'm sorry for doing this to you."

"Wait, I don't think I have enough money-"

"Joel, when's our rematch?" Maverick called out and dashed to Station 1.

"Goddamn it!" With that, my brother hung up.

"Hey!" What was wrong with Maverick? He was so uncomposed and gruff with my brother in the room. Then, he turned to me. "Who is he to you?"

Only now did I exist to him? Jeez, I could see why Joel couldn't wait to hang up. I noticed that Pawn stood behind me, possibly trying to hide. "My brother."

"Call him for me."

"That's gonna be hard…" I couldn't come up with a good reason to weasel out of his request. Thankfully. I didn't have to. He noticed Pawn and circled around to him.

"Let me battle him, then."

"That's gonna be impossible…" Was battling the only thing on his mind?

"You don't command him. I don't care if you're not Joel. Just let me battle him as is." Did he not understand no? What was wrong with him?

Pawn waved his arm-stalk-things left and right as he stepped back, clearly uncomfortable. A loud smack rang out, then a groan of pain. Sylviana dusted her hands and huffed. "You're being annoying. Let's go."

Sylvinana left the room, and then did a reluctant Maverick. I looked to Pawn who made an after you gesture while slightly pushing me on the back.

The good that came out of this? Pawn would help me, and I actually didn't mind him. The bad? Maverick also had an interest in Pawn, and my brother. An annoying one.

~X~

I left the disaster that was Striaton City behind me following Sylviana and Maverick. The latter only stuck around because Pawn joined our party. Not too soon after, we passed by some pre-school. Although school wasn't in session yet since it was still early summer, there were a couple of kids playing in a sandbox.

I didn't think much of them until one shouted when we almost left plain view. "Hey, stop."

I kept my head down and walked faster, convincing myself that they weren't calling out to me. Why would they have? But, Sylviana held me back by the sleeve and turned me around. "I think they're talking to us."

The two kids from the sandbox ran up to us and bounced on their heels, looking at Pawn. I noticed they looked extremely similar, dressed in the same blue sundress and wearing the same hat, probably twins. The only difference was that one had her hair down and the other in pigtails. A woman ran after them, but didn't get close in time before one girl said, "You're trainers? Let's battle."

Said was too generous of a descriptor. She more screeched it, with words full of confidence of unknown origin. I hated it. Why was this conversation even happening?

So annoying. I didn't want to battle at all, much less with little children. If I lost? I got beat by a kid like a third of my age. If I won? I would be a bully that didn't relent against a kid like a third of my age.

"No, what did I tell you girls? Don't go challenging strangers like that. It's rude," the woman, probably their mother, chided.

"But we're bored!" The other girl spoke up. Well, kid, you needed to learn how to sit still and bear with it. That's what I did.

"Oh, well… How about it?" The woman turned to me. All because I had Pawn out? What if I wasn't a trainer, and he wasn't my pokémon? What then? "Could you battle my daughters? Just for a while."

The answer was obviously no, but I couldn't outright say that, as much as I wanted to. How rude would I be, and what were the potential consequences for saying that? So, I froze and felt myself warm up.

Meanwhile, Sylviana bent down to talk to the kids. "I'm a trainer too. Why don't we double battle?" No, what was she getting me into again? Well, it would be better than a solo battle, but no battle at all would be better. "Is that okay?"

Both kids nodded and ran a distance away to a battlefield drawn in the sand. Sylviana went opposite them, dragging me with her the whole way. I wanted to run away, but things would have gone to shit if I did. Plus, what would that make me? Damn it all.

It just wasn't fair. When I was their age, I didn't have a pokémon, nor was I so excitable. The two had accomplished much more with their lives than I did at present.

"Alright, since they're okay with it." The mother handed each daughter a poké ball from her purse. Immediately, they flung their balls out, revealing a petilil and a cottonee.

So this was my first trainer battle? I hated it. Beside me, Sylviana sent out Celeste. I only had Pepper and Tempest, the pidove from yesterday, to choose from. After I caught Tempest, we did train quite a bit against wild pokemon in the Dreamyard. However… Well, sending her out would say it all.

I opted for Pepper. "Showtime," I said to myself. Pawn stood next to me, cheering on with genuine joy.

"Absorb!" each kid called out.

"Dodge." Sylviana sounded like she had no stake in this battle. Well, it was going to be easy for her. What about me?

I knew absorb was a grass-type move. I also realized that if we (I) lost this battle, I was a complete failure. "Ember."

To my delight, Pepper heard me and sent out fire to the green pair across the field. After the last smoldering bit launched out, she jumped in time to avoid being hit by a red claw of energy surrounded by green spores, what apparently was the move absorb. I ended up "dodging" as well.

"Louder, El." Sylviana nudged my side, saying the obvious.

Would if I could, I thought. But, I said, "One more time."

That was how Pepper got on my good side in addition to being cute: she actually managed to hear me. What a miracle. At first she couldn't, but eventually we got along.

I saw the initial ember being dodged just barely by the petilil. Before she landed, Pepper shot out the second flame, knocking all composure out of the plant. When the petilil fell, she made a noise like she was crying. Please, someone had to tell me she knew fake tears or something.

"Not fair!" The girl with pigtails, the petilil's trainer, stomped her foot and made a fuss.

I wanted to say suck it up, but what kind of asshole would I be then? What, was I supposed to yield? Go easy? Let her win because she didn't want to lose? Well, guess what? I didn't want to lose either. So, I let the shame I felt fester inside and opened my mouth again. "Tackle."

Pepper charged in and knocked the petilil down. The cottonee just stood a ways away, probably hoping to avoid getting hurt. So much for teamwork.

"Stop it!" the sister, the one with the cottonee said just as Pepper slammed into the petilil. I hesitated and froze. Meanwhile, Pepper bounced back and retreated to our side of the battlefield, her head down. Did she feel shame too? Well, weren't we kindred spirits!

"Leech seed!" That little jerk. That wasn't fair. What a distraction, though, I would give them that. A pod shot out from the cottonee and landed on Pepper, sprouting vines that wrapped around her.

"Ember." Was I supposed to be bored and at my wit's end by now? At least I was probably never going to see these two twins in my life ever again after this.

I looked to Sylviana, who nodded her head as if to tell me go on, finish this. Bull-honky. She was just here for moral support? Why did she accept the challenge first, then? She severely overestimated my abilities.

The move hit its mark again, sending the petilil back. She fell down and didn't get back up again. So we won? Kinda pyrrhic if you asked me. "That's not fair!"

Well, life wasn't fair, so…

I don't know why, but I was so thankful that I stopped caring about shame at that point because I went into autopilot. I could stew in my shame after the battle finished. "Again. New target."

Pepper pivoted and faced the cottonee, charging up ember again. Did she have a limit to how many successive times she could use that move?

"Stun spore!" Yellow dust shot out and blew across the field, passing by the ember going the opposite direction. The head-of-cauliflower-looking thing didn't try to dodge, so he got splattered in the face with the fire-type move.

"Whoa, get out of the way." That came out on its own. But even with the warning, she just wasn't fast enough to avoid getting covered with the powder. Shortly after, Pepper crackled with electricity, faltering in just seconds after her joints locked up. So cheap. "Can you move?"

Nope. She struggled to stand tall.

"Well, just get it over with. Ember one more time." That cottonee was not going to last. At least, that was how it seemed.

And I was right. He didn't dodge the ember, so he got seared again and fell. After a few seconds of dead air, I sighed and rifled through my bag to find a paralyze heal. I knew I had several. So sue me for being over-cautious. I couldn't find it immediately, though, and my mind went blank.

The sound of two crying twins snapped me out of my daze. Across the field, the sisters stomped and whined to their hearts' content as their pokémon tried to comfort them. The mother walked over and gave an awkward smile. "Thank you for entertaining my daughters. They'll be fine in an hour."

When I came to, the three strangers were gone. Sylviana tapped my shoulder with a yellow spray bottle. "Here, a paralyze heal. Hurry and use it. She needs it."

My "victory" set in and deflated me. Trying to forget it ever happened, I bent down to the slightly-spasming Pepper and sprayed her with the medicine Sylviana gave me. It took only a few seconds for the yellow tinge to dispel from her. When I stood back up, I saw Pawn trying to hide the golden bottle he slipped back into his fanny pack, the words Full Heal printed along an edge in a fancy font. What the hell was that thing?

Pepper oinked. It sounded just as unsure as I was. I returned her and hoped we wouldn't get dragged into another battle before the next city.

"Let's not count that." I managed to look up and lift my feet, hands tightly balled into fists. Sylviana and Maverick walked on ahead, heads high and posture perfect. I slumped over and walked the fastest I could to catch up to them.

~X~

It was about a three hour walk to get to Nacrene City. I kept my head down the whole trek, managing to keep my stamina up the distance only because Sylviana walked so slowly.

The shift in atmosphere cause me to look up. It was a quaint, mostly gray city. The buildings were huge, but couldn't compare to the loudness of Opelucid City. And that was ignoring the weird neon aesthetic of my hometown.

I went through the motions and, after checking into the poké center and having Pepper checked out, found myself in front of Nacrene Museum. It looked like just about any museum I had ever seen before on school trips, except for the large sign outside with Shauntal Book Signing 6-27! printed on it. A picture of the Elite Four member Shauntal took up most of the sign That was a few days from now.

"The gym is part of the museum. Like some mutant twin," Sylviana said with a strange smile. I almost laughed at her description. "Now, it's your turn."

"Hold up, wait." Was she serious? I was anything but prepared."I'm not up for this right now." My voice tapered off at the end.

"What do you mean, El?" she asked like I was the one talking nonsense. Well, not everybody could be her.

At this, Pawn (who I never returned since receiving him as per my brother's orders) tugged on my arm and motioned to pass the museum. He pointed to the western exit, marked by a nicely placed sign for me to read nearby. Didn't Joel say to go to Castelia? Why, if Nacrene was in between? Maybe it would have been easier. I knew Castelia gym's typing was bug.

"Uh…" I racked my head for any reason to chicken out of entering the building, whether it was for my non-existent pride's sake or to see what Pawn wanted. "Train. Yeah, train! -ing…" I prayed to whatever god that would hear me that I didn't sound like an absolute idiot.

"What do you mean? You'll do fine." Sylviana always reassured me like this, but this was something entirely different from doing an oral presentation at school. "This gym is a normal type one. And the leader is super nice… I think. That's what I remember."

"Uh-huh." How was I supposed to take that?

"No, that's totally how I remember her. But, her gym was so annoying."

At that, my mind raced. Gyms typically had gimmicks to them before one could challenge the leader, I read somewhere. What could this one could have been? It was a freaking museum. Well, Striaton's was apparently a restaurant, so this one would be… a museum? Like, some interactive thing or something. How the hell could I have guessed it?

"Just use Pawn. Everything will be over in one move that way," Maverick said, staring at the gallade who was still gently pulling me to walk away from the gym.

"Yeah, totally!" Sylviana agreed.

Oy, vey. That would have been a brilliant idea had Joel not made it super clear that Pawn wouldn't battle under me. "Uh… I want to do this on my own merit," I fibbed. If I could use Pawn to one-shot everything, boy would I. Anything to get this over with ASAP.

"Fine, then. I'm bored." Sylviana followed this with a yawn and an arm extended to a cafe just down one door. If only I could be that blunt.

She left, Maverick following her after Pawn swatted his arm for staring at the poor pokémon too long. I sighed and said, "Normal-type gym, huh?"

Pawn pulled on my elbow again. This time, I let him drag me out of the city.

The outskirts of Pinwheel Forest was perfect for the Nacrene gym. After a quick internet search for places interest, I learned that the place was full of fighting-type pokémon, which were effective against normal-types. If I caught one, maybe we could have won on our first try.

Pawn nudged me in the direction of the forest that led to Castelia. "Uh, let's wait for Sylviana." That was my cover for I'd rather not.

Pawn put a hand (or whatever constituted as his hand) to his mouth and looked back and forth between me and the eerie-looking forest. He shut his eyes tightly for a good second before nodding his head and standing patiently while I dug through my bag. At that, I searched faster for my objects of desire to not waste his time any more than I already had.

I pulled out a piece of gum and Tempest's poké ball. I threw the gum into my mouth and the ball a couple yards away. The pidove came out with no sense of urgency, taking her sweet time to stand up just to peck at her wings.

"Tempest." Why such an edgy name for my spacey pidove? It was the only damn one she responded to yesterday. All other ones I tried out, I thought she thought I was talking to something else entirely. This one, she at least looked at me when I said it. "Tempest."

She hopped in place, then pivoted herself to face me. Please don't let this be painful, I said in my head. Just in case, I sent Pepper out as backup. "Let's find something easy to start off with."

Oh, Tempest, my dear. I looked around to see if any pokémon were around at all. And there were plenty a distance away. Most prominent to me was a tall blue one in what looked like a karate gi squaring off with a stout red one, also in a karate gi. Where they got those, and how they got them, and why they wore them was anyone's guess. When the shorter one grappled the other, I walked off in the other direction as quickly as I could.

Eventually, I found an opponent of similar caliber to Tempest. At least, I really hoped she could take it on. It was another pidove. It wasn't bigger, nor did it appear completely hostile, so it wouldn't have been impossible to win, yeah? It would hurt to try. Well, actually it would, but…

"Get her attention." Tempest didn't move, nor show any sense of knowing what was going on.

"Tempest, Tempest." I tried again. This time, she pivoted to face me. For whatever strange reason, this was the norm for her. She was lucky I had a lot of patience. Pepper looked at her with what I assumed to be worry. So did I, but for a different reason.

"Quick attack." I slightly raised an arm, hoping to convey it as an attack order. My pidove about-faced again and jumped a couple of times, glowing white. I repeated, "Quick attack."

With a sharp cry, she launched forwards, hurtling at breakneck speed. Tempest flew on and on, aiming at the other bird until there was little distance between them.

"You think she can do it normally this time?" I started at Pawn, who shrugged. "That's a no? Same here."

On cue, Tempest came to a dead stop, just before slamming into the wild pidove. Instead of a quick attack, our opponent, who I kept calling Ma'am in my head, received a small love tap. This caught her attention, resulting in Tempest getting pushed away by a stronger, complete quick attack.

"Damn it." Tempest was flung towards me in an instant. To my delight, Pawn caught her like a basketball for me. "Tempest, Tempest." She couldn't have liked a one-syllable name?

Tempest hopped out of Pawn's arms and back onto the ground. Ma'am came closer, meaning the battle really started.

"Again. Quick attack." I waited for her to charge up. "Quick attack." Only then did she charge forward. Once they were only about five feet apart, I said one last time, "Quick attack."

Three certainly was a magic number. Finally, Tempest finished the attack and pushed Ma'am back.

That wasn't really something to be proud of. "Well, finish it you're so good. Air cutter." Tempest flew up, wings glowing a bright blue. "Air cutter." She took bigger flaps, causing a strong wind come even my way. "I hate this. Air cutter."

Three crescents of high-speed wind cut through the air and hit Ma'am square-on. She fell down and twitched a little. I waited again to see if she would keep fighting. But, when she flew back up, she left.

"I hesitate to compliment you. I hope you know that," I said to Tempest. Either she really didn't understand what was happening or she was really good at playing dumb because all she did was tilt her head. "Let's hit the grind. And please, let's drop having to repeat commands like that."

She would have been cute if she weren't so infuriating in battle. And I wasted a good chunk of yesterday after having caught her trying to figure out that I had to say the same command thrice for Tempest to carry it out to completion. Good thing I had patience and a strange imagination.

We didn't have to go far to find another opponent. Out of a bush came a short gray mole-like pokémon with what looked like veins bulging off of its body. It wielded a stick, like one from a tree, waving it around like a sword.

It was a timburr. I didn't get to read any more of the entry before it charged at Tempest, whacking her out of the air with the wood. "You have a weapon?"

Well, the dex portrait had a timburr holding a square log, so I guessed anything was possible. While I tried accepting that as fact, Pepper nudged Tempest back on her feet with her head. Not too long after, Pawn poked my shoulder and nodded at the pidove who jumped and fluttered her wings wildly. That was one reason I hesitated to touch her.

Before I could say anything, Tempest lunged forward with quick attack.

"That is a supremely bad idea." I got louder with each word as my prediction came true: the timburr raised its stick straight up, creating a makeshift shield. It barely constituted as one given its shape, but whatever. Tempest went straight into it in her blind rage, crumpling to the ground soon after impact. "Ah, that's gonna hurt."

I looked closer at the stick and counted more than five protruding twigs from the branch the timburr waved back and forth. Was it taunting us? It then twirled the stick like a baton and turned tail to run closer into the forest looming ahead, all the while beckoning us to follow.

"Do we give chase?" Pepper tilted her head and Pawn held his hands up. Meanwhile, Tempest stood again and thrashed her small feet. "I don't wanna. I really don't care. Let's go back."

And of course I couldn't even have that. Tempest immediately launched into the air and shot after the timburr without waiting for anything.

"You better not lose it, then." Never had I wanted to walk away more than then.

Pepper, Pawn, and I followed Tempest, the tepig shooting ahead at surprising speed. I started running the fastest I could too. For a few seconds, I managed to trail Pepper by only a couple of yards. Then, the distance between us became greater and greater as my legs and lungs began to ache. Pawn put an arm to my back as if to help me keep running faster, but he soon let go and kept a steady pace at the midpoint between me and Pepper, probably to make sure we didn't get separated.

I was left struggling to lift my legs and continue, already wishing I hadn't left the poké center. Wallowing in my own shame at my physical incapabilities, I cursed myself and forced my body to keep running.

~X~

Complacency lends itself my ear

and whispers, "Take the path most traveled by."

Before me wind two long, long roads.

The first one shoots straight to the unknown horizon.

The other branches off the first,

curling in loops and waves to the plain unknown.

The sign along the first reads The Answer,

while the other reads The Journey.

Both roads promise satisfaction at travel's end.

The first path is covered with leaves,

a sunset of hues calling for me,

except in a straight line down the center, where the road is barren.

No, not barren. Leaves had been trampled

so much as to become one with the ground.

How many people must have walked it to become as such?

The second path is covered with snow,

a pure, smooth white inviting me to dance.

Hundreds, thousands, and so on footprints mar the surface of the snow.

They mix together and overlap so much,

it almost appears as if the snow was left untouched.

How many people must have walked it to become as such?

My only goal is to reach the end of one path.

That is my one wish.

Which road is the one most traveled by?

I shall take that one.

That one is safer.

That one is easier.

That one guarantees that I make progress.

Both look well-traveled, so

I flip a coin, and it lands upright.

I go eeny, meeny, miny, moe, and end up biting my tongue.

I draw a card, and it blows away with the wind.

So I just close my eyes and walk blindly

and somehow, I'm back where I started.​

Author's note: Thanks for reading! I just hope that gallade aren't as played out as I've heard people make them out to be. He was just the best option for Pawn. I'm actually basing Joel's team on my brother's competitive team from White 2, which he beat me bunches with.
 
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I CLAIM COP (My mental filter was NK'd N0)
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So far it seems to mostly just be a badge-collecting fic. Which, honestly, is okay with me; big, world-saving plots gets a bit repetitive after a while.

Like other people mentioned before, the first chapter has a lot going on, but I don't really mind that too much. It does a good job of getting to the story and introducing the characters.

There's good variety in characters. Dean feels a bit out of place on Sylviana's team, though. She clearly has a thing for cutesy Pokémon, such as Sylveon and Cinccino. So why a Hydreigon? Obviously, Eloise seems to just be catching what she can and getting rid of what she doesn't want, so that shows no clear pattern and probably won't for a while.

I don't think I've ever seen a rotation battle in a fic before, so that's exciting. Sylviana wipes the floor with the Striaton triplets, even if her Pokémon don't seem to interested in battling.

The poems at the end of each chapter are interesting, but the second one is a bit long. I don't know if that's intentional or just the way it ended up being written.

Anyway, this seems pretty interesting! Looking forward to next chapter. (Sorry about a lack of order in the review.)
 
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A journeyfic with an original character, I feel like it's 2014! PMD is all the rage these days, so it's nice to read something like this

Technical Accuracy/Style
There's basically nothing to complain about on the technical accuracy side. I spotted a typo:

She sure was hype for something
but that's about it. Stylistically the narrative fits the first-person perspective very well - all short sentences, with a kind of flat, unimpressed, almost depressive edge to them. It does shove the reader into the head of the protagonist in the kind of show-don't-tell way that's the most effective characterisation. There's a dry humour to it I like. It's not trying too hard, or angling for that irritating repetitive meme humour you see too often in fanfic.

Setting
This is the weakest part of the chapter, I think. It's very sparse - the story could almost be happening anywhere, because there's really not anything that says "this is Striaton City" in there. I found myself debating how fair this criticism is, given that you're in the first-person view of a character who doesn't want to be there and doesn't have the self-esteem not to be ... but I think on balance that there's more than one way to build the setting, and describing the surroundings doesn't mean it has to be done in a nice way.

Something that seems small but I'm pretty sure is going to have knock-on effects:

At 1,000 poké a night
You've got a society here that's sufficiently obsessed with pokémon to name their currency after it, but Eloise seems to barely recognise a handful of pokémon, those she's had personal experiences with. Which doesn't make an awful lot of sense, because even if she doesn't like pokémon and doesn't want to be a trainer, the fact that everyone else in her life does would give her some second-hand knowledge.

Plot
This seems to be shaping up to be a kind of slice of life story - fine by me, there used to be more of them about, and it's nice to see one now. So I don't think it matters that you're not passing the stations of the plot, with professors and gym leaders and Team Plasma, etc. And actually, I think a story like this can easily tolerate a first chapter that doesn't really set up what the story is going to be about.

The issue, then, is that for about 8,000 words not a lot of story is actually told. If I were to take an editor's pen to it, I'd condense or cut any of the journey before Striaton City - not much happens there that couldn't happen in Striaton. The TV scene in the Pokémon Centre could be condensed - it's fine character building, but I'm not convinced it's entirely new when you also have all this about Eloise chewing gum on the walk as well. I'm not 100% sure the Striaton Gym adds anything.

The length of a chapter is a bit of a matter of opinion - I tend to feel that anything over 6,000 words is probably too long, but plenty of people would disagree with me. Assuming you didn't condense it down at all, I still feel it would be better as two chapters. There's really two stories here: backstory/starting the journey/out catching pokémon, mostly by mistake.

Characters
There's much less for me to criticise here. Eloise isn't your usual journeyfic protagonist. We're obviously not supposed to see her as an awesome badass trainer in the making. And I like that you've managed to write a character unimpressed with pokémon that doesn't come across as a mouthpiece for the author bleating on about how much the setting doesn't make sense. The mockery comes across with more subtlety, and has a point, like this one:

landed a few yards away from us on a knee and a hand in a pose that tried too hard to be cool.
The only apprehension I have is over how sustainable Eloise's "uh, I don't know, attack it I guess?" method of battle is going to be. I've seen it become repetitive and difficult to believe before. Time will tell on that one.

Final Thoughts
There's a lot to like here. If there wasn't I probably wouldn't have finished the chapter. Coming back for chapter two is now on my to-do list
 
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Author's Note: I probably should have said this in the first chapter, but I'm crossposting this. I'm up to Chapter 7 elsewhere, so I'm going to try to update here once a week until I catch up. Also, I think I'm going to try to respond to all reviews posted after the last chapter at the beginning of new chapters to try to only add posts as necessary. If that doesn't sit well with anyone, please tell me. And if there are any better alternatives, I'm all ears. I still haven't gotten a chance to explore this website, or read other stories, which I must do! So:

To Dawning Winds
: Thank you so much for the kind words! I agree with you about the poem going on for that chapter, but this chapter will definitely be shorter. Just in general, the poems are going to be inconsistent: some long, short, some chapters won't even have one. They're mostly for fun and to try to show some of Eloise's inner thoughts, so it's also fine if they're not your thing.

Beth Pavell: Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story! I agree with you on that I should have slowed down and described the setting more. With Eloise's knowledge, I'm trying to aim for she knows like the bare basics, common pokemon, and some more oddly specific tidbits that will come up in later chapters. But her "I don't care" attitude is definitely playing a part in why she keeps going "What?" though being completely dumbfounded by some things was not the best choice now that I think about it. She really should be a little more competent. Thank you for pointing that out. I also definitely agree that things could be cut, especially for the first two chapters which are longer. I was aiming for character-building, but I've noticed over time that I have a tendency to focus on details that don't really matter in the long run and I really need to help that. Since I've posted this elsewhere as it is now, I haven't edited it yet, but I absolutely should have. Though I'll say about the weird gum scene that the gum will come up again for another character, and that the guy they almost set on fire will come back (not in the way you'd think). And I absolutely agree and see that Eloise's attitude can get stale as it keeps coming up. I thought making her unconfident about decision-making and really hesitant would make her interesting, but it definitely should be done with nuance and not overkill, which I can hopefully do. Thanks again for reading and reviewing, it means a lot!

Chapter 3: Hopeless Chase
What made the mad dash after Timburr so embarrassing wasn't that I couldn't catch up, but that it wasn't even that great a distance. After entering Pinwheel Forest, I followed Pawn, who followed Pepper, who followed Tempest, who followed our target. Pawn hooked an immediate left turn into a sunny clearing.

There, Timburr stood with a cocky grin and beckoned Tempest forward. The run lasted about three minutes.

I moved behind Tempest and took a good minute to catch my breath. "Tempest, Tempest." My pidove readied herself and stared straight at Timburr. "Quick attack."

She took a stance ready to leap forward. "Quick attack." Finally, she launched and hurtled towards her opponent.

Before I could give the last confirmation command, Timburr groaned and held its stick up in the air like it had earlier. So, I didn't repeat the move. In turn, Tempest ceased her attack and instead landed in front of it. "We need to get that stick away from it." Tempest looked back at me and blinked as if I told her to sprout legs and run a marathon. "Uh, how about gust?"

Hearing an oink, I remembered that Pepper was there too. I probably should have had Tempest tag out, but she was already angry.

I waited for the bird to start flapping her wings like she was stretching. "Gust." Then she flapped with meaning. "Goddamn, gust."

Very soon, a small twist of wind formed right in front of Timburr, quickly moving towards it. After colliding with the attack, the little jerk flew back, dropping its stick in the process. Because Tempest wouldn't (and probably couldn't), I dashed to pick up the fallen weapon and huck it about five feet away.

It jumped back on its feet quickly with a deep grunt, and had what I assumed to be a smile. But it just got hit with a super-effective attack. And just lost its stick. Was this timburr a masochist?

"Okay, uh… Air cutter?" Tempest could have at least taken less time charging up. "Air cutter." One, two. "Air cutter."

Again, three crescents of strong wind flew at Timburr, whose smile grew with delight for some reason. It jumped back in time to dodge and landed on a fallen log behind it. Once landed, it hopped in place and waved a hand back and forth as if to say try that again.

Tempest only got more flustered as she started squawking like the world was ending. "Okay, okay, air cutter." She tried it again. "Air cutter." At least I had the timing down already. "Air cutter "

Tempest flung her attack directly at the hopping thing's feet. Pity Timburr jumped in time, causing the air cutter to hit the log it used as a platform. But, again, it was elated at this. Once more, Timburr taunted us, still standing on the log. I noticed that a sharp dent was made in it after the attack landed.

Timburr seemed like it wanted us to use air cutter again. That was my only guess. At least they were having a nice time. "Air cutter." It cheered and squatted down, probably to jump once the attack came.

I looked back at Pawn and Pepper, who were sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, waiting for the battle to conclude. Pawn caught my attention and moved his arms similar to how Tempest swung her wings for air cutter. Timburr grunted several times whilst waving a fist at Tempest. Were they holding a conversation? Pawn pointed at me and then Tempest, nodding his head. "What's that supposed to mean?" That could have meant anything under the sun and more.

Calling out, he waved his arms like Tempest again and pointed below Timburr, at the log it stood on. "What about it?" Was that supposed to help? "Oh, shoot, air cutter!" I managed to get through before Tempest stopped her first-stage charge of the move. I turned around and decided to ignore Pawn since I didn't get what he was saying. "Air cutter."

This garnered the same result: Timburr dodged and Tempest struck the log. At this, our opponent forgot about us and put its face right to the wood. I walked a couple steps over to see it admiring the dents made by air cutter. Then I remembered its dex portrait, and what Pawn tried to convey became clear.

"Not like we have anything better to do." This would be my good deed for the day. I just hoped it would be entertaining. "Tempest, Tempest."

The pidove followed me as I approached the log at the opposite end from Timburr. I made sure a good distance was maintained as I didn't want it to end up attacking me. It looked at me and jumped back up, becoming king of the log once more. "Uh, do you want this thing cut?" I did a small chopping move with my arm. At this, Timburr's face filled with delight again and it nodded. I couldn't believe what I was doing. "We'll help..."

It jumped off and smacked the wood on the way down. This thing sure knew how to live it up. "You really had to assault Tempest for our help, though?" But, then again, any other way and we probably would have not given chase.

It moved like it shrugged. Then, Timburr went to pick up the stick I tossed and swung it around like a toy.

"Let's make this painless, then. Air cutter." With a huff, Tempest complied. "Air cutter." One, two. "Air cutter "

This carved another couple of inches into the log, but not enough to completely split it. I focused a little more and saw that the log was actually quite long, like six feet. Its diameter was about the size of Tempest. So, we kept going and going until finally, a surprisingly clean cut was made into the log. Pretty jagged with angular points, but still.

It got our attention again by shouting and jumping while standing at the other end from where we cut and pointed as if to say here too! The edge was jagged and kind of black.

"Are you serious?" I looked at Tempest, who seemed to have exhausted herself already. Timburr came up to us and stood before Tempest, poking her with the stick and saying something I couldn't understand.

Before I knew it, Tempest gained a second wind. She flew up and flailed her wings, firing air cutter after air cutter at the other end of the log until the rotted segment was lopped off. It must have taunted her into doing that. Timburr did a small jig before admiring the about-three-foot-long log. It then made a gesture that read follow me and tried to push the log out of the rut it lay in. I put a foot on the wood and kind of kicked it, not really helping in the least bit. Pepper and Pawn came up to us and tried helping too. But Timburr had none of it. It tapped Pawn's arms and Pepper's nose with the butt of its stick. They seemed more stunned than hurt, then backed off.

"What was that for? You okay?" Both nodded and kept watching. Meanwhile, Tempest perched in a nearby tree and roosted.

Rolling its hand in the air as if to rally me, Timburr grunted and tapped my feet and arms with its stick. Then, it resumed its pushing position.

"Please don't do that." I brushed where the stick touched me with my hands and copied its posture, helping Timburr move the log. I couldn't believe I was being pushed around by this thing. But, it could have been worse. It probably only wanted my help because I was so much bigger than it, though.

Eventually, the wood budged and the two of us moved it to flat land. Then, Timburr just started punching and kicking it with all its might. "What are you doing now?"

A loud grunt, followed by a soft one. A smacking noise, then a solid thump. A deep exhale yet a shallow inhale. Timburr kept a solid rhythm as it assaulted the log.

"Uh, you know that's not gonna—Holy shit, you're actually flattening it out!" Where it hit the log, the rounded edge became ever so slightly straight. Seeming familiar, I checked the dex portrait again and saw that the log in it was squared off. With a deep cry, Timburr waved its arm and rallied me again.

"Please let no one be watching." I looked around and only saw Pawn and Pepper waiting patiently. So, like and idiot, I joined in the whacking of the log. And when I said like an idiot, I meant like an idiot. The first thing I did was punch it hard. All that did was hurt my hand, but Timburr kept crying out and looking at me. So, I pretended to punch the dumb wood as it did the actual work.

Let me say, that took time. A lot of time. Evening had fallen a while ago. Timburr kept at it for hours, constantly evening out each side of its masterpiece as I punched the air like an idiot.

Was it boring? Yes. Was it exhausting? Yes. Did it fill me with even more regret? Yes. Was it real? Sadly and somehow, yes.

But boy was the result stunning.

At long last, we beheld a nearly perfect rectangular prism of wood. I had to say, this timburr was dedicated and buff. "Nice work."

Then it hit me: what the hell was it going to do with this thing? Use it like the dex entry portrayed it?

The answer was yes. Timburr squatted low and held the log in its hands, slowly standing up. It managed to lift it a few inches before I saw the wood shaking in its hands. "Wait, that's not gonna work. That's not an upgrade from your stick, it's too much. You're gonna hurt yourself."

I scrambled to the end of the log Timburr couldn't reach with its arm span and held it up to try to create balance. Together, we lifted and put the timber in Timburr's hands to cradle. It cried out in victory. Talk about cocky. It was going to drop that any time now given how shaky its entire being was.

Tempest finally woke up and came down. Once within sight, Timburr approached her, dragging the log on the ground, and held its hand out while bending and extending its fingers like a challenge issue. Pawn called for my attention again, then put up his dukes to get the message across.

"Well, we've got nothing better to do. Tempest, Tempest." She looked at Timburr and its new weapon and puffed her chest out. "Still angry from earlier?" A thought came to me then. "Should I catch it"

I looked to Pawn and Pepper while pointing at Timburr. I already sunk the entire afternoon and more with it, and it seemed pretty strong. But, it did hit us with a stick of unknown origin. It couldn't have hurt to try, though. "Alright, air cutter." One, two. "Air-Uh…"

The next thing I knew, Tempest splayed on the ground with Timburr hovering above her. It had stuck a glowing foot out and swiped it across Tempest, who decided to not fly up to use air cutter this time for some reason. The log was fallen on the ground as well.

"Tempest? You good?" She came to soon enough, but in that time, Timburr went back to its log and tried to pick it up again. "That'll take forever. Air cutter." She flew up this time and readied herself.

"Air cu…" I trailed off as I saw Timburr manage to lift the log alone. However, it was certainly off-kilter, looking ready to fall over. I kind of ran over to make sure it didn't hurt itself, but that was too late.

The log tipped over and fell. This timburr had surprisingly good reflexes as it repositioned itself quickly to catch it. But, that wasn't enough. Once the log landed in its hands, it grunted loudly and hunched over. I moved to help, but before I could touch the wood, it got dropped. Timburr then followed suit.

"Oh, shit." I awkwardly moved my hands above the fallen timburr. Guessed it would have been in bad taste to shout timber right then and there.

It groaned loudly, probably pulled something. Yet it still had the ability to snuggle up to its log and not let go.

"Uh…"

Pawn shook my shoulder and pointed in the direction of Nacrene City. "Center. Got it. Uh.."

Despite our weird little bonding, I still didn't want to touch Timburr. Predicting my sentiments, Pawn made a small tossing motion as Pepper poked at my bag.

"Catch it now? Isn't that kinda unfair?" I returned Pepper and Tempest. If it really didn't want to be caught, it would probably cause chaos, too. I wasn't cleaning up that mess.

After sighing and shaking his head, Pawn picked up Timburr and its log and walked ahead of me.

I ended up following him back to Town instead of the other way around.

~X~

"Don't worry. Your timburr will be fine after a little rest. She just got a little too excited and passed out. Some excess exhaustion and nothing more. I'll contact you once she wakes up," Nurse Joy told me. "Also, here is your pidove back, all nice and healed."

"Thank you." I looked at the floor as I processed the information and took Tempest's ball back. But something was off. "Her?"

The nurse paused on her way back to smile at me. Guessed that answered that. So Timburr was a girl? The veins and muscles were a little off-putting, but I shrugged it off. There were weirder things.

"What now?" The answer was obvious, actually: go back to my room and rest. But, I wanted to make sure Timburr was fine. I wasn't heartless.

Surprisingly, Pawn pulled me towards the exit. "A walk?" I wanted anything except exercise. My hand still hurt from when I punched the log. Joel probably told Pawn to do this.

Before I could register what was happening, Pawn dragged me outside. And since I was already outside, I might as well have let Pawn keep pulling me along. At least he walked slow.

We strolled the lamp-lit streets until a deep bass pulled us out of our peace. In the direction the noise came from, a small crowd gathered and clapped with the music. Curious, I slowly made my way towards the source of noise and saw a boombox bursting some rhythm-heavy song. Near it was a pokémon break-dancing.

Yeah, I said that.

"What the fuck is this?" I notice a hat by its feet with some money in it. Ever more curious, I scanned it. The pokémon turned out to be a scrafty, whatever that was. However…

I choked on spit when I saw a tattoo right under the thing's mohawk. And the thing's mohawk. Damn, it was the guy Pepper almost set on fire with the gum she spit out yesterday. I was sure of it. The gyarados-infinity tattoo and swag on him were exactly the same. So he wasn't human.

I stood, mesmerized by the little guy. He bounced and posed to the beat for several songs in a row. A while later, the crowd thinned out and Pawn and I were the only ones watching. I checked the time to see it was about two in the morning.

When the song finished, the scrafty checked his own watch and switched the boombox off. Why did he have and why could he use a watch? Actually, I would take that back; I was pretty sure Pawn had a pocket watch or something in his fanny pack. The scrafty picked his hat up and eyed the bills in it.

I realized I had been watching him dance for like half an hour. So, I dug through my bag and pulled out two 1,000-poké bills. That was a goddamn lot of money to me, but before I could put one back, the scrafty looked at me and bowed. I just held the money in front of him, afraid of looking like and idiot more than losing money. He took it, bowed again wearing an uneven smile, and walked away with all his things.

"Let's go back..." Well, at least I was entertained.

~X~

The next morning, I woke up supremely early. After getting back to the center last night (rather, early, early this morning), I couldn't sleep. Immediately, after wasting more of my money on breakfast for four mouths, plus a treat for an extra one, I went to the care room Timburr slept in.

I need to battle trainers. I'm broke, I thought. There was no way I was borrowing cash from anyone. I just needed to figure out how to go about that.

Inside the room, Timburr sat up on a medical bed. Once she saw me and Pawn enter, she hopped off and stood before me. She held her arms out, expecting something. So, I dropped the breakfast burrito I bought for her in them. After gazing at it questionably, she kept her arms out.

Pawn moved his arms and kind of formed a box with them. "Oh, I can guess what she really wants. And I'm pretty sure we shouldn't give it to her, unless she wants to exhaust herself again."

The stupid log we wasted yesterday making sat in my room after Nurse Joy handed it to me and said to hold onto it. The thing was damn heavy. I dropped it a couple times transporting it last night before Pawn decided to lend a hand.

"If she's feeling well, feel free to take her back." Nurse Joy entered the room and started cleaning up the room. "She's all rested up and ready for today."

Just before the nurse finished her sentence, Timburr left the room to stare at me and tap her foot by the doorframe. With her tiny hands, she crinkled the burrito wrapper. Whether she didn't know how to open it or didn't want it, I hadn't a clue.

"Thank you…" I wasn't sure if the nurse heard me or not, but I walked away without turning back, knowing I would feel stupid if I repeated myself. "Hey, eat that. I bought it."

Timburr poked the food as she walked strangely close to my leg. I sighed, looked around to make sure no one was watching, then bent down to unwrap the thing for her. After sniffing it, she picked it up as I took the plastic wrap away just in case she tried to eat it. Hell if I knew if she knew about plastic.

I walked us to my room and pulled out the card key. Before I swiped it, I took my time to read a piece of paper taped to it. Wasn't here when I left.

Trainers! Please be aware of a serial vandalist that has been visiting poké centers across Unova. Their actions include

That was all I could read. The rest of the notice was smeared with something brown and oily. By the scent alone, how it made me feel nauseous and itchy, it was surely peanut butter. But why, and how? Well, it certainly could have been a worse brown substance.

"I don't think this is a good thing." That it was covered with something like peanut butter meant it was intentional. Why else would anybody go out of their way to deface a warning flyer with the stuff? Either that, or the culprit was some asshole who passed by, happened to be eating a peanut butter sandwich, then decided they felt like smashing it against a PSA. You know, either actually sounded plausible… Not.

Pawn gawked at the peanut butter. Who wouldn't? Out of paranoia, I looked around. In this wing of the dormitories, I saw each door had a notice posted on it like mine. Several others also had brown staining theirs. "What is this?" I went up to a clean flyer and continued reading.

Their actions include: spraying unsavory graffiti on the walls of suites and bathrooms; throwing paint on sleeping pokémon left inside rooms; leaving hostile pokémon inside rooms; and stealing gym badges. They are not limited to these offenses. If you are a victim, or if you witness the culprit, please report any and all activity to the help desk.

My heart pounded and my balance swayed as I hoped I wouldn't become a victim to this shit. It wasn't what I signed up for, and the last thing I needed to worry about on my journey. But, nothing interesting really ever happened to me, so I tried to ignore the sinking feeling in my chest.

Timburr lightly punched my calf and opened and closed her hand as if to say give me. A little too much physical contact, but alright.

"Sure." I turned the knob to my room and held my breath. Then, I slowly pushed it open and reached for the light switch, eyes kept on the antsy timburr beside me. I kept smacking the wall to find the switch to no avail.

Silence overtook us, save for the sound of me hitting the wall in my blind search. Well, that and something else. Something strange, out of place… Something akin to growling, I would say. But what the hell was growling? My stomach? No.

I didn't get to wonder any more as the noise turned into a snarling. Several heavy footsteps pounded from inside my room, and the next thing I knew, a huge beast pounced out of the darkness at us.

Pawn pulled me to the side in time for it to leap past me, a whip of fur brushing against my face. After I blinked, I stared at the horrible surprise that laid in wait for me. "What?" I had no breath left in me.

Timburr cried out, followed by a thud that meant she fell either onto the floor or against the wall. I looked back at her and followed her pointing finger to the mass of brown fur that almost ran me over. The thing looked like a dog with a sick mustache. In its mouth was a stick.

No, not a stick. It just looked like a stick since the thing was so big, up to my shoulders. In its mouth was Timburr's log. "The fuck?"

The next thing I knew, it ran off. Timburr followed it closely. I hesitated to do so, but ended up closing my door before following them. Nurse Joy knew I was affiliated with this pokémon, so any damage by her would mean I got the blame.

Once again, Pawn became my waypoint. We ran around the poké center before we somehow all ended up at the battlefields behind the building. I hated that we didn't encounter Nurse Joy or someone to get help from. Not even someone to tell us to not run in the halls.

Outside, the dog kept charging straight. If we let it keep running, it would have made a clean getaway with Timburr's log, never mind what havoc it would wreak in the city. I put effort in the making of that thing, so I also had a stake in it. So, I panicked and rifled through my bag for something, anything. I felt a poké ball with a sticker on it and flung it the hardest I could ahead.

Maybe I had potential for baseball or something because the poké ball flew ahead of the dog, and out came Pepper in time to execute one move. But, the problem was that I probably couldn't shout loud enough for her to hear me. Plus I was out of breath.

Lucky me, though. Out of what I assumed to be instinct, Pepper shot ember at the charging dog. That slowed it down and caused it to come to a dead stop.

It dropped the log and bent down, head to the ground in some battle stance. By the time I got in shouting distance of Pepper, the dog's fangs crackled with electricity as it chomped them like a guillotine. Only then did I notice its absurdly sharp teeth, all of them perfect cones. Pepper jumped out of the way to stand in front of me, just barely dodging the dog charging at her.

"Uh… Pawn, can't you do something?" The dog was huge and scary. Possibly rabid. And who knew where it came from. It certainly wasn't mine.

Pawn hesitated and made a gesture to give him a minute to think. There wasn't time, though. It wasn't even like I wanted to command him, if that was the issue. I just wanted to not get bit by this thing. What the hell did Joel tell him to not do?

"Uh, uh, Pepper!" My eyes flickered from Pawn to Timburr, who ran to retrieve her log the moment it hit the ground. "Seriously? You can't carry it right. Whatever, um, ember."

Again, flames shot out of Pepper's nostrils and lightly toasted the dog. After scanning it, it was apparently a stoutland, male. I knew a pokémon I didn't want to train in the future.

Without waiting for me, Pepper launched another ember, then followed into a tackle. "Whoa, no, I didn't say that!" She was going to get hurt, wasn't she? This sucked. "Uh… Why do you only know two moves? Uh…"

Pepper used ember again, then jumped to her side and repeated over and over again, circling the dog while acting like a spit roast.

However… it did diddly to the stoutland. Other than slightly singing his fur and making him continuously turn to the right, the stoutland was completely unaffected by Pepper's endeavors. So either Pepper was extremely weak, or this dog was extremely jacked. Or both.

Covering for my melting brain, Timburr acted as a distraction of sorts. She abandoned her log (probably because she knew she couldn't use it) and literally jumped into the fray. She gave him a sick drop kick. This pushed the stoutland back, giving her time to use it again.

"Join in." That was the one thing out of infinite others that I said. How stupid it was.

But oh, did Pepper know what to do. She charged in with tackle and struck the same spot Timburr had been kicking him. Then, they took turns wailing on the dog.

This was short-lived, though. When I looked at the stoutland, his face wasn't really pained. He seemed more annoyed than anything. "Get away from it," I shouted once I saw him open his mouth, fangs glowing red and fire spewing out.

With a deafening roar, he snapped his jaws closed, latching onto Pepper. He picked her up and swung her around like a toy, fire from whatever move he used engulfing her. At least it wasn't very effective?

"Oh my god."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Timburr huck a decent-sized rock at the stoutland. It hit his butt and made him drop Pepper, who landed upright and ran back to breathe. She threw another rock, landing a solid hit on the stoutland's head.

He shook it off and faced Timburr, teeth bared and bent down, ready to charge whilst growling. The next move, he shot at her with absurd speed and force, coated in white. From my spot, I couldn't see the poor fighting-type anymore.

"Ember, ember!" My wires got crossed and I thought Pepper was Tempest for a moment.

It was too late, though. The stoutland already stopped running by the time I said that. So, I edged around to try to see what happened. And, wow, was I actually impressed.

Timburr stood like a pitcher, log held up at a 45-degree angle due to her leg kicking it at the end on the ground. The dog kneeled down while rubbing its nose. All I could guess that happened was he hit the log head-on and hurt himself.

Grunting with satisfaction, she let go of the log, which fell down and whacked the stoutland on the head. Just then, Pepper unleashed ember. Again, it seemed like she did no damage to him. However, when I looked closer, the stoutland was kind of on fire. A patch of fur was burnt blackish, too, some strands falling off and revealing red flesh.

"He's burned?" I tried to remember if ember could burn. Either way, the fire seemed to greatly hinder him as he struggled to stand up, front paws nursing his head. "Is that log legal?" That was the bigger question. But, I guessed that since she struggled just to hold it, it was sort of okay.

The stoutland barked his head off, dragging a paw in the dirt like a charging bull. Once again, he shot ahead with such speed and force, aiming for Timburr. She jumped forward, ever so slightly dodging him. Did she really have time for style points?

I stared at the stoutland intently and watched as his focus broke before he ended his attack, really just running straight instead of using whatever move he was trying to use.

"Oh, well, ember again." If we were lucky, that stoutland would wear himself out soon enough.

Just as Pepper inhaled, the stoutland turned around and charged yet again. Only this time, he seemed more threatening. He howled like his life depended on it. Oh, yes, were we doomed.

He came at us, mainly at Timburr who just so happened to stand beside Pepper to catch her breath. With such power, surrounded by an orange and purple aura bubble, he leaped and hurtled towards the two small pokémon in what I knew was the move giga impact. I saw Joel's slaking Queen use it plenty of times on televised tournaments to know it by heart.

"No, no, both of you get out of there somehow!" As I said that, I ran as far as I could to avoid any trace of the move hitting me. Queen's giga impact caused dirt to fly up in the air in clumps and affect anything in like a twenty-foot radius. Pebbles and rocks often came up too.

I hid behind a convenient tree and peered out with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was safe. On the other, I didn't even try to help them besides just barely shout a warning when it was probably too late to even help. But, then again, what could I have done to help? There was literally nothing I could do, except maybe return Pepper. But, even then, what of Timburr?

Timburr kicked Pepper like a pigskin, sending her flying a few feet away to safety. Then, she jumped away herself, but I could see that at least her legs would get knocked by the stoutland.

Time seemed to slow down. As I kept watching, I saw Pepper stand up and call out, probably for Timburr. Then, the charging stoutland gained a pink-ish color to its giga impact. With this, he veered a hard left, pink immediately leaving his aura once his direction changed.

My sights shifted to Pawn, who held his head with one arm in what looked like great focus. Before I went over to check out the mess before me, I watched as the stoutland kept going until he ran into a tree, collision causing a puff of dust to go up.

Once it settled, the dog lay on its stomach, eyes closed. The tree tilted over by about fifteen degrees.

"Pawn, Pepper, you…?" I approached Pawn, who walked over to the stoutland while panting heavily and clutching his head. Pepper approached me and immediately collapsed, panting up a storm herself. Timburr came by too, dragging her log across the dirt and scratching her head like a human ruffled their hair in frustration.

"What happened?" Why were we even here to begin with? Where did that stoutland come from? Why did he have to steal the goddamn log?

Pawn came up to us carrying the unconscious dog. "Are you okay? You used psychic, right?" I thought he couldn't use it anymore.

He nodded his head and bounced the dog in his arms. I saw the stoutland twitch his foot, so he certainly was alive.

"Let's show him to Nurse Joy." I returned Pepper, then looked to Pawn. "No, wait, what about the room?"

The warning poster I read not half an hour ago came back to me. Was I seriously a victim of that asshole? If so, was he truly so dedicated to his trolling as to train up this huge stoutland just to abandon it in a stranger's room and cause unknown chaos? Chaos that he wouldn't be around to see?

"Keep an iron grip on that thing." With that, we went back to my room.

Pawn bumped me to the side with his hip once I twisted the doorknob. He went in first, still clutching the sleeping dog, to turn on the lights. Before he gave me the okay, I saw him take a step back and stiffen up.

When I stepped in, I did the same as Pawn. Who wouldn't have?

The bedding and actual bed of the room were torn to literal shreds. The carpet had huge claw markings and generous patches of golden and blue fur, like the stoutland was shedding. The lamp and television sat on the floor, completely broken. Chunks of the walls had holes and cracks, most definitely from the dog running into them.

Such destruction that rendered the room reminiscent of a junkyard. And that wasn't even the worst part. All that stuff was probably from the stoutland. But there was more, things that a human had to have done.

My eyes shot to the most obvious offender: the wall the television once leaned against. A disgusting green, similar to one people made bio-slime on television, marred the white wallpaper, likely spray paint.

Scrawled in handwriting just barely better than mine was a giant fuck you. Literally.

The words FUCK YOU in huge letters stared at me from on high.

"That's mature," I managed to cough out. I couldn't tell whether I was supposed to laugh or burst into tears at that. Who broke into someone's room just to write that? Never mind the stoutland.

I turned around and more graffiti greeted me. This time, in red similar to that of a teacher's pen, GIVE UP GO DIE was written, words stacked upon each other.

Couldn't use punctuation or something? I thought to myself in a failed effort to ignore the shitty feeling I got from this. This was why I didn't go out much. This was why I didn't like talking to other people, my skepticism manifest.

Scribbled elsewhere on the wall in black marker were dejecting phrases of similar sentiment, all of which I wished I hadn't read. A similar motif among all of them was failure.

Who the hell went around doing this stuff? And how much money in repairs did they leave behind doing this garbage? And how many other rooms got this treatment? I was a cynic too, but I never acted on my hate-filled impulses.

What really got me was that despite the fact that this incident seemed like it was aimed at whoever was renting this room with how unspecific its trash talk was, it still got me. I already knew I wasn't going to go far. So why did this stranger of a vandal have to hammer it home?

"I have to report this, don't I?" It was something too severe to just walk away from. Plus, I was a victim. And if I didn't tell someone, I would have to clean the mess myself to prevent myself from being called the vandal.

With a sigh, Pawn exited the room, still carrying the stoutland. I should probably have found Nurse Joy already to ease Pawn's burden.

Timburr huffed. I almost forgot she was there. She leaned against the wall outside, trying to carry her log without it touching the ground.

"Let's g-"

"Nurse Joy!" someone screeched from outside. I popped my head out and saw a small crowd surrounding the nurse standing a few doors down. "Someone broke into my room and broke everything."

"The public bathroom is a mess, too," a man added. "The walls are covered with brown… stuff, and the mirrors are ruined with marker." Was he censoring himself? No, there was no way someone took shit into their hands and rubbed it against the wall.

"The battlefields outside are covered with hidden stealth rocks and toxic spikes! My pokémon need help!"

Those were just some of the complaints I heard before I found myself slowly wandering toward the poor nurse swamped with angry folk. When I got close enough, a few people looked my way and quieted down, probably at the sight of Pawn and the dog he carried. With a nudge from the gallade, I said, "There was this crazy stoutland in my room."

"Okay, everyone, let's calm down. I understand the situation and hope to have everything sorted out as soon as possible. As we work to try to retrieve the footage from our security cameras, I ask that you all follow me to receive compensation." Why did she say try?

Very professional. But, seriously? Who was this asshole vandal? They went to such great lengths to bully people. Was this really what they did with their life?

On another note, compensation? I needed money, so...

I learned shortly after that compensation meant a new room for free and taking the stoutland off my hands (and that she said try to get the security footage because the cameras were hacked or some bullshit like that). Not one to argue and cause a scene over exaggerated (or perhaps genuine) emotional distress, I took the card key and left quietly.

~X~

Scribbled in various places in my journal were these:

I'll follow you in this chase

A game practically a charade

Pretending I like it

Inside I detest it

Yet suck it up for future days

-O-

Go ahead and make a scene

As if the shame doesn't demean

I'll try, try again

Fail up until ten

Till finally I learn this was your dream

-O-

You insult me as if I enjoy it

Your sick game of tat for tit

In the end, you win

But I'll call you has-been

As you pretend that you're innocent

-O-

You keep me on a long, long leash

And so, everything is so close, but out of reach

I run, then it chokes

Somehow I am a joke

For believing your rabid dog isn't me

-O-

The dirty walls of lies start closing in on me

Graffiti towering over, screaming blasphemy

That this could occur

To this boring trainer

I can't convince myself it's plain profanity​
 
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Chapter 4: Walking a Fine Line

Currently, I stood on a battlefield outside the pokémon center with a sign on it. Clear for battle, it read. On other fields, round flying pokémon that looked like a cross between some ancient artifact and a fruity party ball swept the grounds with security guards. Sigilyph, apparently. They used psychic and uprooted rocks and strange barbs from the ground. Apparently the work of the poké center vandal from earlier.

Beside me, the timburr stood with her log, using the ground as support of course. "You know, after all this bull, I might as well catch you. Any objections?"

I wanted to go to sleep already. I held an empty poké ball above her and waited for a response before dropping it. When I heard the capsule hit the ground, I looked to see the timburr across the field with her hand saying come at me.

"Oh, come on, we still have to battle after all this?" She dropped the log and flexed her arms with a cry.

"You're killing me." Reluctantly, I pulled out a ball and tossed it. Out came Tempest.

"Air cutter." One, two. "Air cutter." Three, four. "Air cutter."

The move flew out and homed in on the timburr. She lifted her log again and held it like shield, but ended up dropping it last minute, taking the brunt of the attack. "Quick attack." One, two. "Quick attack." I got even more tired. "Quick attack."

Tempest went in again and slammed against the timburr before she stood. At this, I regretted picking her. If she couldn't one-shot anyone, I would have to talk more than I wanted to.

With quick reflexes, Timburr sprang back up to grab a nearby rock and throw it at Tempest, who had flown in the air and cooed haughtily. This pidove... She fell to the ground, and the timburr proceeded to kick her. It turned into weird yet powerful slaps, probably pound.

"Gust." I didn't think she heard me. Even if she did, it probably wouldn't have helped any as the timburr had Tempest pinned down good. "Uh.. "

Without even thinking, I returned Tempest and sent out Pepper. That was a fair move, right?

"Ember." Looking around in a tizzy after Tempest disappeared, Timburr didn't notice the fire soaring toward her. It hit her back, causing a face plant that just missed her log. "Again."

The timburr didn't stand up after that. So, I held the poké ball I dropped before and took aim. I chucked it and felt my body relax. Until I tensed back up when she sprang to her feet to kick the ball back at me. By some miracle, I caught the deflected capsule and readied myself to go another round.

"You can't make this any easier? I helped you with your log!" She looked like she was laughing. At me or just because, who knew.

"Ember." When would Pepper learn another move? I felt bad just saying the same one over and over again.

Timburr squatted down and grunted super loud, glowing a strange white while grunting to the skies above. Allowing herself to take the ember head-on, she held steady in her focused state.

"One more time?" I said as I thumbed through Timburr's dex entry to see what move it could have been. Once I found out, I immediately changed my mind. "Forget that. Back out, back out."

Bide was the move, and if Timburr had as much endurance as she appeared to have (despite passing out from exhaustion yesterday), Pepper would be toast. And of course, I was too late in my discovery. Pepper shot ember out and looked back at me once I gave my correction.

Timburr shouted unusually loudly upon impact. "Alright, you win, just don't hurt us!" She sounded like she was going for the kill. At least, a kill.

Her own.

Once she took the hit, I stared intently at her and waited for the sweet release. It never came, though. She fell back, no longer glowing.

"Do we win?" I waited to see if she would get up. Instead of bouncing back on her feet like I thought, Timburr stayed down. "Um, don't smack this back again."

I threw the poké ball again, but kind of missed. It hit her log, then bounced back to roll on down to touch her foot. Timburr went into the capsule instantaneously, and for some reason, so did her log. I held my breath and hoped she wouldn't pop out.

The ball shook once, then twice. Without any dramatic pauses, it did it a third time, then stopped moving. I walked over to pick it up and send her back out. Once she materialized, Timburr stood her log up on the ground and held it with one hand, pumping her tiny fist with the other.

"Uh, welcome?" What was I supposed to say? "I guess we think of a name for you?"

She stuck her nose in the air. Pepper did the same but kind of laughed in doing so.

"The hell name would work?" I thumbed through her dex entry earlier, and boy did she get ripped when she evolved. For the sake of both of us, I wasn't going to shoot for a muscle pun or anything of the sort.

She turned away and tried to deadlift her log as I lost myself for a moment.

"Buff...y?" Guessed I was a liar. At this, she dropped her log and looked straight at me. Did she feel second-hand embarrassment? Pepper tapped the log with her head. Whether it was a distraction from the awkward silence that ensued or from her own boredom, I was thankful for it since Timburr went back to lifting soon after.

"What do you want from me? You probably don't want to be named Rose or something like that, right? The ironic name is-"

I got cut off by Timburr's cocky grunting. She tilted her head left and right before shaking it with a big smile.

"Satisfied? Uh, no, really. Rose? You're Rose now?" I got another grunt in response. "Sure, okay…" At least that was quick and relatively painless. And, it was a one-syllable name! Something went right today. "Sure, then. Rose is Rose."

~X~

"I don't want to do this." I stood inside the poké center, peering out from behind a pillar at a group of people gathered outside at the battlefields. There must have been at least forty people, all chatting with their pokémon by their side. Nearby was a refreshment table.

I stared at the flyer in front of me and read it over and over again to make sure I had it right. And I did: a gathering for trainers, new and old to battle and mingle. That meant money, if I won any matches. And I needed money.

Pawn pushed me and pointed at the exit. "I know I said I would try a battle, but maybe I can wait for the next one or something." Last night, when I first saw the flyer, I convinced myself to attend this meet-and-greet for the sake of my wallet.

But, saying and doing were completely different things. Plus, I was a coward. When I exited my room earlier, my stomach churned and my chest weighed down at the prospect of embarrassing myself in front of strangers.

Pawn sighed an especially long sigh. He stared through me as I fumbled to throw a piece of gum in my mouth.

"I really don't want to do this." I took a small step forward, counting the tiles on the floor. Pawn then pushed me ahead and kept doing so. If I didn't want to fall, I had to walk with him, which I did. The automatic door greeted us by opening, and with a lead foot, I stepped outside.

Instinctively, I adjusted my posture and straightened my face, keeping my mouth closed and not complaining anymore. I dragged my feet and stood against the wall of the poké center, distant from the other people. I needed some time to psych myself up, alright?

My peace was interrupted almost immediately as some guy walked up to me with a yellow bipedal pokémon with an angular mustache and spoons in tow. "Yo, you're here to battle, right? Your gallade looks pretty tough, and my alakazam could use a challenge. How about it?"

Dear God, why? Of course it was Pawn that drew attention. For me, Pawn shook his head and waved his hands, stepping back. "Uh, he can't battle…"

"Why not? Something happen to him?" Strangely considerate for a stranger. "Just a friendly battle. No stakes, alright? For fun."

"No, he's, uh, my brother's gallade. I can't battle with him." I hoped I said it loud enough so I wouldn't have to repeat myself.

"Oh, really? Too bad, man. Is your brother here, then?"

"Try Black City," I said with a cough-y chuckle.

"Oh, too bad. Well, you got any other pokémon you can battle with?"

This guy was barking at the wrong tree. His alakazam looked strong as he stared Pawn down. I appreciated what he was trying to do, assuming he was genuine, but we were on different levels, most likely. "Well, I started my journey like two days ago, dude."

"Oh? Well, I just caught a darumaka yesterday that isn't too strong yet. Why don't we battle?" He held a hand out and gestured to an empty battlefield with the other. "Can't hurt, yeah?"

"Uh…" Before I could come up with a subtle excuse, Pawn pushed me forward and cheered. "I guess…"

"Sweet! Name's Alex."

"Eloise." Three syllables, and I had somewhat of a slur to my words. A perfect name to say to everyone I met.

"Let's go!" Alex ran to the opposite side of the field as I walked to the spot meant for me. As I waited for him to settle down, I looked to my left and right, where two other battles raged on. One with a couple of black and white flying squirrel things, the other with a pair of gears and some white tapeworm. "Burst!"

I looked back to Alex and saw him send out what apparently was a darumaka, some fire type. Well, Pepper didn't have an advantage, and Rose had the risk of ruining her log with fire, so I reluctantly picked who was left over. "Tempest."
Out came my pidove, looking as worriless as ever. She and Burst or whoever glanced at each other and did anything but assume battle stances. "Come on, Burst!" Alex and his alakazam did similar poses, stomping one foot down and holding an arm out. "Anyway, if you have Spar Star, wanna register and put money on this?"

"Kinda, yeah." I had nothing to lose. "But, I'm kinda broke."

"Ah, so am I. How's about half stakes for a one-on-one?" He crossed the battlefield as I set up my Xtranceiver. We traded info and selected Begin Battle on our screens. "You can get, like, 10,000 poké."

Had I been drinking something, I would have choked on it. That was kinda broke to him? "And you can get like 1,000."

"Sure, let's start!" He went back to his spot and held a short-lived, quiet conversation with his darumaka, possibly a pep talk. Did he know he only had things to lose in this? Like his money and pride?

"Strange guy. But, here's a chance." Not my chance, but a chance. "Tempest, Tempest." She spread her wings and looked at her opponent.

"I'll go first, if you don't mind." He didn't give me a chance to say otherwise. "Burst, rollout!"

"Wait, what? Uh, up, up!" The little guy turned into a small ball and shot for Tempest. In time, she flew up and he missed, however… "The hell, man?"

I ended up dodging myself. When I looked back, he did a wide turn and shot back for Tempest, bouncing to get air. He smacked into her and both fell to the ground with no grace in the least bit. To our advantage, Tempest landed on top of him. "Oh, gust." One, two. "Gust." Three, four. "Gust, goddamn it!"
A small twister shot at the darumaka and swirled around him.

"Air cutter." Good God, how stupid did this look to Alex and anyone else who looked on, if any? "Air cutter."

"Yo, what are you doing?" Alex asked the golden question. "Everything alright?"

"Well, my pidove is… a little slow on the uptake." I looked at the ground until I heard Tempest coo. "Air cutter."

She landed a clean hit through the gust. Once the wind subsided, Burst was on his back punching the ground. "Don't give up already! You can do it, just use fire fang."

As reluctant as I was exiting the center, Burst rose and bared his teeth. Like that stoutland from yesterday, his mouth flared up as he charged Tempest. My mind flickered back to Sylviana's battle at Striaton Restaurant. If only we could emulate that. "Air cutter."

With a coo, she turned around and looked at me with the blankest face I'd ever seen. Of course she didn't hear me. That darumaka was getting closer, and he shouted in his endeavors.

"Quick attack!" I said hopelessly. The collision was inevitable. Before Tempest could charge up, Burst tackled her down and chomped on her wing.

Tempest flailed wildly in place. "Uh, try going up or something." I had no idea what kind of wing strength she had.

One string of coos later, it turned out she didn't even need me. Her flailing eventually caused Burst to let go and retreat.

"Nice job?" I had to give it to her. If only I had given her a command so that I could have been proud of that. "Air cutter."

"Burst, rollout again, before they get it out!" Alex struggled to get that sentence out, each mouthful having strange pauses between words. Beside him, his alakazam shook his head, I guessed in embarrassment. At that, Alex elbowed his partner. "Cut me some slack, Mayvin."

Did the alakazam just roll his eyes? Either way, I couldn't laugh at their weird dynamic as Burst rolled toward Tempest again.

"Air cutter." One, two. "Air cutter. Any time now."

Tempest cast her move at Burst, his rolling causing the air cutter to hit him sooner and probably harder. Upon impact, he stopped coming at her, face down on the ground.

"You good, man?" Alex walked across the field to his pokémon and squatted down. He poked the little guy, and when he got no response, flipped Burst over to reveal a dejected darumaka covered in dirt.

Burst shook his head (more like his whole body given his shape) and turned away from Tempest and me, eyes barely open. "Okay, then… Guess that's it for us." Alex returned Burst and shrugged. "Good battle. Your pidove's interesting, alright."

"Oh, I know. Oh, do I." I glanced at Tempest who started pecking at her wing.

"I'm not trying to make excuses, but I was kinda out of it. I'm not used to close quarters. I usually have special attackers like Mayvin here. Just a preference." He elbowed his alakazam again, who returned the nudge.

"Anyway…" Did he actually get hurt from that baby elbow his pokémon gave him? Alex held his arm up and tapped his Xtransceiver. "Loser this time."

I brought my own Xtransceiver to my face and pressed the Winner icon in a daze. Had I really won that? I had! The entries from me and Alex agreed, and my new win-loss ratio filled the screen. A whopping 1-1.

"Ah, man." I glanced at Alex's win rate. An impressive 97-149. He must have had a lot of experience. I wouldn't say anything about how many more losses he experienced than wins. So, either he let me win, or he really only did know how to work with pokémon that used special attacks. Then, did I really win?

"Damn." I chose to lose myself in other thoughts to convince myself of this victory. Like how Spar Star relied only on the honor system. Who know if win rates were accurate or not? Or if battles happened at all? Well, the app was just for bragging rights, so I guessed it was fine.

"Anyway, here, what I owe. I'm gonna go give Burst to Nurse Joy." Alex held out a small bundle of money to me. "Catch another battle. Let's see if you can hold a streak. My best ever was five in a row!"

"Oh?"

"Yeah. I should probably stick to my guns, though. Hopefully Burst can adapt… Enough, Mayvin!" Alex swatted his alakazam's hand. From what I could see and guess, his pokémon kept poking him with a spoon for whatever reason.

"Bye..." And off he went. I drifted to the same spot Alex had approached me at and sighed. Was that a draining experience or what.

Naturally, I counted my winnings. Alex was actually right, having given me 10,000 poké exactly. If I could, I would have went back to my room. But, I knew that money wasn't going to last long.

"Hey, you up for a battle?" a high-pitched voice asked. I turned to see a girl with really long hair facing me.

"Me?"

"Yeah, I saw you battle that guy with an alakazam. Why don't we go?"

"Uh…" Pawn prodded my back again. "Sure."

"Sweet! Come on!" She dashed to the same field Alex and I had just used and waited for me.

I looked at my feet to see Tempest half-asleep. I returned her and walked on. When I got to the girl, we registered Xtransceivers and started our one-on-one battle. From the challenge screen, I learned her name was Belle.

"Half stakes, okay?"

"Sure." I wanted to know what she would give me, but chickened out and instead grasped Rose's poké ball.

"Who will you use?" Belle held her hands together and tapped a foot.

"Rose. Let's dance…" My heart couldn't have been any less in the line I used.

"Great!" she said upon seeing my timburr come out. "Too bad for you. Emma!"

"The hell?" I stood in awe that she actually said something like that out loud. She tossed a great ball and out came one of those flying squirrels that Alex and I battled next to earlier, an emolga.

"Aerial ace!" She didn't even give me time to close the dex app before she started. Her pokémon came at Rose at mach speed.

"Hey, can you, uh, work your log or not?" I said as quickly as I could. "So either use it as a shield or get out of there."

Rose loudly breathed out her nose like she couldn't believe I said that. She stomped a foot on one end of her log and reached down with an arm to pick it up. It came off the ground to form a 30-degree angle with it before Emma crashed into her.

"Let go of the goddamn log before you get hurt." I watched as Rose got pushed back only to the point of falling down because of the iron grip she had on her wood. She shouted, it seemed, at me. Was she arguing with me? I thought we were on the same side!

"Rock throw, before we end up losing. Please?"

"Spark!" Belle hopped as she said it. Emma, crackling with electricity, charged at Rose again.

Rose stomped the ground with purpose, somehow causing it to splinter. From the cracks, she took a decent-sized rock in both hands and lifted with her legs. So she had leg day down pat, but skipped arm day? Seemed a little ironic to me. "What are you waiting for? Just go."

She swung the rock thrice before letting go just in time for the emolga to crash into it at full force. Kind of like a granny throw in bowling.

"You got it, yeah… So low kick." The downed squirrel had to make for an easy target. Rose lifted a leg and smiled before driving it into the side of Emma, causing her to leave the ground for a few seconds before kicking her again when bringing her leg back down. "Pound, pound." Tempest, why did you corrupt me?

Rose punched at Emma as the latter assumed a weird fetal position. "Ugh! Thunderbolt."

"Say what?" The field lit up yellow as electricity shot out from the emolga and fried Rose. "Oh, shit." Rose immediately fell once the move subsided.

"Acrobatics!" Belle didn't waste time.

"Can you get up or roll away?" Once I finished speaking, Rose tried turning herself to the right, but stopped as Emma delivered her move.

"Again!"

"Oh, come on!" I said it more to Belle than Rose. "Maybe bide if you can't get out of the way?" Rose glowed white and braced herself while curling up on the ground. Emma came again, and once Rose got hit, my timburr stopped glowing.

"Rose?" She didn't answer.

"Guess I won!" Belle bounced on towards me and gave an innocent smile.

"Yeah…" She didn't exactly cheat, but her victory didn't bode well for me. Waited on me just so she could pick a type advantage… And was that emolga unnecessarily fast.

We concluded our battle on Spar Star and I gave her the money. Before it even touched her hands, though, she walked by me and waved some other trainer down for a battle.

"You good? Wanna try again or go heal?" I jutted a thumb at the poké center as I approached Rose. She sat up and shook her head, holding her hands like for a fistfight.

"Got it, got it…" Not like we had anything else to do. I dug through my bag and pulled out a potion. "Just hold still for a second." I sprayed her with the medicine from a distance and watched as she pretended it didn't sting. I only knew that because when I got up and turned around to dispose of the bottle, she let out a cry and clutched the spot I sprayed her. Like I couldn't hear her just because I couldn't see her. I did see her from the corner of my eye, though.

"Hey, up for a battle?" The guy I saw with the pair of gears from earlier approached me. Should I have made an effort to approach other people? Yeah, but…

"Sure." I threw the empty potion away and followed him to a field, both of us booting Spar Star up.

The guy, Carlo, sent his gears out again. Rose jumped into the fray before I considered anyone. At least she had a type advantage. With a gulp, I managed to take the initiative. "Low sweep."

~X~

When night fell, I collapsed on my bed and stared at my win ratio. After the whole day spent battling, I left when everyone started clearing out and tried to convince myself I did good. My win ratio became a strange 11-8 after everything was said and done, every battle I participated in a one-on-one, most of which went down as One Hit Outs. Most of the victories were courtesy of Rose, who refused to stop demonstrating her strength even when I acknowledged it.

"Good God…" I was exhausted right when the first guy challenged me. Forget about all the bouts I had today. My stomach gurgled as I realized I hadn't eaten at all due to the meet-and-greet. Though the refreshment table was tempting and free, I made myself not go near it at all. Public eating gave me fear enough to make me not hungry in the moment.

Giving a peppy cry, Pawn passed me one of the meals we bought for dinner with one hand and the TV remote with the other. At that, I felt really bad at the fact that he acted more like my babysitter than a traveling guide or whatever it was Joel intended him to be for me.

"Thanks…" I turned the TV on and switched to Cooking Network for Pepper, who sat in front of the screen in wait with her dinner in front of her. On either side was Tempest and Rose, who both watched on with blank faces. I wasn't going to say anything since we didn't have to fill the air with small talk if the TV was on.

I stabbed the potatoes in front of me just as my Xtransceiver went off. A text from Sylviana. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen her at all today. Sorry, bisy 2morow. Meet up soon? it read. I really wanted to believe she typed like that only because she was in a rush.

Sure was my response. That only begged the question, though, as to what to do tomorrow. Today had been quite eventful and somewhat beneficial, but was enough action to last a while. For me, at least.

Snapping me out of my thoughts was Rose, who had polished off her food, grunted, and bent to pick her log up again.

"Watch the TV!" I jumped off the bed and helped her carry her lethal weapon. "At least try with both hands."

Did she seriously expect to be able to wield that hefty log on her first attempt when her last weapon, that stick she poked us with, weighed not even a pound? And with one hand? Either way, I led us away from the expensive television and helped Rose in her weird endeavor to lift her log easily. "You're gonna hurt yourself like that."

She tried shaking me off, but if I let go, I knew she was going to drop it on herself sooner or later.

Tempest cooed and Pepper oinked in response. At least those two got along.

"Rose, at least get a grip on this thing." She had both hands pressed against opposite lateral sides of the log, like that would give her support. It was more like she was trying to flatten it than carry it.

The next day followed in a similar manner to that night. Except for the fact that I slept in quite a bit, we wasted the whole day pretty much just watching TV, eating, and trying to make sure Rose didn't hurt anyone, namely herself.

~X~

"Why?" I walked out of Nacrene City with Pawn practically holding a knife to my back. Well, more like his arm, but they had blades attached to them, right?

That was beside the point. Just a few minutes ago, Sylviana texted me to say she was busy again today. Doing what, I hadn't a clue, but I wasn't going to intrude on her life because I was inept. I wasn't that horrible. At my saying we should wait for her, Pawn dragged me out of the poké center and pointed at the western exit of the town.

"Let's just wait for Sylviana. She wanted to help me try this gym, anyway." It was more of a cover to not leave the city than anything else. Sue me for being lazy. He shook his head and kept pushing me until we exited Nacrene City, straight through Pinwheel Forest, and into a small gate area for the Skyarrow Bridge.

"How much longer?" I knew Castelia City was after this bridge. I also knew that this bridge was damn long. And that I was exhausted already. We had walked for about half an hour.

To appease Pawn and make it the least painful it could be, I shut up and kept walking. I stepped out, sun blinding and hot. At this rate, I would have a sick tan line around my Xtransceiver by the time we reached Castelia.

The literally bright Skyarrow Bridge greeted us as we ascended some stairs. "This is gonna take a while."

It wasn't impossible to cross this bridge, but I certainly wouldn't do it willingly. Progress versus comfort? If I waited for Sylviana, she probably would have called a car service again, so there was that. But, since we already made it this far, I might as well have kept going. Raised the chance of something interesting happening, at least.

A sign saying something about bike rentals with an arrow pointing to the lower level of the bridge's cycling lane caught my eye. Despite my looks, I actually did know how to ride a bike. And I was not too bad at it. The thought of the cost and holding unpredictable conversation with whoever manned the rental station made me keep walking.

Since the part of the bridge I walked had no real incline, I took the longest and quickest strides I could. Soon enough, I saw another person ahead of us. By her feet were a couple of small pokémon having the time of their lives.

Pawn made a noise and a throwing motion with his arm, then smacked my bag, practically reading my mind. "Is it even safe to let them out? Forget about if we're even allowed to." No, would any of them actually have wanted to walk this bridge? Maybe Rose, but Tempest was probably better off in her ball. Pepper sat somewhere in between.

Lost in my thoughts, I passed the woman with pokémon out and walked on, eyes glued to the floor ahead of me. Only when I heard a chorus of Ohs did I look up to see a small crowd gathered in the middle of the bridge. Seriously, it was maybe twenty-feet wide? They had to block the whole road?

A small gap existed between the back of some guy and the railing of the bridge. I dove in to try to slickly maneuver through. On my way, I looked at the center of the commotion and realized a pokémon battle waged on.

A pretty big yellow spider faced a pokémon that looked like a giant ice cream cone. Kind of intrigued as to how this made people clog up foot traffic, I stopped to watch as well. A galvantula versus a vanilluxe, it turned out to be.

"Use frost breath!" a guy with a pair of gauge earrings called out. The temperature suddenly dropped as the vanilluxe exhaled a chilly white mist at the spider.

"Dodge and thunderbolt!" a girl wearing a sleeve of bracelets commanded. Galvantula jumped high and landed on a support pillar of the bridge. He crackled with electricity and shot a bolt at Vanilluxe. Yeah, don't mind damage to public property or anything.

"Protect." A green bubble shielded Vanilluxe, absorbing the thunderbolt without repercussion.

"That's so boring. You use that every other turn!" Bracelets made a motion with her hand and Galvantula came back to the ground, avoiding the ice patch formed from the earlier frost breath.

"If you're so good, then why's this battle still going on?" Gauges crossed his arms and chuckled. "Ice beam."

At that point, I got bored and decided to walk away. At least it seemed like no one cared if I had pokémon out or not. So, once the crowd stood far enough behind me, I sent everyone out. Rose fell to the ground and slumped against her log. Pepper stood in wait, wagging her tail, while Tempest perched on Pepper's back. I had to admit, my pidove sure looked pretty regal there. Did she hit her head?

"We walk on?"

Pepper bounded close to my feet while Rose lagged behind, dragging her log. Pawn offered a hand to her, but every time he did, she swatted him away. Realizing that anyone could pass us by and see the mess that was the unyielding Rose, I turned around and walked back, waiting for the timburr to either ask for help or manage on her own.

It took a few minutes for her to lift the log and take steps forward. The wood hovered extremely close to the bridge below, but Rose held her breath (her cheeks were seriously puffed out) and kept walking. I came up the rear to make sure she didn't hurt herself with Pepper still by my side.

At least Pepper and Tempest knew when to behave. Rose was probably not going to listen to me well until she could handle her log. She could surely hold it better than she did yesterday, but she had a long way to go. "You got it, Rose?"

She tripped on nothing. "How long is this bridge?" I looked to Pawn, who spanned his arms and shrugged. Apparently the longest bridge in Unova, I didn't particularly fancy myself some sightseeing.

As we hugged the right side of the bridge, I noticed we passed by yet another battle. Two rock behemoths ran into each other like sumo wrestlers without arms. I made sure to quicken my pace to avoid any trouble. Other than several people also crossing the bridge, nothing of interest came up for a while.

My mind emptied as I stared ahead with no real purpose. How did this happen? I would have never thought I would cross the entirety of Skyarrow Bridge in my life. Yet, there I was, walking right foot after the left. Damn, was it boring and tiresome.

A few boats passed under the bridge as we crossed, as well as a few ducklett above. Some busking performers here and there made for ambient noise. A couple more battles happened along the long, long bridge as well. None of which caught my attention. Everything blurred together, and all I knew I wanted to do was finish crossing the bridge.

My breathing became heavier as time went on. Eventually, a halfway marker on a support beam gave me some hint of how far we were. To both my and Rose's delight, the timburr managed to keep carrying her log without it touching the ground the entire time. My delight only because that meant nothing bad happened.

Ahead, I saw the bridge went a little crazy in its design. It declined, but did so in a strange loop only for it to keep stretching straight ahead to another giant gate area. Another performer claimed the beginning of the loop as their own. I would have walked past them had I not heard the same booming bass I heard the other night.

To my left, I saw the same scrafty as before dancing yet again. Beside him was another scrafty, a taller one with a slightly different style than the other. The differences between the two mainly lied between their outfits' color scheme and their height. With nothing better to do, and seeing as though this was the third time I saw this scrafty, I joined the crowd gathered around the two pokémon.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed another difference between the two: each had a big gold chain around their necks, but the shorter one, the one I recognized, had the number 1 in gold, studded with what looked like diamonds attached to the necklace. The other had a 4 on it. They both had the same head tattoo, though.

I suppressed a laugh. Why the fuck were these scrafty wearing gold chains and break dancing in broad daylight? That didn't even matter as the song playing ended, resulting in strong applause and people throwing chump change into the two hats resting by the boombox set up.

Number 4 hit a button on the boombox and started another song. The two danced on, sometimes with each other, sometimes against as I dug through my bag to pull out money for the shorter scrafty. I might as well have since I did it before. And now, I even had money to spare. So, deciding to be generous, my good deed of the day would be giving Number 1 another 2,000 poké. For whatever purpose he needed it for.

As I pulled the money out, I noticed Rose sitting on her log with arms crossed, huffing and not watching the show. Pepper sat nicely and watched without attitude, while Tempest continued to perch on the tepig's back, seemingly asleep. Facing away from the performance for some reason, of course.

The song playing reached a climax. I clutched the money in my hand, waiting to contribute it when everyone else did. Number 1 did a tall backflip onto the guardrail of the bridge, bouncing in rhythm even after landing. Number 4 raised his arms to rally the crowd, clapping and hooting to the beat. The crowd followed, but I just kept watching.

Another loud beat came and Number 1 bent down. The next moment, he did another backflip, this time off the bridge to the ground below. Everyone gasped and ran to the guardrail to see what happened, including me.

Did he commit suicide just like that? No, there was no way. It had to be part of the act.

It turned out he landed in a cool pose, on one hand with his legs in the air, still on the bridge. The way the bridge bent ahead, it made a loop and gave way for Number 1 to land safely about twenty feet below.. Surprisingly, he didn't crack the bridge upon impact.

Number 4 jumped on the guardrail himself and made a parting motion with his hands. The crowd returned to their original positions. The music swelled, and the next thing we all knew, Number 1 flipped back to our level without any issue.

"That's actually super impressive," I murmured to myself.

"Burr." Rose yawned and lied down on her log. Was she seriously not impressed in the least bit with Number 1? For whatever reason, I kept thinking about how Rose had her leg strength down, but arms not. Those flips the scrafty did required only leg strength, so I made a wild guess she wouldn't care unless they started deadlifting or something.

Pepper, on the other hand, had a proper reaction to the performance, mouth dropped in awe. Forget about Tempest for a minute. Pawn only watched on politely.

The music ended and the scrafty took a bow. I went with the crowd and gave money, my big bills seeming unnecessarily much next to the person next to me's four coins. Here's to a life of excess for all. Not.

Author's note: I've always equated the poké to the yen, so that applies here. Also, I've wanted to call her Rose for a while. Let's forget about Chairman Rose when we're here.
 
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C2
- Forgot this dude is literally named Chili
- all of the 'mon <- Very awkward to be written like this
- Boy, was that monkey fast, like some blue blur. <- Gotta go fast
- Heh good to see Sylvana get a little wrecked by disobedience
- But alas she's pretty untouchable in the grand scheme right now. All in all...well, rotations are hard to write, but you did all right.
- "Who" <- No question mark
- Well this guy seems bitter. But I like this scene, it flows very nicely with its terseness
- His slacking <- You've been slacking on your Pokemon names if you don't know it's Slaking!
- Weird nicknames for those two. Why's the Gallade reduced to being a pawn when Sirknight gets to be an equivlant Bishop?
- said, "You're trainers? Let's battle." / Said was too generous of a descriptor. <- Why not use the right adjective to begin with, then?
- Nice to see random trainers about in a fic.
- Lot of people seem to complain about battles not being fair in this fic.
- The mother took that delightfully well, though.
- outside with Shauntal Book <- No period at the end of this sentence. Also man that is an unfortunate last name.
- The sign along the first reads The Answer / while the other reads The Journey. <- Persona 3 fan/reference?

C3
Read this while eating so couldn't keep notes. Man the command repetition thing is getting...repetitive. First part got the feel of a new trainer at least, especially with the awkwardness, but man that Timburr can take a ridiculous amount of punishment. Also interesting callback to fair fighting being brought up by her fighting fair. Stoutland incident seems neat, though you'd think that'd make it end up a smoking gun towards the culprit. Sets up an early chapter conflict at least.

C4
- This Timburr is deffo a character, at least
- Interesting battle indeed. Made up most of the chapter, and you somehow found a way to make battles seem fluffy. So good job there.
- Well I mean typos in text messages happen often so.
- Can't wait till Rose is a Conkuldurr trying to use five Osmium cube bricks at once.
- What are these Scraftys even using the money for, anyway...
- No poem at the end?
- Well Poke is literally Yen in the Japanese versions anyway so, yeah.

Seem to be catching the stride here! Pace has slowed to be more manageable. Not unreasonable to reach the first gym proper by C5, and though some towns and places are just shoved through, a lot of that is attributable to because they didn't exactly think things through when redesigning Unova in regards to starting locations. Keep it up, though yeah. Hoping the battles get a bit more varied soon, that is a thing. Hopefully all the experience she and her Pokemon got through the battles will help with that some.
 
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Coming back for Chapter 2 - I had intended this to be more organised, but needs must. This is probably going to sound critical. Please don't feel discouraged, because I don't think there's any issue with this story that can't be mended. So, couple of technical accuracy issues:

he latter also sent me a bunch of pictures of various pidove since knew my disdain for them.
Missing word there.

Autocorrect caught that one, I think.

except for the large sign outside with Shauntal Book

Signing 6-27!
printed on it.
Rogue line break

I'm beginning to notice a problem with the narrative. It's messy. You've got Eloise acting as the tagalong, with the camera focused on her as a character who, in most stories, would be a name in the background. And I'm going to reiterate, that's not a bad premise for a protagonist at all, and I like it. But you've also got her surrounded by flamboyant social butterflies who are, frankly, a bit of a caricature, pushing one another constantly and almost yelling rather than conversing. Maybe that's supposed to be how Eloise sees them, but it leads to scenes like the phone call being a pile up of dialogue that, to the reader, means little.

I think that's at the heart of why I'm struggling to really get into this story. Eloise is something of a shrinking violet, but you've given her a whole cast of characters who do nothing but push her, often literally, into the next scene, so the only response that makes sense for Eloise is to spend it giving us a repeat of the same inner monologue we've just heard.

I'm beginning to doubt the idea that the likes of Sylviana et al are really all that competent. Are they supposed to be? Because it seems like they barely know the first thing about training either, given that Sylviana immediately goes to force Eloise to battle in a Gym she knows nothing about.
 
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Author's note: I hope everyone's doing well, what with what's been going on lately. I thank those who left reviews since last I've posted. I especially thank the grammar catches; I'm usually a stickler for it, but I actually type on my phone, and auto-correct is a beast of its own, and I can only catch so much of it.

SystemError
: Thank you so much! I like the way you think. I'm definitely a Persona fan! What with Pawn and Bishop, I just thought it would be cute to give them chess names and maybe a backstory of it later. I mean, ralts kind of look like pawns, and I thought that that piece's name flowed the best. Or who knows, maybe I'm talking out my butt on that. I actually didn't know their japanese names, shame on me, so that's cool to know. Poems are definitely going to be more sporadic than not, so some chapters might not have one. I do realize that I went battle heavy on the chapters that I've already written, and that Eloise's panic can only last for so long, so there will be a point later on where she gets a groove and most of the battles are only the significant ones. Thanks again, for sticking with me and reading through.

Beth Pavell: Thank you for taking the time to read another chapter, and for the grammar catches. Eloise is definitely skewed in the way she sees things, so people do seem more absurd given her personal view. I'm a little sad about the Joel phone call, but I do see what you mean. I wanted him to be distant, know-all big bro, but I see it can come off as a sibling exchange that can go in its own little bubble. Not to sound self-insert-y, but I'm actually imparting some of me onto Eloise. Her hesitation, allowing herself to be pushed by others since she doesn't know too much herself while rolling her eyes at them in her head, and tendency to stay the same is something that I still experience and thought would be a little interesting on her. She's letting herself go with the flow, albeit bitterly, for now, but I do plan on showing her grow. Sylviana is surely loud and unpredictable and overestimates her friend, and possibly has something more to her than what's on the surface. I do have my own picture and vision for Eloise, but you do make very good points, and I will keep those in mind moving forward. Thank you again!



Chapter 5: Experiences I Want to Forget

Money gone to the scrafty, I went back to my pokémon and checked the time. Just as I dropped my right arm, the one with my Xtransceiver, two little kids ran up to Pepper, reminiscent of those twins Sylviana and I battled before. Tell me we wouldn't have a battle on this bridge. The scrafty had yet to leave, so a crowd still stood nearby.

The two, a boy and a girl both as tall as Rose's log, squatted down in front of Pepper. "It's so cute!"

"Totally!" As the two got close, Tempest flew off Pepper's back to stand by Rose.

Okay, not what I expected. As much as I agreed with them, who were they? It wasn't like I would chase them off or bring attention to myself at all, though. I stepped back a little and decided to wait it out. Meanwhile, Pepper wagged her tail like a metronome, a huge smile on her face as the two kids complimented her.

"Her ears are like a bunny's!"

"And the tail is so curly!"

To my surprise, the kids knew the golden rule of look, don't touch. Though, they did lean in uncomfortably close to Pepper. But man was she oinking up a storm. Did she revel in it or what?

"She's so happy!"

"Her voice is so cute!" Their compliments had a pretty obvious theme, though it was hard to argue with it. Pepper sat down and held a hoof to her face in a cutesy pose. Was she a model now?

"Did you see that?"

"I love her!"

Okay, the kids were fine at first, but this got kind of old. And their screeching voices did them no favor in my book. I looked to Pawn, who leaned over the guardrail and stared off into the distance. Didn't know he was a romantic. "This ever happen to you?" He waved his hand. I didn't expect him to seriously answer. "Like the view?"

He only grunted and shrugged. Riveting. Again, at least he was having fun.

"Pepper, oh, Pepper." She struck more cute poses and kept smiling at the compliments raining down on her. "How long is this gonna last?"

Rose gave a loud grunt. The sight I saw before me wasn't one I wanted to forget in the near future. Rose took Tempest into her hands and started lifting the bird up and down with ease. Well, pidove weighed like three pounds, so it wasn't that impressive. But boy was the sight funny. Rose with her face like a stone mask, and Tempest clearly unaware of what was happening to her… Beautiful.

"Danny, Evan, time to go home," someone called in my direction. Next thing I knew, the two kids stood up and whined.

"Aw, I don't wanna leave yet."

"We have to. Bye-bye, Tepig!" Pepper oinked after them.

As soon as the kids left, I approached Pepper and tried something. "Aren't you cute?" Hopefully it didn't come out too stiff. She jumped into the air and landed on her hind legs like a horse would.

"Nice moves. Let's keep going, huh?" She walked close to my feet, clearly on cloud nine. So she liked being called cute? I guessed it wouldn't be too hard to remember.

When we got close enough to them, Rose sat Tempest on one end of her log and went to the middle of the wood. She hugged it tightly to lift it, finally with both arms in a way not just for show. Twitching her head, Rose didn't bother hiding her wanting to leave.

"Got it." Behind Rose, I bent down to adjust the angle she held her log a tad to make sure Tempest wouldn't fall off.

~X~

"Finally over." Pawn and I stepped through the gate to Castelia City, Pepper and co. returned to their poké balls. He hummed and poked my back. Was pushing me along Pawn's new favorite pastime?

"Poké center…" Yeah, I needed Sylviana. Even if she didn't know where the center was off the top of her head, she wasn't afraid of getting lost or asking for directions. Castelia City was huge, too.

Pawn held his head in one hand and grabbed my elbow with the other, quickening his pace to match mine. He dragged me straight ahead, dodging and diving through clusters of strangers until finally, a familiar red building sat to my right. This poké center looked kind of bigger than the other two I'd seen.

"Hooray…" We entered the center and I immediately shot for the check-in desk. At least I was more willing to go there on my own after two other attempts.

The line for check-ins stretched from a desk at the back to the wall opposite it. I got in line and waited. That was the one thing I was good at. Waited, waited, and waited as the line inched forward every few minutes. Pawn sat in an empty chair by other people and waved. Ha, like a parent waving goodbye to their kid walking to school alone for the first time…

I did nothing but stare at the clock hanging above the desk, anticipating each tick of the seconds hand, leading into the minutes hand, and a bit of the hour hand. This went on until only five people were in front of me. Possibly less since the way they were standing by each other, they could have been a single group.

My Xtransceiver buzzed. Sylviana's name and number flashed on the screen. Were r u? Meet in front of the library at 1 k, it read.

"You're kidding me," I breathed out, hidden in a sigh. It took us almost two hours to cross Skyarrow Bridge, mostly because Rose practically waddled across. With my normal speed, it might have taken an hour, maybe even under. Even still, my legs ached something fierce! I was tired, and already in Castelia Poké Center. Noon would be upon us in a short while.

But I had to suck it up. What was I supposed to tell Sylviana? No? How would she respond to that? How would I own up to that?

Easy: I wouldn't.

So, I texted back Okay and left the line (which I had waited so long in) to poke Pawn, who had fallen asleep sitting up. "Nacrene gym…" I kind of sang in a low voice.

He was not amused. Crossing his arms, Pawn stood up and shook his head.

"Sylviana is waiting."

He grunted. I knew my brother told him to go straight to Castelia, but Nacrene was viable as well, right? I even had Sylviana waiting on me for this, so I couldn't really say no. That would be more trouble than it was worth.

Unable to make a sound argument, I literally locked up and stared at the floor. I had an obligation to meet up with Sylviana after sending my response, but I didn't want to argue with Pawn. And any longer with this conversation, people would start to stare at us. There was no winning. I hated it.

With a long grad, Pawn went behind me and pushed me toward the exit. I dragged my feet along until I noticed he guided me back to Skyarrow Bridge.

So he caved in? We would return to Nacrene City? That didn't really make me feel better. I managed to look at him from my clouded thoughts. My brother's gallade held a frown and kept patting my back. Boy, did that make it infinitely-times worse.

Why couldn't there be an easier answer, and why did I have to keep burdening Pawn?

~X~

Nacrene Museum was much busier than I thought it would be. Bunches of people scattered throughout the entry floor, most clutching some book close to them. Trying to figure out what all the hubbub was about, I noticed several posters and signs set up, all about some book signing event. I vaguely recalled seeing something like that earlier.

Ignoring the commotion, I let Sylviana push me to the back, where an entrance leading to the very dim library was. There, even more people stood around in hype. At a table to the back nestled between two bookshelves, a woman dressed in black and purple with glasses sat. A huge line of people stretching into the museum area stood in front of her. Beside the woman sat a stack of books. In her hand was a fancy ballpoint pen as she signed a book to hand the next person in line. She was Shauntal, one of Unova's Elite Four; I knew that much. To her side, providing light in the dark library, was a chandelure. I recalled my brother having one as well, so I recognized it.

"Start, El." Sylviana pulled me out of my observations as she pointed to the bookshelf in front of us. Two step ladders stood before it, each leading to a single book facing outward leaning atop the packed books. The same went for the other five shelves in the room. Up high, a hanging sign said we were in the S section.

But, wait, here? This gym's gimmick was in the library? Where so many people were right now? "Really?"

"Uh-huh. I couldn't figure this stupid place out. It took me forever by guessing. It's a stupid riddle game." Sylviana crossed her arms. "Good luck."

"Oh?" How that didn't bode well with me. Beside me, Pawn eyed the bookshelf warily, as if contemplating something. "How do you know this is the starting point?"

"Duh." Sylviana pointed at the book the step ladder led to. The title was Start Here. How convenient.

"So it works like that?"

"Yeah." Her Xtransceiver became her object of interest.

I could only guess I had to find something in that book. I reached up and grabbed it after making sure no one was watching me. Luckily, everyone seemed focused on Shauntal and nothing else. The step ladder seemed more a nuisance than help to me since I just had to extend my arm a little to touch it. And I was average height. It was probably for shorter people or something, but then, why not just put the book on a lower shelf at all?

Instead of continuing my train of thought, I stared at Start Now, currently in my hands. It was a thick book, and there was no way in Hell I was going to read it. It was a motivational book, even.

My initial reaction was to flip through the pages and hope whoever set the gym up made the first hint easy. I thumbed the pages until the very end, where a small message was scrawled on the inside of the back cover.

Welcome to Nacrene Museum, challenger. Congratulations on finding this clue. Let's play a game. There are five more books like this one in this library. Each book has a riddle to find the next one. Can you solve all the riddles and discover the secret of this special place?

Here is your first clue. Let's start with something easy. Burned pokémon experience an overall decrease in their attack power. True or False?


Was this really a thing? The diction on the opening greeting was a little off, even. Did they expect little kids to challenge this gym often? This was ridiculous.

Forcing myself to continue, I put the book back and walked to my right. The answer had to be true, I knew as much. Status conditions and their detriments seemed pretty logical on paper. Above, glued to the shelf hung a sign reading T. Below it, books beginning with T greeted me. True/false could be written T/F, right? They even capitalized the second word in the hint.

Tricks Beget Traitors faced out at the top of the ladder. Without really trying, I took it in my hands and flipped through it like with the other book. Apparently some melodrama about a pair of friends gone to ruin after it turned out one hated the other all along. Yeesh. A card taped to the middle page of the musty text wasn't too hard to notice.

Good work solving the first riddle. Now for the next one. Do you like sports? Then what is the name of pokémon move that is also a football move?

There was going to be four more of these after this one? I couldn't tell if I was relieved or insulted. I knew the answer to this one as well, but what was the catch of this being kind of easy?

I found that out quite soon. The answer had to be tackle. Any other football maneuver, I hadn't a clue the name of. So many pokémon could learn that move. Pepper knew it. So, I went to shelf T. Except, that was where I got the hint from.

There was another book of the twenty-six displayed that had a title that had something to do with tackle? How long would that take me to find?

"What do you think, El?" Sylviana snatched the book from my hands and read over the question. Her face instantly soured. The book then found itself back in my hands.

"Has to be something with tackle…" I had to check every book on display to figure it out, huh? More effort than it's worth.

"And? Wanna give up and just guess?"

No, I actually felt like I could manage. So, as quietly as I could, I walked around to the back of shelf T, where X, Y, and Z crammed into one section. A grunt straightened out my train of thought. I almost forgot Pawn was with me since he stayed so quiet the whole morning. He poked my bag and made a shaking motion with his other arm.

"Want something?" I opened the largest compartment and reached for a stick of gum. Cutting me off, Pawn yanked my notebook out and made a scribbling gesture. "Oh. Good idea."

I ripped an empty page out and wrote down the titles of the books I had seen so far. After finishing, I inched to the end of the shelf and stared at the people. The line divided the whole library in half, straight down the two rows of bookshelves. The ones in front of me formed a small cluster, happily chatting away about some character from the book they each held. Their little group blocked me off from going to the other row.

So, instead of saying excuse me and passing through them, I turned tail and went to the shelf one back from the one I stood at. Confrontation of any sort was best avoided, even when non-hostile.

The O and P shelf stared at me. Ordinary Lifetimes and Peculiar, I Swear went down on my paper. Who wrote these books? As if I didn't have enough reason to not read for leisure.

"What are you doing now?" Coalescence came into view as Sylviana asked this. I may or may not have spelled it correctly. "This is going to take forever."

"I know." Oh, did I.

"Hurry up, please?" If only I could. I didn't get why Sylviana stuck around if she knew it was going to be this boring. And if she wasn't going to help me.

"I'm trying." A clean path to the other column of shelves showed itself at the back of the library. Seizing the opportunity, I scuttled over to Section B. There was no indication of whether or not what I was doing was the most efficient way. However, there was no way I was going to walk back and forth because my memory failed me.

"I guessed it right faster than what you're doing now, you know." What words of encouragement. I would have guessed, if only my luck wasn't so bad. "Don't pretend to know it if you don't, El."

I got what she was trying to say, but it had only been ten minutes since I started this book hunt. And if she were truly bursting at the seams to get to the end, she could have told me the answer. I wouldn't object, really. "Uh… Got it…"

Broken Fishing Tackles Called Mine faced out at me under B. It was the first picture book I saw. Because of its length, I actually skimmed through it. Some story about perseverance and acceptance of failure, through fishing of course.

"Are you sure? Are you sure you're sure?" Sylviana used my favorite line against me. I usually said that to her. And of course, the answer was a big I don't know.

I couldn't outright say that, though. How stupid would I look? This title did have tackle in it, but it didn't mean the same one as the hint did. Was I supposed to take this book anyway? There was no real harm in checking. There also was no real harm in writing down all the other titles.

I got my answer soon enough. I turned the last page of the picture book and taped to the back was another notecard. Nice job! Only three more to go! Was that supposed to be encouraging or condescending?

Do you feel the excitement in the air? Is your pulse racing? What is something we all gain as we grow older, human and pokémon alike? From trying new things to growing stronger, what makes us all the wiser?

What the fuck was this supposed to mean? Either it was pretentious as hell, or the person writing it was a sappy dude, neither of which I cared for. "Come again?"

"Oh, my god, who wrote this?" Sylviana took the book from my hands again and scoffed. Looked like we were on the same wavelength on that.

Pawn pulled me towards the next letter section. He was awful quiet today. Whether it was because of what happened earlier or because Joel told him to have me figure gym puzzles out myself, I couldn't guess. Probably both.

"Where are you going now?"

Wasn't it obvious? Did I give off such an aura that made it seem that I didn't know what I was doing all the time? Yes, actually. "To write down all the other titles."

"Are you sure that's right?" A little overbearing, but okay. Some faith wouldn't hurt either.

"Better than nothing at all."

And so I went on, all the way down to the last shelf with my sheet full of ink. Whether it was legible or not was subjective. Once all 26 titles were in my hand, I ended up crumpling where I grasped it quite a bit. "What was the hint again?"

"Don't look at me." Sylviana tapped away on her Xtransceiver the entire time. I wouldn't have described this ordeal as riveting, though, so I couldn't blame her. But she could still help me a bit.

"No, no…" It dawned on me.

"What?"

"If I had flipped through every book, would I have already found the answer?" How could that have slipped my mind?

"I thought you would have called that cheating, El." She spat cheating. Oh, did I know why… Either way, I honestly didn't care about this book search anymore. Had it been a game, I would definitely have tried my best not to brute force it. But, it wasn't, and we'd already wasted like half an hour just writing names down.

"Well…"

"You're really smart, though. You can figure it out, right?" Her voice became sharp. Before memories of our previous school year flashed before me, I stared at my paper.

"I'll try…" From the previous hint, I recalled the last book had to do something with fishing. I scanned my list and tried to recall the title, but Sylviana staring straight at me made it much more difficult than it had to be.

I read it down once, then up once. Then again. And again. My handwriting became so bad that even I could barely decipher it. I didn't really care that much, honestly.

"There's no way I'm doing this again." The conversation of a nearby group of people drowned my words out. "Oh, this one."

Broken Fishing Tackles Called Mine came back to mind. I wrote Fishing so narrowly that it looked like I scratched something out. Way to go. "To B?" The section sat on the other side of the library.

I waddled over there, talking the route between the bookshelves and the wall to avoid the ever-growing line of people waiting to get their books signed. "Something we get that makes us wiser?"

Looking at my list, anything could have been the correct answer in some way. Well, anything but the ones under S, T, and B if books didn't repeat. Such an ambiguous question. I decided to assume really specific titles could go out the window. That left me with like ten strange or pretentious choices.

Next, I left out titles I guessed felt less correct. What that really meant, I wasn't sure. Hooray for guessing. Either way, this narrowed it down to three choices: Memories in the Devil's Hands, Partners Linking Happiness, and Heart-Pounding Experiences.

Every moment birthed memories. Meeting other people was an inevitability. And experience just seemed like an answer that couldn't be wrong.

Pawn covered his mouth and coughed. Maybe the dust got to him. I poked my head around the shelf we stood at to find the closest of the three books. I spotted the M section immediately.

"This is taking forever, El. Just guess it." Sylviana had no patience. That I knew to be true.

Before I took a step, Pawn coughed again. Once he settled down, he punched his chest a couple times. "Heart pounding." I couldn't help making that pun. Was that even a pun? It was to me. That book sure had a vague yet strong title.

Pawn waved me off and pushed me out of the aisle we stood in. Yet again, he proved himself to be my keeper than my guide.

"Heart Pounding?" Actually, the H section was closer than the M one. It also felt a little familiar. To reassure myself on my doubts about the answers I juggled, I reread the whole hint.

The beginning part of the hint was what made the phrase I said twice feel a tad strange. Is your pulse racing? it asked. Something about excitement. But that couldn't have been part of the actual description, right? It was just a salutation. Otherwise, Heart-Pounding Experiences was the answer.

I didn't really have any reason not to try my guess. I went over at a pace slower than Pepper and plucked Heart-Pounding Experiences from the top of the ladder.

"You know, I asked if you wanted a hand, El." Sylviana came up from behind and almost startled me. Almost. "Just say you need me or whatever."

I barely heard her say that. As much as I tried not to, I very much zoned out and ignored Sylviana and Pawn in my book hunt. The faster I figured things out now, the more time we would have to talk to each other later, right?

Not answering Sylviana, I opened this book, and slapped over the title page was another card. Experience helps us all grow, wouldn't you agree? Aim to make them as sparkling and exciting as you can. Just two more to go! Keep on moving. Next, go to the book under C and finish it!

Finish what? All I could do was put the book back and make my way to Section C. When I got there, I saw that I lost Sylviana. On the other hand, Pawn stuck close, but looked indifferent, which was unusual for him. He at least held a polite smile most of the time.

"Not the most exciting thing in the world." Pawn pulled out a fancy pocketwatch from his fannypack. How much did Joel spend on that? Unable to continue the conversation, I read the last hint again, which I wrote down at the corner of my paper just a minute ago. Finish it how? The only thing to come to mind was to read it.

It wasn't like it was a large novel. It only had about fifty pages, and the font looked larger than others I'd seen before in addition to the large illustrations inserted between sections. No card or hint resided within it, I found out after flipping through it.

Chains Just as Strong stared at me. On the cover, a boy followed by many pokémon, all connected with a chain, walked in a single file. The third pokémon behind the trainer lagged behind, causing all others after him to do the same. Had to have been some metaphor or something. I cracked the book open and started on the first page. A ways away, the line of people inched forward. I made sure to stay out of their field of vision. The first few pages went by pretty quickly.

Every five pages started a new section about the protagonist either catching a new pokémon or battling someone important. Predictability became inevitable, but at least it wasn't completely boring. I had yet to yawn. I read up to about the halfway point and checked the time. "I wasted half an hour already?"

Why the hell were gym challengers expected to read a whole book? This was so stupid. Pawn looked at the book in my hands funny, but when I made a gesture for him to say something, he shrugged. If he knew the answer that I didn't, well wouldn't I have egg on my face? He kept holding his face like he was embarrassed at me.

"Next chapter…" I turned the page and kept reading. There wasn't even an empty chair or something nearby. All the people waiting in line snatched them like assholes. So I was the idiot just standing around, reading a whole book in the middle of the library. At least no one else was in the same aisle as me.

The next few chapters followed the same pattern as the last ones, up until the one a few pages from the end. There, the protagonist had a battle with his rival and lost after sending his starter out, who threw off the team's rhythm and confidence by getting knocked out in one small blow due to his laziness and complacency after evolving or something, unlike his teammates. I don't know. I skimmed the ending because I really didn't feel like having a moral lesson right there.

"Chain's just as strong as its weakest link, then?" I closed the book after checking the last page. "I finished it. Now what?"

Pawn groaned. He put his hands together as if to sign so close. So he did know?

"Uh…" I stood there like an idiot, stewing in thoughts as to what the answer could be for about ten minutes. I checked my title list many, many times and couldn't figure it out. No one was going to help me, Pawn seemed to not want to give me the answer he had to have known, and I ran out of patience a long time ago.

"Screw it. Let's brute force it." I shuffled over to the adjacent Section D and flipped through that book. "Empty." Pawn tried to stop me, but there was no way I was getting this riddle.

"I admit defeat." Without an ounce of honor, I went to the next book and skimmed it as well. "I wasted an hour reading that book and got zilch. I'm not wasting any more time. And where the hell is Sylviana?" As I checked every book, Pawn had his arms up the entire time as if to get me to stop. Sorry, but I didn't care enough. And, no one was looking, really.

Section J was a gold mine. On the first page of Jonesing for Opelucid's fourth chapter "Battle Tendency" was a notecard reading Congratulations! Always try going to new places. You never know until you go there. You have solved the last riddle. Now pull the white book on this shelf out and descend the stairs for your prize.

"Uh-oh… This is the last answer…" I just wanted the answer to the riddle I was on, not the last one! Now I felt bad. There was no real point in finding the other book. Except for pride!

So, I shelved the book I held and went to check the next one. Only when I found what I wanted would I follow through on the last note's instruction. I went all the way down to W, where Weakest Links lay in wait.

"Are you serious?" It just hit me. I said that phrase after I finished reading Chains Just as Strong. So finishing that book meant completing the phrase? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link? I called bullshit, despite the fact that it was kind of clever.

Instead of mulling it over and doing nothing, I mulled it over and flipped to the last riddle thing. Nice job! Are you ready for the last one? Then go to Opelucid and have a battle.

That made sense why Jonesing For Opelucid had its note placed in such a specific place. As opposed to actually going to Opelucid City and battling someone. I walked back to that book and looked for the white book it told me to find. I saw it sticking out of the shelf already. To the left of the shelf was a staircase that had been open the entire time I was at the gym, that I thought was just leading to another floor of the library. Oops, my bad.

But, if the book was pulled and stairs were open, was someone already challenging the leader? I decided to step back and wait for a while before going down the stairs to check things out. As I did that, Sylviana popped out from behind me and pushed me playfully. "What now?"

"Where were you?" I guessed I didn't say it loud enough because Sylviana didn't answer me. Louder, I said "Go down the stairs. But there's probably someone there."

"So?" She pinched my sleeve and dragged me to the stairs. As much as I wanted to argue, I saw someone on the line look in our direction.

Biting my lip, I followed Sylviana. It took a good minute for us to reach the bottom of the stairs. We found ourselves in what looked like a study room. There, a woman and a man stood huddled around a clipboard.

"Can we help you?" The woman noticed us first.

Sylviana nudged my back a little harshly and hummed. Here we went again. "Hello..."

Before I could continue, the man walked up. "Oh, dear, I thought I closed the stairs and put a sign up after I came down. I apologize, but we're having a meeting right now."

"Don't worry about it." The woman clapped the man on the back and came up to us. "How can I help you two?"

"I…" I should have spoken up because the lady kept talking.

"You must have solved the book riddles upstairs, right? Or were you just curious about what was down here?"

"The former," I said.

"Then congratulations! Here you two are." She passed us and approached a bowl full of pins and candy. She took two of each and gave one set to each of us. "I hope you had fun. I'm sorry I couldn't make this reveal as spectacular as I usually do. We're a little busy today. If you haven't yet, go to the book signing upstairs."

The woman put a hand on both of our backs and ushered us to the exit. Pawn made a pushing motion as well, prompting me to shut up, cease brain functionality, and leave. "Thank you…"

"Have a great day, you two! Enjoy the library and museum!" At least she seemed genuine, whatever that meant.

"Dear, the museum from Pewter City got back to us about the fossil upsurge in Desert Resort," the man said once the woman removed her hands from us. I couldn't hear the rest over the sound of my footsteps up the stairs.

Once we were back in the library, I stared at the pin and hard candy in my hand. The way the woman talked, it was as if the whole point of the book puzzles was getting this weird pin that looked vaguely like a gym badge. Rectangle in shape with yellow borders and purple on the inside, but made of cheap plastic.

"You really figured out all the riddles, El? I don't believe you."

I didn't want to admit I kind of cheated at the end. All I did was shove the two prizes I got into my bag. "Wasn't there supposed to be a gym battle?"

"I really don't know. I had a battle there and won. Her watchog was mean. I have no idea what happened, really."

"Pawn?" Maybe Joel battled this gym. The gallade put the tip of his arm to his face in thought. Unsure of whether or not we were even in the right place, I opened a web browser on my Xtransceiver and searched for the Nacrene City gym.

The first result was the homepage of the museum. After clicking on a few things, I landed on a page with a picture of the woman we saw earlier on it. "Lenora, director of Nacrene Museum? Former gym leader?"

"Really?" Sylviana grabbed my arm to read what I just did. "Oh, I guess the normal-type gym is in Aspertia City now."

Sylviana dropped my arm, Xtransceiver now on a page with a list of Unovan gyms. "That's great. Not like I wasted a bunch of time here." I went back to the museum page and dug a little deeper. The answer I wanted wasn't too hard to find. "Of course. This riddle hunt is an attraction for little kids."

"Sucks to be you."

"Thanks, I know…"

There was nothing else to do. I turned to my right to leave, but ended up almost knocking down a rack full of copies of a single book. "Huh?" Upon closer inspection, the author was that Shauntal lady doing the signing. "What the hell." With nothing left to lose, I took a copy from the rack and read the back cover.

"You're seriously gonna read right now, El?" Sylviana knocked the hard-cover book in my hands. "You do whatever you want. I'm gonna find Ricky."

Ah, I almost forgot about Maverick. We rarely conversed. Sylviana left me behind when I looked back up. "Why not?"

Past its flowery and poetic diction, what I got from the blurb was that the book was about a a trainer with a bad attitude and an annoyingly clingy yamask. One day, he died in an accident and awoke to find himself looking at himself, in the body of his yamask. Then, he tried to save his human self, only to find issue in his own bad personality that he kept trying to change.

Interesting enough, I guessed. It actually sounded pretty cool. It was the reviews below the summary that got me.

Shauntal's first step into the world of raw fiction is just as eloquent and heart-wrenching as her other works based on trainers she's battled before. This book tugs at the heartstrings with its tragic dramatic irony, and makes you reconsider what it means to be your pokemon's partner.

Yeah, yeah, power of friendship, whatever.

Other short reviews of similar sentiment followed that one, all sounding just as pretentious. Even so, the tale still intrigued me. I looked around and saw a table with a cash register near Shauntel. Deciding to achieve something today, I ended up buying the book and joining the book-signing line. I didn't even like reading, but doing this was better than nothing at all.

Pawn hummed at me and tilted his head. "Yeah, we're doing this." He stood beside me, waiting for the line to move forward one person at a time. I read through the prologue in the time it took for the line to cut in half. It was pretty good to be honest. Better than books I had to read for school.

Didn't help the fact that I wasted so much time on this wild book chase.
 
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- Strange mental image for a curly tail to be wagging like a metronome
- Nice to see the Pokemon actually doing things. It's a thing a lot of fic writers miss out on. Bonus points for being technically pointless fluff.
- Pepper randomly being tsun towards her trainer?
- "Hooray…" <- Love how you can just feel the lack of enthusiasm here in this line.
- What is this, a bureaucracy? Why is it taking so long to check into a Pokemon Center? Why is there only one desk to check-in on in such a huge center?
- Burdening Pawn? Almost seems like he's burdening her at times.
- So uh is the Gym still active because it was implied it wasn't before why are they even doing this besides Sylviana being a dork
- Like this puzzley scene. Especially seeing Gym puzzles in action. But man, Sylviana is ugh. She is being really obnoxious here. Though you said that's partially on purpose so...still ugh!
- Oh, that explains it. Did like no one else bother to try the puzzle even though there's like 50 people in the library?
- Wow, I guess that explains that too, Sylviana is just an idiot! :p
- "Sucks to be you." <- Man with friends like these who needs enemies?
- Well that book is definitely not a parallel at all. Eloise is fine, but everyone else has a bad attitude AND is annoyingly clingy at that.
- And so the chapter ends how it kind of was near the 1/5ths mark: waiting in lines. It's kind of hilarious.

Backward progression? That's the first time I've seen that used to actual effect. Points for creativity. Fact that Sylviana is so annoying in the good "man hope she gets taken down a peg or two" way and wanting to see Eloise take some assertiveness is a good sign. Waiting to see what comes next.
 
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