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TEEN: An Account of Rayquaza's Chosen or Mare Birch's Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Quest to Save Humanity

BackSet

You Could Use Some Imagination
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Description: Mare Birch is not happy. Her mom finally kicked her asshole dad to the curb, which is good, but now she's getting remarried and they're moving to Littleroot Town in the Hoenn region, which is bad. To make matters worse, she keeps having horrible nightmares of two titanic Legendary Pokemon engaged in a monumental clash. Thankfully, she has an out. Her Uncle is going to send her on a Pokemon Journey! That should help clear her head and make things better, right?

Hahahahaha! Wrong! Things are about to get a lot more complicated and the world is about to be in a lot more danger. And there's only one short tempered, short statured 12 year old who can save it.
Tumblr Ask Blog: Let's Start at the Beginning, One Last Time
Warning:
Contains Blood, Violence, Swearing, and References to Emotional and Physical Abuse (however it will not be depicted)
She was in an unfamiliar place, a rocky shore by a turning sea. Dark clouds blanketed the sky. Rain poured down mixed with fire and rocks.

Before her, two massive Pokemon clashed. Were they Pokemon? They looked like Pokemon, a titanic blue whale and a massive red lizard, but they radiated power unlike any Pokemon she’d ever seen before. Ancient power that had existed long before her and would continue to exist long after.

Despite having never seen them before, somehow she knew the Pokemon’s names. It was as if something was whispering them in her mind. Kyogre, Lord of the Seas, and Groudon, Tyrant of the Land. They were ancient nemeses since time immemorial and their eternal clash would tear the world asunder.

The Pokemon’s attacks collided and sent out a shockwave. She held up her arm instinctively to shield herself and closed her eyes, waiting for the shockwave to knock her backwards. To her surprise, it never did and instead a feeling of warmth filled her body. Slowly she opened her eyes to see a golden shield of light protecting her. What’s more, her arm was lined with glowing golden markings. It wasn’t just the one arm, either. It was both of her arms. And her legs. Unbeknownst to her, her face also had markings.

The shield dissipated and above her the clouds parted. A shaft of sunlight shined down upon her. Through the hole in the clouds descended a green dragon Pokemon with markings like the ones on her arms. Like with Groudon and Kyogre, its name was whispered in her head, Rayquaza.

Rayquaza rushed towards the dueling Pokemon and slammed into them, releasing a massive explosion of light. When she could see again, the skies had cleared, the sea had calmed, and the two clashing Pokemon had turned to stone. Rayquaza floated down in front of her.

“Find the orbs. Protect the orbs.” A voice whispered in her head. The same one that had told her the names of the Pokemon.

She opened her mouth to respond but before she could get any words out, Rayquaza attacked her, mouth wide open. Right before its jaws snapped shut and it made her into a snack, everything went black.

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Mare woke with a start. A dream. It had all been a dream. None of that had been real She was still in the back of the moving van on its way to Littleroot Town. She wasn’t on a stony beach about to be eaten by a dragon.

She took a deep breath to center herself. Her name was Mare Birch, she was 12 years old and she was moving to a new region. She didn’t really want to. She would have been perfectly fine with staying in her old house back in Goldenrod. But no, they had to move because Norman’s job required it. It was stupid. They weren’t even moving to the same city Norman worked in so clearly it wasn’t that important.

Suddenly, there was a loud clang of metal. Mare sprang into attack mode, leaping to her feet and adopting a shoddy attack stance. The door to the van swung open revealing… one of the moving company guys. Of course. Cause she was in a moving van. Duh.

The moving company guy, Josh according to his nametag, jumped a bit when he saw her. “Woah! Forgot you were in here, kid!”

Mare didn’t respond. She dropped her attack stance but continued to regard Josh with suspicion. Was it unwarranted? Probably. But she didn’t really care. In her mind, everyone was worthy of suspicion.

Josh shifted awkwardly. “Okay, well, I’m gonna start unloading the truck. Yer mom’s inside if you want to-” He kinda shrugged. Clearly he was eager for her to get out of there.

Mare tugged on the ends of the red ribbon she always wore on her head and walked over to the doors and hopped down. Josh let out a small snicker.

“Something funny?” Mare growled.

“I'm sorry.” Josh said. “It's just… you were so intimidating in the truck but now that we’re on the same level you're so small.”

It was true, Mare was short even by 12 year old standards. She stood at four feet exactly and it was a very touchy subject. To put it another way, she was short and mad about it.

Mare snarled, showing off her unusually large canine teeth. Josh held up his hands in surrender.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” He said defensively. “Skies above.”

Mare growled and turned her back, heading towards the house that would be her “home” from now on. Behind her, Josh wiped let out a breath and wiped his brow in relief.

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The moment Mare entered the house she was scooped up in a big hug by her mom, Caroline.

“Marie!” Her mom shouted. Marie was Mare’s real first name. Only her mom had permission to call her that.

“Mom!” Mare shouted, squirming.

Her mom released her. She smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. I just missed my daughter.”

“Oh come on, I was only in there for a few hours.” Mare said dismissively.

“It felt like an eternity.” Her mom replied. “We’re finally free. I want to spend as much time with you as possible.”

Just then, Josh walked in followed by a Machamp carrying two boxes. Josh was also carrying a box but he seemed to be having trouble. Looked like it was too heavy for him.

“Sorry for interrupting.” He said, his voice a bit strained from his struggle to carry the box. “Just carrying these boxes in.”

Wordlessly, Mare walked over to Josh and took the box from him, lifting it effortlessly. Despite her small stature and slim build, she was unusually strong. She carried the box over to what she assumed was going to be the living room and placed it down.

“Uh… thanks.” Josh said, taken aback by Mare’s strength.

“Don’t mention it.” Mare said neutrally.

“You’re pretty strong for such a small girl.” Josh said, clearly having not learned his lesson.

Mare snarled and raised a fist. “You wanna fight.”

Josh held up his hands in surrender. “No, no, I’m good. I’m just going to go and unload some more boxes.”

He quickly scurried out of there, his Machamp following. Mare’s mom chuckled and ruffled her daughter’s hair.

“You know you could have rode up front with me.” She said, continuing their conversation as if nothing had happened.

“And listen to you talk for hours about how great Norman is?” Mare asked deadpan. “No thanks.”

“Oh not this again.” Her mom said, disgruntled. “Norman is a lovely man. If you just take the time to get to know him-”

“You barely know him, mom!” Mare cut her off. “He just swooped in and saved you and now you’re married and we’re in an entirely new region!”

“Mare, he saved us.” Her mom replied. “We’re free.”

“And what if we’re not!” Mare shouted. “What if he’s just like dad!”

A silence fell over the room. That was a step too far and both of them knew it. Mare, as mad as she was, found herself desperately wishing she could stuff those words back in her mouth.

“That monster is not your father.” Her mom said. Her voice was shaky and harsh. “Don’t you ever compare Norman to him.”

Mare opened her mouth to respond but no sound came out.

Her mom took a deep breath. “Why don’t you just… visit your Uncle next door…”

Mare nodded wordlessly and turned around. She left the house, passing by Josh the Moving Guy and his Machamp as she did so. Both of them visibly flinched at the bad mood emanating off of her.

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The one good thing about moving to Littleroot Town was that the new house was right next door to Mare’s Uncle’s house. Mare’s Uncle, known to the world as Professor Birch, was one of her favorite people in the world.

She knocked on the door to his house. However, instead of her Uncle opening the door it was instead her Aunt Marie. Mare liked her okay, though since she disliked her name and she was named after her Aunt, she was a little bitter.

“Mare!” Aunt Marie cried, delighted. “So good to see you!”

“Hi, Aunt Marie.” Mare said, trying and failing to not let the despondence show on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Aunt Marie asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Mare replied. “Is Uncle Birch home?” Only a select few people knew Professor Birch’s first name, Mare was not among those people.

“Sorry, honey, he’s off on a work trip.” Aunt Marie replied. “Why don’t you come inside. Brendan’s upstairs in his room. You should go say hi.”

Mare groaned. “Do I have to. He’s the worst.”

“Be nice to your cousin.” Aunt Marie said sternly.

“Fine.” Mare grumbled.

She trudged upstairs and knocked on Brendan’s door. “Hey dipshit, open up.” Most 12 year olds wouldn’t know swears but Mare was special.

Brendan opened his door, his Treecko, Twig, hanging out on his shoulder. A lot of people had trouble believing they were related. Their appearances were very different. Mare had dark skin while Brendan was pale. Mare had blue eyes while Brendan had brown eyes. And, of course, there was the height difference. Brendan was taller than her which was embarrassing for Mare because Brendan was a year younger than her. The only physical trait they had in common was that they both had brown hair.

Brendan groaned. “Ugh, what are you doing here?”

“Aunt Marie told me I should come up and say hi.” Mare answered.

Twig chittered a greeting at Mare. Mare chittered back. Brendan rolled her eyes.

“Still a weirdo who talks to Pokemon, huh?” He asked.

“They have more interesting things to say than humans.” Mare shot back. “Especially more interesting things to say than you.”

“You’re crazy.” Brendan said simply.

“And you’re annoying.” Mare replied.

She walked past him and entered his room, taking a seat on his bed. He crossed his arms, annoyed that she had the audacity to do so without even asking for his permission.

“You know, when I heard you were moving here I had kinda hoped Aunt Caroline had replaced you with a boy.” He said.

“I don’t think a boy would find you any less annoying.” Mare snarked.

“Would probably have better manners.” Brendan shot back. “Since girls clearly have terrible ones.”

Mare scoffed. “What do you know about manners?”

“More than you.” Brendan replied.

There was a moment of silence as neither of them could figure out what to say next. Mare lay back in the bed and stared at the ceiling, letting her thoughts wander back to the conversation she’d had with her mom. Brendan paced the room. Finally, Brendan got antsy and broke the silence.

“Alright, what gives?” He asked. “You haven’t bitten me or put me in a headlock or tried to fight me or anything?”

“Nothing.” Mare said quickly. “Everything’s fine.”

“Uh-huh” Brendan said, narrowing his eyes. Twig did the same.

“Are you asking to be put in a headlock?” Mare said. “Because I’ll do it. Don’t think I won’t.”

“Did something happen with your dad?” Brendan asked. Uncle Birch and Aunt Marie must not have explained the situation to him.

Mare sat up and her expression turned dark. “He’s gone.”

“What, you mean, like, he’s dead?” Brendan asked, eyebrow raised.

Mare barked a bitter laugh. “I wish.” She paused before speaking again. “Now drop the subject.”

Unfortunately, Brendan was 11 and not particularly good at things like “being sensitive” or “knowing when not to push his luck” so he decided that he was not going to drop the subject. “So what happened then?”

Mare was at his throat immediately. In a quite literal sense, too. She had grabbed him by the collar and yanked him down to her level, holding her fist under his chin.

“I. Said. Drop. It.” She snarled.

Brendan nodded and she let go of his shirt. She walked over to Brendan’s window and opened it. Brendan, realizing what she was about to do, held out a hand to try and stop her.

“Mare, wait, I’m sorry.”

But his words did nothing and she leaped out the window. He ran over to the window and looked out it to see that… she was perfectly fine.

“What the hell!” Brendan shouted.

Mare raised an eyebrow at him. “What?”

“You scared me! I thought you were gonna die!” He shouted back.

Mare rolled her eyes. “Oh please. I’ve been jumping out windows since I was 9.”

“That is extremely concerning!” Brendan shouted.

Mare ignored him and turned around, setting a course for where she was pretty sure the edge of town and beginning of Route 101 was. She’d had enough of people and wanted some much needed alone time.

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Stepping onto Route 101 was like stepping into a whole different world. While Littleroot Town wasn’t exactly bustling it was still filled with people and Mare could sense all of them. She wasn’t sure how but she could. Here, all she could sense was Pokemon. She liked Pokemon a lot better than she liked people. For a moment, she closed her eyes and simply listened to the chatter of the Pokemon around her.

Unfortunately, her peace couldn’t last. A scream pieced the air and her eyes shot open. Out of the woods ran her Uncle being chased by a Pokemon. Mare somewhat recognized it from the “Hoenn Beginner’s Guide” her Mom had gotten her as a Poochyena, one of Hoenn’s most common Pokemon.

“Uncle Birch!?” She shouted in surprise.

He looked over in her direction and his face lit up. “Mare! Perfect! Quick! Grab a Pokeball from my bag over there!”

He pointed to a location slightly to Mare’s left where a brown satchel lay. Somehow she’d managed to miss it. She dived for the satchel and rooted around in it with both hands, pulling out two Pokeballs. She tossed them in the air, releasing two more Pokemon Mare recognized from the Hoenn Beginner’s Guide: Mudkip and Torchic, two of Hoenn’s three Starter Pokemon. The two Pokemon stretched and chattered with each other.

“No time to talk!” Mare shouted. “I need you two to save my Uncle!” She pointed in the direction of the aforementioned Professor.

The two Pokemon looked between her and her Uncle. They did this a few times, exchanging noises as they did. Mare put her hands together like she was praying.

“Please.” She pleaded.

Finally, the Torchic made a movement that Mare assumed was meant to be a salute of some sort (Torchics, lacking arms, aren’t particularly built for human salutes). The two Pokemon leaped into action. The Mudkip rammed into the Poochyena with his head and the Torchic slashed at it with his talons. Clearly, this was more resistance than the Poochyena had been expecting because as soon as it recovered from being hit, it turned and ran with its tail literally between its legs. Professor Birch screeched to a halt and doubled over, placing his hands on his knees and breathing heavily.

“Yes! We did it!” Mare cheered, pumping her fist in the air.

Without thinking she ran over to the two Pokemon and scooped them into her arms. The Torchic struggled but the Mudkip nestled closer. The Torchic squeaked in alarm.

“Oh! Sorry!” Mare yelped, putting the Torchic back down on the ground.

She stood back up and found herself face to face, er, face to stomach with her Uncle, who had finally recovered. She immediately engulfed him in a bear hug. Or, at least, a close approximation to a bear hug considering her arms were too short to fully wrap around him.

“Uncle Birch!” She shouted in delight.

“Mare, my girl!” Her Uncle replied, hugging her back. “Thanks for the save!”

“Don’t thank me, thank these guys.” Mare said, breaking away from the hug and gesturing to the Torchic and Mudkip.

Her Uncle chuckled. “Of course.” He kneeled down to be on the level of the Pokemon. “Thank you so much.” He stood up again and looked at Mare. “Come on, lets go to my lab. I have a present for you.”

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On the way back to Littleroot Town, they ran into Mare’s mom, Aunt Marie, and Brendan, none of whom seemed particularly happy. Turns out Brendan had told Aunt Marie about Mare’s little “jumping out the window” stunt and Aunt Marie had told Mare’s mom who was understandably quite worried about her daughter jumping out a freaking window. At her Uncle’s suggestion they gathered in the lab so Caroline could chew her daughter out.

“Marie Lillian Birch, what were you thinking!” Her mom shouted.

Mare bristled at the use of her full name. Yes her mom did get Marie privileges but her full name was a step too far.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh please, I was fine. Like I told Brendan, I’ve been doing this since I was 9.”

“What!” Her mom shouted.

“What?” Mare asked defensively. “You didn’t really think I stayed in my room did you?”

“I had assumed… I had hoped…” Her mom spluttered. “Jumping out of windows is dangerous!”

“Yeah, so was staying in the house.” Mare shot back, crossing her arms.

“This isn’t about then, this is about now!” Her Mom replied. “You had no reason to jump out the window! What if you’d gotten hurt! What if you’d died!”

“I very obviously didn’t.” Mare said, gesturing to her completely intact and not at all damaged body.

“That’s it! You’re grounded, young lady!” Her mom shouted.

“So what you’re just going to send me to my room?” Mare asked brazenly. “I’ll just leave. Probably through the window.”

Is it a good idea to announce your breakout plans to your mom when she’s grounding you? No. But Mare was 12 and 12 year olds aren’t always the brightest.

“No, I will not be sending you to your room.” Her mom said. “I will… be…” She trailed off. Clearly she had been planning on sending Mare to her room.

“If I may.” Uncle Birch interrupted. “Maybe a punishment isn’t the solution here. Perhaps Mare just needs an outlet for her adventurous tendencies.”

“An outlet?” Mare and her mom chorused.

“What kind of outlet?” Mare’s mom asked skeptically.

Uncle Birch reached into his bag and took out two Pokeballs. He held them out in front of him and released the two Pokemon in them, the Torchic and a Mudkip from earlier. Both of them ran over to Mare. The Torchic leaped onto her head and she picked up the Mudkip.

“I think that Mare should go on a Pokemon Journey.” Uncle Birch explained. “I was already planning on giving her a Pokemon as a gift.”

Mare’s ears perked up. A Journey? As in, getting away from Littleroot Town? Getting out into the world? Sure she’d still be in Hoenn but at least she’d be anywhere else in Hoenn.

“A Journey?” Her mom asked. “Like the Gym Challenge?”

“If she wants.” Uncle Birch said. “She certainly has a talent for battling. She really saved my bacon from that Poochyena.”

“Woah, woah, woah!” Brendan said. He’d been tuned out the whole time but suddenly he was interested. “Not better at battling than me!”

Mare grinned cockily, always eager for a chance to one-up her cousin. “Oh I might be.”

“Is that a challenge?” Brendan asked.

Uncle Birch placed a hand on each of their heads. “Calm down, you two. You can battle later.”

Both sulked. Professor Birch chuckled.

“I don’t know, Professor.” Mare’s mom said. “That sounds dangerous.”

“Brendan can go with her.” Uncle Birch suggested. “He’s about the right age to go on a Journey himself.”

“What!” Brendan and Mare shouted simultaneously.

“I’m not going to spend my Journey watching out for my dumb cousin!” Brendan protested.

“You? Watch out for me?” Mare asked, incredulous. “I’d probably end up keeping you out of trouble.”

Mare’s mom rubbed her chin. “You might be right. I was hoping to spend more time with my daughter but maybe that’s not what she needs…” She turned to look at Mare. “What do you think, sweetie?”

Mare raised an eyebrow. Considering their earlier conversation and the fact that she had just been scolding her, she wasn’t sure her mom had “sweetie” privileges. But also, she couldn’t snap about it because she couldn’t douse her chances of getting out of this stupid town.

“I wanna do it!” Mare said, a fire in her eyes. “I wanna go on a Journey!”

“And you’ll take Brendan along with you?” Her mom asked.

Mare let out a long, deep sigh. “Yes.”

“Hey! Nobody asked me for my opinion on this!” Brendan protested. “What if I don’t want to go with her!”

“Brendan, please go with Mare.” Uncle Birch requested, clasping his hands together. “You’ve been putting off-”

“Alright, fine, I’ll go with her!” Brendan said quickly, intentionally cutting off whatever he was about to say.

“Wonderful.” Uncle Birch said with a smile. He turned back to Mare. “So, I assume you’ll be taking those two Pokemon with you?”

“Wait, why does she get two starter Pokemon!” Brendan complained. Everyone ignored him.

“I don’t know.” Mare said, placing the two Pokemon down on the table in front of her. She looked both of them deep in the eyes. “Do you two want to come on a Journey with me and be my Pokemon partners?”

The two Pokemon immediately began chattering. To anybody else it was incomprehensible noise but to Mare it was pretty obvious what it meant: yes. She pumped her fist.

“Hell yeah!” She cheered. “Alright! Lets get going!”

She scooped the Pokemon into her arms and turned on her heels to head off but was immediately stopped by her mom putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Hold on a moment.” Her mom said. “It’s getting late. You should wait to leave until tomorrow morning after you’ve gotten some rest and had a chance to pack properly.”

Mare raised a finger to respond but then lowered it again. She sighed. “Okay, you have a point. Tomorrow, then…”
 
Author's Note: Chapter 2! In which I am faced with the ultimate challenge: writing a small child.

Shout-out to my friend DarlingVirus for having the idea to give Mare a CD Walkman as well as coming up with a playlist for it that I will be using as a sountrack throughout this fic. I guess Mare is 2003 Star-Lord now.



That night, Mare didn’t sleep a wink. Instead, she stayed up all night talking to her Pokemon. The next morning, despite her lack of sleep, she was raring to go. She packed all the important things she’d need for her Journey: snacks, granola bars specifically (sadly not chocolate chip ones, as she was allergic), her CD Walkman and mixtape, and one last gift from her Uncle called a PokeNav Plus. It was a device that could be used to communicate long distances, find your way around the region, and even watch TV! It also let her access the Pokedex so she could learn more about Pokemon.

Brendan had packed a lot heavier and probably a lot better. Tents, a portable cooking set, other camping gear, pokeballs, and potions. Mare was packed like she was going on a day trip, Brendan was packed for an actual Journey. Brendan, of course, got on her case about this to which she responded by threatening violence.

After hugging their family members goodbye (the hug between Mare and her mom was a bit awkward, on account of the previous day’s events) they finally headed off onto Route 101. Just like before, the route was peaceful. Unfortunately, unlike before Mare had pretty much no time to enjoy it, oddly enough not because of Brendan being Brendan but because Mare felt a familiar presence.

Dropping down to all fours, she bolted off the marked path and into the woods. Brendan yelped in startled confusion and then dashed after her. When he finally caught up to her, she was hiding behind a bush.

“What’s going-” Brendan began but was interrupted by Mare pulling him down behind the bush.

The feral girl shushed him but he refused to be shushed. This time he only managed to get out a single “What-” before she shushed him again. She pointed out through the bushes.

“Look.” She whispered.

Brendan crawled forward to peek through the bushes. In a forest clearing there was a single Poochyena. It appeared to be somewhat injured.

“What’s the big deal?” Brendan whispered. “It’s just a Poochyena.”

“It’s not just a Poochyena.” Mare said. “That’s the bastard that was chasing after Uncle Birch.”

“Okay…” Brendan said slowly. “So… what? You’re gonna get revenge on it or something?”

“No…” Mare said and Brendan breathed a sigh of relief. Though perhaps he was a little too soon. “I’m gonna catch her!”

“You’re gonna wha-?” Brendan asked.

“I’m a Pokemon Trainer now, right?” Mare asked rhetorically. “And Pokemon Trainers catch Pokemon.”

“With what?” Brendan asked not rhetorically. “You didn’t bring any Pokeballs.”

“Oh yeah, good point.” Mare admitted. She held out her hand.

“Absolutely not.” Brendan said.

“Aw come on.” Mare whined. “You packed so many, can’t you spare at least one?”

Brendan groaned. “Fine.” His voice lowered to a mutter. “And you call me a brat.”

“What was that?” Mare growled.

“Nothing.” Brendan said quickly, taking out a Pokeball and handing it to her. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“What? You think I’ve never thrown a ball before?” Mare asked. “How hard can it be.”

“Unbelievable.” Brendan said, exasperated.

Mare lifted the Pokeball and carefully took aim at the Poochyena, closing one eye as she did.

“What, you’re not going to weaken it first?” Brendan asked.

“Seems pretty weakened to me.” Mare replied, letting the Pokeball fly.

She did not hit the Poochyena. Instead, the ball hit the ground next to the Poochyena, startling her, and then bounced into a tree. And then another tree. And then the ground again. This continued for several seconds as the Poochyena’s head quickly whipped around to confusedly watch the path of the ball. Finally, it hit the last tree and hit the Poochyena straight on, sucking it in.

The ball shook once. Then twice. Then three times. Click! Gotcha! Poochyena was caught! Mare ran over excitedly and picked up the ball.

“I did it!” She cheered, showing off the Pokeball to her cousin proudly.

“I can’t believe that worked.” Brendan replied, maybe a bit stunned.

“Maybe I’m just that good.” Mare said with a grin, though truthfully she couldn’t believe it herself.

She tossed the Pokeball into the air and out came the Poochyena. She growled at Mare who growled back. The Poochyena barked at her.

“Well, if you didn’t want to be caught you shouldn’t have attacked my uncle.” She said to the angry Pokemon.

The Poochyena barked.

“Too bad.” Mare said, crossing her arms “I caught you, you’re my Pokemon now.”

The Poochyena growled again.

“What’s your name?” Mare asked.

Another growl.

“Well, if you won’t tell me I guess I’ll have to come up with one for you.” Mare said, rubbing her chin. She snapped her fingers. “What about Rover?”

The Poochyena let out a freaked out bark. Mare chuckled.

“That’s what I thought.” She held out a hand to shake. “Welcome to the team, Okami.” Okami batted away her hand. Mare returned her too her Pokeball.

“Okay, now that… whatever that was is over can we please get going.” Brendan whined.

“Yeah, yeah, keep your dumb hat on.” Mare said dismissively.

She began walking away back to the main road. Brendan touched his hat and shot an offended look her way before hurrying after her.

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The rest of the walk passed in silence. Well, okay, not silence, there was more bickering, but none of it established any character traits so its not really important.

They arrived in Oldale Town around midday. The sun was still high in the sky and there was plenty of time left in the day to do things. Though, admittedly, there wasn’t much to do in Oldale Town.

“Okay,” Brendan said, looking at the town map on his own PokeNav Plus. “There’s plenty of time left in the day, we should be able to reach Petalburg City by nightfall.”

Mare groaned. “Do we have to?”

“Well we wanna take on the Gym Challenge, don’t we?” Brendan asked. “Obviously we should start with Norman’s Gym since its the closest.”
“You want to take on the Gym Challenge.” Mare pointed out. “I just want to get as far away from Littleroot as possible and the last thing I want to do is visit my step-father.” She snarled. She liked doing that.

Brendan sighed. “Alright, fine. There’s another route we can take. Route 103’ll take us to Mauville instead but it’ll take longer to get there.”

“Fine by me.” Mare said. “Anything’s better than Petalburg. Let’s get going.” She marched off… in the wrong direction.

“Route 203’s that way!” Brendan called out, pointing in the proper direction.

“I knew that!” Mare lied.

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Route 103, as it turned out, was not a viable option for travel because there was a river in the way. A river! Right in the middle of a well traveled route!

Okay, to be fair, there was a bridge over the river. Its just that it was out. Completely unusable. The only way to get across the river would be to swim across. Under normal circumstances, that is.

“Oh no, the bridge is out, guess we have to go to Route 102 instead.” Brendan said, feigning being upset.

Mare ignored him. She was distracted by a small pond off to the left of the river. She kneeled down over it, closed her eyes, and tapped the surface of the water with her finger, sending ripples through it. Something resonated inside her. A flow of energy permeated through her body. A new sense of resolution filled her soul.

She opened her eyes, which briefly glowed for a moment, and stood up. She spun around to face Brendan and took one of her Pokeballs off her belt, holding it out.

“Battle me.” She said, eyes full of metaphorical fire. “Right here, right now.”

“Wait, what?” Brendan said, taken aback. “Right now?”

“Yesterday you said you wanted a battle.” Mare said. “Don’t tell me you’re chickening out.”

Brendan rubbed the back of his head. “Well…” After a moment he removed his hand from his head, took out a Pokeball, and grinned. “You know what, you’re right! I do want a battle! I’ll prove I’m stronger than you!” He thought for a moment. “I’ve only got the one Pokemon, though, so no cheating by using a second one.”

Mare tossed her Pokeball and then caught it. “Fine by me. I only need one Pokemon to win.” With one hand she pressed a button on the CD Walkman attached to the other side of her belt and as a song started up threw the Pokeball with her other. “Shiruto come on out!”

Mare VS. Brendan
(Music Box: Bad Reputation by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)​

The Pokeball hit the ground and out of it came her Mudkip. He stood tall and proud, ready for a battle.

“Hah, this’ll be easy!” Brendan said, grinning smugly.

He tossed his own Pokeball and released Twig, his Treecko. Twig adopted a combat stance.

“Okay, what moves do you know?” Mare asked Shiruto. The Mudkip responded and Mare nodded. “Alright then! Water Gun!”

Shiruto leaped forward and released a jet of water from his mouth. The attack hit straight on but Twig was able to guard against it by crossing his arms in front of him. As a result, the attack only managed to push him back a bit.

Brendan laughed. “Don’t you know anything about battle? Water types aren’t very effective against Grass types!” He thrust his hand out. “Twig! Bullet Seed!”

The Treecko leaped into the air and spat out a stream of seeds at rapid speed, not unlike a machine gun. Shiruto tried to dodge but couldn’t jump back in time, getting hit mid-jump. He came crashing to the ground while Twig landed on his feet before giving a little bow.

“Grass is also super effective against Water Types.” Brendan said, crossing his arms smugly.

Mare grit her teeth. There was no way she was gonna lose to her brat of a cousin. Disadvantage or not she had to win, at the very least to wipe that smug smirk off his face.

“Alright, lets try something different then.” She said. “Use Growl!” Mare wasn’t entirely sure how Growl could be a move, she did it all the time and it didn’t seem to do anything. But Shiruto said it was one of his moves so they might as well use it.

Shiruto leaped forward and let out a loud, echoing growl. It was like that scene in the Pyroar King except Shiruto was actually making the growl for real. The force of the growl pushed Twig backwards.

“Follow up with Tackle!” Mare shouted.

Shiruto charged forward and headbutted Twig. Unlike the Water Gun, the tackle actually had an effect on the Treecko. Mare felt a surge of energy rush through her body. This was fun. In fact, it was exhilarating. She felt more free than she ever had before. Did all battles make you feel like this? If they did, Mare wanted to do them everyday.

Meanwhile, it was Brendan’s turn to grit his teeth.

“Twig! Bullet Seed again!” He shouted.

“Counter it with Water Gun!” Mare shouted.

Both Pokemon fired off the moves at the same time and the stream of water collided with the stream of seeds, somehow creating a midair explosion. Yeah, if you were expecting battles to make sense you’re reading the wrong fic.

“Follow up with tackle!” Mare shouted.

Shiruto lowered his head and charged. He bashed Twig in the stomach, knocking the Treecko backwards and kicking up a cloud of dust. When the dust cleared… Twig was lying on the ground, spirals in his eyes. Shiruto and Mare had won.

(Music Box: N/A)​

“Yes!” Mare shouted, running over to hug Shiruto. “We did it! Hah! Type advantages my ass!”

Meanwhile, Brendan ran over to his own Pokemon. “What happened!” He picked up Twig and cradled him. “I don’t get it! I was top of my class back home!”

“Littleroot has a population of, like, five.” Mare said. “I don’t think that’s very impressive.”

“Shut up!” Brendan snapped. He then turned back to his Pokemon and returned him to his Pokeball. “You did well, rest up.” Brendan stood up. He pointed at Mare. “I’ll beat you next time! I just need more Pokemon and more training!”

Mare returned Shiruto to his Pokeball. “Good job, little buddy.” She said to the ball. She turned back to Brendan. “So, should we head back to town? It’s getting late and while I could stay up all night I’m sure you could use some sleep.”

She began walking down the route back towards Oldale Town. Brendan hurried to catch up with her. It was amazing how fast she could walk on those short little legs of hers.

“I just don’t get it.” Brendan said, still in disbelief. “You’ve never been in a Pokemon Battle before? How did you win?”

“Guess Shiruto’s just that good.” Mare said, maybe a bit smug.

“More like beginner’s luck, I’d say.” Brendan shot back.

“Keep telling yourself that.” Mare said.

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That night the two stayed at the Pokemon center and the next day set off down Route 102 for Petalburg. Mare’s cocky confidence and bravado from the day before were gone, replaced with sullen brooding. Why did the bridge have to be out? Why did they have to go to Petalburg?

Not a single word was spoken during the entire trip from Oldale Town to Petalburg City. Mare didn’t want to say anything and Brendan was too scared too. He could practically feel the bad vibes coming off of Mare and he did not want to be on her bad side.

Mare’s mood only continued to get worse as they approached the city. Brendan, meanwhile, became more anxious. He’d seen his cousin in some pretty bad moods, but nothing this bad. She looked like she was about to explode. Brendan only worked up the courage to speak when they finally arrived at Petalburg.

“Okay, Cuz, how about you go find us a place to stay while I go visit the gym.” He suggested.

“Absolutely not.” Mare said. “No way I’m staying in this city overnight. Let’s get your stupid gym badge and get out of here.”

“Well, okay then.” Brendan said, significantly concerned. They started walking.

Petalburg was a decently sized city. Not too big, not too small. The whole place gave off very early 2000s teen movie vibes. Felt like you could just wake up, go to school, hang out with your friends at the local smoothie shop, and then go win the local talent show, thus restoring your honor and finally getting one over on that mean girl bully.

The Petalburg Gym was at the center of town. It was a large wooden building resembling a dojo of sorts. To Brendan and May’s surprise, Norman was already outside the gym as they approached, talking to an 8 year old girl in a red bandanna. At the sight of the girl, Mare’s mood slightly improved. This was May, Norman’s biological daughter, and the one part about her mom’s remarriage that she actually liked.

May seemed to return the feeling because the moment she noticed Mare and Brendan approaching she dropped the conversation she was having with her father and dashed over to glomp her step-sister. The two were about the same height which was a little embarrassing for Mare but her love for her step-sibling overpowered her usual annoyance.

“Mare!” May squealed in delight.

“Hi May-May!” Mare exclaimed, taking care not to quite literally accidentally squeeze her step-sister to death. “It’s so good to see you! How have you been!”

“Good!” May said excitedly, releasing Mare from her hug. “I lost a tooth!” She grinned, showing that she was, indeed, missing a tooth.

Next to them, Brendan rolled his eyes. Unlike Mare, he wasn’t particularly keen on kids. The fact that he was a kid was completely lost on him.

“Ah, Mare!” Norman said, cheerfully strolling up to the group. “How’s my daughter doing?”

Mare looked up at him and her expression turned cold. “Step-daughter, Norman.” She corrected.

“Ah, right, yes.” Norman replied, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. He cleared his throat. “So, your mom called ahead and told me you were coming. I hear you’re taking on the gym challenge?”

“Actually, that’s me!” Brendan butted in, seeming a might bit annoyed at being ignored.

“Oh! Of course!” Norman said. “My apologies! You’re Brendan, correct? Caroline’s nephew?”

Brendan grinned and rubbed his finger under his nose. “You got that right! Brendan Birch, Future Hoenn League Champion at your service!” Now it was Mare’s turn to roll her eyes.

Norman laughed. “I’d be glad to give you a battle, then! Why don’t we head into the gym to discuss the details!” He glanced at his daughter and step-daughter. “You coming, girls?”

“Coming, Dad!” May shouted cheerfully, hurrying after her father. Mare gave a more muted affirmation before following.

The inside of the Gym matched the outside. The walls were made of wood and the doors were shoji sliding doors. The walls were decorated with paper scrolls upon which were written ancient proverbs and instructions for various martial arts moves. Unlike most gyms, there was no fancy test or puzzle, just a single dirt battlefield.

Once they were inside the gym, Norman began explaining how the battle would work to Brendan. Mare decided it was in her best interest to tune this out. May poked her.

“Hey, Mare, are you sure you don’t wanna fight my dad?” The small girl asked.

“Yeah.” Mare said casually. “Why would I? I mean, I do kinda wanna fight him but that’s more of a fist fight thing than a gym battle thing.”

“I just think it would be really cool!” May said cheerily. “Cause my dad’s the coolest person I know and you’re the coolest person I know! If you fought then it’d be so cool, you know!”

Mare felt herself blushing a bit. Nobody had ever really said anything like that to her before. She was kind of having difficulty believing it herself, actually. Her? Cool? Absurd.

“Plus if you beat my dad you could be, like, Champion!” May explained, stars in her eyes.

“Doesn’t being the Champion come with a whole bunch of responsibilities or whatever?” Mare asked.

May rubbed her chin. “Huh, I never thought about that.” She shrugged. “I bet you’d be really good at all of them, though! Plus, you’d be a girl champion and we need more girl champions.”

“Aren’t there, like, at least three girl champions?” Mare asked. She wasn’t exactly an expert in this kind of stuff but she was pretty sure there were at least three.

“Yeah but I think there should be more!” May said excitedly. “And you would be a really good one!”

Mare thought about it. May really thought she would make a good Champion. And she had loved the rushing feeling of battling against Brendan last night. Maybe this is what she was destined for.

Mare stood up and prepared to interrupt Norman and Brendan’s current conversation to inform them of her decision when she herself was interrupted by a young green haired boy who appeared to be around her age who burst into the gym. Well, burst wasn’t really the right word. It was more like he stumbled into the gym.

“E-excuse me!” The boy announced, sounding like he was struggling to project. “I-I’d like to get a Pokemon please!”

Everyone turned to look at the young boy. Clearly unused to such attention, the already small boy seemed to grow smaller as if he was a Squirtle attempting to retract into his shell.

“Hey, don’t you know its rude to interrupt people when they’re in the middle of something?” Brendan asked snippily, only serving to make the nervous boy more nervous.

“I-I’m sorry.” The boy said. “M-maybe I should just-”

Norman held up a hand and smiled kindly. “It’s perfectly okay. As Gym Leader, its my duty to help out the Citizens of Petalburg. Now come here.” He beckoned to the boy, who heeded his command. “You’re Wally L’Radiata, right? John and Amelia’s kid?”

“Y-yes, sir.” The boy stuttered out, still doing his best attempt at a Squirtle impression.

Norman nodded. “I see. And what’s this about you wanting to get a Pokemon.”

“W-well, you see.” Wally said. “I-I’m supposed to go and stay a while with my relatives at Verdanturf Town and I thought I might get lonely all by myself, so I wanted to bring a Pokemon with me. Gym Leaders give out Pokemon sometimes, right?”

Norman nodded again. “I see. Well, I’m sorry to say this but I’m not really qualified to hand out starter Pokemon.”

Wally’s face fell but he nodded. “I-I understand. S-sorry for bothering you.”

Wally turned to leave but Norman held up a hand to stop him. “Hold on, you didn’t let me finish. I may not be able to give you a Pokemon, but I can help you catch one for yourself.”

Wally’s eyes brightened. “R-really!”

Norman turned to Brendan. “It seems we’ll have to delay our battle! In the meantime, how would you like to go down to Route 102 and help Wally here catch a Pokemon!”

Brendan rubbed the back of his head and glanced around. “Oh, uh, sure thing! I’m great at catching Pokemon! I help my dad catch Pokemon for his research all the time! I am the best at catching Pokemon!”

Norman looked at his step-daughter. “Mare, would you mind tagging along and helping out your cousin?”

“What!” Brendan and Mare chorused.

“I don’t need her help!” Brendan protested.

“And I don’t want to babysit!” Mare protested.

Norman gave them both a pointed look. Simultaneously, they looked down at the ground.

“Fine.” They chorused.

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“So, you’re taking on the Gym Challenge?” Wally asked in awe as they walked down Route 102.

“Yep!” Brendan said proudly. “I’m gonna be the next Hoenn League Champion!”

“Not if I become the Champion first!” Mare countered.

“What!” Brendan shouted. “But you said you didn’t care about the Gym Challenge!”

“Well, I’ve been thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if I became Champion?” Mare said, echoing May’s logic.

“I wish I could go on a Pokemon Journey.” Wally said wistfully.

“What’s stopping you?” Brendan asked.

“Oh, w-well, you see, I’m sick.” Wally explained. “And b-because of that I have trouble breathing sometimes. That’s why I’m moving to Verdanturf Town. C-cause the air’s clearer”

“Oh.” Brendan said. “Well, I hope you get better soon.”

“It’s… not that kind of sick.” Wally said sadly.

Just then, Mare felt something. She stopped in her tracks and held up a hand, causing the other two to bump into each other.

“What’s with the hand signals, cuz?” Brendan asked. “We aren’t in the military.”

“Shh.” Mare shushed. “Something’s nearby.”

“Woah! How can you tell!” Wally whispered.

“I don’t know I just can.” Mare replied. Behind her, Brendan rolled his eyes.

Slowly, Mare moved off the path and into the woods. Wally and Brendan followed, Brendan more begrudging in his movements. Unlike with Okami, they didn’t have to go far off the path to discover what Mare had sensed: a small green and white Pokemon with two red horns. Wally was instantly mesmerized.

“Woah! It’s a Ralts!” Brendan said in amazement. “Those are super rare! We must be really lucky!”

Mare dug her PokeNav Plus out of her pocket and turned on the Pokedex functionality, holding it up to scan the small creature.

“Ralts, the Feelings Pokemon.” The Pleasant Robotic Voice in the Dex said. “Ralts has the ability to sense the emotions of people. If its Trainer is in a cheerful mood, this Pokémon grows cheerful and joyous in the same way.”

“Its so cute.” Wally whispered, entranced by the little guy.

Brendan tapped Wally on the upper arm with the back of his hand. “Alright, lets see what that Pokemon Norman lent you can do.”

“Oh! Right!” Wally said, snapping out of his Ralts-induced trance. He dug the Pokeball Norman had handed him out of his pocket and gave it a pretty limp toss. Out came a Zigzagoon by the name of Ziggy the Third. Ziggy let out a loud chitter, startling the poor Ralts.

“O-okay. W-what do I do first?” Wally asked Brendan.

“First, you gotta weaken it using an attack.” Brendan explained.

Wally looked at the cowering Ralts, then at Brendan, then back at the Ralts. “A-are you sure?”

“Course I am.” Brendan said confidently. “Just command your Pokemon to use a move on the Ralts.”

Wally studied the Ralts. Attacking a small, scared little creature like this didn’t feel right. It seemed cruel and mean. He recalled Ziggy the Third.

“What are you doing?” Brendan asked, confused.

Wally took a slow, cautious step towards the Ralts. Then another step. And then another. And another. And another. Eventually, he was standing right in front of the Ralts. He knelt down and held out his hand.

“Please don’t be scared.” He said, calmly and evenly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

For the first time since Mare and Brendan had met him he didn’t sound nervous or worried or like he was struggling to speak. He spoke clearly and kindly and with compassion.

The Ralts stopped cowering and slowly stretched out a tiny arm to touch Wally’s hand. It made a small noise, Wally smiled.

“That’s right, I’m a friend.” He said. “What’s your name?”

The Ralts made a noise.

“He says his name is Kettei.” Mare translated.

Wally looked like he was about to question her but decided against it and just kept going.

“Nice to meet you, Kettei.” He said. “My name’s Wally. I’m looking for a Pokemon to be my friend. Would you like to be my friend?”

Kettei thought for a moment. Then it noised in affirmation. Wally’s face lit up with genuine joy.

“Really!” Wally exclaimed.

Kettei noised in response. Wally stood up and did a twirl, whipping out a Pokeball and holding it out. “Alright, then! How about we make it official!”

Kettei noised happily and leaped an impressive height into the air, tapping the button on the Pokeball. The ball popped open and sucked him in before closing again. The ball shook once. Then twice. Then three times. Click! Gotcha! Ralts was caught!

Wally released Kettei from his Pokeball. He picked up the Ralts and gave him a big, yet gentle, hug. He looked like this was the happiest he’d ever been.

“We’re gonna be best friends, I just know it!”

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Having accomplished their goal of catching a Pokemon, the three returned to Norman’s gym. They returned Ziggy the Third and regaled Norman with the tale of how Wally caught Kettei the Ralts. He was quite impressed, to say the least.

“So you caught the Pokemon without using any moves on it?” Norman asked.

“Y-yes sir.” Wally confirmed.

“Incredible.” Norman replied.

Wally bowed. “Thank you so much for lending me your Pokemon, sir.”

Norman laughed. “Think nothing of it.”

Wally turned to Mare and Brendan. “I-I guess this is where we say goodbye. T-thank you so much for helping me. I-it was nice to meet you.”

“Actually, Wally, I’ve been thinking and I had an idea.” Brendan said. “What if you tagged along with us for a bit?”

“H-huh?” Wally huh’d.

“You said you wanted to go on a Journey, right?” Brendan asked rhetorically. “I figure maybe you can tag along with us as a sorta micro-Journey. We have to pass through Verdanturf Town anyways so why not hang with us until we get there.”

“Y-you’d really let me do that?” Wally asked, surprised.

“Of course.” Brendan said. “You’re our friend, right?”

Wally seemed in awe. It looked like the poor boy had never had friends before. At least, not real friends. Mare could relate.

Wally looked at her. “Wh-what about you, Mare?”

“I hate to say it but I agree with Brendan.” Mare replied. “You should tag along. Might be fun.”

“O-okay.” Wally said. “I-I’ll have to ask my parents if its okay b-but I accept your offer.”

“Woohoo!’ Brendan cheered.

Norman laughed. “I’m very happy for you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Wally said, bowing again. He then turned and hurried out of the gym, presumably to get back home as fast as possible and talk to his parents.

Now, I believe we have other business to attend to.” Norman said, turning to Brendan. “Your Gym Battle.”

“Hold on a second, Norman.” Mare interrupted. She fixed her step-father with an icy glare. “Brendan’s not your only challenger.” She took out one of her Pokeballs and pointed it at Norman. “I want to challenge you too. I’m going to be champion.”

Norman’s expression turned stony. “I see.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I cannot battle you until you’ve collected at least four badges.”

“What!” Mare shouted. “That’s bullshit! You’re gonna give Brendan a battle but not me!”

“I’m sorry.” Norman repeated. “But when I battle you I want to battle an experienced trainer. I want to know that you’re really serious about this.”

“I am serious!” Mare protested.

“This is my final decision.” Norman said.

Mare crossed her arms and growled.

Norman turned to Brendan. “Now, Brendan, are you ready for our battle.”

Brendan thought for a moment. He looked at Mare, then he looked at Norman, then he looked at the battlefield, then back at Mare.

He shook his head. “No. I’m not ready. If Mare has to get four badges in order to challenge you then so do I!”

“Are you sure?” Norman asked, surprised.

“Sure as sure can be.” Brendan confirmed. “If Mare’s taking on the Gym Challenge too then that makes her my rival and that means we’re going to walk the same path!”

Normally, Mare would have protested that they were not rivals but she was too surprised to do so. She had been expecting him to take the battle and rub this in her face, not willingly refuse it in favor of following the same path she was being forced onto. Maybe he wasn’t as much of a brat as she thought he was.

Hmm… nah. He was still pretty bratty.

Norman nodded. “If that is your decision, then I shall respect it. If you want my advice, you should start with Roxane’s gym in Rustboro City. It’s the closest gym to here.” He smiled. “Now, how about breakfast for dinner?”

“Huh?” Brendan and Mare huh’d simultaneously, taken aback.

“You are staying for the night, aren’t you?” Norman asked. “Its getting late and the journey to Rustboro is long.”

Mare tried to protest that they could find their own lodgings and didn’t need his “charity” but Brendan interrupted her.

“Sounds great!” He said. “I love breakfast for dinner!”

“Excellent.” Norman replied. “May will be so happy to hear that.”

d4Hi61m2-uAW9TG85WnT17SzpVcddvWRx6MrG1GLl1QHhWKzWiv6ezotJZK8OslpIvlzGBHGqt9wjMZUdxQMlir_f3DBBQ8klPs-EjS-BHbG6M95bLKDmalp0GpHltatftg0V5fRL46cPDkYL4oQkGM
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Author's Note: Wally joins the party! Our little adventuring group is almost complete! Just one more member and we can have the Hoenn Quartet! You can probably guess who the fourth member'll be but I won't tell. It also might be a while before they join.
 
Author's Note: Chapter 3! Been real excited for this one! Especially cause it means I can now finally open my brand new ask blog exclusively for the Auraverse (the universe this fanfic takes place in). Presenting, Ask the Auraverse:


While I'm at it I should probably link you to my main blog:


Don't really have much else to say without spoiling the Chapter so... see you below.


Mare did not enjoy staying the night with Norman. She did not think that breakfast for dinner was delicious. She had not had fun hanging out with May, the cutest and most adorable step-sister in the history of step-sisters. She hated Norman, she hated his house, and she hated his stupid gym.

All of this, of course, was lies. Lies she was telling herself. After all, if she didn’t tell herself these lies she’d be forced to admit that she was wrong about Norman. And she couldn’t do that.

As was the trend, they left for Rustboro at the crack of dawn. Wally had gotten permission from his parents to travel with Mare and Brendan. The boy had packed light, bringing only the essentials as well as his PokeNav Plus. Though depending on who you asked the PokeNav Plus might count as essential.

The three kids had their Pokemon out and about. Twig was hanging out on Brendan’s shoulder, Wally was holding Kettei, Kaen (Mare’s Torchic) was sitting atop Mare’s head, and Shiruto and Okami were walking alongside her. Occasionally, Mare would have chittering or barking or growling conversations with the Pokemon. Eventually, Wally got curious.

“S-so you can really talk to Pokemon?” Wally asked Mare.

“Anyone can talk to Pokemon.” Mare said. “I understand them.”

“That’s so cool.” Wally said.

“You really think so?” Mare asked, surprised. “Most people call me a freak for it.”

“They’re not wrong.” Brendan muttered. Mare shot him an angry glare.

“I wish I knew what a Pokemon was saying.” Wally said. “That would be so cool.”

“Maybe I could teach you.” Mare suggested.

“You could?” Wally asked.

“Well, I could try.” Mare said. “I don’t know if I actually can but its worth a shot.”

Suddenly, Brendan stopped. While Mare was easily able to stop before colliding into him, Wally was not so lucky and almost tripped over himself. Luckily, he managed to keep his balance before falling to the ground.

“Why did you stop?” Mare asked.

Brendan pointed straight ahead. Mare followed where he was pointed to see the path in front of them was enveloped in trees. The entrance to a dimly lit forest lay in front of them.

“We’re here.” Brendan said ominously. “Petalburg Woods.”

“Oooookay…” Mare said slowly. “Is that bad?”

“It’s good, actually.” Brendan said. “Petalburg Woods are the perfect place to catch more Pokemon and if we’re gonna be rivals I need to build up my team.”

“T-those woods look dark.” Wally said.

“Worry not!” Brendan said, reaching into his backpack and pulling out a trio of flashlights. “I brought flashlights!”

He handed the flashlights out to his two traveling companions. Then, he held his arm straight out, pointing towards the forest.

“Alright, lets go! Time to catch me some more Pokemon!”

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Brendan had no luck with catching Pokemon. It wasn’t that he couldn’t find any, it was that the ones he could find he just couldn’t catch. Zigzagoon? Got away. Wurmple? Got away. Cascoon? Somehow the living cocoon got away. His ongoing attempt at catching a Shroomish wasn’t going any better.

“Twig, use Pound!” He shouted.

The Treecko nodded and rushed at the Shroomish. He smacked the Shroomish hard with the palm of his hand before leaping away to avoid a potential counterattack. Brendan took a Pokeball out of his bag.

“Pokeball go!” He shouted, throwing the ball.

The ball did not hit the Shroomish. You Keyes's it hit the ground right next to the Shroomish and then bounced off into the underbrush. The Shroomish blasted off a cloud of Stun Spores, paralyzing Twig, and then ran off. To add insult to injury, it stuck its tongue out at them before it did. Brendan ran over to the paralyzed twig and dug through his backpack for a Paralyze Heal, cursing the whole time.

“Why can’t I catch anything!” He lamented, spraying Twig with the Paralyze Heal.

“Maybe you should just give up.” Mare suggested.

“No way!” Brendan protested. “If we’re gonna be rivals, I’ve gotta catch more Pokemon!”

Suddenly, there was a scream, causing Brendan and Wally to jump in fright. Mare did not have quite as extreme a reaction but did immediately turn to look in the direction the scream had come from.

“W-what was that?” Wally stuttered.

“Sounded like a scream.” Brendan said helpfully. “Let’s go check it out.”

“A-are you s-sure that’s a good idea?” Wally asked.

By the time Wally had finished speaking, Brendan was already heading towards the source of the noise. Mare gave Wally a shrug and followed after her cousin. She wouldn’t admit it, mostly because that would require agreeing with Brendan, but she was also curious about the scream.

The three tweens didn’t have to go far to find the source of the scream. It was a sort of scrawny, middle aged man in a labcoat who appeared to have been shoved to the ground. He was being menaced by… were those pirates? They certainly looked like pirates with their bandanas and tattered blue and white striped clothes. There were two of them and they both had Poochyena out and growling.

“Look, science guy, just give us what we want and we won’t have ta hurt ya.” Said one of the pirates.

“N-never!” The scientist said defiantly, trying and failing to hide his fear. “I-I won’t let you th-thugs have my r-research!”

“Thugs?” The second pirate echoed, sounding offended. “We ain’t thugs! We’re Team Aqua!”

Mare clenched her fist. If there was one thing she hated it was bullies. But should she really get involved? It wasn’t her fight.

Brendan answered that question. He leaped out of the bushes they were hiding behind and pointed aggressively at Team Aqua.

“Hey! Leave him alone!” He shouted.

“Woah, where did you come from, kid?” The first Aqua Grunt asked, caught off guard by the sudden appearance of a bratty eleven year old.

“Your doom!” Brendan shouted.

The Aqua Grunts laughed.

“Look, kid, we don’t want ta hurt ya.” The second Aqua Grunt said. “Why don’t you just go home and forget everything you saw here.”

Brendan scowled. “Twig! Use Bullet Seed!”

Brendan & Mare VS. Team Aqua Grunts
(Music Box: Battle! Team Aqua/Magma from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

Brendan’s Treecko leaped into the air and fired off a stream of seeds at one of the Poochyena. It hit straight on, knocking the Bite Pokemon backwards.

“Hey! Not cool!” Aqua Grunt One shouted, maybe a bit hypocritically considering he was assaulting an innocent man.

“Alright, you asked for it, kid!” Aqua Grunt Two shouted. “Don’t say we didn’t give you the chance to back down! Poochyena, use Bite!”

Aqua Grunt Two’s Poochyena leaped forward, teeth glowing with energy. It bit down on Twig, dealing a decent amount of damage. Once it had its teeth clamped down on Twig it refused to let go.

“Twig! Pound!” Brendan shouted.

Twig’s hand glowed silver and he struck the Poochyena in the head, causing it to release its grip and fly backwards.

It was at this point that Mare decided to join the battle. She couldn’t let Brendan have all the fun and, as mentioned before, she hated bullies. She leaped out of the bushes and tossed two Pokeballs. Out came Okami and Kaen.

The Aqua Grunts did a double take upon seeing her.

“Is that a fucking five year old?” Aqua Grunt One asked incredulously.

“I’m 12, asshole!” Mare shouted, baring her fangs. “Okami! Kaen! You know what to do!”

Mare charged at Aqua Grunt One and leaped onto him, climbing around to his back and wrapping her arms around his neck. The Grunt shouted in surprise and grabbed at her, trying to pull her off but she held on tight. Meanwhile, Okami and Kaen attacked Aqua Grunt One’s Poochyena. Kaen fired off an Ember while Okami bit down hard on her opponent.

As all of this happened, the scientist who the Aqua Grunts had been assaulting attempted to crawl away unnoticed. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it far and instead immediately bumped into the leg of a newcomer to the scene, a man in a red hooded uniform with… horns? With him was another man decked out in the same ridiculous uniform and two Poochyenas.

“Going somewhere?” The first man asked.

“O-oh, w-well you s-see-” The scientist stuttered out but the man didn’t let him finish.

“I don’t actually care.” He glanced at his buddy. “Search him.”

It was then that the Aqua Grunts noticed the newcomers’ presence.

“Hey!” Shouted Aqua Grunt One. “You can’t be here! This is our job! Ow!” That last exclamation was in response to Mare punching him in the face.

“Yeah, a job you were botching.” The first man said mockingly. “Look at you, you’re getting your asses kicked by children.” He laughed. “That’s why Team Magma will always be better than Team Aqua!”

Aqua Grunt One got so mad that he finally managed to pry Mare off of him and toss her at Magma Grunt One. She slammed into him, knocking them both to the ground. While Magma Grunt One just sort of laid there, Mare sprung up almost immediately and tackled Magma Grunt Two. At this point it was less about saving the scientist and more about taking her pent up rage and resentment out on the nearest person.

Meanwhile, Kaen, Okami, and Twig were surrounded on all sides by Poochyena. The three Pokemon stood back-to-back. Okami growled. Twig chittered, seemingly having come up with a plan. The other two nodded.

Twig leaped into the air and spun around, spraying bullet seeds all over the battlefield. Kaen tilted his head up and shot flames into the air, lighting the bullet seeds on fire. It was, undoubtedly, very cool. Unless you were the Poochyena, in which case it wasn’t cool because it hurt a lot.

Three of the four Poochyena fainted. The final one growled in anger and leaped at the Pokemon. Okami intercepted with a bite and tossed it away. She let out a victory howl.

All in all, it seemed that Team Aqua and Team Magma were on the ropes here. They were, in fact, getting their asses kicked by children. Looked like none of them were going to complete their job.

Suddenly, a figure clad all in red leapt down from the trees and landed right on top of the scientist before tackling Mare as she was winding up to punch Magma Grunt Two, pinning her to the ground. It was a girl, at least Mare was pretty sure she was a girl, it was hard to tell because she was wearing a full face mask and flight goggles but she was relatively girl shaped. In addition to the face mask and bodysuit, she also wore a hooded cape with horns. Her chest was emblazoned with the same symbol as the Magma Grunts.

“Wh- Hey!” Magma Grunt Two shouted. “What are you doing here!”

“Cleaning up your mess, apparently.” The girl said, her voice playful, like this was all a game to her.

“Let me go!” Mare shouted.

“Sorry, Girly, nothing personal but I can’t have you attacking my subordinates like this.” The girl said. “But hey, maybe if you’re good I’ll give you a little treat, huh?”

“Hold on a minute!” Aqua Grunt Two shouted. “You can’t just-”

In one swift movement, the girl reached into her cape and threw a dagger at Aqua Grunt Two, freeing one of Mare’s arms. It whistled right by his face, grazing his cheek enough to give him a small cut. A single drop of blood trailed down his face.

“That was a warning throw.” The girl said, drawing another knife from her cape. “Now buzz off or I won’t miss next time.”

Aqua Grunt Two took a moment to consider his options. He looked between the girl and his fainted Poochyena. He glanced over at his partner, who was holding Brendan up by the back of his shirt and looking thoroughly unimpressed as the boy took swings at him that his arms were just too short to land.

“Let’s get out of here, bro!” He shouted.

“Huh, why?” Aqua Grunt One asked. His question was immediately answered when he looked away from Brendan and saw the situation before him. “Oh.”

He dropped Brendan, who landed on his butt with a resounding ow, and recalled his Poochyena. His buddy did the same with his own Pokemon and then the two of them ran off into the woods.

Brendan scrambled to his feet, looking around wildly. He shook his fist in the direction of the fleeing Aqua Grunts.

“Cowards!” He shouted. He whirled around to look at the girl. “Let her go!”

The girl danced the knife she was holding across her fingers, blade first. Brendan immediately backed down.

“Never mind.” He said meekly.

Mare growled and clenched her fist. “Only I’m allowed to threaten my cousin with violence!”

She punched the girl in the face, knocking her off her completely. She sprung up immediately and adopted a fighting stance. The girl rubbed her jaw.

“Damn, you’re pretty strong for such a little thing.” She said.

“Don’t call me little!” Mare shouted in Elrician fashion, charging the girl.

The girl dodged out of the way easily. Mare took a few more swings at her that she also dodged. The girl gave a hand signal to the two Grunts.

“Alright, boys, time to go.” She said. She turned back to her opponent. “Sorry, Girly, I’d love to stay and play more but I’ve got other business to attend too.”

She reached into her cape once again and pulled out a small, round object. She threw it down onto the ground and a cloud of smoke burst forth, covering the area. When it cleared, the girl, the two Grunts, and their fainted Pokemon were gone.

(Music Box: N/A)​

“Fuck!” Mare swore.

Wally ran out of the bushes, cheering. “T-that was amazing!”

“But they got away.” Mare grumbled.

“I’m just glad we got away.” Brendan said.

“You’re the one who wanted to fight them.” Mare pointed out.

“Yeah, but that girl was scary.” He replied.

“Pfft.” Mare scoffed, waving her hand dismissively. “She wasn’t so tough.”

The scientist who had been assaulted came up to him, looking understandably haggard. He had his hands clasped together gratefully.

“Thank you for saving me.” He said.

“Don’t mention it.” Brendan replied, sounding maybe a bit too proud of himself.

“I wish I could give you a reward of some sort but unfortunately the only thing I have is my research notes on Shroomish.” The scientist said.

“That’s fine, we don’t need a reward.” Brendan replied, feigning humility.

The scientist patted himself down, seeming to realize that something was missing. “Hmm… I must have dropped my ID Card during the scuffle. I’ll have to requisition a new one.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Brendan replied. “We’ve gotta hightail it to Rustboro. Maybe we can squeeze in a gym battle before the day ends.”

“I see.” The scientist said. “Well then, goodbye and thank you again.”

The three kids walked off as the scientist continued to futility pat the many pockets of his lab coat in the vain hope that maybe he still had his ID and just missed it. From high up above in the trees, the girl watched them depart. She held two fingers up to an earpiece in her ear.

“This is Agent Blaise reporting in.” She said, playing with the scientist’s ID card, which she’d stolen when she landed on him earlier. “Mission was a success. There was a small hitch, though.” There was a pause as she listened to someone on the other side speak. “No, not Aqua. Well, they were there but they weren’t much of a problem. It was a couple of kids. Newbie trainers from the looks of it, but strong.” Another pause. “I don’t think they’ll be much of a problem. Seems like they were just there by coincidence.” Yet another pause. “Roger that. I’ll start Phase Two tonight.” She removed her hand from the earpiece and moved it too her chin. “Hmm… there’s something about that girl… maybe I should keep an eye on her…”

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Rustboro City was dull as hell. Everywhere you looked you saw office buildings, office buildings, and more office buildings. It was like every cubicle farm in the region was localized right here in one city. And sitting at the center was the Devon Corp building, the cubicle farm to end all cubicle farms.

“I hate this place so much.” Mare grumbled.

“Aw come on, you’ve barely been here five minutes.” Brendan replied.

Wally coughed. “I-I agree with Mare. I d-don’t think this place is good for m-my lungs.”

“Lets just skip over this one.” Mare said, placing a hand on Wally’s shoulder, which looked kinda silly cause she had to reach up to do so. “For Wally’s health.”

“But what about the gym-” Brendan began but then shook his head, realizing how selfish he sounded. “No, you’re right, we should skip this one. Maybe come back later once we’ve dropped Wally off at Verdanturf.”

“N-no.” Wally said. “I-if the gym is r-really that important to you th-then I’m fine with st-staying a bit.”

“Are you sure?” Brendan asked.

“Y-yeah.” Wally replied. “Y-you’re my f-friends, s-so if the gym’s important to you I’m fine w-with staying for a d-day.” Suddenly, he had stars in his eyes. “Plus I wanna see you battle again! You were so cool fighting those weird guys!”

“Well, okay then. If you’re sure.” Brendan said. He thrust his fist into the air. “We’ve still got daylight to burn, lets go take on a gym!”

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The Rustboro Gym wasn’t just a Gym, it was also a museum. Half the gym was taken up by fossils on display in glass cases. The other half was taken up by the gym’s battlefield. A transparent wall separated the two halves, presumably to prevent stray attacks from breaking the glass cases.

When they entered the gym they were greeted by the Gym Guide, a standard feature of every gym. They opted to skip his tutorial on what a gym was and how you become Champion because they already knew that. The Gym Guide pressed a button to call the Gym Leader. After a few minutes, she came out from a back room.

The second she laid eyes on the Gym Leader, Mare knew she didn’t like her. She was a prissy looking young woman in formal clothes who gave off an air that she thought she was smarter than everyone else. She reminded Mare of the brainy kids back in Johto who made fun of her for not being very smart.

"Hello. You must be new challengers.” She said, sounding as if she was reciting a script. “I am Roxanne, the Rustboro City Pokémon Gym Leader. I became a Gym Leader so that I may apply in battle all that I've learned at the Pokémon Trainers' School. If you defeat me in a Pokémon battle, I'll present you with a Gym Badge as proof of your strength as a Trainer.”

Mare rolled up non-existent sleeves. “Alright, then, lets get this over with.”

“Wait, hold on, I wanna go first.” Brendan protested.

“Too bad, I called dibs.” Mare countered.

“That’s not fair!” Brendan complained.

“G-guys…” Wally tried to interrupt, but they ignored him.

“I’ll fight you for it.” Mare said, crossing her arms confidently.

“No way.” Brendan refused.

“Scared?” Mare asked, grinning to show off her fangs.

“Of course I’m scared, I’ve seen you punch a grown man in the face!” Brendan pointed out. It was very sound reasoning.

Roxanne let out an exasperated sigh, as if she was used to dealing with squabbling children.

“That’s enough.” She commanded, raising an authoritative finger.

All three children present turned to face her. Mare recognized the tone she used. This was worse than she thought. Roxanne wasn’t just a prissy smart girl, she was a teacher.

Roxanne pointed at Mare. “You will go first because you volunteered first.”

Mare shot Brendan a smug look. Brendan crossed his arms and pouted. If this were an anime, one of those squiggly anger lines would have appeared above his head.

Mare held up her arm like she was flexing and tapped her bicep. “Alright, let's do this! Pokemon battle time!”

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Mare and Roxanne stood at opposite ends of the battlefield, Pokeballs in hand. Brendan and Wally sat on the sidelines, Brendan was still grumpy about being made to go second. Wally, meanwhile, was eagerly awaiting the battle with Kettei in his lap. The Gym Guide was also on the sidelines, serving as referee.

“The battle between Gym Leader Roxanne and Mare the Challenger is about to begin!” He announced. “Each side will have the use of 2 Pokemon and the battle will be over when either trainer’s Pokemon are unable to continue! Only the Challenger may substitute Pokemon! Each side is only allowed one healing item! Only the Challenger may use revives!”

“Go, Igneous!” Roxanne shouted, throwing her Pokeball. Out of the ball popped a Pokemon Mare instantly recognized, Geodude. They were everywhere in Johto.

“Alright, Shiruto, lets do this!” Mare shouted, releasing her Mudkip from his ball.

“Battle Begin!” The Gym Guide shouted. Simultaneously, Mare pressed the play button on her CD Walkman.

Mare VS. Roxanne
(Music Box: Get the Party Started by P!nk)​

“Wh- are you playing music?” Roxanne asked, caught off guard.

Mare ignored her. “Shiruto! Water Gun!”

Shiruto spat a beam of water at the Geodude, hitting it straight on and dealing some damage. Roxanne immediately snapped straight into teacher mode.

“You know your type advantages.” She said. “You must have studied.”

“Yeah, totally.” Mare said flatly.

The truth was that Brendan had given her a crash course on type advantages on the walk from Petalburg Woods to Rustboro. Something about “Not wanting a repeat of our first battle” even though she’d won that one. They’d also done a quick runthrough of the Pokemon Roxanne was likely to use. Mare’d hardly count that as studying, but it did suck almost as much as studying would have. Mostly because Brendan, brat that he was, used it as a chance to lord how smart he was over her.

“It won’t be enough to defeat me, though.” Roxanne said, raising one finger. “Igneous! Tackle!”

The Geodude dropped to the ground and tucked its arms in. It began to roll towards Shiruto, picking up speed until it slammed into the poor Mudkip, knocking him backwards. Mare couldn’t help but be reminded of stories back in Goldenrod of Gym Leader Whitney’s terrifying rolling Miltank.

“Rock Tomb!” Roxanne shouted.

“Water Gun straight up!” Mare shouted.

From the ground, Igneous summoned several rocks that it tossed into the air. As they reached the peak of their arc and began to fall back down towards Shiruto, the Mudkip fired multiple Water Guns into the air, destroying the rocks.

“Now! Mud Slap!” Mare shouted.

The fin on Shiruto’s head glowed and became surrounded by mud. The Mudkip rushed forward and whacked Igneous with its fin twice, the Mudkip equivalent of a bitch slap.

“Follow up with Tackle!” Mare shouted, thrusting her arm out.

Shiruto headbutted Igneous real hard. The Geodude flew backwards and skidded to a stop on the ground. Its eyes were spirals.

Roxanne recalled her Pokemon.

“A+ work.” She said to the Pokeball. She held her finger up in that teacherly manner. “Excellent job, gold stars all around, but you haven’t passed yet. Its time for Part Two of the test, go Polaris!”

Roxanne tossed another Pokeball. This time, a Pokemon Mare didn’t recognize came out. It was sort of like an angular waddling head with a big nose. Mare dug her PokeNav Plus out of her bag and held it up to scan the Pokemon.

“Nosepass, the Compass Pokemon.” The pleasant voice of the Pokedex said. "Its body emits a powerful magnetism. It feeds on prey that is pulled in by the force. Its magnetism is stronger in cold seasons.” Huh. Freaky.

“Water Gun!” Mare shouted.

“Harden!” Roxanne countered.

Shiruto spat off a stream of water at the Nosepass. Before the water reached it, however, the Nosepass shined for a brief moment and there was a sound like stone moving. The water hit the Nosepass straight on but unlike with the Geodude it barely did any damage.

“You’ll never get past our superior defense!” Roxanne declared, crossing her arms.

“That’s what you think!” Mare shouted. “Growl!”

Shiruto unleashed a loud, echoing growl, pushing the Nosepass back a bit. Roxanne wagged her finger.

“Ah, ah, ah. Looks like you didn’t study hard enough.” She chided, almost sounding disappointed. “Growl lowers an opponent’s attack, not their defense.”

“Maybe that’s what I wanted!” Mare growled through gritted teeth.

Roxanne gave her a deadpan look, clearly not buying it, but didn’t push the matter. Instead she thrust out her arm.

“Polaris! Send them to Detention!” She commanded. “Rock Tomb!”

“Shiruto! Same as before!” Mare shouted.

The scene played out identical to how it did with Igneous with one difference, Shiruto missed one of the rocks. It came down right on top of him, conking him on the head.

“You good?” Mare asked her Mudkip.

Shiruto shook his head and noised in affirmation. He was, indeed, good.

“So you can’t shoot them all out of the sky.” Roxanne commented. “Rock Tomb again!”

Polaris fired off dozens of rocks into the air. As she watched the rocks rise, Mare had an idea. A flash of inspiration.

“Shiruto! Leap into the air and use Mud Slap on that Rock Tomb!” She shouted, thrusting her hand into the air, fingers splayed.

With a mighty jump, Shiruto leaped into the air, mud encircling his fin as he did so. He whacked at the flying stones, knocking them back towards the ground… and back towards Polaris.

The stones collided with Polaris, kicking up a cloud of dust. Unfortunately, Shiruto couldn’t knock back all the stones and one collided with him in midair, sending him back to the ground, the impact kicking up another cloud of dust.

There was a very suspenseful beat as they waited for the dust to clear. When it did, Shiruto was still on his feet, albeit very battered, and Polaris was lying on its back, fainted.

(Music Box: Victory! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

“Polaris is unable to battle!” The Gym Guide proclaimed. “The victory goes to Mare and Shiruto!”

Mare leaped into the air in delight and ran over to scoop up Shiruto. “Haha! Yes! We did it!”

She almost immediately remembered people were watching and that she was “sabotaging” her “tough girl image” (yeah right). She took a deep breath and tried her best to look nonchalant and “cool.”

“I mean, it was no biggie.” She said, unable to prevent a bit of giddiness from leaking into her voice.

Wally ran up to congratulate her, with Brendan trailing behind, still a bit grumpy about going second.

“That was so cool!” Wally shouted in delight.

“Yeah, you did okay, I guess.” Brendan said begrudgingly.

Roxanne returned Polaris to its Pokeball. “Excellent battling.” She turned to face Mare. “You did, indeed, do it. I give you Full Marks. An A+. You passed the test with flying colors!” From seemingly nowhere she produced an angular bronze colored emblem, which she held out to Mare. “The Pokémon League's rules state that Trainers receive this if they defeat a Gym Leader. Please accept the official Pokémon League Stone Badge.”

Mare took the badge and held it up to the light. Despite its dull coloring it still sparkled. Looking at it, Mare felt a swell of pride. It was a feeling she’d never felt before. Like she’d accomplished something meaningful. Like what she had done mattered.

Brendan, being Brendan, killed the mood immediately.

“Alright, my turn!” He announced, hands on hips.

Roxanne shook her head at his impatience. “Okay, give me a moment to heal up my Pokémon and then we can begin.”

Two revives later and they were all set and ready to go. Just like with Mare, they stood at opposite ends of the battlefield, Pokeballs in hand. Mare and Wally sat on the sidelines, Wally once again watching eagerly and Mare still feeling quite proud of herself.

“The battle between Gym Leader Roxanne and Brendan the Challenger is about to begin!” The Gym Guide announced. “Each side will have the use of 2 Pokemon and the battle will be over when either trainer’s Pokemon are unable to continue! Only the Challenger may substitute Pokemon! Each side is only allowed one healing item! Only the Challenger may use revives!”

Just like before, Roxanne called upon her Geodude, Igneous. Brendan led with Twig cause he was his only Pokemon. Brendan smirked, he was sure he was gonna win this battle. After all, he had a type advantage.

“Battle Begin!” The Gym Guide declared.

Brendan VS. Roxanne
(Music Box: Battle! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

Brendan thrust his arm out. “Alright, lets go, Bullet Seed!”

Twig leaped into the air, preparing to fire a barrage of bullets, and then…


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0HeBEm4V5rAquMOrbX3Jc7DIjHl9QvMyH5GB39Bnx41zOqWYikwIwKgtnwPQwRdMgRXDIC0UicntdJVpB6HKf37Wwljok_Ln5fxA1z02jDWjrzrVpMEwEOG9BmzKvewFDAKPKdnLkyBt0pCJRoFXcLg
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(Music Box: N/A)​

Twig crashed into the ground. This was it, he was defeated. Spirals in the eyes and everything. They hadn’t even managed to get past Roxanne’s first Pokemon.

“Twig is unable to battle!” The Gym Guide proclaimed. “The victory goes to Roxanne and Igneous!”

“What!” Brendan shouted. “No! How!”

He ran over to the unconscious Twig and cradled him in his arms. “Dammit, dammit, dammit.”

Mare walked over too him and tried to comfort him. “Hey, hey, its okay. Its fine. You can just try again.”

“You don’t get it, Mare!” Brendan wailed. “I lost my very first Gym Battle! Nobody loses their very first Gym Battle!”

“That’s actually not true.” Roxanne stated matter-of-factly. “A good 5% of people who challenge their first gym lose.”

“Great, I’m part of the least common denominator.” Brendan complained. “And not in a good way.”

“So, I believe that is the last Gym Battle of the day.” Roxanne stated. “If you want you can try again tomorrow. Turn that failing grade into a passing one.”

“A-actually…” A previously quiet Wally spoke up. “I-I’d like to battle you.”

Everyone looked at him in surprise. He shrunk away and hugged Kettei to his chest.

“I-if that’s okay with you.” He said quietly. “I-I know I’ll probably lose b-but watching Mare and Brendan battle inspired me.”

“Of course you can battle me.” Roxanne said. “And don’t sell yourself short, you might get top marks.”

“O-okay!” Wally said, trying his best to sound confident.

One quick Pokemon healing later and they were ready to begin the battle. This would be the final battle of the day. One last match against one last challenger.

“The battle between Gym Leader Roxanne and Wally the Challenger is about to begin!” The Gym Guide announced. “Each side will have the use of 2 Pokemon and the battle will be over when either trainer’s Pokemon are unable to continue! Only the Challenger may substitute Pokemon! Each side is only allowed one healing item! Only the Challenger may use revives!”

Roxanne called out Igneous one last time. Wally placed Kettei down on the ground.

“Do your best, okay.” He said to the Ralts. Kettei noised back at him.

“Battle Begin!” The Gym Guide declared.

Wally VS. Roxanne
(Music Box: Battle! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

“Igneous! Tackle!” Roxanne shouted.

Igneous dropped too the ground and began rolling towards Kettei at high speed. Wally panicked. He had never battled before. All he could think to do was shout the first thing that came to mind.

“Kettei! Use Teleport!” He shouted.

Kettei disappeared with a “Zhoop” noise and Igneous rolled right past where he’d once been. Kettei then reappeared behind Igneous like a scene out of an anime.

“M-Magical Leaf!” Wally shouted.

Kettei made a noise that, unfortunately, did not translate too “Nothing personal kid” (that meme would be anachronistic anyways) and summoned, well, Magical Leaves. The leaves bombarded Igneous like a storm of flechettes, KOing the poor Geodude in one shot.

“W-woah!” Wally breathed. “D-did we do that?”

“Very impressive.” Roxanne said, sounding proud. “A+. But the battle isn’t over yet.” She called back Igneous and tossed out Polaris.

Wally stretched out his hand with a newfound confidence. “Kettei! Magical Leaf!”

“Polaris! Harden!” Roxanne shouted.

Just like last time, Polaris shined and made a sound like stone moving. At the same time, Kettei fired off another storm of flechettes. Though they clearly did damage, it wasn’t nearly enough to KO Polaris.

“Rock Tomb!” Roxanne shouted.

“T-teleport!” Wally stuttered out.

The rocks went up and then they came down, but not a single one hit. Kettei teleported out of the way of each one, rapidly approaching Polaris as he did so. When he was right in front of Polaris he unleashed a move without being commanded. It was a single, long note that caused Pink energy to coalesce and slam into Polaris, knocking it backwards and knocking it out.

“Polaris is unable to battle!” The Gym Guide declared. “The victory goes to Wally and Kettei!”

(Music Box: Victory! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

“W-we did it!?” Wally shouted in stunned disbelief. He ran over to Kettei and scooped him up. “We did it!”

“Hell yeah! You did it!” Mare shouted, running up and smacking Wally on the back, accidentally sending him into a coughing fit. “Whoops, sorry, sometimes I don’t know my own strength.”

“I-it’s fine.” Wally stuttered between coughs.

Roxanne waited until Wally was finished coughing and then presented him with the Stone Badge. She ran through the same speech she’d given Mare and then handed it too him. Just like Mare, Wally was absolutely awestruck at the badge. The badge that he and Kettei had earned all on their own.

While this was all happening, Brendan remained on the sidelines trying to comprehend what had happened. He was happy for Wally, obviously, but he couldn’t figure out how somebody who had never battled in his life had beaten Roxanne but he hadn’t. It just didn’t make any sense.

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(Music Box: N/A)​

“I still don’t understand it.” Brendan said as they walked down the nighttime streets of Rustboro, the only light being that of the moon and the lamps that lined the street. “How did I lose?”

After the Gym Battle, the three kids had decided to go out to eat. Sure, they could eat for free at the Pokemon Center where they’d be staying but according to Wally, nothing beat some good old diner food. And he was right. Diner food was absolutely delicious. Admittedly, that could be because neither Mare nor Brendan had ever really gone out to eat before what with Brendan living in a small town and Mare’s bio father just straight up refusing to let her or her mom do so (jackass) so they didn’t really have a frame of reference for what qualified as good when it came to eating out. Regardless, now that their stomachs were stuffed (Mare in particular ate like a ravenous wolf, impressive considering her small size) they were headed back to the Pokemon Center where they would get a good night’s sleep before heading out to Route 116 in the morning.

“Maybe you’re just not cut out for this battling thing.” Mare suggested.

“No way, that can’t be it.” Brendan protested, making an x shape with his arms and then breaking it. “Pokemon training’s what I’m meant for. My dad didn’t teach me all those facts about Pokemon for nothing.”

“Look, I’m just saying, you’ve lost two of the three battles you’ve participated in and you can’t throw a Pokeball straight.” Mare explained. “Seems like a pretty clear sign to me.”

“I th-think that if Brendan w-wants to be a Pokemon Trainer than he should be.” Wally interjected. “I-It’s important to f-follow your dreams.” He coughed.

“Thank you, Wally.” Brendan said smugly.’

“Is this really your dream, dude?” Mare asked.

“Yeah, duh. I’m gonna be Champion and then I’ll get to boss you around.” Brendan said, placing his fists on his hips and smiling smugly. Mare couldn’t help but notice that he’d hesitated briefly before answering. “What about you, is this really your dream?”

It was Mare’s turn to hesitate. She regained her composure as quickly as she could. “Course this is my dream. I’m gonna be a girl champion. We need more girl champions.” She was painfully aware that she was just echoing what May had said to her but it was the only thing she could come up with.

“What about you, Wally?” Brendan asked, turning to the green haired boy. “What’s your dream?”

“M-my dream?” Wally echoed. “I… I don’t really know.” He grew quiet for a moment before snapping his fingers. “I guess you could say my dream is a work in progress. And that’s just fine cause I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.”

Mare and Brendan looked at eachother. Both of them knew that of the three of them, Wally was the only one to give an honest answer. But they couldn’t admit that, not out loud.

As the three of them walked, they passed by the Devon Corp Building and suddenly, Mare felt something. Just like with Okami she could sense a presence that she’d felt before. She wasn’t sure how she could but she could.

She held out her hands to stop the group. Brendan opened his mouth to say something but Mare placed a finger over her lips, silently shushing him. She pointed upwards, in the direction of the Devon Corp Building. They all followed the direction of her finger too see a shadowy figure of some sort entering the building through window.

“Who’s that?” Brendan whispered.

“A thief, I’ll bet.” Mare replied, also in a whisper.

“A-A thief?” Wally repeated, also also in a whisper. “Sh-should we call the p-police?”

“You can call the police.” Mare replied. “But I’m gonna go see what’s up.”

“What?” Brendan hissed. “Are you insane?”

“No more than you, Mr. ‘Jumps Into an In-Progress Assault.’” Mare shot back.

Brendan didn’t have a counterpoint to that, so he ignored it. “It’s the middle of the night, the doors are probably locked. How do you plan to get in?”

“Same way that they got in.” Mare replied, rolling up non-existent sleeves.

“Yep. Definitely insane.” Brendan deadpanned.

Mare dashed towards the building and leaped upwards, clinging onto the walls like a spider monkey. As if she did this all the time, she swiftly ascended the wall and reached the window, which the thief had conveniently left open.

She stepped through the window and into the room. It was dark and she could barely see, even if she squinted. And yet, she could feel the thief’s presence… right behind her? She ducked and something whooshed over her head, landing in front of her. She could just barely make out the silhouette of the figure that she had seen enter the building.

“Huh, wasn’t expecting to have competition.” The figure said.

Their voice sounded familiar but Mare couldn’t quite place it. Ah well, it didn’t matter, fight time! She leaped at the figure, aiming to punch them in the face. The figure dodgedd despite the fact that they should have had no way of seeing the attack coming.

“Wha- how!” Mare shouted.

The figure tapped the side of their head. “Night Vision goggles. Real handy.”

Mare aimed another punch at them, which they dodged. The figure kept talking.

“What I’m more interested in…” They continued, dodging another punch. “Is how you…” They dodged another punch. “Can see me!” They unleashed a kick right into Mare’s gut, knocking her backwards and, conveniently, into the light switch. The fluorescent lights overhead turned on with a loud k’chunk revealing that they were fighting in a laboratory of some sort.

Now that the lights were on, Mare could see who she was fighting. It was a girl wearing a red bodysuit, a red facemask with flight goggles, and a red cape. She had a stylized M on her chest and was holding a card of some sort. Likewise, the girl turned off her night vision and was finally able to see Mare in full color.

“You’re the girl from the forest!” They shouted simultaneously.

“I knew you felt familiar!” Mare added on.

Mare let out a shout of rage and charged the girl, punching her in the face and knocking her backwards into a table. As she fell, the card fell out of her hand. She rubbed her jaw.

“Damn, girly, you hit hard.” She said, sounding impressed.

“I’m about to hit a lot harder!” Mare shouted, going in for another punch. The girl dodged it, leaping onto the table.

“Really, Girly?” She asked. “But its only our second date. Don’t you wanna get to know me a bit first?”

Mare leaped onto the table and aimed a kick at the girl, which she dodged.

“Aw, you don’t?” The girl said in an exaggerated pouty voice. “Well, I’ll just tell you anyways!” She did a backflip to dodge another punch and then pointed to herself proudly. “I’m Blaise and I’m Team Magma’s best agent! So, you know, I’m kind of a big deal!”

“Don’t care, didn’t ask!” Mare growled, throwing two punches, both of which were dodged.

“What’s Team Magma, you ask?” Blaise continued, completely ignoring her. “We’re an organization dedicated to furthering the evolution of humanity.” She threw a punch at Mare which completely missed because of how short Mare was. “We’re running out of land, you know. So we gotta expand it. Hoenn’s just got too much water, you know.”

“Just stop talking!” Mare shouted, throwing another punch that was yet again dodged.

“You’re no fun, you know that.” Blaise pouted.

Mare responded by finally landing a punch too Blaise’s gut, causing her to double over. On instinct, Mare grabbed to pull on Blaise’s hair. However, since she was wearing a mask all Mare managed to do was pull the mask off. What she saw under the mask caused her to stop in her tracks.

Underneath Blaise’s mask was the face of a girl about her age. She had short black hair and piercing crimson eyes. She had scars, one across the bridge of her nose, another on her left cheek, and another over her left eye.

Mare wasn’t quite sure how to parse what she was feeling. Time seemed to slow down as Blaise lunged at her, grabbing her by the shirt and slamming her into the nearby wall, causing her to drop the mask. Mare didn’t even notice the pain, too busy staring into Blaise’s striking eyes. She felt her face flush. What was this feeling? Why was this feeling? Her head was all foggy and not because it had just been slammed into a wall.

Suddenly, four people burst through the door and Mare snapped back to reality. Both she and Blaise immediately looked in that direction. It was Brendan, Wally, an old man Mare didn’t recognize, and Officer Jenny.

“Freeze! Police!” Officer Jenny shouted, the Growlithe besides her, well, growling. “Hands in the air!”

“Sorry to cut our date short, Girly.” Blaise said. “But it looks like I’ve gotta go.”

She let go of Mare and did a 180 turn, hightailing it out of there and grabbing the mask as she did so. Officer Jenny and Mare immediately chased after her, Mare running on all fours. They weren’t fast enough, though, and she reached the window and leaped out of it before they could catch her. When they reached the window themselves she was already leaping across rooftops, too far for them to give chase.

“Fuck.” Mare swore.

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Blaise raced across the rooftops as fast as she could. How had this happened? It should have been easy. In and out. Where had that girl come from? And why couldn’t she get her out of her head?

Once she was sure she was not being followed, she dropped down into an alleyway. Because coolness overrides practicality, she landed in a superhero landing. She stood up and placed two fingers on her earpiece.

“Courts, it’s Blaise.” She said. “I know, I know, no nicknames on official comms. Anyways, I have bad news and good news.” There was a pause as Blaise listened to the voice on the other end. “The bad news is, the mission was a bust. You know those kids I told you about? The ones in the forest? Yeah, they were there.” Another pause. “Yeah, uh, there actually isn’t any good news. I lied.” She shrugged with one arm. “Sorry.” There was another pause. “Alright, got it, returning to base.”

She removed her fingers from her earpiece. She sighed and shook her head. This was the first time she had ever failed a mission. And it was all because of that girl. She’d definitely need to keep an eye on her.

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Author's Note: Finally, my favorite Girly appears! Its Zinnia! Yeah, I'm not gonna be all coy about it, Blaise is Zinnia. Sorry, Pokespe fans, no extra Magma Admin for you.

I hope you enjoyed an Acearo man's attempt at portraying a 12 year old girl's lesbian awakening. It got the stamp of approval from one of my Lesbian friends when I showed it to her so it should be pretty good.
 
That's right! Your favorite fic is back! And we still rock! Getting to write my favorite girly more is always exciting.

Before we start I gotta give some shout-outs cause there are two things mentioned in this chapter that were come up with by other people. First is the Oceanids, a concept created by my friend Specsthespectraldragon, the other is the Hoenn Royal Family, a concept created by my friend DarlingVirus. Remember those, they'll be important later.

Alright, that's enough pre-amble! Story time!

Tumblr Ask Blog: Tales from the Hellregion

Chapter 4
A Stone’s Throw Away

Following the incident, Officer Jenny questioned the three kids heavily. Of the three, she spent the most time questioning Mare, whose head was still a little foggy from seeing Blaise’s face. And also from being slammed into a wall. Officer Jenny had offered to help treat her bruises but Mare had refused, staunchly insisting that they’d heal on their own (and they did appear to be doing so at an unusually fast rate).

Once Officer Jenny was satisfied, the three were sent back to the Pokemon Center in hopes that they’d at least manage to get some rest in. Mare certainly did. The moment she got in the bed she’d be staying in she conked out. Unfortunately, while her body may have been resting her mind was not given the same luxury.

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Mare was once again on the rocky shore. The ground shook, the sea turned, fire rained from the sky, the world was in turmoil. Out at sea, Groudon and Kyogre clashed, causing all of this chaos.

Just like before, Rayquaza descended from the sky at high speeds and slammed into Groudon and Kyogre, creating a burst of light that blinded Mare. When Mare regained her sight, the skies were clear, the ocean was calm, and the quarreling Legendaries were turned to stone. Her arms and legs were covered in the glowing yellow markings of Rayquaza, which floated above her.

“You have met the enemy.” Rayquaza’s voice whispered in her head. “But you have also met an ally. The Daughter of Dragons, the Keeper of Lore, she will be a vital ally on your quest. And perhaps, something more.”

Unlike last time, Mare worked up the courage to speak. “What do you mean! What do you want! Why are you doing this to me!”

“Find the orbs. Protect the orbs.” Rayquaza said.

Suddenly, the ground fell away and Mare plummeted into the dark abyss. She fell and fell and fell. And then… she woke up.

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The next day, the three kids received a letter. It was from one Joseph Stone and it requested that the three came to meet him in his office in the Devon Corp Building. Not seeing any other options, they headed off to the building as soon as they finished breakfast.

Joseph Stone’s office took up the entire top floor of the building. By rich people standards, it was fairly modest. No garish gold foil or gemstones encrusting the floor. There were lots of display cases, though, each one containing a fossil or gemstone of some sort. Mr. Stone sat at his desk on the complete opposite end of the room from the stairs. By all accounts it wasn’t that far away but it was still an entire floor away.

“Well this is just pretentious.” Mare deadpanned, but her delivery was half-hearted. Like her head was somewhere else.

“Be nice.” Brendan whispered.

Thankfully, it seemed Mr. Stone hadn’t heard her. Once they reached him he seemed very happy to see them.

“Welcome, welcome!” He said, spreading his arms wide. “It's good to meet you! We didn’t really get a chance to meet last night!”

“A real tragedy.” Mare muttered.

She eyed the old man with mistrust. He seemed harmless enough but looks could be deceiving. Her father had had more than a few initially “harmless” friends who had turned out to be just as bad as him, not to mention that he himself had managed to project a facade to other adults that he was a perfectly stand up guy.

“I am Joseph Stone!” Mr. Stone declared. “CEO of the Devon Corporation! I’d like to thank you for stopping that break-in last night, as well as helping out some of my staff!”

“But we let the thief get away.” Mare protested.

“Yes, but because of you nothing was stolen!” Mr. Stone replied. “Given the keycard that was found at the scene of the crime, it's likely that she was after the special parts we were developing. We’ll have to move them to a new location ASAP. But that’s none of your concern.” He reached into his desk and took out two white bracelets embedded with shimmering rainbow stones. “As a reward for your brave actions I would like to present you with these bracelets. Unfortunately, I only had two so you will have to decide amongst yourself which of you will have them.”

“That’s it?” Mare asked.

Brendan held up a hand to indicate she should stop speaking. “Thank you, Mr. Stone. These are very generous gifts.”

“So which of us gets the bracelets, then?” Mare asked her companions.

“Y-you two can have them.” Wally said. “I-I don’t n-need a reward.”

“Are you sure?” Brendan asked.

“I-I didn’t really h-help out.” Wally replied. “S-So th-there’s no point in giving me a reward.”

Normally, Mare would have pointed out that by that logic Brendan shouldn’t receive a reward either, seeing as he didn’t help either, but she decided against it.

“Guess it's settled then.” Brendan said, sliding one of the bracelets onto his wrist. Likewise, Mare took the remaining bracelet, keeping her eyes on Mr. Stone the whole time.

“So, is that it?” Brendan asked.

“No, there’s one more thing.” Mr. Stone said. He dug something else out of his desk, a letter. “I want you to go to Dewford Town and deliver this letter to a man named Steven. My good friend Mr. Briney should be able to take you there.”

“Steven Stone!” Brendan shouted, awe filling his voice. “You want us, to deliver a letter, to Steven Stone!”

“Who’s Steven Stone?” Mare asked, confused.

“Who’s Steven Stone!?” Brendan echoed, incredulous. “Only the Hoenn Champion!”

“Oh.” Mare said. A moment later, full comprehension dawned on her face. “Oooooh. That’s the guy we have to beat to be Champion.”

“Exactly!” Brendan said, giddy. “And we get to meet him!”

“I take your excitement to mean you’re accepting the task?” Mr. Stone asked.

“Hell yeah we are!” Brendan shouted, pumping his fist in the air.

“A-actually I can’t.” Wally interrupted.

“Huh? Why not?” Brendan asked.

“B-Because I h-have to get to Verdanturf.” Wally explained. “I-I promised my Aunt and Uncle that I’d only take a few days t-to get there. I-If I t-take a detour like this, they’ll get worried.”

“That makes sense.” Brendan said. “Guess we’ll be parting ways, then.”

“Aw man, do you really have to go?” Mare asked.

“Y-Yeah, sorry.” Wally said, looking down.

“Hey, no need to apologize.” Brendan said. “You gotta do what you gotta do. No need to worry your Aunt and Uncle.”

“If you’re heading to Verdanturf, you’ll want to take the newly complete Rusturf Tunnel at the end of Route 116.” Mr. Stone advised.

“Th-thank you.” Wally replied.

Brendan turned back to Devon Corp’s CEO. “Anything else, Mr. Stone?”

“No, you’re free to go.” Mr. Stone replied. “Good luck and safe travels.”

The three turned around and headed back to the stairs on the other side of the room. As they left, Brendan once again pumped his fist in the air.

“Hell yeah! We’re gonna meet a Champion!”

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As soon as they left the Devon Corp Building they were off to Dewford. Well, almost as soon as they left. They had to make a quick stop at the Pokemon Center to grab their things and say goodbye to Wally (making sure he had their Match Call Plus numbers so he could call them any time). Then, it was off to the docks to meet Mr. Briney and head out to the open sea.

Mare loved the open sea. Goldenrod City where she was from was a seaside town and the smell of salt on the sea breeze was the only good part of living there. The wind blowing in her hair, the spray of salt, she loved it.

Brendan, on the other hand, did not like it. Littleroot was also a seaside town but his house was the farthest from the docks it could possibly be. Compound that with his tendency for sea sickness and the fact that the moment they got out on the sea he was slapped in the face by a Magikarp and he was doing pretty not great.

There was something other than the sea breeze on Mare’s mind, though. Brendan could sense it. It wasn’t quite the same as Mare’s odd sixth sense, more based on observations than simply knowing. Being her cousin also helped.

Mare stood at the edge of the deck, staring aimlessly off into the distance. She leaned on the railing with both arms, laying her head down. There was an alarming lack of hostility coming from her. Brendan approached her from the center of the deck.

“Alright, what’s going on?” Brendan asked passive-aggressively. He may have been concerned for his cousin but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to give her a hard time.

Mare glanced back at him without lifting her head. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been acting all wishy-washy ever since last night.” Brendan explained. “You’ve barely made any snarky comments. You didn’t even fight back with me when I tried to keep things civil.”

“You saying there’s something wrong with me?” Mare snarled. But there was barely any bite to it.

“Yes, I’m always saying that.” Brendan deadpanned. He rubbed his chin. “But it's a different type of wrong than usual. Normally you’d have tried to punch me by now but you haven’t even lifted your head off the railing.”

Mare took a deep breath in and let out a huge sigh. “Okay, fine. But you can’t tell anyone.”

“Who would I tell?” Brendan snarked. “The old man?” He pointed at Mr. Briney, who was driving the boat.

“Alright. Promise not to laugh.” Mare said.

“No promises.” Brendan replied.

Mare rolled her eyes and muttered. “Should have seen that coming.” She took another deep breath. “You remember the girl from last night? The thief?”

“No, I’ve managed to completely forget.” Brendan deadpanned. Mare ignored him.

“I just can’t stop thinking about her.” Mare said. “Her hair framing her face perfectly, her crimson eyes like pools of blood, the cute little scar across her nose. She just won’t leave my brain. And every time I think about her, my mind gets all foggy and I can’t think straight.” Mare groaned and banged her head against the railing. “I don’t get it. Why? I’ve never felt this way about anyone! It makes no sense! I mean, she tried to kill me, shouldn’t I hate her?”

Brendan sighed and gave her a pat on the back… and then a whack on the head.

“Ow! What was that for!” Mare shouted.

“A little bit of revenge.” Brendan replied. “And also a reality check. You've got a crush, dummy!”

“A huh?” Mare asked, taken aback.

“I've seen it a million times.” Brendan explained. “Some idiot sees someone they think looks kind of nice and then suddenly they can't stop thinking about em. Don't worry, it's only temporary. I’m sure you’ll be back to normal in a day or two.”

“Wha- but I thought crushes were a guy-girl thing?” Mare said, shocked and confused. “Can a girl like another girl? Is that a thing?”

Brendan shrugged. “Dunno. I’ve never seen it before. It could be possible. Or you’re just close enough to a guy for it to count.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mare snarled, finally whirling around.

“There she is.” Brendan said cheerily. “The cousin I know and hate.”

Mare was about to retort when Mr. Briney interrupted them. “We’re coming up on Dewford Town! Land ho!”

Brendan ran straight to the railing, pushing Mare aside. The shore of Dewford Island could be seen up ahead. Dotting it were the outlines of various buildings including the very recognizable outlines of a gym and a Pokemon Center.

“We’re here!” Brendan shouted. “Woohoo!”

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Dewford was a quaint little town. Closer to Oldale than Petalburg size-wise but still fairly large. Mare liked it, it was kinda like a smaller version of the Goldenrod pier. It did feel kinda wrong without the horns of the big boats or the sound of working seamen but other than that it was nice.

As they walked through the city, Brendan jittered around and blabbering excitedly. “This is so exciting! Aren’t you excited, Mare! We’re gonna meet Steven Stone! Wait, but what if he thinks we’re losers? What if he thinks I suck cause I lost to Roxanne? Maybe we should stop by the gym first and get a badge! Maybe-”

Mare dope slapped him. “Chill. It’s gonna be fine.” She looked around, craning her neck to see as much of the town as she could. “Where is this Steven guy, anyways?”

“Can’t you, like, sense where he is or whatever?” Brendan asked, rubbing his head. “You know, with that weird sixth sense thing you’ve got going on? Like how you could tell where that Poochyena was or the thief?”

“It doesn’t work like that.” Mare protested.

“How does it work, then?” Brendan countered.

“I dunno!” Mare replied. “It just works!”

“Guess we’ll do this the old fashioned way, then.” Brendan declared. “Let’s ask around.”

And so they did. Mare got no results, as expected for someone as lacking in tact as her, but Brendan easily found somebody willing to point them in Steven’s direction. The town was kind of abuzz about the Champion of Hoenn visiting them and were glad to gossip about it and spread rumors to anybody who asked politely.

Apparently, Steven was in Granite Cave, the second most notable thing about the Island after the gym (third if you counted the great surf spots). It was supposedly famous for its cave art, painted by a seafaring people called the Oceanids thousands of years ago. Brendan and Mare, being 12, didn’t entirely get why this was so cool but rest assured this was really cool.

Now, the logical thing to do would probably be to wait for Steven to leave the cave. Maybe take on the Gym and take in the sights while waiting. Be productive, you know? But instead they went straight to Granite Cave and immediately got lost.

“This is dumb.” Mare groaned as the two trudged through the maze of painted tunnels, Brendan taking the lead. “Why did we even agree to take this dumb letter to this dumb guy in the first place.”

“We had to come to Dewford for the Gym Challenge anyways.” Brendan pointed out. “Plus, he’s not just “some dumb guy,” he’s Steven Stone!”

“Hurray. Great.” Mare said, waving around the flashlight she was holding sarcastically. “That’s totally worth getting lost and dying in a cave!”

“Stop being overdramatic.” Brendan chided. “We’re not gonna die.”

“I will if I have to keep listening to you.” Mare replied. “Besides, this place is creepy. I swear, I can sense somebody watching us.”

“Now you’re just being paranoid.” Brendan said.

“Doubt it.” Mare said. “My senses have never been wrong before.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” Brendan replied. Unfortunately, while talking to Mare, Brendan neglected to look where he was going and promptly bumped into something. “Ow, what the-”

The words died in his throat as he turned to see that what he’d bumped into was, in fact, a large Rhydon. One that was not pleased at being bumped into by an idiotic 11 year old.

“H-Hello, there.” Brendan stuttered, taking a few steps back. “S-Sorry for b-bumping into you. P-please don’t kill me.”

The Rhydon roared and charged Brendan. Thankfully, before the boy could get hit, Mare grabbed him and pulled him out of the way with almost superhuman speed. The Rhydon slammed into the cave wall and while it tried to reorient itself, Mare dragged Brendan behind a large rock.

“Still think we’re not gonna die in here?” She quipped.

“Hah hah, laugh it up.” Brendan said, scowling. “What the hell are we supposed to do!”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Mare asked, adrenaline pumping. “We fight!”

“Are you insane!?” Brendan shouted. “Wait, no, why am I asking that, the answer is yes! You are insane! Our Pokemon can’t handle an opponent that high level!”

“Who said anything about our Pokemon?” Mare said, once again rolling up non-existent sleeves.

Brendan watched in horror as she leaped out from behind the boulder and let out a battle cry, charging right at the Rhydon who didn’t seem sure how to react. Small things usually ran away from it, not towards it. It especially wasn’t sure how to react when she punched it in the gut as hard as she could, actually managing to cause it to stumble backwards.

The Rhydon raised its arm to bring it down upon the small girl but she leaped backwards to dodge it. She responded by kicking the Pokemon in the face, something that really should have broken her foot all things considered. The Pokemon promptly responded by swiping at her, managing to smack her away and send her flying backwards. Despite the fact that this should have broken several bones, Mare managed to stick a three point landing with only minimal bruising and some scratches from sliding along the rough cave floor.

She sprung up and slammed her fist into her palm. Despite her bruises and scrapes, she actually felt a bit stronger. A bit more energized. Mare let out a scream of rage and charged the Rhydon, who charged right back. Right before they could collide, though, a man’s voice called out.

“Painite! Reflect!”

A rectangle of yellow light appeared between Mare and the Rhydon and they both slammed into it. The Rhydon stumbled backwards while Mare fell onto her butt.

“Now! Hammer Arm!”

A silver and gold Metagross leaped into the fray, one of its legs glowing silver. It bellowed metallically and then slammed its leg into the Rhydon, knocking it backwards.The Rhydon stumbled around for a few moments and then fell on its face, fainted.

A tall, thin man stepped into Mare’s view and extended his hand to her. He wore practical orange and brown hiking clothes and a heavy looking hiking bag. His well kept hair was silvery blue and his eyes, which sported some rather heavy eyebags, were the same color.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“I’m fine.” Mare grumbled, batting his hand away and standing up on her own.

“Ah, I see.” The man said, shifting awkwardly. “Are you sure? You took quite the hit-”

“I’m fine.” Mare snapped. “Who the hell are you, anyways?”

The man seemed a bit taken aback by Mare’s aggressiveness, which was fair. “Well, um, my name is-”

“You’re Steven Stone!” Brendan interrupted, leaping out from behind the rock and running over to them, spooking the poor man and annoying Mare. “Hoenn Champion!"

The man cleared his throat and stood up straighter. “Yes, that’s correct, my name is Steven Stone, Champion of the Hoenn region, and this is my partner, Painite. Wonderful to make your acquaintance.” The way he spoke seemed almost rehearsed, like this was something he’d spent years practicing.

“This guy’s the Champion?” Mare asked, befuddled.

She couldn’t help but squint at the man. He didn’t look like any Champion she’d ever seen (do note, the only Champion she’d ever seen was Lance). Where was the cape? The fancy clothes? The confident “I can’t lose” look in his eye? The improbable hair? This guy was just wearing ordinary, if rather expensive looking, hiking clothes and the look in his eyes wasn’t one of confidence but instead the look of someone who desperately needed sleep.

“What!” Brendan shouted. “Of course he’s the Champion! He’s the strongest trainer in the whole region! Just look at his Metagross!” He gestured aggressively at the uniquely colored Pokemon.

“You’re kidding, right?” Mare asked. “This guy can’t be the Champion. He’s so ordinary. I mean, sure his hair’s pretty nice but come on!”

Unnoticed by either party, a small snicker escaped Steven’s throat.

“Wha- Show some respect!” Brendan shouted, taken aback. “This is the most powerful trainer in the region!”

At this point, Steven burst out laughing. He stumbled backwards, having to lean on his Metagross to support himself. Brendan was befuddled.

“Mr. Stone?” He asked. “Are you okay?”
Steven took a few deep breaths before answering. “Yes, yes, I’m quite fine. I’ve just never been called ordinary before. It’s very refreshing.” He studied Mare and stroked his chin. “You certainly are a strange little girl, Mare.” Mare growled at him but he didn’t seem to notice. “You were fighting a Rhydon all on your own with no Pokemon, what prompted you to do such a reckless thing?”

“We accidentally bumped into it and it thought we were attacking.” Mare explained, looking at the fallen Pokemon. Now that the adrenaline was beginning to wear off and the Rhydon was no longer attacking her it was beginning to look less like an opponent and more like just a Pokemon. “I feel kinda bad for attacking it, now. It was just defending its home.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll give it some potions and it’ll be right as rain in no time.” Steven replied. “We should also get you some treatment too.” He reached out to touch one of the cuts on Mare’s arm and the young girl instinctively flinched away.

“I’m fine.” She snapped, taking up a defensive posture. “They’ll heal on their own.”

“A-are you sure?” Steven said, pulling his hand back quickly.

“Yes.” Mare insisted, hugging herself and glaring daggers at Steven.

“But-” Steven began, clearly still concerned.

“Champion Steven, sir.” Brendan interrupted. “She’s not going to budge on this.”

“I see.” Steven said, unable to keep the obvious worry about the girl from showing on his face. “What are your names?”

“Brendan Birch, at your service!” Brendan said, giving an exaggerated bow. He gestured at Mare. “And this is my cousin, Marie!”

“It’s Mare!” Mare spat, glaring daggers at Brendan. “Mare Birch. Nobody calls me Marie.”

“Birch?” Steven echoed, rummaging through his bag for something. “Like the Professor from Littleroot?”

“Yep!” Brendan said, placing his fists proudly on his hips. “He’s my dad!”

“What a coincidence, Professor Birch is a good friend of mine.” Steven said. He pulled a Max Revive out of his bag, knelt down, and popped it into the Rhydon’s mouth.

“Impossible.” Brendan said. “My dad doesn’t have any cool friends.”

“You’d be surprised.” Steven said, standing up and chuckling. “Brendan, Mare, would you two mind if I show you something? I don’t know why but I feel like you might have some valuable insight into it.”

“Sure!” Brendan said excitedly.

Steven recalled Painite walked off and Brendan bounded after him. Mare briefly considered staying where she was and not following them but quickly decided against it after she noticed the Rhydon begin to stir.

Steven led them down further into the cave. Quite literally down since the floor began to slope as they walked. Eventually, they arrived in an isolated room with only one entrance (and by extension only one exit). Mare couldn’t help thinking that it was the perfect place to commit murder and not have anyone find the body.

Like the rest of the cave, the room was covered in paintings but the centerpiece was an absolutely massive mural that covered an entire wall. It depicted two Pokemon, a massive wale and a titanic lizard. The two appeared to be in conflict, throwing the surrounding sea into chaos. All around them meteors fell and volcanoes erupted. Mare recognized the scene immediately and was just barely able to keep her mouth from falling open.

“This mural depicts a primal world lost thousands of years in the past.” Steven explained, spreading his arms wide. “A titanic clash between two powerful Legendary Pokemon, Primal Kyogre and Primal Groudon. The Super-Ancient Pokemon were able to access power unlike any seen on this planet and their battle came close to ending the world.” He turned around to face his two companions. “Tell me, what do you feel, gazing upon this mural?”

“Well… it’s kind of… awe inspiring.” Brendan volunteered lamely, rubbing his chin. “My mom used to tell me stories about Kyogre and Groudon. It’s hard to imagine Pokemon that powerful.”

“I’ve seen them.” Mare said quietly.

“What?” Steven and Brendan asked, taken aback.

“I’ve seen them.” Mare said louder, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck begin to stand up. The presence she had felt earlier intensified. “In my dreams. Kyogre and Groudon, fighting. Throwing the world into chaos. But they were stopped. Turned to stone by a third Pokemon, Rayquaza.”

“I see.” Steven said, rubbing his chin. “So you’ve been dreaming of the Super-Ancient Legendary Pokemon.”

“I didn’t know they were Legendary Pokemon.” Mare replied. “I thought my brain had made them up.”

“What?” Steven asked, eyes widening in surprise. “You mean to tell me that you’d never heard of the Super-Ancient Pokemon before you started dreaming about them?”

Mare shook her head in confirmation.

“Fascinating.” Steven said. He kept a calm face but Mare couldn’t help but feel like he was about to begin jittering around like a kid who had one juice box too many. “Do you think this means you have some sort of connection to them?”

“I don’t know and I honestly don’t care.” Mare replied, crossing her arms. She glanced at Brendan. “Weren’t we here for a reason?”

“Oh, right!” Brendan shouted, sticking his finger in the air. He unslung his bag from his shoulder and dug through it, pulling out the letter Mr. Stone had given them. “Champion Steven, sir, Mr. Stone from the Devon Corporation told us to give you this letter.”

Steven’s face visibly fell, going from a cheerful smile to a more neutral expression, bordering on a disappointed frown. “Ah, so you were sent here by my father. I was wondering where you had gotten those Mega Bracelets from.”

“Mega Bracelets?” Brendan echoed.

Steven didn’t respond. Instead, he took the letter from Brendan and opened it, taking great care not to tear the envelope in any way. Once the letter was free from its paper prison he read it over, brow furrowing as he did so. Finally, he folded the letter back up, returned it to the envelope, and slid it into one of his pockets.

“Thank you for delivering this to me.” He said neutrally. “It seems my father desires for me to return home. I suppose I have been down here for quite a while.” He did his best to put a smile back on. “How about I treat you two to dinner as a little reward for going through all the trouble to deliver that letter to me?”

Brendan’s eyes lit up at this proposal. “Oh hell yeah!”

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Dinner with Steven was fairly uneventful. He tried to squeeze a few more details out of Mare in regards to her dreams but backed off pretty immediately when she refused to budge. In general he seemed to take a shine to her despite, or maybe because of, the cold irreverence she treated him with.

Brendan, meanwhile, pestered Steven with questions about being Champion and his battling career. The young heir did his best to answer them with a good natured smile but clearly wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the subject.

Eventually the time came for them to part ways. Steven left for the hotel he was staying at while Mare and Brendan headed for the Pokemon Center. Well, Mare headed for the Pokemon Center. Brendan headed for the Gym. There was still an hour left before it closed and Brendan, galvanized by meeting one of his heroes, was determined to get a battle in. Mare, meanwhile, was exhausted from being lost in a cave for god knows how long and refused to battle a gym at 11:00 PM so she headed back to the Pokemon Center in hopes of getting a peaceful sleep.

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She did not get a peaceful sleep. Once again she dreamed of a rocky shore. Once again she dreamed of two clashing Legendaries. Once again she dreamed of a world thrown into chaos. And once again she dreamed of Rayquaza bringing calm to the world.

As the Guardian of the Sky floated impassively before her, all Mare could feel was anger. Why? Why was it doing this to her? Why did it keep showing up in her dreams?

“Leave me alone!” She shouted. “Get out of my head!”

Rayquaza, as expected, did neither of these things. Instead, it once again got further into her head, speaking to her telepathically within the dream it was telepathically sending her (telepathception, if you will). Though, oddly, it didn’t give her the usual spiel about orbs.

“Time to wake up, Girly!”

And with that, the dream world around her shattered and she returned to consciousness.

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Mare awoke to see a familiar face standing over her: Blaise the Magma Agent. Though she wasn’t wearing her uniform. Gone was the all red bodysuit, the gloves and boots, the bright red cape, and especially the facemask. Instead she was wearing a sleeveless black top with red crescent markings, brown shorts, sandals, and (most notably) a tattered cape embellished with dragon scales and what appeared to be a deep hood. The only remnants of her Magma Agent guise were a pair of goggles around her neck and even those were different, having clear lenses and bronze colored frames.

“Thank the Guardian you’re awake.” She said, grinning with one hand on her hip. “I was worried I’d have to slap you awake which, as funny as that would be, probably wouldn’t have ended well. For me or you.”

Mare blinked a few times, her exhausted ADHD brain trying to puzzle out what was going on. The girl she maybe, possibly had a crush on was in her room at the Pokemon Center. She was wearing a different outfit which somehow managed to make her more attractive. Mare could feel her face glowing red which was highly embarrassing.

With her brain foggy, Mare did the only thing that came naturally: she attacked. She leaped out of bed, revealing she was wearing a Lucario onesie, and tried to tackle Blaise. Blaise easily dodged out of the way and the only thing Mare managed to tackle was the wall.

“Woah, hey, calm down, Girly.” Blaise said, holding her hands up in front of her. “I’m not here to fight.”

Mare blinked in confusion. “Y-you’re not?”

“I just wanna talk.” Blaise said.

“I don’t like talking.” Mare pouted.

“Hey, don’t look so down. Maybe we can fight later.” Blaise said, heading towards the window which Mare was only just now realizing was open. She sat down on it and beckoned to Mare. “Come watch the stars with me, Girly. It’ll be fun.” With that, she slipped out the window.

Against her better judgment, Mare followed her. The night sky was clear and bright, filled with thousands of twinkling stars. The smell of the ocean permeated the air and the sound of the gentle waves lapping the shore was soothing. Mare’s room was directly in front of the Center’s canopy, providing a perfect place to sit and watch the stars. Blaise was doing just that, staring up at the clear night sky, mesmerized. Mare sat down next to her, once again against her better judgment.

“I love watching the stars.” Blaise said wistfully. “Reminds me of when I was a kid. Back before-” She waved a hand dismissively. “Well, you don’t need to hear about all that. Too depressing.” She clapped her hands together. “So, I have a few confessions to make. I might have lied to you a teeeeensy bit.” She held up one hand and squeezed her fingers really close together. “My name’s not actually Blaise and I’m not actually a Magma Agent. Well, I am a Magma Agent but, like, that’s just a cover. Anyways, my real name is Zinnia and I am a Draconid Lorekeeper.” She stood up and put her hands proudly on her hips. “Try not to look too impressed.”

Mare just stared at her blankly. She registered about half of this information, the other half was kinda just words to her. Zinnia looked disappointed.

“Ah, what. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the Draconids or Lorekeepers before.” She said. Mare continued to stare blankly. “Well, don’t worry your pretty little head, your good friend Zinnia is here to fill you in.” She tapped Mare lightly on the head and grinned, showing off a set of sharp fangs. Mare hissed in response. “The Draconids are a tribe of people who excel at training Dragon Type Pokemon. We’ve lived in the Hoenn region longer than anyone can remember. We even predate the Monarchy so that’s fun.”

“Hoenn has a Monarchy?” Mare asked, perplexed.

“Well not anymore.” Zinnia said, shrugging. “But the Royal Family’s still around. Real stuck up lot. Still think the whole “royal bloodline” thing means something.” She waved her hand dismissively. “But that’s not important. Back on topic! The Draconids worship Rayquaza or Lord Rayquaza or the Guardian or the Dragon Lord or any number of other names for it. And the Lorekeeper’s job, that is to say, my job is to memorize and pass on all the stories and legends about Rayquaza and other things too. But mostly about Lord Rayquaza.” She shook her head. “But enough about me, I wanna know about you, Mare Birch.” She pointed aggressively at Mare. “I wanna know what makes you tick, what your hopes and dreams are, and why you always wear that silly ribbon.” To emphasize that last point she flicked Mare’s ribbon with one finger.

“Don’t diss the ribbon!” Mare snarled, clenching her fists. Zinnia ignored her.

“But most importantly, I want to hear about these dreams you’ve been having.” She said, steepling her fingers.

“How did you know about those?” Mare asked, taken aback.

“Isn’t it obvious.” Zinnia replied, shaking her head. “I was there in that cave, spying on you.” She said that like it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

“I knew I felt a presence.” Mare said, slamming her fist into her hands. “I knew it. Also that’s weird and creepy.”

Zinnia laid down on her stomach. She rested her elbows on the ground and her chin on her hands. “So, tell me about yourself.”

Mare stared at the sky for a bit, considering. This was a complete stranger. Granted, she was a cute complete stranger but still a complete stranger. And on top of that, she’d lied to her. Did she really want to tell this girl anything about herself?

“No.” She decided.

“Oh come on, Girly.” Zinnia said, sitting up and attempting to pat Mare on the back. “You can trust me.”

Mare slapped Zinnia’s hand away and snarled. “Don’t touch me.”

Zinnia held her hands up in surrender. “Okay, fair enough.”

“Why do you wanna know about my dreams, anyways.” Mare asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

“Weeeeelllllll, I’ve kinda been having dreams of my own.” Zinnia explained. She held up a finger and tilted it slightly. “Dreams about Lord Rayquaza and Groudon and Kyogre.”

“So, what?” Mare asked skeptically. “Just because we’ve been dreaming about the same Pokemon you think we’re connected or something?”

“Well, I was originally gonna pass it off as a coincidence, not like people don’t dream about Lord Rayquaza all the time, but then you said you’d never heard of the Legendary Pokemon before moving here.” Zinnia explained. “Plus, I just have a feeling about you. Something tells me you’re important.”

Mare snorted bitterly. “Me? Important? You’ve really gotta cut back on the lies. I’m just a stupid girl who doesn’t do anything but waste other people’s time and space.”

Zinnia seemed kind of taken aback by this. She clearly hadn’t been expecting Mare to make such a self-loathing comment.

“Well, there’s only one way to know for sure.” She said, apparently deciding to power on. “You’ve gotta tell me about your dreams.”

Mare sighed. “Fine. But only so you’ll stop asking. Ever since I got to this stupid region I’ve been having the same dream. Two massive Pokemon fighting, not caring that in doing so they were throwing the world around them into chaos. It makes me feel kinda small thinking about it.”

“I mean, you are kinda small.” Zinnia pointed out playfully.

“You sure you’re not here to fight?” Mare asked, clenching her fists even tighter than before.

“Nah, I’m good.” Zinnia replied, flipping her hand dismissively. “Go on.”

Mare growled but continued. “Groudon and Kyogre fight.” She mashed her hands together to represent this. “And then the storm clouds part and Rayquaza comes down and stops them.” She spread her hands apart like an explosion. “And, like, it also shields me and gives me it's weird markings. Like, all the circles and stuff.” She traced a circle on her arm.”

“Does it say anything in your mind?” Zinnia asked, fully engrossed.

“Yeah, actually.” Mare replied. “It keeps telling me to “Find the Orbs” whatever that means. Also, it said that the “Daughter of Dragons” would be my ally.”

Zinnia slammed her fist into her palm like a gavel. “I knew it! I’ve been having the same dream and Lord Rayquaza’s been telling me the same thing.” She rubbed her chin. “Though, I didn’t get any markings. Probably nothing. And it didn’t talk about the Daughter of Dragons, probably cause it means me.” Zinnia stood up and pointed at Mare. “I’ve got good news for you, Girly! You’re important! You’re gonna be a big help on my quest!”

“I doubt it.” Mare replied. “Rayquaza probably got the wrong person or whatever. Probably meant to get that Steven guy or whatever.”

Zinnia snorted. “That Rich Kid? No way. He’s just a spoiled nepo baby. That Champion title of his isn’t worth much anyways. Important lesson, Girly, just cause someone has a sparkling title doesn’t mean they can’t be beat.”

“Not a fan, huh?” Mare asked.

“Nope.” Zinnia said proudly. “But we’re getting off topic. Let’s stop talking about Mr. Rich Kid and get back to you. Even if you don’t believe it, you are important. Lord Rayquaza didn’t tell me about a Daughter of Dragons but it did tell me about an Acolyte of Aura! I bet that’s you!”

Mare wasn’t sure what the heck an “Acolyte of Aura” was but she decided not to question it. “Alright, fine.” She said. “Let’s say I believe you and I am important. What’s this big quest you’re on that I’m supposed to help with or whatever?”

Zinnia rubbed her hands together. “Ahahahaha. I’m glad you asked. I love a good exposition dump. Get ready cause I’m about to learn you a thing.” She placed one hand proudly upon her chest. “I am what is known as a Chosen. The Chosen of Lord Rayquaza, to be specific. That means that it's my duty to carry out its will on this earth while it’s up in the sky protecting us from threats like meteors. As one of Lord Rayquaza’s duties is to put an end to Groudon and Kyogre’s feud by sealing them away, as you saw in your dream, it is the duty of its Chosen to attempt to stop this before it happens. You know, make the Guardian’s job a little easier.”

“But why can’t it do it itself?” Mare asked. “It’s a giant dragon snake thing, surely it’s more than enough to protect some orbs or whatever.”

“The Guardian is not omniscient.” Zinnia explained. “It can sense when Groudon and Kyogre are stirring but it cannot see what pawns they will use to escape.”

“Pawns?” Mare asked.

“You’ve already met them.” Zinnia replied. “You probably remember our good friends Team Aqua and Team Magma.”

“You mean those jerks you work for?” Mare asked, scowling.

“Those jerks I’m pretending to work for.” Zinnia corrected. “And yes, them. I’ve deduced that their leaders, Archie and Maxie, are the Chosens of Kyogre and Groudon respectively. Side fun fact, their full names are Archibald Aogiri and Maximillion Matsubusa but that’s not really important. Point is, Maxie’s goal is to expand the land so humanity can have more room to grow while Archie’s goal is to reset the world to a primal state with humanity gone and Pokemon at the forefront. They’ve both somehow convinced themselves that they can do this by releasing and controlling Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre respectively which is, you know, kinda bad for the world in general because they will definitely not be able to do so. Just like us, they also want to track down the orbs but not to protect them. Instead they’re gonna use them to unleash and “control” the Super-Ancient Legendaries.”

“Ohhhh. So that’s why you’re pretending to work for Magma.” Mare said, slightly annoyed at the use of “us” instead of “me.” She hadn’t agreed to this. “So you can steal the orbs right out from under them.”

Zinnia snapped her fingers. “Got it in one. You’re smarter than you look, Girly.”

Mare growled.

“Aww, you’re so cute when you’re angry.” Zinnia said teasingly. Mare turned away to hide her blushing face.

“W-why do you need them anyways?” Mare asked, trying and failing to keep a straight face. “Shouldn’t you know where the Orbs are with your Lorekeeper-y knowledge or whatever?”

“Ah, yeah, that’s unfortunately the one thing not in the legends.” Zinnia explained. “The previous Chosen of Rayquaza, Sir Aaron, didn’t want anyone finding the location of the Orbs for, you know, obvious reasons so he never told anyone. It’s a secret he took to his grave.”

Mare nodded. That made sense to her. But it left her with only one question.

“Okay, so, again, let’s say I believe you.” Mare said, putting her hands together and pointing them forward. “Let’s say I really am this super important “Acolyte of Aura” or whatever. What am I supposed to do? I don’t know where the Orbs are. And I’m not really good for anything except fighting. Am I supposed to beat up the Legendaries or something?”

Zinnia thought for a moment and then shrugged. “Dunno. Guess for now you just keep going on your Journey. Achieve your dream of being the very best like no one ever was or whatever it is you want to do.” She grinned a fanged grin. “I’m sure it’ll become clear soon. Destiny and fate’ll work things out.”

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Zinnia’s hood began to move and out peeked a small purple Pokemon with long ears and a worried expression. Mare recognized this Pokemon as a Whismur from the guidebook her mom had gotten her. Zinnia reached behind her and took the Whismur out of her hood, holding it like a baby.

“Oh, hi Aster.” She cooed. “Did I wake you up with all my blabbering? So sorry, sweetie. I’ll try to infodump quieter next time.”

The Whismur made a cute little noise that to Mare’s ears was clearly an attempt to say “Mum,” though it was a bit garbled and slurred. This was obviously a very young Pokemon which probably explained why Zinnia was cooing over it like a mother over her child.

“You’re right, you’re right.” Zinnia said to it. “We should probably get going.” She booped it on what was probably its nose. “You’re such a spoiled girl, you know that.”

She returned the Whismur to her hood and gave Mare a wave and a grin. “Well, looks like I gotta skedaddle. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll meet again. You’ve got such a cute face it would be a shame if I never got to see it again.” Mare once again turned away to hide her blush. Zinnia looked back at Aster. “Hold on tight, sweetie.”

The Lorekeeper dashed to the edge of the canopy. She did a half turn and gave Mare a little wink, causing the poor girl to blush harder, before leaping off, landing perfectly on her feet. As soon as she hit the ground, she immediately disappeared into the shadows, rendering her practically invisible.

Mare sat out on the canopy for the rest of the night and stared up at the stars, ruminating on what Zinnia had told her. The flirting passed in and out of her mind but what she really focused on was Zinnia’s insistence she was important. She just couldn’t wrap her head around it. Nobody had ever told her she was important before. Quite the opposite actually. Her entire life everybody from teachers to school bullies to her damnable monster of a biological father had told her that she was a worthless waste of space who never should have been born.

Her mother had often told her she was special and she knew she meant it in a good way but she had a hard time seeing it that way. Everybody else used “special” as a polite code word for wrong. For broken. For bad. For Mare, being special meant she was bad. She was nothing more than a waste of space and everyone would probably be better off if she’d just never existed.

Mare shook her head. Her? Important? This had to be one of Zinnia’s jokes or lies. Maybe it was some psychological trick. Build up her confidence and trust only to stab her in the back, probably literally, and smash it back down. Yeah, that was it. That was the only reason anybody would ever say she was important. The only reason.

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The next morning, Mare was not okay. After a night of reflection she was deep in self-loathing mode, which projected outward and resulted in her being generally unpleasant to be around. Basically, imagine her usual “this close to snapping and beating the shit out of someone” attitude and amplify that by, like, 12.

Brendan, for his part, was also in a pretty foul mood. He had managed to reach the gym before it closed and got his ass kicked in battle. Another gym, another loss. When he tried to complain to Mare about this she told him to shut it and he, having at least some basic survival instincts, did so.

This did give Mare an idea, though. She had a lot of excess emotions to work out and the perfect place to do that in Dewford would be the Gym. Well, the second most perfect place. The most perfect place to do that would be Granite Cave with its abundance of wild Pokemon to fight one-on-one but she wasn’t keen on getting lost there again. So, she’d have to settle for battling out her feelings in the local Gym. She needed that badge, anyway.

The Dewford Gym was also, as it turned out, an actual gym. As in, a gym where people went to work out and get physically stronger. This actually had Mare somewhat intrigued as she’d heard of these but never actually seen one. As it turned out, it was a large room full of workout equipment with large fans embedded in the walls which to you or I sounds mundane and uninteresting but to her was captivating. Not quite captivating enough to distract her, though.

She burst through the doors loudly with a very concerned Brendan following behind her, alerting the gym’s patrons to her presence. This meant that all eyes were on her. Mare ignored this, though she did briefly steal a glance at the muscular women among them. She marched right up to the Gym Guide and slammed her hands down on his desk.

“I’m here for a Gym Battle!” She shouted.

The Gym Guide was completely unphased by this. To him, angry and overdramatic trainers were just a regular occurrence. Mare was admittedly a little intense even by his standards, though, so he hurried to get the Gym Leader, Brawly.

Brawly was a fairly short man (by average adult male standards, at least. He was still tall to the four foot Mare) with a nice tan wearing a wetsuit top and shorts. Atop his spiky blue haired head was a pair of sunglasses and he wore those weird shoes with individual toes. All in all he had an air of chill around him that completely clashed with the bundle of anger and self-loathing that stood before him.

“Hey there, little dudette!” He said, grinning cheerily. “I’m Brawly! Dewford's Gym Leader! I’ve been churned in the rough waves of these parts-”

Mare slammed her fist down on the desk again. “Don’t call me little! Just get to the battle already!”

Brawly held up his hands in a stopping motion. “Woah, chill out. First you’ve gotta defeat three of my Gym Trainers.” He gestured to the various musclebound people working out around the gym, some of whom had begun to gather around the scene she was making. “Only then will you prove you’re worthy enough to-”

Mare once again interrupted him but this time, instead of just slamming the desk she grabbed the nearest Gym Trainer, a very muscular man in a white gi, and tossed him over her shoulder before dusting off her hands. Everyone stared in awe except for two people who ran over to help the man up, alongside Brendan, who ran over to try and cover for the social faux pas of the century.

“I’m so sorry about her, sir!” He said hurriedly.

To Brendan’s surprise, the man in the gi laughed. “Sorry? What for! I haven’t been thrown like that in ages!” He ran back over to where everyone else was standing so he could talk to Mare. “You’re real strong, kid! Your form’s a bit weak but nothing a little bit of training won’t fix!” He looked at Brawly. “Brawly, you’ve gotta let her take you on!”

There was a beat and then Brawly laughed a hearty laugh. Everyone else laughed too except for Brendan who was left staring at them like they were all insane and questioning his own sanity.

“Alright, alright.” Brawly said once he recovered from laughing. “You’ve got yourself a battle, dudette.”

Mare cracked her knuckles in response which was essentially violent people code for “Let’s get this party started.”

“What about you, little dude?” Brawly asked, looking past Mare at Brendan. “You here for a rematch?”

Brendan held up his hands. “No, no, I’m good. I’ll just pick up a badge at the next Gym.”

Brawly shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Unlike Roxanne’s Battlefield, which was separate from the rest of the Gym, Brawly’s battlefield was the Gym. The Gym Trainers moved all the Workout Equipment to storage to make room for Mare and Brawly’s battle. As per usual the two stood on opposite ends of the battlefield and the Gym Guide and Audience stood to the side.

“Ready for battle, Dudette?” Brawly asked, taking out a Pokeball.

“Always.” Mare growled, taking out her own Pokeball.

“The battle between Gym Leader Brawly and Mare the Challenger is about to begin!” The Gym Guide announced. “Each side will have the use of 2 Pokemon and the battle will be over when either trainer’s Pokemon are unable to continue! Only the Challenger may substitute Pokemon! Each side is only allowed one healing item! Only the Challenger may use revives!”

“Chop come on out!” Brawle shouted, tossing a Pokeball and releasing a Machop.

Mare didn’t even bother calling out her Pokemon’s name, instead just throwing Okami’s Pokeball as aggressively as possible and releasing the Poochyena onto the battlefield.

“Battle begin!” The Gym Guide shouted.

Mare VS. Brawly
(Music Box: Battle! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

“Karate Chop!” Brawly shouted.

“Bite!” Mare shouted.

Chop ran forward, glowing hand held vertically. Okami also rushed forward, fangs glowing white. Before Okami could chomp down on her opponent, though, Chop whacked her on the head. In her anger, Mare had forgotten everything she’d learned about Type Advantages because Dark Types were not very effective against Fighting Types and Fighting Types were super effective against Dark.

“Now! Seismic toss!” Brawley shouted.

Chop grabbed the still dazed Okami and spun her around like Mario spinning Bowser in Mario 64. After a few spins he released her and she went flying straight into the wall before crashing to the ground. This wasn’t the end for Okami, though. Slowly, she stood up, snarling.

“Tackle!” Mare shouted. Another poor move.

The Poochyena rushed forward and slammed into the Machop at high speeds, knocking him backwards.

“Bulk Up and then Karate Chop!” Brawly shouted.

Chop recovered and slammed his fists into each other, glowing red. Then, he charged ahead, giving Okami a good chop. Okami tried to fight back with another bite attack but got uppercut for her troubles, knocking her out. Mare swore and recalled her.

“Hey, don’t be like that, dudette.” Brawly said. “You just gotta relax. You’re not gonna win if you keep being all mad all the time.”

Mare growled. Relax? Why should she relax? She should never relax. Relaxing got you killed.

And yet, somewhere in the back of her mind, there was a little niggling thought. She knew he was right. Cathartic as it was, if she only battled with pure blind rage she’d lose for sure.

Just like with the pond on Route 103, Mare felt something ignite inside her. Her body coursed with energy. It was probably just a trick of the light or a non-diegetic visual metaphor but every living being in the room seemed to be alight with blue flames.

Mare took out another Pokeball and tossed it out. Kaen emerged from it, standing in a battle stance.

“You ready to go, Kaen?” Mare asked.

Kaen chirped in affirmation. Mare nodded.

“Alright, let's do this.” Mare said with a slight growl. “Together.”

Mare adopted the same stance as her Pokemon. She thrust her finger forward like an attorney raising an objection.

“Ember!”

Kaen leaped into the air and fired off a blast of flame at the Machop, hitting him straight on.

“Don’t let up!” Mare shouted.

Kaen continued to fire off spurts of fire like a machine gun, battering Chop and not giving him a chance to retaliate. Very quickly, Chop was KO’d. Mare grinned, in spite of her anger, which was kind of scary.

Brawley returned his Machop to his Pokeball.

“Good work.” He said to the ball before returning it to his belt and taking out another one. “Alright, Dudette, now you’re getting it! But don’t think you’ve won! Let’s see you surf this wave! Go Maku!” He threw the Pokeball in his hand, releasing a Pokemon Mare didn’t recognize. On instinct, she dug her Pokedex out of her bag and scanned the Pokemon.

“Makuhita, the Guts Pokemon.” The pleasant voice of the Pokedex said. “A Fighting-Type. Makuhita has a tireless spirit - it will never give up hope. It eats a lot of food, gets plenty of sleep, and it trains very rigorously. By living that way, this Pokémon packs its body with energy.”

Tireless spirit, huh? That sounded like her kind of Pokemon. Too bad her and Kaen would be taking it down.

“Maku, Sand Attack!” Brawly shouted.

The Makuhita stomped his feet, somehow kicking up sand from the rubber floor. He kept on stomping until the battlefield was absolutely covered in clouds of sand. Kaen couldn’t see anything and for that matter neither could Mare.

“Arm Thrust!” Brawly shouted.

“Uh… uh… peck!” Mare shouted, mind racing at a million miles per minute.

Kaen tried to use peck but completely missed his opponent by a metaphorical mile. Maku, meanwhile, had no trouble hitting him. The Makuhita pummeled the poor Torchic until he lay on the ground, breathing heavily. Mare closed her eyes, finding it difficult to watch.

Then, something unexpected happened. In closing her eyes, suddenly she could see everything. Well, maybe seeing was the wrong word for it. But she could sense everything. Despite still being present, the dust cloud might as well have been gone. Maybe they had a chance.

“We can do this, Kaen!” She shouted. “You just need to power through a little longer!”

Kaen cheeped weakly.

“I know you’re hurt but we can do this!” Mare shouted. “Don’t worry about the sand, I’ll be your eyes!”

Kaen cheeped again, this time with conviction. Slowly, he began to stand up. As he did so, he glowed and energy rushed through his and Mare’s bodies.

“Right in front of you!” Mare shouted.

Both trainer and Pokemon moved as one, all the while Kaen began to morph and change. When Maku reached the Torchic, he was no longer a Torchic, he was a Combusken. Simultaneously, Mare and the Young Fowl Pokemon held up their arms to block Maku’s strike and then knocked him away with their other arm.

“That’s right!” Mare shouted, energized. “We can do this! Double kick!”

Kaen the Combusken unleashed two powerful kicks straight into the stunned Maku. Mare mirrored her Pokemon’s actions.

“Alright!” Brawly shouted. “The waves are really crashing now! Give me all you’ve got, dudette! Maku, circle around and arm thrust!”

Maku did so.

“On your left!” Mare shouted.

Kaen blocked the strike.

“Keep moving!” Brawly shouted. “Don’t stay in one place too long!”

“On your right!” Mare shouted.

Kaen blocked a strike from the right.

“Now Peck! Right in front of you!” Mare shouted.

Kaen thrust out his beak forward which, since she was matching his movements, made Mare look very silly. But she didn’t really care. All she cared about was that Kaen landed a hit on Maku, KOing him. Immediately, one of the Gym Trainers turned on the wall fans to clear away the sand.

“Maku is unable to battle!” The Gym Guy announced. “Mare and Kaen win!”

Music Box: Victory! Gym Leader from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire​

“We did it!” Mare shouted.

She ran up and scooped Kaen up into a big hug. Kaen promptly passed out in her arms. She returned Kaen to his Pokeball and chuckled, all her excess anger and rage having drained out of her after that intense battle.

“You did good.” She said. “Get a good rest.”

“Woo!” Brawly shouted, fist pumping. “That was a real good workout! You made a real big splash, little dudette!”

Mare growled. Brawly held up his hands in surrender.

“Right, right, knock it off with the little stuff.” He said. “Got it.” He stretched. “Anyways, I think you’ve more than earned the Knuckle Badge.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a badge shaped like a fist. He handed it to Mare who looked over its shining form.

“Alright!” She shouted, holding the badge in the air as if presenting it to an invisible audience of onlookers. “I got the Knuckle Badge!”
 
Author's Note: Finally got this finished! I can now begin procrastinating on Chapter 6! Also, the girlies show up! Which girlies? You can probably guess but in case you can't, read to find out.

Tumblr Ask Blog: Tales from the Hellregion

“You got the camera set up yet, Ty?” Gabby asked, tapping her foot impatiently.

“Almost.” Ty replied, tightening the screw on his tripod.

Gabby Newsworthy was a name known throughout the media industry. She was known for being daring and courageous, willing to go to risk life and limb for the biggest and best scoops. Well, that was how she saw it anyways. In reality, the rest of the industry thought she was insane. She was known throughout Hoenn as the Reckless Reporter, a name she took as a compliment but everyone else meant as an insult. Several times the network executives considered firing her because she was costing them a fortune in legal fees and medical bills but she was just too popular to fire.

Less well known but still relatively prolific was Ty Topical, Gabby’s cameraman. Rarely seen, given he was always behind the camera, he was most well known for delivering sarcastic comments and trying, unsuccessfully, to reign in Gabby’s chaos. Despite this, he still tended to get lumped in with Gabby as equally crazy due to guilt by association.

Today, the two intrepid reporters were on the scene of a crime. Well, they were adjacent to the scene of a crime, anyways. The police wouldn’t let them into the actual crime scene so they had to settle for Joseph Stone’s office. Still, an interview with the CEO of a major corporation was still pretty big.

“And done.” Ty said, giving Gabby a thumbs up. “We’re all set. Going live in 3… 2… 1.”

Gabby, ever the professional no matter what people said about her, stood up straight. “This is Gabby Newsworthy of Hoenn TV, live with a special interview with Joseph Stone, CEO of the Devon Corporation. Mr. Stone, what can you tell us about the break-in here at the Devon Corporation?” She held out her mic to Joseph Stone.

Mr. Stone chuckled. “It is nothing to worry about. Just a common thief.”

To anyone else, it would seem like Mr. Stone was telling the truth. But Gabby wasn’t anyone else. She’d dealt with plenty of businessmen and politicians and she knew that chuckle. It was a chuckle of lies and deception. There was more to this story.

“And what were they trying to steal?” She asked.

Mr. Stone waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, nothing important. They probably just wanted whatever they could sell.”

“I see.” Gabby said. She could tell this was another lie. “And what about these rumors of vigilantes stopping the thief?”

“I can’t say anything about that.” Mr. Stone replied. “It’s better if their identities remain a secret. I wouldn’t want to put these children at risk.”

“Children?” Gabby asked. Now they were getting somewhere.

“Ah, um, ignore that.” Mr. Stone said, caught off guard by his own slip of the tongue.

Gabby’s mind raced. The thief had been thwarted by children? Now that was a story. She wanted desperately to ask Mr. Stone where the children had gone but she doubted he’d give up that information if she asked directly. She’d have to be clever. She turned back to the camera.

“There you have it, folks. The break-in at Devon Corp was nothing more than a petty thief looking to make money. Next up, the top ten cutest Pokemon of this year.” Gabby fought hard to keep herself from gagging on those words. “This is Gabby Newsworthy, signing off.”

“And… we’re off.” Ty said, shutting down the camera.

“I’ll help you pack it up.” Gabby said, walking over to where Ty was unscrewing the camera from the tripod. Suddenly, she stopped and turned back to face Mr. Stone. “Just one more thing, Mr. Stone.” She said. “If someone were passing through Rustboro, where would you suggest they go next?”

“That’s an odd question.” Mr. Stone replied.

“Well, I was thinking about cashing in some of my vacation days after this interview is over and thought you might have some suggestions, being as knowledgeable as you are.” Gabby lied.

“Well, in that case, I’d be glad to give you some advice.” Mr. Stone replied, clearly pleased by Gabby’s ego stroking. “I’d suggest you travel to Dewford Town on Dewford Island. Very nice beachside town and Granite Cave is truly a wonder to behold. There’s even a gym if you’re interested in the Gym Challenge.”

Gabby nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Stone.” She turned back to the camera. “There you have it, folks. The break-in at Devon Corp was nothing more than a petty thief looking to make money. This is Gabby Newsworthy, signing off.”

The two reporters finished packing up and then left. Once they were outside the building, Gabby sped up to a power walk. Ty had to run to keep up.

“Gabby! Hold on!” He shouted. “What’s going on? You’ve never taken a vacation in your entire career.”

“You’re right.” Gabby replied in a whisper, even though nobody was paying attention. “And I never will. There’s more to this story, and those kids Mr. Stone mentioned are at the center of it. We find those kids, we find the big scoop.”

“So, what? You’re just gonna travel all the way to Dewford Town on a hunch?” Ty asked.

“Any kid with Pokemon strong enough to take on a thief has gotta be on the Gym Challenge.” Gabby explained, unaware that no Pokemon had been involved in the altercation at all. “And Dewford’s usually the next stop after Rustboro. So they’ve gotta be there.”

“The network’s never gonna approve this, you know.” Ty said.

“That’s why we’re not gonna tell them.” Gabby replied.

Ty sighed. “Here we go again.”

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igAE4hzAimhst48-YXotC92WOeCy_zKZ3BWs2fqn8nSVxnN1dCSx1XePdEl_d_F6uA9NtYJuwgNqkobxx_H5wcFzRKDzdz_E4x67r17toKrpWixd1zZj2EsUAnNESzvVKlgBce3DHzCAAv358SEvLzY

Unfortunately for Gabby and Ty, the children in question had long since left Dewford, heading off to Slateport City. According to Brawly, it was the quickest way to get to Mauville City and the next gym. When they arrived, Mare was practically ecstatic. Now this was a real port town. Salty sea air, foghorns, swearing sailors. It was all there and it was wonderful.

Brendan, meanwhile, was kind of miserable. He was still sulking from losing the previous gym battle and also seasickness. Both of these were pretty fair reasons to be upset and Mare felt a pang of guilt for enjoying herself while her cousin was feeling sucky. Not enough to kill her mood, though.

Mare gave her mom a quick call on her PokeNav Plus, letting her know she was alright and all that stuff. Then, the two pre-teens went exploring.

“This place is amazing!” Mare exclaimed. “What should we do first? Wander around the docks and hear stories from sailors? Go to that market we passed?”

“Wh-what about taking a break.” Brendan suggested, still a bit woozy from the boat ride.

Mare snapped her fingers. “Oh! What about the Oceanic Museum!”

“The Oceanic Museum?” A random passerby who happened to overhear them asked. “I wouldn’t bother. Some weirdos dressed like pirates kicked everybody out.”

“Pirates?” Brendan asked.

“Yeah.” The passerby said. “They called themselves Team Something-or-other.”

Mare and Brendan looked at eachother. Since Mare was so short she had to crane her neck to do so.

“Team Aqua!” They chorused.

“Yeah, that was it.” The passerby said. “Anyways, you kids should stay away from the museum until they clear out.”

With that, the passerby continued on their way, their role of video game NPC fulfilled.

“We’ve gotta head to the Oceanic Museum.” Mare said definitively. “Whatever Team Aqua are up to, it can’t be good.”

“Woah, woah, woah.” Brendan said, holding up his hands in a stopping motion. “Are you sure we should be getting involved in this? These guys sound serious.”

“Hey, you were the one who jumped in and fought them last time.” Mare pointed out.

“Yeah, when there were only two of them.” Brendan replied. “It sounds like there’s a lot more this time.”

“I’ve never let that stop me before.” Mare said, rolling up non-existent sleeves.

“Wha- Mare this isn’t schoolyard bullies!” Brendan protested. “They’re… I don’t know what they are but they’re definitely a lot worse than a bunch of 12 year olds.”

“A bully’s a bully.” Mare said. “And these guys are grade A bullies. Now come on!”

She ran off in the direction of where she was pretty sure the Oceanic Museum was. Brendan sighed but followed her anyways.

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igAE4hzAimhst48-YXotC92WOeCy_zKZ3BWs2fqn8nSVxnN1dCSx1XePdEl_d_F6uA9NtYJuwgNqkobxx_H5wcFzRKDzdz_E4x67r17toKrpWixd1zZj2EsUAnNESzvVKlgBce3DHzCAAv358SEvLzY
igAE4hzAimhst48-YXotC92WOeCy_zKZ3BWs2fqn8nSVxnN1dCSx1XePdEl_d_F6uA9NtYJuwgNqkobxx_H5wcFzRKDzdz_E4x67r17toKrpWixd1zZj2EsUAnNESzvVKlgBce3DHzCAAv358SEvLzY

The Oceanic Museum showed clear signs of Team Aqua activity. What were those signs, you ask? Well, there were two Team Aqua grunts, a man and a woman, standing outside the door chatting. The way they were positioned implied they were supposed to be guarding it but they didn’t seem to be terribly invested in that job. As such, Mare and Brendan were able to just walk up and engage them in conversation with no issue.


“Hey! What are you doing here!” Mare shouted.

“Buzz off, kid.” The woman said. “This museum is Team Aqua’s now.”

“So you really did storm the museum and take it over.” Brendan said.

“What? No!” The man exclaimed, offended. “We paid the entrance fee and took over the museum! Totally different!”

“We have principles.” The woman said, placing her hands proudly on her hips.

“Storming in is against your principles but taking over a building isn’t?” Mare deadpanned. Mare shook her head. “You know what, whatever. I don’t care. Let’s just skip to the part where I beat you up.”

“Hey!” The woman shouted. “Technically we’re not doing anything wrong!”

“Except forcing everyone else out of the museum.” The man pointed out.

“Shut up.” The woman hissed. Then, louder. “Alright, kid. You wanna fight, you’ve got one.” She tossed out a Pokeball, releasing a Poochyena. “Beat us and we’ll let you pass!”

“We will?” The man asked. The woman shot him a look. “I-I mean! Of course we will! We stick to our principles!” He tossed out his own Poochyena.

Mare growled. Like she’d ever entertain this stupid idea. Why bother with a Pokemon battle when she could just beat them up right then and there.

“We accept your challenge!” Brendan declared.

“What?” Mare exclaimed, caught off guard.

“I wasn’t able to defeat the Gym Leaders, but I can defeat these guys!” Brendan declared, tossing out Twig.

Oh, this wasn’t about Team Aqua. This was about his pride. Mare let out a combination growl and sigh. She grabbed Okami’s Pokeball off her belt and released the Poochyena onto the field.

Mare and Brendan VS. Team Aqua Grunts
(Music Box: Battle! Team Aqua/Magma from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

“Quick Attack!” Brendan shouted, making the first move.

Twig rushed forward, darting quickly from side-to-side in a zig-zag pattern before headbutting one of the Poochyenas.

“Poochyena! Bite!” The woman shouted.

“Okami! Intercept it!” Mare shouted.

Okami did as commanded, interposing herself between Twig and the other Poochyena. Dark was not very effective against Dark so Okami hardly felt anything when the Poochyena chomped down on her.

“They’re open!” Brendan shouted. “Twig! Pound!”

“No wait!” Mare shouted but it was too late.

Twig’s Pound did hit the enemy Poochyena but it also hit Okami, knocking both away.

“Dammit!” Brendan and Mare swore at the same time.

“You okay, Okami!” Mare shouted.

Okami growled in response.

“Fair enough.” Mare replied. “Can you keep fighting?”

Okami growled again.

“Awesome! Now use tackle!” Mare shouted.

“Poochyena! You use tackle too!” The man shouted.

Okami charged at the woman’s Poochyena. Meanwhile, the man’s Poochyena charged at Twig.

“Block it!” Brendan and the woman shouted at the same time.

Twig successfully managed to block the hit, creating a shield of leaves that the Poochyena bounced off of. The woman’s Poochyena wasn’t so lucky, being KOed by Okami’s tackle.

“Twig!” Brendan began but Mare cut him off.

“Hold on!” She said, holding her hand out in front of him. “We’ve gotta work in sync. I have a plan.”

“You have a plan?” Brendan asked, surprised. “That’s a first.”

“Just follow my lead.” Mare replied.

Brendan nodded.

“Alright! Let’s finish this!” Mare and Brendan shouted in unison.

“Okami, use tackle!” Mare shouted. “Brendan, have Twig follow close behind!”

“You heard the woman!” Brendan shouted to Twig.

Okami rushed forward, Twig on her tail. They drew closer to the enemy Poochyena. Closer…. Closer…

“Now!” Mare shouted. “Leapfrog off Okami and attack!”

Twig leaped and springboarded off the Poochyena.

Brendan thrust his finger forward. “Pound!”

Simultaneously, Okami and Twig impacted with the enemy, sending it flying backwards. Once it slid to a stop, the opposing Poochyena tried to stand up but was unable to, collapsing to the ground KOed.

(Music Box: N/A)​

“We did it!” Brendan shouted.

“Hell yeah!” Mare agreed, leaping up into the air to high five her cousin.

“I can’t believe we lost to a couple of kids.” The male aqua grunt said, slouching over and letting his arms hang. A sweat drop rolled down his forehead.

“Alright, we won your stupid battle.” Mare said. “Now are you gonna let us inside?”

The female aqua grunt sighed. “Fair’s fair. But I’m warning you, the Grunts inside are a lot tougher than us.”

“Heh, I doubt it.” Mare chuckled, recalling Okami.

“Are you sure?” Brendan asked, spraying Twig with a potion. “There's way more of them than there are us.”

“You scared?” Mare taunted.

“Yes!” Brendan shouted, not so insecure about his masculinity that he couldn't admit that.

“Everything’ll be fine.” Mare reassured. “Just stick close to me and watch my back. Now come on, lets get going before they do… whatever it is they’re planning to do.”

Mare released Kaen and Shiruto from their balls. She explained the situation to them as quickly and succinctly as possible. Then, she pressed the play button on her CD Walkman and they burst through the doors. Every Aqua Grunt in the museum turned to look at her.

(Music Box: Sandstorm by Darude)​

“Alright you scum buckets!” Mare shouted. “Prepare to get your asses beat!”

“Well that’s kind of rude.” One of the Grunts said.

“Attack!” Mare shouted, punching him in the face.

“Woah, wait, hold on!” One of the Grunts shouted, holding his hans up in surrender. “We don’t wanna fight!”

(Record Needle Scratch)​

“Y-you don’t?” Mare asked, perplexed.

“Oh thank gods.” Brendan said, breathing out a sigh of relief.

“Yeah, we’re just here to look at cool ocean stuff.” Another Grunt said. “If you want a fight go upstairs.”

“Oh… uh… okay.” Mare said, slightly put out that there wouldn't be a big brawl. She’d had a kickass fight song queued up and everything.

She and Brendan hurried upstairs, past exhibits that she kind of wished she could stop and stare at for a while (What? Just cause she was angry and not that bright didn’t mean she didn’t have interests). But they didn’t have time. They were on a mission.

When they reached the top of the stairs there were only two Aqua Grunts up there, confronting a dapper looking older man in a fedora and suit. His white mustache was immaculately groomed and he was clutching a suitcase tightly as the Aqua Grunts backed him against the wall.

“Look, we don’t want any trouble.” Aqua Grunt 1 said. “Just give us the Suitcase and we’ll be on our way.”

“You’ve already caused plenty of trouble.” The man said, showing no fear. “Storming the museum and chasing away the good people of Slateport.”

“Hey!” Aqua Grunt 2 protested. “We didn’t storm the museum! We paid the entry fee like everyone else!”

“I don’t care if you paid the entry fee or not.” The man replied. “You better get out of here before I show you what an ex-marine can do.”

It was at that point that Mare decided to intervene.

“You leave that nice looking old man alone!” She shouted.

“Wha!” Aqua Grunt 1 shouted.

“You!” Aqua Grunt 2 shouted.

“Old?” The man echoed, somewhat offended.

“You’re the girl from the forest!” Aqua Grunt 2 shouted.

“That’s right!” Mare declared. “It’s me, here to kick your asses again!”

“Hey, what about me!” Brendan shouted.

“Oh yeah, you were there too.” Aqua Grunt 1 said.

“Alright, enough talk!” Mare shouted.

She leaped at Grunt 1, latching onto him and crawling around to his back before using it as a springboard, shoving him to the ground. From here she leaped onto Grunt 2, grabbing his arm and forcing him down to the ground and pinning him, causing him to cry out in pain. Mare, admittedly, felt a bit bad about that but only a little.

Suddenly, the sound of loud bootsteps could be heard coming up the stairwell. They eventually reached the top, where they were revealed to belong to a large, muscular man wearing a wetsuit and pirate bandana. He had a well maintained and incredibly handsome beard, an x-shaped scar across his face, and a fierce look in his eyes. He was clearly a part of Team Aqua and if Mare had learned anything from the cartoons she’d binged in the past six months, it’s that the guys with the unique costumes were always important.

“Wha' do we 'ave here?” The large man asked, his voice booming. “I came t' see wha' was takin' so long jus' t' steal a few parts, 'n I find ye dullards gettin' beat by this kid?”

“I-It’s not our fault, boss!” The Grunt Mare had pinned to the ground protested. “She’s just too strong!” So Mare had been right, not only was this guy important, he was the leader.

The large man studied Mare. He let out a hearty laugh. “That's quite a fierce expression fer such a wee little scamp. That face tells me ye're nah jus' another mindless Trainer brat. The name’s Archie. And, of course, you’ve already met my rough and tumble crew - Team Aqua.” He crossed his arms. “So tell me, girlie… Do ye know that Pokemon, people, 'n all life in this world depend on the sea fer life? That's right. The sea is an irreplaceable treasure fer every livin' thing on this planet. But wit' our selfish extravagance, humanity dirties the great ocean, destroyin' this source o' all life… Day by day, we’re all destroyin' our most precious resource! If we humans suffer from our actions, well, maybe we'll end up gettin' wha' we deserve. But wha' about the Pokémon in our world? The Pokémon that no longer 'ave a place t' live 'cause we looted 'n soiled thar seas? The Pokémon that won't 'ave a home t' raise thar young 'n watch 'em grow? We be creatin' a world in which innocent Pokémon suffer as a result o' our actions… 'n that be somethin' that I can nah forgive! That's why I came t' a decision, see? The foolish actions o' my fellow humans, the seas we’ve blighted, nature itself… I will return everythin' t' its unspoiled beginnings!”

“That’s enough, Archie!” The older man said firmly.

“Cap'n Stern, it's been a while.” Archie said. “How's retirement treatin' ye?”

“Just fine until you and your band of brigands decided to invade my museum.” The older man, Captain Stern apparently, replied.

“Awfully sorry about that.” Archie said. The apology seemed genuine. “Though t' be fair, we did pay the entrance fee.” He shook his head. “Heh! 'tisn't like me t' talk so much. Let's get back t' business. The case, hand it o'er.”

“Never!” Captain Stern shouted. “I know what you plan to do with these parts and I won’t let it happen!”

Archie sighed. “I was hopin' I wouldna 'ave t' do this.”

Before Mare could leap to stop him, Archie grabbed the case and wrenched it from Stern’s grasp. For Stern’s part, he did put up a pretty decent fight, doing his best to keep his grip on the case. But in the end, it was no use. Archie had the case.

“Ye've grown soft in yer ole age, cap'n.” Archie said. “Meanwhile, I've only continued t' grow stronger.” He looked at Mare and gestured to the Grunt she still had pinned. “I'd appreciate it if ye could let my friend here go now.”

Mare actually obliged. The Aqua Grunt scrambled too his feet and immediately ran off, clearly hoping to put as much distance between himself and Mare as possible.

“Thank ye kindly.” Archie said, turning to walk away. “I'll be takin' my leave now. Oh, 'n Little Scamp, don't try t' get in our way again. Ye may be strong but ye won't walk away unscathed next time.”

Mare clenched her fist and growled. Before anybody could stop her, she leaped at Archie and latched onto his arm. Archie, being 5 foot 9 and buff as hell, easily threw her off of him. She flew slammed into one of the display cases containing a model ship, shattering the glass.

Archie almost looked amused by her attack. “Nice try, Little Scamp, but I’m a lot tougher than-” He looked down at his hand, suddenly realizing that he was no longer holding the case. He looked back up to see Brendan, Mare, and their Pokemon booking it across the room, case in hand.

He gave chase but they managed to reach the stairs before he could catch him. By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs they were already halfway to the exit and none of the Grunts were doing anything to stop them.

“Well, wha' are you lot waitin' fer?” He shouted. “Get those Scamps!”

(Music Box: Sandstorm by Darude)​

The Grunts immediately dropped what they were doing, leading to one Grunt literally dropping the decorative snowglobe she was holding, and made chase.

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Only after Brendan and Mare exited the Oceanic Museum did they realize they had no idea where they were going. And what’s worse, when they glanced behind them they saw that Aqua Grunts were hot on their tail. Just for safety’s sake, they returned their Pokemon to their Pokeballs.

“What do we do!” Brendan shouted.

“I don’t know!” Mare shouted back. “I didn’t exactly have time to plan this!”

Just then, Brendan spotted something up ahead. “There, the Market!” He shouted, pointing at the entrance to the fenced off area. “We’ll lose them in the crowd!”

“Good thinking!” Mare agreed. Ugh, she couldn’t believe she’d just agreed with Brendan.

The two dived into the crowd, using their small (in Mare’s case, really small) size to bob and weave through the crowd. Meanwhile, the larger Aqua Grunts had to shove their way through the crowd, aggravating quite a few people and slowing them down considerably.

“Split up!” Brendan shouted. “They can’t catch both of us!”

“How are you being the smart one here!” Mare shouted. “You can’t even Pokemon Battle!”

“Hey, I’ll have you know I placed first place in the School Cleverness Contest!” Brendan protested.

“What?” Mare shouted, taken aback and confused.

“Nothing!” Brendan shouted quickly. “Now split!”

They did just that, splitting off in two different directions, forcing the Grunts to split too. Most of them went after Mare who was still clutching the briefcase tightly but some went after Brendan.

Mare ran as fast as she could. Getting through the crowd was easy because of her small size, though she wouldn’t amit it. On the other hand, the Cabbage Cart in front of her wouldn’t be so easy to get around. The crowd around it was too tightly packed. She wouldn’t let it stop her, though. She picked up speed and vaulted over the cart, but she didn't vault high enough and accidentally knocked it over.

“My Cabbages!” The guy who owned the cart shouted.

“Sorry!” Mare shouted back.

She didn’t know what was in this briefcase but if these guys wanted it they couldn’t be allowed to have it. Zinnia had told her about Team Aqua’s plan to flood everything but it seemed a lot more real when that Archie guy said it. Looking at the intensity in his eyes she could tell he had meant every word. And yet, even despite that, she kinda liked him. To paraphrase a movie that won’t come out for 9 years, he was a bad guy but he didn’t seem like a bad guy.

“Hey, Girly!” A voice shouted from off to the side.

Mare looked over in the direction of the voice, somehow managing to still weave through the crowd despite not looking where she was going. The person who had spoken was Zinnia, running across the top of stands in full Blaise attire.

“Zinnia!?” Mare shouted, surprised.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Zinnia shouted back. “I’m working, we don’t use that name while I’m working!”

Mare rolled her eyes. “Okay, Blaise! What are you doing here!”

“Helping you, obviously!” Zinnia explained. “Now toss me the case!”

“Why would I do that!” Mare shouted.

“So I can lead Team Aqua away from you, duh!” Zinnia replied.

“And how do I know you won’t just take this case to your boss!” Mare rebutted.

“You’re just gonna have to trust me, alright!” Zinnia shouted back.

Mare looked at Zinnia. She looked at the Aqua Grunts behind her. She looked at the crowd in front of her. She made a decision.

“Alright, fine!” She shouted.

She tossed the case to Zinnia, who caught it easily. She then leaped off the stands and into the crowd, causing a bunch of people to scatter and the Aqua Grunts to stop in their tracks.

“Yoo-hoo!” She called out to them. “Looking for this?” She waved the case enticingly.

“Hey, that’s ours!” One of the Grunts shouted. “Well, it’s not really ours but it’s gonna be! Get her!”

“Betcha can’t catch me!” She taunted, vaulting back onto the top of the stands and running the opposite direction of Mare.

The Grunts immediately turned around to follow her, leaving Mare free to go. Even so, she still kept running, not stopping until she literally slammed into Brendan, causing them both to fall to the ground.

“Owww!” Brendan complained, rubbing his head.

“Wha- Brendan!” Mare shouted, standing up. “I thought you said split! What are you doing here!”

“Guess the paths reconverge here.” Brendan said, also returning to his feet. He glanced back and saw that they had apparently left the market, the north gate behind them. “So did you lose the Grunts?”

Mare nodded. “Yeah”

“Cool.” Brendan said. Then he noticed something. “Wait, where’s the case?’

“It’s safe.” Mare promised, though admittedly she wasn’t sure if that was true or not.

Brendan nodded. “Yeah, okay, sure.” Then he clutched his head. “What the hell did we just do!”

“I’m… not exactly sure.” Mare admitted. “It was a spur of the moment thing. I just… I dunno. Whatever that guy was talking about sounded bad so I grabbed the case and ran.”

“We’re 11!” Brendan shouted. “These guys are, like, hardened criminals or something!”

“I’m 12.” Mare reminded him, somewhat miffed.

Before she could bite him for the “crime” of forgetting her age, happy. peppy music began blasting from somewhere nearby, overpowering the chattering of the crowd. Out of curiosity, the two kids pushed their way to the front of the crowd, not hard since they were small.

(Music Box: Battle! (Lisia) from Pokemon Masters EX)​

The source of the music was a large, bright, shining building with massive speakers and spotlights. Out in front of the building, and the main source of the crowd’s attention, was a teenage girl in a striking blue and white outfit clearly modeled off of the Altaria floating at her side. Several film cameras were aimed in her direction.

“No way.” Brendan breathed. “That’s-” Before Brendan could finish his sentence, the girl began speaking.

“Hiiiiii, ev-er-y-bo-dy! ✨” She shouted, sing-song. Her voice was full of sunshine and despite the fact that she didn’t seem to be wearing a mic her words carried across the entire crowd. “Lisia here! Me and my Altaria, Ali, have come to Slateport City's Contest Spectacular Hall for a bit of FUN! ✨

“Is she vocalizing sparkles?” Mare asked incredulously to no one in particular.

Lisia’s Altaria, Ali, let out a beautiful cry.

"Well then, watch me as I dive right in again today!" Lisia shouted. She spun around gracefully and struck a pose. Some members of the crowd, including Brendan, spun around with her, though most of them lacked Lisia’s grace. “Dazzling, dizzying, doldrums defying! Lisia's…Miraculous…Contest Scouting! ✨

The crowd cheered. One called out to her, asking her to “scout [him] as [her] next boyfriend” but his voice was, thankfully, lost in the cheering of the crowd. Mare could only stand there with a baffled expression on her face.

Once the crowd quieted down, Lisia continued speaking. "All righty!✨ I'm going to bring another fantastic Trainer into the wild world of contesting! ” She scanned the crowd. “Eenie… meenie… miney…” Her gaze landed on Mare. Oh no. Before Mare had a chance to react, Lisia zipped over to her. "You there, watching me with that baffled expression on your face! Hi!✨ Have you never joined in a contest?”

“Wha- huh?” Was all Mare could manage to say in response to that.

“That's just what I want to hear!✨" Lisia cheered.

She grabbed Mare by the wrist and began dragging her up front. The poor girl tried to break free but to no avail. It seemed Lisia had an iron grip. In one last desperate attempt to escape, Mare grabbed onto Brendan, leading to them both being dragged up front. Lisia didn’t seem to notice any of this.

"Then let's get this show on the road!✨” She shouted. “This is the Trainer I'm gonna scout today! And her name is…”

“Wh- uh, Mare.” Mare answered on instinct.

"Mare!” Lisia shouted in delight, as if hearing Mare’s name was the greatest thing that’d ever happened to her. She struck a pose. “When I took a good look, I could easily see that Mare is a powerful Trainer, with several Badges of her own already!"

“How did you-” Mare began but was immediately cut off.

Lisia raised her hands into the air. "Mare! You can enjoy Contest Spectaculars at the Pokémon Contest Hall right here. ✨” She held her finger up like she was scolding a naughty child. “Now listen up, because I don't just want to see you making your Pokémon strong. I want to see you bringing out a whole new brilliant side of them to show off! ✨” Out of seemingly nowhere she produced a card and some sort of container and shoved them into Mare’s hands. “So here you go! Take these! This is a Contest Pass, which is the first thing that anyone needs to take part in a Contest Spectacular! And this one is a Pokéblock Kit, which will let you make Pokéblocks for your Pokémon out of Berries!"

“I-” Mare said, trying in vain to get some sort of word in edgewise.

“Your story begins today!” Lisia shouted, somehow even louder than before. “Yep! And this chapter should be titled…” She waved her hand around and then struck a pose. “A Sudden Encounter! Miraculous Contest Scouting!✨” She giggled. “That's what I'd call it! Now, everybody out there watching… You'd better expect great things from Mare, because I do! That's it for today's Lisia's Miraculous Contest Scouting! See you all next time!”

(Music Box: N/A)​

Lisia waved at the crowd and they began to disperse. The camera crew who had been filming her began packing up. Eventually, all that was left was Lisia, Mare, and Brendan.

Lisia giggled. “Wasn’t that fun! Now c’mon! The Contest Spectacular is about to start!”

“What? No!” Mare said, finally managing to pull her hand away from Lisia. “I don’t wanna be in your stupid contest!”

Lisia blinked in confusion. “You don’t?”

“No!” Mare shouted, stomping her foot. “I’ve been trying to tell you!”

“But… you’d be so good at it.” Lisia said as if that was a known fact.

“Listen.” Mare said, growling. “I hate all this sparkly frilly girly stuff. I don’t want any part in it.”

Lisia seemed to be at a loss for how to proceed. It seemed like she had fully expected Mare to go along with her.

“E-excuse me, Ms. Lisia.” Brendan stuttered, speaking up for the first time since Mare had accidentally dragged him up there with her. “I-I’d like to be in a contest. If that’s okay.”

Lisia’s eyes lit up brighter than they already were. “You would!”✨ What’s your name? Tell me, tell me!”

“B-Brendan.” The starstruck boy stuttered out.

“Well come on, Brendan!” Lisia shouted, grabbing him by the arm. “We’ve gotta get you ready! ✨

She dragged him away and into the Contest Hall. For a moment, Mare stood there stunned before running in after them. The inside of the Contest Hall was just as bright as the outside and almost as crowded. Mare made her way through the various people milling around within the space to the much quieter hallway of dressing rooms.

It wasn’t hard to find Lisia’s dressing room. It was the one all the way at the end featuring a star with Lisia’s name on it. Standing outside the dressing room was a rather beefy looking security guard, complete with black suit and earpiece. That wasn’t enough to scare Mare, though. She was confident she could take him if she had to.

“Hey buddy, let me through!” She yelled. “I’ve got business with what’s-her-name!”

The guard looked down at her, looking like he was suppressing a laugh. “I’m sorry, miss, but nobody’s allowed in Miss Lisia’s dressing room while she’s preparing for a Contest.”

Without hesitation, Mare grabbed the guard’s arm and bit down hard. The guard cried out in pain, clearly caught off guard (no pun intended) by her attack. Mare used this to her advantage, rushing past him and into the dressing room, closing the door behind her, where she found Brendan rocking a brand new red and black outfit and looking more confident than ever. Beside him, Lisia was absolutely beaming with pride.

When the two saw her enter, they had entirely different reactions. Lisia seemed absolutely delighted while Brendan seemed surprised and maybe a little embarrassed.

“Maresy!” Lisia squealed, clasping her hands together. “Did you change your mind!✨

“Wha- no!” Mare growled. “And don’t call me that ever!”

Before the conversation could continue, the security guard burst into the room, still clutching his bleeding arm. His face was beet red with anger.

Lisia gasped. “Reginald! What happened to your arm!”

“That little brat bit me!” Reginald shouted, pointing at Mare.

Lisia looked at Mare with big, sad eyes. “Maresy is that true?”

Mare crossed her arms and growled. “Yeah, it is. And I'll bite you too if you call me that again.”

“But why?” Lisia asked overdramatically.

“He wouldn’t let me in.” Mare explained.

“Because you’re not allowed in!” Reginald shouted. “I was given orders not to let anyone into this room without permission!”

“I just wanted to talk to my freaking cousin!” Mare shouted.

“Nice try, but we’ve heard that one before.” Reginald said. “We know all of Lisia’s family and you sure aren’t part of it.”

“Not her, him!” Mare shouted, pointing exasperatedly at brendan, who raised his hands as if to shield himself.

“Huh?” Reginald huh’d, surprised.

Suddenly, Lisia struck her signature pose. “Everybody listen up! It’s time for Lisia’s dazzling conflict resolution! ✨

“Wha-” Everyone else chorused.

Lisia held up her finger like a parent scolding a child. “Now Maresy, biting people isn’t nice. Apologize to Reginald.”

“But-” Mare began.

“Apologize.” Lisia repeated, puffing out her cheeks.

Mare let out a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry for biting you.”

“And Reginald, you should have let Maresy in.” Lisia chided. “Does she look like she wants to hurt me?” She gestured to Mare, who was growling. “Not at all. Now, go get yourself cleaned up.”

Reginald let out a deep sigh. “As you wish, Ms. Lisia.” He left, grumbling about “kids these days.”

Lisia jumped up and down in jubilance. “Yippee! It worked!✨ Lisia’s dazzling conflict resolution never fails!”

“Can I just talk to my cousin now?” Mare asked, clearly done with this entire situation.

“Yep yep! ✨” Lisia sparked. “Starlight, Maresy wants to talk with you!”

Brendan's face flushed when Lisia called him Starlight. He was immediately snapped out of this when Mare grabbed him and slammed him into a wall.

“Ow! What the hell!”

“Sorry.” Mare said, rubbing the back of her neck. “I meant to do that more gently.”

“What about not doing it at all!” Brendan protested.

“I had to snap you out of your trance somehow.” Mare explained.

“What trance?” Brendan asked.

“Your weird, Lisia induced trance.” Mare elaborated. “You saw Lisia and your brain basically stopped functioning. And what’s up with this Contest business?”

Brendan groaned. “I knew this would happen. I knew you’d judge me. That’s why I didn’t tell you.”

“Okay, okay, back up and start from the beginning.” Mare said.

Brendan took a deep breath. “Okay, so you know how I told you I was the best battler in my school? That was a lie.”

“No shit.” Mare replied.

“Oh come on, at least try to act surprised.” Brendan sulked. “Anyway, I wasn’t the best battler but I was the best Coordinator.”

“And a Coordinator is?” Mare asked.

“It’s… someone who does contests.” Brendan looked away, blushing and rubbing the back of his head.

Mare raised an eyebrow. “So why’d you try to pretend you’re good at battles? If you’re so good at it, why hide it?”

“Because…” Brendan took a deep breath. “Because all the kids at school made fun of me for it. And I knew you would too. So I have to be good at battles. Then they won’t make fun of me.”

Mare grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him down to her level. “Listen, I’m not going to make fun of you because you like Contests, I’m going to make fun of you because you’re my cousin and a total brat. And who cares what some random kids think, if this is something you’re good at and like doing then you should just do it.”

“Are you sure?” Brendan asked.

“Course I am.” Mare said. “You should never try to hide who you really are. I mean, come on, imagine if I tried to hide who I really was.” To prove her point she flashed a cocky grin, showing off her incredibly sharp canines. “Sides, you know your parents’ll support you no matter what you do.”

“Starlight, Maresy! Are you done talking!✨” Lisia shouted. “The Contest’s about to start!”

“Starlight?” Mare echoed.

Brendan flushed. “Its her nickname for me. She said I have stars in my eyes sparkle.”

“Well, its time for your big debut.” Mare said, gesturing towards Lisia.

“I dunno, I’m not sure about this.” Brendan said, avoiding eye contact.

“Dude, you can’t back out now.” Mare rebutted.

“But-” Brendan began.

“No buts.” Mare cut him off. “Tell you what.” She turned her head to look at Lisia. “Hey, Lisia! I’ve changed my mind!”

Lisia gasped in delight. “You have!?✨

Mare sighed. She was going to regret this later. “Yeah, I have. Now how fast can you get me into one of those contest out-”

Apparently the answer was very because in one consecutive movement, Lisia pulled Mare behind a privacy screen, helped her into a contest outfit, and shoved her back out into the open. From seemingly nowhere, a spotlight shined on her.

“How did-” Mare began but thought better of finishing.

She examined her new duds and blushed profusely. The whole thing was just embarrassing. Sparkly and pink like a pop star. Why couldn’t she have gotten something more like Brendan’s, kickass and rocking.

“You’re really gonna go on with me?” Brendan asked.

“With you?” Mare echoed. “No, I’m going on against you.”

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The show opened with a Exhibition Performance from Lisia. As was expected from a Top Coordinator like herself, she gave a dazzling, dizzying performance that certainly defied doldrums. After that, there were a few performances from other Coordinators and then the main event: the two trainers Lisia had scouted.

Mare was up first, partnered with Kaen. Kaen had, understandably, refused to get dressed up, something Mare dearly wished she’d also been allowed to do. But alas, life’s not fair and neither are contest costumes.

“Alright, uh…” Mare said.

It occurred to her that she hadn’t actually gone in here with a plan. This was such a last minute thing she had no idea what she was going to do. But that was fine, she did her best work when improvising. Right?

She glanced offstage to see Lisia and Brendan peeking out. Lisia patted her side and gave Mare a thumbs up. Mare moved her hand to the same place Lisia had patted and found her CD Walkman. She knew what she had to do.

She tossed the Walkman to the guy in charge of the speakers, who just barely caught it. “Plug that in and hit play!”

(Music Box: Rock Star from Hannah Montana)​

“Alright, Kaen, two Embers right in the air!” Mare shouted.

Kaen, obliged, tilting his head back and firing upwards.

“Now! Get in the air and Double Kick downwards!”

Kaen leaped high up, right above the Ember shots. He kicked one dowards and then the other, both landing to either side of Mare. Mare then leaped backwards as Kaen landed where she had previously been.

“Time for a fire dance!” Mare shouted. She had no idea what she meant by that but hopefully Kaen would come up with something. And come up with something he did.

Kaen thrust his arms out to the side and grabbed the fire. He did a spin and then engaged in a fight with an imaginary opponent. The crowd loved it.

“There we go!” Mare shouted.

Unfortunately, things went wrong. Kaen went for the big finish and signaled for Mare to jump in beside him. She did so, putting her all into the leap despite the embarrassment… and accidentally got a bit too close. As Kaen activated a Flame Charge, Mare’s skirt caught fire. And then the rest of her costume caught fire. She handled it about as well as you’d expect someone who’d just caught fire to handle it.

She screamed and fell backwards, doing her best to put the fire out. Everybody else also panicked. Before someone could pull the fire alarm, Mare managed to muster the presence of mind to grab a Pokeball and toss it, releasing Shiruto onto the stage. Shiruto didn’t even need to be told what to do, he saw his trainer on fire and spat water until she was put out.

(Music Box: N/A)​

Mare breathed heavily and everybody else slowly began calming down as well. Brendan and Lisia ran out to see if she was okay and assess the damage.

“Maresy! Are you okay!” Lisia shouted, missing her usual sparkle.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Mare breathed, a slight growl to her voice. “And don’t call me that.”

Brendan inspected her wounds. The costume was fairly intact, albeit singed beyond recognition, but her skin was… wait, was it…

“The hell…?” Brendan shouted in shock.

“What?” Mare and Lisia chorused.

“Look at your burns!” Brendan said.

Mare did so. What in the world? They were fading, and fast too. Eventually, she was burn free.

“Woah.” Mare said. “I’m magic.”

“Maybe we should just end the Contest now.” Brendan said, concerned.

“No.” Mare snapped. “We’re not ending anything until you get on this stage and kick ass! You got it!”

“What!?” Brendan gasped. “Are you sure?”

Mare grinned audaciously. “Hey, if I get to make a fool of myself you do too.”

“Well alright then! ✨” Lisia shouted, striking her signature pose. “The show must go on!✨ I’ll get everything set back up, you guys get ready!”

Brendan offered Mare a hand to help her up but she waved him off, standing up on her own. “Great, I can finally get out of this wretched thing.”

“But it brings out your eyes.” Lisia pouted.

“My eyes are blue, how does pink bring them out?” Mare asked.

Lisia winked. “The ways of fashion are a mystery.✨

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It took a hot minute to get everything back up, meaning the live broadcast of the Contest needed to go on a lengthy commercial break, but eventually everything was ready and Brendan could take the plunge. He stood onstage with Twig right by his side. Despite his previous nerves, Brendan looked confident standing there in his rockerboy outfit.

(Music Box: Pokemon Contest Event from Pokemon Masters EX)​

They started with an energetic fan dance with fans made from leaves generated by Twig. Partway through the dance, Twig leaped onto Brendan’s head and the duo began to twirl. They twirled faster and faster, kicking up a twister of leaves. Twig leaped onto the leaf storm and rode it all the way to the top. As he rode the twister, he began glowing and shifting, growing in size. By the time he reached the top he was no longer a Treecko but instead a Grovyle. He had evolved. Twig the Grovyle spread his arms and legs midair, proudly presenting his new form to the crowd.

The twister collapsed, dumping leaves everywhere on the stage. Twig landed on the ground next to Brendan. Both of them bowed proudly as the crowd clapped.

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Backstage, Brendan was giddy with excitement. Mare didn’t think she’d ever seen him so happy before.

“I bet you feel really stupid for being all nervous now.” She said, taking a bite out of a donut.

“Nope, I don’t feel stupid at all!” Brendan said proudly. “Because I finally did it!”

“Been your true self?” Mare asked.

“No, I finally found something I’m better at than you!” Brendan declared.

“Hey! I didn’t do that bad!” Mare protested.

“You set yourself on fire.” Brendan pointed out.

“But it was cool before that!” Mare protested.

“You placed last.” Brendan rebutted.

Mare crossed her arms. “It was rigged. Not that I care. Still hate all this frilly sparkly stuff.” She uncrossed her arms and took another bite out of her donut.

“Did you eat the entire snack table?” Brendan asked, eyebrow raised.

“So what if I did?” Mare asked defensively, mouth full of donut. “I’m hungry. That whole performance took a lot of energy out of me.”

“Glutton.” Brendan snarked.

Suddenly, Lisia ran up from behind Brendan and grabbed him in a big, sparkly hug.

“You did so well, Starlight! ✨” She shouted. “You’d make a great Top Coordinator!✨

Brendan blushed. “You really think so.”

Lisia struck a pose. “I know so!✨ If you stick around, I can teach you anything and everything you’d ever want to know about Coordinating!✨

Brendan rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I dunno…” He sighed. “I want some time to think on it. I’m not sure if this really is what I want to do.”

Mare raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were super happy you finally found something you’re better at than me?”

“Yeah but… I’ve spent my whole life figuring I’d take on the Gym Challenge and I’m not sure I want to give that up just yet.”

“Brendan, I’m gonna be blunt with you, you’re shit at battling.” Mare said, deadpan.

“Yeah, but I did pretty well against those Aqua Grunts.” Brendan pointed out, he turned back to Lisia. “Can I please have some time to think about it?”

“Sure thing!✨” Lisia said with a thumbs up. “Take as much time as you need! I’ll give you my number so you can call me any time!✨” He handed her his PokeNav Plus and she put her number into it.

Mare opened her mouth to add that she wanted to leave now but before she could, a shrill voice rang out across the hall.

“WHAT!?!” A pompous looking blonde guy in a blue suit marched over and pointed accusingly at Brendan. “Lisia, who is this!”

Mare wrinkled her nose in disgust. What an asshole. Only she was allowed to be mean to Brendan. Lisia, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice.

“Hi Chaz!✨” The Contest Idol said cheerily, giving a big wave to him. She zipped over to his side and put her arm around his shoulders. “Starlight, Maresy, this is Chaz! He’s my best friend!✨

“I am not your best friend.” Chaz insisted, disentangling himself from Lisia’s side hug. “I am your greatest rival!”

“You’re so silly, Chaz!” Lisia said. “Contests aren’t about rivalries, they’re about having fun!✨

“I am your rival!” Chaz protested, seething. “Now answer my question, who is this pipsqueak who deigns to attempt and usurp my position!”

“This is Brendan!✨” Lisia said, zipping behind Brendan and placing her hands on his shoulders. “Didn’t you see him on stage! He was marvelous!✨

“What’s your problem, man!?” Brendan snipped.

“My problem is you!” Chaz declared. “You are insufficient to become Lisia’s rival! Only I, Chaz, have what it takes to be her one, true rival! Ever since we made our debut together in Lilycove! We stood on the lighthouse together and swore we would do our best to win! We talked from dusk till dawn! Well, actually we only talked for 40 minutes, but that is besides the point!”

“Dude, I don’t want to be her rival!” Brendan protested. “I don’t even know if I really want to do contests, yet!”

“Y-you don’t?” Chaz asked, confused.

“No!” Brendan affirmed. “Skies Above.”

“Well, should you decide to take on the world of contests, know this!” Chaz declared. “I am Lisia’s one true rival and you will never surpass-”

It was at that point that Mare had had enough. This guy was a jerk and he needed to be put in his place. She balled her hand into a fist and delivered a striking uppercut, knocking the pompous jerk on his ass.

“Wha- hey!” Chaz shouted, rubbing his jaw. “How dare you hit me! This violence is uncouth you impudent brat!”

Mare ignored him. “Let’s get out of here, Brendan.”

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Mare was relieved to finally be out of the Contest Hall. The salty sea air of Slateport was refreshing after the stuffy, artificially scented air of the Contest Hall. And the darkness and silence of the night was a nice change of pace from the bright lights and loud crowds.

“So you’re really sure you wanna keep going on the Gym Challenge?” Mare asked as they walked towards the Pokemon Center.

“For a little while, at least.” Brendan replied. “Who knows, I might still become Champion.”

Mare snorted. “Yeah right. And I’ll get to meet Ho-Oh.”

“Shut up!” Brendan snapped.

“I think she should keep talking, actually.” A voice said from seemingly nowhere. “She’s got a very pretty voice.”

Out of the darkness and shadows stepped Zinnia in her Lorekeeper garb. She had a smug smirk fixed on her face as usual.

“Who the hell are you!” Brendan shouted, stumbling backwards a bit before stopping.

“It’s a secret.” Zinnia singsonged, wagging her finger.

“Brendan, this is Zinnia.” Mare said. “She’s, uh, she’s a…” She trailed off, not sure how to designate Zinnia.

“I’m her best friend, obviously!” Zinnia said with a massive grin.

“No, no you’re not.” Mare replied, even though she got a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling from that. “You’re the weird girl who’s been following me around.”

“Hey, I’m not that weird!” Zinnia protested, putting her hand over her heart. “Wait, no, I am pretty weird. I like to think its part of my charm, though.” She winked.

“So is that whatever it is case safe?” Mare asked.

“Wait, you gave the case to her?” Brendan asked.

“Didn’t have a lot of other options.” Mare replied.

“The case is safe.” Zinnia replied.

Mare narrowed her eyes. “And you’re telling the truth?”

“One hundred percent. Cross my heart and hope to die.” Zinnia said, doing just that. “I gave it back to the old guy. Well, I left it on his desk. Couldn’t really give it to him myself since its better if my face isn’t seen since I’m wanted by the authorities, thanks for that by the way, and I definitely couldn’t show up in my Magma uniform.”

“You’re with those red weirdos!?” Brendan exclaimed.

“I’m pretending to be with those red weirdos.” Zinnia corrected. “Anyways, I’m just here to check up on my new favorite Girly and her cousin who I guess is also here.”

“Hey!” Brendan protested.

Meanwhile, Mare blushed. Zinnia said she was her favorite.

“So, where’re you headed next?” Zinnia asked.

“Not sure.” Mare said. “Brendan, where’s the nearest gym?”

“Mauville City.” Brendan grumbled, still a bit annoyed at Zinnia’s casual dismissal of him.

“Mauville City it is, then!” Mare said.

“Blech, Mauville. Terrible place.” Zinnia said, making an exaggerated disgusted face. “You should just skip that and go straight to Lavaridge. Way better. Oh! And Meteor Falls, too! Best place in Hoenn to watch the stars!” She looked a bit dreamy at the prospect of stargazing then shook her head. “Anyways, glad to see you’re doing okay. You really tore it up on stage.”

“Thank you!” Brendan said, proudly placing his hands on his hips.

“Not you, Mare.” Zinnia said, pointing at the aforementioned girl.

“What!” Brendan shouted. “She set herself on fire!”

“And she looked great while doing it!” Zinnia declared, going to proudly slap Mare on the back before seemingly remembering how Mare reacted to being touched and backing off. “I should get going, now. Got tons of research to do before we can make our move. But we’re close, Aster can sense it.”

“Make your move?” Brendan asked, confused.

“Didn’t Mare tell you?” Zinnia asked. “We’re gonna save the world together!”

“Huh?” Brendan asked, eyebrow raised.

“Zinnia thinks I’m some sort of Chosen One or something.” Mare explained. “Which is obviously a lie.”

“Well, yeah, of course that’s a lie.” Zinnia replied. “I’m the Chosen One. You’re the cool girl who’s gonna help the Chosen One.”

“Highly doubt that.” Mare deadpanned.

“Aw come on, Girly, would I ever lie to you?” Zinnia asked. “Actually, don’t answer that.” She put her hands together like she was praying. “But I promise I’m not lying to you here. After all, you’ve been having those dreams too.” She looked down at her wrist as if she was wearing a watch. “Ope, look at the time! I’ve gotta get going! Lots of research to be done and Orbs to be found! Good luck with whatever it is Gym Challengers do!” She gave a wave and then retreated into an alley, wall jumping until she reached the rooftop and then dashing away.

“That was weird.” Brendan said, stating the obvious.

“Yeah, she’s weird.” Mare agreed. “But pretty.” She sighed dreamily.

Brendan rolled his eyes. “So what was that about dreams and saving the world?”

Mare let out a long, heavy, not at all dreamy sigh. “It’s a long story…”


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“And that's what happened.” Gunther the Aqua Grunt concluded.

Archie sighed. Following the failure of an operation, Team Aqua had retreated to a hiding spot just outside of the city. There, the Grunts Archie had sent chasing after those kids recounted what had happened.

“N’ ye’re sure ye saw her toss th’ case t’ a Magma Agent?” Archie asked.

“Yes sir.” Gunther affirmed.

Archie stroked his beard. That was strange. Was the Little Scamp working with Magma? She didn’t seem the type Maxie would hire. He couldn’t imagine her taking orders from anyone.

“Alright, you lot!” Archie shouted, holding his hand in the air to attract the Grunts’ attention. “Th’ operation may 'ave been a failure but don't let that get ye down! We'll 'ave plenty o' chances t' get wha' we need! Fer now, ye all 'ave t' return t' base!”

There was a chorus of aye ayes, yes sirs, and all sorts of affirmations. Team Aqua was a rowdy bunch, not ones for conformity or rigidness. Individuality was their bread and butter and they relished in it.

“What about you, sir?” Gunther asked.

“I'll catch up.” Archie said. “Thar's somethin' I 'ave t' do first. Now wha' are ye waitin' fer, get a move on!”

“Yes sir!” Gunther said, saluting.

With that, all the Grunts began heading towards Lilycove in different manners. Some of them chose to walk, others chose to fly, and many chose to go by sea. Eventually, only Archie was left. He let out a long, drawn out sigh and took a PokeNav, not a PokeNav Plus, a PokeNav out of a hidden pocket on his wetsuit.

He let out a long, heavy sigh. “I promised meself I'd ne'er do this.”

He opened the Nav’s contact list, selected the only number registered, and waited. Part of him prayed that it would just go to voicemail. Then he could say “oh well, I tried” and move on to more important things. Alas, life is unfair and the Nav was answered.

“Ah, Archie.” Maximilian Matsubusa said. “I assume you’re calling to finally admit the truth. That I’m right and you’re nothing more than a fool.”

“Oh put a cork in it, Max!” Archie snapped. “Ye know that's nah why I’m callin'!”

“Then why are you calling?” Maxie asked curtly. “I’ll have you know I’m quite busy and don’t have time for nonsense.”

“Well, since ye're so busy I'll cut t' the chase.” Archie replied. “Is Lil’ Scamp one o' yers?

“Is who what?” Maxie asked, confused. “What are you blabbering on about?”

Archie sighed. “The girl. The one who keeps showin' up 'n gettin' in our way. Is she one o' yers?”

“Ah, I see.” Maxie said neutrally. “I can assure you she is not. She has been just as much a thorn in my side as she has been in yours.” There was a pause. “What could have given you the impression she worked for me?”

“One o' my Grunts saw her give somethin' t' one o' yer Agents.” Archie answered, keeping it vague to avoid tipping Maxie off to his location or plans.

“That’s strange.” Maxie said, sounding a bit surprised. “I never sent any of my Agents out to retrieve anything recently. And I certainly never sent any to rendezvous with that girl. Tell me, did your Grunt give you a description of this Agent?”

“Nope.” Archie replied.

“Hmm… this is troubling.” Maxie said. Despite not being able to see him, Archie knew he was rubbing his chin. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Archibald. Now, like I said before, I’m very busy so if you’ll excuse me…”

“Max, wait.” Archie blurted impulsively.

“Hmm?” Maxie hmm’d.

There was a horrible moment where neither of them said anything. Archie had felt the pressure of the ocean bearing down upon him but that was nothing compared to the pressure of this silence. Finally, he responded.

“Don't think ye're goin' t' win. I will return the world t' its unspoiled beginnings 'n thar's naught a thing ye or that Scamp can do t' stop me.”

“Hmph.” Maxie hmph’d. “We’ll see.” With that, he ended the call and Archie breathed a sigh of relief.

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Author's Note: I realize its four years too early for Rock Star but it fits.

Archie can be a girly if I want him to be.
 
Last edited:
Realized I forgot to add a part to Chapter 5 so I updated it. Hurray, Chaz is here now.
 
Updated Chapter 5 a second time because I had to add yet another part to it.
 
Author's Note: Sorry about how short this one is. It ends in a pretty good spot so I'm fine with posting it now. I wasn't gonna get anything else done if I didn't post it.
Gabby was frustrated. Dewford Town was a bust. While the kids had been there and they had reportedly met with, of all people, Hoenn Champion Steven Stone, by the time she and Ty had arrived, they were already off to Slateport City. So that was their next stop and it was already proving more fruitful.

“Yeah, I saw em.” One person said. “Were running from some pirate fellas. Don’t know what happened to em afterwards, though.”

“They saved the Museum from those horrible Team Aqua people!” The Front Desk Lady at the Oceanic Museum reported.

“Hey, we’re not horrible!” Shouted a random bystander. “I mean, uh, who’re Team Aqua?”

“Oh, you mean those kids that Lisia scouted?” One final witness said. “The boy gave a great performance. The girl… eh. Funny when she set herself on fire.”

That was it! Finally, they had a lead! The Contests were broadcast live to national television but they were also recorded for rerun purposes. If they could get their hands on a recording of the most recent show, they would know for sure the names and faces of the kids they were searching for.

It was incredibly easy to get the footage. After all, they worked for the Network the Contests were broadcast on. All they had to do was flash their press badges and they were let in no problem. The Contest Hall was kind enough to provide them a CRT TV with a built in VCR Player to watch the footage on. Welcome to 2003.

“Alright, lets see…” Gabby said, inserting the VHS Tape and turning on the TV.

The TV flickered to life, briefly displaying a blue screen before changing to the recordings of the performances. Gabby fast forwarded past all the Coordinators she didn’t care about, she’d never been one for Contests, too safe compared to the exciting and dangerous world of battles. Ty was a bit disappointed, though. He’d really wanted to see Lisia’s exhibition performance at the very least.

“There!” Gabby shouted, pausing the video on a frame of a girl with gravity defying hair. For some reason she was on fire. “That’s her! She matches the description!”

“She’s certainly on fire.” Ty agreed.

Gabby unpaused the video and fast forwarded again to the next and final performance. She paused it on a frame in the middle of it, clearly showing a boy with brown hair and eyes to match. He looked to be having a much better time than the girl.

“This must be the other one.” Gabby said. She had now begun writing things down in a notebook. “What did the announcer say their names were again?”

“I think it was… Mare and Brendan Birch.” Ty said.

“Same surname…” Gabby mused, continuing to write. “Siblings? Maybe cousins?”

“Isn’t that also the name of that famous Professor in Littleroot Town?” Ty asked.

“You’re right.” Gabby said, tapping her pen against her cheek. “Maybe there’s a relation.”

“How many people are there in Hoenn named Birch.” Ty pointed out.

“Good point.” Gabby replied. “We should go to Littleroot Town and ask him about those kids.” She realized something and groaned. “Wait, we can’t follow the kids and go to Littleroot.”

“We could split up.” Ty suggested.

“Are you sure?” Gabby asked.

“Look, I think you’re crazy following a bunch of kids around on the off-chance you’ll get a big scoop.” Ty admitted. “But I’m already in this for the long haul. You follow the kids to Mauville, I’ll take a trip to Littleroot. Then, we’ll meet back up in Oldale.”

“Where would I be without you?” Gabby asked, shutting off the tv.

“By my count?” Ty replied, touching his pointer fingers together. “Dead or in jail.”

“Rhetorical question.” Gabby grumbled.

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Mare wouldn’t admit it but she was glad Brendan had decided to come along. As much as she found him to be annoying, traveling was much better when you had a companion. Even a brat like Brendan. After all, even bickering was better than being alone with her thoughts.

Eventually, they had to stop and rest for the night upon which Brendan revealed that he had somehow managed to pack two entire tents into his backpack along with the other necessary camping supplies. Even Mare had to admit she was impressed.

“H-how-” Mare stuttered.

“I spent a lot of time helping my dad with field research.” Brendan replied proudly. “I picked up a few things.”

“So its because you’re a nerd.” Mare said.

“Better than having meat for brains.” Brendan replied.

“Why you-” Mare growled, balling her fists.

Brendan flinched a bit but quickly shot back. “Try anything and you won’t get any dinner.”

Mare growled and then unballed her fists. Mare didn’t think Brendan would follow through on that threat, but she couldn’t risk it. She’d had more than a few nights without dinner back in Johto.

There was something else too. Brendan had flinched. Was he… scared of her? Well, of course he was, she was the scary girl with sharp teeth who bit people. And she was proud of it too. But… something about it still felt not right.

“Hey!” Brendan snapped figuratively while literally snapping his fingers in front of Mare’s face. “You’ve been staring into space for a minute now are you gonna help me set up or not!”

Mare made a move to snap at his fingers and he quickly pulled them back. She sighed and began helping him set up. Despite his initial protests, she also helped him cook and it turned out that both of them were pretty damn good at it. When it came to cooking they made a formidable team… or they would have if they could stop bickering.

Eventually they managed to get some soup made. It was serviceable and for two ravenous growing pre-teens it was delicious. Likewise, their Pokémon enjoyed chowing down in some Pokechow.

“So, that was the girl you’re crushing on, huh?” Brendan said as they ate.

Mare groaned. “Not this again. I don’t have a crush on her. That’s not a thing.”

“Uh huh, yeah, sure.” Brendan said sarcastically. “And you weren’t blushing like mad when she called you her favorite.”

“How did you know I was blushing!” Mare shouted. “It was too dark to see!”

“You just told me.” Brendan said smugly.

“Oh screw you.” Mare replied.

“What do you like about her anyways?” Brendan asked, crossing his arms. “She seems annoying.”

Mare stared off into the distance. “Well, she's pretty and strong and funny and she slammed me into a wall-” She abruptly cut herself off as she realized what she was saying. “And I don’t like her!”

“Yeah, you like like her.” Brendan teased.

“I don’t like like her!” Mare protested, her face saying otherwise. “I mean, can girls even like like each other?”

“Yeah, obviously.” Brendan said. “Since you like like her.”

“I do not!” Mare protested. “And even if I did, what would it matter. Love’s fake anyways.”

Brendan gasped. “What? Okay, I know I’m a guy so I’m supposed to be all “Feelings are stupid and love is dumb” but love’s totally real.”

Mare scoffed. “Anyone who thinks love is real is either lying or delusional. Its just a trap that people use to lure you in and then it snaps shut, trapping you forever in a horrible prison.”

“Very poetic.” Brendan deadpanned. “But maybe your parents aren’t the best relationship to base all other relationships on. My parents aren’t like that. I don’t think I’ve heard dad so much as raise his voice at mom.”

“Well… maybe… they’re an exception.” Mare said, grasping at straws. She crossed her arms. “Look can we just drop this. I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Fine.” Brendan replied, not having the energy to push the matter. “It's getting late anyways.”

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The next morning, the two of them packed up camp (Brendan was much better at it than Mare) and headed out on the road. In pretty much no time they reached Mauville City. Upon reaching it, they were completely in awe. The city was unlike anything either of them had ever seen, especially Mare.

Mauville was unique among cities in that it was entirely indoors, making it perhaps one of the largest structures in the world. The city was a topic of hot debate in the Hoenn region. Some saw it as a beacon of progress and a marvel of human innovation while others saw it as a symbol of everything wrong with the rampant modernization of Hoenn. Mare and Brendan, being kids, didn’t really know or care about any of this, however. To them, this was simply a very cool city and the next stop on their Gym Challenge. And as a bonus, it was air conditioned.

Their first stop was to be the Pokemon Center. At least, that was the plan. You see, to get to the Pokemon Center you have to pass by the Mauville City Gym. And who should Mare and Brendan see at the Gym? None other than Wally and some guy they didn’t know.

“Uncle, I’m begging you!” Wally pleaded with the man, presumably his uncle. “I want to challenge this Gym and see how much stronger I’ve become! Please! You’ll let me, won’t you?”

“Now hold on, Wally.” The man rebutted. “It’s true you’ve grown a lot stronger alongside your Pokemon. But don’t you think jumping right into challenging a Gym is pushing it?”

“I’m not pushing it!” Wally protested. “If its me and Kettei, we can beat anyone!”

“What’s going on here?” Brendan asked, finally approaching the two.

“Ah! Mare! Brendan!” Wally shouted, delighted to see them. Brendan pouted a bit about his name being second.

“Yo.” Mare said.

“Hey, Little Buddy, what’s up!” Brendan said, ruffling Wally’s hair affectionately.

“I’m gonna challenge the Gym!” Wally said excitedly.

“Ah, you must be the friends Wally told me about.” Wally’s Uncle said. “He’s quite fond of you. Maybe you can talk him out of this crazy idea of his.”

“What’s so wrong with wanting to challenge a Gym?” Brendan asked.

“I just don’t think he’s ready yet.” Wally’s Uncle answered.

“Me and Kettei have gotten a lot stronger!” Wally protested. He pulled out Kettei’s Pokeball and held it out. “Mare, please, battle me! Help me prove how strong I’ve gotten!”

Mare held out her hands in a stopping motion. “Woah, slow down. This is kinda sudden.”

“Please!” Wally pleaded.

Mare looked down and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and then opened them, making direct eye contact with Wally. This was the first time in a long time she’d made eye contact with someone.

“Alright,” She said. “I’ll do it. I’ll battle you.”

“Thank you, Mare.” Wally said.

The two of them moved to opposite sides of the hallway. Was it wise to have a Pokemon Battle in the middle of the city instead of on a designated field? Probably not. But this was fairly normal. Trainers did stuff like this all the time and everyone else just kinda had to deal. Only Wally’s Uncle seemed to take issue with this.

“Shouldn’t we-” He began but before he could finish, Wally interrupted him.

“Okay! Here we go!” He shouted, tossing out Kettei. “We’ll win this! We have too!”

(Music Box: Battle! Brendan/May from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

Kettei noised confidently.

“Don’t go easy on us, Mare!” Wally shouted.

“Wasn’t planning on it!” Mare shouted back, tossing out Kaen.

Brendan sighed at her choice. “Mare…”

“Kaen, Flame Charge!” Mare shouted.

Kaen engulfed himself in flames and charged at Kettei.

“Teleport!” Wally shouted frantically.

Right before Kaen could reach him, Kettei teleported away and appeared behind the Combusken, who slammed into a potted plant, destroying it.

“Disarming Voice!”

Kettei let out a soothing cry. It almost sounded like a lullaby and if you understood Pokemon like Mare did, it was. Kaen clutched his head, stumbling a bit.

“Shake it off, Kaen!” Mare shouted. “ Double Kick!”

A poor choice but still effective (just not Effective). Kaen shook his head and then unleashed two powerful kicks, knocking Kettei backwards.

“Kettei!” Wally cried.

“Finish it with Flame Charge!”

Kaen once again cloaked himself in flame and rushed forward.

“Teleport again!” Wally shouted desperately.

It was no use. With the speed boost from Flame Charge, Kaen was too fast. He rammed into Kettei, knocking him backwards into a bench, causing it to crack in half.

“Come on, Kettei, get up!” Wally pleaded. “I know you can get up!”

But the Ralts did not. He had fainted.

(Music Box: Victory! Trainer from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire)​

Mare pumped her fist. “Whoo! Nice job Kaen!”

Kaen put his talons on his hips and noised proudly.

“Hey, don’t go getting a big head.” Mare chastised.

Wally walked over to where Kettei was and scooped him up in his arms. “I’m sorry, Kettei.”

The three kids and one adult regrouped in front of the Gym.

“Here, take this.” Brendan said, handing Wally a revive.

“Thank you.” Wally replied. He popped the revive into Kettei’s mouth. Slowly, the Ralts opened his eyes and blinked blearily.

“Return.” Wally said, tapping his Pokeball to the Ralts’ forehead and recalling him. He approached Mare and bowed slightly before straightening up. “Thank you for battling me, Mare. I learned a lot.” He clenched his fist. “That’s why I want to ask you something…” Mare turned to face him, giving him her full attention. “Will you… will you allow me to travel with you!”

The request caught everyone off guard. Especially Wally’s uncle.

“Hold on, Wally. Shouldn’t we return to Verdanturf?”

Wally shook his head. “Mare’s a great trainer and her bond with her Pokemon is strong! I know that if I travel with her, I can get a lot stronger! No, I will get a lot stronger!” She turned to Mare. “Please let me join you on your Journey!”

Mare had to admit she was a bit caught off guard. Wally wanted to travel with her? And he thought she was a great trainer? She wasn’t entirely sure how to process this.

Nobody had ever called her “great” before. Usually it was “broken” or “failure.” Even her mom had only ever really used “different” and “special.” Mare knew she meant well, but that kind of thing was never not going to sound disingenuous. This, though, this was different. There was genuine admiration in Wally’s eyes.

Mare realized Brendan and Wally’s Uncle were starting to give her weird looks and she should probably answer before they started shouting at her. She should probably say no. She didn’t want to let Wally down and she was a loner anyways (Brendan notwithstanding). And yet, that’s not what she said.

“Of course you can travel with me.” Mare said with a smile.

“Thank you so much!” Wally exclaimed, clasping his hands together. “I promise I’ll do all I can too not be a burden! And I’ll train hard until one day, I can beat you!”

Mare put on a cocky smile. “Don’t think I’ll go easy on you.”

Wally’s Uncle shook his head and sighed. “I suppose there’s no way to talk you out of this.” He looked at Mare. “Mare, was it?”

“Er, yeah.” Mare replied.

“Look out for Wally. Please.”

“I’ll do my best.” Mare replied.

“I’ll do my best too!” Brendan added.

“Thank you.” Wally’s Uncle said. “Now, I should get back to Verdanturf Town. Good luck on your Journey.” He waved and walked off, presumably in the direction of Verdanturf Town.

There was a beat and then Brendan spoke. “So, how about lunch.”
 
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