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MATURE: The Story of Fritz Westmyn: The Turning World (old, crusty, abandoned)

Okay, finally read the chapter. I liked Markus, I hope I can see him again :p

But that aside I have to second what Legacy said in that the battles were pretty good, I particlarly liked the second one against the crazy kid whose name I keep forgetting. I thouht it was areally bizarre battle but you did tell me that it was a Twitch reference so I guess it makes sense when you look at it that way. That being said I'm intrigued to see how Fritz will fare against Elyna and what he will learn.
So I've finally managed to read through the first arc properly:

Technical Accuracy/Style
Generally very good technical accuracy, certainly nothing to get worked up about. If I was proof reading I reckon I'd be able to find a few errors in each chapter. Stylistically, nothing to write home about but nothing to get annoyed by either – your narration gets the job done. I think perhaps Fritz's internal narration is a bit matter of fact

Essentially its a slow burner. This first arc does an ok job of introducing everyone, though given that there are relatively few events I'd have liked to have seen more character focus. Nevertheless I believe in the setting and the story as it stands. I suspect a lot of this arc is really going to be giving context to the rest of the story

The main cast I don't have a problem with – each of the three has a distinctive personality without becoming a cliché, and each could probably carry first-person narration equally well. In general for this story though – too many characters! Each minor character seems to come with a squadon of minions, whether it's Aporon or Reika's room-mate. They tend to clog up the narration and you don't tend to do much with them. A lot of scenes are in themselves ok but suffer from having too many additional students who maybe say a line or react once

Final Thoughts
Room for improvement, but by no means bad at all. It seems that racism will make a bigger impact on this story in the next arc and I'm curious to see what comes of it
Ok, great battle scene. I especially like the dialog before and after, basically I just like your dialog in general. Very nuanced according to the characters which really gives the characters so much depth. This is something I really need to work on, and you're the master at it.

Thanks. Dialogue surrounding battle is fun, as this next chapter also shows. One of the tricks I use is to try formulating the dialogue without anything in-between. That helps with the flow, I find. Although, making it work on a per-character basis is more of an art...

West's skills during battle are evident. Really liked this chapter.
Get ready for an even crazier battle scene, then!!

Stellar Flaze:
Okay, finally read the chapter. I liked Markus, I hope I can see him again :p
For those looking here, Markus is another cameo character much like Elyna, played Flaze here. While the whole concept behind them was mostly experimental, I find they've actually been quite nice. They're filling gaps in the void that I've been missing - in this one case, a likeable rival/opponent.

But that aside I have to second what Legacy said in that the battles were pretty good, I particlarly liked the second one against the crazy kid whose name I keep forgetting. I thouht it was areally bizarre battle but you did tell me that it was a Twitch reference so I guess it makes sense when you look at it that way.

I needed a second opponent for Fritz in the tournament. It was just happenstance that Twitch Plays Pokemon fell into my lap due to the delays. It's also kinda neat to dive into the mind of RED's opponent.

That being said I'm intrigued to see how Fritz will fare against Elyna and what he will learn.
You'll find out now~

Beth Pavell:
Generally very good technical accuracy, certainly nothing to get worked up about. If I was proof reading I reckon I'd be able to find a few errors in each chapter. Stylistically, nothing to write home about but nothing to get annoyed by either – your narration gets the job done. I think perhaps Fritz's internal narration is a bit matter of fact

That's kind of how he is - you can kinda gather things about his personality just from his narration, especially given the fluctuating present tense. And makes him work as a neutral narrator more often than not...but of course, there are exceptions.

Essentially its a slow burner. This first arc does an ok job of introducing everyone, though given that there are relatively few events I'd have liked to have seen more character focus. Nevertheless I believe in the setting and the story as it stands. I suspect a lot of this arc is really going to be giving context to the rest of the story

Fun fact: Part 2 wasn't originally going to be what it was. It does manage to achieve a lot of that character focus, though. Most of it in Part 1 came in-passing.

The main cast I don't have a problem with – each of the three has a distinctive personality without becoming a cliché, and each could probably carry first-person narration equally well.

Well, that's what I was going for with those three. Though Reika would be a very biased narrator. I showed off what it would be like at least once with her though, with her giving the description of Ms. Odell.

Beth Pavell, this part on its own because you can't nest spoilers more than two deep:
In general for this story though – too many characters! Each minor character seems to come with a squadon of minions, whether it's Aporon or Reika's room-mate. They tend to clog up the narration and you don't tend to do much with them. A lot of scenes are in themselves ok but suffer from having too many additional students who maybe say a line or react once

Umm...then get ready for more then. >_> That's kind of the point, though - this fic has a grander scale than most dare to tread - and some of characters are intended to be far more important than others, sometimes just by virtre of the narrator. And by the same token, that is why he takes notice of a lot of people.

I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think I could handle it, though. Aporon's crew are a good example - they have very distinct ways of speaking that make them stand out (they're also an example of characters I wasn't planning on having be as big as they were, but I did so anyway). I try to give everyone who's at least a minor character _something_, at least. Even if some of the details need to be inferred/gathered. Going along with the grand scope, just because we don't see someone on-screen often doesn't mean I haven't given them a personality.

Part of this was intended to be made up for with a feature of the defunct-Atlas called Extra Exchanges (as well as the character profiles), where a bit more into certain characters away from Fritz' point of view are seen, and everything that's there to be gathered is presented. Since you brought up Reika's roommate, here's one of them for your viewing pleasure. It also puts a certain line in-context.

Where's Reika?
Liane: "Damn it, damn it, damn it!"
Carlie: "Oh, Liane. What's wrong?"
Liane: "I haven't seen Reika anywhere today!"
Andrew: "That's a bad thing?"
Irene: "I'd be glad to be rid of that fat broad."
Liane: "Me too. That's why I came up with a plan to get rid of her."
Carlie: "What?"
Irene: "Huh?
Andrew: "Really?"
Carlie: "What were you planning on doing?"
Liane: "Okay. Come with me."

(Back in Reika's and Liane's Room)
Irene (sarcastically): "Nice place."
Liane: "It could be better. And it will be after I get her out of here. Where'd I put it now...oh, here it is."
Andrew: "Uh, what are you going to do with a statue?"
Carlie: "Andrew! That's a bust of the famous coordinator, Wallace! And an expensive one, at that! Show a little respect!"
Liane: "Carlie, you got it."
Andrew: "But what's that gotta do with this plan?"
Liane: "It's quite simple. Step 1: Leave Reika alone in the room. Step 2: Wait until Reika leaves the room. Step 3: Return to 'find' the statuette missing. Step 4: Hide it and tear apart the room. Step 5: When Reika comes back, accuse her of stealing it. Step 6: When Reika cannot prove otherwise, she has to pay, or be kicked out of school."
Irene: "Genius."
Liane: "The only problem is, I haven't seen her since this morning."
Carlie: "Hmm..."
Irene: "That is a problem."
(they pause)
Andrew: "Well, we could find...him."
Liane: "Who?"
Andrew: "You know...that guy."
Carlie: "I'd imagine he'd be easier to find."
Irene: "And he's got the hots for Easton. Always hanging out with her."
Liane: "I'm...not quite following you three."
Carlie: "Liane, we're talking about Fritz Westmyn. You know, the guy who took a stand against Cronus Aporon, and fought that Gyarados at the lake in his stead."
Liane: "Wait. He's the same guy who stood up for Reika?"
Andrew: "Yeah."
Liane: "Well, let's go drill him for answers! And maybe ask him a few questions."
Carlie: "Liane, wait!"
Carlie: "We have to be careful. He's popular amongst the first-years and many of the second-years. And, he...he may be a little unpredictable. Maybe we should just keep looking for Reika. They might not even be with him. I mean, she's gotta be somewhere, right?"
Liane: "Hm."
Liane: "All right. You, Irene, Andrew can go look around the grounds for her. I'll try to find him. If anyone would know where she is, it'd be him."
Irene: "Wait. I want to come with you."
Liane: "What? Why?"
Irene: "I'm coming with you to talk to him!"
Carlie: "Umm...Irene wants..."
Liane: "Oh. I understand. All right then. Just don't do anything stupid, okay?"
Irene: "I'll be as charming as can be. Now, be right back."

Another thing as well though it's too long to include. Cinque is Liane's loyal follower, but Carlie/Liane/Andrew are just associates of hers that are basically a group, like Fritz/Reika/Thatcher. They met by happenstance, due to being in the same class block. They're also the three who were at the start of 1-1, if it wasn't clear.

Getting back into the groove. Most of the rust is gone now, but there's still probably one or two things I'm going to look at later and be all "wat, need to fix this". Especially that last scene, ugh. Rushed it out, but it's really a necessity; it just works better there than at the start of the next. But I am happy with how the battle scene turned out. Like I said in my response to Legacy, it's something else.


Chapter 2-12: Cold Hard Clash

A challenge by one of the school's Big Three, as I dubbed them. It's difficult to judge whether she or Muriel Palmoni is more ruthless than the other, but it certainly did not bode well in my mind. The one mercy I had been given was a day to prepare. The outdoor battlegrounds being in use acted as a stopgap for immediate retribution. Aporon and Elyna both said they wanted this to be public. For everyone to see my fate.

I didn't get the chance to continue watching the tournament for further analysis' sake. Teiko was kind enough to give me a bit of intel, though. Korum, Markus, and Graham all won their battles, and all decisively. She kept track of any other standouts as best as she could. Which amounted to a list of names and Pokémon. But it's better than nothing, right?

The stage was set just after lunch. And to the outdoor battlegrounds it was. The spectator count was about half of yesterday's, but the fact that so many people showed up just to see one fight really has me worried. Standing here evokes a nervousness in me I haven't felt for a long time.

The Ice type. I suppose it's better employed as a utility type. They're especially good at draining a foe's stamina with the likes of Icy Wind and Blizzard. One of the few practitioners of their types' moves as well; it's not every Pokémon that can just shoot out an Ice Beam or something. But I've come as prepared as I can for Elyna. I almost thought to dip into my reserves...but I figure I can beat her with what I have. Let's hope I don't regret that decision.

Aporon's standing off to the side in the middle of the battlefield, acting as a self-appointed referee. "This will be a three-on-three battle," he announced, giving this encounter a big-fight feel. "Pitting 'The Ice Princess' Elyna Dragomir against Fritz Westmyn. Switching is allowed, and the first one to knock out all three of their opponents' Pokémon will be declared the winner."

"I'll bury you in a coffin of ice, Westmyn. Just like your little girlfriend," Elyna snarled. A malicious smirk is creeping across her entire visage. "By the time I'm done with you, you'll wish that you'd never come to this school."

"Say what you want," I forced out, "I'm not going down without a fight." That's the mentality I'm taking here. I'm not backing down. Even if this is terrifying.

To this, she just yawned. "I'm so sure," she commented with a vaguely amused look. She is completely off her rocker, here. "Nearly all of my opponents say the same before the matches end in the same manner every time: with my oldest and most faithful companion destroying their hopes and dreams!"

Elyna's first Pokémon is a Glaceon. Unlike Ina's, hers seems to be more well-groomed. Its fur is more consistently textured, and the ice that make up its hooves are as clean as the sheet on its back. Its ears are a bit more pointed, too, though the helmet part is a bit less militant. And this one has an expression that befits its trainer.

Let's go, then. If there's one Pokémon of mine I have on me who would not back down from a glare like that, it's Nidorina. Indeed, her response was immediate hostility. Not that that's uncommon. My opponent and her Pokémon were indifferent towards this, or just generally not impressed.

"If you're both ready," Aporon nodded, "Then let the battle begin!"

"Let's start..." Elyna made the first move, muttering her next two words, "And end...this show with Ice Beam!"

"Move in, Nidorina!"

The Eevee evolution spat out a large, pure-white beam of energy, that Nidorina expertly hopped to one side to evade during her charge forth. The Glaceon was almost taken aback at her quickness, and Elyna was just able to get out, "Counter with Iron Tail! So, she has a bit of speed, eh?" This use of it was far more violent and precise than when Ina's used it. Nidorina proceeded to completely ignore the pain from the impact and go right to work on the Glaceon, hacking away.

Elyna curled her lip. "Oh, really now? Fury Swipes? I expected better. Double Team!" Double Team, I went over before. This is unlike anything I've seen before, though. It's almost as if...okay. Imagine a bunch of copies created by ice or something. That's what's going on here.

"That's a nice trick," I chuckled. It really is. But. "If you want better, Nidorina, fire Poison Stings in all directions!"

Double Team Stubble Gleam. Soooo overrated. If you have a way to attack all the copies at once, or in certain circumstances, block their path, it's inferior. Nidorina gave me the "what the hell are you thinking?" glare, but caught on after making the effort to execute the order. I'm guessing she heard a small cry of pain from it impacting the real one, and charged right in.

"Not too shabby, Fritz. You've got some tricks to you as well. Good, you'll need them." She seems to be taking this a bit more seriously. "Get out of range and use Double Team again!"

Nidorina was a bit too quick. Glaceon was clipped by the subsequent Cut, yet managed to escape and throw up even more illusions. More than she can hit...

...so let's bring out the noodled one!! With full confidence, I made the switch. Tangela, having been placed in this kind of scenario before, immediately knew what to do. Out came its vines, and across the ice sculptures or whatever they went, putting an instant stop to the Eevee evolution's efforts. Told ya it's overrated.

"You...are you really? What. Are you doing?!" And well, I just sent a Grass type out against an Ice type. That turned more than a few heads. "Do you actually want to lose? It might be able to destroy my duplicates, but can it stand up to the sheer force of ice? You're at a disadvantage here Fritz."

What can I say? Sometimes, experience beats type advantage, and Tangela is experienced. Shrug. "Charge up for a Solarbeam!" I said to my Pokémon, which it did.

Elyna's quite shocked at this. "So, your Tangela is strong enough to know Solarbeam, eh? Blizzard, cancel out the Solarbeam!" The frozen fox opened its jaw, unleashing a harsh miniaturized snowstorm from its body...I heard some sighs from the audience, as if they expected this one to be over soon. Aporon just stared at me.

But ha! The heat from Solarbeam is giving it a decent level of protection from the Blizzard! I laughed. It didn't actually fire the thing off, using the charge as a means of defense instead.

"...interesting tactic. I've never seen Solarbeam used that way before. Hm." Sometimes, strategy beats type advantage, too! The Ice Princess and her Glaceon seem a bit uncertain what to do. Likewise...I have no idea how to advance myself. All Tangela did was cautiously watch, occasionally stopping to keep its Solarbeam charged.

"If Ice type moves won't do anything, how about we try something...different. Glaceon, use Signal Beam and see what effect that will have!"

"Mmm...hop to the side!" Tangela did so, getting a bit of extra momentum by shoving off, yet Glaceon merely redirected the beam. "Block it!" Forgot they're experienced. It brought out a few vines to act as a sort of shield, which worked all right. I guess. "Good...now, a swinging Vine Whip!"

Elyna is not amused. She raised an eyebrow. "Jump it." And...Glaceon just jumped over it. Well, I guess this look of disapproval is a bit better than what I was getting before?

"Slam the vine down, then Leech Seed?" Need to wait for the opportunity.

Tangela brought the vine up and around, then straight down. "Dodge the vine, then use Blizzard to blow the seeds back!" Another effortless evasion. Once again, the cold storm had little discernible effect on my Pokémon, but it did have the trainer's desired effect.

Neither of us are making headway. The two restless combatants are circling each other warily. The crowd seems into it, though, I think? They're holding their breath in anticipation. What to do...

"Hm." Elyna came to something before me. And appeared like a psychopath (okay, more of one) during the thought process. "It seems we're at a bit of a detente, Fritz. How about I take away your proverbial loaded gun, eh? Use Hail, Glaceon!"

I didn't give the command verbally, but did give a visual cue. And with that, the Solarbeam was loose. Just like that, Glaceon was consumed by the blast, unable to change the weather due to taking the vicious attack. And by happenstance, the two Pokémon were in close proximity, which left it unable to react and dodge.

"Reflect it back to them with-"

And then Tangela was back in the ball. Just like that.

"Wait, what?" Aporon spoke up. Completely and utterly confused. Just like everyone else. "You just recalled it after that one attack?"

One attack, a few sort-of attacks, and a bit of stalling that ultimately didn't matter. But perhaps a bit of explanation is in order there.


It was yesterday, around 8:45PM, that I was in front of the door to the activists' club. It took only a few moments for my knock to be answered, whereupon I was greeted by Premala.

"Frisco," she cheerfully said, while beckoning me in. "It is good to see you here. What brings you here this evening?"

I stepped inside and said, "Well, a few things, really..." I didn't bother with the lounge or whatever it actually is. I just plopped down on one of the cushions. I allowed her to pull a seat beside me before I continued, "I heard you ended up fighting Elyna yesterday."

"Yes," the robed girl confirmed. "She came here and challenged me to a battle. I accepted."

She leaned against me to touch heads. "It was five-on-five. She did not have a sixth."

"Can I ask you something about that, though?" She pulled back with an inquisitive smile. It was almost as if she knew what I was about to ask. "Well...someone told me it felt like you were holding back. And I know from seeing you that you have talent with Pokémon. So why did you hold back?"

A solemn sigh escaped her mouth, and she explained, "If I were to be defeated when putting forth my best, there would be nothing left." Premala paused. "And...to do so allowed me to see what her Pokémon were capable of."

I wasn't expecting that. At all. I smiled slyly.

"Oh, one other thing." The subject of Elyna's Pokémon were what I went there for. While the following is an unrelated subject to be going over now, may as well mentioned the other thing that I had wanted to speak to her about. "What did Elyna do at her old school that made her transfer?"

Premala giggled in reply.

"It's more fun to use your imagination, don't you think...?"


"Premala told me your Pokémon and strategy," I explained, directing towards Elyna. "I chose my team and developed my strategy based on this information. Knowing your Glaceon can use Mirror Coat, I wasn't going to let you get it off." That's also the point behind the use of Nidorina. Premala said Glaceon preferred to fight at a distance, so the best way to deal with that is to close the distance.

"So, you used your girlfriend as a scapegoat and a spy? How...cowardly." She was in that mood again. The eerie mood she was in right before she was about to challenge me to a battle a few days ago.

With this, I arrogantly gave a motion to Nidorina, who charged in with her skull lowered. Elyna shot me a glare, and implored, "I tire of this game. Glaceon, use Hyper Beam. Destroy that Nidorina!"

"Nidorina-!!" OWWW, too late. She ran headfirst into the brilliant laser. Nasty, nasty blow; several burns on her body. But she's still standing. Maybe half of it is defiance, but she's still up. Still, another bad hit, and-!?

Now it's Elyna's turn to make a switch, to ignore the recharge grace from using such a powerful attack. "Well, I doubt you'll know about much about my next Pokémon," she said as she brought the fox back. "Go, Torterra!" And in the snowy Pokémon's place came..what the hell? It looks like a beetle of some sort, or perhaps a turtle. Its body is comprised of what I think is soil topped with moss. On its back (seemingly compressing the poor thing beneath its weight) is a cedar tree, a gray stone, and several white spikes. Two more are on either cheek, with a very deep emerald snout before its jagged snapper. It wouldn't be hyperbole to call its legs tree trunks. Premala didn't go into detail about this one. Screw it, let's check.

Mm, skipping the details because I'm in the middle of an intense battle, device tells me this is Grass/Ground. And that it is, in fact, a turtle. Ground is a bit of an interesting type when it comes to Poison. It can put up with some, but not continued abuse from the type. Similarly, many Ground attacks can screw with Poison. Tough call, really, but we'll stick with Nidorina for now and see what happens.

"Torterra," Elyna coolly spoke, "Let's start things off with Stone Edge!"

A quantity of sharp rocks - much like those on its back - rose up from around the turtle, and launched at Nidorina. She made a valiant attempt to kick this to pieces, but it just didn't take as effectively. Better make a swap to Tangela.

Fresh out of the gate, I told it, "Smack it with Power Whip!" The thing about big, lumbering Pokémon is that they're not very maneuverable. It should have trouble dodging.

The strike hit as expected, but Elyna just chuckled. "Hello again, Tangela. How lovely to see you! Use Frenzy Plant to get Tangela in closer Torterra!"

A thorned root burst out of the ground. Tangela dodged. Then another one came, and another. If this keeps up...how to stop it...ugh!! Maybe, "Tangela, stop dodging and-" And...and...everyone, Pokémon included, was flabbergastered at this. Even myself. Elyna caught on to what I was apparently doing.

"Nice catch, Fritz!" Elyna sarcastically applauded, motioning Torterra to halt the assault. "If Torterra continues on with that much longer, he'll be exhausted. Don't worry, he won't be for long though! Use Giga Drain and rejuvenate yourself!"

Right, if he were to actually execute the attack, he'd end up tiring himself. "Fire back with Leaf Storm!!" The swirling leaves nailed Torterra, as did the siphoning orbs hit Tangela.

"Use Synthesis and follow up with Sandstorm!"

Sandstorm? "Not going to let you get that off. Crack it with your vines!" Indeed, Torterra took a little too much time to bask in the sun. His injuries were healed up, but immediately started getting lashed by Vine Whip. It was almost as though Tangela were bitchslapping him. Not really that painful, but just enough to make sure he couldn't focus enough to use Sandstorm.

Hey, is he closing in, albeit gradually? Creeping doom. Hmmm, she's definitely trying to lure us into a trap. I could continue fighting at a distance like this, but there's a refutation I see with coming in close. But how to pull it off...

"Throw it off balance with Earthquake," my opponent stated. "Then Stone Edge!" Got it. Have a quick counter that'll set my plan in motion.

"Bind its legs!" was the preliminary action. Tangela proceeded to do just that, catching the front two as the turtle was winding back to slam them down. He struggled as his attack was halted, and I quickly followed up, "Now, reel yourself in with Double-Edge!" Elyna beamed evilly as this attack barely scratched her Pokémon.

"Do you think that was going to have any effect at all? Squash him with Earthquake!"

"Poisonpowder!" Right in the face! There's nothing you can do about powder to the face. If you don't resist the poison and are biological - not like a Magneton or something - you're toast. With that, I made yet another switch, bringing out a new Pokémon.

No, seriously. I mean that in the literal sense. Vespiquen is a new Pokémon. But one that I've been getting a bit of training done with it, in secret. I was hoping to surprise somebody with it during the tournament, but now seems like the superior time to spring the surprise.

Aporon seemed a bit taken aback at this new arrival, but Elyna was starting to get pissed off. "Why don't you leave your Pokémon in the battle for more than five seconds? Or I suppose I could just sit here and switch my Pokémon back and forth!" Ending her rant, she eventually took notice of my Pokémon. "Vespiquen? Interesting. Clip her wings Torterra! Stone Edge!

Ha. "Switching is allowed. And Defend Order!"

Out came the rocks again, and out of Vespiquen came a swarm of bees. With a wave of her hand, they mobilized in front of her as a shield. They managed to weather the attack, and with a flick of her wrist, they charged for the big turtle. Which vanished in a white light before they got near. Elyna must've decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Well, switching IS allowed...

"Exactly!" she stated. It was Glaceon who she chose, as opposed to her third. "Figured I'd take advantage of it. So, Double Team then Ice Beam!"

"Up!" I shouted and even pointed. Oh. God, better not be picking up on that red guy's verbal habits. But it worked; Vespiquen escaped the laser with a simple difference in height. "Now, Signal Beam!"

She tilted her body as to aim the ripples at Glaceon, who instinctively set on the move to avoid it after several of the illusions got taken out. My Pokémon could only aim the laser slowly, but that's beside the point.

"Now Attack Order!" I grinned, before Elyna could launch a counterattack. "Make them home in on her!" Vespiquen briefly paused her attack to let them loose and give the command, before continuing to fire the Signal Beam. As the bees were in hot pursuit of the cold fox, the laser was aiming to cut it off.

The Ice Princess froze up momentarily. "Clever boy!" She recovered. "Wait for it..." Glaceon continued to flee. And as the beam and the bees were headed towards Glaceon. she ordered, "Now, double back through the bees!" Damn. Guess she and Glaceon figured what they could do to avoid both attacks...

...but, it didn't pan out!

Instead of what she intended, both attacks hit one after the other. First the drones set upon her as she tried to flee through them, then they parted to make way for the laser. When Vespiquen had to take a breather, they were right back on the fox. Glaceon rolled over on the ground, writhing in pain.

"I figured you might be rusty," I taunted. Crossing my arms and relishing the moment...

Elyna snorted. "Not in your dizziest day dream."

"Or maybe you're the one clinging to a dream?"

"If anyone is clinging to a dream here, it's gonna be you. And I'm the alarm clock that'll wake you up! It's time to face the real world Fritz."

"Go ahead and see if I can't hit the snooze button on you, then!"

Elyna pointed with a sneer. "Use Blizzard!"

"Power Gem!" I returned the gesture.

Vespiquen shot out a few glowing orbs, as many as she could before she had to try and get out of the way. She was clipped by the fearsome icestorm, but didn't have to flee for long. Because the Power Gems knocked out Glaceon!? It fainted, just like that?! Must've taken more damage than I thought!

And speaking of which. Vespiquen didn't really like that blast either, and it just grazed it! Note to self: do NOT let it get hit.

Aporon was wide-eyed at this development. The crowd ate it up. Elyna deflated a bit. "Return, Glaceon. Thank you. I'm sorry I wasn't good enough." Her head was solemnly lowered at that, and when she looked up, she was smiling. Not pleasantly. It was a grim grin. "Time to meet my next Pokémon, that should have more than enough energy to take out your three! Go Froslass!"

It's difficult to fully describe the vaguely feminine spirit that made its presence felt. Clad in a snow white dress, her hands are flipper-like in appearance...aside from how they have claws. Oh, and they jut out of her head. A red ribbon is snug around its waist. And the crowning achievement of this ghoul are a row of sapphires on its head.

"Use Rain Dance to wash away that Sweet Scent." Oh. Well. Gig's up on that. "Yes, don't look so surprised, Westmyn. I figured it out after Glaceon had trouble dodging your Attack Order and such. In any case, that won't be able to help you anymore."

Froslass focused and generated some artificial clouds that hovered just above the battlefield. Equally artificial rain came pouring down. She's right, it won't work at all like this. But it's not all that bad. After all, this bug can...

"Air Slash! Try that!"

Ghost types don't like moving air. Not a lot of people here know this...but Elyna may be one of them, as Froslass dodged anyway. Or, I dunno. It just dodged. Elyna followed it up with, "Froslass, go in a bit closer and use Weather Ball!"

The thing floated in and pitched out a blue sphere. Vespiquen couldn't react to this in time. Well. Bugs don't like the cold for that matter, and most don't like the rain, so might be best to get her out of there?

"Uhh...I think I'll switch again...it's allowed!!" I stammered. Okay, maybe she's right in that it has more than enough energy. Let's try Tangela. Granted, plants don't like the cold much either, but there's other things to consider!!

And yes, look at me here. Relying on a Grass type against an Ice type trainer. Again. Things to consider! Like, uh...the fact that I can't have it charge Solarbeam in this artificial rain. Damn it. Well, at least our defensive game is up to snuff.

When Elyna commanded, "Froslass, let's test the waters! Use Shadow Ball!" Tangela evaded the two blobs that were hurled its way with the greatest of ease. Especially at the distance Froslass is comfortable at. A hop to the side, a shove upwards with its vines, and it was out of trouble.

"Well then, if you're going to play that game...let's see how you like this!" She turned to her Pokémon wickedly. "You know what to do Froslass."

From the rain cloud, came a fearsome bolt of lightning! It was brought down with pinpoint accuracy onto my Pokémon, accompanied by a fearsome flash and cackle. Or crackle. Ugh, Tangela isn't really the war of attrition type of Pokémon. Tangela tried to swing with its vines, but Froslass, like Glaceon before her, just played jump rope with them and gave it a second helping of the move.

"Bind it!" I hoped. Ghosts with a physical form can at least be hit and grabbed...

"Fly out of reach of the vines Froslass, then follow up with Blizzard!" Assuming that doesn't happen. Disgusting.

"Get out of there!" Tangela scampered away, barely avoiding getting caught up in it directly. "And hit it now!" ...but Froslass dodged the vines again. At least it halted a second attempt at the Blizzard. "I know what you're trying to do!" I taunted. "It's not going to work!"

Elyna went completely insane at this. "Oh yes. You caught in the act of trying to win the battle Fritz. I'm sorry officer, I confess! Take me away!"

"We'll see if you really can win!" This is bad. Very very bad. I'm talking out my ass here, and I don't know if I can back it up. Let's see, anything with Vespiquen is out. Don't want it struck by lightning or hit by cold air. Nidorina, I may want to save. Tangela is having trouble because of that rain cloud, since it can't use Solarbeam, and-...can I get around that?

"Things aren't looking too good for you, Fritz. You may have three Pokémon left, but they're all tired. That switching game you've been playing will come back to haunt you. While mine are mostly fine, and still relatively full of energy. Yours are barely getting a rest before they're called back out again."

Get around that...none of my Pokémon can affect the weather. But...can I physically get around it? Am I seriously going to do this? Am I seriously considering it?

"Froslass, Weather Ball, then follow up with Shadow Ball!"

Oh god, here we go. "Tangela, slingshot away!!" I shouted with a motion. One of its vines lashed out to grapple a particular object, and it summarily escaped harm's way. Elyna gave the nod for the subsequent Shadow Ball, perhaps not realizing we were in a familiar spot. Maybe she didn't see that fight? We took advantage of it once yesterday, and we're doing it again today. A pair of vines wrapped around the end of that pole sticking out of the building, and up the mass of noodles went!! Fast!! It released its grip while moving and launched itself HIGH into the air.

"Thunder!!" Elyna shouted. The bolt of lightning came crashing down from the cloud...which Tangela was above!! At that moment, a massive beam of solar energy came down directly onto Froslass, who looked up just in time to see its fate.

And yes. That just happened.

I can't believe it worked, but it worked! Everyone else is just dumbfounded, Elyna included. I can't really blame them.

One hit didn't settle it, though. The consequence of that maneuver was a nasty fall, which Tangela felt. I tried to recall it before it hit, but I missed. I don't think she's going to let us do it again, so let's get it out of there. I was told that Froslass also prefers to battle at a distance, so the same strategy should be applicable.

"Well, that was...something!!" I cheerfully broke the silence, "But with that, I think we'll keep up this switching game I've been playing, and see where it takes me. Nidorina! You're up again! Get on it!" And indeed, she got right on it.

Elyna's still a bit awestruck by Tangela's stunt. Her command, "...Froslass, get out of reach and into the air if possible," was noticeably delayed. That, coupled with Froslass remaining shaken, meant she couldn't escape Nidorina. The DNA mishmash jumped up and yanked her down with her teeth, taking a few hacks at her.

The Ice Princess has finally seemed to gather her bearings and realize her Pokémon is taking a beating. "Use Shadow Ball to get her off you, then follow up with Weather Ball!" At point blank, the former sent Nidorina staggering back a bit.

"Charge through, and Poison Jab!" I confidently responded. We're getting places now! Froslass was going to pitch the latter attack straight away, but thought better, making an evasion from Nidorina's deranged run towards it. The latter quickly whirled around and took a swipe at Froslass, who stumbled away to avoid. Nidorina ducked beneath the Weather Ball which was summarily thrown.

"Froslass, use Weather Ball again!"

My Pokémon was still crouched, and ready for my command, "Jump over it," I started. After it did that, "And come down with your claws!"

"Now that's she's in close," Elyna started, "Use Shadow Ball to intercept her attack! Follow up with Thunder!"

Nidorina swatted away the Shadow Ball, but that other attack... "Slide beneath Froslass!?" Impulse. Will it work? My Pokémon did just that as the bolt of lightning came crashing down above it...just as it passed under its opponent. The Thunder attack instead hit its summoner. It worked.

That...that just-...momentum! Right!! "Double Kick!!" Almost on an impulse of its own, the Froslass dodged the pair of kicks. Elyna kept a level-head this time, taking up a riled guise...

"Use Blizzard!" Or at least regained her bearings quickly. Nidorina was hardly slowed by it, though! She winced a bit, yet fought through and just kept coming in with a Crunch! Thought to open my mouth, but thought better of it. My Pokémon's doing just fine.

"Use Destiny Bond, then Thunder again!"

Hmph. "Beat it around so it can't get that Thunder off, but not too badly." Nidorina gave me a look, but got to it. What she did was essentially the equivalent of a tickle for her, which could be misinterpreted as disrespect by an outside observer. I put my hands on my hips and smiled.

Elyna's starting to get more than annoyed at my antics. "Quick-fire some Shadow Balls!"

"Break them with Poison Jab!!" Froslass's claw started to glow as numerous orbs as black as night formed in it, as did Nidorina's radiate a violet color. More than happy to oblige with my command and knowing what I meant by it via emphasis on the second word, Nidorina punched the spheres on their approach. There was an energy backlash with each, though it's not as drastic as getting hit directly! Some got through, but not many. "And now...SHADOW CLAW!!"

I could see Elyna mouth a "WHAT" as my Pokémon's claws shined with a similar consistency to the attacks it just hacked apart. Speaking of which, any more oomph put into the attack, and that's the fate that may have befallen Froslass. For her first real use of the move, it wasn't half-bad.

"Shadow Claw? Really?" she scowled. "Your Nidorina can use that?"



It was a little later on last night. In fact, it had to be around 11PM after I had finished up with Premala, did a bit of training with Vespiquen in the woods behind, and moved on. Luckily, I had the foresight to set this meeting up in advance, heading to a particular room on the second floor of the dorms.

"Frizzly! Heeey!!!" I was greeted as the door swung open. Ina was dressed in pyjamas, nightcap included. The sight of it took me back, initially.

"Hey Ina."

"I heard about what happened today!" she cried out. "Is that Elyna girl really going to fight you? She's real tough!!"


"That's terrible!!" Ina stated with a bow of her head. "I hope you can beat her! I can't believe someone who was trained by an Elite Four member is here! I thought she'd be in the Elite Four, not in school!"

"Umm..." I tried to get a thought out, but the cheerful one was bouncing from thought to thought.

"Hey! You know, I just remembered something!!" she perked up. "When she said I couldn't handle magical Ice Pokémon, how did she know I had a Glaceon?"

To this, I responded with a devious guise. "Exactly."


"I think she studies her opponents' teams. So I'm hoping to give her a surprise or two when we battle. Something she's not expecting." I rubbed my hands together. "So...got any TMs I can borrow?"

Ina twirled about. "I got a whoooole bunch of them, yeah!!"

"Heh...well, let's take a look!!"


"It learned it last night," I said. I gave an acknowledging wave to Ina, who's been watching. She returned it with her trademark bubbly enthusiasm.

"Well, that's just swell. Froslass, Destin-" and then her Pokémon fell over and fainted.

Hey! Not complaining about this development. Ha! Three of my Pokémon against one of hers, her Torterra. No problem.

"You...ugh. Just return Froslass. I'm sorry," She's getting desperate now. It's a bit disturbing. "Torterra, come on back out and take care of him! Earthquake!"

Ah. No way to stop it from going off this time. A localized quake was generated with the turtle's stomp, which threw Nidorina off balance. I even had to catch myself. Furthermore, the earth around DNA mishmash abruptly erupted. Earth Power in action, if I'm not mistaken.

Despite all this, Nidorina remained standing in sheer provocation. Elyna seemed ready to have her Pokemon come barreling in to throw out another attack...there's no point in leaving her out. She's basically only up out of spite. Back she goes, and back in comes Vespiquen. I've basically won this, I just have to not choke.

"Attack Order!" I commanded.

"Counter those bees with Leaf Storm." The Torterra aimed its tree, and leaves came flying off it. They really did a number on the drones; the attack blew right through our own. Vespiquen took a few hits from that...

"Let's see you stop a Signal Beam!"

Elyna, after a moment to think, simply watched as her Pokémon - unable to stop it and unlikely to dodge - just braced for the impact. When the rippling waves stopped coming, she immediately said, "Torterra, let's recover some with Synthesis!" with opposition in her voice. However, the move was not nearly as potent as it should've been. "...why...? How is it still raining?!"

"Not a lot of foresight," I remarked, holding back my laughter. I turned to my Pokémon and said, "Air Slash away!"

Vespiquen's crooks briefly flashed, and she started swiping at the air. With each swipe of the air, a scythe of visible wind energy formed. With each scythe of visible wind energy that formed, one of them was sent at the lumbering Torterra. Elyna shouted something, but the big tortoise couldn't gather its bearings through the assault.

Then Vespiquen started to fall. Numerous Air Slashes in a row really seemed to take a lot out of it. Some stamina training may be in order...

"Really now, Fritz?" Elyna questioned. "Don't you think you're tiring your Pokémon out by using so many high powered attacks?"

"Well, uhh...no problem!" I hastily recovered, recalling the hornet and sending out Tangela in place. It was probably the most well-off of my Pokémon at this stage, but let's not mince facts. All my Pokémon have taken a beating over the course of this fight. "You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes. And besides," I mentioned, "Didn't forget about the poison, did you?" I asked, not even veiling the taunt this time. As if on cue, Torterra hacked.

"I...have had...more. Than enough of you. Fritz Westmyn! Torterra, crush that annoying little blob! Earthquake, and Frenzy Plant!"

Damn it. One thing that could finish off my Pokémon. Brute force. "Tangela, DOUBLE-EDGE!" Vines around the tree, it reeled itself...through a Leaf Storm, straight into Torterra's face. That hurt Tangela far more than it hurt Torterra, but at least it avoided that nasty spiked thorn that burst out of the ground. This time, actually aiming to grab it.

"You will not escape that easy. Frenzy Plant." Oh god, didn't expect her to do it twice in a row. With most of its reaction-based evasive prowess centered around its vines, Tangela was caught. Then came another. And another. It wasn't as vicious as Muriel's Meganium's use of it, but it's still thoroughly devastating.

"Stone Edge after the vines release it! If it's still standing."

Only thing I think I can do now, is...


Even though it was being thrashed around by the brambles, Tangela managed to shoot out the goldenrod spores. And they fell over the target!! Torterra seized up, dropping a very exhausted Tangela from the attack. Torterra isn't officially out of the fight, but with all that junk in its system, it may as well be. It's over.

Elyna knows this too...she called Torterra back. And collapsed to the ground, staring at the Poké Ball in her hand. "How..." she quivered. "How...how did you beat me? I..." Speechless. Like the other day...except greater. "You're just some nobody, and you crushed me. I didn't even knock one of your Pokémon out. That's..." She lightly ran her fingers across her head, trying to wrap her head around this defeat. "That's statistically impossible."

There is no anger. There is no despair. There's hardly much of anything in her voice. When she finally stood, it was automatous. It's like there's nothing left inside. "I...I don't know who you are Fritz Westmyn...but I will find out. And you better believe that you'll never beat me like this again." Again, spoken like an empty shell, with nil emotion. With this, the lost soul wandered off in the direction of the gates.

That's...a very bad omen. But maybe...it's for the best in her regard if she finds out.

Those on the bleachers did not know what to make of this most startling development. A few had started to approach Elyna, but none dared go close - perhaps for fear of her sensing their presence. The silence was deafening, even nature itself partaking in the moment of silence.

Aporon, too, is standing there in utter disbelief. Summoning every liter of power in him, he meekly raised his left hand, signifying that I had won. Then turned it into an accusatory point. "What the hell was that?!"

"That..." I said with a smile. "That was my best."

"No," he argued. "I mean what. The hell. Was that?! If Elyna had been on her game, all that risk-taking you were doing would've gotten you crushed!"

"That was my plan." Far be it from me to dictate whether it was a good plan, but it was the only shot I had. "She said she didn't battle very often, so I thought I could come out swinging and overwhelm her."

"And if your theory is correct. What if she was prepared?"

I blew him off with a gesture and laughed. "Then I was screwed to begin with!" His hands scrunched into balls. Really? Before he could open his mouth again, I opened mine. "I don't get it! I pulled out all the stops to win! I didn't hold back at all. I followed your four Ps. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"That's not the point!" he fired back. "You didn't learn anything from this!"

"What was I supposed to learn, then?!"

Aporon growled. And...paused. He pointed his eyes at the school, and lips in the opposite direction. He held this contortion for a moment before saying, "You know what? Forget it. I'm done. If you lose, it'll be your own damn fault. Not mine," and storming off.

You know...no matter how many times I'm left alone on a battlefield in silence, I can never get used to it.


Huh? Looking...I see my friends starting a clap, led by Reika. Like an endemic, it spread through the bleachers and beyond, until everyone present was giving me a rousing ovation for my performance. I just can't help but smile and wave to them. A warm feeling is washing over me. At least I know now that I truly did accomplish something there. But still...

I won that battle and I won it decisively. But, why does it feel like a hollow victory? Are Aporon's words really getting to me? No, they can't be. I know I worked my ass off to win there! But if it's not that, what is it? I don't get it. I just beat one of the school's Big Three. Shouldn't that mean something?


After that intense battle, I decided I needed to just take a break. I decided to unwind in my room for a while, alone. This also served a dual purpose of not having to deal with excited and impressed people coming and chatting me up. Or in a couple instances, exchanges with fellow tournament members. I mean, I don't mind crowds. Sometimes, though, you just need to get away from it all

Just around dinnertime, a knock came at my door. What I expected was not what I got.

"Premala?" I inquired. "What are you doing here?"

The robed girl and head of the Activists' Club sighed. "While I would like to say this visit is for personal purposes..." she began, "I am here for much the same reason as you visited yesterday."

"You...need me to tell you something?" I cocked my head.

She closed her eyes. "Frisco..." Premala asked. "I apologize for bringing this up so suddenly. Is there anything you can tell me about that Pokémon you encountered in the mountains a month ago?"

"Um, okay." This is a little sudden. Not to mention late. But okay. "So Reika and Thatcher wanted me to go with them to see the Beast about a month ago. When we got to the top, and Reika sees this glowing white light. She walks up to the side of the cliff and almost falls, but she called out for Thatcher to save her. So he did, but he saw the light too when pulling her up, and they fell, and before I could do anything, this big thing jumped out at me. It was a Stantler."

Catching my breath. "So I sent out my Nidorina and fought it for a bit, but then it made it look like we were in a burning building. It didn't fool me since I knew, but Nidorina freaked and was knocked out, and that's when I thought to run away. So I sent out my Tangela, and we catapulted ourselves over top of it, and we ran, and we got away. Why?"

Premala folded her hands. "I see." She seems to be considering something. Lost in thought, off in her mind's vast ocean. Wait, don't tell me she wants to- "Would you mind accompanying me to Abet's Bluff tonight?"

"I...guess I can do that." She does. I don't really want to go back there. But it's the least I can do after her help.

She gave me a hug. "Thank you." she mentally conveyed, adding a quick kiss on the cheek before taking her leave. What did I just agree to? Is doing this really wise? And why do it? And it's...that day too. The new moon is upon us. And a return to the mountain cavern is in my near future.
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Lovely chapter. There were a few instances of words missing/misplaced, but nothing huge. Elyna... was lovely as always. I'm really looking forward to executing what we had discussed about her. The description for the battle was lovely, and gave much more detail than our Skype session allowed. Other than that, I really have nothing else to comment upon as I had already read this basically. Good job and keep it up!

PS: Premala is acting shady per the normal!
Awesome battle sequence! You weren't lying. Epic even. I found myself really rooting for Fritz, which I usually do, but even more so this time and I wasn't disappointed. Loved the description of the attacks and once again, the emotion and intensity were on point. I was a little distracted at points where you use present tense and switch to past tense a few times, but not a huge issue.

Also: "If you're both ready," Aporon nodded, "then let the battle begin." I see this a lot, but when you are attributing a quote to someone, I think 'nodded' should be changed to some form of 'said.' Nodding is an action totally separate from speech. Again, I'm not picking only because this is very good overall.
Elyna... was lovely as always. I'm really looking forward to executing what we had discussed about her.
Things will be happening!!

PS: Premala is acting shady per the normal!
That finally gets addressed here!! ...strangely enough.

Awesome battle sequence! You weren't lying. Epic even. I found myself really rooting for Fritz, which I usually do, but even more so this time and I wasn't disappointed. Loved the description of the attacks and once again, the emotion and intensity were on point.
Heh, thanks!! I was wondering how it was going to come across. The emotion/intensity is one of the big payoffs of using present tense. You can perfectly capture the moment with it, as opposed to showing it in retrospect. In fact, it's almost illegally easy, I find it...

I was a little distracted at points where you use present tense and switch to past tense a few times, but not a huge issue.

And...since I find it awkward to have it always be in present-tense, this is the occasional consequence. Think of it as something close to stream of consciousness; or maybe like Fritz reporting the events right after they occur. Except in those cases where he says them right as they appear.

Also: "If you're both ready," Aporon nodded, "then let the battle begin." I see this a lot, but when you are attributing a quote to someone, I think 'nodded' should be changed to some form of 'said.' Nodding is an action totally separate from speech. Again, I'm not picking only because this is very good overall.
Got it, will keep it in mind moving forward.

Notes and Mini-Announcement:
So this fic is apparently Fic of the Month for May. Check it out. The history of this fic and how it came to be, along a few extras that you might've seen in the Atlas had that not gotten the axe, are in there!! Want to see the prototype of this story? Check it out there. Want to see every little thing no matter how small that's changed from chapter to chapter, including this one? Check it out there.


Chapter 2-13: In the Mind of a Monster

After setting up the plan with Premala, I decided, why not pay my friends a visit downstairs? After knocking on Thatcher's door and not receiving an answer, I decided to check out Reika's room. And lo, there they were. It was just her and Thatcher. Teiko and Teikō aren't with us. As we usually tend to do, we had dinner together. And as we do about half the time, it was some of Thomas Li's apparently famous sandwiches that we were feasting upon.

"You know, Fritz. I'm wondering something." Huh? We haven't been holding much conversation, so it's a little abrupt to hear Reika speaking up out of nowhere. Good thing I wasn't chewing at the time, or I might've choked on my meal. She doesn't look mad or irritated or anything, this is authentic curiosity I see in her. Breathing in deeply, she asked, "Why are you here? Why aren't you a travelling trainer if you're so good?"

"I...prefer not to talk about it. I have a good reason, though."

"I think that's stupid. I would've preferred to travel." Now there's the girl I know. Glaring at me, as if to say, 'you missed out, why would you willingly not travel?' She didn't say it, but she's thinking it.

"So why aren't you?" I am genuinely wondering. I don't know that much about my friends' pasts. Only bits and pieces here and there. I don't think I've ever heard them talk about these alternative aspirations before. I guess it would've been an inevitability with Thatcher's coordinating dreams, but Reika's goals, I'm unsure of.

"We wanted to go together when we were younger. But we couldn't."

"Because..." It sounds like there's a because in there. Oh, right...Thatcher's illness. And the part about not bringing it up. Shrug. "Well, whatever the reason, I'm sure you'll get a chance someday."

"Obviously," she snorted. "And I hope we can meet my father somewhere on our journey."

"What?" What what what?

Reika exhaled. Not out of stress or frustration, but out of a different emotion. "He left when I was a baby, and I never got a chance to meet him. I don't know where he is. But I wanted to train Pokémon and learn to travel, so I could meet him someday. Take some gym challenges too, I guess."

I...what...that's so...do I really. How...maybe...I don't. Abandonment...something something. Ugh.


Oh, Thatcher. "Yeah?"

"What's...what's wrong?" He's looking on in great concern. Reika more out of confusion. There is a lot on my mind. To that. But I'm not sure what to say to that...or if I should say anything at all. It's not the only thing, at least. So all I'm going to say is...

"...Premala wants to go see the Beast tonight."

"I knew it." Reika snapped right up, swinging her free arm wildly. "I knew she was trying to use you for something! I told you so!" She stamped her crutch. It's still healing.

"W-well...you saw how he did...today," Thatcher stammered. "He...Fritz...you can handle yourself in these...things. I think...I think you'll be okay."

My chubby friend tilted her head back. "That's not the point, Thatcher."

"I already agreed to it."

"God. Fucking." I knew she was going to react like this. With both words, she trembled in anger. "What were you thinking?!?!!"

"I wasn't." And I'm responding with the truth.

"So," she said, sitting back down on her bed and tapping her foot impatiently. "I suppose the question now becomes. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to keep my promise," I stated. Reika doesn't seem to like this reply, but she doesn't seem to disapprove of it, either. "Even if I did say it when I wasn't thinking of what it would entail, I'm not going to back out of it now. It'd just be a bad thing to do." Sigh. Yet Reika does raise some good points. "You may well be right, though. I'll be careful."

"But what about her?!"

"That's what I meant."

I don't know why I haven't thus far. I've almost been ignoring it and rolling with things. Maybe that second visit was a mistake. Maybe she does have ulterior motives. I don't know anymore. I can't tell.

Reika showed a bit of surprise, then nodded. And sighed. "All right. I just hope you know what you're doing tonight." She's actually expressing a bit of concern. Fairly unusual. I really don't want to worry my friends too much. Least of all her. When she's concerned, you know things are bad. Like I said, I can't really deny the things she's saying. Maybe it is stupid to go, but it can't be helped at this point. So I'm just going to go there, and do whatever it is I need to do.


I took a short nap after eating, and attending to a couple other things, to make sure that my awareness would be at its reasonable peak for the trip I had planned out. A few hours of sleep is better than none at all. Premala knocked at the door a few minutes after 11PM.

"Hello, Frisco," she greeted, gazing at me teasingly. "You're already dressed, I see."

I never changed clothes, actually. With a giggle, she moved in to hug me.

"Could you not, please?" I put out a hand and stopped her. Reika's words of warning are still swirling in my mind, which revitalized some of my own thoughts. I put up with it until now, but...ugh. That sullen face. "Look, I'm just...not in the mood."

She let out a faint, relieved sigh. "That's okay. Are you ready to go?"

"Well, first off, I should have asked this before." She blinked, as if she wasn't expecting me to throw questions at her. Or possibly wondering if I was having second-thoughts about this? I asked her, "You and I are allowed to go there, are we?"

The response was a firm, and confident nod. "Yes. I made sure the staff knows that we will be ascending the Bluff on business."

I figured as much, just had to be sure about that. I don't know how she has that power, but she seems to have it. "That's good," I said, slinging my bag over my shoulder. As I exited the room, I made sure to lock the door behind me. As we made our way through the halls and down one of the flights of steps, I paused again. "But well...just to be sure about it, we're going there because of...that, right?"

She gave a solemn nod of confirmation. "It is. I wish to meet, listen to, and understand this Pokémon."

Question two answered. Question three: "Why?"

Premala looked me in the eyes. "Our beliefs state that the intents of all Pokémon are pure, despite what their actions may lead one to believe. Whether it is on its own in the wild, or is owned by a trainer...they are unable to do things out of pure malice. If that Pokémon is angered, there must be a reason behind it. There must be a purpose behind its attacking humans so violently. And with the position I hold, it is my duty to see to it that the issue of that Pokémon is addressed."



"...you don't sound very confident."


My soft words gave her pause. Hesitation, even. She lowered her head, turning it after a moment to face me. She simply said, "Let...let us just go." It seemed like she was going to say something more, but alas.

But I honestly don't understand. Usually, Premala is sure of herself. This time, even from her choice of wording - let alone her tone - I can tell something is amiss. It's all that's on my mind, right now.


It only took about ten minutes walk through the forest before we arrived at the Bluff. Premala produced a flashlight, and presented it to me.

"You may lead the way," she said with a smile.

"Uh," Nice of her to offer, but, "I actually don't know the way." She gave me a curious look. "Reika and Thatcher led the way when we came here. They didn't know the way either for that matter. We just, kinda got there." I rubbed my head. To this, she smiled further.

"It is okay," she mentally reassured, resting her head on my shoulder without warning. "Do you know where the Stantler is?"

I confirmed. "We ran into it on the upper level, the one with the overlooks. It's as good a place to try looking as any." And so we set off.

"So what's the history behind this place?" I asked, attempting to make conversation so that our walk up the mountain a little more interesting. Because seriously. I don't know if you've been in a cave before, but it's pretty boring. Especially when it's as quiet as it is, a fact that I think can be attributed to the Beast's presence. "Uh, if you know that is."

Premala slowed her pace as she went into thought. "Do you mean the mountain itself, or the Pokémon living inside it?"

There's a story behind the mountain too? "Both, I guess."

"...mmm. Abet's Bluff is named after a man known as Faber Abet." Holy shit, him? I used to see him on TV all the time back home.

"I was interested in it myself, to be honest. I did a bit of research...the story is, a few decades ago, the Oreburgh Mining Corporation had exhausted its stock in the mines. The economy of the city was threatening to collapse as a result, and the company was seeking new places to mine. They then received a tip from a young explorer that he had found a cave full of glittering jewels in Eterna Forest. The claim was true..."

"...but highly exaggerated."

"Correct. The Oreburgh Mining Corporation went bankrupt a few months after. Since then, the place has been called Abet's Bluff." She flashed a peculiar smile at my being able to finish. Now I'm being prodded for fine points.

"Man, I didn't think it was named after that guy," I pitched. Actually, unlike what I thought with Reika, it never even occurred to me until this moment. Some people just have the same last names as others as total coincidence. "He was apparently a famous explorer back in his home country, for his unearthing some really ancient ruins on a hunch. Guess it took him all over the world." Nowadays, though I don't want to say it to her directly just in case, he has a job that perfectly suits him.

"Mm, I see." She hung her head low before proceeding further, "As for the mountain's recent history...I must confess. I do not know as much about it as I should. The school has been doing its best to keep quiet about it." Not quiet enough it seems, given that Reika and Thatcher found out. "I am aware that the mountain was closed off to ordinary access around six years ago."

"Six years?! So why hasn't anything been done about it?"

"I cannot answer for the school. However..." her words trailed off. She cocked her head and full-on grinned at me this time.

"However, we'll be the ones to do it. Tonight." She expressed determination. Maybe this will be enjoyable after all.


Our trek soon took us to a domed section on the third level. The ceiling is a touch higher that the rest of the tunnels, and it's much wider to boot. Why does that seem familiar...wait!!

"Premala, this-OWWW!!!!"

Just got knocked over by something flying into my face! It's those damn bats again. It's...a different kind of bat? And only one, mind you. Purple, with four wings, and...whatever. Who cares what it looks like? If that's how it wants to play, then let's go then! Mareep, let's...do nothing, and wait as Premala steps forth and begins to communicate with the Pokémon?

"This Crobat recognizes you," Premala informed me. "She is saying that you battled her before."

"Oh, y-yeah..." That's right. "I was about to say, a whole bunch of Zubats and Golbats attacked us in this spot when we came up here last month. We were able to drive them away. There used to be more of them, though..."

"Mmm." After a moment's exchange, I was given the scoop, "This Pokémon was removed from the colony, because of that battle. They attacked her." Well, that's a bit harsh. So, where's the rest of them? Maybe my device has something to say on the matter?

Poison Type

An unusual mutation of Golbat. In contrast to their communitive relatives, a Crobat lives alone. The metamorphisis has been confirmed to occur after the Pokémon has been separated from other members of its species for an extended duration. Two common scenarios are through trainer capture and banishment from their colony. Surge of emotion is a common catalyst for the subsequent evolution.

Their aerial maneuverability is among the highest of all winged Pokémon, despite lacking in raw speed. A Crobat can regulate its body temperature by expelling excess heat through its four wings. As such, its potential range of habitats is greater than that of its pre-evolved forms. Wild Crobats prefer to stay near their original nest if it is practical to do so. The two claws on their backside cannot grip effectively, so they shelter in burrows, hollows, and trees. Their wingspan varies with 1.8m being the average, but the radius of a Crobat's roughly round body is consistently 0.25m.

Their skeletal structure has been found to resemble Megachiroptera, yet Crobats have an omnivorous diet. They will feed on insects, fruit, flower nectar, and small vertebrates, but not blood. Ambush predators by nature, a newly evolved Crobat will even practice striking while feeding on plants. They efficiently digest their food, and are capable of going a week to two weeks without a meal if necessary. Wild Crobats do not get along with Zubat colonies and often attack their former tribe, but have been known to cooperate with their own and other species.

A wild Crobat's preferred method of defense is through Wind attacks, including Gust and Air Cutter. Against tougher or more tenacious foes, it may consider a more direct assault with its wings, fangs, or body. As their ability to use echolocation has been lost, they prefer not to employ Supersonic - even in trained individuals.

"Yes, there we go," I said. "It probably chased them out instead."

She nodded to confirm. "She is saying she is remorseful for the decision she made, and wants to take it out on you." Premala stated this matter-of-factly. Simply serving as a messenger. And devoid of emotion, as usual.

That was the plan to begin with, to fight it. But something bothers me about what it is apparently saying, and I have to ask. "Remorseful?"

"She chased off her old friends out of natural instinct. And now that she has, boredom and solitude has set in."

"Well...it could come with me? Or you."

Pokémon are generally capable of understanding human words, even if they can't communicate back. It got a reaction out of the Crobat, a humorous one. "These are her words..." Premala awkwardly relayed. "I cannot think of a way to state it in my own. She cannot believe you could be as bold to suggest that, after what you did."

"First of all-" Wait, why am I arguing with a wild Pokémon? "Never mind, it's fine. Just thought I'd ask. H-hey!!" As soon as I finished that statement, the Crobat took a charge at me. I responded with a frantic jab that made it back off.

"However," Premala continued. "She is intrigued by your offer."

"Soooo...what does that mean?"

The Crobat squabbled. Premala gave her translation, "She wants you to show her something that will prove this commitment would not be a waste."

Mmm...does it want a show of power? No, I already showed it that. Maybe this is a different kind of question? If that's the case, maybe the Pokémon I should send out...well, is still the same one.

The Crobat recognized the Pokémon who had knocked it out on our first meeting, and did not respond very well. Still, it was the right one to choose given the circumstances. "You know, why don't you tell her how we met, Mareep?" I asked.

And so, the sheep began baaing and bleating away, telling the story of how the two of us came to be allies. It actually put Premala in awe. "That is a fascinating story. I am very impressed, Frisco."

The same cannot be said about Crobat, however.

Again, I have to ask myself, why am I arguing with a Pokémon over morality? "Look, fine. I get it. We're going to confront the Beast." As if it could sense what I was thinking, sparks began to fly off Mareep's body. I motioned for Premala to back away, just in case. "Either get out of our way, or get zapped."

The Crobat charged...and Mareep's charge is loose!! It was right on-target given the proximity. The violet bat is down, but not out.

"You know, I think I get it..." I said, as it picked itself off the ground. This is only a theory, but, "Crobat, you were expelled from the tribe for falling asleep and failing to defend the cloud, correct? You evolved in order to attempt to prove to them that you were good enough. But they still rejected you. You're attacking me just to prove to them you're worth something to them."

The Crobat took offense to this. "She is denying it. That's a lie, she says."

"But it's not a lie, is it?" I asked. It looks like my guess was right. "Why else would you be attacking me? And why would Mareep be able to do so much damage to you, twice? You're not very strong, that's why."

What the f-again, the Crobat made a charge at me! Mareep shot out a quick burst as I avoided the tackle. The attack was off, but the bat turned to face the sheep. Just in time to get a right face full. This jolt was enough. It's lights out.

Looking over the fallen Pokémon. "What should we do?" I asked Premala. She would know what's best. I guess.

"It is your decision," was the reply. She searched through her belongings and produced a Luxury Ball, presenting it to me for use if I wished. Do I wish? Well. If it wants to become stronger, it should go with a good trainer. Maybe I can get along with this Pokémon. There's only one way to find out, really. Let's go!!

"And that makes twelve," I declared as the ball snapped shut. Don't know why I had the urge to say that all of a sudden.

"You have a storage system set up, correct?" Premala inquired.

"Yes, but not locally."

"I see. I will hold onto it for you until you can access it then, just to be sure." People can give unexpected reactions, particularly here, when one walks around with more than six Pokémon. I even think it's law here. Back in my home country, more than six are usually simply not used due to the time it would make battles take.

There are, generally speaking, two ways to handle this limitation. With a storage system akin to the one I use, or by transporting the Pokémon somewhere to reside in the meantime. The Poké Balls here also have certain features pertaining to this limit, which is probably why Premala brought it up. I can't tell you specifically how it works, though. But hey, twelfth Pokémon! Two full teams! Talk about variety should I ever need it!


In any case, with that incident behind us, we're able to resume heading to our destination. "It's not far now, just a few more minutes." I'll take the lead from here. It won't be long before I'm in that thing's presence, again. But before we did that, there was one more thing I needed answered. "So...what did you mean by hearing what it had to say?"

Premala halted. For the first time since I'd met her, she's showing negative emotion. Well...it's actually mild disappointment intermingling with surprise. "Did you not notice, Frisco?" she queried. "When you battled this Stantler, you said it created an illusion of a burning building?" Yes, that's true. "And only two days after, was there not a burning building on-campus?"

What...the... "Are you...saying it might have been giving me a premonition?"

"Yes. It is a distinct possibility."

"...that is a distinct possibility." Jesus. What the hell. Talk about having your mind blown. That makes sense. So much sense. "But...but it tried to kill Reika and Thatcher! Why would it try to help the school if it's been attacking students? For six years!! Maybe more!!"

"It was more than likely in self-defense, or perhaps an accident. Not everyone can control their powers."

That could well be...but this is very excessive force we're talking about, here. Some lack of control. The truth will be known momentarily, at least.

"Here we are." The familiar symmetrical sector greeted my retinas. It was almost like it was yesterday that I was here. Having heard the story behind this mountain, the precious few glistening rocks in the dirt walls are all the more intriguing. If I were a kleptomaniac, I might be compelled to take one. They don't look like anything particularly valuable, though. The most prominent feature, of course, remains the cupolas on either end of the wide, main tunnel. From the deep crevasses below to the gaps in the rock above, and all the walkways and holes in-between. It's a marvel, and I'd be compelled to take it all in if not for what has to be lurking somewhere.

That's the only thing missing from my prior visit. "I'm not sure how we're going to convince it to emerge," I said while rustling my hair.

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. Premala gasped as this Stantler, the Beast of Abet, arrived. I caught her as she stumbled. I was able sense the hatred emanating from this thing without any special abilities. Someone like her has to be far more susceptible.

My friend took a step back. "For it to be this resentful...there must be something substantial weighing it down."

"It's all you. Good luck..." I whispered.

Premala took up position in front of me. The Beast didn't attack, though gave us...especially me...the evil eye. "Stantler," the mysterious girl said, "It is okay. We mean you no harm. We only wish to speak to you." Well...it's listening. That's the first hurdle cleared. Will it continue to listen, though?

"Stantler..." my friend comforted. "I wish to be able to understand Pokémon. I want to understand you. I want to help you."

The Beast took up a guarded position and snarled. No respect.

"We do not wish to hurt you. And I am sure he would do the same in my position." That reactions was in regards to me, it looks like. Premala twisted back. "Won't you?"

"We'll see."

Premala frowned, but the Stantler took my honesty well. It even seemed to relax a bit at my stern warning at where we stand. Momentarily, at least. On turning its attention back to Premala, it began communicating again. Very cholericly.

"I will listen to you," she soothed. "I wish to know why you are this way. Why are you so violent with humans and other Pokémon? I wish to know. And I will do everything I can to help you." The Stantler was jaded. It rolled its eyes and again draped its gaze across us both. "What?"

It went into a spiel of some sorts. A Pokémon on an angry tirade is quite the sight. Premala winced throughout it all. "A...a what?" The Beast continued on, and Premala had to interrupt. "Stantler...what is wrong? Did...did something bad happen to you in the past?"

A screech. "The future?" My friend asked. "My future?" Maybe she was right about the vision thing. Though without being able to understand it myself, I can only grasp at the conversation being held.

"...what? What are you saying? I do not understand." Hey, who's asking the questions here? I can at least tell that. "You'll spell it out for me? Does that mean..." Premala trailed off. She shuddered. I can feel a strange energy coming out of the Beast's horns, but I can't make heads or tails of what it is or what's going on.

"What's it saying?" I have to interpose here. This is getting too...nerve-wracking. "What's it doing?"

Premala weakly raised her right arm. "It's...it's showing me things."

"What kind of things?"

Premala didn't answer. She clutched her head in pain. "That's horrible. But. No...that...that doesn't make any sense. Why...please. It's not too late! Stantler...we can help you! You don't need to..." This is bad. It's doing something. Maybe giving her an unpleasant vision of her own. I don't know, but it's bad. "Ohh...what? No...that's...that's not true!! Not everyone...I just want to help!"

"Premala!!" Too late. She yelped out in shock as she got blasted unconscious by seemingly nothing.

I quickly took up position in front of the fallen girl. I don't know if this is wise or not, but I'll do what I have to. The Beast responded to my interposing with a Shadow Ball. Thankfully, a highly choreographed one, that I was able to dodge. Didn't hit who was behind me either.

"Leave us alone!" I yelled-OWW. All I got in reply was another Shadow Ball, and it stung. "Fine! Have it your way!" Let's throw down! A very angry Pokémon is trying to kill me. Eevee went berserk once before in a similar situation. Let's see it go berserk again!

My theory...

...is right!!

Berserk, Eevee goes!! Not a few moments after being released. The Stantler roared in what I am assuming some sort of attempt to intimidate Eevee, only to be cut off when Eevee slammed into it. It chomped down on the beast's leg, causing it to let out another roar. In an unorthodox counter, the Stantler managed to Stomp to scrape it away.

Again, the Stantler growled. Eevee growled right back and used Quick Attack. The Stantler evaded the charge, and...got hit by a second. A Shadow Ball rocketed out, which simply dissipated upon impacting Eevee. Before it could think to use another attack, Eevee gained another burst of speed. This one accompanied by a spin that took it right into the ugly thing's face.

Then...oh, fuck right off. Stopped dead in its tracks by telekinetic powers. It's now freaking as it usually does, flailing wildly as it floats. This is exactly why psychic users are overpowered. This, among other reasons, is why I fucking hate psychics. Fine. Maybe it's suicidal...okay, more suicidal, but Eevee's problem is lack of experience. It probably didn't do too much. Going to town still seems to be the way to go. This is really just a roundabout way of saying: Nidorina, you're up!

As soon as she was out, she shot the Stantler a lethal glare of recognition. The DNA mishmash was still feeling the some of the effects of the battle earlier today, but she's a fighter. Especially when angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry. She's a force to be reckoned with.

"Remember," I told my Pokémon, recalling our previous encounter. "If anything weird happens, it's just that thing's powers." A snort of hers told me she got the message. And a chuckle? If I know her, and I pretty much do, she's eager to avenge her previous loss.

"Let's start off with Poison Sting!" Nidorina tensed up, and fired them off erratically. I guess she's a bit too into it. Despite this, the Beast easily dodged every single one of the spread-out needles. "Dodgy bastard. Move in and Cut it up!" Just after, the Beast flailed about while shrieking. Nidorina scowled, disinterested in its scare tactics, summarily jabbing it in the chest. The Beast shoved my Pokémon over and ran back. Its horns are glowing an eerie sapphire color. I've seen it do this before!

"Nidorina, wait!!" she stopped and looked back at me. "Now, dodge!" She didn't like it, but she listened. And because of it, she escaped the blue waves that were surrounding her and collapsed in where she used to be. The Beast is completely shocked we dodged its Psyshock. "I'll say the same thing I said last time. We're not dying here!" When it showed derision in its reply, Nidorina resumed what she was doing, getting in close and Chipping Away at it.

All the Stantler can do is try to slowly sneak away to escape the assault. And we're not going to let it! "Spin and hit it with Cut!" Just as it broke away, the requested action was carried out. The Beast got a nice horizontal slash, staggering back even further. "Crunch!"

And AGAIN, the telekinetic powers halted my berserk Pokémon's assault...but Nidorina's strong enough to fight through it!! On seeing its attempt fail...the Beast halted its attack and fled a considerable distance away. To the opposite side of the tunnel, in fact.

The Stantler's horns and even forehead are glowing. Different color from before. It's getting ready for something...Zen Headbutt, maybe? If so, I want to get my Pokémon out of there...but the problem is, she seems to be taking it as a challenge.

"You wanna go for it?"

She restlessly scraped the rock and bobbed her head in response. She looks more like a raging bull than anything she physically appears as.

"Then let's go for it. Meet it with Skull Bash and Poison Jab!"

By my okay, Nidorina took off for its prey. Her horn is radiating a faint purple color. At the same moment, the Beast barreled at her, skull and lower part of its antlers a fuchsia tinge. Both are hauling ass. Two powerful attacks ready to collide. Two furious Pokémon ready to meet head-to-head.

And did they ever meet. Violently, and with a sharp CRACK in the center of the passage.

The two combatants tottered back (Nidorina even on her hind legs), crouching with craniums lowered. Both Pokémon are dazed from that savage impact. I wouldn't be surprised if one or both has a concussion. It's really out of character to see Nidorina like this...she usually fights through pain. Likewise, this Beast of Abet, this Stantler...it's showing a weakness I've not seen of it before. Holding my breath to see...


And the Beast falls over! YES! I got that bastard! Yes! Yes! YES! YES! YES! YES!! YESSSSSSSS!!!


...all right...maybe that was a little excessive. Well, it's a good thing there was no one around to see that. I should go check on my Pokémon now.

Nidorina...she's mostly okay. That last attack rattled her quite a bit. I put my bag down on the ground and reached into it. I got and packed a few supplies just in case...of which, include a few Potions. These are spray-type medications that can be applied to minors scrape and bruises to assist in healing. They're kind of like an antibacterial and an external muscle relaxant, all in one. Not completely sure what's in them though; not a doctor. Full-time, anyway.

I sprayed the liquid across Nidorina's head, the most hard-hit area. She winced as the mist made contact, even hissing a bit. "Yeah, I know," I said to her. The DNA mishmash has always been a Pokémon who insists she's always fine. Probably the most likely of any Pokémon I've ever seen to walk off an injury. "Just feel I should use these. No reason not to!" She grumbled and remained still, letting me apply a second dose all the same, unflinching this time.

Nidorina stood up and scratched at the afflicted area. Like she always does when I use a Potion on her. Just a habit she has. That's one wounded individual taken care of. Now...for the other.

I haven't the faintest clue what happened to Premala. All I can say is something threw her back into the surrounding wall with enough force to knock her unconscious. She hadn't stirred an inch since, not even with a battle having happened. Her dyed green hair had flopped over her face. Her head rests on her outstretched right arm; the left is a bit to the side. Her legs are slightly curled. Probably from landing on them, but falling over onto her side. They don't look broken, though.

She wanted to come here to deal with this Beast, this Stantler. And it was dealt with. Is that why she wanted me to come here? To help subdue it if need be? Well, I did it. I wish she would've been more up-front, though. I'm not sure what she wants to do from here. Capture it, maybe? Try to communicate again? Only questions she can answer, so the way to proceed from here is to attempt to rouse her, but...



I stopped dead.



A bright light is shining behind me.
I really like your writing style. Crisp yet flowing. Fritz is a really good character too. I'm not caught up yet but just wanted to say that I think this is great so far!
Well I finally caught up after so long xD

The battle against Elyna was pretty good, at first it was a bit slow but it became really engaging later on, I actually thought Fritz was going to lose that time. Actually while it was good that he won I also felt that maybe Fritz was winning a bit too much, I know you're probably planning something for this but do be careful with that.

The chapter with Fritz and Premala was fun, it was good to take a break from the constant battles that the last few chapters had brought, plus we got to busy the cave again and Fritz caught a new Pokemon. I'm still really interested in Premala and what makes her character tick, but I'm more concerned with what she saw in the Stantler's vision.

Something I noticed though was that at times, particularly in battles, you tend to dwell a little too much into Fritz's thoughts. Yes your style is present tense sort of, but at times it kind of throws me off at least, because I feel like suddenly the description shifts to show what Fritz thinks of what is happening, that's not bad but...I don't really know how to put it, it just tends to throw me off from what's going on at times.
I agree with Flaze. The inner look into Fritz's mind tends to get to be a little much, but other than that this is a really nice story. Battles are really well done!
I really like your writing style. Crisp yet flowing. Fritz is a really good character too. I'm not caught up yet but just wanted to say that I think this is great so far!

Thanks!! Lemme know what ya think when you manage to get caught up!!

The battle against Elyna was pretty good, at first it was a bit slow but it became really engaging later on, I actually thought Fritz was going to lose that time. Actually while it was good that he won I also felt that maybe Fritz was winning a bit too much, I know you're probably planning something for this but do be careful with that.

2-12 was intended to drive home the point that Fritz is perhaps better than he lets on. It also demonstrates two of the finer points of battling - being sharp/staying in practice, and able to perform under duress. As an aside, Fritz is exceptional at the latter, which is one of Aporon's flaws as a battler (as 2-2 showed).

I went back and forth between him barely losing or barely winning, but ultimately decided the latter had more benefits. That said, I do know to be careful. The trick I feel in these circumstances is to make things believable. Which I think I did a good job of.

The chapter with Fritz and Premala was fun, it was good to take a break from the constant battles that the last few chapters had brought, plus we got to busy the cave again and Fritz caught a new Pokémon. I'm still really interested in Premala and what makes her character tick, but I'm more concerned with what she saw in the Stantler's vision.

Some of this will be answered in this very chapter, but besides that, here's a hint: she's a definitively Lawful character. As for the Stantler's vision...never gave it much thought. In lieu, here's a few lines of its that I wrote to help with Premala's dialogue. Featuring info that's there to be seen, but you might not have pieced together..

The Beast: "Do you think I am incapable of reading hearts as well? I am. I can see your fear of me. I have sensed your power, and I can tell you have been aware of me for a while yet. If you did not fear me, you would have come sooner. You knew I was here all along. You had to bring along a protector."

The Beast: "The past? The past does not matter anymore. This is my present. And future...! Your future!"

The Beast: "Don't you get it yet? Well, allow me to spell it out for you, maiden."

Something I noticed though was that at times, particularly in battles, you tend to dwell a little too much into Fritz's thoughts. Yes your style is present tense sort of, but at times it kind of throws me off at least, because I feel like suddenly the description shifts to show what Fritz thinks of what is happening, that's not bad but...I don't really know how to put it, it just tends to throw me off from what's going on at times.

Mmm...I can see that. I try to do it during pauses in the action, at least - or sometimes tense moments. But I can understand how that could be a problem. I'll keep it in mind.

I agree with Flaze. The inner look into Fritz's mind tends to get to be a little much, but other than that this is a really nice story. Battles are really well done!

Hehe. Glad you think that. Part of the whole point of the fic and the way it's constructed, is to write well-written, entertaining battles.

So!! Before we jump into this next chapter, let's try something new. This one is a bit shorter than usual, but not the shortest. In any case, have something to look into the minds of other characters besides Fritz for once. Have a...

Bonus 2-14: A Challenge for Challengers

In the practice room of Rukh's University's fourth floor, several of the finest participants in this year's Tactics Battle Tournament had gathered. They had been called by one Sho Tzalma, one of the more overlooked representatives in the tournament. More of a leader rather than a follower, the astute would notice he commands his Pokémon with a confident grace in-battle. They had just witnessed one of their own, a fellow mentee in the tournament, take it to one of the school's best battlers. What's more, he actually managed to defeat her.

In this room, a roundtable discussion is taking place. In this room, five people sit. In this room, you could cut the tension with a sharpened pencil.

"And so with all that being said, that happened," Sho concluded his summary. The stoic one looked to be in his mid-20s, by far the oldest of the group. He adjusted the collar on his polo before continuing, "That happened, as all of you, except Jun, saw." He gestured to the fuming boy on his right. His otherwise perky face was beat-red from frustration. Every muscle in his body was tense, itching at the okay to lash out. He pulled at his long, chestnut hair as Sho asked, "I dunno what to make of this all. Any thoughts?"

"Well, I think there's no shame in losing to the best, but..." started a girl in red and white, her hair also included in the former grouping.

"NO!!" Jun interrupted. "Kasaiko, you are wrong. This pig-dog needs to suffer for his transgressions against us! How dare he!! How dare THEY!!" Whatever the hot-tempered young-man seemed to be rambling about, it really didn't make much sense through his delirium.

The tallest one of the lot, in jeans and a worn emerald coat, had an arm on the table. He awkwardly turned to the dusty blonde boy beside him, very uncertain what to make of this. Said individual was munching on a bag of cookies, mind elsewhere until Jun's scream echoed through the room. He turned to the angry young man and said, "Dude...chill out man. So Fritz is participating in the tournament...so what? Frankly. he seems pretty good..." He grabbed another cookie and stuck it out. "Anyone want one?"

"Don't mind if I do!!" the guy next to him cheerfully said, visibly calming down a bit as he took the offering. He always had a soft spot for sugar. "You know, though. I always look forward to a good challenge. Though, I think we need to watch out for this fellow. He's a crafty one..."

"I don't know, Graham. I'm not sure if any of us can beat him..." Kasaiko sighed. She always had respect for Elyna as a fellow type trainer; she specializes in Fire-types. To see her flattened, rolled up, and tossed aside by a ruthlessly strong trainer had really dealt a blow to her confidence, a fact surely not lost on anyone present.

"Not with that attitude!" the blonde boy exclaimed, before beaming at the rest of the group and leaning back against his chair. "I, for one, can't wait till I get to battle against Fritz. It should be a thrilling ride," he said, his expression showing how eager he felt at the fact that he would get to battle him.

"Well that," the boy continued, "And I think judging from the battle against Elyna is just dumb. At the end of the day, battles can be ruled out by luck...that battle was one of those," he explained while wagging his finger. "So yeah. I'm not going to assume I'm going to lose just because the ice queen lost. Though someone that thinks they're so good shouldn't be surprised if they lose so suddenly, either."

Jun seethed and fired a nasty look the speaker's way. Yet decided to hold his tongue for once. Sho was visibly shaken by this, knowing that look. "Now now, calm down Jun. There's no need to lash out at Markus. He's one of us, here."

"I'm as calm as calm can be," he lied. When it comes to battling, Jun has a very strict outlook. He doesn't believe in luck, and scoffs at the notion of it being a deciding factor. He secretly hoped he could meet this Markus in the tournament, so that he could personally wipe that smug look from his face. His eyes, however, were making the challenge.

"Anyway," Sho continued, facing the tallest person in the room now, "What do you think of the battle, Graham?"

Adjusting the sleeve of his coat, he replied, "He went pretty far to win. With the learning TMs, and talking to the Yuhawlah girl and all that." Graham finished off the cookie, and continued, "Fritz just wanted it more than Elyna. Though motivation alone doesn't win battles. He won't see my Gliscor coming, that's for sure. Though motivation does play a big factor, I will say that much." Kasaiko seemed to whisper something at this, but it was inaudible. Graham turned to Markus.

"Hm?" Markus raised an eyebrow as he ate another cookie, turning towards Graham. "What is it, dude?" he asked while cocking his head to the side

"Kasaiko's really beating herself up about this," Graham quipped. "I heard she did a clean sweep against all her opponents so far. She did so well in Battling last year, too. Though, now she's like this." With a sigh, he added, "I don't know what to make of all this..." He looked to the long-haired boy. "And Jun," Graham stated more matter-of-factly, "He wasn't in my block last year. Though from what I heard and seen, he's always been confident and not afraid of anything." He rubbed his head and chuckled. "Really makes you wonder what everyone else thinks of this, don't it?"

"Hmmmm...I didn't think everyone would be so troubled," Markus said, taking note of what Graham had stated. He then stood up from his chair and turned towards Kasaiko. "Kasaiko...are you strong?"

"I-I..." she stammered. For a brief moment, she regained her composure, and appeared as a totally different person. "I am, yes. But..." And right back to where she was. "I'm not sure what to do, here. He might be too much..."

"If you think you're strong, then that's all you have to think of," Markus declared as he walked in front of the girl and smiled kindly. "Having a strong mentality helps in a battle too. If you don't think you can win, then you'll lose before the fight even begins. Besides," he then put his hands on her shoulders and chuckled. "You're a strong trainer and a part of the class. Don't worry about what might happen, because you're already at a place where a lot of people wish they could be."

A smile forced its way onto Kasaiko. "Thank you...I guess I can try."

Sho watched on in approval at the camaraderie between the three. "Anyway, I think we should start discussing battle strategies for-"

A creepy, deranged laugh cut through the room and interrupted the leader. "How rude, Mr. Sho Tzalma. Not inviting the number two...no! The number one representative of this tournament to this meeting?"

"Y-you're not welcome here!" Sho impulsively leaped back from the individual who abruptly made his presence felt. The peculiar young man with well-maintained blonde hair slowly approached from behind a piece of training equipment. Clad in very high-class clothing, with the guise of a bigshot. His blue eyes went beyond cold...they were practically lifeless. That's not to say his stare could not make an impression.

"And why not? Are you afraid of me, much as you are afraid of him...?" Sho had nothing to say to that, neither confirming or denying the accusation that Korum Anaberal had made.

"Leave us, CREEPER!!"

"And what of you, Jun Kanshaku? Are your emotions getting the better of you once again? It nearly cost you your battle against your partner..." Jun clenched his fists and growled. Another person added to his list.

Markus turned towards the new person, feeling like he should know him. And yet part of him seemed to have forgotten who it was. A problem he sometimes had, though he was aware the others seem to realize who he was. "Um...who is he again?" he asked curiously as he turned towards the newcomer

"My name is Korum Anaberal," the man himself replied with a curt bow. "Representative of Muriel Palmoni. And you are Markus Lake, representative of Edison Glad, are you not?" He grinned devilishly.

"Yeah, I am," Markus nodded his head, not really paying attention to Korum's tone or his expression. "So you're Muriel's representative, it's nice to meet you man," he stated politely before grabbing another cookie. He looked to the others, noticing the tension had increased once more. "Anyways, we were just talking about Fritz and all that. I like the kid."

Korum let out a snort of amusement. Genuine amusement. For it, he decided to spare Markus from his tongue.

"Be careful, Markus, that guy is-"

"Graham Fragarach," Korum addressed, provoked just by that, "Was it not your indecisiveness that almost led to the same scenario as Jun? That's right, you overthink things a bit too much." Graham could only hang his head in shame at this, but kept his gaze trained on Korum. "He who hesitates is lost, as they say."

When no one spoke up further, he did so himself. "Everyone has their strengths and their weakness. You called this meeting to discuss the best ways to defeat one man." Korum paced, stealing charge of the meeting. "Well, I can tell you the best way."

The bigshot paused for dramatic effect, crossed his arms and laughed. "How I see it. Fritz Westmyn's biggest weakness...he is inconsistent. How is it that he could struggle against one person, and do so well against someone far stronger?" He was clearly referring to the battle against Ryosuke Eichi DeMonte. And no one could really deny that...in fact, it may have not even occurred to many of them. "The best bet for you...is to lull him into a false sense of security. Then open the trap beneath. Take out the biggest threat to your team by surprise. And send him to the depths from there."

He turned to address the one person he had yet to interact with. "Kasaiko Tarento. The master of brimstone." Korum tasted his description. "You of all the people before me should have no need to fear. His Tangela and his Vespiquen will burn in your inferno...and should his Huntail fall, if he uses it that is...he has no chance against you."

People could say whatever they wanted about Korum Anaberal. Much of it nasty. What he just did, however, could not be denied in its effects. Kasaiko perked right up. "A sound strategy...yes! That's how I can fight back. I think I know what I have to do, now. Thanks." Bursting with anticipation, she rushed away to the opposite end of the room to work on training.

As Kasaiko left leaving only the males, Jun watched on, dumbfounded. "How in the hell did you do that?" he said, awestruck.

"You're a piece of work..." Graham mumbled under his breath. Korum heard anyway, waving to him.

"That was nice," Markus pointed out, glad to see that Kasaiko was feeling better. He then walked up to Korum. "I think you may have a point there, dude."

"Why, thank you," Korum said with a smile. "It is good to see some understanding here."

Sho did not react well. "Why are YOU helping us?" he accused.

Korum chuckled. "Muriel asked, and I agreed, that I do everything in my power to ensure Cronus Aporon's representative does not make it through. So I asked myself...what am I willing to do to achieve that? What am I willing to do to win? Is that not what you were asking yourself when you called this meeting, Sho?" Again, he could not deny this accusation, yet did not confirm. A growl pierced the air, and Korum interrupted it. "I have full confidence in my own abilities. But you should leave nothing to chance. Isn't that what you think, Jun?" The angry young man clenched his fists in frustration, also unable to say it was untrue.

"Now then, I believe before my interruption, you were going to speak of strategy...?" Jun nodded robotically, completely defeated. Korum acknowledged this. "Very well, let's continue with you, then..."


Chapter 2-14: Fight or Flight?

The luminous white shine faded after about eight seconds. Nidorina took up the position of sentry as I slowly turned around.


I...guess the Beast just evolved.


Well then. Let's talk appearances, first of all. The Beast is much the same in appearance as it was prior to this transformation, yet at the same time has been drastically altered. In a few words, it's bigger and badder. For one, its skin is now much more sickly in texture than before - nearly a pale slate color. Its cracked and broken horns are a toxic green, and its hooves look no better. Finally, an aura of utter DEATH is outpouring from its behind and horns. What is it, now?!

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What the hell does that mean!?!! I photographed it perfectly! It was right in the middle and everything! Is it like, sending out electromagnetic waves? No, it shouldn't be able to do that. So did I just make a startling discovery here? That would be one way to put it, yes...

All right, so let's get the facts. Evolution makes a Pokémon stronger and gives it access to new techniques. It evolved via surge of emotion. This monster is, in fact, just an evil entity. Whatever its causes and motivations are. And it wants me...and more than likely, the world dead. Well, I'm sure it'll have problems on that last part. But still, this thing on the loose is a bad, bad idea. Especially with it as mad as it seems to be.

Nidorina is showing no hesitation at all. Okay, some. As crazy as she is, she's not that crazy. She seems to be waiting to see what I...or the new Beast would do. It's the latter who's making the first move, shooting a Shadow Ball from between its horns. Nidorina made a quick dodge and ran in to Cut it down...but the Beast escaped its wrath.

"Let's see how it likes dealing with poison. Poison Fang!"

Hearing my order, this played out as an exact repeat of how she got the attack off the last time. The Beast tried to Stomp on her, with my Pokémon ducking beneath as it tried. She chomped down on the Pokémon's hind leg, causing it to bellow demonically as the toxins flowed into it. What happened after...was different. The Beast Stomped on her with its left hind leg, effectually scraping her off.

It very quickly followed this up by whirling about and slamming its head down. Nidorina's instinctive reaction was to meet it with her own skull. She went right between the vile antlers! Which, it rattled about as she did so. Nidorina went stumbling back. It wasn't particularly violent...so maybe mere contact with them can prove harmful. What am I saying...should've saw it coming from their appearance.

"You okay?" I asked. The DNA mishmash roared. "Just checking. Let's try Shadow Claw!" As if her hesitation had been severed from that slice, she leaped forth and charged the attack at the same time. The Beast dodged, but Nidorina kept coming! It wasn't getting away. It took the full force of the attack right between its beady eyes. Excellent!

Hold up. This isn't an official battle. Why am I going with one-on-one? If one Pokémon mauling it is effectual, let's try two!

And yes! As if they'd been working together for ages, Eevee and Nidorina got right to work on the twisted Stantler evolution. And that's a rarity. Seeing Nidorina able to work with another Pokémon. Both are using their teeth, but Eevee is slamming into the monster and Nidorina is tearing into it with her claws. The Beast, meanwhile, is forming a pulse of dark energy, which it's firing off to knock out both my Pokémon at the same time.

Wait, what?

So that's why I'm going with one-on-one. Err..."Later!!" Recalling both Pokémon and making my exit. I think the sheer randomness of the act threw it off, because it isn't following. But...something tells me it's going to.

Running away...running!! And taking up position around a chokepoint in the tunnels. I heard a screech seconds after I got out of there, followed by the sound of pursuit. Gotta think fast. I sent out Tangela, who instantly displayed recognition at where we were and peered up at me. If it had eyebrows, it would've raised one.

"Yes, we're here again. And that thing is here, too." I can hear the Beast's trotting getting louder and louder. It's coming our way. Excellent. Let's set the trap. "Stick a vine or two out, and we'll trip it up."

Obeying, the blue Pokémon shoved several its tendrils against the opposite wall to act as a tripwire. Is that enough? No, it's not. I ran to the opposite side, hearing a war cry as I passed by the opening. I'm holding the ropes tight to make the rope as taut as can be!! It was like having a tug-of-war...kind of, but now's not the time for that!!

The Beast came barreling into the passage. And it violently toppled to the ground, like a train going off the rails. My Pokémon struck out instantly, smashing our adversary with its vines.

The Beast, levitating to its feet, glared at Tangela and let out a wail. It ran at the mass of noodles, attempting some kind of attack. An attack that Tangela easily escaped. Quickly, it brought out a few more vines and Power Whipped the demon again. Again, the Beast wailed as it was struck. Once, twice...it shot out a strange wave of power that seemed to faze Tangela. Which was just enough for it to break out of the assault.

The tunnel was lit up as the Beast began a tear ahead, horns crackling with electricity. Despite a warning I shouted and the obvious nature, Tangela was knocked back by the attack. It got to its feet, just in time to avoid...Blaze Kick!? What the hell? It just turned around and swung its legs out, and they just burst into flames. Thank god they missed...and now Icicle Crash?!! Its horns gained wintry essence, and out of nowhere, the icicles formed over Tangela. Blindsided. They practically impaled my Pokémon...

This thing's learned some ridiculous moves. Luckily, we have some of our own. But first things first, to deal with the problem of health. Tangela's still in this. Potions, I only brought a few of, but we do have something that can help a bit. An attack. A move called, "Leech Seed!"

Just as the Beast was getting ready to Stomp down, a few parasitic seeds were loose. On contact, they burst open into vines that wrapped around the Pokémon - though not so tight as to restrict movement. Again, the Beast's horns are glowing to indicate a use of Icicle Crash.

"Grab its horns again and shake them!" That should make sure it can't use that attack. The Beast attempted to twist about so it could not be ensnared, getting caught anyway. Tangela wrangled it much as it did in our prior encounter. The Beast started to crackle with electricity...and it seems it's learned its lesson. Another Wild Charge, coming our way. Need to try something different this time around. "So, sidestep and pull it down!"

Like some sort of bullfighter...who uses rope...and is fighting a pissed-off antelope, Tangela made a dash to the side to avoid being gored by horns...or electrified skin. It had been reeling in its vines carefully as the Stantler evolution approached, and bracing against the ground, yanked. The Beast screamed as it awkwardly hit the hard stone ground.

And out comes a Shadow Ball!? Caught right off guard. Even from that position, it's dangerous!! Well, doesn't matter. "Strike with Vine Whip!" Tangela managed to give the Beast seven good lashes before it could fully recover and start avoiding attacks.

But let's see it dodge this. Don't fail me now, technical machines! "SHOCK WAVE!!"

Sparks of its own flying off, Tangela swung a vine out, filling up the corridor with...well, a shockwave. No way to avoid this...not here!

But the move was barely adequate...I guess it used some of the electricity it was zapped by to power the attack. Tangela's no Nidorina...need to find a way to improve that move. It did what it was supposed to, at least - catch that bastard way off-guard.

"LEAF STORM!" Tangela put 110% into this one. Most of the attack came from my Pokémon's own body given the location making it hard to gather the necessary natural materials, but it substituted a few stones and pebbles for twigs and branches.

Only for most of the attack to be stopped by Psychic. Damn it...

"Fine! Tangela, choke it out!" The mass of noodles was uncertain, but carried out my order. The vines went around the neck to strangle the Beast. It appears as though oxygen is still something it requires. If skillful attacks or stunning agility won't bring it down, let's just use crushing power!

The space around my Pokémon faintly distorted as the Beast attempted to use Psychic again, this time on Tangela, but it can't seem to focus while it's being choked!! Eat that, you bastard!! All it can do is lower its head, make a desperate run at my Pokémon with its verdant horns, slamming into Tangela with...no letup and...oh god, that's Megahorn.

My Pokémon's grip loosened as it was sent sailing back...and went completely slack. That blow knocked it out. There is this afternoon to consider as to why so soon...but that doesn't change the fact that it did way more than I was expecting! How strong is this thing?! And the Psychic moves too. Maybe I should've brought my reserves against Elyna. Then I'd probably have my Houndour on me. Or hey!! Maybe I should've skirted the law and brought my Pokémon from back home! I'd like to see it deal with a giant three-headed dragon who makes Nidorina and her ruthless aggression look like that you see in a pillowfight!! And guess what? It couldn't pull psychic BS on that either!!


Guess we'll have to work with what we have. Three left. "It's your turn, Vespiquen!" The regal Bug Pokémon emerged. She was the best off of the three I used this afternoon, most of what happened to her coming from exhaustion. Now, she's refreshed and ready to go. "Signal Beam!"

The Beast reacted to my order with one of its own. It's actually stronger than Vespiquen's own!! The two attacks struggled for a second, then the other cut right through. I hastily recalled her. "All right, return for a sec!!" Gotta get back to the main room. The Beast was more than happy to follow me. And it would find Vepsiquen forming and waiting for it over one of the partitions.

"From above! Signal Beam!!" This time, the antelope wasn't as lucky. Vespiquen's hit, and it hit hard. "Try throwing some Sweet Scent out, too!!" I gave the command verbally this time. A pleasant scent quickly hit my nostrils, and surely by extension the Beast's...who isn't distracted "AT-TACK ORDER!!" And not a moment too soon. She was caught by Psychic, but her drones got loose.

The Beast didn't notice what it did. They swarmed it mercilessly, breaking the attack up, and freeing Vespiquen. And while they're doing that...

"Air Slash a few times, then Power Gem!"

An Ominous Wind materialized around the Beast, dispelling the hornets, only for it to be met with its foe's wind. We're doing good. Vespiquen tilted and fired out a sparkling stone. The Beast grazed this. Let's see if it can keep up, though.

"Another Signal Beam!"

Vespiquen went to-WHAT? Something reached out from the shadows and hit her from behind. Instantly after, a Psyshock formed around her. The blue waves crashed into Vespiquen, sending her closer to the ledge. Then, in a startling display of athleticism, the Beast leaped up and Blaze Kicked my Pokémon, sending her crashing against the wall on the other side of the chasm. Don't need to see her flop down, we'll recall her now.

Two more. I guess the proper order to use them in is Huntail, followed by Mareep. That should make the latter's attacks more potent.

My Huntail didn't enjoy being put in this situation. It freaked out, albeit not as much as Eevee hypothetically would. Unlike Eevee, its response was to instantly fire off a Water Gun that took the Beast by surprise. Clearly not expecting Pokémon to start attacking as soon as they were sent out. "Come on!" I encouraged. "Keep it together and hit with with Water Pulse!"

My Pokémon spat out a donut of water from its maw. The target squirmed in irritation as the attack splashed against it. Huntail followed this up with a second, which was enough to bring the Beast to a knee. "Keep it going with more Water Gun!"

Almost on instinct, the Beast's horns started to do something. The stream got twisted and distorted around its shining antlers. Is that Extrasensory? It must be.

"Use Swift to get in close, and Clamp down!"

Huntail sprang up and charged forth, homing in on the Beast's location!! But it just got knocked aside midair?!! Must've been Shadow Sneak, or something like that. A woozy Huntail carried out the latter order regardless. The Beast, though its flesh was chomped into, easily shook my Pokémon from it. Huntail shot a Water Gun as it flew back, but this didn't even come close to making contact. Meanwhile, the other Pokémon emitted an eerie light that sent Huntail into delirium.

"Huntail!" I called out to try to snap the eel out of it. "Please! Mud Slap!" It...got through!! Huntail chomped into the dirt and spewed it in the Beast's face. It didn't take it very well. Ha!

...not well at all. All of a sudden, from between its horns. a triangular field of energy appeared. It fired the attack out at a hapless Huntail. And ice spread across its charred body after impact! You're kidding, right? Tri-Attack, and it burns and freezes? Could've been all three effects, but kind of bad luck is that?

Falling back into the other domed area. Huntail did what it could. All I have left is Mareep. I recalled Huntail and sent it out, taking cover behind the corner. Now or never.

Mareep is standing valiantly. It seems it grasped the severity of the situation immediately upon exit of its Poké Ball. It's standing by, awaiting my command. "Don't hold back!" I stated as the Beast caught sight of the sheep. The monster scraped a hoof against the ground, bellowing as a devil would. This only caused Mareep to stand stronger. "Give it everything you got!!" Bolts of electricity are dancing across its fleece. The Beast is lowering its skull. There is no margin of error permitted. We have to wait for the precise moment to strike. "Not yet." The monster is stampeding at us. Sweat is pouring from my forehead. Mareep is clenching its tiny teeth. I can hear a banshee's wail. I can see a fiery pair of eyes. This is it! "GO!!"

Mareep focused all its stored power into one concentrated Discharge. The Beast was stopped dead in its tracks by this incredible and blinding flash at point blank. It sounds like a demon's being flayed...and one really is! Every muscle in its body is spasming. This evolved Stantler is struggling to stay upright! The attack's ended, after just under five seconds.

The Stantler remains twitching...

...it's faltering...

...it's down on two knees...

...it's breathing heavily...

...it's regaining its balance...?

...it's back up and screeching at us?!?!!

How? HOW?!?!! How is it still standing after everything!!?!?!?!!

Damn it!! What the fuck do I have to do to take this thing out?!?!!! I've hit it with all these attacks so far, and it's not even slowing down. And...wait. Hold up. Now that I get a closer look at it...

Eevee and Nidorina really didn't hold back at all. Several pieces of rotting skin have been torn, or are flaking off. Huntail mostly fought with water and didn't do much noticeable damage. But Tangela and Vespiquen left their own scars, the former several lashes across the body, and the latter a number of bee stings. And Mareep's handiwork...well. This thing is badly injured...and even after all this, it's still attacking? What the hell is its problem? Is it honestly not going to stop until one of us is dead? Why?!

Well...if that's how it is...then it's not going to be me! Mareep ran past it to dodge a swing of the Beast's horns, but was immediately slammed into by Take Down. It cried out as it was knocked away. "Return the favor!" I shouted to my Pokémon. It did as such, channeling its own frustrations and sending the Beast back a considerable distance.

"Again!" The Beast countered with a Signal Beam, which only hit Mareep's wool as it violently tackled the rampaging Pokémon a second time. The monster stumbled as it nearly went over the side of the cliff.

Mareep noticed its position and looked back at me, wondering if I really wanted to go through with this. I pumped my fist and pointed its ball out, to catch it should it fall. "Once more! There's only one way we're going to stop it at this rate!" The sheep nodded, and bounded forth. Just as it regained its footing, my Pokémon rammed it one last time.

The Beast screamed horribly as it fell. Its cry echoed as it fell to its doom. Cutting off short as I presume it was introduced to the unforgiving stone below. Much as it did to my friends, and possibly so many others. Poetic justice.

It took nearly everything I had to put it away. But it's done. It's over. The Beast shouldn't be getting up from that, at worst...perhaps best depending on your outlook and perspective on the matter, at least not for a while.

"Mareep, are you okay?" I approached and asked my Pokémon. Its tail sparked as it baaed in response. Guess it can't be better!

That was way too close. I was not expecting it to evolve. Nor for it to take all six of my Pokémon to subdue it. Going to have some serious explaining to do at the infirmary as to why my essentially my entire team was banged up overnight. I do wonder what could've caused this Stantler to be so aggressive? To go so far as to take up a kill or be killed outlook on the world?

A hatred lasting over six years...I don't think it could have been protecting a nest. At least, I'd like not to think so. People would've stumbled upon it at some point and learned the truth...err, if they lived to tell about it. But more important evidence against, the bucks and does would've left the nest a long time ago, and probably would've been in the cave as well. Maybe Premala learned something during her conversation. If not, it is a mystery lost to tim-


OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD HOW IS IT NOT DEAD YET? It's back, it's fucking back, it survived the fall. Its legs are mangled and body badly bruised among other things, but it's not stopping. It's using telekinetic powers to float...AND WIELD GIANT BOULDERS. Christ on a stick, where's a monster of my own when I need it?! It's in the box. FUCK!!

One of the boulders- "COTTON GUARD!! COTTON GUARD!!" -is coming our way!! Now I'm really glad I raised Mareep as I did. It protected itself by making a pseudo-dodge while puffing up its fleece. I just had to scramble to my feet (after having fallen over in surprise) to the side.

"Mareep...I'm out of ideas. I don't know how we can beat this thing!" Running is far beyond out of the question. "Think of something!!"

The sheep took a preliminary step away from the spectacle before it. What the hell can we do here?!! The rocks are blocking attack. We can avoid the rocks until it's out of them...but no!! It's gathering the one it threw back! And probably going to throw more at us at once now! Or worse!!

That insane monster's eyes are glowing red. And...I can barely move!?!! "MAREEP!! DO SOMETHING!!!!!"

Mareep turned back, hearing the words I forced out. Seething rage came over it. It tensed up; summoning every ounce of power in its body? The Beast had its attention on me, it didn't notice Mareep...doing whatever it...wait, "Is that...?"

A shrill bleat cut through the cave. From the canopy, swooped a bolt that lit up the night sky. Huntail's handiwork made the target a prime conductor for the electricity; Mareep may have accuracy problems, but this Thunder made full contact. The Beast shrieked in pain. It instantly lost control of its levitation.

And began plummeting down.

A moment thereafter, its telekinesis failed, and the rocks it was wielding followed behind. Mareep thought of something all right. And it did it. I managed to rush to the cliff just in time to see the monster that tried to kill me, my Pokémon, and three of my friends hit the ground, and be buried under tons of rubble.

It's over. For real, this time.

It better be. Not just because Mareep had completely spent itself with that incredible Thunder. I was not expecting it to use that move. I didn't think it was strong enough to use it, but Pokémon can summon the strength to use new moves under extraneous circumstances. It's going to be hard to use it consistently at this stage. Moreso than typical for a highly powerful attack. It worked this time though, and it worked brilliantly.

Just to be sure, I stared intently at what I'm hoping is that thing's tomb for a good minute. Only then did I feel comfortable leaving it be.

I returned to near the middle of the tunnel. Premala still has yet to recover from her assault. She looks...not at all peaceful as she rests here. It's a bit disturbing to see my friend like this. And not just because of the eerie silence that had drawn over the cavern in the battle's aftermath. I kneeled next to her...hoping that the worst hadn't happened.

"Premala?" I said, in attempt to rouse her.


"Premala?" I repeated a little louder, placing a hand on the fallen girl's shoulder. Could physical contact do it?

Still nothing.

"Premala, are you all right?" I full-on shook her and shouted into her ear this time. I'm really getting worried now.

I let out a deep sigh when she continued to not respond. I don't know if I have the strength to carry her all the way out. I do have one last idea to snap her out of it. I'm not sure if this will work...but it might be the only way. It's the only thing I can think of to try at the moment...and even with that, I don't know if I'm capable. The only thing I can do, is again, try.

I put my arms around her, lightly touching our foreheads together. I focused as hard as I could.

"Premala...get up..."

And pulled back. I thought that as hard and as loud as I could, projecting that message in attempt to reach her subconscious. It's a long shot...but a shot that I felt I had to try.

And silence. Sigh.

Premala groaned quietly. Did...did it work? Did I succeed? "Fri...Frisco?" she slurred, as her eyelids fluttered open. Her eyes have a murky luster. "What...happened...the Pokémon. The..." A realization stung her, as she snapped up, visibly fighting off fatigue. "The Stantler! What happened? Where...is it?" She quavered as she spoke her words, most noticeable with her last three. A second whimper escaped her mouth.

"It's been taken care of," I plainly replied. Mareep approached and stood beside me. I gave it a pat of acknowledgement and stood to my feet. "It won't be hurting anyone, anymore."

I had to look away at this. Out of a shame, not necessarily to point where it happened. I'm unsure of what she may think of this.

"I..." she still had trouble finding her words, but that one expressed all the understanding I was hoping for. "I see."

I gave my Pokémon a pat on the head for a job well done before recalling it. Premala limped to a standing position, and together, we made our way to the edge of the cliff. We solemnly peered down at the sight at the bottom, barely visible from this proximity. All of Premala's solace came out in one deep breath. "It is very unfortunate that it had to come to that. I just hope that Pokémon can finally be at ease..."

"I hope so too."

The two of us stared off into space for the longest time. I looked at the person standing beside me. She's still very much shaken from her experience. I'm not sure what to think of what happened, and the same can be said for her. Likewise, she turned to face me. And beamed.

"Frisco," the eccentric, curious girl sincerely stated, "Thank you for your help tonight."

The girl clinged to me in affection. I did not return the action or respond...aside from an involuntary sigh. She didn't break her hold at this, but did reply, "Is something wrong?"

Yes, something is very wrong. "Premala," I spoke. "Couldn't you have been a bit more honest with why you wanted me to come along?" I tried not to be harsh in the way I said it, but failed at that task. Rolling with it, I leered at the grave site of our attacker. "That was the reason you wanted me here isn't it? In case things did not work out with that thing as expected?"

Her grip loosened. Although she kept her arms around me, she was just barely holding on. I tried to look Premala in the eyes. She refused to meet my gaze.

"I don't get you. But if you're going to be like that," I said in turn, moving away from her and starting out of the cave. "Then don't bother asking for anything else."

Premala grabbed me by the hand. "Frisco, please," she said. "You are a very important person to me. I can say that as truth."

I sighed to that. She just doesn't understand. "Premala, it feels like I was important to you tonight for a different reason."

The girl lightly latched on once more. "I apologize. I am not sure what to say, but I apologize. I was not sure what you might think if I asked you. But. But you can trust me. Just..."

She's scared. She's hiding something.




She doesn't need to say it. Her tone, the way she whispered, that tells me that her love for me is genuine. It bothers me a bit that she does not want to say it outright...but I guess it doesn't matter to me that much. That's one less concern, and the most important one to get over. Premala is not just trying to use me. Perhaps she has some sort of other motivation, but her interest and heart are true.

I closed my eyes to analyze this carefully. It's been over a year and a half - nearly two now - since I left...and I know she has to be a significant individual to be aware of where I am from. I can't ascertain how much she knows, but she knows that much. She needs to be in the know to be aware of my given name and place of birth. To speak nothing of everything else I've seen from her. Being in close contact with the principal, having been able to serve as a voice for me in a time of need, she may even commissioned the Activism Club's building. And that shrine in the forest as well. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Premala has things she is not telling me. Premala has things she would rather keep hidden.

But maybe I do as well. I have my reasons. Maybe she has hers. So maybe, we're a match...?

I really don't know if I should go through with this. I mean, I want to. But at the same time, I'm not sure if I really want to. I don't know if that makes any sense or not. I could be getting myself into something with this. And yet...I can't really find an argument against that is not rooted in speculation. Everything I think of, it's just a maybe. But what if?

There would be some downsides to this. That much is a fact. But it is also a fact that there are upsides to it as well. Thinking of it. Maybe it is time for me to look forward in life. Maybe it is time to find some direction. Maybe...this is a good decision to make.

What if...




I returned Premala's embrace. It feels liberating to do this. As though a huge weight has been lifted from my chest. The robed girl, after she leaped in surprise and/or joy, held me ever tighter. She whispered something indiscernible. I smiled, myself hugging her more tightly. A contented sigh came out of me. A sound that Premala peacefully returned. We didn't need words to express ourselves.

I don't know what to think of or how I should feel about the future. I do know that whatever it holds, I'm ready for it. And I can tell you what I feel about the present.

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That was a very interesting development you pulled there. I assume the Stantler's evolution was an original evolution too, I think it was really well done and creepy if I do say so myself. The battle here was different, it was oddly nice to see Fritz struggle against an opponent, and now I can notice his weakness more so that helps.

The chapter was also good in letting us know more about Fritz's and Premala's characters, there wasn't much that was laid out but there were hints that do help paint a different kind of light on them. I'm interested to know more about the beast itself and what it was doing there though.

The end of the chapter was interesting, I wonder, does this mean Fritz finally accepted Premala as her friend? does it mean he decided to forget about his past? or does it mean he actually has some feelings for Premala now.
Welcome to Aie's Review of Doom wherein I go back to all the chapters I missed because @System Error ; is a meanie face and glares at me if I miss reviewing any. ;-; Help me.

2-9 Review

This one starts off nice, shortly after the previous misadventures of our motley little crew. Seems as if they all just got out of detention and are free again. Skipping ahead a bit, I remember this is the point where we learn about the mysterious illness of Thatcher's that everyone is seemingly sworn to secrecy over. Following this tidbit up, we have Phoebe going off the deep end and hitting rock bottom. As per the normal, Premala is a creeper. *shrug* The battle sequence was good. It showcased Premala being cool under fire. I'm curious as to that beam attack that Leafeon used. It didn't sound like Solarbeam and I can't think of anything else. Sounds like its a completely new type of attack. I liked the inclusion of the unreleased Pokémon and that you gave it a little background information.

So yeah. I'm honestly not sure who is crazier: Phoebe or Elyna. Either way, this was a good chapter and I particularly liked the battle sequences. I noticed a grammatical error or two as well.

2-10 Review

Lawrence is a creep. That's all I really want to say for the first few paragraphs. But hey, Phoebe is back! She's not crazy, but definitely not mentally stable. How adorable: a cabal of creeps who think they're hot shit. *rolls eyes* Aaaand here's Elyna illustrating just how batshit insane she really is. *patpats Elyna* I'm not sure why, but whenever I think of Elyna anymore I just feel intense and crippling guilt. Ugh. My feelings. Also, I'm gonna take a second to complain about the logic in the whole "Shamouti citizens kissing visitors" thing. I'm really not sure why that's a bad thing. Perhaps I'm being naive, but... Yeah. *shrug* Reika really does not know when to stop though, does she?

Overall, good chapter. I think this was one of the last ones we were able to do as a roleplayed interaction between Fritz and Elyna. I didn't notice any grammatical things, but I might have missed some.

2-11 Review

This was a good, if simple, battle sequence that provided a change of pace from our normal (and crazier) battles. The Markus-Riolu interaction was adorable, by the way. Woo! Someone else has hypoglycemia too! *waves the club flag* Nice to see the "Tei's" again! Nice to see Elyna is playing nice with people...

Switching over to this new opponent and his Messiah bird... That was special. I have no other words to describe the levels of special. Fritz is being mean to Aporon in a turn of events. AND CUE THE DEATH OF ALL I LOVE. *weeps*

2-13 Review

Hm. So we have the reveal that Reika is actually quite similar to Elyna. Both left as children, both are heirs to powerful corporations. Premala is... well. She's always shady. Nice bit of backstory for the Bluff though. Aaaaand he has a new Pokémon. How many does he even have at this point? Cue Premala having a fit and Stantler going cray cray. Really, not much to comment on. No noticeable grammatical errors.

2-14 Review

Okay, this is going to be the one where I get a bit nit-picky. At this point, I think you either need to create a listing of characters in your main post or repost the Atlas in your blog, or something. We've got faaaar too many characters running around and I know that I can barely keep track of them. I might be alone in this but, I doubt it. In more open environments, I suppose this really isn't an issue because characters tend to come and go a lot. However, with a closed environment like the University your character base is growing and growing, but never diminishing. That's all I really have to say on that issue.

So onto the actual chapter. Either you created an actual evolution or a mega evolution. I'm personally leaning towards the second, but we'll see. Either way, Stantler went god mode and started smacking shit around. Random question: any significance to that specific error code? Will we have a Poké Professor come in and tell us what that particular one means?

Skipping a bit ahead... Premala... Honestly, at this point, I hate her as a character. They've literally known each other for less than a month or so (estimating as I don't have an exact timeline for this) and somehow she loves him? Uh. What? Overall, her character just feels like a walking cliche. I mean, I understand the whole motivation of everyone has their secrets but... This is kind of ridiculous. *shrug* Just how I feel, but you know me. Premala and I have a love-hate relationship. By the next chapter, I could be loving her again. Other than that, the chapter was great. It (and the previous chapter) elaborated on some concepts that I've always wondered about (why not use more than one Pokémon in a wild battle & the six limit). I didn't notice any grammatical errors as well.


Hoookay. This might not go over well, but I'm gonna talk about it anyway because Flaze mentioned it. The Elyna battle sequence. I didn't really want to mention how I original felt, because I felt that if I did, it'd come across as "Oh, my poor character!" But anyway... I have to agree that I felt Fritz was winning like he did was just a bit too much. I completely understand the motivation for Elyna losing and a I agree with it 110%! You mention that you debated on him barely winning or barely losing and decided to go with the former. It's just... In particular, I felt that he didn't so much as "barely win" as stomped Elyna into the ground. Elyna literally didn't take out a single one of his Pokémon. One of which, he's had for less than three or so days if I calculate correctly. In the overall scope of things, even as mentally unstable and out of practice as Elyna is, being trained by an Elite 4 member and training most of her Pokémon for years has to mean something. That's all I really have to say on the matter, but please don't think I hate you now or anything like that. I still love the story!
That was a very interesting development you pulled there. I assume the Stantler's evolution was an original evolution too, I think it was really well done and creepy if I do say so myself. The battle here was different, it was oddly nice to see Fritz struggle against an opponent, and now I can notice his weakness more so that helps.

Yeah. First actual original Pokemon to show up. I never really thought too much about it, since it's basically only here to be badass.

The chapter was also good in letting us know more about Fritz's and Premala's characters, there wasn't much that was laid out but there were hints that do help paint a different kind of light on them. I'm interested to know more about the beast itself and what it was doing there though.

Again, I never gave it much thought beyond the skeleton. A few details not revealed, though: it became aggressive for a reason involving a visiting student. The reason is not quite clear, but it made it so mad...yeah. The attacks also began a decade ago, but the mountain was only closed six years ago.

The end of the chapter was interesting, I wonder, does this mean Fritz finally accepted Premala as her friend? does it mean he decided to forget about his past? or does it mean he actually has some feelings for Premala now.

Second and third.

2-9 Review
Skipping ahead a bit, I remember this is the point where we learn about the mysterious illness of Thatcher's that everyone is seemingly sworn to secrecy over.

It's just a sensitive subject for him, that's all.

I'm curious as to that beam attack that Leafeon used. It didn't sound like Solarbeam and I can't think of anything else. Sounds like its a completely new type of attack.

It is. Fritz' dialogue immediately after gives some details as to it. Because if I'm making a few new types some relevant some not, I just have to have that one. But not with that name, because that's just dumb.

I liked the inclusion of the unreleased Pokémon and that you gave it a little background information.
Nintendo may have forgotten them, but I sure haven't.

2-10 Review
Aaaand here's Elyna illustrating just how batshit insane she really is. *patpats Elyna* I'm not sure why, but whenever I think of Elyna anymore I just feel intense and crippling guilt. Ugh. My feelings.


Also, I'm gonna take a second to complain about the logic in the whole "Shamouti citizens kissing visitors" thing. I'm really not sure why that's a bad thing. Perhaps I'm being naive, but... Yeah. *shrug*

To that I ask: why would Fritz' friend say that Shamouti's citizens kissing visitors is a negative? Why could said friend possibly think it is a negative?

2-11 Review
This was a good, if simple, battle sequence that provided a change of pace from our normal (and crazier) battles. The Markus-Riolu interaction was adorable, by the way. Woo! Someone else has hypoglycemia too! *waves the club flag* Nice to see the "Tei's" again! Nice to see Elyna is playing nice with people...

Yeah. Just wanted something nice and slow at first, while setting up a future opponent in the meantime. Wasn't planning on Teiko and Teikō being in, but Reika and Thatcher didn't really fit there, so it had to be someone else...so I gave them a purpose.

Switching over to this new opponent and his Messiah bird... That was special. I have no other words to describe the levels of special.

That was especially fun to make. Guess there was an upside to the half-year from hell on this fic.

2-13 Review
Hm. So we have the reveal that Reika is actually quite similar to Elyna. Both left as children, both are heirs to powerful corporations.

Reika isn't necessarily a heir; her mother just works for Devon Industries Inc. Still a neat contrast all things considered, though!!

Nice bit of backstory for the Bluff though.

Fun fact: the #tpp crew on badnik helped me with that.

Aaaaand he has a new Pokémon. How many does he even have at this point?

"And that makes twelve," I declared as the ball snapped shut.

But hey, twelfth Pokémon! Two full teams! Talk about variety should I ever need it!

Well...at least as far as Japanese Pokemon are concerned. Only Houndour has been mentioned of those we haven't seen. And he mentions one of his ones from back home in 2-14.

2-14 Review
Either you created an actual evolution or a mega evolution. I'm personally leaning towards the second, but we'll see. Either way, Stantler went god mode and started smacking shit around.

Actual evolution. Mostly because there's no mega stone around as a conduit.

Random question: any significance to that specific error code? Will we have a Poké Professor come in and tell us what that particular one means?

Nope...though I should've. >_>

Skipping a bit ahead... Premala... Honestly, at this point, I hate her as a character. They've literally known each other for less than a month or so (estimating as I don't have an exact timeline for this) and somehow she loves him? Uh. What? Overall, her character just feels like a walking cliche. I mean, I understand the whole motivation of everyone has their secrets but... This is kind of ridiculous. *shrug*

Then I'm writing her as intended. Premala is a bit of a special character in this fanfic, both in and out of it. She's actually one of the most flawed (in the sense that she has flaws) characters in the entire fanfic. The bonus scene will help put some of her behavior in perspective.

You mention that you debated on him barely winning or barely losing and decided to go with the former. It's just... In particular, I felt that he didn't so much as "barely win" as stomped Elyna into the ground. Elyna literally didn't take out a single one of his Pokémon. One of which, he's had for less than three or so days if I calculate correctly. In the overall scope of things, even as mentally unstable and out of practice as Elyna is, being trained by an Elite 4 member and training most of her Pokémon for years has to mean something. That's all I really have to say on the matter, but please don't think I hate you now or anything like that. I still love the story!

Well, on Vespiquen - it's eight days. Timeline...
- Saturday, May 12th: 2-9 happens
- Monday, May 14th: 2-10 happens
- Friday-Saturday, May 18-19th: 2-11 happens
- Sunday May 20th: 2-12 happens

On his barely winning...as we spoke about and it should've been more clear, his two main Pokemon were all barely conscious by the end of it. The third was better and only was weak by exhaustion, but he played her perfectly. There's also a story behind her strength, but in due time.

Aporon and Markus were pretty much right - if Fritz didn't go in that damn hard, if Elyna had been battling more regularly/on her game, if he'd had worse luck, he would've lost. Elyna has all that, but practically everything lined up in just the right way. It wasn't all fortune, of course - Fritz certainly earned that victory, and it certainly says something about him. What to make of that something at this point is subject.

Last chapter in this part! This also sets a new longest chapter in KB record at 55KB flat. As per Aie's request, I've put the character profiles back up at this location. Furthermore, some things are coming!!

The first of these will be Part Summaries, which will allow new readers to quickly catch up on the events of the fic, and leap into the latest chapters without having to go through 25+ chapters. They'll be quite detailed too - you'll be able to get most of the events from reading these. The first of these is technically already up.

The second I've mentioned before. A side-fic known as Tales From Rukh's University. It'll be dedicated to the ongoings at the University, in the places where our protagonist doesn't have eyes. Essentially a more extreme version of the Bonus Scenes.

Lastly, I've toyed with the idea of pulling the trigger on the details/references/behind-the-scenes once more. This is a maybe, but we'll see what happens.

Anyway, here's a convoluted chapter to dig into. But before that, here's another bonus scene. Even though this chapter is already long enough as it is, I figured why not?

Bonus 2-15a: A Mother's Thoughts

It is a sight that never ages a day no matter how much I see it, bathed in the light of any variety; the boundless land, sea, and heavens.

My condo has a most extravagant view of the lush, Amaranthine Mountain range, and by extension, the crystal clear Lake Roseate below. It is the time of year when the greenery has fully sprang to life, and those perfect cherry blossoms on the mountain have started to fall. The waters are calm this time of day. The birds are chirping ever so quietly. There's nary a cloud to be found above. This is indeed the pinnacle of natural beauty.

The home itself is a modest structure. The deck I sit on is made of a polished teak. The railing is just under 80 centimetres tall. I had it constructed in this manner to prevent a spill, while not blocking the wonderful sights below. I had it painted with natural colors, to perfectly blend into the wilderness. And to further cultivate the image, one of the few dissenters is a large noguchi. I additionally have a pair of momijis growing in pots.

As I sit in solitude on my sturdy rocking chair, taking in the fresh breeze with only a cup of green tea as I do every Monday morning, I cannot help but think to myself. Life is something to be cherished. It is not something you want to allow to pass you by, lest you wake up one day and wonder how it passed you by. Yet you do not want to burn yourself out on it. I have met people who have lived every day as if it were his or her last, living only for enjoyment. And one day on waking up, have asked him or herself: what's left?

It is a wonderful world we live in. Beautiful, bountiful, and full of surprises. Each day brings a new gift, and each new day is a gift in itself. Until we draw our last breath, that is a constant, a benefit that we all share in our lives. It is regret where people differ and divide. Yet there remains no discrimination. Class, religion, gender, race, country...all stand on equal footing. It is not what you are, but rather, who you are that counts in this regard.

And oh? What have we here?

My morning has turned interesting. My phone is ringing. I have a feeling who it is, one that I was attuned to the moment the familiar chiming ringtone started up. It is most unexpected to hear it so early. Only one other time across the past five or six years can I remember a call at this hour. Picking the device up and taking a gander at the caller ID revealed my intuition to be correct.

"Hello?" I answered eloquently. "Who is it?"

"It is I, mother," came the solemn voice from the other end. "Good morning."

"Ah, my daughter!!" I greeted. I always find it a pleasure to hear from her. Call it something only a parent can understand. "Good morning indeed. It is good to hear from you. So, how are things at Rukh's University?"

"They are well. It has been uneventful as of late."

Another aspect of parenting is the ability to sense when your child is not being entirely truthful with you. And even if she did not have my blood flowing through her, one can simply analyse the facts. When her communication typically happens at the end of a day rather than the beginning, it is easy to come to the conclusion. "It is awfully early for you to be phoning. Did you have a long night last night?"

My daughter paused. "Yes. I went to Abet's Bluff to speak with the Pokémon there."

"That is wonderful news, dear!" That Pokémon whom the media has dubbed 'The Beast of Abet' has been terrorizing that mountain for well over a decade. Even I with my connections am uncertain of the details behind this entity. This extends even to its identity as a species. From what I am aware of: students of the school who travelled to the mountain on expeditions occasionally were discovered deceased, or returned heavily injured at the hands of a wild Pokémon.

It is only six years prior that the school decided to close up access to the cavern of the mountain. Rukh's refused to take action on this Pokémon and furthermore covered its existence up. The rumours continued to spread all the same, though - one particular outside observer noticed the deaths all occurred around the time of the New Moon. While the current administration surely saw dealing with it as a waste of resources, the previous ones' motivations are more ambiguous. Perhaps suspicious.

I am surprised it took my daughter this long to take action, yet I cannot fully fault her. She is a busy girl, after all. "And? What became of it?"

She sighed sorrowfully. "It has been dealt with."

"Ohhhh?" Her tone of voice intrigues me.

"The Pokémon...that Stantler will not bother people any more." So, it is a Stantler, is it? That would make perfect sense. The survivors were reported as being mentally delirious after their encounters. "The Guardian of the Forest's blessings protected me. I was able to reach out and establish contact with the Stantler. I understand it now, and it understands us."

That is a very intriguing, if a vague description she gave. It is no surprise that she decided to use its powers as a shield. It is better to be safe than sorry, as I have taught her.

"Anyhow!" Dwelling on this is a task I can tend to at a later point. Using her powers as she must have had to is exhausting. I am sure she'll be able to go into greater detail eventually. "It has been a while since we last spoke. Is there anything new? And what of the Westmyn boy? Has that stake causing any havoc?"

"Please don't speak that way about him..." my daughter snivelled, my snide remark upsetting her. "He saved my life."

"Ohhhh?" Now this is interesting.


My daughter could not bear to go on. She could not continue with what she was about to say.

Frisco "Fritz" Carlos Westmyn. He came to this country around a year ago. Since arriving, Fritz has travelled across the land, his haphazard path taking him to numerous regions and locales. A genuine person of interest. While making his presence felt in Japan, he has been careful to conceal his country of origin, for which I cannot fault him. It is only the most determined or connected who are aware of where he hails from, and fewer still are in the know of the greater picture.

I believe I know what happened. The Beast of Abet. There was very little choice but to permanently subdue it. My daughter could not take that kind of action herself because of her position, so she brought along someone who both could and would. And she feels guilty for using him for it.

"I understand," I consoled her. "You did the proper thing."

Even from this distance, I could perceive her cheering up. "Mmm. Thank you, mother."

"That does not mean I approve of your thoughts in regards to him." I reiterated my assessment on her opinion, to sweep away any ideas she may have been getting. And she was getting an idea there. There is little doubt in my mind: that boy is bad news. He may have a number of accomplishments beneath him, he may have saved her life, but that does not mean he does not spell trouble. My daughter fussed. "But!!" I continued. There is that tiny ray of hope. "The ruler of time will soon allow us find out, will he not?"

Premala thoughtfully groaned. And replied, "Yes."

Our conversation came to a temporary halt. I can sense that Premala is thinking of asking me something, perhaps related to this subject. On an unrelated subject, I do hope she has been keeping up her religious studies while at school.

"Mother," she eventually probed. "Should I tell him?"

"Should you tell him what?" There is a lot that could mean.

"Should I tell Frisco. About myself."

Here it comes. A question that has certainly been on her mind, his mind, and from the occasional stories I hear, that of others as well. But to tell Fritz Westmyn about herself. "Dear," I told her bluntly, "It's up to you if you want to. This is a decision you will have to make for yourself."

"But mother...I don't know what to do."

I stood carefully to my feet. This is the first time I have seen my daughter act this way. It is worrisome. I am not certain what she sees in that boy, to be frank. They have only known each other for a month, and she speaks very highly of him. Love at first sight rarely turns out as one would expect. I understand she is reaching out to me, her mother, as to how to approach the relationship. Unfortunately, this is something my daughter will have to learn for herself. I can give her advice, but I cannot teach her everything there is to know.

As for what he would think of her position, her career path...it is difficult for me to say. A background check has given me general idea, at least. I am hoping for her sake Premala will realise that if she wants to be with him on a long-term basis, if she sees herself having a future with this boy, he will find out eventually. Better that he hear it sooner, rather than later.

"I do not know," she sighed, at my continued silence. "However, I suppose you are correct."

"Hehe..." I giggled, having been taken back to my earlier years. What I can share with her is personal experience. "To tell you something I have not told anyone before," and I am being fully truthful with that, "I did not believe your father would stay with me through everything we've been through. Yet here we are nearly forty years later. Love can be difficult to undo, but the capture of the heart is an arduous task."

"I understand."

"Now," I declared, sitting back down. "What of the other issues at the university? What of the actions of the administration?" I am always interested in hearing of her work and accomplishments. On that note, I am truthfully surprised the principal continues to willfully listen to her concerns. After all, he is who is his, and he regardless cares very little about that which she brings up.

"Dean Finkerton is presently on a leave of absence. Speaking with him further would have to wait until his return."

"It is not like him to take a leave of absence," My tone became grim. Howard Finkerton is the type of man who would never miss a day of work in his life, if only for fear of how the ship would be run without its captain. "It must be very important. Do you know precisely why?"

"I am sorry. I am not sure." If I know my daughter, she must be slouching in shame, as we speak about this.

"Oh, it's all right." She can always ask him when he returns. The mystery will be solved. It is not a matter of if, but rather one of when. "Is there anything else going on? Or anything you wished to speak to me about?"

"No. There is nothing else."

"All right, then," I leaned back in my seat, contented. "You are doing an excellent job so far."

"Thank you, mother."

My sight was drawn the clock readout on the top-right corner of the phone. 9:43AM. Oh dear. "I should get going, myself. Have a long day of work ahead. Take care of yourself, you hear?"

"I will. Goodbye."

I hung up. Once more, I cannot help but think to myself. I have accomplished a lot in the 60 years of my life. One that I was not expecting and not planning on was my miracle child, whom I named Premala Amani Yuhawlah. A lot of parents that have spoken to me, speak of their children as their biggest and brightest accomplishment in life. It is a sentiment that I cannot relate to.

I am not downplaying my daughter and only child by any means. It is simply that while I feel that I have done the best I can with Premala, I also believe I have not been able to provide for her to the best of my abilities. Some of this has been circumstance. Some of it has been my, and Donny's own shortcomings as parents. I do not approve of the relationship she wishes for by any means. Yet I cannot tout it as a strict negative. The only thing I expect out of my daughter is her happiness, and if this makes her happy, that is a positive.

At any rate, she has a lot of maturing to do if she hopes to be with Fritz Westmyn. I wish for her to be happy. But for that very reason, my mother's intuition tells me that things are not going to work out, for that very reason. It is not impossible, though the road will be long and difficult. A true test of her character. It shall be very interesting to see how this turns out.


Chapter 2-15: All For Nothing

My eyes creaked opened.

The surroundings appeared hazy as they adjusted to the light of day. Speaking of the concept, yesterday is about as much of a blur to me. From the moment I rose out of my dorm to the time I crashed where presently I am. It was one of those days where so much happened; a week's worth of living into 24 short hours.

Out of exhaustion, I had slept on one of the couches in what is known as the Discussion Room of the Activism Club. They really are quite comfortable. Premala had made an innocuous offer to use her bed, but I chose not to take her up on that. Want to go steady with this. My pace, my pace...

But yesterday. I could say a lot about it. Like that battle yesterday, against Elyna...I have to admit. I wasn't expecting to win that. But I did, and I got praised for it. There was all the little stuff in the afternoon and evening, leading into the night. A return trip to a place I never thought I would ever return to. It was far from a wasted trip, though. I captured a new Pokémon, I fought for my life and survived against a maniacal monster who evolved into something the world has never seen before, and I finally obtained a clear mind and made a decision in regards to my amorous host.

Checking the time via a clock on a drawer across from me...which tells me it's close to ten in the morning. I may as well get up, then. I draped the floral patterned blanket over the sofa, and stood with a mighty stretch. There is little to do here that comes to immediate mind. So let's go see if Premala is awake.

Not a single other soul is in the building at the moment. You could hear a pin dropping anywhere in this wood cabin. Carefully, just in case she is still asleep and so not to rouse her from rest...rest that she sorely needed...I opened the door and inched across the hall. My destination is straight ahead.

I ground to a halt as I got near the door to her quarters. The door is ajar. And it sounds like Premala is in midst of a telephone conversation with someone. It's rude to listen in...but I opened my ears and listened in anyway.

The eccentric girl sighed, and with it said, "I do not know. However, I suppose you are correct." The person on the other end spoke for a while. No speakerphone, so I can't tell you what he or she is saying. Premala's response to it was, "I understand."

Again, a pause for conversation to be exchanged. Eventually, the reply came, "Dean Finkerton is presently on a leave of absence. Speaking with him further would have to wait until his return." Huh. That's interesting. I wonder why he's not here? Important business, no doubt. Premala started pacing, making me take a few steps back to avoid potential detection. "I am sorry. I am not sure."

"No. There is nothing else." The conversation wrapped up. "Thank you, mother." She was speaking to her mother? "I will. Bye."

With this, I fell back a bit, moving closer to the middle of the hallway. On cue, the door opened and Premala left her room. She caught sight of me almost instantly, a smile spreading across her face.

"Good morning," she greeted with a yawn, approaching with a loving wave. Premala stood before me with her hands folded. "So, how are you feeling?"

I cocked my head, smirking. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you?" When we returned here last night, she was still feeling some of the effects of her attack. When I asked her about it, she only vaguely told me her head hurt and she had trouble thinking. Not like a headache, either. It's a safe bet the assault was mental, rather than physical.

"I am well. And glad."

She took me into her arms, resting her head on my shoulder and peacefully nestling against me. The eccentric girl whispered into my mind...

"Thank you..."

I pulled back and gave her a look. "You don't need to thank me." It feels strange and creepy to be thanked for accepting someone's love. It's making a few of my thoughts resurface. "And I still think you're not being entirely honest with me about a few things. But I'm willing to give this a chance anyway."

A nod. I'm not second-guessing this decision, but I am making clear what I based it upon. She understood perfectly. "That's all I can ask for."

The eccentric girl smiled and started to enter the other room. Still. "Just to try, though..." She faced me again upon my sudden words. "Premala."

"Yes, Frisco?"

I took a deep breath to compose myself. I'm not sure how she's going to respond to my throwing this one at her. "...yesterday, you mentioned holding a position that obligated you to look into that incident." Premala blinked, and her eyes grew wider. "So what position is it?" I casually asked.

She did not reply, refusing to meet my eyes. Just as I thought. That part accidentally slipped out yesterday. Well, it's out in the open. Nothing she can do about it now. I continued to stare at her. I'm not upset. I'm not demanding an answer. But I do want to know. When she noticed this, she sighed and relented.

"I am...a member of the Kyuokaisa."

"The what?" My traditional Japanese isn't too strong. What does that mean? And what is it for that matter?

"The Kyuokaisa," she repeated, exuding more confidence. "It is very similar in nature to the Activist's Club founded here." She paused, almost as if she were holding her breath. I kept onto mine until she continued, "It is a group that seeks to protect Pokémon and their environment from those who may do it harm. They also look out for and aid individual troubled Pokémon."

"Oh, so like Pokémon Rangers?"

"Correct. That would be a fair comparison. One difference is that we operate on a more national scale, rather than a regional one."

I think I understand now. What I don't understand is why she would be here on a long-term basis if that happens to be the case. I suppose this partial answer will suffice for the time being, however. Finally getting some answers. "So while we're answering questions," I said, hoping to get more out of her, "What's that thing you're always doing? Is it like, telepathy or something?" In reply, she moved in close and touched foreheads.


"Yes, that."

Far less hesitation this time. "That is known as a mental link," she replied. "It allows two minds to act as one, so long as they are in close proximity. By stimulating a particular part of the brain using thoughtwaves, thoughts may be transmitted to the other. In that sense, it is not true telepathy."

"So..." I inquired, scratching my head. "How was I able to do it last night?" I don't have any special abilities or anything to that effect. Yet I seemed to be able to do it.

"If the bond of trust between an untrained individual and a practitioner is strong enough, and they have linked enough times prior, it is possible for the other to initiate the link. In a way, it is like learning the ability yourself." She had lowered her head and explained this matter-of-factly, but had now raised it enough to peer up, a peculiar glint in her eye. "Repeated and varied experience would allow you to initiate links with any other practitioner. Beyond that, it is possible that you would be able to fully learn the ability."

Okay. that was a lot to absorb. I understand how learning it could function on a mechanical level, though. And knowing that it does work, I can't help but give it another shot.

"Like this?"

"Yes. Like that."

"That's interesting. Don't know if I'd want to spend time on that, though."

In reply to my quip, Premala stole a kiss from me. Much the same as the first she gave - that is to say, not particularly passionate. Just lips touching. This time...I do feel something. Not what I'd expect from a kiss, but the soothing joy that's washing over me is a relief.

"You'll have plenty of time to try..."

"Oh, come on, you."


It's a bright sunny day this Monday, May 21st, with only a few puffy clouds in the sky. I stepped outside, and was greeted by peace riding atop a gentle breeze. And it wasn't just how few others are outdoors at this hour. Speaking of, after stretching my legs and getting some fresh air, I decided to wait in the Activism Club until the rest of the student populace got out for lunch. It's not that far away, anyway...

In the meantime, I decided to read one of the books here, and when a non-fictional account from the Meiji period and a book on the art of flower arranging failed to capture my interest, ended up doing some meditation with Premala. Helped to shake out the last of the woes from last night.

When time drew nigh, I said my goodbyes, and decided I would wait in the Student Square. It seemed an effectual way to catch them, without obstructing the exit of an entire classroom.

And true to my instinct, a chubby girl with a leg wrapped in a cast and a nervous boy with glasses came out the front door of the school.

"Hey!!" I shouted with a wave of my arm. Their eyes went wide with a mixture of shock and relief.

"Fritz!" Reika hobbled over as quickly as she could muster. "You're alive!!" She has that air about her. A look that says I probably would've gotten a friendly hug if her leg had healed. My other friend was more meek in his approach.

"We..." he sniveled, failing to fight back tears. To that end, he raised his glasses and rubbed his retinas clean. "We didn't see you in Art, and..."

"Yeah, I'm sorry for not telling you." My legs are suddenly so weak...ack...they gave out and I collapsed on the bench beside me, leaning back as far as I could without tipping it over. Maybe I should've been sitting to begin with, instead of standing around waiting for ten minutes. "Last night was completely exhausting," I explained. Still haven't quite shaken it. I peered off in the Activism Club's general direction. "Premala pulled some strings, so the two of us could sleep in. But I may have needed more."

"I...she can...do that?" Thatcher asked.

"She can do that," I confirmed.

My friends joined me on the wooden construct, Thatcher plopping on my left and Reika carefully sitting down to my right. "So leaving her aside," the latter said, not hiding her distaste with her pronunciation of the third word. "How'd it go?"

"First off, remember the Zubats and Golbats we fought? One of the Golbats, the one your Wigglytuff put to sleep?" She nodded after both questions I asked, making a funny face at the latter. Yes, that was something to remember for the wrong reasons. "It got kicked out of the cloud and evolved. I ended up catching it."

"Nice...so you have a...ummm...is it a Crobat now?" Thatcher tilted his head. "That you have, Fritz?"

"Yes, it should be a Crobat. Unless some new evolution was discovered recently." She doesn't know how right she is. "What about the Beast? What happened with it?"

"Well," I explained, sitting forward. "It showed up fairly quickly when we got to the top. Premala tried to talk peace, she offered to try and understand its troubles, but it was having none of that. I had to fight it after it attacked her." I stretched my arms high above my head. Maybe it's best not to go into too much detail. "It was a tough battle, but it ended up burying itself under a bunch of rocks in its aggression! The Beast is dead. And hopefully, it rests in peace."

"Woohoo!! Yes!!"

"That's...that's great to...knowing that."

"I'll say! What's that saying?" Reika laughed, cracking her knuckles in bemusement. "The bitter taste of revenge?"

"Actually, it's sweet." It's victory that's bitter. And sometimes humor can be dry. Don't ask me what's sour or spicy, though.

"Hello, everyone," a voice called out. I...hey! Wasn't expecting to see the speaker out here, let alone for her to join us, but her presence is a welcome one. She approached with folded hands and a beam as bright as the sun.


Well, welcome for me at least, and possibly Thatcher as well. Reika on the other hand stared at her, not really expressing much of anything. A cold, empty glare, in other words. "...why are you here?"

I...don't like the look Premala's giving me. But at the same time, I do. "I have nothing to attend to for the time being." She drew closer, but halted in front upon realizing there's no room on the bench. At least, not without squeezing...which at least one of my friends certainly isn't going to accommodate. "Due to this, I came to a conclusion that I may as well spend some time with Frisco."

"What?" Reika said, completely deadpan. She turned to me, over to her, and finally to me once more, simultaneously curious and disgusted. "What happened last night?"

This is awkward after our conversation at dinner the previous evening. "...what do you think happened?" is all I can really say to that.

Narrowed eyes. "Do I even need to say it?"

"Reika," Thatcher cut in, clutching the sides of his jacket. "What's...what's wrong?"

"He may trust her, but I still don't." She brashly spoke that aloud, right in front of the offender. Crossing her arms, she turned and once again leered at the robed girl. Not saying a word, but surely thinking several.

Premala is no-selling it. "It is all right. I understand your concerns. Frisco expressed a few of them himself." She turned to me and smiled, inducing some nausea in Reika. "We were able to come to an understanding, however."

"Hi, everybody!!"

A male's voice blared over the ambient sound of the schoolyard to cheerfully greet us, with him being followed behind by his girlfriend. Thatcher waved to the duo. Surprise to see him interacting this much. "Hi, Teikō. And..." He paused to think, attempting to remember the other's name. "Hi, Teiko." He got it easily enough.

The girl snapped her fingers, thereafter returning the gesture with approximately five times the vigor. "What's up, guys?"

I sat back, watching the three who were with me prior to their arrival. Thatcher is cleaning his glasses with a smile, Reika is stretching her good leg, and Premala...is being Premala a little off to side. "Just hanging out. What about you two?"

"Same." Teiko massaged her temple, and clamored, "So hey, Fritz. I was out last night and I saw a flash in the sky to the south. You've been up there before, right? Cause I think it was over the mountains? Any idea what that could've been?"

I provided confirmation. "Yes, that was Mareep. I was up there last night, too." Scratching my head over what she said, though. Even raising an eyebrow her way. She saw it using Thunder? "What were you doing up that late, though?"

"Couldn't sleep," she put it simply, not bottling her excitement. "I just can't stop thinking of that battle yesterday. I've seen those kinds of battles on TV before, but I never thought I'd see one in person. Let alone one involving someone I know."

"Speaking of which! I just HAVE to draw you, Fritz!"

What. The hell. Teikō? That is...not the most disturbing thing that has ever been proposed to me, but it's up there. "Uhhh...maybe?" I guess that'd be okay, depending on "Why?"

His hands balled up, stoked in regards to what he's about to elaborate on. "There's nothing I like better than drawing Pokémon Trainers in action!" Oh, that's right. He said something like that before...that I might end up inspiration for him?

It got Thatcher's attention. He stood, carefully sauntering up in awe. "You...you draw...people?" he questioned. "Trainers?"

A huge nod. "Sure do!!"

"Can you..." Thatcher nervously forced out. A solitary bead of sweat rolled down, glistening in the light of noon. "Can you draw Coordinators too?" Mention of the C-word produced a sigh from Reika. She buried her face in the palm of her right hand, but only I noticed her doing so.

"Of course I could!" Teikō gleefully saluted. This train of discussion caused Teiko to cheekily pose. "That's too easy, though. Thing about Coordinators that I don't like is, they're well-defined in their appearance. Not much room to be creative! It turns out way cooler if I can take a few artistic liberties! Add some subtlety to the mix, fill in the blanks in wicked ways!" He made frantic but meticulous gestures, the air his drawing board.

Reika raised her head and inquisitively glared at the young artist. "Why can't you just take pictures to do the same thing?"

"Hee hee..." What the-?! Oh, it's Premala. With Thatcher's getting up, she wasted little time in procuring the open position.

"What?" Does she just want to sit next to me? No, not just. She subtly rested her head on my shoulders, and formed a mental link with me.

"I see you have made some good friends."

"I have, haven't I? I'm really starting to make some good connections at this school."

"Hey, Westmyn." But of course, there's a few bad ones here and there. Cronus Aporon has found us, and he has a flank marching at his side. The preppy David, the lecherous Lawrence, and...Mr. Baiaz is with them, too? I snapped up proper as the quartet drew near, the three students stride for stride.

"Good afternoon," the former addressed with a nod.

Thatcher backed up. When he saw his seat had been taken, he stood where Premala had been standing a moment earlier. He gripped his jacket, twisting away from the intimidating force. "Why...what are you...all of you...why are you here?"

"Yeah," A far more boisterous Reika agreed. "What the fuck do you want?"

Teiko and Teikō politely made way, taking sentry beside Reika. They took the arrival of these people far better. In fact, the former casually asked, "Oh, Cronus. Hey. What's up?"

The four ignored every question asked. Save for perhaps a bow from my Tactics teacher. "Sorry to interrupt this chat the six of you got going on," he apologized. That's the extent of things, though.

"Heh heh." Lawrence cackled, prancing in front. Aporon and David trained their heads on him. While they're in disapproval, they're not stopping him from saying what he wants to say. "Epic battle yesterday. You smashed her pretty hard, there!! That was full-on RAPE what you did!!!" He motioned for a high-five.

"Thanks?" I weakly accepted, and nearly had my wrist broken for my courtesy when he slapped harder than someone with his build has any right slapping. His insane laughter echoed through my eardrum.

"You wrecked'em!! You're heinous!! There's no stopping the Fritz!" Everyone else's the shits!! Err...umm...never mind that just now.

"Wh...what?" Thatcher is actually relaxing at the antics. That, or much like Reika, he has no idea what to think of it all.

"Pipe down, Lawrence," Aporon finally stopped him with a raised palm. The lecherous nerd discontentedly obeyed. The jock stoically turned to me. "You need to come with us, Westmyn. We got things we need to talk about."

Okay, seriously? "Why?" I demanded, standing to my feet and getting as near as I could without qualifying as getting up in his face. "Are you going to bitch and moan some more? Except with all of you doing it?"

"No," he disregarded, "This is about our little group."

"Group?" Teiko queried.

"With you four? Five? That's awesome! Hey, if you guys need an artist or anything, I'm your man!"

Again, my friends would find no heed paid to their questioning, no matter how much they (particularly the latest) drew attention to themselves I must admit...propaganda pictures of the Four Forces sounds like something amazing. Anyway, following that initiative, I did not reply to Aporon.

The crown jewel crossed his arms. "You in or not?" he sternly pressed.

Am I? I have been making a lot of good connections at Rukh's University, just as I said. This one...I would not call a good connection. Can't call it entirely bad, at the same time. Thinking about it, does it really have to be as negative as it is? I mean, sure. Aporon is a misguided jerk at best and a complete megalomaniac at worst. But there are upsides to this. They wouldn't have put the offer out if they didn't want me - with all things considered - to stand with them. What have I got to lose? Better to have them as friends than to have them as enemies. And why not?

"...I guess." My declaration made the two lesser members of the group celebrate in their respective manners.


"Glad to have you on board."

"But why are we having a meeting now, during lunch?" I want to know. I like my free time, rest, and relaxation. Never mind the fact that I had some this morning thanks to Premala, but now I can have it with friends. "Unless we're having lunch."

"Indeed," David confirmed. "That is the plan."

Aporon shrugged. "I figured we may as well. More importantly and to answer your question, this is the most convenient time Mr. Baiaz is available. We do want our manager to be a part of the discussions. And if we don't do it now, we'd be having this meeting at nine at night." He nodded to the three others with him. "I think all parties involved would agree that this is the better option."

Well. That's, uh. "Fair enough." Damn it. He has a point, and I can't argue that point. I'd rather have it now than later. It's the lesser of the two evils. "Sorry guys. Gotta attend to business."

Thatcher merely bobbed in understanding. Teiko and Teikō sent me off with a friendly wave, though from the looks of it, the former wanted to speak to Mr. Baiaz. She didn't act on it, however. Reika, by contrast, stood up and demanded, "What business are you dragging him along on?"

I took a few steps back to answer, "A coalition of his," gesturing to the proprietor of the Four Forces. "Couldn't tell you that much about it, though."

"Who does that remind me of?" Reika grumbled, shaking her head as she sat back down, and shooting a lethal glare that person's way. That person simpered mysteriously.

"Will you be long?" she inquired.

"Will you other people be quiet, already?" A sudden snap and point. Finally, Aporon has had enough of everyone else speaking up. Though not being targeted by his furious finger, Thatcher leaped away. By comparison, the two who most recently spoke were unflinching at the gesture.

"Now, Cronus," Mr. Baiaz admonished, "If you want to go through with this, good public relations are important." On second thought, not entirely true to compare it to a scolding. The Tactics teacher faced Premala. "You can expect Fritz to be occupied for most of lunch hour, Ms. Yuhawlah."

The nerd of the crew breathed a perverted guffaw, and struck a pathetic attempt at a sexy pose. "Hey there, baby. Wanna ride the Lawre-xpress?" With a pelvic thrust, he declared, "It is HELLA LONG!!"

Lawrence...seriously? The Lawre-xpress? In response to this obscenity, I offered my hand to Premala. She gladly and lovingly accepted, moving to her feet to stand with me. I put my arm around the eccentric girl, and with a smug smile, told him, "She's with me."

His eyes nearly bulged from their sockets. "What what WHAAAAT?"

"Whoa!" Teiko said, a huge grin on her face.

David chuckled. "Is that so? You have made it official?"

"It's official. I have a girlfriend." I smiled and held her tighter, a warm feeling coming over me. Over dramatically, I pointed with two fingers and a wink at Cronus Aporon, "And yoooooooooouuuuu don't!"

Premala giggled and gripped me just as snug. I just could not resist the temptation of doing that again; my teasing words brutally stung.

"Ghk!" Lawrence gagged on them as well, the consternation not fading. Tweaking, the overly lecherous nerd put up his mitts apologetically, begging and pleading forgiveness. "I am so sorry! I-I-I didn't know she was your woman, man!"

"Well, Westmyn. I'm real happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but..." Keeping his cool, my mentor for the tournament inhaled deeply. "I'll admit, I am a little jealous. You two look good together." He said that, but clearly doesn't mean it. Premala reacted to the compliment of the pacing individual with another giggle all the same. "Someday, I want to be with a nice girl as well. And that day will happen. Maybe it will be someday soon. Maybe it will be many years from now. But at this point in my life, actively seeking a relationship is just not a high-priority." Okay. This has GOT to be rehersed. Aporon gazed to the heavens. "I want to focus on becoming the best trainer I can be, and surrounding myself with the very best. I have more important things to be worrying about than women."

"You are going to eat those words, starting now."

A tall, punk girl dressed in all black is marching towards us. Her emerald eyes are shining as fiercely as her metal adornments. Accompanying her is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed bigshot clad in high-class clothing that could...and from the looks of it, actually is making David jealous. He grinned a grin that his accomplice would be proud of, and pointed with his arms and palms.

"Presenting a woman you do have to worry about."

"Oh, crap crap crap!!" Lawrence bolted, hiding behind the teacher, away from Muriel Palmoni. Even though Mr. Baiaz now stood at the middle of this confrontation. David remained where he was. I decided...to take a step closer to Aporon.



Stated with a snort and as asservation respectfully. Silence fell over all present as the two longtime rivals stood face to face.

"We're busy. What do you want?" But only for a moment. Aporon wasted no time in blowing her off.

She placed a hand on her hip, then lightly tilted her cranium down. "You can guess what I want."

Aporon violently shook in the negative. "No, I can't. I can't read minds." Wow. And I thought I got under his skin, but the very existence of this person seems to drive him to madness. "What the hell are you playing at?"

"My sister, the tournament. your ego..." Muriel drawled, raising the same arm and physically counting each. Holding the appendage perfectly still, in position to physically lash out, she asked, "Shall I continue?"

Korum chuckled. "You have been going around acting as though 'your apprentice', as you call him," he said, marking air quotes on the aforementioned phrase. "Is great because he defeated Elyna Dragomir."

Wait, hold on. "You think I'm great?"

Aporon exhaled an 'ugh' sound as he momentarily faced me. "Can we have this talk later?"

"But the truth is-"

Muriel raised her palm, interrupting Korum's speech. "I'll handle it."

Insignificantly disappointed, he shrugged. "Very well."

Muriel placed the hand back on her hip, lowering her gaze a bit further. "You have a lot to answer for, Aporon."

Wait, I just now noticed. Much like the last argument/attack perpetuated, a rather respectable crowd has gathered to observe. I gazed over to my friends to see how they're doing. One of them wasn't doing well at all.

"Damn it..." she muttered, "I fucking hate crowds..."

Premala turned with a friendly nod. "Just take deep breaths. It will help to calm yourself." Hearing these words from someone she does not like, let alone trust, made her roll her eyes. Contrarily, she took the advice.

"Is...why is...everyone..."

David approached Thatcher. "No doubt. The cause is this confrontation between Cronus and Muriel. Nothing out of the ordinary."

Looking back-WHOA, when did you get here? Korum is right in front of me. Right up in my face, smiling maliciously. And just staring.

"Ummm...can I help you?"

He took up the guise of a Cheshire cat. The weirdo placed his paws against his chin and leaned forward. "While our mentors are talking, why don't we representatives have a friendly little chat?"

Is this guy serious? "What's there to talk about?" I replied. This is our first formal interaction with one another. "You saw my best yesterday. Actions speak louder than words, don't they? That's what I can do in the tournament. Meanwhile-"



"Oh, nothing." He waved off my question.

"Anyway, what can you do?"

"Eager to scout the competition, are we? You'll find out in time." I narrowed my eyes. Or maybe I could just watch one of his battles. Nothing he can do about that. "And what can I do, you say? I can do many things." He stretched his arms wide, designating the quantity. Then placed both hands on his hips. "And do know there are others. There's others who are eagerly looking forward to the opportunity to face you."

He clapped thrice. Per this signal, two young men immediately broke away from the crowd. One of them, with a Riolu sitting atop his head, waved at me. "Yo Fritz, how's it going?"

The other, a taller fellow in blue jeans and a faded pink shirt, followed close behind, a cap on his cranium. "So you're Fritz Westmyn," he quipped, tapping his chin.

"Hi. It's going uh..." I trailed off. I don't know how to put my thoughts in words. Actually, how IS it going? And who's this guy in casual dress?

His appearance is not lost on Teiko and Teikō. "It's Graham," quavered the former.

"Graham's here!" the latter shouted in surprise. "And...some other guy!!"

"Markus!" Markus exclaimed cheerfully, not caring they didn't know him. "Nice to meet Fritz's friends," he said with a kind smile.

"I see I'm not unknown to him either..." Graham noted, stroking his chin now. He shrugged. "Though maybe it's just his friends."

Let's see here. Korum Anaberal, representing Muriel Palmoni. Markus Lake, and Graham Fragarach. Three people I may have to face in the Tactics Tournament. And...oh. "Oh, god. Don't tell me you're forming a posse too."

Korum shook his head 'no.' Thank god. "Actually?" he slowly leaned in and rasped, "That sounds like a fantastic idea."

"Ah, crap." Maybe it's better to keep my mouth shut at times.

Teiko cheerfully came up next to me. "I saw some of you guys battle on Saturday. You guys are some of the best in the tournament."

"Future opponents..."

"Yeah, I can't wait till we get to have a match," Markus stated calmly while patting my back. "The little guy here has been itching for one." He pointed to the blue Pokémon on him, who waved in delight.

"I'll admit, I'm a bit wary if we have to fight each other, seeing your best," Graham laughed, rubbing his own back. "Though you'll be dealing with my best too. So look out!" He pumped his fist in determination.

"You have your hands full." Korum declared. "All I need to say." He irreverently turned away.

"All right, already! Enough is enough!" Aporon's suddenly shouting interrupted this conversation. He stepped away from the punk/goth. His patience has been exceeded.

"Why don't you accept what's coming to you?" Muriel shot back. "Right here, right now."

The crowd appears to love this idea, giving Muriel what I suspect one of the few positive reactions she has ever received at this school. Aporon wants no part of it. It was our teacher who bailed him out, entering into the fray. "Now, Muriel. Cronus has things he has to be doing."

People were disappointed. Shot down. But Muriel herself was one of the ones who didn't seem to mind. "I can wait," she said with a nod and nose twitch. "After all. You can't run from your sins forever. And the longer you run, the worse off you'll be."

Aporon ignored the threat. "Well, if we're done here-"


"Now what?" My sentiments exactly. Surprisingly, my mentor recognized the person who trotted in. "Oh, it's you."

"Hi, Ina," I greeted.

Reika stood up and glared at her. "What do YOU want?"

The ditzy girl danced a little jig. "Just thought I'd come say hi, Reiky!!"

Muriel snickered and smugly gazed at Aporon. "Hmph." It's like a 'ha-ha-ha you're fucked' look.

"And congratulations, Frizzly and Croneboy!!" And there it is. She forcibly shook his hand, then raised it high into the air. "You really showed that mean ice girl who the bosses are!!" She skipped over to me.

"She wasn't in the tournament." Ina skidded to a stop before she got near, sparing me from the same treatment.

"Ohhh..." That was a head-scratcher for her, literally. She cocked her head and entire body. "Then why were you fighting her?"

Markus raised an eyebrow. "Because someone had to?"

Ina tilted the other way. "Did he really have to?"

"We're trainers, we battle," he replied. "We don't need a reason to do so."

A look of concern drew over Ina. She backed away from Markus. "Fighting for no reason sounds like something a bloodthirsty maniac would do!"

"Exactly," a dreary voice interrupted. "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

Who is it? It's...oh. My god. It's Phoebe. Moving slowly, yet with intent. The hushed crowd cleared a berth for the short girl in black t-shirt and dark gray sweatpants. She's a wreck. Her hair is a frizzled mess, not wearing her red headwrap and even it would have a hard time containing this disaster. Numerous stains decorate her clothing - which have developed a couple holes - and her shoes are lazily tied. Dark bags are sagging beneath her clouded eyes, that are staring right through me. "It is his nature."

Thatcher slowly peered up, lurching away from what he saw. "That's...Phoe..."

Markus noticed her, a soft gasp escaping his lips on sight. "Phoebe? Are you okay?"

But most disturbed of all was Muriel. "Sister?" she shuddered in shock, eyes wide as saucers. Phoebe gave her an existential acknowledgement, but her eyes ultimately became trained on her former mentor.

"Cronus Aporon..." she coolly addressed. "The sparkling crown jewel."

No. No no no. Ignoring this. Do not want to see this. Turning back to my friends now. Premala stood up, frowning slightly. We exchanged glances, both feeling the same about this development.

"To answer your question from before...in present terms," I briefly addressed Markus, "That's how she's doing..."

Markus looked at Phoebe, barely able to bear it. His face became unusually serious, as he walked past me and the others towards her. "Phoebe, don't."

I sighed. A sad sigh. I spotted David approaching Markus out of the corner of my eye, but tried to push it and this whole incident out of my mind. And failed. "Not who I was hoping to see today. Or, ever."

"Your former partner?" Ina asked. "Why is she like that?"

"Sh-she...from what I understood, she..."

Teiko finished Thatcher's statement for him. "She wanted to be his partner in another way, too."

"Like a partner in crime? A partner in business?!" Ina is unaffected. She'd probably be picking up my mood, if it wasn't for what she was asking about.

"No," Reika said. "She wanted him."

"She wanted him to what?"

Reika just stared. "Have you gone full retard since we first met?"

"She wanted to be like Teiko and Teikō," I explained that part. "Or Premala and me."

That did it. "Ohhh. Like a girlfriend!!"

"Fritz Westmyn." Oh. Looks like it's my turn. "The unwitting but willing stooge."

I nervously stepped forward. No. On second though, I took Premala's hand, and stepped forward. I peered at her, clasping more tightly while doing so. I feel stronger with her by my side. I can definitively say that much about her.

"Phoebe," Premala spoke the words I wanted to speak, "You don't have to-"

"Rub it in, why don't you?!" she abruptly screamed. "The rich get richer. The poor get poorer." Her tone went right back to normal...well, to what it was before that outburst. No, it waivered again. "I didn't ask for you, sleeze. For that matter, both of you hold as much guilt as the rest of them." And back to normal. She raised her head and stood on the tips of her toes, as if looking down on us. "Those who do nothing deserve nothing."

Korum chuckled sadistically and stared my way. "Looks like you've got more to worry about than me."

"Pheeb," Muriel ominously cut in, "If they're still causing you problems..."



The crowd was forcibly parted by a large man, screaming rhythmically. A hapless Graham was bowled over by this smelly musclehead, spinning and flailing away. But collateral damage is not something Edgar is repenting of. "When there's a crowd, there's you." He trained his blade-like globes on each of his former associates in-turn. "The fuckwit! The shithead! The cuntface! And...you, Ashoka!!"

David crossed his arms. "You are comparing me to that ancient Emperor?"

"Yes, you fratricidal assknuckle!"

"YOU!!" Phoebe shrieked, losing all control. Right, Edgar was the one who kinda sorta drove her over the edge.

"You." He recognized her, but his tone said he could care less about her.

Muriel rubbed her hands. Eagerly. "So finally decided to come out of your hole, have you?"

"He's scary..." Teikō said, cuddling his girlfriend.

"Sheesh! Why you have to be so hostile?"

"Y-you're the one who...made Phoebe...freak out."

"That's right!" Edgar replied to Thatcher. He dramatically pointed at...well, we're scattered around, but he pointed at Aporon specifically. "Cause they fuckin' told me to!"

Yeah, right. "I heard a different story."

"I don't care who did what!! All of you are bad people."

Edgar allowed the unstable girl to speak, but completely ignored her. He formed a pair of fists and gestured at me. "And you believe the shit, shithead? Fuckem' naybe you should get your head checked. For shit!"

Lawrence peeked out from behind Mr. Baiaz. "Y-You went too fa-"

David stepped into his vicinity, as Lawrence scuttled over to where he once stood. "Edgar, you do not understand when to stop."

"Shut it, cuntface! You too, traitor!" He pondered these words for a moment, then added, "Especially you, traitor!"

Muriel, through her distress, managed to laugh at Aporon's misfortune. "Looks like you've got more to worry about than me."

He growled. And turned to his rampaging former associate. Calmly but seriously, he said, "Edgar. We did not tell you to go out on your own and push her that far. There is a fine line between teasing, harassing, and you."

"You're full of shit, fuckwit!!"

"Edgar, stop. You are disgracing yourself and our family's name."

"Fuck your shit, traitor!!"

"No. Why don't YOU shut your trap instead?" Erm. Markus has seen and heard enough, coldly chomping a cookie apart.

Edgar seethed. "And who the FUCK are you?"





There was only silence as that fringe lunatic catapulted into the middle of the clearing and struck a dramatic pose.

"Hello, hello!!"

"You..." Wait, who's this? "I don't even know who you are!"

The random girl shrugged. "Everyone was doing it."

Seriously, what's going on here? Everyone I know is showing up all of a sudden. Is this the work of some drunkard ordering a party? Maybe an oni? Or both? It's enough that I can pick out a few familiar faces among those surrounding us, who haven't chosen to make their presence formally felt. This is the strangest day I've had in a long time.

It's evoking a strange feeling in me. Something doesn't feel right about this. I don't know what it is, but it's just bad. "Can we get going?" I hastily asked Aporon.

"Yes, good idea," he nodded in agreement. David and Lawrence non-verbally agreed, rushing to his side along with me. "Let's go, guys."

"Stay and chat a while longer, why don't you?" came a maleficent voice. I recognize...!

Oh, FUCK! I've been so caught up in everything else I completely forgot about this guy! The crowd parted as the vice-principal of the school, Aiden Kripps himself, menacingly stepped towards us.

"For all that is holy, I don't believe this," Mr. Baiaz groaned, burying his face in his left hand. He caught on. No one else seems to have, but he knows. "You actually went through with it, didn't you?"

The vice-asshole grinned wickedly. "Indeed, I have, James. Indeed I have." I returned the lethal glare he was giving me. "In Dean Finkerton's absence, I am acting principal of Rukh's University. As things should be. And you know what that means, don't you?"


"A bigger greenhouse?"

"Heh heh!! Is it Taco Tuesday?"

"You'll upgrade the library's computers?"

A terrified Thatcher waddled up to me. "Wh-what's going on, Fritz?"

"Very, very bad things, Thatcher." I whispered in turn, shaking my head. This is bad. There's no telling what he'll do with this sort of power. I gritted my teeth and powerwalked forth. "All right, Kripps. What've you got for me?"

He guffawed, tapping his twisted nose. Shaking it off, he smirked. "I'm delivering on the promise we made."

Teikō cocked his head. "You made a promise with Fritz?"

"What type of promise?" Markus asked with a raised eyebrow.

Reika alertly caught on to his true nature. "You're here to cause problems, aren't you? What's your schtick?"

His accomplice, who had been lagging ever since she stepped into the jagged circle, finally took position beside him, grumbling to herself. He handed her an unamused look, followed by an order, "Anne. Tell them."

Mrs. Shugiri sighed begrudgingly. She explained, "Expulsion of a student from Rukh's University has three requirements. Confirmation from the principal. Enough knowingful rule infractions to justify it. And a believe that the school would be a better place without the student."

"Expulsion?" an offended Aporon took a step forward to defend me. "Excuse me?"

"What is the meaning of this?" His goons were not much better.

"What the heck? Why?"

"I'm with Ina," Reika yelled. Her next sentence was more of an offhand comment. "Who would've guessed. What has Fritz even done to get expelled?"

Mr. Kripps didn't miss a beat. "The first of those is well in-hand. I am currently acting as principal. And it has my confirmation. As for the second..." his face contorted as he flexed. "Your sneaking off to Abet's Bluff last night overstepped those boundaries."

"What the hell? Premala and I had permission!" I yelled. "She put in the request so that we could go up there!"

She nodded. "Yes."

The others took my side. "First time meeting him, but I believe'em. Though you are the vice principal..." Well mostly, on Graham's part.

"He...he told us...too..."

"He did!" And I have an alibi with my friends!

There was a pause. A deathly pause. "Then where is this request?"

"...you unbelievable son of a bitch."

"I'm lost?" Teiko ruffled her hair.

"The shithead did what now?" Edgar quickly said.

Korum was one of the few not confused and in a positive mood from this. He twiddled his thumbs. "This is perfect. And what of the third reason, Mr. Kripps?"

"Yeah!" Reika agreed. "I'd like to see you make an excuse as to why the school would be better without him!"

"I'm glad you asked." Mr. Kripps paced back and forth, snickering. He outstretched his right palm. "And in turn, I ask you. Why wouldn't this school...or even this world be a better place without him?" He turned the floor to us once more.

"He's a heartbreaking jerk!" said one sister.

"It would make my life far easier," said the other. Aporon mouthed an obscenity in reply.

"He's a spy?" Okay, what the hell, random girl?

Mr. Kripps gave each of the reasons a firm nod. "All reasons that could be argued. But there is one reason above all else," he raised a finger, "One indisputable reason, that Fritz Westmyn should be expelled from my school."

The crowd waited with baited breath. "For you see..." he dramatically turned away.

"Don't do it you piece of-"

"Fritz Westmyn is from North America!"



"Fr...Fritz is..."

"Westmyn, you're..."

"No way."

"He's from America?!"

"Damn it, Aiden."     "Oh? Is that so?"     "How unexpected."

"So the shithead's-?"     "Explains that Vespiquen."     "FUUUUUUUUCK!!"

"Gaijin! Gaijin!"     "Whatthefuck?"     "Ein ausländer?"

"Well, I'll be darned!"     "So Aporon-! Heh heh..."     "Damn! Hot!"

"START NINE!!!"     "Reprehensible monster!"     "Are you satisfied?"     "But he's Japanese now, isn't he?"     "This Fritz is someone else."

"An American is here?"     "Oh! Dear..."     "Dubya tee eff?"     "Whoa! Though I dunno."     "Get the pitchforks!"

"Finally, he's gone."     "But is he a spy?"     "Knew that fucker was trash!"     "My word, sir!!" "Psychopath!"

"There is justice in this world."   "I can't believe this, guys."   "Why? Just why?"   "So wait, does this mean we're not having a battle?"   "That scumbag!"   "It can't be, all this time!"   "Well 'ats somethin'."

"What a shame."   "Then why did he help save-"   "Amida-Nyorai be with him."   "But my son..."   "Christ on a cracker."   "That's the end."   "Violent, materialistic, ignoramus!"

"Holy shit..."   "So that's why Elyna lost!"   "My head! This is nuts!"   "He shall not be learning further."   "Condescendence, my quiet friend?"   "I finally understand his actions."   "That fucking asshole!"   "I knew he didn't look quite right!"   "How did he get accepted?"

"What. What. WHAAAAT." It was one scream that ultimately pierced all other voices. The speaker commanded, "Everyone else, SHUT THE FUCK UP. I have some things I need to say to him!"

Mr. Kripps boffed. He bowed to the enraged girl, giving applause and egging her on. "Go right ahead. Unleash your wrath upon this filthy foreigner."

She growled, every cell in her body quivering in a scantly-controlled rage. "I would've even if you didn't tell me to." She made this comment, then viciously pointed with a trembling finger. "YOU!!"


"You think you're so great! I can't believe you!" the chubby girl fumed. "You...you tricked me! You tricked everyone! You lied to me! To everyone!"

I lied? "About what?"

"About not being American!"

"It never came up, and why would I say so?" I pointed out. "And I'm from Mexico!"

"All the same! You cheating bastard!" Where did she get that from?

"Reika, I'm sorry." This isn't right. I tried to make peace. I need to. "I should've trusted you enough to tell you, even knowing how you feel. You're my friend-"

"Not anymore!" she screamed. "I want nothing to do with you!"

The crowd and everyone present watched on, no one jumping in either out of lack of nerve, from being in awe, or enjoying the tongue-lashing I was receiving. Kripps in particular could be circled under the latter, deriving sadistic pleasure from this.

"I had a feeling. All this time. That there was something not quite right about you." Her coarse breaths made her tremble. "Everything makes sense now. I knew you had poor morals! The cave and attacking me with Mareep. Your battles...that's a sign all its own! You push your Pokémon way too hard and want to get victory at any cost!"

Sigh. "Reika, please..."

"You want to battle all the time! You're full of hatred! You have a huge ego! You're a sellout! You're a hypocrite! You treat Pokémon as tools! You want to push your way of thinking on everyone else! You don't care about anyone other than yourself! The only reason you're at this school is to brainwash people over to your side!"

"Where are you even getting this from?"

"These are FACTS, Fritz! I've seen thugs who are better people than you. I've seen Pokémon Hunters who are better people than you!"

This is getting ridiculous. "Seriously? What's with you? And have you even met a Pokémon Hunter before?"

"No, but they're better than your kind!"

"Don't compare anything without knowing." And that goes double for my place of birth. "Because stealing Pokémon, slave labor, hiring hitmen, blatant betrayal, and attempted murder-"

"That sounds like a laundry list of the typical North American's wrongdoings to me!"

"Reika, come on. What about-"

"None of what you have to say matters! It is and was all a lie, anyway! You can't escape your past! You can't escape who you are! You...Fritz. Fritz Westmyn. You're a cruel...you're a lying...you're a cheating...you're selfish, you're ruthless, you're honorless...a self-superior, unapologetic...BAAAAASSSSTAAAARRRRD!!!!"

Reika charged in, taking a wild swing at me. I moved to avoid the off-course punch, sending her crashing to the ground. She screamed in pain and frustration, and though she was holding her cast, she still gathered the strength to leer up at me hatefully. Does she really hate foreigners so much, she ignores everything else about them, and even overlooks the obvious? I could point that out. I could ask her that burning question as to why...but this just isn't worth wasting my breath over.

"Ugh..." I met Thatcher's gaze. His face said he didn't want to get involved. I may as well talk to those who matter. Those who could help me. Those who could save me. "Aporon..."

He came out of his stupor, lazily staring at me. "Fritz." He stopped when he noticed what I noticed as he began to speak - David and Lawrence leaving. In disgust?

"Where are they going? Really?" At a time like this? I thought we'd formed an alliance. A group that looks out for each other. Is this their idea of loyalty? "What about you? What do you think?"

"It..." The shock had been reinvigorated by his allies' betrayal. He looked me in the eye. "It doesn't matter to me, Fritz, but..."

"Come on, then!!" I urged. "You're the crown jewel of the university! You have power! You've got to be able to do something!!" Not like this. Not this way.

"I..." he stammered, gazing over to the vice-principal. This was replied to with a growl and narrowed look. "...there's nothing I can do about this." Deflation. He shook his head, empty. Aporon whispered to himself, slowly walking away from me in shame and depression. "I can't believe this...my chances in the tournament just went up in smoke..." The most popular student in the school dropped to his knees in despair. "Everything...it was all for nothing..."

Christ...I've never seen Aporon this helpless before. I never believed I'd see him this helpless, ever. Even when Phoebe had her outburst and reality of what it meant for the tournament was setting in, he had a ray of hope in him. But not this time. This time, he has no hope.

What else can I do? Premala? "Premala, can't you do something?" I begged. She has to be able to do something. "Stall for time? Anything?"

My girlfriend became serious. A glint of confidence in her emerald eyes, she started, "Mr. Kripps..."

"Shut up." Mr. Kripps interrupted, not having any of it. "Finkerton may be willing to give you the time of day, but I'm not. And rest assured, you will get yours as well for conspiring with him." Premala slumped her shoulders as the asshole menacingly towered over us. "You won't be saving him this time."

I checked around. No other student has the gall or will to say anything. And if those two were shot down...I'm sure no one else would even be given the time of day. There's only one other chance.

"Mr. Baiaz? Mrs. Shugiri?"

The former sighed in defeat. The latter replied with sympathy, "I'm sorry, Fritz. The rules are the rules. I am obligated to follow them, no matter the circumstances."

"So what?" I threw up my hands. "That's it?"

"That's it." Aiden Kripps took a moment to relish in his victory. He raised his arms, basking in the light and posing as a Greek god would. No one is doing anything. No one is saying anything. This is it. He finally came out of it, and he came out of it with aversion. His breathing was erratic, as though coming off a high.

"You're out of my school," he finally jeered. "Get out. GET OUT!! You have half an hour to get off the grounds. Get out! OUT OF HERE! Out of my school! You're gone North American scum, you're finished! Get. Out. I told you I'd get you! OUT!!! NOW!!! Get your things from your dorm and GET OUT."

"Yes, that's it. GO. GET. Take the walk of shame! Look around yourself and despair! See the truth of how hated you are! And GET OUT. I win! I've won! Everyone, make your displeasure for this North American scum known! Ufufu. Yes, that's it! Boo him out of here! The rest of you join in too! Get him out of this school! He's not welcome! Get him OUT. Out, out, OUT!"

"And don't come back!"


Bonus 2-15b - A Matter of the Heart

A scene was unfolding at Rukh's University. What started as a conversation between friends had become a gathering of many students. One of them had been subject to scars by others, a fact that did not sit well with one Markus Lake.

Phoebe Palmoni continued on, oblivious to the world around her. Fritz Westmyn shut his eyes, wishing Markus the best as he stepped forth to intervene. David intercepted Markus and placed a hand on his shoulder. He sadly shook his head, the prep's eyes a deep ocean of remorse. "Now is not the time..." he soothed.

"Then when?" Markus asked, a frown on his face as he looked at David. "None of you guys are ever willing to do anything, because 'it's not the time'," he replied as he clenched his fists. "I'm usually calm, but if you don't want to see me angry then let me go through," he stated with a seething anger to his voice. It's true that Markus always kept himself calmed, but it was because of that that he wasn't the type of person that people would like to see angry.

"Markus, did you say your name was?" David asked. "I’m sorry. You must calm down and assess the situation." The prep, straightening his tie, was trying to remain calm and rational, hoping it may rub off on others. Ultimately, he wasn’t doing a very good job of getting his point across...

"Oh, do explain yourself then?" Markus asked with a raised eyebrow. "Cause last time I remember it was you guys' fault this all happened in the first place, taking your juniors and treating them like pets."

"That is a fact," David did not argue. "We should have made our intent with the treatment more clear. This was something that could have been avoided, but unfortunately, it was not avoided. No part due to certain individuals who shall go unnamed." David’s expression momentarily turned to disgust. "Your concerns are indeed valid. However, you need think about this," he stoically reiterated.

Markus listened to David for a moment before looking at Phoebe once more. He then looked down at the ground and sighed with exasperation as he grabbed another cookie and took a bite out of it.

"Fine," he groaned.

"It will be okay," David patted the boy on the shoulder. "We will find a way to atone for what we have done. It is rather unfortunate what happened with Phoebe. But we cannot dwell on the past. Instead, we must look to the future."

"Let me handle it! Heh heh!" Lawrence sauntered in, cackling insanely. David rolled his eyes, but gave an okay. Even if it was more of a go-ahead to embarrass himself. With that, Lawrence explained, "So like uh, the woman is real mad at the world right now! She hates everyone and everything, and she’s just letting it all out!! Probably on her period. Bothering her now’s only going to put you in the doghouse! If you want to get the girl, ya gotta give her some space!! Wait for her to relax, then turn up the charm, baby!! Talk right, and all that crap!! That’s why you need to wait!! That’s why you shouldn’t bug her now!!"

David blinked. "That...that actually made sense?"

Lawrence grinned. "Of course it makes sense!"

David agreed. "Space may well be something she n-"

He was cut off by a brash voice. "Found you!!" His expression instantly turned grim. "And look who it is..." he said in disgust, just as his brother literally came barreling through onto the scene. Markus fired a stare of hatred, seething on sight of this person. But for now...he would wait.

For now.
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2-15 Review

Kay. So. That just happened. Let's just have a moment of silence where we all collectively go "Damn." In our heads. Or it wouldn't be silence. Anyway. Review. I liked the chapter! The bonus scene was a nice bonus as it definitely gave more insight for me personally into Premala's character. Tra-la-la, Fritz been getting his sexy on mmmmhm. The bit about the Rangers was pretty cool, though you could argue that they theoretically do work on a global scale as there are two different types of Rangers, which while not necessarily synonymous, are probably related. Mmm, developing telepathy is always nice. Finally, we get to the real meat of the chapter (and the quiet before the proverbial storm). Let's see who all do we have... Cronus and co are being their normal selves, check. Oooh, Muriel! How lovely. Ah. Fritz is so cute being all "I've got girl friend and you don't." Such a smug little bitch. Vaguely surprising that Cronus doesn't even have like a fuckbuddy, but eh. Whatevs. Oh, hey! Here come the little secret organization of secrets to add to the happiness and fun times. Some of the lines and the character interactions in this chapter literally make me want to just enshrine it forever. So beautiful and sassy. Bit sad that Elyna didn't show up, but you can't get it all! *shrug* I will definitely say that you channeled the spirit of Elyna when you wrote Kripps' introduction for this chapter. Like, holy god. I was like "DAMN ELYNA BOUT TO FUCK SOME SHIT UP!" Mr. Baiaz being 1000000% done with this entire situation was hilarious. The mob mentality of "EVIL AMERICAN!? *LE GASP*" is concerning. I mean, some of those don't even make sense in terms of character things (to us they do, but yeah). Pardon me for a moment while I strangle Reika Easton. Why couldn't Elyna have frozen her solid... WHY?!

Anywho, I didn't notice any grammar mistakes or anything. In any case, this was an awesome chapter and a good conclusion to the second part. Needs more Elyna though *smacks* Quiet you.
Well, two months later, and we're back. I've certainly been gone for longer before. But here's the third part of this fic. More stuff, including a possible spin-off based on the events going on at Rukh's in Fritz' absence, are coming. Hopefully.

Furthermore, there's an interesting way this fic has been designed...between this and the part summaries, you can technically start reading from certain points if you wish, with this being one of them. You'll probably run into some spoilers if you do, but it's a thing if you don't want to read through 25 chapters from before.


Bonus 2-16a: Right and Wrong

Rukh's University was left in a state of shock after the revelation dropped by its conniving Assistant Principal. Not only the fact that there was a foreigner among them, but his dramatic (some would say overly so) expulsion as well. This also had the effect of effectively eliminating Cronus Aporon from the Tactics Tournament, a fact that sat well with no one in spite of who it was that was thrown out.

People had varying opinions about the matter of this person. Among the more disapproving of them was a group of three friends. Two of them, a couple, were clasping hands.

They'd been wanting to talk about this together for a while, and Irene Faris finally decided to speak up. "You know, I've said I hate that fat broad before-"

"Several times."

"Often more than once a day."

Carlie and Andrew respectively chimed in. Even discounting the circumstances of their first meeting, it was not an unknown fact that Irene hated Reika Easton and almost anyone associated with her. "I know! But...I just can't believe her." But this was different. This was shock and disgust. A different kind of disdain than she'd expressed for this person in the past. "Fritz was her friend. He stood up for her when no one else would, when her former roommate convinced us to try to get her in trouble, and she goes and does that? She turns on him, just because of where he's from? What is wrong with her!?" She pounded a fist on a nearby wall in rage. It became a palm, which she leaned on. "Ugh. Stupid piece of...damn it." Irene shook her head, sitting down on a nearby bench. Carlie and Andrew shrugged and sat down beside her. "Now I'm convinced we were doing the right thing before. Trying to get her thrown out of here by her idiot former roommate. I'm just glad they weren't dating after all. He deserves better than that. He...even deserves better than me."

"It's wrong," agreed Andrew, although very quietly. "Fritz isn't a bad person, I know that was him back then. Rough around the edges? Sure. Cruel? A little. But not a bad person. If he was helping Artiss, he can't be bad."

"I know, the fuck!?" Irene showed no such restraint, almost willing to scream this opinion to heaven and hell alike.

Carlie, ever the realist, sighed in resignation. "Well, we can't really do much." She looked back towards the school. "It is wrong. I want to do something about it. But if we speak up about this, we'll be accused of supporting the West. That sort of risk..." She shivered just thinking about it. "I don't think that's something any of us...maybe anyone here wants to take. Plus, with how far Mr. Kripps was willing to go just to get him thrown out of here-"

"Let's not mince words," Irene interrupted, slamming a hand down on the bench. Andrew nearly jumped right off it at that, but she paid it no heed as she continued her rant, "He's a xenophobe. An unrelenting unconditional xenophobe. It's because of people like him why we have a bad image in their eyes." She stood to her feet, hands scrunched into fists, turning to address her friends. "I hope that one day, he AND that fat broad both get what's coming to them!"

The group paused on that note. Carlie and Andrew stood, and the three continued to walk, heading in the direction of the lake. Though an entire block had since passed and classes had ended for the day, the school's mood remained as it was since immediately following the incident - heavily subdued. Indeed, there were many students who thought what happened wrong. But none of them dare publicly spoke up about it, for fear of ostracization by their peers and perhaps worse by the faculty.

The two soon came to the lake. The damage caused by the incident with the Gyarados a month ago had been cleaned up as of a week ago, and presently there was not even a sign that anything had even happened. The trio sought a place to sit around, chat, and enjoy themselves for the afternoon. Yet soon, another conversation started up.


Irene raised an eyebrow at Carlie. "What's so funny?"

The tomboyish girl couldn't help but wear a smirk on her face. "You said that Fritz deserves better than you." Irene recoiled at this. She said that. It's truth, but not something she'd normally say. Carlie teased, "Was that a bit of modesty I'm hearing?"

While glaring, Irene forced herself to look away. "Shut up," she grumbled. "It's just that compared to Premala Yuhawlah, I don't really stand much of a chance anyway. And...well. I'm sure it's been on both your minds too."

Carlie was confused. "You mean why she wanted to be with him?"

"Or if they've already done it?" Andrew guessed.

Irene blinked. Were these two for real? She shrugged and shook her head. "Well, never mind. It's not important anymore."

"Er," Andrew was very uncomfortable just leaving it at that. "We'll be curious forever if you say that."

Irene stopped. She looked around. People to the left, and people to the right. "Not now." It's not really something she wanted to speak about in public, just to be certain, yet she didn't want to leave her friends in the dark about the conclusion she'd reached, either. "We'll talk about it at dinner, okay?"

"If you say so."

"Okay, Irene."

The three sat down, but thoughts and questions about Fritz Westmyn continued to swirl around their minds. In Irene's case, she had many questions. Why would someone from North America even set foot in the country? It's not unheard of, the former veteran, the Lightning American Lieutenant Surge being without a doubt the most prominent of them. But there's usually big reasons behind such a move - being a military deserter in the case of the aforementioned longtime Gym Leader. And furthermore, why would someone so strong come to a school like this in the first place? It makes no sense.

Fritz Westmyn is strong and sexy - two of her favorite traits in a man. And so exotic, too! Like she blurted at the time, it makes him hot. But she's not sure she could handle someone with the burdens he must shoulder, if she's being honest with herself. Of course, she'd never admit that directly.

Andrew had come to much the same conclusion. There was an incident months back that actually inspired them to come to the school to begin with. A lot of Water Pokemon on their island, including Irene's Lapras, were being stolen and taken to a facility. A young man named Hiraku Artiss broke into the facility and sabotaged their operation, alongside an unknown male. He thought he recognized him on their initial meeting, and at present was dead positive that male was the same one who was just expelled from the Rukh's University.

Carlie too, had been affected by that incident. It was half of the reason as to why she settled on a dream of going into law enforcement. As for Fritz...she wasn't completely sure that was him back then, unlike her boyfriend. But he had displayed a sense of justice in the school at times, such as when he defended his friend from them, was willing to battle the Beast of Abet, or even stood up to Cronus Aporon. Is it really justice to punish someone just because of where they're from?

All Carlie, Irene, Andrew, and anyone else at the school could do for him now though, was wish him the best...and hope things turned out okay for him.


Part 3: The Aimless Path

Chapter 3-1: Cast Outs

"I'm not sad. I ain't even mad."

I took a sip of my drink. The frigid liquid tingled my tongue as it made contact. Sort of a rich, full flavor. Nothing that would make you want to wretch in and of itself, but nothing to make your taste buds scream in ecstasy either. I gulped down the swig, somewhat forcefully. My eyes watered. Fuck this. I slamming the glass down, the ice cubes within jangled as I did so.

"That was a lie. I'm mad as all hell. This shit is just shit." Fuck Aiden Kripps in the ass with a poorly made Japanese garden rake. Fuck everything. "But enough about that. You heard me talk about that enough. Let's talk about you. All of you. You call yourselves the Traveling Hobos?"

The alley we're in is abundant. Everyone in this space between buildings had been watching on with intent, but this fully grabbed their attention. I want to know. "Why do you call yourselves that? You don't even travel..." I took a drink. "I bet you don't even hobo either."

The eldest and leader of this group, a wrinkled man in a deep blue robe standing with aid of bent steel cane, vaguely lowered his head. The cheerful man in the Gatsby cap looked to the largest by far. The rest just exchanged awkward glances.

A much larger portion. I slammed the glass down again. "What a waste of time and potential. You could be out exploring the world. Yet here you've been sitting for well over a month. What is going on? Have you gone soft?" Span and glared at them all. Sipping menacingly, I demanded, "Or what else is it?"


"Oh, god..."

A torrent of vomit flowed from my opponent's mouth. A rather slender individual, aside from his pudgy gut. Clad in a raggedy shirt and jeans, and probably around four or five years older than myself. I shook my head as he collapsed in a pile of his own bodily fluids. I finished what little remained of my drink, savoring the victory, and to top it off, wiped my lips.

"Told you I'd win..."

My snide declaration set off an already sneering man. In his mid 30s or so, with a medium build, in as formal clothing as a hobo can be expected to find, and feeling the effects of male pattern baldness. "Only fuckin' reason you won is 'cause ya were drinkin' milk."

"Drinking all the same," I commented.

"He's lactose intolerant!"

Now that's not fair. I'm frowning at this. "Hey, I know your name is Dick. But you don't have to be one yourself." Some people can't hold their beer. Other people can't hold their milk.

The hobo watched me with a look that asked if I was serious. "Do you know why they call me Dick, kid?"

"Cause you have a big one?" An honest guess. If sardonically stated.

"No!" He snapped, then his eyes went wide. "I mean, yes! I mean...fuck right off!"

A guffaw pierced the alleyway, the speaker holding his gut whilst doing so. "It appears as though you took the bait on that one! The hook, the line, and the sinker!"

"Shut up, Gruff."

It's only been two days since my expulsion from Rukh's University. I was there for a long while prior. I made friends, made enemies, captured new Pokémon, learned some things, had experiences...only for my tenure there to end prematurely. Despite everything going for me, despite the pseudo-protection of the school's most popular student, the school's most powerful student, and perhaps the principal would qualify as well...a zealous, sociopathic vice principal named Aiden Kripps hatched a machiavellian plot to remove me.

I haven't bothered to go back or acknowledge anyone from the school since - many of them turned on me when Aiden Kripps revealed I hail from North America. Premala is the only one who reached out, and said that she had to stay at the school. In the meantime, I've started associating with a group of homeless people who helped me and my...well...former friends out in the past, when school was suspended due to a fire. They welcomed me into the group with open arms. It's something, at least.

The Traveling Hobos.

An organization with members from various places and reaches. Who...as I've alluded to and even if I did not you probably would be able to make a note of on your own, have not traveled in a while. Yeah. Make of that as you will. Still...I really don't have any other place to go. I'll be the first to admit, that's pretty pathetic. But it's one of the prices I've paid for coming here. Maybe I should have seeked stability to begin with. Now I have to live as a nomad. Except...again. Nomads travel, and this group does not.

I really have to wonder if this is a good decision.


A day later...I found myself wandering the city alongside Mr. Gruff and Biggie in the early afternoon. What we're doing best qualifies as sightseeing, on my part anyway. We're at present, in a dirt field not too far from Rukh's, actually.

"Feel better?" Biggie asked.

"Not really," I shook my head. "Too many bad memories from being near here." We're just too close to the school, in a familiar section of town. This is less urban exploration than it is a cause for reminiscing about the past.

"Then it is clear that we will simply have to hit the road once more!" Mr. Gruff declared. "Let us head to another part of town!"

He jauntily moved in a direction that would take us away from the school, with Biggie soldiering behind. My pace was slowest of us three, almost a crawl. Looking back on it after the fact was really getting me down. I mean, being there wasn't the most ideal of circumstances...but I had everything I could ask for. A roof over my head, some good friends, a measure of popularity, motivation to keep me going, and though I loathe to admit it...a girlfriend I was content with. And one man's fanatical ideals flushed it all down the drain, leaving me with nothing but the Pokémon and memories I obtained there. It's just not right.

"So, the corrupt administration of Rukh's University claims another victim."

I span around on my heels to glare at with the person who called me out. "You!" I recognized him right away. I mean, how could I forget him? After what he did before.

"Oh-ho!" Mr. Gruff chuckled, grinning a goofy grin. "This fellow looks rather disagreeable." He's in a white lab coat with several pens in the chest pocket, has ill-maintained yet short brown hair, and sports rounded glasses that are reflecting the beating light of the sun. His posture could use a bit of work, I'd say.

"You could say that he is," I briefly shifted my narrowed eyes to the jolly hobo. "A couple weeks ago, Rukh's was attacked by some maniac who controlled bug Pokémon. This is the same guy!" I accusingly pointed at him.

He nodded to confirm my theory. "Glad you remembered me. For that, I'll formally introduce myself. The name is Tulu Turner," he said with a bow.

"Fritz Westmyn."

Thinking the same thing, we reached out to politely shake hands with one another. I kept my eyes trained on him during the shake, an action he didn't reciprocate. "Like you, I'm a former student of the University. I was expelled for avenunes of research the administration found questionable." He paced restlessly as he spoke, eventually a frustrated sigh escaping his throat. "I wished to further communication between Pokémon and humanity, among other things. The staff did not want any part of it, as it did not fit their agenda."

At this point, he turned and looked me dead in the eye. "You are right. They drove me to this. What they have and will be going through, they brought on themselves."

"So you're out for revenge?"

"Correct!" He pointed to the heavens, and then to Rukh's - the walls standing out even from a distance. "A vengeance three years in the making. And I'm far from done."

This guy's a nutjob. "What nerve...I bet you're the also one who started that fire!"



"Yes." Well, I don't think he's lying. He stroked his chin slowly, deviously. "I don't know who else could have a grudge against the University like I do. At the time, anyway." He flashed me a grin. "It delayed my plans. No complaints, though." Tulu shrugged.

"What about the explosion in the Technology class the first day back?" Yeah, I still remember that. Didn't get an explanation for that, either. "Did you do that?"

Not missing a beat, he replied, "That was brought on by the careless rush of a student on the first day back." Oh. Okay then. Well, talk about a letdown on that mystery. "The class has a history of accidents. No surprise." Tulu shook his head, passing judgment on them. Then looked up with me with piqued interest. "Anyway, you. You must be who Kripps was talking about."

"What?!" Okay, NOW we're getting somewhere. "What do you know?"

"He asked to meet with me a few days after that incident," explained the bug maniac. "He knew full well I was the one responsible, but looked the other way. He called it thanks for inspiration on how to take care of a problem of his." He clasped his hands together and stretched, cracking his knuckles. A twisted look came over him. "And so that was that. Of course, I'm far from done there."

This guy just pisses me off. "I think I've heard enough."

"Oh?" he laughed. "Are you trying to pick a fight with me?"

I tore off the brown trenchcoat I'd been gifted, tossing it to the ground. Never liked the thing anyway. Too hot and heavy, and I'd rather not present myself like that. "You damn right I am!!"

Biggie nodded, silently picking up my indignantly discarded clothing. Mr. Gruff gave me a pat on the back. "May the goddess of fortune smile upon you! We shall simply watch and enjoy the performance."

"A fiery latino temper...acting without thinking," Tulu rolled his eyes, then looked at me. "You see. Fritz Westmyn, was it? There's a lot about Rukh's University that you don't know about." He reached into his lab coat and retrieved a patterned green and shiny gray sphere. "Now, feel the wrath of your fellow expellee!"

The viridian Pokémon he sent out has a set of four wings, the upper set of which are a bit wider and topped by ridges. Its mug reminds me of a horned lizard, but otherwise, it's very much like a preying mantis. This bad boy called Scyther has crooked blades in place of its upper limbs. And...earmuffs? Whatever, I guess its trainer must be making some sort of fashion statement with those.

"Here's mine!" Vespiquen is my Pokémon of choice. Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? Well, now we're fighting bugs with bugs!

Tulu scoffed. "Are you enjoying my Vespiquen?"

What? "She's yours?"

"Not officially," he elaborated. "She and I were friends, though I let this strong specimen remain wild. You wouldn't hope to understand why."

Oh, I might. But that's not important. "Was wondering why she was so strong in-battle. When not getting mauled, anyway."

Tulu chuckled, and flashed a wild smile. "I can do better than mauling her." He produced a bulky remote, marked by a pair of thick antennae topped with orbs. The bug maniac fidgeted around with it, and with a twist of a knob...Vespiquen fell to the ground, as if an invisible force was being exerted upon her? "My dear Scyther, Slash."

The mantis set into motion with enough dexterity to catch even the quickest foe, let alone one who's stuck on the spot. So that's why it has apparel on it. "Impressed by my insect Pokémon controlling device?" he asked. "You won't be using that Pokémon."

"You need to work on your names," I fired back. Reaching for an insult there, really. Well, can't do much about this. But I still have five others I can throw at him which aren't bugs, so I'm not concerned. So I'll play along and recall Vespiquen. "If you don't want to fight a bug, you can fight an eel!"

Huntail was raring to go, not explicitly taunting our opponents, yet acting brash enough to make the Scyther shoot it an annoyed glare. "Move in and Bite it!"

The guy adjusted his glasses. "Evasive maneuvers." Before the eel could even reach it, it was already moving to avoid - keeping its distance from this melee attack. All was not necessarily lost, as Huntail lunged forth with intent to swing its head out. But a simple side flutter got the mantis away from that as well.

Well, if they're going to be like that, let's see how good their reflexes really are. "Swift, Huntail!" And yes, this took him back a bit.

"Agility!" Or...damn it. Scyther gained a burst of speed, rushing off in one direction as Huntail misfired and faceplanted on the ground. The bug maniac snickered. There's ways around that, though. He can't keep countering everything I do!

"Screech!" The blue Pokémon opened its jaw to let out an irritating high-pitched squeal...and then I realized that the Scyther wouldn't be able to hear it because of those earmuffs.

"Did not plan that," Tulu remarked to my stare. "But every little bit helps. Now, my dear Scyther, employ your species' ninjitsu and show them your Double Team."

That's another way of using that move...because otherwise, it'd have to be like almost parallel to the ground to encircle its opponent with afterimages. This Scyther surrounded a very confused Huntail entirely with illusionary copies of itself.

The whole swarm collapsed inwards...but they are just illusions, aside from one of them. "Fire Water Pulses all around you, Huntail!" Trusting in my plan, it put aside its fear to carry out my command. Luck's on our side, as the true one ran right into one of the orbs. "Water Gun, follow-up, quick!" Pow! Right in the kisser! It knocked those earmuffs clean off its head. And more importantly, soaking it! I crossed my arms and laughed.

Tulu just 'hmph'ed at this. "Scrub that smirk from your face. As a type specialist, I know my type's strengths and weaknesses, and how to counter the latter. And I'll counter the latter with Defog!" Buckling down, the Pokémon beat its wings fervently to remove the fluid coating them. Interesting application of that move.

"Nice. But your auditory advantage has evaporated!" With those earmuffs off, there's nothing stopping me from commanding, "Screech, Huntail!" This time, the Scyther heard the horrifying supersonic sound. Did I mention, it's really hard to cover your ears when you have blades for hands?

"Eat it!" I yelled. "Now, give it a taste of Ice Fang!"

"X-Scissor, my dear Scyther!"

...crap. The bug recovered in time to move into motion. It placed its blades together in proper formation, and slashed them at Huntail as it was coming in. This did the job.

Not missing a beat here, though. "Huntail, return. All right Mareep. Let's do this thing!" The little Pokémon is up for the challenge, and waiting for my command. But it was Tulu who took the initiative.

"Get in there and Cut its fleece right off," was the order, to which I just grinned confidently. Tulu pulled his glasses closer to his face seeing that look, but all the same, furrowed his brow and had his Pokémon press onward.

So one of the ways to deal with a quick and evasive Pokémon is with an area-of-effect attack. That's the logic here, and that's the logic behind, "Nail it with a Discharge!"

That's the way! As it was going in to shear my sheep, it found itself on the receiving end of a wild burst of electricity. It wasn't the most focused blast on account of ensuring a hit between accuracy and evasion issues, but did a more than effectual job. The Scyther remained left standing, albeit twitching in place and using a claw to support itself. So it's a prime target for a follow-up: "Take Down!"

With a shrill bleat, Mareep collided into the mantis, putting all its weight into the body blow. Our adversary fell backwards. It struggled to get upright...but unable to through fight the pain, the bug flopped unconscious.

Tulu was not at all impressed at this quick turnabout. He mumbled some thanks to his Pokémon as he recalled it, and crossed his arms. "Are you satisfied?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow. "What did you hope to accomplish from attacking me?"

"I...umm..." Well, he's right. I really am attacking him for no good reason here.

Tulu grumbled as he adjusted his head and glasses as so to cast a shine on me. "Do you really think helping the school is going to make Kripps change his mind?"

"Well, uh...no, but-" But...um. I do have a very good reason! "That's for locking me in the Greenhouse!" Yeah! Vengeance is mine!

The maniac rolled his eyes; drawing as large a circle as a human can be practically expected to make with one's retinas. Still, he nodded at the end of the gesture. "That was a necessary countermeasure. But now that we're even..." He calmly approached. "For all intents and purposes, you have more reason to stand with me than with them."

"Not gonna happen."

"Understandable. Do you want to get in my way?

"...not particularly."

"Good. You are indeed as talented a battler as I heard." Tulu offered me a hand. After a few moments, I decided to accept it. As we shook, he said with a smile, "Now, would you like some food? It will be my treat for-"

He was cut off by the sound of sirens in the distance. His eyes went from wide to narrowed in the direction of the grounds. "That snake! I knew he couldn't be trusted!" He angrily threw a ball on the ground, sending out a violet moth or butterfly. With a hand placed on the insect, both trainer and Pokémon disappeared in a white flash.

"Dang," the chief-of-police, Burt Garfunkle cursed with a huff, lowering his firearm as he ran up. "He got away."

I turned to my compatriots, one of whom was giving me enough applause for both of them. "Good show, good show! You really gave him the what-for!" The other just nodded.

"Oh, hello again," Garfunkle noticed me. "I heard what happened. You have my condolences." He probably would have tipped his hat if he hadn't tossed it to the ground in frustration a moment before. I lowered my head in reply. "Sorry, Mr. Westmyn. Is it still a sensitive subject?"


"I promise you, sir," he patted my shoulder reassuringly, "If I find another academy that will accept you, or a way to get you back in, I will let you know."


That was something, and that battle was fun...while it lasted. Ultimately, it did not do much to pick up my mood. I didn't help anyone, myself or otherwise, with that exchange. Am I really just going to sit back with passivity? I mean, this is one case that I am so done with. But I have felt apathetic in general these past few days. Is this representative of that? Is this me?


A couple days after that incident, I found myself hanging out in the old park I stayed in before by myself. Alone. It really brought back memories...good memories, of happier times. Which only served to make me feel worse. Why am I here? What am I doing with my life?

"Hey there, schoolboy." Why does that voice sound so familiar? I turned around and looked upon the speaker. Oh right, him. From the last. He flashed a shit-eating grin. "You should be in school. It's illegal to skip school."

"It's a paid university, not the public education system," I explained, somewhat cynically. "And it's the middle of the afternoon, anyway."

My apathetic response disappointed him. "You're boring, you know that?" he said with a sigh and shake of his head. Before powerwalking up. "So where's Scratcher and Freak-Eye? Eh?" He nudged me with his elbow. "They're more fun. Didn't break up with them, did you?"

"We're not friends anymore."

"AHAHA! Freak-Eye's at again, I see." Josef doubled over, waving his right hand flippantly before stretching it at the back of his head with his left. He peered up with me from that position, lounging on the grass. "So what'd she do to piss ya off, huh?"

"She didn't piss me off. I pissed her off." Hate this conversation.

The poorly-dressed guy raised his eyebrow, skeptical. "That's different. So how'd ya piss her off?"

Um. Do I tell him? Wait, why do I care what this clown thinks? Honesty is the best policy and all that. "Same reason I was expelled from the University." May as well. "By being from North America." I hope I don't regret this.

He whistled, leaning back on his elbows. "Yeah, that'll piss Freak-Eye off all right."

I still don't get her. After all we were through and even my unconditional support, she goes and turns on me at the drop of hat. I mean, bigotry and xenophobia of people from foreign nations, particularly those that disagree with the way Pokémon should be treated in our lives is not uncommon in this country, but how Reika responded is on a whole different level. "Do you know why she hates people from there that much?" I asked. Maybe he knows. He knows her from his childhood, right?

"Hell if I know what's up her ass." He shrugged...then got up, clouding over. "But I hope you're ready for this, North American."

"Ready for what?" Please, no. Stop. Don't do it.

"Show me how a Westerner battles!"

Oh, the hell?! He cast out a ball, containing a massive baby blue thing. A huge gaping mouth with four molars is the most prominent feature on the muscular monstrosity. It has two tails, shaped like wind instruments, and numerous.hollow pores on its backside. Finally, all along the side of its face are more gold tubes or trumpets or whatever.

"But you already saw me battle!" I protested as I sent out Tangela. Do I really have to?

"I really wasn't paying attention," he lied, making no attempt to hide the fact that it was a lie. "Too bad you can't use your Pokémon from back home," he chuckled. "Then this'd be real interesting. But for the here and now...Exploud! Screech!" What the...that's so loud, I can feel it, even though I can't hear it. Tangela certainly could do both though, and it rolled over on the ground, writhing in pain. "Heh. Perfect. Fire Fang it next!"

"Trip it up if you can, Tangela!" Don't want that of all moves hitting. The beast's canines and bicuspids burst into flames, and it ran forth like a fringe lunatic hoping to chomp Tangela. Forget Fire Fang, it could probably eat my Pokémon if it wanted.

It didn't come to fruition though, because Tangela did sweep a vine out. The Exploud carelessly caught its stubby legs on it, faceplanting on the stop. "Good, now let's Poisonpowder it."

"Uh-uh-uh!" Josef wagged a finger, in-tune to his song. "Bulldoze, Exploud!"

Quickly getting up, the blue Pokémon stomped a foot down, shaking the ground. Tangela was thrown off-balance by this. Guess this bout is going to fought from afar.

"Echoed Voice, Exploud, let's go!" A visible ripple of air was expelled from Exploud's mouth. Tangela made an easy dodge, but despite my words of warning, did not react in time to evade the shockwave as it reflected back.

That awkward angle actually sent Tangela tumbling towards Exploud. Close enough so Josef issued a follow-up in, "Stomp!" But he underestimated my Pokémon's agility; it rolled to avoid the foot coming down on it, and leaned over to me.

"Yes, Stun Spore!" I gave the okay.

"Boomburst!" Josef isn't having any of it, though. Sucking in air, Exploud let out a screaming blast of air powerful enough to send Tangela flying back TOWARDS ME SHIT. Dodged the Poke-Projectile, but the flipside of it was having it crash into the side of a building instead.

"That all you got?" he taunted, as my Pokémon slowly got up. "Cause if that's all you got-"

"We're just getting warmed up!" Time to kick it into high-gear. "Charge up, Tangela!"

Tangela started to glow with the familiar golden light of the sun, making a run back into the fray whilst doing so. Josef laughed it off. "Oh, hey, that's a nice Solarbeam you got there, Fritz. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it. Like, say...an Ice Fang!"

His Pokémon's fangs began to get charged with energy once again, but this time the opposite temperature from before. It bared them our way. I get it. He's trying to block it with that attack. "Too bad that's not what I'm using. Shock Wave!"

"Oh shi-"

'Oh shi-' indeed! Tangela swung a vine, dispelling a wave of electrical energy across the grass. There was no dodging, nor was there any reacting. Completely off-guard, the Exploud was nailed, and started to stagger. "Now Bind it, and reel yourself in with Double-Edge!"

Picture-perfect execution. The vines went around the blue Pokémon's lower body. It attempted to bite down on the vines, but they were just under its mouth. And luckily, Tangela did not fly right into it, either. "Get behind it!" I told my Pokémon. It scurried around, while keeping hold of its foe.

"Think you're safe? Hyper Voice, Exploud!" Wait, my Pokémon can't be hit by that from behind. Unless it can come out of its tail!? Wow. Crap.

Blasted back by the move. As if reacting on instinct, Tangela latched onto and yanked hard on Exploud's tail. The beast cried out, and turned around...to be met with a couple vines Slammed down on its cranium, and a few more used to Power Whip it hard enough to spin it 360 degrees.

"Give'em another Boomburst, Exploud!"

"Tangela-" Too late. One quick deep breath later, and another blaring bang sent Tangela tumbling away, this time into a tree that somehow withstood that impact.

Damn it! Fucking Boomburst! I don't think Tangela is going to be able to take another one of those. I can't let that happen. I need to end this soon...or maybe find a way to disable that move. I have a hunch...

Normal Type

Native to Hoenn, these Pokémon dwell in mountainous caverns. They have biological traits of both reptiles (such as having frills and scales) and mammals (they are warm-blooded). Because of this, there have been theories on this species - and the rest of the evolutionary line - actually being possessed or self-aware audio devices. Exploud would be a fuukin tsukumogami. This has yet to be scientifically proven or disproven.

Exploud are docile and rarely show themselves in the wild, unless their herd is being threatened. They communicate amongst themselves by whistling through the pores on their cranium, backside, and tail. Exploud have also been known to respond to humans' whistling.

Despite the species' large jaws, Exploud are not carnivorous, and in fact go out of their way to avoid eating meat. They have a diet of dirt supplemented by leafy greens. The species attack those who invade their territory by sucking in air through their pores and expelling it at over 300 km/h. When all else fails, they will not hesitate to bite down with all their might, or strike with their well-developed muscles.

Got it! "Tangela, Bind its face and all the little horns on it!"

Exploud freaked out as it was tied up, and its breathing instantly became noticeably laborious. It struggled to pry off the suffocating tentacles. This was a fruitless effort, as it found, and subsequent attempts to break them off or possibly use them to its advantage by yanking on them also also did not aid its cause.

Josef snorted, blowing me off. "So you stopped Boomburst! Crafty, but big whoop. We still got GIGA IMPACT!"

Twitching violently...ah, who cares about a move that isn't going to work? "Tangela, LEAF STORM!" Yeah. To get to Tangela, it had to run through a barrage of twigs, leaves, flower petals, and whatnot. You can guess how well that ended. Or if not, I'll tell you: it ended with Exploud face-first on the ground, a few meters away from its target.

"That was a dirty trick!" Josef snapped. He applauded. "I love it! Now, SINCE we're having a three-on-three, here's my next Pokémon!" His next Pokémon is a monochrome bird. It has various shades of black, white, and gray across its medium-sized body, the only actual color being its golden beak and talons. It peculiarly has an M shape on its chest - and I believe this is why some people in Japan call its evolutionary line a Monokuro or Muku Tori.

Well, I could fight it with Tangela. But do I have a surprise for him. As I've been alluding to, I went to Rukh's without some of my Pokémon, due to wanting to 'start over', in essence. I took Nidorina along due to feeling I'd been neglecting raising it, Mareep due to its newcomer status, and Tangela just in case I needed a strong Pokémon for whatever reason. Now, there's no urge to arbitrarily limit my team. I recalled the mass of noodles and sent out a different Pokémon: my Houndour.

A hellhound smoothly walked out as it emerged. With fur textured like burnt umber, aside from its snout and underbelly, which are a crimson orange. It wears bones as apparal - two sprouting from its back, and the hollow skull of a former foe on its forehead. It sat patiently, awaiting orders.

Josef laughed it off. "What's the matter, scared? Fine. Bring it on, then! Staravia, divebomb with Quick Attack!"

"Shoot it out of the sky with Flamethrower."

"Do a barrel roll to dodge it!"

Houndour casually shot a stream of fire out of its maw. Staravia moved as it was told, but the dog aimed where it was going to be. The bird screeched wildly as it was singed by the orange fire.

Undeterred, the raggedy young man pointed with gusto. "Aerial Ace!"

"Flamethrower it again."

With Aerial Ace, the sky is the wielder's playground. It consists of dodging and weaving through the air and attacks, often ending with a quick jab with the beak. But this was not dodgy enough, especially against my Pokémon. It was again consumed by my Houndour's attack. This one cinched it.

"I trained Houndour especially to shoot down Flying Pokémon," I explained with crossed arms and a laugh. It's really useful, giving a Pokémon specialized training. "Your Staravia never stood a chance!"

"Pft, whatever. Still training her, anyway," Josef blew off this quick loss. "Wasn't expecting her to lose so fast, but this last one ain't goin' down so easy. Even with fire."

With this declaration and a stylish spinning backhand toss, he sent out his Sceptile. The Pokémon he used on Thatcher before, and surely, I feel it's the strongest Pokémon on his team. Still, he's making the mistake of underestimating us.

"We'll see if that's true," I said with a wave. "Flame Charge!"

"Ha! Dodge with Quick Attack."

While my Houndour is quick, this thing is quicker. It had no trouble dodging the fiery rush and landing its own attack. Before I knew what was happening, it was off again, forcing me to point out where it was so it could shoot a Flamethrower. Which, again, was dodged.

"Fine. if you're going to play that game, Faint Attack." If nothing else, that'll work. Houndour appeared to vanish momentarily, rematerializing near Sceptile and striking it. It was more or less just a bug bite, but it's something. "Again!"

"That's not nice. It won't happen twice! Mega Punch!" Ah, crap. The lizard timed it perfect. My Houndour is a loyal and obedient member of my team. The problem is...it's a bit too obedient. It has no initiative of its own, and strictly follows my orders. In other words, if I can't keep up with something, neither can it.

That being said, maybe I don't have to keep up with it. There's a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle. If's just a matter of finding it. And I think I know the answer, and that answer is "Smog!" With the hellhound breathing a cloud of toxic gas across the whole battlefield, there's no chance for them to beat us!

Josef took a step forward in determination. "Pull it together, Sceptile!" he urged his gagging Pokémon. "You got this. Get through with Acrobatics!" Hearing its master's command, the silhouetted from my point of view Pokémon did some flips, spins, and handsprings to make its way over to Houndour. It...got through and hit with a flip kick. My Pokémon was knocked into the air, whereupon it crashed down unconscious.

"I told ya sooooooo!!" Josef taunted. "Send out your next Pokémon, come on!"

Well, I guess I'll save my third for last. Tangela it is again. It'd recovered just a bit from the earlier battle, so it should have enough left in it to potentially be a difference-maker. "Tangela, Power Whip!"

"Slice through with Leaf Blade!"

Oh...crap. Tangela swung with its vines as Sceptile swung with its scythes. The latter cut through the former like a hot knife through butter. I gave a signal for a Leaf Storm. Josef smirked at the non-verbal approach, but his Pokémon acted on its own to avoid the attack and began moving in.

"Hit it with Poisonpowder as it gets close!"

Josef waved a finger. "From behind, Sceptile." Instead of running around, his Pokémon jumped, handspringing over the wave of violet dust, and landed on the other side of my own. "Hope your next one's better," Josef said, beginning to become bored as his Pokémon finished the deed with an X-Scissor.

Tangela was weak from the bout with Exploud anyway. That's just fine. Because while this Sceptile may be his strongest Pokémon, I'm about to send out mine. The strongest Pokémon I have that I can use in Japan, a loyal friend I've had for over three years since receiving him as an egg. I carefully took out his foreign container. I felt bad leaving him in storage for as long as I did...can't really help but whisper an apology. "It's been so long...I'm sorry. Starting today, I'm going to make it up to you."

The design on the balls over the ocean is a bit different, and more notably how they typically mechanically function. Instead of throwing the capsules to send out the Pokémon and firing out a beam to recall it, you both send out and recall the Pokémon by firing the beam. With a thrust of my hand, I unleashed the beast within.

Out stepped an armored quadruped, blue eyes as cold as the steel he is made of. The upper half of hes body is a brilliant silver lined with a series of holes and spikes, and the lower half is a dark, nearly black shade of grey. Rings matching the top were wrapped above his ankles. The Pokémon stood calm, collected, and above all else, focused. It's been two months since I last saw my Lairon, and in those two months, he hasn't changed a bit.

"Oh, just a Lairon for your trump card?" he said, restraining his laughter. "I was expecting something better than that. Night Slash, Sceptile! Let's end this quickly."

Lairon looked back at me. I nodded in confirmation. Same as always. "Protect!"

A mystical veil formed around the metal Pokémon as Sceptile was getting near. The slicing attack slid harmlessly off the barrier, leaving the grass Pokémon confounded.

"Stalling, are we?" Josef laughed off. "Can't keep it up forever. Hit it with Leaf Blade!"

I disagree. "Iron Defense!"

While this was not halted altogether, Lairon tensed up his muscles to the point of total rigidity. He barely even felt Sceptile's attack.

"Thunderpunch it!"

"Protect again!"

Denied by the barrier again. "Cut that out already!" Josef shouted. "Hack away with Fury Cutter when it drops, and don't let up."

Lairon again began to Iron Defense...waiting for my word. It was really only by virtue of my mood that I'm waiting this long...and now seems like a good time for, "Iron Head!"

No time to react or respond. Lairon just reared back and headbutted the reptile violently. As if reading my mind, barely even glancing at the hand-signal I gave, he issued a quick follow-up: a Take Down that knocked his adversary away. He was going in for another, but Sceptile turned and let loose a number of Seed Bombs to cover its escape.

But my Lairon's faster than that! He charged for Sceptile; trainer and Pokémon both panicking at this abrupt increase in velocity. "Quick Attack to get away!" Using this to go off at a weird angle is what it took to escape the assault. Credit where it's due, but no matter. I made a fist and opened it wide repeatedly, issuing a series of Metal Bursts. Spheres of energy akin in appearance to a brass ball formed in Lairon's maw, which it spat erratically around Sceptile. The Pokémon made some very unscientific dodges, before its trainer told it to, "Return fire with Seed Bomb!"

Per my cue, Lairon halted his own barrage to defend against the explosive nuts with Protect. "Again!" Josef urged. They were taken aback when Lairon just dodged this with a jump to the side, and began a headfirst charge towards. "Meet it with-" My opponent's voice broke a bit, and he repeated from the top, "Meet it with Night Slash!"

It was Lairon who got its move off first, and only Lairon who got its move off. As when he got near, he jumped up, spinning around and aiming to strike with its backside. The Iron Tail mowed down the hapless Sceptile. I stood confidently as Lairon towered over his Pokémon, a smirk on my lips.

"You're done."

"Ha!" Josef scoffed. "Just for that slight," He produced a locket and raised it high above his head. "Life's essence, pulsing with light...unleash your true might!"

Sceptile became enveloped in a blinding white light. The aura exploded, and as it faded, a much different, yet very much the same Pokémon stood before me. Its tail was like a spike before, but now the fern is sharper, sleeker, and the tip is a blood red. The orbs on its back have burst into bloom, a scarlet stripe runs down its back, and numerous other modifications to its body structure which alone would be minor, but together combine to make it even fiercer than before.

Oh god. Pokémon Transience, rarely called Mega Evolution (though no one knows how or where that custom got started), is a process in which certain Pokémon, with the aid of special crystals with their individual DNA infused within, are able to return to a primal state to unleash their full potential. These are known as Manumit Jewels - or Transient Stones as an alternative name - and they come in various flavors. There are those that are naturally occurring, and then there are the artificial ones. From its appearance, I'd say this is the former. There's lots to say about them, like how they were once a forbidden art, but fuck it.

"Do whatever you want," I said. "We're still winning this!"

"Oh yeah? Dragon Claw!"

Blinding speed?! It leaped into action, hacking my Pokémon's face before it could get either of its defensive options up. "Counter with Metal Burst!" That attack's stronger immediately after being hit. Taking advantage!

"Dodge and Swallowcutter!" That nastier-looking tail whipped wildly around, before doing a one-two stab and slap combination at Lairon. "Can't dodge us now. Thunderpunch!"

"We can still block you, though!" I said, giving the signal as his Pokémon was moving for a stylistic handspring over Lairon. Protect worked as expected, stopping the attack from getting through, but...

"Clear out of there with Agility, then Swords Dance!"

After zooming off from a Take Down, Sceptile worked itself up, spinning into a battle dance. Halting with a violent look in its narrow eyes, it rushed forth like a drill, far too quickly for Lairon to react. It sliced innumerable times as it passed him by; Lairon growled in pain as it was slashed and sliced. Sceptile stood valiantly with its back to Lairon after, not even peering over its shoulder to see the results of its handiwork. When my Pokémon attempted to take advantage, Sceptile smoothly dodged.

Damn it! This thing is nuts. Even with the high resistance to the move, that was still incredibly painful-looking. Maybe the scanning device has a bit of info for me?

Tarragon Sceptile [M]

The transient form of Sceptile. While the species' draconic traits have been suppressed in modern members to the point of showing through with its bodily structure, this transformation restores those genes in full, making them akin to their ancestors.

"What's that?" Josef inquired. I just smiled as Lairon perked up over my repeating the first two lines in the entry aloud.

"The sound of you getting fucked."

Lairon screamed a war cry as he rushed the transient Pokémon, taking it off-guard with a series of tackles, slams, and even Metal Bursts that saw it struggle to even get one attack out.

"What the fuck, man?! Sceptile, hit it with Thunderpunch!" Sceptile could not hit it with Thunderpunch. My Pokémon is giving it no quarter, no chance to even do anything. The sheer randomness of the outburst and brutality of the attacks had completely thrown the draconic reptile off its game.

"So, uh...yeah!" I feel I owe an explanation on this abrupt fit of violence. "My Lairon hates Dragons."

Josef was dumbfounded. "Why?!"

"Beats me, but I'm not complaining!" I flippantly shrugged. I know a lot about my Pokémon, which is only natural after having known him for so long. But since I can't speak with him directly, I really have no idea what his problem is on this matter. I just accept him for what he is. It's not necessarily a bad attitude to take!

In response, the large guy punched into his palm. "To hell with it! FOCUS BLAST!"

I punched the air. "Break through with Head Smash!"

Lairon lowered his head and charged forth, bearing through the chi wave. Josef's eyes went wide as my Pokémon no-sold his final attempt to defeat us, knowing it was too late to do anything. With a jump to give it that extra oomph, the Head Smash connected with a sickening crack. It collapsed to a knee, clutching at the impacted region for a few moments. Before Lairon could turn around to give it a second dose, the Tarragon Sceptile collapsed forward.

"Damn!" Josef exclaimed as he recalled his defeated Pokémon, grinning wildly. He must've enjoyed himself in that battle, even with the end result being defeat. "What the hell were you doing at that school, anyway?"

"...I had my reasons."

Josef shook his head and waved a hand flippantly. "What a waste of talent," he made perfectly clear with his tone of voice. "You should put it to good use and do a Gym Challenge."

"Hmmm..." Maybe. It would certainly give me a bit of direction in life. Travel a region, find eight different gyms, beat their leaders, claim badges, then enter into the Pokémon League tournament. And if I win, I think there's a little something beyond that. It'd be a bit of a lonely road, but I'm used to that sort of thing at this stage of the game.


Huh? The gargantuan Biggie approached. Josef looked up at the giant man, I'm guessing quite surprised or amused that he had encountered a person not only taller than himself, but way taller.

"Biggie? What is it?" I asked.

"Meeting." The response was simple.

"Oh, all right," Not sure what this is all about, but I do know that when meetings are called between the hobos, non-attendance is frowned upon. I gave a wave to Josef. "Gotta go, man."

He returned it with a chuckle. "Smell ya later, dude."


Biggie led me to a small, empty house a few blocks away. Lighting was only provided by the light of day filtering through the windows. It looks like we found a place to sit, both metaphorically and literally. An old Japanese table was in the middle of the dining room, with various chairs not really suited for something of that height. Mr. Gruff was sitting on one of them.

"Good day to you, young Westmyn!" He waved his entire arm. He was in the outfit he always has on, including his trademark Gatsby cap.

"Hey, Mr. Gruff." Chairs had already been pulled out for us to take our seats; I sat to his right. There were only three chairs. And three of us? "Where is everyone else? What's this about?"

"An emendation of something most detestable!" he pointed to the ceiling dramatically. The only other person took the other seat, to whom he gave an acknowledging nod. "Biggie and myself have been debilitating the past few days. We have taken your words to heart! Starting tomorrow, we will not lay down and bask in the comfort of this town any further! Oh no! We, the Traveling Hobos, shall reunite and go about our original cause!" He leaped up to stand on the table. "A traveling trio of vagabonds! The founder, myself. The architect, that's you. And the muscle, Biggie!"

"You need a treasurer." Someone else is in here. He made his presence known by stepping out of the shadows. Dick, in comparison to Mr. Gruff's and Biggie's ratty rags and my ordinary clothing, is wearing an old, murky suit. "That's me."

"Dick," an upset Mr. Gruff attempted to wave off, "You were not invited to this! Begone!"

He was not deterred. "I happened to overhear your planning. And I am good at managing finances." With a point across the whole room, he taunted. "None of you can say that!"

"Then why are you homeless?"

"A couple bad investments making my empire fall apart coupled with my wife leaving me." Completely undeterred by my line of questioning, aside from the follow-up, "And shut up, Westmyn." Mr. Gruff attempted to get more words in, but Dick contiinued to make his case. "I'm tired of this pissant comforty shit as much as you. I know opportunity when I see it - and I want in on this action!" He pounded a fist against the wall.

"Hmph." Biggie stared him down, accompanied by a mere grunt, making him take a step back through the doorway.

Mr. Gruff sighed in exasperation. "Well, I suppose it is ultimately the decision of our architect. What say you, Fritz Westmyn?"

Oh, guess it's my choice. Well, let's see here. He's in this for completely selfish reasons. But due to his nature, I doubt he'd give anything less than 110%. And if he doesn't, we could always give him the boot. So, "What the hell," I said with a shrug. "It couldn't hurt, and it helps to have an extra set of hands. As long as you provide them, that is. And the wider variety we have, the more jobs we can take on. A quartet it is."

Biggie nodded in approval. Mr. Gruff groaned. Neither argued against my decision. Dick was delighted, ran over, and grabbed my hand. He firmly shook with a delighted snicker, "You won't regret this decision."

"Anyhow!" Mr. Gruff once more called for the floor. "With that decision having been finalized. Best get some rest, my fellow hobos! For at the crack of dawn...we shall be hopping a train! Tomorrow, a new order in the world of homeless peoples shall be consummated! Railriders Incorporated!"
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So I'm back after another hiatus - a year in-fact - of general lack of motivation and not knowing where I'm going. I now have what I want to do for this part in mind to make writing it easier, so here we go. Probably not my best work because of it, and also because I revised the plot of this chapter numerous times.

Welcome back to whoever may read this. Also, say hello to the new second-largest chapter.


Chapter 3-2: Finding What You're Looking For


I was at a crossroads several weeks ago. I had a decision to make that would shape my life.

Officer Burt Garfunkle, true to his word, was able to finangle things, and the option of going back to Rukh's University - a place I've been at for around a month, and it's surprising it was only that long - was atop the table. Though I had been removed, he broke the plot of what had happened to the principal, who overruled Aiden Kripps' decision.

I had to think long and hard about it. I thought about my future, why I came to Rukh's, what I was doing, and a whole lot of other things.

Being at Rukh's gave me a sense of purpose. I was at school for learning about Pokémon. It was strangely comfy, and yet nostalgic in the sense that it reminded me of being in school back home. I was surrounded by others, could know what to expect, and even had several things to look forward to for the first time in forever. All in all, being there was nothing short of positive.

But Josef Northrop raised a very good point: there's probably not a lot they can teach me there. Like Dean Howard Finkerton said, Pokémon schools here are mostly a place for people who never had the opportunity to learn about and experience Pokémon to do so in a controlled environment. I mean, when I put forth my A-game against one of the school's top three, who even had outside training from a former member of the Kanto Elite Four, with not even my best Pokémon from this country, I won. Granted, there were all sorts of factors at work in that battle, but still. A win's a win. There are other ways to approach a problem. I'm curious now as to how much of a contest it'd be against them at full capacity, but I suppose that's a question that will go unanswered.

A lot of questions will go unanswered, actually. I am pretty upset about the circumstances. and how things went down. That was one of the worst possible outcomes of things, honestly. Change one thing, one factor, and I might be in a better spot right now. If I'd told Reika about my country of origin myself, if I didn't even humor Premala, if I'd been counterproductive against Kripps, and so on. Still, there's no use reminescing about what ifs in the past tense, since what happened, happened. The only thing to focus on is what ifs in the present tense, and I made the decision to not go back.

Besides, even if I did go back, would that stop Kripps? He was willing to do anything to get me thrown out of his school, as he already proved by risking career. Which from what I was told, he still has - I don't know how, but he is still vice principal of Rukh's University. He'd make my life there a living hell at best, or up the ante and try more drastic measures to remove me at worst. And that's not even factoring my peers, many of whom would be more than willing to assist in those efforts, collaboratively with him, among themselves, or just individually. Not something I want to be a part of. I'll miss my friends, sure, what few of them I would have left after that and would be able to handle the pressure of associating with public enemy numero uno. But it's a decision that's ultimately for the better.

And it's for those reasons that I made that decision. It's because of that why find myself here. At this...rally for the Heritage Delegates, of all things. Remember them? One of the foremost reasons why I'm in this predicament to begin with, whom I encountered a few days into my time at the school as they periodically visited several across the country. A group that preaches good Japanese values, and part of such involves preaching against North American scum such as myself.

"Why are we even here?" I made a demand to my fellow travelers, who turned to me all at once at my snapping. The Pokémon Shepherd, Theodore Rogers-Louis, is standing atop a stage, rambling on about things and telling life stories that I had long since tuned out of my mind. Common sense is the only thing holding me back from leaping up there and strangling the life out of his age-defying body.

"I'm with Fritz. There ain't no money to be had here," Dick was on my side for this one. I involuntarily shuddered a bit at this. In the short time I've known him, his opinions have come across as extreme, especially when it comes to finances. As for his morals, it almost feels like he's the opposite of the 90+ year old preaching up there - he has none.

To explain a little about where we are...ummm...well. Location-wise, I honestly was not paying attention. Somewhere between Almia and Kanto, at the very least. For where we are, in wherever we are? As stated, we're at a rally for the Heritage Delegates. As far as it looks, one might be led to believe the circus is in town. These clowns have set up booths with information, goods, services, food and drink, and a few carnival games. The immediate crowd is best described as subdued, mindful and showing for whose presence they are in.

Mr. Gruff simply chuckled, the kind of laugh one makes when about to enlighten someone of their naivete. "Ah, a cultural gathering. A place of socialization and interaction of the masses, non-exclusionary-"

"My ass."

"Er, well. That is a valid point, I suppose. A better choice of word is in order..." He took off his cap and ruffled his hair. I think my interruption threw him off more than usual. "Um. Where was I, now?"

Dick crossed his arms. "Why we're here."

"Yes. That. There is surely at least one clientele waiting for us here!"

"So what, you expect us to just go around asking? Maybe listening in on people?" I'm beginning to think this Railriders thing was a bad idea, honestly. Even Dick's business knowledge hasn't really been helping us. For example, "We could've at least set up a booth that says we can help people with their problems..."

"Well, young Westmyn. You see, there is a fee to be paid for these sorts of services, as there is a fee for our own. It would have cost nearly 8000 yen for us to rent a booth, and that is just for one day!"

I snorted, interrupting him. "We could afford that. You gotta spend money to make money."

"Thank you!" Dick said, interrupting me and slapping me on the back! Ugh. There it is again. "I'm glad at least one of you realizes that. And what's with your outfits, too?!" He pointed to his gray, three-piece suit. It had seen better days, but explained it as a symbol of a time-worn veteran in the field of business, and that there were at least no rips or holes in it. "Do either of you even know how to present yourselves?" Biggie glared at Dick, causing the man to let out an 'erk' that he quickly shook off.

Mr. Gruff and Biggie were both clad in the outfits they wear just about ever day. The former with a Gatsby Cap that covers his raggedy brown hair, aged dirty pants, and a ratty, if neatly-buttoned ochre jacket. And the latter with a light gray trenchcoat with a belt around the waist area, which wasn't long enough. He's just that tall, and little else really fits him. "At least one of you has some sense." As for myself, yeah. Just because I'm hoboing doesn't mean I have to dress like one. I'm in the best outfit I could find in my wardrobe for the occasion - a white polo shirt with a green vest over top, and dress pants. I also tied my hair back.

Mr. Gruff chuckled at this. "With all the respect is due, my compatriot, that scowl you are wearing is certainly just as offputting, if not even moreso, than our choice of wardrobe. Turn that frown upside down! No one has gotten any favor with a face like that!"

This is getting ridiculous. "Yeah, you guys keep doing what you're doing. I'm going to get something to eat."

"Whoa, whoa, hold on." Dick took several steps towards me, furling an eyebrow. "You have money?"

"A few prize winnings, yes," I provided confirmation. I raised a hand. "And before you ask, no. It's my money, and I need it now." And what I need it for is to have a decent meal for once. It's shocking what people throw away that's perfectly edible, yet it always makes me feel so dirty to eat food from a dumpster. I haven't gotten sick from it yet, but I don't want to chance that if I don't have to.

I'm blotting his protests out of my mind as I scour the rows of booths set up. I took a sniff, and the pleasant odors of grilled seafood greeted my nostrils. A peer in its direction indicates it's coming from a stand actually not far from where I stand. It's an option, but not one I'm sure I want to go with. A middle-aged athlete passed me by, holding a corn dog and kebab. Checking my right revealed a lineup in front of a food-on-a-stick stand. I could certainly go for some tandoori chicken or pinchos for the first time in ages, and maybe try yakitori. But I'd like to sit down and relax with a meal, and there's no place to sit there. There is a tofu stand next door to it, but ew.

I eyed a place with a title roughly translating to "The Eternal Banquet". I hope I got that right. Like I said before, my traditional Japanese is at best passable. Enough for when I need it here. At any rate, a name like that piques my interest.

I took a seat between an older woman in a purple kimono, and a bulky young man not much older than me in basic jeans and white shirt furiously chomping away at a sushi bowl. A sigh escaped my lips as I placed my backpack on the ground beside me.

"Hello there, dearie," said the elderly lady running the stand. Around 5 feet with wiry black hair, with a white apron worn over her dress. Behind her, I could see a bulky man around 40 years of age with five-o-clock shadow, also in a white apron. "What can I get for you, young man?"

"Try the sushi," the chubby one peered up from his now emptied bowl, leaning back with a heavy groan. He patted his belly. "I'm too stuffed for fifths. Thanks for the meal, ma'am."

"Mrs. Machi is fine."

"Thanks for the meal, Mrs. Machi." He carefully swung his legs out, standing to his feet with a puff. After stretching out, he made his way into the crowd. Well, he's well-fed to be certain. As for what I'm having, let's see here. I analyzed the menu. A lot of traditional dishes here. "Noodles will be fine," I quickly settled on. I don't really want anything huge. "Some water to go with it too, please."

I strummed my fingers on the table as I patiently waited for my meal.

The chef in the back shouted something. He passed a tray to the woman, who relayed it to me. A bowl of ramen and a bottle of water, just as I'd asked. A complimentary bun is also present. I stirred the noodles appraisingly with the chopsticks. Thick, yet fluid. I waved my hand, fanning the scent towards my nostrils. It certainly smells like ramen. Is there a secret to them? Well, let's find out. I gripped a bit between the two implements and brought them to my lips.

This is...no lie, I like this. A lot. Spicy, yet sweet and juicy. I'd picked up a piece of chicken along with the noodles, and it has a rich, filling texture to it full of umami. The chef noticed my satisification before I voiced it, and grinned in pride. "Wow. This is really good." No wonder that guy couldn't help chowing down on the food here.

"We're open every day at the corner of Hasu and Kunpū."

"Aww, it's a local business?" I'm disappointed there. For a meal this good at a price that can't be beat, I wouldn't mind having this routinely. I gave a compliment, "With food like this, you could easily expand."

Mrs. Machi chuckled with pride. "You really think so, dearie?" I confirmed my opinion, and the elderly cuisinière beamed with pride and appreciativeness.

"The quality of the food means nothing for business if the establishment isn't well-known." The woman to my left had spoken up. She closed her eyes and idly commented on my proposal, "Without proper advertising, a business can have the best-quality product on the market, and still fail because no one knows they exist."

"Yes, that's true," I stated with acknowledgement as she bit into her takoyaki. Come to think of it, "My own business is having a bit of trouble for the same reason."

"I know a few advertising agencies, I might be able to recommend one for you. What sort of business do you run?"

"Thanks." Formal advertising, huh? Might be something to consider. "And well, it's more or less a private investigation firm. I guess another problem is that some of my business associates don't understand that sometimes, you need to spend money to make money." I leaned forward to eat a few more noodles. I quickly ate them before continuing, "If they did, we'd have rented a booth here."

There was a pause before her reply. She vaguely turned her head towards me. "I see. Have you been operating long?"

"We formed the group about two weeks ago," I explained. "Work's been steady, but slow. It's a four-person group for now. The backbone is a couple people skilled in urban exploration and tracking. They brought in a former business owner as a financial advisor, and hired me to help manage and assist them." Seems like a good way of putting it in business terms. I tried the bread I'd been offered. Not bad, either. I dipped it in the soup for a second go at it.

"Two weeks sounds a bit short for 'steady' work," the woman commented, pausing to take another bite of her own meal. "If I may ask, about how many cases have you taken in that time?"

"Two," I replied. Well, I'll explain them now. "We lucked into one, and the other we only got because someone we knew hired us on." I unscrewed the cap of my drink and took a sip. "An old associate of our financial advisor wanted us to look into how his current partner was spending money, as he was constantly asking to borrow company funds to pay the bills." We met that person in Sandgem Town. It wasn't really interesting. Dick just had some idle banter with the guy, and he offered to help out for a fee.

She looked on inquisitively. "And both of these cases were solved successfully, I presume?"

I gave affirmation. "In the latter case, we found out the partner in question had a gambling addiction. And well, the former ended up closer to security work in practice. We were hired on as extra hands to find out who was stealing rail materials from a trainyard." I leaned back, shaking my head. "Turns out, it was their own security guard."

"Heh, how typical," the woman said while shaking hers. "Seems like hardly anyone can be trusted these days," she stated, a forlorn look in her eyes.

"I know, right..." I agreed with a sigh, slumping my shoulders. "They even said something like that. It's worse when it's someone you've known...or rather, thought you knew, for a while." Dammit. I exhaled before continuing. "In that case, the guard had apparently been working there for three decades. It's a shame, really..."

"Thirty years and they never even suspected?"

"It was apparently recent," I continued on. "His thefts started around two or three years ago, and it's only when they carefully looked back at their budget three months ago did they notice something was up. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?"


Again, I can't help but lean back and sigh. "It's a shame really, how people can change for the worse." I turned back to her. Hm? "Is something wrong?"

She quickly snapped to attention. "What? No. Just...lost in thought."

"Hmm..." I took a swig of water. I get the feeling that there's something bothering her. Her tone and appearance are like she wants to say something more. If I'm right, she's remaining silent on whatever it may be. I wonder, and can't help but ask, "Did you go through something like that before, too?"

Hesitation. She glanced at me warily before responding, "Why do you ask?"

The tone in her voice says she may want to say something more there, and so does her expression. It's a bit concerning. "I was just wondering, that's all..." I elaborated with a sigh. Now I'm sure of it, but I don't want to press the issue. "You looked like something was troubling you when we were talking about that, that's all."

"...it's nothing, really," she enshrouded. "Just some family issues, nothing I can't deal with myself," she said under her breath.

What!? "Your family...?"

She turned sharply to look at me with an instinctive "Shh!" Realization dawned on her as to what she accidentally spoke aloud. I nodded in understanding. She stood to her feet and gestured for me to follow her. I've all but finished my noodles. I ate what was left, grabbed my water bottle and bag, and followed along.

The woman guided me just slightly into the nearby field. Still visible, but far enough away to hold a private conversation. "All right, here it is. You have heard of the Sasaki Group, yes?"

"Yes." I nodded, flashing the tag on the inside of my shirt. They're a renouned tailoring company based out of Northern Japan that markets to middle to upper class trainers on the move. Even I know something like this. Their clothes are reliable and comfortable.

"I'm Takeko Sasaki," she begins. "My family runs the group."

"Wow..." Now this is something. "I'm Fritz Westmyn," I introduced myself as she paused.

She inhaled deeply. "My...my husband and two children have been a bit...distant, of late. Each of them keeps going off somewhere at random without telling me anything. I have no idea where they're going or what they do there, and it's driving me up the wall." Takeko shook her head, and I swore I heard a sniff just now. "I want to believe they would tell me if there was anything out of the ordinary going on, but I just...I have a bad feeling about this."

"I see..." was my solemn answer. "That is a problem, a family who isn't there for you. I'd like to think they would come to an event like this, for example." I closed my eyes. If they've nothing to hide, then why would they not tell her? "I'd think that too. Why would they need to be secretive...?"

The air was silent except for the background noise after this. Takeko stood in cognizance of me. "...you say you're with a private investigation firm. Perhaps you can help me."

I slowly nodded. Did I...? "Indeed we could." I warmly smiled. "Tracking down where your family has been going should be no problem."

She nodded to me, thinking for about ten seconds. "Name your price, then." Another thoughtful pause. "And...if possible, I'd prefer to keep this off the record."

"Should be no problem." But my price. We usually charge around 15000 yen. I could certainly go for more, but given the circumstances. "Well, our financial advisor is going to yell at me for this...but 20000 yen should be fine for this. Maybe 25000." If Dick were here, he'd try to get at least twice as much out of her. But I personally don't feel right charging more just because the client is able to afford it. If I could, honestly, this one would be on me.

"Agreed," Takeko replied, politely bowing. She gazed up to the clouds in thought.

All right, so how to go about this? Well, if they're going off somewhere, we should start tracing them from the logical place. "I guess the best way to track them would be starting from your home..." I slipped my hand into my pocket to retrieve a notepad and pen, handing it to her.

She obliged, scribbling the family's address down twice, once in Japanese and once in Romaji. "Do try to keep out of sight," she asked as she handed it back. "If anyone finds out about this, it could create...unrest within the group."

"Understood," I replied. "We'll get back to you as soon as we can with results."

"You have my gratitude," she says, bowing once again. With this and a nod, I set back off to find the rest of the group.

I found them easily enough. They were congregating close to where I left them. "The festive diner has returned!" Mr. Gruff greeted with a tip of the hat and wave before I got in my voice's speaking range. He waited until I had gotten closer before speaking again. "So? Tell us! How was the meal?"

"Worth every dime. Just wish I could have it routinely."

"I do have to wonder! What could be that good as so you could make such a wish?"

"I went to this nice traditional booth. It was called The Eternal Banquet. I decided to keep it simple with noodles. Best I've ever had."

"It is always good to try new things from new places! Ah, that reminds me. I remember a young lad who joined our ranks for a few days. We met him two years ago. Thrown out of his house. Cold, wet, tired, hungry. We invited him along to a meal, much as we did with you and your friends prior. Though our usual place in that city was in dire straits from the new owner not being as generous, we were served a simple dish by a kind couple, as so not to go hungry that night. What a panacea they were to his mood! They appeared as strange stuff to him at first, perhaps as a monstrous swamp of tentacles. But once he took a bite for his stomach's complaint of nothing, his spirits perked right up! Akin to a soft, warm hug! A bolt of power surged through his veins from the moist food! It was as though at that moment, nothing else in the world mattered, the weights had been lifted from his shoulders! For he was-"

"Mr. Gruff," I interrupted, deadpan while raising my hand. Probably with a blank stare. "It's ramen. Noodles soaked in soup with pieces of other foods floating around. It isn't the highest dish in nutritional value. In fact, its cheapness is what attracts many students where I come from to live off it. They're not going to make you much stronger, let alone be a solution to all your problems."

"Yes, but you understand what I am getting at, yes?"

"They were just delicious noodles. Not a metaphor." I took a swig of my water. "Believe me, if I could become a stronger person with noodles, I would know and eat them all the time." I shook my head. "But more importantly, I was able to find work."

"Oh, my! That is most wonderful to hear!"

Biggie grunted.

"Well? What are you waiting for?" Dick demanded. "Tell us already!"

"We have a woman, and a distant family who keeps disappearing without telling her where they're going. They haven't even come to any of these rallies with her, from the looks of it." Should I say specifically who? No...should leave that for another moment in accordance with her wishes, to be certain. My three comrades await further explanation. "Her husband, and two children, to be specific. She's worried. We've been hired on to find out where they've been going and what they're doing." I stopped and stated this next part with seriousness, "Covertly."

"Gotcha. The best thing we can do, is wait till tomorrow," Dick's answer was swift. "If they ain't comin' here, they're going to their secret locations. So we follow them and find out what they're getting up to." He stated what I figured we should do anyway, to which everyone voiced or nodded agreement.

"Ah! That sounds like an idea most ingenious!" Mr. Gruff pointed to the clouds. "With our superior and peerless urban skills, we should have no issue with following them to their secretive destinations!"

"Well," I do have to ask. "There's four of us and three people to follow. What's the plan, boys?"

"I'm goin' after the husband. Piece of shit." Dick again issued an immediate response. With a mask of extreme fury, he shook a trembling fist. He pounded it into the palm of his other hand. "Gonna find out whatever he's up to and give him a piece of my mind."

"I said covertly! In secret!" I snapped. Dick growled at me, eventually reluctantly nodding. "Okay, so Dick is going to track her husband. What else?"

"Ahhh...I do think it would be best if you had someone to go with you."

"I don't need no help!"

"I meant him, not you," Mr. Gruff stated, gesturing to me.

"Oh. Yes, you have a point." I am new to this whole urban exploration thing. I don't want to get lost. I turned to the large man. "Biggie, you're fine with teaming up with me, right?" The reply was a simple nod.

"So it is settled!" Mr. Gruff put an arm around both of us, looking over at Dick meanwhile. "We have put together our teams! As for who we shall follow, to avoid confusion! Hm!" He scratched his chin, barely able to reach with his arm around me. "I know! If it is a son who emerges first, I shall set a course, and search about the city for him! But if it is a daughter who comes first, you two shall be the ones to pursue her. Our stealth and investigative talents shall be put to the test. Tomorrow, Railriders Incorportated shall put on a fine performance!"


After waking up and having a breakfast of dry cereal, the four of us staked out the Sasaki residence. A structure not luxurious, yet not modest by any stretch of the imagination. I can best describe it and its architecture in short as a western twist on a traditional Japanese style - Sukiya according to Biggie. Stone walls around seven feet high surround three of the four sides of the property, leaving only the front exposed.

The others were a bit surprised to learn of who we were assisting, and it only made Dick all the more eager to go through with this - and not for money, either. Anticipating having to follow a vehicle, he had taken someone's bicycle. To be fair, he was on the mark. The husband - a portly man in a suit - was the first to leave at 8AM sharp, and with a declaration, "All right, time to get this bastard," Dick pedaled off in pursuit.

Takeko's daughter emerged around ten minutes after, nervously looking around, before heading down the road. An older looking girl in clothing blatantly screaming it was chosen to protect the wearer's identity, complete with a hood. Mr. Gruff, who I learned would indeed be following a son, gave me a pat on the back and words of encouragement before Biggie and I set off. And that's where we are now.

"So it's the two of us going to find the daughter, huh?" I asked him. There was no reply as we continued to make our way down the street. We've been following her for around forty minutes at this point, with it thankfully becoming easier to conceal ourselves once we got to the city. "We, uh...saw her coming this way. And we're following along. Yup."

We rounded the corner. "There she is," I pointed out. "What do you think she's up to, walking out all this way?"

"I do not know. We are here to find out." Have I mentioned how hard it is to make conversation with Biggie? Because um, it is.

We continued to follow along for several minutes, until she made an unusual change of course after a moment's hesitation. "She went into that alleyway there," I noted aloud while gesturing. "Between Yakitori-yama and Torkoal Sauna." Ugh, would slip into the former, but there's no time. Also, I know this country loves Pokémon, but it always bugs me seeing an establishment named after Pokémon for arbitrary reasons. Torkoal doesn't even have anything to do with heated water, why not at least name it after something that does? "Let's go."

Quickly walking over to the entryway, the two of us made our way inside - stopping when we reached a bend. I peered around the corner into the back lot. She's there, and she seems to be meeting with a group of young men. There's some sort of argument going on. I can't help but raise my eyebrow at this situation. "Looks like she's been getting into trouble. Damn it, there's four of them." All of them are dressed in jean jackets. A shaved sir is in a short-sleeved black one, rolled up to further expose the snake-shaped tattoos on his arms. I'm guessing he's their leader. The others are in blue jackets, the three distinguished by a goatee, a derby, and bleached blonde hair. The first of those has trimmed sleeves, the others wear theirs long. I turned to Biggie. "What do we do?"

"We do this," Biggie simply stated before walking out and making his presence felt.

"Uh." Well, the direct approach is fine by me. "Then let's do this."

"So now you know, Saya. You have to-hey, who're these guys?" the blonde ruffled his hair.

"What?" Their leader turned to look at us, as did everyone else. He relaxed a bit when he saw our appearance. "Oh, it's just a couple of bums. Get outta here, this is our alley for now."

"We have business in this alley," I stated. The girl looked on in fear, unsure of what to make of us. Now that I get a better look at her, she's around 5'1'', with shoulder-length black hair and green eyes. She'd lowered the hood on her red and white coat, also opening it to reveal a plain shirt beneath.

He exhaled. "All right, but make it fast. And you saw nothing, hear?"

"Our business is with you!" I fired off with a threatening point.

A brief silence, and then the tattooed one chuckled at this display. "You know who you're talking to?" the blonde threatened right back, as the other two exchanged a glance. "Just who do you think you are?"

"We're mercenaries with Railriders Incorporated," I explained, not really caring who they are or what their deal is. "Our orders are to find out where that girl's been running off to these past couple months, and deal with it as necessary. And I guess that means dealing with you! Now we can do this the easy way, or the hard way."

All four of this street gang stood there in disbelief at my bold proclamation. Can hardly blame them, that was a bit too bold. The girl, seizing her opportunity, dashed over to us before they could respond. The one with the derby frantically grabbed at her, but couldn't get hold. She smiled lightly at me as she hid behind us, holding onto my arm. Her own quivered as she kept her eyes trained on her harassers.

"Mind your own business!" said the one with the goatee, moving towards us. Biggie took a step forward, cracking his knuckles. He and the blonde bloke instinctively recoiled back. "O-or there'll be trouble! We can be civil about this." The leader looked to him and shook his head, reaching for the Ultra Ball on his belt. My gargantuan companion looks ready to throw down regardless of whether it's man or beast he's up against, and while I wouldn't doubt he'd be able to (because he has before), I think we can do a bit better.

"Biggie, get her to safety," I gave him a wave with one hand as I reached into my pocket to retrieve a Pokémon of my own. "I'll hold these guys off." He accepted this, took the girl's hand, and fled from the alley with her. The goatee guy moved to chase, but I fired out the contents of that which I retrieved out. Lairon materialized and blocked his path, snorting in his face. "Now, which one of you wants to be first?"

"You talk a good game, long-hair," the head guy scoffed, attempting to intimidate me.

I flipped said hair, not at all intimidated. "I can back it up too, no-hair."

"Arrogant little prick, aren't you? You honestly think we're gonna fight you solo? Boys!" Per his orders, they threw out their Pokémon. His was a small brown mammal with a skeletal motif. It wears its skull on the outside of its head, part of its ribcage is exposed on its belly, and it wields a femur as a weapon. A Marowak, if I'm not mistaken. I quickly scanned and double-checked the others one-by-one, seeing them as a Larvitar, a Vigoroth, and a Croconaw.

"Still think you're hot shit, kid?" he said with a snicker, a vocalization I returned in kind.

The quartet's eyes stretched wide as I retrieved five balls from my pocket. With a toss, out came the rest of my Pokémon: Nidorina, Tangela, Huntail, Azumarill, and Toxicroak. All primed and ready to go.

"Actually, yes. Everyone, attack!"

All in an instant, the two Water Pokémon worked in perfect unison, spraying twin streams at the hapless Larvitar. It was blown back against the side of the restaurant and knocked unconscious. The Croconaw didn't fare much better. Lairon took a charge which it dodged, but allowed Tangela to snag it with its vines. As it struggled to get free from the noodly mass' grip, Lairon bowled into it on a second pass. Tangela followed this up by slamming it down and finishing it with a Leaf Storm. The Vigoroth went for Lairon, but was intercepted with a Sucker Punch by Toxicroak that saw it turned inside out. While it was down on its back, completely winded, the frog kicked it in the legs and shot a Sludge Bomb right into its face. With a deranged squeal, she rubbed it in (literally) before knocking it unconscious with a punch.

The only one putting up a decent fight is the head guy's Marowak. Nidorina had made a charge at it, claws primed, but was swatted by its Bone Club. Its trainer commanded a Fire Punch, and Nidorina retalitated by Chipping Away at its skull. It replied by bashing said skull into her.

"Fall back and Bonemerang!" he yelled. The tossed bone was evaded by Nidorina, who came in with a Poison Jab. She missed with her horn, but got it with her claws. As she whirled around, though, the femur returned and nailed the DNA mishmash.

"Grr...gonna knock out at least one of your Pokémon!" he cursed, as the others had been laid out by this time. The blonde one had even rushed to his Larvitar's aid. "Bone Rush, then Double Edge!"

"Nidorina!" I called to her, giving her a signal (closing my hand). She gave me her look, then picked up on what I meant. As the Marowak charged in swinging its weapon, she Crunched...down on the bone! A tug-of-war ensued, ended when Nidorina heaved back at her foe, nailing it in the jaw. She lowered her head, scraped her left paw against the pavement, then bashed her skull against Marowak's. The impact only stunned her briefly, but the bonekeeper was knocked silly. It fell to the ground, after which Nidorina jumped up and crashed down with Body Slam. With a wheezing cough, the creature went unconscious.

"Like I said," I said with a smirk. "Guess you couldn't take the heat."

"Damn...dammit...you're good..." the head guy dropped to his knees. He recalled his Pokémon. For a second, it appeared as though he was going to send out another, but he seemed to think better of it.

"Now, promise to leave that girl alone!" I commanded. "Or else!"

"Ya know, she's hardly a girl," the derby dude spoke up. "She's 26 and still living at home."

"I don't care. Now promise me!"

"That's my decision, not theirs," came another voice. From behind the alleyway stepped a...lanky dude with a bad haircut. Imagine a mullet fused with an afro, gone wrong. I'm assuming this is their leader, but his expression reads more of that of a bag of douches than leader of a street gang. Especially with those glasses and angry scowl plastered onto him. On his back is a jean jacket much like the others, his color of choice being brown like his hair. He looks in his mid to late 20s, but otherwise has a few wrinkles and is already going a bit gray. "And the answer's no. That girl owes us. Big time." Even sounds like a douchebag.

"You mean you're probably extorting her."

He paid me no heed, turning to the one in the black coat. "Raghava, who's this?"

"A mercenary with the Railriders, boss," replied the bald man. "His associate escaped with Ms. Sasaki, and he has been delaying us with his Pokémon."

He surveyed the scene. My Azumarill had cheerfully ran to my side to cling to my leg, and Tangela was hanging around me too. The others were near where they finished their fights. Toxicroak, Lairon, and Nidorina all gave him a glare - one sadistic, one bored, one threatening - while Huntail seemed wrapped up in teasing a Rattata that happened to be in the alley. "A six-on-four assault? If you had any honor at all, you would fight fair!"

"Hey, they're the ones who jumped me four-on-one," I argued. "I was just evening the odds!"

"Even odds would be four-on-four!"

This could actually work out, if I play it right. "Then why don't we have a fair fight?" I proposed. "You and me, winner decides that girl's fate."

"The answer is still no," the boss snorted, resolve firm. Well, so much for diplomacy. He reached for his belt anyway. "But if you're looking for a battle, I can give you one. We'll use three Pokémon each, one-on-one." He sent out a baby blue scaled meathead of a Pokémon, built as though it's been taking steroids. It has three horns on its head and pouty peach lips. Black tights and a championship are wrapped around its waist. What stands out most about it? The four arms. Who's that Pokémon?

Fighting Type

Believed to have originated as a mutation, muscle now makes up over 60% of the body mass of this mostly-reptilian Pokémon. A newly evolved wild Machamp often completes its training under harsh conditions, including in high and low temperature environments which push their poikilothermy to its limit. More experienced ones will travel to find worthy opponents. Researchers have theorized that its arms split in half during the evolutionary process. The purpose of the belt this species wears is unknown, believed to be a featured retained after evolution. No discernable difference in the Pokémon's performance, for better or worse, has been witnessed when it is removed.

Machamp is a competitive Pokémon by nature. They will jump into action against a worthy adversary without a second thought, and accept a challenge from anyone and anything no matter the odds. Machamps who meet will often compete in feats of strength, the loser going off to train once more. During mating season, a male and female Machamp pair will spar before reproduction, the winner asserting dominance over the loser during the act. In spite of all this, they have been known to mentor Machop and other weaker Fighting Pokémon.

A Machamp relies almost strictly on physical force in battle. Those without a personal fighting style will use its four arms to their full advantage, either with a bewildering flurry of strikes or precision grapples and throws. They have been known to forgo defense for offense, especially when faced with a ranged attacker. While a rare sight in the wild, Machamps can be trained to use stones or other nearby objects as projectiles. While excelling in combat, Machamp rarely hunt for food. They get their sustenance from fruit, leafy greens, small to medium sized insects, and rarely scavenged corpses.

After thinking of this for a few moments, I recalled five of my six Pokémon, leaving only one remaining. He stepped out in front of me, ready for battle.

"Really? You're...really sticking with your Lairon? Against my Machamp?" Hey, why not? It's by far my strongest Pokémon, and even a candidate among the ones from back home. I mean, sure. I have Hydreigon there, which is a freaking monster in a way I can't adequately describe except Nidorina on angel dust. I have my first Pokémon too, now a mighty Falkyrie, which definitely has the most experience - if that means anything to you. And there's my Mantine too. Yet none of those really mix it all together like my Lairon does. The logical choice would be Toxicroak, for her ability to deal with this thing from long range forcing it to power through Sludge Bombs, while still performing well when it's up close and personal. But I want to get Lairon back into practice, and this seems like a good opportunity. Besides, this Pokémon's personal range is where Lairon shines. If the situation looks bad, I can just recall him. "Hey, wake up!"

"Sorry." Well, I'm being honest with him. Again though, it came out kind of wrong. "But yes, let's do this with Lairon." The tiebreaker overall at this choice which seems suicidal on paper - I'm confident he can handle this one, one way or another. Even if this one is really strong, he can take several hits. I'm not entirely sure if Toxicroak can; while she is experienced, she and I don't have much experience as trainer and Pokémon.

My general calmness at this situation, not even the slightest hint of smugness, seemed to infuriate him more than anything else. He'd kept his cool up till now, but this is visibly pushing his patience. "Are you underestimating me?" He clenched his left hand into a shaking fist. He lowered it, keeping control. "You're lucky I'm honorable. Goro, Dynamicpunch!" he called out, making the motion himself. His Pokémon charged in, all fists raised. Difficult to tell which of the four it's going to strike out with.

But Lairon read it correctly, dodging to the right as it brought its upper left fist down with a crash that cracked the pavement. "I-Impossible!" he called out. "Literally, my Machamp has No Guard! That should've hit!"

"And that's supposed to guarantee it hits, how?" Common misconception, though I'm not exactly sure where it comes from. I explained as Lairon rammed into it from the side. "A Pokémon with No Guard can go into a state of mind where they fight with lowered defensive awareness but higher offensive awareness. It's better at hitting attacks, but it doesn't care for reading them, either." Pokémon's abilities don't always work as you might expect, or even at all depending on personality and/or orders.

"In any case, one good hit WILL end this. You do realize that, do you?" His Machamp, deprived of orders, seemed confused. After a moment, it repeated its last command.

"Will it?" I made a small gesture to Lairon, who's used to fighting without them like much of my Pokémon, did take note as it again dodged the attack.

"It will! Unless your Lairon has Sturdy."

"It has Rock Head." And Sturdy. Pokémon can sometimes have multiple.

"Then make this Vital Throw count, Goro!"

Wiping some of the mud that I told my Pokémon to generate and spew off its face, the reptile's eyes momentarily flashed. It homed in on the metal beast, struck and grabbed hold, and hurled him. Lairon surprised them all by landing on his feet in a feat of stunning acrobatic prowess. He smirked, despite the shaky landing.

"That is, if you can get a good hit in through our defenses."

"No defense is unbreakable. We'll grind you down with our overwhelming power! Goro, FOCUS PUNCH!"

"Protect!" Can't reliably break up the attack from this distance, so we'll do this instead.

The Machamp rushed forward and slammed its fist into the shell. The reptile was clearly not expecting it to be so sturdy; it bounced clean off, stumbling back several steps from the collision and backing away further to avoid a counter.

"Oh, come on!" complained one of his goons, the one who had the Larvitar. "You're just delaying the inevitable!"

"Fine, fine." I do have to go on the offensive eventually. That is the one disadvantage of using him over Toxicroak - the frog could probably get the job done faster. Playing safer than I need to doesn't help that case. But if it's too slow, I'll make the switch. It's allowed! "Lairon, Iron Tail."

"Cross Chop it apart!"

The two combatants met each other in the middle. Lairon missed wildly as he jumped up and did what's more of a swinging of his backside, but Goro, not anticipating this trajectory, only landed a glancing blow. I quickly gave the signal for Iron Head as he landed facing forward, and he didn't have to be told twice - ramming into his foe's backside. As the Machamp staggered forward, I said, "Again!" And Lairon did it again!

"What the-?! Hang in there, Goro!" Struck a third time while talking. "Get out of the way if you can!"

The four-armed freak turned, which wasn't enough to dodge a fourth attack, but did break up the combination. "Quick! CLOSE COMBAT!" He grinned wildly as Goro turned around quickly enough to start unloading with a blinding-fast flurry of strikes on my Pokémon. I gave a signal to Lairon who seemed ready to Iron Defense through this, but it nodded at the alternate order. The boss didn't pick up on the danger. "It's over!"


As the Pokémon was winding up for one last crushing blow and its owner wore a mask of confusion at my confidence, Lairon shot a Metal Burst out of his mouth. Works every time, and it worked especially well this time. The force of this point blank blast was so great, Machamp was sent careening across the alley, smashing through a wall and slumping down unconscious in the hole it created. The gang was sent into a panic at this act of destruction.

"Oh, shit!"


"Damn it...I'll remember this!" the boss recalled his Pokémon and fled.

"How is it...never mind." The bald one in the black jacket was the only one of the group to notice that Lairon was more than conscious after this, but he too, knew he had to get out of there.

"Go after her again, and I'll do worse next time!" I yelled a warning to them as they fled. With this, I breathed a sigh of relief and went over to take a look at Lairon. "You all right?" I asked. He gave a nod in the affirmative, and held his head high. I smiled. Looks like a few months in storage has done little, if anything, to affect his capabilities. Indeed, though that Close Combat appeared powerful, Lairon had shrugged it off and was ready for more. Not a tactic I want to use every time, but it certainly works.

"Well, we better get out of here ourselves. Not like we're going to be looked down too much more favorably by anyone." Lairon concurred, and we vacated the alley. It's not like we're going to be allowed to get away with random property damage in heat of a battle on account of being a hero or anything. "Let's head back. I wonder how the others held up?"


For lack of a better place to return, I decided to go back to the Sasaki residence. Indeed, it was a good call to make. It is where Biggie went as well, and they were waiting on me for an explanation of this portion of the incident. Dick and Mr. Gruff are not present, although certain mannerisms and the presence of a young man with finely combed dark hair, clad in casual clothing told me they had been successful.

While the exterior is a blend of the two shores of styles, the interior is almost strictly western. I find myself in the living room. Biggie leans against a wall. On a love seat, Shinzo Sasaki sits with someone, his girlfriend no less. A tall, hefty girl with scarlet pigtails. His head was lowered in shame, and a look at her might be reason why. Her complexion - which she hid for a while - isn't the finest, reveals a mixed heritage of Korean and...I'm guessing Filipina? Though not a member of the family, she was as nervous as the siblings.

Saya sits on a chair next to mine, across from her mother - in a semi-formal office garb - on a full couch. I gave a report of what had happened, halting before the end. I've been wondering something. "Why exactly were they after you, Saya?" I have to inquire.

"They...I..." She looked at her mother, terrified. She held onto the sides of her coat. She gulped, and took a deep breath. "...three months ago, I needed money. Really badly. I...I was too afraid to ask mother for any, but...but I couldn't let my Growlithe die!" Saya was in tears by this point. "He needed surgery, and I didn't have enough myself! I was too ashamed to ask mother. So...so I asked them. I paid them back, but...but they wanted me to work for them. They wanted me to sell their bootleg merchandise for them. And maybe worse..." She shuddered. Her brother leaned in with concern.

"Anyway, I didn't get names, but they were all in jean jackets, and their second-in-command went by Raghava. After I beat their leader and forced them to flee, I came back here. And that's about everything that happened from our end," I finished explaining.

"Mother, please," Shinzo instantly uttered. "You have to understand. I didn't want to tell you about Citra. But I love her. I know you wanted me to marry someone, but I didn't know what you'd think of her. Because, you know. But she loves me, and I love her, and-"

Takeko watched on as he quickly spoke, with an approving look in her eyes. So caught up in his worrying that he did not notice immediately. When he did, he paused his rapidfire plea. He looked on, stunned in shock.

"You...don't mind how she looks? How she's not Japanese? You...you approve?"

A reassuring nod.

His eyes began to well up. His mouth is agape. He exhaled, looking to an equally happy Citra. "Thank you..." he mouthed, barely audible over the ambiance. He fell into embrace with her.

"As for you, Saya," she gnarled, breaking the couple's moment. Saya shrank back into the chair. "I am EXTREMELY disappointed in you."

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Saya bowed repeatedly, begging her off.

"You should be sorry! What the hell were you THINKING?!" She slammed a hand on the coffee table. "You know better! Those people are lowlives! They are nothing but trouble!"

Saya buried her head in her arms. Like she feels she has no defense, no reply to that. And that even trying would make matters worse.

Takeko huffed. She said nothing more for several long moments. "However..." she modulated. A sigh, and a snivel. "I am...just glad you are safe."

The young woman cautiously lowered her guard. "Mother..." she started. Takeko opened her arms invitingly. "Oh, mother...!" A tearful Saya ran forward and hugged her mother. "I was so scared..." Takeko held her daughter close, stroking her back in reassurance. I glanced at Biggie and smiled. It seems this part of the tale too, has a good ending to it.

Shinzo broke the moment up. "But, mom. What about the gang?"

Takeko's expression turned cold as she ceased the embrace. Another contrast to her prior emotions. She furrowed her brow, glaring at those responsible in spite of their nonpresence. She made a light fist with her left hand, trembling. She looked her daughter in the eyes and lowered her gaze. "They will pay."

The children, Citra...and hell, even I shuddered a bit at this. Only Biggie remained stoic in face of her intents for blood. Takeko walked over to me, bowing.once more. "I cannot thank you enough for your help. We are in your debt." She stepped back to the table to retrieve her purse. She took out a full 30000 yen, presenting it to me. I'm a bit confused at this. "A little extra. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some things to tend to regarding...that husband of mine." She closed her eyes and suppressed tears. I can hardly blame her. Dick learned he's having an affair. A fact unsurprising to her, yet no less devastating to have verified. The only ease perhaps being Dick's offer of resources to aid her. With two final bows, one for me and Biggie, she left for another room.

I gestured to Biggie. The massive man walked over to me. "Well, we should be heading back soon. It was nice meeting you all, and I'm glad everything worked out for you."

"Um, hey..." Saya nervously took a step forward. "Before you go. I just want to say...th-thank you..." she said, bowing and gently sauntering up. I watched curiously. "I'll...um...I'll never forget...I'll never forget you. I'll never forget...how you saved me."

Without warning, she stood on her tippy toes and gave Biggie a peck on the chin. She may have wanted to reach further, but all the same. The young woman blushed profusely before rushing upstairs. Her brother let out a "heh," and planted a kiss on his girlfriend.

Citra grinned. "Thank you for all your help!"

"Yes, thanks, Mr. Westmyn!" Shinzo agreed. "And tell Mr. Gruff thanks, too! I'm really happy I can finally be open about this!"

"Just call me Fritz. And I will! Bye!" With a nod to the happy couple, we gathered our shoes and took our leave of the Sasaki residence. I smirked at him as we stepped outside. I sat down, looking up while getting my footwear on. "Well. That was nice, wasn't it?" I asked a bit teasingly.

He gazed at me seriously, with steely eyes. "That could have been you."

"Ehh...she's not my type, anyway," I shrugged it off. There will be plenty of other chances. "So why didn't you go for her? Is she not your type either?"

"It would be wrong of me."

I can't help but tilt my head at that one. "I don't really understand what you mean by that."

He shook his. "The age difference is too great, for one."

"The age difference is the same as between me and her, just that you're 33." Surprisingly enough, he is that young. You might not think so from his appearance - the years haven't been kind to him - but it's true. Also, this is the first real conversation I've been able to have with him.

"Enough," he held up a hand. Guess I spoke too soon there. "I made my decision. Let us head back to the trainyard." He's not elaborating on the logic behind it beyond age, either...still, even if I'm wondering, I won't get any answers. Guess there's nothing to do but head back there and wait for the others.

"Right. To the trainyard then." It's a good two hours away from where we are, and that's only if you don't stop to rest. Definitely need to be in shape for this sort of life.

"I really have to say, that felt really nice and rewarding." Biggie silently concurred. "A family with secrets, slowly growing distant from each other. But in the end, everything worked out, thanks to us." I chuckled. "If this keeps up, I just might like being with you guys after all."

At first, I was really doubtful about this group when I decided to join it. And given earlier circumstances, I still have a few lingering thoughts in my mind. The food is bad, the friction can get annoying, and it can be more than stressful. But going around the country, meeting a lot of people, hearing their stories, helping them with their problems...it's gratifying, even thrilling. If it wasn't for us, then many months from now, Takeko would still be worrying and married to an unfaithful husband, Shinzo would still feel he would have to hide his relationship, and I don't want to think about what could've befallen Saya. There have been many days where I've doubted my decision to join Railriders, but this alone makes my being here worthwhile.

It isn't the best life I could ask for. But it is a life, and that counts for everything.
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Another new chapter, and not one, but two new bonuses! One relevant to this chapter, and another that's chronologically way back around 1-5. Hoping to do more of these, as well as figure out how I'm going to handle mid-chapter bonus scenes. Else you'd have three here!

There's also a new Discount Atlas section, Pokemon Profiles. Check it out if you have the time.


Chapter 3-3: Contested Fate

Darkness clouds my vision. Being devoid of a sense is no detriment to my being able to feel the tension enveloping the area. The air around me echoes with the cries of people in the distance. The faint smell of dust, smoke, and other acrid scents are wafting to my nostrils. I can feel the heat coming from beyond the dry corridor which I stand in. This is what it comes down to. A booming voice marked that the moment of truth is at hand.

I opened my eyes.

It's time.

The crowd applauded as I stepped out into the sundrenched arena. Refusing to show my discomfort at the temperature, I gave a nod of acknowledgement and tip of the hat to them while I continued to walk, making my way to the center. I clasp a ball in my hands, containing one of the many Pokemon I have obtained in this country. With a silent nod, I tossed it into the air. Bright flashes reflect off the sphere as people take photographs of it in mid-flight. When the critter within emerged, warm sparkles flying around it, the spectators roared their endorsement.

Music to my ears.

Eevee gave a long blink and let out an adorable growl. We took a moment to bask in the energy of the arena. On my cue, the critter dashed in a wide circle, whipping up sand as it ran about. The result of this was the generation of a miniature dust devil. The crowd oohed and ahhed as it grew larger and larger. Finally, the tiny fox did a spinning leap out of the tornado, which set about in motion by itself. It florished by wagging its tail, again squeeing, and giving them a look that could capture the hearts of even the most stone-faced individuals. The crowd against voiced its approval.

Now this. This is something I'm used to.

"I think that sounds like a pass. Don't you, folks?" On this commentary from the male announcer, an older man who sounds to be in his late 40s, more cheers rang through my ears. I asked someone about him, and his name is Kaito Boukensha - a veteran announcer who works all the large-scale contests in the northern section of the mainland.

"Woo!" The female of the pair, sounding around half her colleague's age, let out a rally of her own. The co-commentator, Rin Sabure is less experienced, but brings energy to the stadiums she graces. "Everyone give a round of applause to the newcomer Fritz Yuzé, who has successfully qualified for the Mylon City Pokémon Contest!"

The tiny fox-like creature understood what that meant, leaping into my arms and licking me. If there's any place Eevee is going to serve me well, besides when my life is in danger and it flies into an inexplicable homicidal rage, it's in this environment. Also, don't ask. With a wave to the crowd and one final cheer, my Pokemon and I made our way to the other end of the stadium, as the announcement of the next person to attempt to qualify made his way in.

I was met with some clapping from my peers on getting backstage. A brown-haired man in a white jumpsuit in particular took hold of my hand and forcibly shook it. "Grats on makin' it. Always nice to see some new competition," he greeted with a forceful pat on the back. Not all were this cheerful, sizing me up carefully as I took my leave to get a drink of water.

The rules of this contest are simple. First, you need to make an appeal to get in, which I just did. You're then matched up against one of the other thirty-one lucky contestants at random. After that, you face them in a special, time-limited battle. You need to look good during it. The winner is the one who defeats his or her opponent, reduces his or her opponent's points to zero, or has the most points at the expiration of the time limit. And for this contest, you may randomly have to use one or two Pokemon during each encounter. Outfits for coordinators are commonplace, and thankfully in the name of conforming to that trend, I had everything I needed to get dressed up on-hand for this bout of whimsy.

Let's see if I'm made for the stage. It's time to make my coordinating debut!


My match in the first round of the tournament is set to go on seventh. When it came time, I was assigned to wait in one of the entryways to the arena, much like I was before (thankfully without people behind me who hadn't bathed in weeks), and head towards the middle of the battlefield when called for. Really looking forward to this. Several announcements blared over the PA, most of it hype. Until it came time to welcome the competitors...

"First, from Basal Town in the Igneau section of this region," started Rin Sabure, "We have a young woman making her official coordinating debut. A former gym trainer and niece of the town's gym leader Beri. Give it up for Bonbon Bachi!"

The crowd cheered as my opponent made her way out.

"Next, he calls himself a wanderer without a home. He is also making his official coordinating debut here today. A part-time detective. Let's hear it for Fritz Yuzé!"

I got about the same level of reception. As with leaving last time, I gave the crowd a single wave of acknowledgement. Mercifully, clouds offered salvation from the ball of fire in the sky. I turned my head forward to size up my opponent. Bonbon is a girl who looks a couple years younger than me. Around 5'3'', her complexion seems a bit pale, though not from being unhealthy. Her blonde hair is tied back in a ponytail, with a bolt-shaped hairclip in it as well. She's smiling as her blue eyes all but sparkle, arms clenched in anticipation. Her outfit is modest, a simple dress with stormy colors; bluish-grays make up the bulk of it, with white and yellow streaks zigzagging across.

The field announcer, a nondescript man in a mint green uniform, turned to both of us. "Welcome, you two! The board says you will be having a doubles competition!" A beat for cheers. "Bonbon, have you anything to say before we begin?"

She eagerly confirmed. "Wow! I-I am so excited to be here today! I'm really happy this is happening. I'd like to give thanks to my mentor, Beri, for training me and helping me prepare for today. I'll do you proud, I promise! I'd also like to thank my mom and dad for giving me a chance to compete here today. Thanks to my Pokémon for being there for me through thick and thin. And to my opponent!" She approached and stuck out her hand invitingly. "I hope this is the start of a great coordinating career for both of us!"

I accepted the handshake to the crowd's delight. "What sportsmanship! Fritz, have you anything to say?"

Do I. "Been a while since I've been in front of a great crowd like this, hoo. You know, I've been thinking about what to do with myself as of late. I've been told from time to time I got a stylish battling technique. So I figured, why not try my hand at a contest? And I hope you're right about that, Bonbon! Just remember, one of our coordinating careers is going to get off on the wrong foot. And I intend for it not to be me!"

"I'd be upset if you weren't!" she mouthed a reply. "Let's both do our best, okay?"

"All right, coordinators! Take your places!" Each of us marched to our respective sides. This is so exciting! Seems my opponent can't wait to start either; she retrieved her choices' containers on the way there, holding one in each palm. The announcer shuffled to the right side of the field from my perspective. "This is a first-round matchup between Bonbon Bachi and Fritz Yuzé in doubles format! Coordinators, send your Pokémon out now!"

"Okay!" Bonbon uncrossed her arms and cast the orbs out. "Minnie! Lampha! It's your turn to shine!"

"Let's see what we can do, you two!" I tossed the two of mine on the ground before me.

Today, I brought six Pokemon who I felt could serve me well in all aspects of a contest. Eevee, my best when it comes to appearances, was with the strict intent to make it through the qualifier round. I shouldn't have to explain Tangela. Azumarill is with me as the more experienced and versatile of my two Water Pokemon who could work in this environment. Vespiquen is getting better at what I've been training her for; she's faster, more durable, has gotten used to Air Slash, and her new Confuse Ray and Heal Order should come in handy. I brought a pair with the specific purpose to use them as a pair, however.

My hellhound Houndour stepped out of its ball. It let out a smoky snort, otherwise patient and ready for orders. Its slimy partner showed more enthusiasm. Toxicroak squealed and got down on all fours, twitching her horn. When the frog stood, she took out the scarlet nails accompanying otherwise stubbed fingers/toes and pulsated the small blackish-brown sac on her chest, proceeding to make a throat slitting motion.

Bonbon's representatives are a bit more intriguing. The first of these is a Mareep, kind of like my own. The gem on its tail is more rounded, and its fleece is a pure golden tone. Her second is a Buccafulmen species. Minun if I'm not mistaken. It let out a squeal, sparks flying from its short, sheet-like blue tail and striped pouches.

"The first one to move will be Bonbon!" the announcer declared. "Let the seventh match of the first round of the Mylon City Contest begin!"

"Let's get off to a good start. Lampha, Charge! Minnie, Spark!" The sheep took in the electricity provided by its companion. And its wool is inflating! Way more than it should! "Yup! Perfect!"

"Using Plus and Minus to your advantage?" I'm guessing.

"Yup. That's right!"

Better make a good first-impression too. I had practiced a few things ahead of time, and gave the auditory command for it. The frog squealed as she prodded her fists, putrid balls of sludge launching randomly into the air from them. Blasts of fire emerged from Houndour's mouth to hit them all with precision, raining fire down on the other duo.

"Dodge out of the way, Minnie!" our opponent encouraged her Pokemon. An easy task for the tiny mouse, even given their unpredictable nature, but the inflated sheep will have trouble with that. "Cotton Spore, Lampha!" So she's trying to have it shear itself to avoid the flames...but the sheep took a stray hit, bleating out on pain! More important though is to pay attention to the large clumps of wool, which are now slowly making their way towards my Pokemon.

Well if it's flash and style I need in a contest, "Houndour, Star Ray a hole through the wool and jump through." My Pokemon willfully obeyed, spewing a beam of astral energy and perfectly executing the command. My eyes were drawn to the scoreboard, as were those of the girl across from me.

"Ack!" Looks like using her combination to my own advantage cost her some points!

This is where it gets tricky. I'll need to keep an eye on Toxicroak while I direct Houndour. She had to physically avoid the wool, which gave Bonbon's Minun, who has been backing away, a chance to hit it with Electro Ball. Toxicroak stood up and laughed after impact, asking for more. "Mud Slap will cancel it out," I advised, before turning back to Houndour. "Move in and Bite it."

"Dodge back and Tackle!"

Reactionary, huh? Unfortunately, the Mareep is good at carrying such an order out, at least this one. Two jumps back, and charge forward as Houndour was trying to Bite a second time made impact.

"Minnie, Electro Ball again! And!" She pointed at her other. "Use your tail gem as we practiced, Lampha!" The sheep nodded and crouched. And it's emitting Eerie Impulse! Not just, but the light is brilliantly exploding out.

"Houndour, close your eyes!" I warned as the Flash of light blinded it. Wow. Good thing I told it that; next came out a confounding ray of light. It's like some siren or disco light. "Use Odor Sleuth to track it down!" Houndour doesn't need eyes to find things! "And attack!" A small whiff's all it took, Houndour lowered its head and rammed it into Lampha.

"Cotton Spore! Get away!" Well then. The sheep shook off more fleece, not huge clumps this time. Their dispersal confused Houndour enough for it to get away.

"Now, Minnie! Entrainment!"

Aah!? Speaking of huge clumps! A faint sphere flew out of a dirt-covered Minnie and into Toxicroak. And while it's not visible, I believe much like similar abilities, a surge of energy connected the two for a moment. The result? All those Plus-charged balls of cotton are closing in on the Minus-charged Toxicroak! "Escap-dammit!" Not good. So that's why that rat was keeping its distance, too!

My ears were drawn to the scoreboard, my points are steadily decreasing. Toxicroak's stuck. She can't move or shoot projectiles, but there is one thing she can still do!

"Venoshock!" Bonbon gasped a bit at my calling this command. Sparks of ooze formed in Minnie's general area. Not eloquently set up, but that's not what matters!

"Get outta there!" The rat desperately stumbled out of the collapsing blobs at her trainer's frantic instruction, taking a hit regardless. That was a nice little surprise for them, but one impractical to keep up. So!

"Houndour, eyes open! Flamethrower the fleece away!" Another gasp. Houndour dutifully obeyed, consuming its own partner and the prison around her in a scarlet inferno. The wool quickly ignited and burned away. Needless to say, this singed the slimy one, too. After escaping from the flames, she rubbed goo into her wounds. My points draining halted, and Bonbon lost a small amount due to the brilliant display this put up.

"Wasn't expecting you to do that..." Bonbon spoke up, hesitation in her tone. To this, I can only smile.

"Sometimes, you gotta make a sacrifice to stay ahead."

"I was thinking you'd Star Ray a hole for it!" Oh. Well, that was fancier and quicker, anyway!

"Anyway, how about a trick of my own? Houndour, fast EGC!" A cloud of Smog burst forth from the hellhound over the four. She knew but I warned anyway, "Toxicroak, you might wanna run."

"Minnie, Lampha. you t-" But it's already too late! A simple burp ignited the gasses, creating another massive fireball. One of my own Pokemon rolled out of the blast like an action hero. As for the other, when the flames cleared after five seconds, an aura of its element shined over it!

My opponent full-on recoiled this time as the crowd went nuts. Yes, that's right, it just activated its own Flash Fire. That combo is something I've been doing with Houndour for a while. But let's try some improv! "While they're reeling! Toxicroak, shoot and scoop up a Sludge Bomb!" She smiled wickedly as she fired at the ground, nearly salivating at what I may have in mind. "Now go for Mareep and Thunderpunch!"

"Come on!" Bonbon encouraged. Too late, the deranged one reached and punched with electrified oil. "Teamwork! Minnie, DISCHARGE! Lampha, help Minnie!"

No chance for me to react, either. Aided by her partner providing electricity, Minnie expelled almost all of her stored power at once. Toxicroak dropped to a knee. Ugh, hope that's stunning, not paralysis or the fiery self-sacrifice coming back to haunt me. If the latter, three of the four Pokemon are worn from this fight. One last good attack should be enough to finish any of them.

"Toxicroak, Mud Slap and back. Houndour, cover with Dark Pulse!" The latter could handle what's left no sweat, but I'd rather not risk Toxicroak due to points. I'm running a bit low, and Bonbon is ahead of me. The former slung grime in the face of the Mareep while she made her escape. Lampha tried to follow, but was cut off by the sphere of black energy exploding before it.

"Charge Beam!"

"Behind you, Toxicroak!" She cartwheeled and handsprung over the shocking sphere to take position in front of her comrade. Good, she's not slowed, and has plenty left in the tank in the off-chance this fails.

"Time to wrap this up!" I declared. "Toxicroak, SLUDGE WAVE!" Her eyes flashed red. My Pokemon outstretched her arms, The ground around her began to quake. A wave of ooze nearly four meters across slowly emerged to the gradual raising of her appendages. Once her ultimate attack had reached about a meter and a half high, she pointed to send it forward!

The Electric trainer frantically fled off to the side, yelling a counter as she did so. My own wave blocked the (tiny) Shock Wave and Charge Beam put out by the doomed duo. "Slide through with Low Sweep! And Houndour...OVERHEAT!!"

As its partner ran in to execute, fiery white jets overflowed from the canine. It became enveloped in a blazing corona, the heat haze around it extremely blatant. With a howl that could pierce the heavens, the skull-lined canine burst into flames and shot towards its target as fast as a Flame Charge.

The wall of sludge crashed over the two Pokemon, and the follow-ups hit seconds later. They had tried to flee from those, but it was no use. Toxicroak performed a baseball slide into Minnie sending her tumbling away, and Houndour crashed into Lampha sending it flying back. That cinched it! One match down!

Rin's voiced echoed through the stadium, "And the winner of this matchup by defeat, Fritz Yuzé!" Whew, and with below a third of the points bar.

"Wow!" Bonbon exclaimed, hands lightly on her amazed head. They would after five seconds find their way to her ball holsters. "Lampha, Minnie, come back. You did great out there!" The eager girl skipped up to me. She tilted her head. "Is this really your first contest?" A bit of a teasing question.

"I'm surprised I got the hang of it."

I got a nudge for that. "I don't believe you!" she jokingly giggled.

Not sure what else to do or say but shrug and smile. "Believe what you will. You did great your first time too, after all." The former gym trainer nodded and grinned. Hm. "I guess our past experiences in battling helped us adjust easier, huh?"

She agreed with me there. "I guess so too. But you adjusted better today!" Another invitation to shake hands, another that I accepted. Bonbon raised my arm high after a few shakes. The fans approve of this!

"It's nice to see some friendly competition!" The announcer likes it too. "Let's give a round of applause again to the competitors in this matchup! Fritz Yuzé and Bonbon Bachi!"


Didn't have to wait nearly as long after the start of the second round for my next match, discounting the remaining nine of the previous round. It's the second of the second round! Top 16. Four more to go including this one. Let's do this thing!

Rin again gave the introductions, "Introducing first, a young man without a home." Looks like I'm up first! "One of the newest sensations to grace the country's contest halls. The Stylish Vagabond, Fritz Yuzé!"

Sweet, already got a title! Walking out! My reception's louder than before. No doubt owing to my performance in the last round. I struck a pose as I made it to the center, briefly amplifying the crowd's intensity.

"And from Petalburg City, Hoenn. One of the most celebrated coordinators of our time, in spite of the fact that she has yet to win a Grand Festival in her six-year career. The Captivating Devil, Maribel Capdevila!"

Well, well. Shit just got real. The stadium erupted as this legend in the making gracefully span out. Maribel is wearing a white shirt with red frills. Covering her red hair, tied to look short, is a bowler hat with a red bow. Two pink ribbons extend out of it, akin to rabbit ears. Wrapped around her waist and reaching down to her feet is a black skirt, with light pink frills at the bottom. Finally, white socks barely dyed pink and black slippers finish the outfit. She took a bow, and made her way to meet me. I wonder what Thatcher would think of this, a friend and someone he looks up to about to face off against his idol? Always ready for a challenge like this, so bring it on!

"According to the board, you'll be using one Pokémon apiece!" said the field announcer. Cheering. "Fritz, do you have anything to say before this matchup?"

I sighed oddly and gave Maribel a look. I can't help but keep a bright face. "Well. Gotta say. Wasn't expecting to be meeting someone like you so soon." This got a few laughs out of the crowd. "It's kind of an honor to compete against you, in a strange way. A fresh face against an established pro. A tough spot to be in. But don't think for one second I'll be going down without a fight!"

"What fearlessness!" the announcer cried, as the audience voiced its approval. "Maribel, have you anything to say in response?"

She remained silent for several long seconds, fixating her gaze on me. All the spectators waited with baited breath. "Nothing to say?" She shook her head and took the microphone.

"From looking at you," she told me, "I can tell you're a strong trainer. But with all due respect, you're not a strong coordinator. You're good enough to be here, and I admit, I enjoyed your appeal. But do you think you can match up with a six year veteran of the Coordination Dome?" She flashed a competitive smirk and flipped her hair. With a point, she demanded, "If you do, then give me your best shot!"

I gave my answer not with words but with a facial expression. I will.

As the captivating devil passed the mic back, the announcer said, "All right. Take your places!" We all took our places without a further word exchanged. "This is a second-round matchup between Fritz Yuzé and Maribel Capdevila in singles format! Coordinators, send your Pokemon out now!"

Maribel quietly yet elegantly summoned what she'll be using - a quadruped standing at five feet tall. Not a single white strand of its shimmering, medum-length coat is ungroomed, including its trimmed mane. Two features stick out on the brown creature's head: an emerald jewel from its forehead bowlcut, and an arced horn on the right side. The tail is akin to the latter, only bat-shaped. Should mention those nasty heel spikes too...

And my own choice? The sneaker-footed blue mass of vines known as Tangela! The best shot I have to style and profile one-on-one! It's fast, it's acrobatic, it has powder, and we have a new trick up our sleeves. If I want to keep up - which is all I'm hoping for - I can't hold back here.

"Maribel is not taking any chances with this newcomer. She's chosen to use her signature Absol in this single Pokémon showdown." Hoo. Troubling.

"I wouldn't count out Fritz just yet! He's stated his Tangela as one of his best Pokēmon!"

"That doesn't translate to good performance in a contest, Rin." Well, at least I have one fan on commentary!

With the commentators' banter out of the way, the green-shirted guy announced, "The first one to move will be Maribel! Let the second match of the second round of the Mylon City Contest begin!"

She stretched her hands together, cracking her knuckles. "Let's give these two a warm, or rather, cold welcome, Absol!" The mystical creature began to glow, emitting a huge Water Pulse almost the size of itself. It followed this up with an Ice Beam, turning the sphere into a giant block of ice. "Roller formation!" And it jumped on top!

"...yank it off."

Tangela reached out and yanked it off. Simple sabotage that put me into a good position.

"Cut free with Shadow Claw and hack it to pieces." Damn it! Tangela knew to retract after one of the blue tentacles it was using to grasp its target got sliced. But the white beast emitted innumerable Psycho Cuts from its horn, severing the other into several little pieces. It's a good thing they have no nerves in them.

Checking the scoreboard, I lost more points than Maribel in that exchange. But the battle is young!

"Vault up, Tangela!" Cameras flashed as Tangela, with a running start like an Olympic athlete, used its extensions to-

"Psycho Cut!" Launch itself into the air, fast enough to evade that! We're aiming to Slam down on them. Absol stepped out of the direct path of the falling Pokemon, but! "Further away and Razor Wind!" But, Maribel knows better. Her Pokemon whipped its head around, generating a sharp miniature tornado, directing the storm near where my Pokemon would land.

"Backup, grapple to the ball of ice!" Instead of trying to bring down a bludgeon on the groomed one, it reached out towards what I told it to. "Powder!" I called this as Absol charged in pursuit, pointing at the whirlwind. The bad news was, only a negligible amount made it in there and a word of warning from Maribel stopped Absol from hitting what my Pokemon left in its wake. The good news is, the maneuver served its primary purpose - getting away from it.

"Follow it, try to hit with Iron Tail, and watch for any more powder!" Maribel advised. Absol took an indirect path to get to Tangela. A game of ring around the rosey ensued, degenerating into the two Pokemon deadlocked on opposite sides. Absol leaned back...

"Sidestep!" My own word of warning saved Tangela from being crushed by the ice, which its foe rammed and drove towards it. "Push it back!" Those tendrils are stronger than you might think.

"Night Slash through to get it!" What?! Its horn is glowing...

"Squish it!"

Maribel's Pokemon focused power into its horn and aggressively sliced its creation. Tangela understood what I meant, grabbing the cleaved halves and clapping them back together as Absol lunged. It responded about as well as can be expected from being smashed between two blocks of ice. All this happened in the span of two seconds. That quick gamble paid off. But the ice is too damaged to smash again.

So we'll, "Shove back!" Again showing off its acrobatics, the Pokemon boosted itself several meters away.

"Are you afraid of him?" Maribel taunted, as did a recovering Absol. "Afraid of the inevitable?" My calm Pokemon did not fall for it, and disappointment washed over the elegant coordinator. More important is what she added, Absol's eyes flashed there. Need to get ready for a Future Sight attack. If I can stall for a bit...seems like a good time to test something...

"Power Whip! Low!"

"Cut-No. Jump over!" She flashed a smirk as her Pokemon played jump rope with mind. Good, she caught onto how that risks her Pokemon getting himself stuck. "Nice try."

"How about we try this? Bring it back. And another one high!" Tangela changed direction with the one, bringing out another - with the white mammal at the center.

"Jump..." Maribel started, pointing at the low one while nonverbally directing her Pokemon to move. "Iron Tail to cut the other!" Not bad, using both ends of the Pokemon to her advantage. The first part went off without a hitch. However, Absol couldn't get the Iron Tail out in time! Time to follow-up while it stumbles!

"Leaf Storm, go!"

"Pulse combo, Absol!"

Tangela shook and expelled the blizzard of grass bits; they ran not into the Absol but the Water Pulse the Pokemon got out just in time. Whoa, Dark Pulse! Shot through at a higher velocity. and caught Tangela off-guard. I waved back wildly, Tangela was thankfully able to escape the slow-moving sphere and second Dark Pulse. Bad exchange there. Only around a fifth of the Leaf Storm hit, if that - the rest of it was caught in the floating liquid.

Maribel twirled a finger. "Thunder jumps." Absol came hopping in, two of them being particularly high and bringing down bolts from the blue on landing. Theatrics, huh? Tangela dodged these with ease, all it took was for it to keep moving and they missed. It returned fire with some Leech Seeds on my signal as Absol got in close. He sidehopped them as part of his continued patterned movement and came in with a claw slash, which Tangela boosted away from while firing more seeds.

Whoa! Suddenly, a pink and violet force came from nowhere to strike Tangela in mid-dodge! Maribel grinned deviously. That Future Sight showed up at the worst possible moment. Absol's about to capitalize before it can get up! Almost in desperation, Tangela shoved its foe back. The vicious Night Slash only half-struck. It latched onto the hooked weapon, but...

"Sling away!" Using its foe's horn as leverage, my Pokemon reeled over top and a considerable distance away. We might be able to tip him over with the momentum! Absol, however, turned his body, foiling any such action. The creature jerked his head back, ripping the appendage from Tangela! Yeow! In contrast to the vines having no nerves, having them torn out stings like hell. It was enough so that Absol was able to land a clean Psycho Cut.

Maribel took a glance at the scoreboard. Let's check too. Around 65%-45% or so in her favor. A quick glance turned long before her sight shifted to me. "You're doing pretty good. But not good enough!"

"It's not over yet!" Still good on time and have points to spare, but damage is another story. Damn it. Tangela hasn't been able to land a good blow aside from the ice smash. I know I can turn this around, though! All I need is one big attack with it at a distance!

"Soon. Finish it off! Slash and Shadow Claw!" All right, now or never! The Absol came rushing in, horn and front claws at the ready.

I gave a nod and hand-signal to Tangela, who acknowledged the command.

As its attacker made the bound to strike with all three sharp tools at once, Tangela unleashed its grapplers! And, got it! The legs were snared first, a pull bringing them to the ground as good as any bird Tangela gets hold of. The horn came not a second later, being held at the base and yanked to the side. Absol struggled to break free as its trainer yapped, but this time, there'll be no cutting their way out of this. "Good! Charge up, and Double-Edge a couple times!" My Pokemon jumped and reeled itself in, impacting the target and sending him staggering back. It took a few reverse steps of its own, providing a bit of extra give for a second dose.

"Ice Beam!"


The cold laser rose out of its user, but it was blown through by Tangela's searing one. The mostly-monochrome beast was blasted back by the beam. We have the distance we need. Time for our comeback!

"Now for our special technique! Plant Sign ~ Spiral in the Breeze!"

Tangela twisted together the vines it was using before. But that's not all, it brought out three more sets of them and started spinning! Maribel snorted. Absol reacted to these low-swinging twines on its own like it did before, playing a game of jump rope with them. "Kicking at them with Shadow Claw should do it. Cut them up one by o-!" Her counter died in her throat when she notice the Leaf Storm Tangela conjured. A whirlwind of leaves and twigs and more surrounding the Pokemon. "Absol, never mind! Go for the Tangela instead! Psycho Cut!" He fired a wave of energy, only to find the foliage is too thick! My Pokemon was unphased by what got through and fired the leaves in all directions. Maribel yelled "Will-O-Wisp shield!" Absol was stunned by the unconcentrated blast before he could, enough for him to lose focus on the rotating lines and be ravaged by them!

"What in the world?!"

"Plenty more where that came from!" Tangela brought its armaments back. That took little stamina to pull off too, aside from the usual for a Leaf Storm. "Now, charge up for Solarbeam!"

"Don't get cocky!" Maribel shouted. "Show him a trick of our own, Absol! Substitutes!"

Big mistake there! Absol hopped about the battlefield, leaving shadowy clones in his wake. All of them were caught when I said, "Shock Wave barrage!" Tangela swung repeatedly, expelling the energy as small, but innumerable and erratic bursts of electricity along the ground.

"What is this attack?!" Absol didn't even try to keep the facade going, he just started trying to dodge around them as the fakes were exposed around him. He's got around a 50% success rate with this, not counting any combos. She clenched a fist in desperation. "We can't lose! Not to them! We have to stop them! Ice wave!" Huh? Oh, that's just using Ice Beam along the ground.

The attentive Tangela had to halt and step back, barely avoiding taking a direct hit and what little energy remained helping stave off some of the cold. "Hmm..."

"Now! Slide across to strike!" The crowd watched, then went insane as Absol used Quick Attack, skating along the frozen ground. I've been tuning them out for a bit, but their increase in volume is notable enough to point out here. Maribel swung an arm out. "Batter up!"

"Powder, Tangela!" The vine mass spewed its various powders. "While spinning!" From its trademark yellow Stun Spore to its unpracticed crimson dust, they're all accounted for.

Maribel went from frowning to full on-panic as I mentioned the spinning part. "What? WHAT! No!" She frantically waved the combo off. "Stop, Absol! Dig your heels and claws in! Shadow Claw!" Her Pokemon slammed on the breaks. The horrid sound of scraping ice pierced the air, the one responsible stopping just short of the display. The monochrome creature sniffed, and growled. He bared his fangs and lunged at Tangela, who jumped back. "Rage Powder...!?"

"Grab it by the horn and toss him!" He was about to jab from a lowered-head position, when Tangela wrapped it up by the base again (preventing Psycho Cut!), dug its own feet in, and started to swing. Using centrifical force to its advantage, it lifted the Absol into the air. The beast received three good spins before Tangela released, hurling him halfway across the field.

The fancily-dressed girl huffed. She's silent yet stoic, probably considering the situation. Not giving her time to think about this!

"Jab with your vines!" Around a half dozen of Tangela's tendrils launched themselves from its body. These erratically positioned objects charged for Absol!

"Ugh! Detect!" Dammit. That's a bit of a weird move that's exhausting to use repeatedly; the Pokemon's body moves on its own, dodging everything possible. The cords thrashed around, but none of them could hit. "We NEED to turn this around, Absol! Make another ball of ice! Further out!"

"Whatever you're up to, I won't let you! Block the Ice Beam and Slam down!" Tangela created a mini shield, blocking the laser and from reaching the Water Pulse...which I forgot would hit Tangela. Thankfully with no other effect other than stunning it. Just enough for Maribel to react before my Pokemon raised its vines to strike.

"Will-O-Wisp!" was her determined command. The ghostly fire burst Absol spat resulted in a roughly even trade; he melted away the ice, but was Slammed without it anyway.

My opponent is wearing a mask of focus. "Absol, prepare Razor Wind!"

"On your vines, Tangela! Ready up!" My Pokemon understood what I meant with the latter from prior experiences, and as for the former, pressed several threads together. The noodly beast pushed itself off the ground with the eight groupings, standing high above the ground. It began skittering towards Absol.

"AHHH!! Megahorn it! MEGAHORN!!" Uh, what a panicked reaction. Maribel's Pokemon lowered his glowing horn, pointing the appendage in mine's direction and making a wild charge at high speed!

"Jump!" Tangela lowered itself to spring up...and as it was jumping, got run through. The impact was sickening, but even as it flew back in an arc, Tangela expelled out a wave of powder. A good chunk of the pollen fell over a now-seizing Absol. Not exactly as planned, but it, uh. Gah, crap. The good news ends there, though...

"It seems that last blow was too much for Tangela."

"But what's this? Maribel has run out of points!" I turned over to the board in awe as Maribel turned over in horror. She mouthed a WHAT. Her legs quivered like jelly, and she dropped to her knees, running her fingers through her hair. I can't believe this, either. Less than 30 seconds were left in the battle, and I had around 20% of my own bar left. "This match is a draw!"

The announcer gave a nod towards the skybox, acknowledging the once-again audible announcers. "Fritz' Tangela has been knocked out, and Maribel's points have been depleted. Therefore, this matchup is a draw, and neither coordinator will advance to the next round!"

Wow. That went completely the opposite of what I was expecting. Guess you can't underestimate coordinators' Pokemon as far as raw power in concerned. I walked over and gave Tangela a pat before calling it back. That taught me a lot about its strengths and weaknesses, and how I might be able to cover at least one of the latter. The crowd isn't sure what to make of this. Maribel had stood, but lowered her head. It's just quiet enough that I could hear her murmur of "I've been getting careless lately..." before she sulked off to polite applause.

I myself gave the crowd one last wave, being seen off with a rousing ovation.


When I got backstage, I was welcomed by much of the same support by my peers. Of course, my elimination mostly eliminated the scrutinizing that some were doing last time. A blonde girl in a dress and a ponytail came running up, forcing her way to the fore and waving wildly as she did so.

"Wow! You did amazing, Fritz!" my first opponent praised.

I flashed her a warm smile. "Thanks, Bonbon." Can't help but make it a warm one.

"Oh, I should tell you," she said in silly realization, "Bonbon's just for out there, like Capdevila is. My real name's Bonnie! You can call me that. Don't confuse me with anyone else, though~"

"Sure," I agreed. "Just like Yuzé. Um, who else could I confuse you with?"

She absentmindedly shrugged in reply, herself unsure. "But yup!" Silence fell between us. Bonnie seems to be considering something...but she shook her head to herself. "Anyways, I'd better get going."

"Not going to stay and watch the rest of the Contest?" I certainly am. I put a single hand on my hip. "Where you off to?"

"Well," Bonnie hummed, pressing her index fingers together. "This is the last chance I'll have to see my parents for a long time, so I'm going to spend the rest of the day with them." She thought for a few moments. "After that, I guess I'll spend the night at the okēmon Center." Glee slowly overtook her as she spoke that last statement. She jumped into the air and pumped a fist. "Then tomorrow, I set off on my journey to become the best coordinator I can be!"

"The joys of travel, huh?" I chuckled.

"Uh-huh!" Eyes closed she lowered her head as she spoke the first syllable, and raised it one the second.

"Well, have fun with your parents."

"I will. Bye, Fritz!" She set off for the way out, turning to give me one last wave which I reciprocated, before skipping away.


After Bonnie left, I watched the rest of the Contest play out from the special viewing booth for the competing coordinators. I had my choice of there or the TVs in the backrooms - which was tempting - but I decided on the latter to be up-close. I talked to a few people, even gave a short statement to an interviewer.

Even after the Contest reached its conclusion, I decided I'd stick around for just a bit longer. Avoid the rush on the way out. But soon, it came time to leave. I gathered my belongings and made my way for the exit.

"Hey, it's you." I turned to see an older girl with layered, dark-brown hair standing before me. She's in simple clothing, I'm guessing having since changed out of an outfit. "Good job out there, very impressive!"

"Thanks. Congratulations on winning. Um," I know who she is. Her name's on the tip of my-oh! "Celeste Faris."

"That's my name, all right. Fritz Yulay."

"Yuzé," I corrected. "But close. Faris..." I feel like bringing this up, "I think I actually met your cousin, Irene."

Celeste tilted her head, puzzled. "Hm? Oh, Irene. Yes." Realizing who I'm talking about, she paused. After a bit of musing, she continued on, "I wish more people in my family would find success of their own instead of riding someone else's." She stated these family issues more as plain fact, rather than showing any emotion or opinion about it.

"Well, Irene is at a Pokemon school, so hopefully she'll eventually be one of them."

"I see," she rubbed her head, simultaneously showing just a bit of doubt over something. "Hopefully you're right." The Kantonese (Kantonian?) coordinator let out a thoughtful sound, and directed her attention back at me. "So where are you going next? For your next contest, that is."

My next one? "Well, to tell you the truth, I just entered this one for fun."

She appeared bemused. "Really?"

"Yeah." Er, should I have said that? What do coordinators think about people who just randomly enter? "Is there something wrong with that?"

"No." Celeste shook her head. Genuinely. "Nothing at all."

"All right." Well, I don't want to overstay my welcome, just in case. "It was nice meeting you."

"Hey." She called me back. I hesitated...but eventually returned and stood before her once more. The effort coordinator flashed a thumbs up. "You should keep at it. If you're able to do that well in a contest your first day, just imagine how far you can go."

I could only initially blink. "You think so?"

"I'm sure of it," she verified with a nod.

Huh. Fritz Westmyn the Coordinator. Never occurred to me to do this regularly. That's something to consider. With a thankful gesture, I set out for my destination. Today was a fun diversion, that's for sure. I met some people, got to have some fun, show off my Pokemon...but for now, I should return. Hopefully, the others in the group did well without me.


I met back up with the rest of Railriders at the local train station in the evening. A bit more refined than some of the rail yards I've been around, particularly the one where our second case took place. Still, like much of them and the trains that run through them, they're throwbacks to the past. Or should I say relics? Nothing like the magnet trains seen in the larger cities.

"Well, that was fun! So how'd it go for you, guys?" I asked as I came in close to the conversing group.

Dick stood with his hands on his hips, glaring. "Everything went great! No thanks to you, kid." This got him an intimidating look and crossed arms from Biggie.

"It was no thanks to you."

"Hey, I was there to help!" Dick protested, giving me a point of accusation. "He fucked off and did his own thing."

Crossing my arms and turning away. "I didn't care to become involved with that sort of thing, so I didn't."

"They were the cops!"

I peered back over my right shoulder. Correction. "Someone who hired us to work with them for ridiculous reasons."

"Now, now, young Westmyn!" Mr. Gruff soothed, pointing up at nothing. "To become the best vagabond you can hope to be, it is important that you act as an equal-opportunity employee! If there is a person in need, you must be willing to lend your aid! That is the way of the hobo!"

I sighed, turning to face the others with a shake of my head. "We have to draw the line somewhere. I draw it at useless, asinine jobs that are dangerous and ineffectual." I mean, I don't mind risking my skin, but this was just too much and made no sense. Okay. So our task this time was to assist in getting someone thrown in jail, and 'maybe give him a little beating.' I really need to ask my compatriots, "So did you help bring down the dealer? The one dealer, the one who will surely be replaced because our clients aren't doing what's important and helping get their colleague off that junk?" Yeah, seriously. His uncle and friend need to get their priorities straight.

Mr. Gruff and Dick exchanged an awkward glance as I rambled on. "Well, we tried our best!" the former declared. "The important thing is that!"

"The important thing is, I had the foresight to arrange payment in advance!" He retrieved a fat wad of money from his the inner pocket of his suit, flipping his fingers through it. "Look at this. Isn't it beautiful? Your shares, gentlemen." He passed the bucks to the other two, before short-charging me with only a few measly notes. "Less for you 'cause you did nothing."

I snatched it away. "No, seriously. What happened?" I directed my question at Biggie for this one.

"We were pursuing the wrong man the whole time," he answered, staring at Dick. "Three times. One we were after got away."

"That's still three of those scumbags off the streets! It's in motion! They'll nab that guy eventually!" You're a scumbag yourself, Dick. Seriously. Ugh, but I can't let this go. I can understand their opinion and what they wanted, but getting rid of the dealer isn't going to make the kid's drug problem go away.

"Well, with that all sated! I guess it's almost time to jump on for another exciting ride across the countryside." Mr. Gruff got a running start, and gallantly leaped into the open-car of the stationed train with an "Alley-oop!"

The massive man followed next, and he was able to get on the train simply by lifting a leg high enough to step up. "Let us go."

The former business investor climbed on without much fanfare. He looked back at me. "You comin' or not, kid?"

Of course. Wait, huh? "Hang on."

"Hey! Train's leavin' soon!"

"Just a sec." I swear I saw someone familiar over by a hangar a second ago...I'm not sure who or from where, but I know I've seen that face before. I took a few steps over to investigate...


But found no one there. I guess it must have been my imagination.


"Oh, crap!" Keep your balance, idiot! I nearly tripped while turning to make a run at the train. I'm a good fifteen feet...ten feet...five, and now running alongside it. I have to line up my jump. I don't want to faceplant, or worse, fall underneath that thing. Biggie reached out his arm. I reached out mine...it slipped out of the way! Need to jump on now...

"Hurry up, kid!" Dick urged.

Mr. Gruff clapped twice. "You can make it, young Westmyn!"

"I can't..." I'm running as fast as my legs can carry me, but my destination is only getting further and further away. "Unless..." I reached into my pocket and cracked open a ball. Tangela materialized several feet in front of me. Scooped it into my arms while continuing to run. I can use it to grapple on and...no, this is stupid and likely to get me killed.

"Never mind. Just wait for me in the next town! I'll...catch up!" The jovial hobo saluted and waved as the train accelerated away. Well, there they go. Off into the distance. Guess I'm heading to meet back up with them on foot. Been months since I've been on a long walk, so I hope I'm in shape for it. I've almost missed that life. Almost. It's weird to be doing it again after so long. After I take care of a few things, of course! For now, time to head back into town, make plans, and find some lodging for the night.


Bonus 3-3a: The Goods, the Bad, and the Ugly

A bulky bewigged man in a blue suit and cap stood before the camera's lens. His well-exposed teeth glimmered in the light of the room like a beacon. He held a portable microphone in his hand. Beside him stood a redheaded young woman in a fancy frilled dress.

Staring into the camera with stone-gray eyes and a glad-handing grin threatening to consume his face, the interviewer started, "I'm here backstage at the Mylon City Contest Hall with Maribel Capdevila, who had a disappointing showing in the second round against newcomer coordinator 'The Stylish Vagabond' Fritz Yuzé." He turned to face the subject of the report, massaging his chin curtain. "Now Maribel, as the coordinating world knows, you've been in a slump as of late. So I must ask you, what happened out there today?"

Maribel shot him a dirty look even before the stick was thrust in her face. "Gee, you think Don? Today..." She lowered her head in shame. "Today was a new low for me. Imagine me, Maribel Capdevila," she perked up and pointed to herself, "Losing to someone making his debut!" All the energy drained out of her at once. The crestfallen coordinator shook her head. She grumbled. "That shouldn't have happened."

Don concurred. "I have to agree with you there." Though her cranium remained still, the young woman's eyes shifted to stare at the shifty interviewer. "What was your strategy going into that matchup? What was going through your mind?"

Fixing her posture, she explained, "Fritz Yuzé may be a beginning Coordinator. But when got a good look at him, I could tell he's a trainer to be respected." She paused briefly. "I figured he knew that too, and his strategy was going to be to try to beat me outright, rather than through appeals. So I planned on matching him stride for stride there." Maribel smirked and flipped her hair, saying her next words with her general confident air. "While bringing my patented style to the melee." This attitude lasted but for a moment, as her guise and tone came frustrated. "But I guess I underestimated his own style, and didn't show enough of my own..."

"Oh, that's definitely the case."

The dress flowed as its wearer turned sharply. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

Not at all bothered by the glare he was receiving, the reporter clarified, "The results speak for themselves, Maribel. You fought to a draw, your Absol KO'ing his Tangela as you ran out of points."

Maribel had been holding in her contempt, but at this point could not help but be extroverted about it. "Seriously now, don't be such a fuckwad, Don." The bewigged man took up a bemused expression, scrutinizing her for rudeness that would be censored. His guest sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry, look...no one is more frustrated about this than me. I've been getting really careless lately. It's been this way ever since I lost the Whalz Cup." The camerawoman tracked her as she sulked over to a chair and slumped down in it. "This has to stop soon. I need to pull myself out of this."

"Certainly. You only have half the points needed to qualify for the Tokatsu Grand Festival."

"Don't remind me," she bemoaned.

"So what's your plan to improve, Maribel?"

The idol peered up at him. "Same thing any good Coordinator would do. Get back on my feet and try again!" She punctuated this by literally getting back to her feet.

"Don't fix what ain't broke? Ain't gonna let the world keep you down?"

"Not a chance! This won't happen again!" She said that part directly into the lens. "Next contest I enter, I assure you, Don Sven and all of my fans, I'll be walking away with the ribbon!" Maribel Capdevila parted with these words, a renewed vigor in her step.

After seeing her leave, Don faced the camera once more. "And there you have it. I was able to get a brief word with Fritz Yuzé earlier today."

The scene shifted, presenting a young man in a plain t-shirt and long dark hair, sitting on a bench in an indiscernible section of the arena. The tone of his words treaded the line between flustered and casual. "Had no expectations to win that one...but the last thing I expected is that I wouldn't lose."

"And he didn't. Stay tuned after the break for an exclusive interview with the winner of today's Contest, Celeste Faris." The Pocket Monster Sports Network faded to commercial on this note.

Bonus 3-3b: The Airwaves Carry Messages of Hope and Despair

It was just past 10PM at night when Thatcher Li - in his Ghost Pokemon themed pyjamas - sat in his dorm room. The boy was slackjawed, listening vacantly to the commercials now playing on the Pocket Monster Sports Network's radio station, still stunned by what he just heard. Always one to keep up with the progress of his idol, this was a complete shock. When his senses returned to him, he ran out of the room. He was certain that this would be the talk of all on-campus who were privy, but had to speak to someone about it now. He raced down the halls as fast as he could, soon arriving at a certain person's dorm.

"Reika! Reika!" he shouted while pounding on the door to the aforementioned friend's room. The chubby occupant within, dressed in a red and white nightgown, snapped up. Reika staggered up, and nearly tripped over her feet when rushing to the door in concern. She flung it open and met her friend.

"Thatcher? What is it?" she asked, putting a hand on his back.

"Fritz..." huffed Thatcher. Even that small jog had tired him out. "...I...I saw him..."

"What?!" Reika's face turned a scarlet tone. A trickle of blood oozed from her right hand as her bunched nails dug too deep into the flesh. "That piece of shit is supposed to be expelled!"

Thatcher frantically waved it off. "No! I mean I heard him! He...was on the news!"

"Huh?" Reika scratched her head, but shrugged. "Good. I hope it was for being arrested or killed."

"No, no! He was fighting Maribel Capdevila in a Contest in Tokatsu! He...they fought to a draw!"

For the first time, a Contest managed to make Reika Easton smile. Two of her least favorite people in the world had fought each other, and neither came out a winner. "Heh. Life is pretty good sometimes." By contrast, Thatcher was simply uncertain of how to feel. Two people he looked up to had battled, and yet there was no clear winner. Even so, he had no idea who he would have preferred to see get the glory neither of them received. Conflict swirled in his mind.

Thatcher never really wanted to see his friend leave. Fritz...I miss having you around. Unlike others in the country, he never really minded people who come from the West. He never once thought of Fritz as a bad person, thinking just the opposite. I really looked up to you. And yet, when the vice-principal came forth with that revelation...when his friend before him stepped forward and started going off on him...he was just too afraid to speak up. Too afraid to help Fritz, much like Fritz had helped him in the past. I'm just a coward... he thought to himself.

One thing that puzzled him...a question that was on his mind. Why did he call himself Fritz Yuzé in that tournament? Stage names aren't uncommon in the coordination world, but the logic behind that alias eluded him. If it wasn't for Fritz keeping his first name and being able to hear his voice - a voice he'd recognize anywhere - he might not have known.

But, I'm glad to know you're still out there, doing all right. Thatcher smiled to himself. Hearing of this had reopened some old wounds carved at the time of his friend's sudden departure. The report tonight reminded him of the despair and feeling of hopelessness he felt when it happened. But knowing Fritz was fine made it all worthwhile.

"R-Reika..." Thatcher quivered, shuffling his feet awkwardly. The girl had reentered her room during his thoughts, sitting on her bed. She tilted her head in curiosity. Thatcher stepped inside, shutting the door behind him. He knew he may regret asking the question on his mind, but he had to ask it anyway, "...do you think Fritz is happy where he is now?"

"I don't give a shit!" Reika snapped, far louder than one should be speaking at a late hour, compounding it by slamming a palm onto her desk. "What he does, I don't care about."

"But...!" the boy protested, clutching his nightcap. "But he was still our friend!"

Reika sighed, shaking her head. This had been an issue for him. Swallowing her rage momentarily, she put a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Look, Thatcher. I know you're upset. But don't be." She stood up and looked him right in the eye, comfortingly but seriously. "Fritz has probably forgotten about you and me and everyone else here now. He's the kind of person who just lives in the present."

Thatcher's eyes went wide. "Are...are you sure...?"

The girl confirmed. "Dead positive. We won't be seeing that bastard again."

"O..okay..." He nodded in acceptance, although not out of concurrence with her opinion. "Thanks. I'm going...back to my room, now..." As he shut the door behind him, he sighed. He wasn't so sure he'd forget them. He knew Fritz. He knew full well in his heart that he wasn't like that. And he had no proof, nothing that would make Reika change her mind...but he had the feeling that Fritz was not living in the present, but...something else altogether. Fritz, is there something else you didn't want to tell us?

Thatcher liked Reika for being one of his few friends. But here, he felt... No. I know you're just letting your opinions cloud your judgment on him! There's so much good in him... Reika's caustic attitude has been an omnipresent factor in her life, one that frequently attracts trouble. Perhaps it's something he'd grown used to, but not everyone can handle her. Most recently, she'd pushed away...those two people who were together and had the same name. They stopped associating with them. She's somewhat aware of this flaw of hers, but had yet to really change it.

His thoughts went back to Fritz. I wished I could've gone with you. I wish I could at least tell you that I don't think anything bad of you. But I don't know how...I wish I could go to Tokatsu and make things right, but I have to stay here. Because of father... His father's selfless sacrifice would be in vain if he left Rukh's. All he could do in his position would be to send his thoughts and prayers out to Fritz and hope they reached him.

Meanwhile, back in her room, Reika sat with an irritated look plastered onto her face. "I can't believe that bastard is doing fine out there. Where's the justice in the world?!" Since the day she was born, she'd be taught by her mother that the West is the enemy. She's heard the lessons of the Heritage Delegates. She'd been taught by everyone around her of their wrongdoings. It was as a fact etched into her soul. Not being from the greatest enemy made no difference in her mind. "Mexicans, Europeans, Americans, Arabians...they're all the same as far as I'm concerned."

The chubby girl stood to her feet, clutching the windowsill in a rage. "How dare you..." she let out a low growl, a fist quivering. "How dare you come here to our country! I'm a proud Japanese girl, and you people...you and your ways disgust me!"

"Shut up! I'm trying to sleep!" came a voice from the next room over.

"You shut up!" Reika screamed in reply. She stamped her foot, and with a growl of frustrating, lied back down on her bed. "Talk about being put in a bad mood." Reika liked Thatcher...a lot. He's one of her few friends...and yet, she wanted, she wished to be more. She always wanted to tell him how she truly felt, but so far, hasn't had the courage to say anything to him. How would he perceive a confession? "Goddamn it. I love you, Thatcher," she said to herself, as she had so many times before. Practicing never really helped. "I just wish you'd see the bad in him."

And it's not even like Fritz showed any remorse for ever having been associated with those countries in the first place. A few people have and have integrated into Eastern society, most notably the famous, longtime Kantonese Gym Leader, Lt. Surge. A brave man who defected during a war many decades ago. An engagement in a neutral Asian country between US forces and the Japan-Eastern Alliance, for influence in said nation. Surge defected due to not wanting to follow the orders of his superior officer, who had commanded that he execute captive Korean soldiers. He renounced his citizenship and took up Eastern ideals. If Fritz had done that too...then maybe. Just MAYBE she would think differently of him.

But he hadn't. And so to Reika Easton, "Fritz is nothing more than scum."

Her goal in life to find her father on her eventual journey is something that she'd only felt comfortable telling a few people, if only due to its silliness. People going on journeys for others have been occasionally criticized. She could hardly believe Fritz would turn out to be untrustworthy. But none of that mattered. Reika nestled into her pillow, pulling her covers over her body. She mused to herself, "Some day, I'll go on a journey with Thatcher. I'll become a great trainer. And find my father..."


Thatcher returned to his room. The radio was now playing an interview with the Contest's winner...but even leaving his apathy for that performer aside, too much was weighing on his mind to care. He switched the machine off and collapsed on his bed.

I still can't believe Fritz is gone. Was what happened really right? It... Thatcher paused his thought. He shook his head. Slowly at first, but gradually with more certainty. No. What happened wasn't right. It was not justice. It was, again, something else altogether. No matter what the vice-principal's justification, it was objectively wrong. Of that, Thatcher stood sure. Yet there was a question on his mind of which he was unsure.

But how do you right a wrong like this?
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All right, so this one may or may not be converted to an extra bonus, since it's so different from the rest of the tone of this part, but it's basically here for exposition purposes since I don't think I'm going to get a chance to show it off otherwise! As-is, it's the new...shortest chapter, KB-wise? 24.8KB 25.1KB, compared to 1-10's 25.2KB.

Also shoutouts to one "Me-me" for help with this.


Chapter 3-4: To be a Contender

After I missed the train, and double-checked to make sure that I had not in fact seen anything, I went out to have dinner at a nice family place. Nothing like the closest equivalent of a homecooked meal you can get on the road, even if the price wasn't right. With that in mind, and because lodging is expensive, I've decided to check into the Pokemon Center's free services. It shouldn't be too overcrowded, after all.

Mylon City is somewhere between big city and small town. You could probably walk from one end of it to the other in two hours if you kept decent pace. Which is a good thing if your legs are your only means of transport and you want to make it to the only Pokemon Center in town. I had to grab a map from a gas station to find it!

A wide street of cobblestone lay between the Pokemon Center and a large pool. It's more decorative than anything, with a weathered statue of a man on a platform in the middle. On the other side of it is city hall, a rustic once-white building sporting a clock tower. This is definitely one of the older roads in the city. There isn't even any room to park here aside from an emergency lane in front of the Center. The closest place is a lot to the west. Other notable establishments are a marketplace, a coffee shop, a laundromat, a battery store, and a law firm. Pretty nice view.

Spotting a Pokemon Center is a snap. You just need to look for their trademark fire red roof. It looks like there's some sort of commotion going on in fron-WHOA FLYING CLAYDOL!! I sprang back as the freaky ancient mud ornament crashed down, rolling to a stop right in front of me. A bespectacled young man in buttoned blue plaid and jeans - also matching highlights - followed close behind.

I looked at him. Then back at his Claydol. "Is this thing yours?" Again shifted my gaze to the trainer. Seriously. "What happened?!"

"Sairo Mujina's in town!" His demeanor shifted wildly, from disappointment to excitement and back again. "And um, we were battling him."

"Mujina? Who's Sairo Mujina?"

My statement befuddled him. "Erm, don't tell me you don't know who Future Tokatsu Regional Champion Sairo Mujina is."

"I'm...from further out in the country."

"Oh, I see. That would make sense." He accepted this defense. The trainer gestured to the gathering point, unnoticing or unbothered by the gawking. "Come check him out! I'm gonna go say thanks. We have to train harder, I guess. We lost in just one Megahorn..." He said that last part solemnly while patting his Pokemon. He leaned in closer to whisper an apology, before returning it. "That was crazy!" The blue-haired boy shouted before even hustling off. Someone's a fanboy. Well, I guess there's no harm in taking a look.

"Heeeey, Fritz!"

Huh? I turned to see a familiar person waving at me. "Hi, Bonnie." I reciprocated the gesture. That's right, she said she was coming here. May as well go stand beside someone I know.

"Nice to see you again."

"Same," I quickly replied. "What's going on here?"

"Oh. Uh," The aspiring coordinator scoured the area. "Mr. Mujina is having a bunch of exhibition battles with his Rhyperior." Regional Champions taking random challengers for publicity, huh? Getting a sense of deja vu here.

"Right in the middle of the street, though?" The makeshift battlefield takes up the whole road, and the buildings' sidewalks are clogged by the bulk of the crowd standing there. Not that it's necessary to use this path except for emergencies.

"With talent comes titles comes respect comes influence. That's what Uncle Beri always said," Bonnie stated matter-of-factly with a shrug, otherwise agreeing with my implicit concerns. "Even someone who's only a contender to be Champion like him has some pull." Claps and cheers interrupted us. "Hey, looks like another's about to start!"

The spectators watched in anticipation as a raincoated man in his late 40s volunteered himself. A grayed handlebar mustache decorates his face, and a fishing rod is strapped to his back. He stood across from this Sairo Mujina, a man who has to be cresting his 30s, if he's not already there. A huge black dino-rhino with orange armored plating towers before him. The trainer himself stands stoic at just under six feet, with gray eyes and groomed brown hair with a white streak running down the middle. His outfit...I guess can be best summarized as formal, but not in a way that would prove disruptive for travel.

"Hello there. My oldest challenger yet, from the looks of it." The future Champion made a remark with a casual chuckle. "As always, introductions before we begin."

"The name's Barrold Chinthwaite," he spoke in a gruff tone. "Call me Barry for short. Been an angler for 34 years now. I ain't got any illusions of grandeur here, but I'll figure I'll give it a shot anyway." He reached into his coat, and sent out a Pokemon that reminds me of my Toxicroak, only this frog is more slender with white markings and a bubbly scarf billowing behind it. "I'm also prepared to win this."

"Very well, Barry. A Frogadier, hm? Interesting...you don't see those very often in the country," quipped Mujina. "A favorite import of ninjas during the Sengoku period, but rarely seen in recent years." I think it's Chinese-native, to be exact. It's allowed here without special exception for reasons. My commentary aside, Mujina presented his hand. "You may have the first attack."

The fisherman pulled his coat's hood over his head. "Frogadier, show'em a Rain Dance." The frog said a prayer to the heavens while performing a ceremonial dance. Clouds billowed up from its foam, forming a torrential downpour. Well, glad I still have my hat on from the contest, but Bonnie (and lots of others) shrieked and took cover. Some like her by shielding themselves, others seeking shelter under awnings and such. The summoner basked in what it wrought.

Mujina was as unstirred by the localized change in climate as his Pokemon, aside from speaking louder. "Setting up? Hm. Rhyperior, Stone Edge." A cacophonous grinding echoed from the bulky plated creature's thick arms. The heads of sharp stones peeked out of the holes in the palms of its hands. With a roar, it loosed one of them at a high velocity.

"Uh-oh!" Bonnie could spot the trouble about as fast as I. The rock monster didn't fire the second, and as the ninja leaped to avoid one, the other was immediately shot out. Frogadier gave the maneuver its best shot, but was nailed by this blast. I can't help but cringe at that croak of pain; the poor thing stumbled back several steps and fell to a knee. Nevertheless, it remained resolute, staring up at its foe from this position.

Barry simply nodded. "We're backed into a corner on this one! One more blow and we're done for!" His Pokemon stood to its feet as a blue aura washed over its entire body. "But with that, Torrent is active! So Frogadier, Water Pulse!"

Mujina huffed. "No chances with this, Rhyperior. On your guard."

"Conceal yourself, Smokescreen!"

The big bad Pokemon did as instructed, bringing its arms together and forming a sort of shield with them. Rhyperior growled a bit, arms quivering as the sphere of liquid made contact. Meanwhile, its foe had thrown something on the ground, producing a white cloud of mist. Even in this storm, and it's all the Rhyperior saw when it lowered from the blocking position.

I felt an elbow brush against me. "Hey," Bonnie remarked over the sound of the falling raindrops, still covering her head. "Mr. Chinthwaite is playing pretty smart." She remembered his name?

"Yeah. You really have to against someone like this."

"Interesting..." Mujina mouthed, tapping his chin. "Bulldoze, Rhyperior. Seeing it isn't necessary for that." The rhino slammed its feet on the ground numerous times, creating localized shockwaves. Not too harmful themselves, but they can throw one off-balance. A dark silhouette became visible in the cloud. "There!" He pointed, but his Pokemon was already in-motion. It charged horn first, arm raised to strike...

...a crude mud sculpture. The Rhyperior stopped short. "A Substitute..." The Pokemon instinctively began looking around for its actual target, as did its trainer, but neither could find it. "It's concealed itself. Be careful."

Barry is remaining patient. Waiting for the right moment to strike...looking for an opening. Their prey is glancing around, trying to see if it can spot where it is or at least a trace of it. There's not a lot of places it could be hiding here, logically, but even I can't see it. So where is it? With a snap of the fisherman's fingers, the question was answered. The camouflaged Frogadier unclinged from a nearby lamppost, coming through with a rushing column of water aimed for its foe's back.

The Rhyperior noticed the Water Pledge just in time, and jumped diagonally backwards to avoid. It spun around, right as its trainer commanded, "Rock Wrecker."

Having turned already, the black behemoth only started to turn faster with its boulder-like tail extended. The four meters between it and the ninja rapidly closed. Frogadier went to make an evasion of its own, but was too slow to react. Indeed, this was like taking a wrecking ball to the chest. The fisherman's Pokemon was flung across the length of the road and knocked unconscious.

The storm faded at that moment, relieving the onlookers. Barry did not so much as say a word, or take any immediate action aside from lowering his hood. He slowly walked over to his Pokemon, cradling it in his arms. The fisherman looked to the future Champion, giving him a nod. With this, he made his way to the Pokemon Center to get it healed, the crowd clearing a path for him.

"So, um." I turned to the person beside me who was checking her dress for moisture. From the looks of it, it didn't get that drenched. "Any idea how all this came about?"

"Sorry, I was inside at the time this started," Bonnie replied, patting herself down. After having done so, she stretched and chuckled. "Still, it's pretty neat to see, right?"

"Kind of." I ruffled my hair. 'Kind of,' that's a good way of summarizing my thoughts on this. "Though I don't really get it. He's decisively winning everything in the end."

"It's the principle of it, Fritz!" the former gym trainer asserted with a raised finger. "I mean, just having the chance to meet a potential Champion is enough. But getting to see one in action up close, and even battling him yourself...that's like, once-in-a-lifetime!"

"So did you battle him, Bonnie?"

"No way!" she raised and shook her hands. "All I have are the two you've seen and Echizen! None of them would've been able to do a thing."

"Who's Echizen?"

"Oh. That's my Paras' nickname."

"I see." Unique nickname, to say the least. I wonder what's the inspiration behind it? "But in any case, seeing one of these matches is enough for me. Gonna head into the Center and-"

"Hey, you."

"Uh." That's this Sairo guy's voice. I took a step back. "Who me?"

He confirmed. "Yes, you."

"Couldn't be."

"No, I do want to speak with you." So much for that train of thought. My coordinating opponent from earlier in the day looked back at me, as befuddled as everyone else present. Deep breath. I took two steps forward. The man tilted his head, carefully examining my outfit. He then looked me in the eye, I guess probing over my face. He scratched his head. "You look familiar."

"I-I assure you, any resemblance to people anywhere living or dead is strictly coincidental."

"Hm." He pressed a finger to his lip. "Well, I want to be sure. I challenge you." Oh, that's it? The crowd gasped in shock at this. Everyone else had been the one to issue the challenge before from the sounds of it, and here, their future Champion is in that role. But for me, it could be worse than a simple request for battle. Then again, on the other hand, he never said who he thought I was. "If you are who I think you are, you might be what I was looking to see here."

"Right now?"

"If your Pokemon are healthy, then yes. Right now. A one-on-one battle."

Um, about that. "Well, only some of them are, but-"

"Good." He smiled and stepped over to his Rhyperior.

Guess I don't have a say in this. Always with the challenges. You know, for a culture that shuns ours, the people here can be surprisingly battle-hungry themselves. I've heard that decades ago and even today, if you so much as lock eyes with someone in the wilderness, it's an invitation to battle. Even if they don't have organized battling leagues here, that's objectively really ridiculous.

Bonnie, not noticing my trepedition about this challenge, gave me a pat on the back. "Good luck!" she cheerfully encouraged.

"Thanks, I may need it," I responded, "Never thought this morning I'd be fighting a former, er, future Champion." She chuckled as I took my place. Well, just like this morning, I'll give this my all. Pokemon choice. Let's think. If this guy's a potential Champion, I'll want to use my best. Except I can't since Lairon isn't with me! Tangela still needs to recover, and Toxicroak isn't at 100%. That leaves...

"I hope you're ready, Azumarill!" I called as I threw him onto the field. The rabbit gasped on-sight of what I had put him up against, and peered back at me. "Since you're the only one who can deal with this!" Azumarill closed his eyes for a moment. Thinking about this...and he nodded and smiled in understanding. Saying something in his rabbit chirruping, he turned to face our foe.

"An Azumarill...hm." He strongly considered my choice, looking my Pokemon over with extreme scrutiny, though said nothing more about the subject. "Anyway, begin when you're ready."

"After you."

He shook his head. "You go first," he insisted.

"All right, then. Tail Whip!"

My Pokemon cutely wagged his tail. A neutral action. The Rhyperior followed the sphere with its eyes, distracted. "Don't let your guard down," his trainer said. "Rock Blast."

The armored one pointed at Azumarill, summarily firing a flurry of soccer ball sized stones. Erratically. They're good. We can't just dodge by moving away.

"Careful..." I advised. "Dodge when you need to." My Pokemon was one step ahead of me. He's extremely tense (his ears are sticking up), but is making his way through! And just as the last of the wave was passing by, he spat a high-pressure wave of his own! Rhyperior stumbled, but quickly regained its footing. After that, it just sort of stood there, absorbing the attack. Still, the Water Gun is landing. And maybe if we aim higher...

"Bulldoze, Rhyperior." The rhino slammed its foot into the ground and whoa! Now it's our turn to stumble, felt that even back here. "Drill Run." And while Azumarill was recovering, Rhyperior charged headfirst like a runaway train and slammed into him, sending my Pokemon flying.

He landed with a thud, stopping a few meters in front of me. Yet he instantly stood and ran out into position again. One hit won't be enough to do one of my Pokemon in!

Mujina applauded and pointed. "Not bad. Again, Rhyperior." His tank of a Pokemon spun its drill again, and charged for another go.

"Bubblebeam!" I ordered with a downward fist pump. "Sweep from side to side!" Azumarill spewed tons of bubbles all around in front of himself. Our opponent looked to charge right through. A mistake! Some of the liquid got in its eyes! It almost tripped over from the shock. That and the remaining bubbles bought us a moment. "We got some time, now. Form an Aqua Ring!"

My Pokemon went into a trance for a moment, before enveloping itself in a magical sphere of water. This is sort of a strange move. I'm not a hydrologist, but I can tell you this is like water from a mystical healing spring.

"Rhyperior, Ice Fang. Freeze it if you can." Also carries some risks, but it could be worse than that move. Better frigid teeth with cold air coming off them than an electric move or Ice Beam.

"Look out, Azumarill!" In fact, that's the best possible move they could've used. After he sidehopped to evade the icy chomp - that lack of lateral movement seems to be a weakness for this thing - I clapped my hands twice. The rabbit's ears perked up, and he replied with the same action, albeit with roughly a hundred times more enthusiasm.

"Stone Edge, Rhyperior. Keep up the pressure." But Rhyperior did not use Stone Edge, instead using Ice Fang once again, which Azumarill dodged just as easily. "What?"

"Nice Encore!" Bonnie exclaimed loud enough for me to clearly hear. I shifted my gaze briefly to give acknowledgement. "Using tricks to your advantage!"

"Sorry to rain on your parade," I can't help but taunt since it's relevant to my next command. I adjusted my hair, "But we're taking control. Rain Dance, Azumarill!" As I said this, people again retreated on instinct. While Rhyperior was still turning and making a slow, lumbering approach, he whispered a small prayer, following it up with a hopping dance. He twirled away from another Ice Fang, not missing a beat, as artificial clouds were summoned into the sky. A collective sigh of relief rang out as, in contrast to the borderline monsoon from before, a modest shower dripped out. It's about as effective, though!

"Don't let up, Rhyperior."

"Get outta there with Aqua Jet!" Predictable attack or not, it's dangerous to be so close. Whoa, never seen that before! What normally happens is water rushes behind Azumarill to propel it forward, but with Aqua Ring in-place, water gushed from it, drenching Rhyperior on the leave. When the long-earred Pokemon had gotten far enough away, "Water Gun it in the face!"

Mujina wished for the Encore to, "End soon..." But in the meantime, his Pokemon was blasted in the face while it kept on repeating its attack! "Horn Drill." Nope. Ice slowly began to build up on its face, the chomping becoming noticeably slower. "Dragon Tail." Not over yet! Some of the freezing had extended to its horns and neck. That might help, too. "Take Down!"

A recovered Rhyperior leaped and slammed into Azumarill. Went to the well too often, ugh. He got knocked back and tumbled onto the unforgiving pavement...where he lay flat...

...and after a second, he got back up! He was feeling a bit of pain, but still in it! "You didn't think it was gonna be that easy, did you?"

"You know, for a second there...yeah, I kinda did." Despite my initial unease and the randomness of this challenge, I'm kinda getting into this. Azumarill gave them a Bubblebeam, but his Pokemon dodged. We've frozen its face, but its reflexes are still intact. "I'm impressed with your Pokemon's resilience, but it's time to end this. Rock Slide!"

Crap. Everyone knows that's bad, Bonnie included. She shouted at me, "Fritz, if she lands that, it's over!"


"Yes, she. You can tell by the horn."

I'll have to hug her later. "Attract!"

Azumarill put on the most charming and captivating display he could. The rhino's trainer tried to tell her to avert her gaze, but it was too late. The rising rocks ceased as the Rhyperior eyed my Pokemon, who topped it off with a wink and giggle. Disturbing mental imagery and intentions aside, the point is this should put some hesitation into that thing's heart!

"You-!? Well played..." Sairo Mujina may be in shock. He may be famous and penned as a future Champion, but the crowd is generally firmly behind me for this!

"We can do this! Defense Curl and start Rolling out!" My Pokemon did as instructed, curling into a fetal position at first. As for the second, he began to spin like a tire! He slammed into the side of an awestruck Rhyperior. Barely hurt her, but we will shortly.

"Hit it with Stomp."

"Aqua Jet to get some momentum!" That should do it! Gaining a sudden burst of speed as it U-turned for a second pass, the aquatic rabbit actually sent his opponent into a 360 degree spin with this strike, so sudden that she had no chance to react. The third with its more natural velocity wasn't that forceful - he can't use Aqua Jet repeatedly without tiring - but it and the infatuation prevented her from landing any hits as the rabbit rampage continued.

"Snap out of it, Rhyperior. Stop that thing with Bulldoze." Okay, this isn't a problem. Just need to wait for the right moment...she was fiercely hit again...she's slowly turning around...Azumarill has turned around...the armored monster is raising its foot...!


Couldn't have timed that one more perfectly. Azumarill uncurled and slammed his tail on the ground with all his might, propelling himself into the air. The sun was momentarily blotted from my point of view. Everyone watched with baited breath, and at apex of his leap, "Come down with Aqua Jet!"

"Rhyperior, intercept with Hammer Arm."

His Pokemon wound back, ready to clothesline Azumarill, who came rocketing down (some nervously watching the splashdown generated, just in case). This is it! When the blue and white Pokemon was around ten feet away, Rhyperior swung. JUST TOO LATE!! Right as she was about to catch her foe, he crashed into her. The armored fiend faltered, taking a step back...and toppled over! Woohoo!! Got'em!

Or...not. She slowly got back to a standing position.

"All that and like a dozen battles, and it's still standing?"

"Fifteen," he corrected. "I wouldn't be a contender for the title of Tokatsu Champion if my Pokemon couldn't take some abuse." Well, it's taken a lot, and it's showing. "This is interesting, although not the type of battle I was expecting."

"I guess so." We're almost there. If we can get in a few more attacks, then it might be enough. "But we're not going to give you any quarter!" I turned to my determined Pokemon. "A wave of Bubblebeams, and Encore again!"

"Not a chance." He showed visible emotion for the first time, running his hands along his hair. "Rhyperior, Giga Impact!" The Pokemon roared, quaking violently. She made a deranged charge for Azumarill, gritting her teeth as she barreled through the bubble barrage, eyes closed. Undeterred even by the Aqua Ring, she threw herself into Azumarill and scored a direct hit. The sheer force of the tackle was enough to dissipate the defensive and restorative shield. My Pokemon tumbled across the street, coming to a halt just near the base of the pool. Where it lay motionless.

"Is...is that it?" someone asked.

"That appears to be it."

I shook my head. This can't be it, can it? Azumarill's ears and tail aren't drooping.

Azumarill...is slowly standing to his feet! The shocked gasps of everyone else were the wind for a moment. In that same moment, I swear my opponent had some concern on his face. "Woohoo! It's not over yet!" He may be beat to hell, but that tired smile at me tells me he wants to win this for me, and has one last attack left in him to pull it off! And we're in the position to do it! We can do this! We CAN win this! All those fights have to have exhausted this Rhyperior. We have one chance! The rain's still with us! Let's make it count! "All right, let's do this! Our final trump card!"

An incredulous Mujina turned his eyes to me, then to my Pokemon, then back to me. "Enough."


His composure gradually rebounded. "There is no point in continuing this battle." What? But we had this! "Azumarill is clearly in no shape to continue. You're pushing your Pokemon more than you should."

"Hey, if Azumarill feels he's got one more attack left in him, then I trust his judgment." My Pokemon himself backed me, standing proud and entreating the Rhyperior to words. After the rabbit was finished, the rhinoceros let out a pant of understanding and glanced back at her trainer. She stood ready for Azumarill's big attack, or at least orders. "You can do it!" I encouraged, as my Pokemon focused. He slowly raised his arms, straining to get the energy needed to manipulate the water in the fountain- and Rhyperior vanished in a gold light?

"I'm sorry," Mujina said with two raised hands - one gesturing 'stop' and the other grasping a black, yellow, and white sphere, "But I cannot in good conscience allow this battle to continue. You did well, but this is over for now." He turned to address everyone. "It was fun, folks, but I have to get going." And with this, started to take his leave. This just isn't right.

"But I could've-"

"Should we meet again, I'd like a proper battle. We'll see how things turn out, then."

Ugh. Harsh blow to me there. Only briefly pausing to say that, he resumed his leaving. Around three people followed behind, including the boy from before, trying to get his attention.

A disappointed Azumarill hunched over huffing, the adrenaline from the battle departing his veins. Bonnie is uncertain of what to make of this as is just about everyone else witnessing. That said, there's more than one glare coming my way. With the electric specialist not being among them, she said, "Well, that was...ummm..."

"Inconclusive." It may not have been her exact thought, but it's a sentiment she agreed with. "Ugh, nothing that eats away at me more than this..." I muttered, to which I received empathy. I thought Azumarill and I might've been able to do it...regardless of how this path to victory may have been opened. But with Mujina calling it off - whatever his reasons - the outcome remains in question. It's a question I'll never get an answer to, unless our paths happen to cross again, which is wishful thinking. What was the deal with this challenge in the first place? I have an idea, but...well. It's not important.

I checked back in the Pokemon's direction. He has enough energy left to be hobbling this way. With a shake of my head yet approving smile, I recalled the Water-type rabbit for the time being. Well, that's three Pokemon I should have them take a look at while I'm here.

But for now, I should get some rest. It's been a long day.
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I'm back!

I feel like we did cover a lot of my thoughts on IRC, but in any case... Per the normal, your chapters seem to be grammatically correct and have no glaring plot holes. In terms of the story itself, I feel that it's an interesting direction to take it. So much of the story has been devoted to Rukh's, that it'll be interesting to see how Fritz stands on his own outside of it. So far, we've seen the Traveling Hobos become a Thing, and he's made his contest debut. I'm really interested in seeing where he'll go from here especially with the plots that were started at the university. I really have to complement you on your creative interpretation of the battle system. It's just wonderful. You'd be at home in a PASBL league, methinks.

I was definitely surprised by the coordinator chapter. It was unexpected and not unwelcome to see Fritz step out of his comfort zone. Going further, I'll be waiting to see how the past chapters and the future chapters will really interlink. Big questions that I think anyone who has followed this story would have are:

  • Will we see Thatcher or Reika again?
  • Will he be able to accept any of the people from Rukh's after what happened?
  • Will we ever get to see a battle between Fritz and someone like Muriel or Aporon or Elyna, when they're on point?
  • What about Premala?!
  • Will Rukh's come back into the story at some point?

I'm also ever curious about Fritz's origins in North America and about his other Pokémon there. You continually revealing new ones that he has used before that are "allowed" in Japan make me so curious! The contest chapter and Eevee also struck a particular note with me, in that, I'm wondering what Eeveelution it'll end up as (if it does). One thing I think would be a good thing to keep in mind going forward is character balance. I realize that how you write Fritz is particular in how his strategies work and such, but I sometimes feel how he does is almost overdone. I know that he has lots of previous experience, but at the same time, it's... borderline on becoming a bit too Gary Stu? I really felt this was illustrated in the battle against Capdevila. And this is coming from someone who specialized in that character type for a while there.

Outside of Fritz himself, I liked some of the snippets we saw from various characters. The character development by the Traveling Hobos in the initial few chapters was good. In the last few, it has shifted away from them a bit though. I liked what I saw from the potential champion dude and hope to see more. Maribel was also featured nicely in that one chapter. I think another thing that would be good is for you to maybe concentrate on developing a core set of characters in these next few chapters? The Traveling Hobos would be a good place to go. For instance, we don't know if they have Pokémon or if they're terrified of them. With this story moving from a stationary setting towards this more mobile one, it'll be key for you to pick some characters and work with them more, I think.

As always, I'm looking forward to new chapters and new information! :)
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Hey there! I just finished reading this entire story in essentially one day-long binge-read. Gonna focus my thoughts mainly on the post-hiatus content, since that's more relevant I think.

I like the change of pace this post-expulsion arc is taking. For a while it was building up in a pretty traditional academic-setting style fic. Also, I feel like a lot of the characters and interactions, especially earlier in the story, were a little over-the-top.

The whole "Traveling Hobo Detective Agency" angle is pretty cute, I have to admit. I would find it quite hilarious if, after being separated from Fritz for an extended period, they show up again as a wildly successful franchise.

The change of pace is nice, yes, but now we're left at a bit of a conundrum: where does the story go now? What drives the action of the story going forward? What provides the tension of the plot? When Fritz was in the academic setting, there were all sorts of social dilemmas, and even a malicious mystery mon at one point. Now, there's nothing. For these first chapters of the "post-expulsion arc" it's not too much of a concern: this is where you get Fritz settled into the new life, establishing the new starting point. But since it is basically a new start, I feel like it would benefit the story greatly for there to be a new plot hook, a new something to drive the story. We don't really have that: we have a single cute episode with the family, and a slight teaser with a champion, but nothing really to grab the reader into what happens next...

For all intents and purposes it feels like this new arc could be broken off of this story entirely and made into a proper standalone sequel. From what I can see, it looks like you've done it once before already. The "academy arc" has essentially run its course as a full story: with a beginning, middle and end, and this new arc essentially creates a new beginning.
Please note: The thread is from 1 year ago.
Please take the age of this thread into consideration in writing your reply. Depending on what exactly you wanted to say, you may want to consider if it would be better to post a new thread instead.
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